This Wednesday at 7.30pm I’ll be doing a reading and answering some questions at Review Bookshop, 131 Bellenden Road, Peckham. This has only just occurred to me.
I’ve done this sort of thing before, and I’m starting to feel alright about it. Taking part in the Melbourne Writers Festival in August pretty much flogged out all of my worst nightmares. We had to wear Madonna style headsets instead of using a microphone, and I had a cold. I got a massive tickle in my throat, which I couldn’t clear because of the headset which made the room vibrate when I coughed, so I had to sit there with my eyes streaming, looking to the audience like the pressure was just too much for me.
I also managed to turn an elderly audience against me in answering the question ‘Would you ever write about your English family?’ by saying I’d have to wait until my Grandmother died. It was sort of a joke, but it was met with a sharp communal inhalation and a hard and beady look from the white haired lady who had been nodding along with everything I said up until then.
So what else could go wrong? The worst would be if no one came, and I had to fill an hour by just prattling on to my parents. I’ve also woken up with a cold this morning, so I might be reading in an awful adenoidal voice, and hacking into a handkerchief. Or I might have a terrifying nosebleed like David Frost did that time:
My main problem though, which is the same one I face every time I do something like this, is how to start. I have become no better at describing what my book is about, in this past year. I sometimes feel like I want to start flapping my arms and just say something like ‘it’s all about stuff and things and that. And lots of it.’ A cab driver in New York asked me what it was about, and I told him ‘It’s a thriller about men not speaking to each other.’
It’s hard this bit, I’ve spoken to other authors who say they have the same problem, you’re so close to the story , it becomes about how a character ties his shoes, how beer tastes, what a headache feels like. What you want to be able to say at the beginning of an event like the one on Wednesday is, ‘I’ve written a book about three men living together in a caravan in Uzbekistan, and how they feel about organic farming’. Instead, on Wednesday, I’ll be stammering and trying to make sense of a list of stuff that will be written in tiny writing on the cover of my reading copy of the book. It will say: Australia, 1950s, Sydney, East Coast, men, landscape, Vietnam, conscription, PTSD and cake decorating.
Any worst ever public speaking stories? Things to watch out for? Even better, has anyone who has read my book got a succinct one-liner on what the book’s about? If you have there’s a stubby cooler in it for you.
Hope to see you there.