Had a great attendance for Robert Radcliffe at Browsers this evening, talking about his latest novel Dambuster. The author talks always draw more men than the book groups I hold at Browsers, but it was just about 50:50 this evening due to the nature of the subject.
I had the privilege of 'interviewing' Robert this evening (though really it was more a case of giving him chance to take breath and a sip of water). He was a very confident speaker even when battling to be heard over a pack of squealing, fighting dogs outside, and seeking to swat a fly which wanted to steal the limelight.
It was interesting to hear a different perspective on the writing process from Robert. He says he plans very carefully and knows exactly what is going to happen next; there is no danger of the characters taking the story in another direction for him. In fact he writes cvs for all his characters, he says. He writes from 6am to 4pm five days a week, and each book takes a year - six months research and six months to write.
I really wanted this evening's event with Amanda Hodgkinson to be a success because I so enjoyed the book - 22 Britannia Road. And with the author coming from Suffolk (and looking so familiar in her publicity photo!), it seemed even more important that it should do well here. Unfortunately there weren't huge numbers in attendance but actually it was a lovely gathering. This was Amanda's first event. But she's speaking at Waterstone's in Ipswich tomorrow and then goes on tour of independent bookshops in America! She gave a thoughtful and informative account of how the book came about and everyone left clutching a book and eager to start reading.
Just managed to place a knitted Kate on the balcony to join William today. Knit Your Own Royal Wedding books now flying out of the shop!
Travelled all the way to Cambridge after work to hear Rob Bell this evening. He has just published a book called 'Love Wins' which has met with huge controversy. I've enjoyed his Nooma DVD series (though confess I haven't read his two other books because I haven't got over their format), and thought he'd be great to hear speak. But this event was an example of how not to do it. Quite reassuring considering I have a number of events to run in the next few weeks, but disappointing being a member of the paying audience.
The event was held in the impressive Cambridge Corn Exchange and the audience was large, young, energetic and supportive. Rob Bell was confident but, I think, exhausted. This was his last talk in a tour of eight, or 12 cities, he wasn't quite sure. He was meant to speak for 20 minutes and then be interviewed. He managed 10, telling three disparate stories which certainly had no relevance to his book's theme of heaven and hell. Unfortunately he also mumbled and the amplification was bad. This became worse and worse as the evening progressed. His interviewee, Maggie Dawn, seemed excellent, when we could hear what she was saying but most of the time, even though we were sitting midway in the hall, it seemed as though we were eavesdropping on some private conversation. But perhaps it was an age thing. All the 20-somethings were participating in the question and answer session, and whooping and guffawing where appropriate. We came away feeling very short changed. Not only had we understood nothing about the book's themes and argument, but we didn't even feel we'd got to know any more about Rob Bell.
Just back from a weekend in Sussex attending the annual conference of the Children's Book Group Federation. Two authors stood out for me this year. Ali Sparke was only given a seminar slot, albeit repeated, and I had never been drawn to her Shapeshifter books or Frozen in Time, even though it won the Blue Peter Award. However, she is now producing series of books at a tremendous rate. And she is a marvellous speaker - incredibly entertaining. Apparently she used to be a tv comedy writer, and she certainly has a sense of humour, a love of playing with words and an attention to detail.
In the session I attended, Ali was talking about her new series for young children called SWITCH. These stories are based around twin boys who can adopt the powers of different insects. She stood in front of us dressed in purple with a black waistcoat embroidered with cobwebs and multifaceted purple earrings and ring (to replicate the fly's eyes!). Sounds a bit querky? Well, I wouldn't draw attention to her dress sense if it wasn't for the fact that later in the day I saw her in a completely different outfit. She'd been talking about a completely different series of books in her later seminar, so had dressed appropriately for that one too. Dedication? Branding? Passion for her product?! Whichever, she certainly got my vote for being plain good fun!
The other author who struck me this year, was quite different. Phil Earle has written a book called Being Billy (see my recommended reads). I doubt I would ever have picked this up (run-of-the-mill cover and nondescript title) if it wasn't for hearing him speak. He looked quite bashful and ill at ease sitting on the panel waiting to speak, but as soon as he had the opportunity to talk about his subject, he was off. And I felt I could have listened to him for hours. He used to be a care worker so has written the book from personal experience. The way he talked about the difficulties of working with these children - in what they did to him, but also in what had happened to them -was quite harrowing. But he had developed such compassion for these young people, and such a conviction that their lives could be turned around for the better, that he was truly inspiring.