Elena Seibert
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June 18, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT

Markus Zusak, acclaimed and best-selling author most famously of The Book Thief, is getting back on the road.

In advance of the publication of his epic new novel Bridge of Clay, Zusak has exclusively shared with EW the announcement for his next book tour, including all scheduled dates and locations (minus TBD venues) across the country. And he’s also answered a few of our burning questions about what we can expect from the book.

Bridge of Clay has been in development for several years. It follows Clay Dunbar, one of five brothers whose mother has died. Their father had previously abandoned them, but he resurfaces, asking for his children’s help in building a bridge into the wilderness. Clay is the only brother who decides to do it.

Exclusive to EW, Zusak has previewed Bridge of Clay, which hits shelves on Oct. 9, by talking about his process, the book’s themes, and how he’s evolved as a writer. Read on below for that, as well as his full tour schedule, and make your pre-orders here.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’d mentioned you were writing this book more than a decade ago. What was this process like for you, over that long period of time?
MARKUS ZUSAK: It wasn’t always that much fun, to tell you the truth!

For me, there’s always joy in writing, even in the hard times…but the hard times for this one became a bit ridiculous. Since writing The Book Thief — a book that started out meaning something to me, but ended up meaning everything — I’d made up my mind that I only wanted to write books that mean everything to me, which isn’t that easy to do.

I’d had the idea for Bridge of Clay since I was 20, and I’d always reserved my highest hopes for that idea. So there was always a kind of gravity for this book – a self-made pressure, long before I was ever published. In the end, it was always going to be a big book, with a lot of ideas, and even during my hardest times, I always had a lot of laughs with it. I always loved the Dunbar boys, and Clay, in particular…and Penny and Michael, their parents.

The most important moment was my wife telling me, a few years ago, that maybe I needed to stop. Once I had it all taken away from me, I was even more unhappy than when I was writing it! I think more than anything that my ambition as a writer is to write books I’m not sure I can write. That way you’re always pushing yourself. You’re only going to find out what you’re capable of if you’re willing to go into the dark.

What drew you to this particular idea, of a boy committed to building a bridge? How did you conceive it?
It’s all so long ago now, but ideas are funny things. Sometimes they come quite clearly, but usually they’re in disguise – for me, at least. I first have to unscramble it, to find out who it really is. In this case, the first idea was all in the title. It was about a boy named Clayton, building a bridge, so my idea was to call it Clayton’s Bridge. Then, after weeks, maybe months (this was still way back at 20 years old), I saw what I needed to see: the words Bridge of Clay had come to me, and with it, whole new meaning.

I was then drawn to the world the idea brought with it: a boy building a bridge to save his family, and himself. A boy who carries his sins, aiming to cure himself in search of greatness.

Random House

This is a big family story: Did you draw at all from personal experience?
As always, yes and no. The chaos of family life is something quite real to me, as is the sheer absurdity of dealing with many household pets (the Dunbar boys have five: a pigeon, a dog, a cat, a goldfish – and a mule named Achilles). I also interviewed people. An important part of the story is the journey the Dunbar boys’ mother, Penelope made, to make it to the city they live in – so I researched Eastern Europe during communism. I talked to my parents-in-law, who made a similar journey.

In many ways, the experience of Clay building the bridge is my experience of writing the book. Clay wants to achieve something great, but knows he is only human. His only greatness is knowing he can’t ever achieve it fully – but trying to make it there anyway.

This is your first book in quite a while. How have you evolved as a writer in the time since?
Well, I’m crankier, maybe! No, actually, I think I’ve learned to appreciate things more. I don’t think I ever took things for granted – I feel like the luckiest guy in the world – but I think my writing’s evolved through having to rebuild myself, and rebuild my confidence. This book does demand a little more of the reader than my previous ones, but the rewards, I hope, are greater. I’ve become more ambitious with every book. People would say to me, “You don’t have to write a better book – just a different one,” but my response is that I’ve always tried to write a better book than the last one, so why stop now?

What do you hope readers take away from Bridge of Clay?
I start smaller on this one, because if I’ve done my job properly, only readers will be able to tell us. Personally, I just want them to feel like they’re a part of Clay’s world. I want them to know the Dunbars. No matter who they are, or where they’re from, I want Clay to break their hearts, but also carry them up. I want them to feel like a Dunbar boy.

***

Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay Book Tour

Tuesday, October 9th @ 7:00PM
Barnes & Noble
Vernon Hills Shopping Center
680 Post Road
Eastchester, NY 10583
For specific details, call 914-472-0689

Wednesday, October 10th @7:00PM
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway @ 95th Street
New York, NY 10025
For specific details, call (212) 864-1414

Thursday, October 11th @7:00PM
Hosted by Barnes & Noble Fairless Hills, PA
Pennsbury High School
705 Hood Boulevard
Fairless Hills, Pa 19030
For specific details, call (215) 269-0442

Friday, October 12th @7:00PM
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
For specific details, call (202) 364-1919

Saturday, October 13th @7:00PM
Hosted by Main Street Books
Spencer Road Branch Library
427 Spencer Rd.
St. Peters, MO 63376
For specific details, call (636) 949-0105

Monday, October 15th @6:15PM
Hosted by Parnassus Books and Salon@615
Hume-Fogg High School
700 Broadway
Nashville TN 37203
For specific details, call (615) 953-2243
To purchase tickets online, click here.

Tuesday, October 16th @7:00PM
Books-A-Million
2605 West Osceola Parkway
Kissimmee FL 34741
For specific details, call (407) 552-0077

Wednesday, October 17th@7:00PM
Hosted by Books & Books and the Miami Book Fair
Miami Book Fair
Miami Dade College
300 NE Second Ave.
Wolfson Campus Auditorium, Bldg. 1, Second Floor, Miami, FL 33132
For specific details, call (305) 442-4408

Thursday, October 18th @7:00PM
Hosted by Blue Willow Bookshop
Venue TBD
For specific details, call (281) 497-8675

Friday, October 19th @7:00PM
Hosted by Tattered Cover Bookstore
Venue TBD
For specific details, call (303)322-7727

Saturday, October 20th@7:00PM
Hosted by The King’s English Bookshop
Venue TBD
For specific details, call (801) 484-9100

Monday, October 22nd @7:00PM
Hosted by Changing Hands Bookstore
Venue TBD
For specific details, call (480) 730-0205

Tuesday, October 23rd @7:00PM
Third Place Books @ Lake Forest Park
17171 Bothell Way NE, #A101
Lake Forest Park WA 98155
For specific details, call (206) 366-3333

Wednesday, October 24th @7:00PM
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
For specific details, call (415) 927-0960

Thursday, October 25th @7:00PM
Hosted by Bookshop Santa Cruz
Veterans Memorial Building
846 Front St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060
For specific details, call (831) 423-0900

Friday, October 26th @7:00PM
Hosted by A Whale of a Tale Children’s Bookshoppe and Mission Viejo Library
Murray Center
24932 Veterans Way
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
For specific details, call (949) 854-8288

Saturday, October 27th @1:00PM
Barnes & Noble
189 The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90036
For specific details, call (323) 525-0270

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