Confessions of a book club host
I have met, interviewed, and hosted more authors at literary dinners than I can remember. I have watched these authors speak to my guests, answer my questions and sell their books for more than 10 years. Some of the writers are forgettable, but many have left lasting positive impressions. This has very little to do with how famous they are, and more to do with how they behave.
So, what are the seven things these memorable writers have in common?
- They are well-mannered. Manners are more important than people realise. My favourite authors have all been considerate. They switch off their cell phones. They are punctual. They are present. They remember people’s names, and they make an effort to engage with people.
- They have led interesting lives. This does not mean that they have visited every continent or led dangerous lives. It means they are widely read and open-minded. Their interests have led them to meet interesting people through research and shared passions. They interact with other interesting people. It is a fact that the people we spend time with change the way we behave. They determine the people we become.
- They are not boring. They keep their answers brief. This does not mean they are stilted or cold, but they actually answer the questions people ask them. They are positive about their work. They talk about new books they’re working on. They do not boast about their accomplishments.
- They are great listeners. They may love to talk about themselves – don’t we all? – but they refrain from overdoing it. They understand the art of conversation, and they listen to people who interview them, and to the people they meet. Authors who make an excellent impression do not say too much. The people we like the most know when to keep quiet.
- They have a few great anecdotes. Readers and guests are not there to find out random trivia that might be on an author’s mind. They want to know about their books, and their writing habits. They are interested in personal lives in relation to the author’s work. If an author has been married five times, the audience will want to know how each spouse affected the books they wrote. ‘Did spouse number three serve as inspiration for a villain?’ ‘How do they manage to write with young children?’ The best guests have short stories that entertain, inform and engage.
- They are charming. It is not all about words. Tone of voice and body language are just as important. Memorable authors laugh and smile. They engage with people, shake hands, and they are attentive. When they speak about their books they are passionate. They talk to each reader as they sign their books.
- They are fascinated by people, places, and things. They are not jaded. Even if they have done this a thousand times, they are eager to meet people, find out about the city they are visiting, and the venue for the book launch. People who meet them feel as if they have shared a new experience with that author. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Research shows excitement is often associated with the person you’re with.
Before you represent yourself, and your book, in public it’s a good idea to remember the people you’re meeting are your fans.
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.
More Interviews[Some of the authors Amanda has hosted at literary events, and/or interviewed, include Alan Hollinghurst, Alexander McCall-Smith, Andre Brink, Andrew Gross, Angela Makholwa, Bryce Courtenay, Elizabeth Noble, George Bizos, Ian Rankin, James Hendry, Jassy McKenzie, Jeffery Deaver, Jeffrey Archer, Jill Mansell, Joanne Harris, Jodi Picoult, John Connolly, John van de Ruit, Karen Rose, Lauren Beukes, Lesley Pearse, Mandy Wiener, Marian Keyes, Marina Lewycka, Mavis Cheek, Michael Connelly, Michael Robotham, Pamela Jooste, Philippa Gregory, Santa Montefiore, Stephen Leather, and Susan Lewis.]