Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Author talks – for writers, readers, or both?

It always fascinates me to see who attends author talks.

Whether it's guest spots in libraries or book stores, or writers’ festivals … who are the people who make up the audience? Are they fans of the author, fans of a particular title, genre fans, or other writers (published and unpublished alike)?

Has everybody who listens to an author talk read that writer’s latest release (or any of their works?)

This week, I heard new Australian author Toni Jordan talk about her debut novel Addition. I went along because, generally, I enjoy listening to writers talk about their creative journey, and the session took place a few floors below my office (and was thus very handy).

Addition is described as an offbeat romance, told through the eyes of a woman who is a compulsive “counter” (of everything from bristles on toothbrushes to tiles on the floor).

During her chat, Toni talked about her fascination with the way the human brain works – something she explores in the novel – and how we all have patterns of thinking, which - for most of us - are unconscious. Certainly an intriguing subject.

I had considered trying to read the novel before her visit, but I had a couple of library books due back in a short time and decided to give them priority.

Now that I’ve heard Toni speak (she was a warm and engaging speaker, clearly interested in her readers, and definitely someone enjoying discovering their creative voice), I’m even more interested in seeing how that translates on the page.

No doubt, had I read the book, some of the character-based discussions would have been more meaningful, but I nevertheless still enjoyed her session, particularly when the topic shifted to her novel's themes.

Toni had a great turn-up, and the crowd seemed to be a combination of avid readers and fledgling writers, and they kept the questions flowing for a good half hour.

Here are some of the author’s I’ve heard talk in the last 12 months, and why:
- Markus Zusak: huge fan of all his work (shy but interesting speaker, especially on the subject of good storytelling)
- Rebecca Sparrow: as a Gen-Xer, I'm fan of her work generally (vibrant and engaging speaker)
- Suzanne Leal: discovered at Brisbane Writers’ Festival (gentle soul – lovely speaker); read book after hearing her speak
- Mark Abernethy: also discovered at Brisbane Writers’ Festival (came across as a pretty cool guy with interesting insights into the character development process); read book after hearing him speak – now a big fan
- Louise Cusack: fan of her work, and a professional acquaintance (always fun and engaging – loves an audience)

I'm curious to see if anyone wanted to talk about authors they had heard speak – and why they chose to listen to them.


the ink-stained toe-poker said...

I interviewed a writer called Bill Watkins, it was supposed to last for 20 minutes and lasted for 2 n a half hours. Surprisingly for me he did most of the talking. His first book A Celtic Childhood is a cracker, his second Scotland is not for the Squeamish had its moments and the third the once and future Celt, I'm reading it now, is really quite educational.

The books are his memoirs so the character development is self evident, we talked a lot about his process and self discipline.

More recently I managed to get a wee interview out of Dougie Brimson, a prolific football writer - I stuck it up on my blog, the second half is waiting on uni approval and will hopefully come shortly.

I've interviewed a few other authors back in the day when I wrote for the magazine, and attended a reading session at last year's brisbane writer's festival. It was a good mix of quiet readings and performed oratory read from bits of paper.

I've not been to an official author's talk but my supervisor at Uni (and a number of his peers) are published authors, so I'm lucky enough to get to spend a fair bit of time talking to writers about how and what they write. It's really cool and it helps you discern or define your own style too. I realised I had one for a start. Sorry went on a bit there.

Bec said...

You know, I've never actually been to an author talk before - there have been a few I have wanted to get to (pre-kids) but never did. I did hear Mick Molloy talk before the opening of his movie Crackerjack (very entertaining and funny) and I once got Ian Healy to sign his book that I bought for Matt. I think he said "hello" and "good on ya'", so technically it was an author...who was..uh...talking :P

Do either of these count?'t think so :P

Paula Weston said...

Ha, well, close enough!

Bec, I think we need to make a date to go a session or two of the writers' festival together this year...

Poker, I agree that talking to other writers (and hearing them speak at events) helps clarify your own style and attitudes to writing - and reading.