Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Questions and Answers

Last Thursday I went to Andrea Eames’ inaugural book-reading event for her debut novel The Cry of the Go-Away Bird. It was lovely to say hello to Andrea in person and admire her red polka-dot dress; it was also interesting to watch how a book-reading unfolds. I thought Andrea was fantastic – she read from just the right parts of her book to make people want to know more, and proved herself wonderfully able to answer all sorts of questions thoughtfully and confidently, demonstrating the same wit and humour already showcased on her blog. A large amount of the audience queued up to buy a copy of the book afterwards, so I would rate that as a good job well done!

However, the breadth of questions asked did make me start thinking. People seem to expect that you, the published author, will be an authority on whatever theme your book touches. Those folk are there to hear your opinion, and not all questions asked will be cosy ones about writing – some may touch on other, more personal, subjects. So that started me wondering what themes are touched upon in my novel, as when that glorious day of a Q and A arrives (sings in manner of Gospel choir: O Glorious Day!), will I be ready?

The themes of my novel are fairly dark – death and redemption tied in with the spiritual and supernatural. It’s a time-slip novel, so veers between the Second World War and the modern-day. What sort of questions would that little lot throw up? I actually dread to think! Still, it’s not like I don’t have time to practice, I guess... (looks up hopefully in case a lovely agent is reading; scans stats for anything coming from an IP address titled Lovely Agent Is Reading Your Blog; sinks back into despair).

Going back to the book reading, and I was delighted to realise that another lovely blogger I follow, Vikki from Back to the Castle, was also in the audience! We chatted all the way back into London and went for a glass of wine in the Royal Festival Hall, which was a great way to end a fabulous evening. Not only that, but someone sketched us! I was very tempted to tap the artist on the shoulder and see how she had portrayed me - whether she’d gone for ‘girl looking intelligent chatting about art, film, and literature’ or ‘girl glugging wine like there’s no tomorrow’.

Perhaps some things in life are best left to mystery.

29 comments:

Out on the prairie said...

I think from a first reading you might have to say I am not sure how to answer that and ask your audience for their input. This gives them a significant ownership in your ideas and works up your answers in further readings.

A Certain Book said...

First off I'm not an expert in "Questions and Answers" re author talk, first book launch etc. I've yet to get there too. I guess one should go prepared with answers to likely questions (regarding themes) but mention first, that you're not an expert in that particular field whatever it may be.

How lucky to meet Andrea though and to see her humour and intelligence close up! :D

Jarmara Falconer said...

Wow thank you for thatJayne you've given me lots to think about. What sort of questions would I be asked about with my book, like you I've written a timeslip book too.

N. R. Williams said...

I've been to several here for friends. One guy...can you tell from that word, I'm an American? So one of my friends is also involved in the theater and had his actor friends do a little skip about the life of an author. Very entertaining.

Love the premise of your book.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

mise said...

May your own day of the red polka dot dress come soon, and I'll be there in the front row to ask you which particular chateau of wine gives rise to most redemption in your novel.

Old Kitty said...

What happened to the sketch?? Yay for you!! I bet it was fabulous!!!

Yay too to the adorable Andrea Eames!! I guess you'd have to be pretty open to all sorts of questions about your book!! I always admire audience people able to ask coherent questions so boldly!! I'd be too in awe at the author/poet as I know I'd be when I do go to your reading of your book in the not too distant future!!!!!!

Take care
x

Gigi said...

I've no doubt that you will answer every question brilliantly--with wit and style and depth. I've wondered the same thing about my own novel if it ever gets taken.

The only experiences I've had with answering questions after readings are with poetry when I've been a writer-in-residence and also when my chapbook came out. I did some readings and talks, and there would always be a Q&A session afterwards. I thought I would hate them, but I actually liked them. They gave me a chance to talk about my obsessions with form as well as subject. It was kind of wonderful. I also love hearing about other people's takes on what they've just heard.

That reading you just attended sounds wonderful!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

I think it's best to speak from the heart, always. Today on NPR, I heard an interview with an author. Can't recall her name or even the title of her novel. It was the words she spoke that stuck. The interviewer asked what she was working on now. She said something to the effect that she had to be grabbed by a topic, that it had to speak to her. Then she had to play with the idea, see how it felt, how her words might describe it, pull it in.

It resonated for me. Writing is a process, answering questions is a process. It's all about how you, as the storyteller, tell your story. Nothing more, nothing less.

Vikki said...

Hello oh lovely one,

It was a fab evening wasn't it? I was trying to do a wee write up on my own little blog last night but I couldn't quite capture it (there is also a secret something I need to finish before posting it, keep your eyes peeled). You are definitely going to get questioned and answered very soon young miss, and when you are I shall hopefully be in the front row cheering loudly, oh yes!

Vikki x

music obsessive said...

Another great post. My guess is your sketch would be titled, 'Girl glugging wine in a literate and arty way (like there's no tomorrow)' It'll sell millions.

Sophia's Lover said...

Lonely as a cloud

What shall we sing, my friends?
In what shall we rejoice?
There alone our song lives,
Where our ancestors were born.
On Earth, where they lived...
I suffer here on Earth...
He who gives life conceals

...thanks!...sweet girl!

Jules said...

At least you had a great evening and a glass of wine :)

Q&A: how do practice for that? There will always be someone asking did you get my email, fan mail etc...:)

Eliza said...

Oh I hope you find an agent soon, I like the sound of your book, just my cup of tea.
Glad you enjoyed the Q&A must have been great to meet up with other bloggers.

Maria Zannini said...

You should have asked the artist to see the picture. S/he might have given it to you.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

If your blog is any indication, you will answer all questions brilliantly. I enjoyed the way your evening ended, too. Wine and being sketched by an artist. Fabulous!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

If your blog is any indication, you will answer all questions brilliantly. I enjoyed the way your evening ended, too. Wine and being sketched by an artist. Fabulous!

Kenda said...

Food for thought here, especially on theme and being able to answer questions about it. Hmmmm, back to the mss...!

The Good Wifehold said...

Thanks Jayne for you insightful post. I am considering a timeslip novel for my second book but am slightly hesitant... not sure why shall have to do some more research on the matter. Love the idea of someone illustrating you at teh RFH - does that just happend when you go there? How fun. TGW

Happy Frog and I said...

My previous comment appears to have been eaten so I will try and remember what I said!

I really think you will be fine for any Q&A's that you conduct in the future. As other conmmenters have said your blog shows you would be very good at it.

I would love to know what the sketch looked like to!

Happy Odd Girl said...

...Yeah, what they said! :D I'm sure you'd do brilliantly, too. :)

I don't normally read stuff that's particularly 'dark', but I think I would read yours. Having read your blog, I would trust you to take me into the darkness because I could trust you to bring me out again - whole; not leave a piece of me behind in the shadows... if you understand what I mean by that! :)

Bee said...

Was that book reading in Oxford, by any chance? The author sounds familiar to me.

If you want WWII atmosphere (domestic, or actual battles?), may I recommend Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazelet Chronicles? They aren't so good on the battle-front, but very descriptive of life on the homefront.

I take my virtual hat off to you in your writing/trying-to-get-published struggles. Good luck!

Dolly said...

Oh I can't wait for your book to be published it sounds just the sort of book I like to read. And I have complete faith in you being able to speak to the audience as you speak to us, with honesty and sincerity. I was at an opening of an art exhibition last night, and so love to wander around with a glass of red and ask questions of the artists. The best answers are always the ones that a person answers with the passion they feel for their creative work. You'll be grand!

D.J.Kirkby said...

Well done on the queues! I like the title of your book and will now be buying a copy myself.

Kathryn1000 said...

That is very interesting,Jayne.I enjoy reading your witty posts.

LeishaMaw said...

I've never thought about what type of questions I might be asked if my books ever go to press. So much to ponder now. :) Thanks for the post.

Pat Tillett said...

Very interesting! Based on the way you present things here, I'm sure you will no problems in the Q&A area!

Shannon said...

I wouldn't worry to much about Q&As...I'm sure you'll be fabulous when the time comes. =)

Wendy Altschuler said...

The book reading sounds like it was fun and informative. It's good that you're thinking about your own future Q and A sessions and I'm sure you would pull it off.

Talli Roland said...

Oh, that sounds like a fantastic night! I'd love to hear how the sketch turned out, though. :)