Background artiste from 'Better than Stars'

Friday, 1 March 2013

Don't Judge a Writer by Their (Possibly Drunken) Appearance

I can't name names or places, as it would almost certainly be libellous - and anyhow, I'm not even sure I want to, for reasons which will become clear later.

I was in the audience at a literary festival for a panel between three novelists. Author A was the one I'd come to see, Author B was chairing and Author C was - well, someone I'd never heard of before.

In the discussion, unknown Author C turned out to be unable to string two sensible words together. When it was their turn to speak, they would ramble disconnectedly for a few minutes until they finally tailed off, followed by an embarrassed silence from the audience. Authors A and B would then look at each other as if to say "Did you understand a word of that?" "No, neither did I," and initiate another topic of conversation.

Author A, on the other hand, fulfilled my expectations by being articulate and interesting: clearly the sort of person whose book you'd want to read. Except, that is ...

I can't remember why I bought the books of all three authors to be signed after the event: I imagine there was something about each of them which appealed to me, in spite of the way the discussion had gone. And you can guess which was the one which turned out to be the best read I've had for a long time: innovative, gripping and consistently well written. Yes, it was the novel by incoherent Author C.

Author A's book is OK. Just that. I've already given it to the charity shop. It's the first of a series, and I shan't be bothering with the others. Which goes to show ... what?

I've wondered since whether Author C had made too much use of the refreshments in the green room. Certainly they spoke like someone under the influence of something. Or maybe it's just further proof of what I've always believed: that creativity has nothing to do with what you're like as a person.

Which invites the question - what is the point of author appearances? And what can we, as aspiring authors, learn about how to approach them?

Apart from the advisability of keeping a safe distance from the green room wine, that is.