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Terry Kay Spoke About His Newest Book at the ACC Library

Photo Credit: Barbette Houser

Terry Kay

Noted local author Terry Kay spoke about his new book, Song of the Vagabond Bird, at the ACC Library on Thursday night, Sept. 11. A large crowd, mostly greying and older, gathered at the Appleton Auditorium for the Café Libris event. Kay’s audience was engaged and enthusiastic as he read from his latest work. 

Song of the Vagabond Bird is primarily set on an island off the coast of South Carolina, where five men gather for 10 days of intensive group therapy. Each is obsessed with a woman. The protagonist, like the others, seeks the help of their bizarre and unorthodox therapist and leader after desperately struggling with loss and the illness of obsession. Their stories are varied and fascinating.

Kay mentioned that he actually started the book about 20 years ago when a good friend and journalist with whom he worked had a tragic experience. Kay’s coworker, who had multiple handicaps, including a hearing impairment, had become infatuated with a performer in Atlanta whom he had written a number of articles about, including a feature for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One evening, Kay’s friend went to one of her shows and she ridiculed him cruelly from the stage. He left the club, checked himself into a hospital and died later that night.

Kay revisited the work he had started on the book years earlier and had set aside, eventually reworking it to shape it into his latest novel. He took inspiration from these words that he had written so long ago: “Men ache.” 

Concerning whether or not Kay is in this latest novel, the author stated without hesitation, “Absolutely. It may be the most autobiographical thing I have written… but only in an emotional sense.”

Talking about therapy, Kay shared that he had experienced depression after the publication of his successful novel To Dance with the White Dog. After his therapist told him his problem was that he didn’t know what to do with himself and didn’t know what his next book would be, Kay gifted him a bag of marbles. Kay’s audience at the library audibly appreciated the humor of this and the many other anecdotes the author shared. 

In Song of the Vagabond Bird, the protagonist writes letters to the woman he is obsessed with as a form of therapy. He also revisits poems that he had written to hern when they were together. Kay read from one of these on this night, including the lines:

outside it is still dark. i can no longer hear the voice
of lovers warm from their lovemaking
from the window, i can see the lovely
white thighs of the ski runs. they are yearning
to be touched. i am alone. do you remember
the night of the lovemaking? I do. oh, yes, I do.

Terry Kay’s latest novel swells with love, loss, pain, hope, and redemption.

The next visitor to Café Libris will be author Faith Hunter on Saturday, Oct. 11. Hunter will discuss her latest book in the Skinwalker Series, Broken Soul. The series features protagonist Jane Walker, a vampire killer for hire. A reception will follow, and copies of Broken Soul will be available for purchase and autographing. For more information, go to