I loved Lucca. I was there a few weeks ago as literary guest of honor at the Lucca Comics and Games Festival, the third largest of its kind, so I’m led to believe, in the world.
Lucca itself is an Italian city about an hour’s drive from Florence. The outskirts are urban modern, bustling with traffic. The centre, inside ancient walls, takes you back to Medieval times with (almost) no vehicular traffic, narrow, cobbled streets and high buildings. I made the journey from Ireland by car, ferry and train — I don’t fly anywhere, ever — a trip wonderfully organized by Jacks, who accompanied me to stroke my fevered brow when I got harassed.
The festival was amazing, packed with fans in heroic fantasy costume. The organizers were adorable and many of them have now become friends for life. I had a busy schedule of signings, presentations, interviews, a civic reception, a lunch with a fan club and one workshop.
When I accepted the invite, I assumed the emphasis would be on Faerie Wars, which is a best-seller in Italy. There was certainly a lot of interest and the omnibus edition sold out in days, but the real surprise was that the fans, now grown up, actually remembered my GrailQuest game books from the 1980s.
Remembered? Heck, I‘m being coy. They brought dog-eared copies for signing, talked endlessly about their favourite characters, asked questions about the books at the presentations and interviews. Turned out the owner of the restaurant where we had the club lunch was a GrailQuester as a boy: he arranged to have the original book covers printed on the menus.
All in all, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I’ve only now got my emotions well enough under control to say a heartfelt thank-you to beautiful Italy, to my publishers Mondadori, to those kind, generous, wonderful fans and to everyone who looked after us so well at that amazing festival. I love you all.