Monday, January 05, 2009

To meet or not to meet

Author Joshua Henkin (whose book, Matrimony was one of my favorite novels last year) just sent me a link to this article about his experience visiting book clubs as they discuss his book.

I did a few of these when my book came out. The ones where I visited in person were SO much fun--it was like discovering a roomful of new best friends (because honestly, what bonds women faster than discussing our romantic hopes and failures over a nice Chardonnay?) The phone in calls were a mixed bag, though. Some groups were open and friendly, and I felt like I was right there with them, laughing and considering different perspectives. But others were incredibly awkward, as if I'd somehow found out they were discussing my book and called in without warning to crash their party. I wasn't sure what to make of this, until I had this interesting conversation with a young mom I sat next to on a plane.

We were making the usual small talk. I was on tour for the book, so that came up, and I (trying to spare her from making the obligatory "Oh--I'd love to read your book!" comment) segued into my favorite conversational topic, asking "What do you like to read?"

She told me about her favorite authors, and recommended a few titles she'd really loved.

"Which author would you most like to meet?" I asked next, caught up in her obvious enthusiasm for escaping into stories.

"None of them," she said, a baffled look crossing her face. "I don't want to meet authors, that would give me too much information. What if I decide I don't like them? Or they see their stories differently than I do? That could ruin everything. If I like an author," she said, "what I really want them to do is stay home and write more books..."

This got me thinking. I LOVE meeting authors. The vast majority of them have exceeded my expectations in terms of how openly they share about their inspiration, their struggles, the funny little things that happen in the course of writing. And the ones who aren't nice are not nice in such a memorable, over-the-top way that it's still worth the time to drive out to meet them. When my book came out, I was excited to join the ranks of the fun, open authors, and excited to meet the people who had read my book. It never crossed my mind that they might not want to meet me...

But as I sat there on the plane, pondering the young mom's comments, I could totally see her point. And even Henkin admits that his scenic tour of book clubs has delayed completion of his next novel.

How about you? Do you like to meet authors (or other people whose work you've either loved or hated)? Or do you prefer to keep a wall between those worlds?

10 comments:

Krissy said...

It depends on the type of author. If I've loved their memoir or some other being-yourself type of book, then I'd love to meet them. I NEVER want to meet authors of my favorite fiction, though--it's much too risky. As a writer, my mom knows so many writers and I have had the bad fortune of therefore learning personal tidbits about some of my favorite authors that I would MUCH rather have never known.
I'd still go to their readings, but I wouldn't linger in hopes of chatting later.

LarramieG said...

I'd like to meet some authors, already "met online," because there would be an established bond other than their work, yet otherwise...not really.

Liza said...

I love to meet authors. I've been pretty lucky with those I've met, and will continue to go to readings.

Sarakastic said...

I'm naturally an introvert, the same goes for bands, I like to be in the same room with them, I like to hear their stuff, but I never line up to talk to them because A. I don't want to bug them & B.if they are total jerks then I'll never like their music again.

Anonymous said...

Totally love meeting authors. Never occurred to me not to, or that there'd be too much information that would ruin future readings of their books. But I'm awfully nosey, so maybe that's part of it?

Also, I'm afraid book tours, etc, are just part of the game these days if you want to get your book out there. It may delay the next one, but if you don't, there might not be a publisher for the next one...

Amy Boucher Pye

Beck said...

Nope, not generally. I've met a few authors through my dad and most of the time, meeting them just ruined my enjoyment of their books. BUT I guess it depends on the writer, right?

Allie said...

I've loved the experience of meeting the few authors I have met. When I was about twelve I met one of my favourite children's and teen authors, Sherryl Jordan, who's a Kiwi, and she was so nice to me when she found out I wanted to be an author, and wrote me a special card and several letters giving me advice.
Then a few years ago I met Adrian Plass, a British writer of humourous Christian books which I love! All I did was ask for his autograph in my book, and then I went outside and burst into tears because I was so excited to have met him.
Thoroughly enjoyed both times. Now I only have to meet Jane Austen and I can die happy. ... What's that you say?!? Dead?!?! :)

~Virginia~ said...

i'm not sure. i mean, i think it'd be cool to meet someone like j.k. rowling, but i'm absolutely positive i wouldn't be able to say anything the least bit coherent and she'd walk away thinking i was a complete loon. :)

Angie said...

I'm with the mom on the plane. Meeting the author lessens the mystique...if it's fiction. Plus, like her, I want them to quit talking and get back to writing. There's nothing worse than reading from a fantastic first-time author who remains...a first time author. Meeting nonfiction author - no problem.

heidikins said...

I would love to meet some of my favorite authors, and I would love for them to give me a secret scoop on their next project.

I also am afraid I would have nothing to say to someone like Frank McCourt or John Steinbeck....conundrum.

xox