The unspoken elegance of a swan is a fitting compliment to the old-fashion sophisticated speak of author Howard Norman.
The two join hands in his latest novel “Devotion,” a love story that revolves around a main character who is a Canadian swanherd.
On Feb. 23 at Eagle Harbor Books, pictorial swans of Bainbridge’s Bloedel Reserve will accompany the national award-winning author for a night of questions, answers and insight into his latest work.
“I don’t quite know where the evening will take us, but I’m very excited about it,” said Eagle Harbor event coordinator Mary Gleysteen. “We’ve wanted to have him here for years, and this is the first time the publisher has gotten him out our way.”
Norman is expected to speak on the novel and answer questions from the crowd. What those questions will delve into is unknown, Gleysteen said.
“(Norman) has written such a wide range of books,” Gleysteen said. “There are a lot of writers on Bainbridge so I think there will be a lot of questions about his writing, his inspiration and his travels.”
In addition to this latest book — which he describes as a singular love story — Norman has written a series of novels and a few collections of memoirs and essays.
He began his formidable years as a writer traveling, living and working in the northern reaches of Canada, learning the dialects of the native people and recording their folk tales — those stories then became the basis for two children’s books.
Early in his career, Norman was also a two-time finalist for the National Book Award for his first novel, 1984’s “The Northern Lights” and also “The Bird Artist” — named as one of Time Magazine’s Best Five Books of 1994 — which was the beginning of a trilogy set in the Great White North.
“Devotion” — released Feb. 8 by Houghton Mifflin — is also Canadian-based, set in Nova Scotia.
Norman himself lives part-time between Vermont and Washington D.C. where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Maryland.
“Even when I’m at my Vermont farmhouse, Nova Scotia remains a preoccupation,” he said. “It is the place I prefer my imagination to reside.”
The landscape of Nova Scotia has a powerful presence throughout “Devotion,” while Norman has grasps that same presence in his characters. However, for the action-junkies there are few fast-paced thrills, while an emotional roller coaster is taken.
“During the course of writing a novel, your feelings often run the gamut,” Norman said. “All you can do is try to maintain the deepest possible level of engagement with the characters and the story.”
Norman’s trip to engage the Kitsap community at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Eagle Harbor Books is one of the final legs of his “Devotion” national tour. He’s already traveled the northern country of the east coast, and after stops in California Feb. 20 and today, he’ll be stopping around the Pacific Northwest before returning east.
“He’s a big author and we’re a small market, so we are delighted to have him,” Gleysteen said.