By Charly SHELTON
He has traveled through space and time, fought superheroes and was even a lead tenor as a singing/dancing Nazi for “Springtime for Hitler.” And now he has come to Montrose.
TV superstar John Barrowman of CW’s “Arrow,” BBC’s “Torchwood,” Doctor Who and the film version of “The Producers” can add yet another line to his resume: co-author.
Once Upon A Time bookstore in Montrose hosted Barrowman and his sister and co-author Carole Barrowman on Monday. The pair have written two in a series of books and are traveling to independent bookstores to sign copies and meet with fans to promote their young adult series, “Hollow Earth.”
Word of the pair’s arrival went out to the patrons of the bookstore and hit social media. People were smitten, and Once Upon A Time became the top destination for nerds and fans, be they locals who patronize the bookstore regularly or fans on their way home from Comic-Con International (which ended Sunday after a four-day convention of pop culture and comics in San Diego).
Two Barrowman fans are self proclaimed “John groupies,” having met him many times before at signings and appearances, including just days before at Comic-Con. Vicci Varner from Valley Village and Christina Nelson from Riverside had attended Comic-Con the day before and as soon as they got home, they headed to Montrose for the signing.
“We learned about this signing about a month ago,” Varner said. “And we went online. First I had to figure out where Montrose was. So we got the two books and we thought if we can’t make it to the [Comic-Con] signing …”
Nelson, completing Varner’s sentence, continued, “… which we missed because [the ABC series] ‘Once Upon A Time’ [panel discussion] was at the same time as the signing, thank you very much.”
The Comic-Con duo made Montrose’s Once Upon A Time their Plan B “because we know you can’t do everything at Comic-Con,” Nelson explained.
About 200 people began to line up around 5 p.m. waiting for the 7 p.m. arrival of the Barrowmans. And arrive they did, honking and waving as they drove by on Honolulu Avenue to the sound of screams and squeals from their fans. The brother-sister writers came inside the shop to set up and do interviews before the presentation to fans. They graciously said hello to the workers, and volunteers, who came to help Once Upon A Time’s owner Maureen Palacios.
The entire event was a bit surreal for Palacios who was a little nervous about the fandom that was standing outside her store.
“I had this email from Simon and Schuster (Publishing) stating that we could have the Barrowmans for a book signing,” she said.
Before she could even form a thought, one of her employees told her to sign up and sign up for the first date available.
She did and then realized that the Barrowmans have a large, dedicated fan base. People began buying books – lots of books – and contacting her from as far away as Japan.
“The [buyer from] Japan was not going to be able to make it, but wanted me to have a copy of the book signed,” she said.
Palacios called in all of her employees and extra volunteers to help with the crowd, cleared her store of all the displays and organized her Once Upon A Time troops, giving each a specific job to do.
And then it was time. Seven o’clock rolled around and fans streamed in through the door of the shop, books in hand, ready to see the pair they had been anxiously waiting for.
John and Carol took the stage to answer questions, read passages of their new book and interact with fans. The presentation, only 30 minutes long, explained to the fans about the books’ storyline, just enough to whet the appetite, and gave a glimpse into the world they have written about as well as a glimpse into their writing process.
Carol will stay at John’s house for up to three months, working with John and his husband Scott on formulating ideas and plotting out the story down to the most minute detail. Then she will return home to write the book.
Beyond joking and relating stories of “the process,” one thing was made clear in an interview the two did before the signing – though this event was to promote their book, it was also to support independent bookstores.
To get the books, you can “go to any independent bookstores,” Carol said.
“Or you can get it online,” John continued, “but independent bookstores ¬– that’s why when we released ‘Hollow Earth’ we did all of our book signings at independent bookstores. We still believe that the independent bookstores should be there, should exist.”
At the event’s end, the cleanup began, with workers happy but weary.
“It went fantastically,” Palacios said. “Better than expected and more people than expected. I think we got about 230 people or so that came to the event. The Barrowman’s were energetic, were funny, adorable, lively, magnetic. Everybody wants to marry John Barrowman, including all the married women. He is just great, and his sister, too, was able to match him. It was just one of those nights to remember, that’s for sure.”
All said and done, about 293 books were sold for the event – maybe more.
“We’ve actually probably sold more than 300 of them, but some of them I had sent off, so it’s probably more than 300,” Palacios said.