Friday, 27 July 2012

What Makes A Good Author Event?

Today I'm chairing an event at the Penzance Literary Festival - 2.00pm to 3.00pm at the Acorn Theatre - featuring two debut novelists, Liz Fenwick (The Cornish House) and Catherine McNamara (The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy).

It'll be interesting as the books are very different, and I'm looking forward to hearing about the approaches each author has taken.  But what questions to ask?  More to the point, what makes a good event from the audience point of view?

I like it when the authors talk about things you wouldn't get from an article.  I always like factual information, and for it to be funny.  I must admit, I like it when they're dressed interestingly, although that can be distracting from what they're saying.

But over to you - what makes an author event good from your point of view?


JO said...

I like authors who come across as 'real' - not just someone with a book to sell. The best I ever saw was Anne Enright, in Edinburgh. She had a huge audience, but listened to every question as if this person was the most important person in her world at that moment. She answered with humour and humility - and I came away thinking that if she lived next door I could call in and borrow sugar. She sold her book by being herself!

Victoria said...

Although I've never been at one of her events, I've heard that Jacqueline Wilson makes a point of signing & chatting for as long - as there are people waiting to have her inscribe their books. It suggests a real regard & respect for her audience. Good for her, say I.

Another author whom I remember showing similar courtesy and good humour towards some rather demanding fans was the late George MacDonald Fraser. Speaking at the Bath Literary Festival, he found himself quite hemmed in by eager admirers. It must have been as claustrophic as it was flattering, yet somehow he managed to give everyone in the hot and heated queue some friendly attention and chat while writing in their Flashman books. It made the evening pass off in very good spirit.

Lesley Cookman said...

I'll always stay and sign anything for as long as I'm wanted, but there aren't usually that many people! When you find out what makes a good event, let me know!

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I think witty and amusing is always a good ice breaker but not everyone can operate like that. As long as you are welcoming, warm and genuinely interested in people then it will go okay, I think.

Giles Diggle said...

I prefer novelists not to read their own work, unless they can deliver like Stephen Fry or are experienced actors. I can read the book for myself. Poets tend to be better at performing their own work.

I'd rather hear about the writing process, research etc. A good chair person who can encourage the author to develop their answers to questions makes all the difference.

A poor book event is when you pay £15.00 plus to hear an author promote their book for 50 minutes at a large literary festival and they clearly haven't prepared to entertain and inform. I always feel ripped off!

John Edmund said...

Like Victoria I was impressed by George MacD Fraser, a fine man and a splendid writer. Also at Bath I admired Hilary Mantel, a premier league writer who gave a well-prepared talk, exquisitely judged for the audience and answered questions with sympathy and humour. Good manners, really, and no airs.