The joys of a great author event

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an author event featuring Chris Cleave, author of Incendiary, Little Bee, and most recently, Gold. I drove home afterward in an outstanding mood, because start to finish, the event was delightful.

The author was warm, charming, funny, and intelligent. He read a passage from Gold that takes place relatively early in the narrative, and brought it to life with verve and humor. He talked through his writing process, how he settled on Gold’s subject matter, how he researched it (including subjecting himself to a rigorous bicycle training regimen – a very funny part of his talk), and what he viewed as the central questions of the novel. The author spoke with great insight on the subjects of competition, ambition, and friendship, the drive to be the best at something where in order to success, everyone else has to fail, and the “hidden world” of high-level athletes.

It was simply fascinating. I gained some fresh insights into a book that I’d already read and enjoyed. Questions were welcomed. I asked – rather inarticulately, I’m afraid – about the “win at all costs” mentality that he’d been discussing versus the message so prevalent today that everyone’s a winner, we’re all special! He gave a great answer, both from his perspective as a writer on the subject and as a parent of young children as well.

Simply a great event. So why am I writing about it? Because I came away from it thinking about how, no matter how much we as readers may glean from a book, there’s always more to learn. The best author events, in my opinion, are the ones that go beyond book signings or readings. Hearing an author speak about his or her writing process and motivation, elaborate on the big questions he/she was trying to explore in the book, or how a particular character was conceived, adds exponentially to my enjoyment of the book itself. Just when I think I’ve gotten a book all figured out, I have a new angle to consider!

What author appearances have you attended and enjoyed? Have you ever reconsidered your opinion of a book after hearing the author speak? Does the quality of your interactions with an author affect your views of the book itself? Share your experiences and thoughts, please!

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