The Santa Clarita Public Library united all of the community’s book lovers for a city-wide book club, better known as One Story One City, on Friday night.
One Story One City is an annual program the city hosts encouraging discussion among residents to promote reading through the celebration of one story during the month of March. The 2023 book selection was “Remarkably Bright Creatures” by Shelby Van Pelt.
“Remarkably Bright Creatures” tells a story about two humans struggling with grief partially through the perspective of a curmudgeonly giant Pacific octopus living in an aquarium, Marcellus.
Van Pelt joined the Santa Clarita Public Library Newhall branch on Friday for a virtual Q&A.
“Our librarians and our friends of the library are genius in having done this program in which we can take a book, and we can read it and enjoy it and then get to speak with a back and forth with the author,” said Councilwoman Marsha McLean.
Van Pelt shared that she never intended to write a book. “Remarkably Bright Creatures” was Van Pelt’s debut novel.
She enrolled in a creative writing class “on a whim.”
Through her class where she sought companionship, she was assigned to write a short story from “an unusual point of view.”
Van Pelt had recently gone down an “internet rabbit hole” about octopuses, finding their intelligence, movements and overall being, fascinating.
“I remember thinking like, ‘that would be a fun character in a book,’ like an octopus who believes that he is superior to the human beings who have held him captive,” said Van Pelt.
Her writing teacher loved the concept and encouraged her to keep developing this idea she had created.
Over the next six years, Van Pelt worked in developing the novel until its 2022 debut.
“I never in a million years dreamed it would end up being a novel, but I’m very thankful for the support of the teacher that I had in that class,” said Van Pelt.
The book quickly gained traction, landing itself to be critically acclaimed as a New York Times bestseller and Amazon’s No. 1 Book of 2022.
“I loved the book so much,” said audience member Laura Malone Hunt. “I loved Marcellus’ sense of humor and personality.”
Throughout the hour-long Q&A, audience members, both virtually and watching the event at the Santa Clarita Public Library Newhall branch, got to learn more about Van Pelt’s writing process, the way she developed the characters, her stance on conservation efforts and more.
Audience members were able to ask questions of their own toward the end of the event.
Van Pelt shared that she is currently working on a second book, utilizing the same universe she had created in “Remarkably Bright Creatures.”
She is hoping to not create a sequel, but feed into her ideas for the side characters in her debut novel that had to be scrapped.