We all have limited time at our disposal so should you take time out to attend an author talk?
My answer is – it depends on what you want from the talk
Firstly, have you read any of the author’s books or do you intend to?
It’s true that you can probably learn something from every author, but if you don’t write fantasy you may not need to learn how that writer built their fantasy world
It makes more sense to attend a talk by an author of books in a genre that you enjoy. You will get more out of it and understand the nuances that he/she is talking about.
Do you want to know more about their books or their writing process?
Have you heard from others that their talks are entertaining and meaningful?
One fairly well-known crime writer gave a talk that was so self-congratulatory and self-absorbed that he barely had time to listen to questions, much less answer them.
In contrast, I recently attended a talk by author Rachael Johns international best-selling author and writer of both contemporary fiction and rural romances.
As a former English teacher Rachael is as you would expect is a big fan of both reading and writing.
Her first point was that ‘you have to be a reader to be a writer’
She quoted statistics from the University of Sussex, which showed that regular reading slowed the onset of dementia and also reduced stress by 66%. We readers know what we are doing!
Additionally, storytelling is important to society, offering escapism, relaxation, thrills, enjoyment and encouraging a capacity for empathy.
It is fascinating to learn how a story came about, what hunches or subconscious suggestions added to the tale.
In her talk she debunked many myths about their being ‘only one way to write’ and ‘you must plan your story in detail’
As someone who never fills out a character profile sheet (which is often recommended ), it was thrilling to hear Rachael say that she never uses them. Her stories grow organically, as she learns details about her characters.
The talk covered more topic such as what makes a book memorable? Why do we care about characters? We want them to grow and change to face up to challenges. She said that ‘people are products of their pasts’. Past hurts, emotional or physical leave their marks. In real life we want happiness but in fiction, we seek drama and conflict As Rachael said, ‘we need to torture our characters.’
It is inspiring how normal those rarefied creatures called authors are, how pleased they are to hear that you liked their book and want them to sign it for you. And of course, you can thank an author by leaving a review of their book on Good reads or Amazon
As a reader it feels good to meet your favourite authors, to thank them and say how much you enjoyed their book, but as a writer, it is encouraging to hear how scenes were deleted, how characters refused to behave, how the author struggled to completion.
An author talk can be a simple social event, with a chat and a cup of tea or a glass of wine afterwards, or it can be a lesson in what successful authors do that you could do too.