Following our recent post announcing a syndication of select blogs from our lovely author Simon Parke, we are delighed to share this poignant and pointed piece on 'meeting the author'... (Simon is the author of a forthcoming historical novel, among others...)
I recently encountered some people who were off to meet a famous author.
They were very excited at the prospect… but my first thought was to wonder why?
They wouldn’t actually be meeting the author, of course. He’d be on a stage, behind a microphone - but they’d be in the same room, and he would be taking questions which can give the impression of a genuine encounter.
Some of the thrill seemed to be that they’d be in the same room as a figure declared ‘famous’.
But there was a hunger beyond that; for some of them had read his books and now wanted to meet the man.
In my experience, however, meeting the author is always a mistake. You may really like the book - indeed, it may have changed your life. But the story is best left there.
Remember there’s nothing spontaneous about a book: the author has spent hours behind closed doors creating something a great deal better than themselves - more clever, more humorous, more wise, more rounded.
They’ve been able to edit their lines in a way they cannot edit their lives, where there are numerous disappointing typos.
Their lives are in the same tangle as yours, probably worse, and probably a great deal more insecure - or else why would they feel the need to play god on the page? It’s where the prosecution might begin: writers only write to pretend control over a life they can’t control. They are small gods on the page as they plot, but away from the page, may lose the plot on a regular basis.
One of my favourite spiritual books, from the early 20th century, led me into a hunt for the late author. I wanted to know more about them, enjoy the life which gave rise to the writing.
I even travelled to Cambridge and submitted myself to various security checks in order to get a glimpse of their personal diaries, recently made available.
The experience was salutary, however. In their diary, I discovered a rather carping and critical life, full of falling-outs and over-reaction. They’d written from the best of themselves with their ordinary selves on the other side of the chasm.
Without a football at their feet, footballers can struggle. And without a pen in their hands or a keyboard to bash, a writer may disappoint.
It might be more rewarding to get tickets to meet your plumber for an evening or your newsagent. They may be less needy, pretending less.
But I don’t imagine anyone’s coming to meet the author; I see it more as a gathering of friends wishing me well in my small and insecure endeavours - because although some people read a book and wish to meet the author, I’m not one of them.
In their work, I’ve probably met them at their best.