… to be told when you go to a talk given by an author?

I can hear you!! And I agree – this sounds a fairly silly question. But let me explain why I’m asking.

Last week, I went to an extremely interesting talk held in Abingdon Library. It had been arranged by Abingdon Writers with the help of Mostly Books. The author, Ali Shaw, was speaking about his two books, The Girl with Glass Feet and The Man who Rained, to an audience that included a large number of readers, as opposed to an audience of solely writers.

The entrance to Abingdon Library, courtesy of Abingdon Library

I realised the significance of the strong reader element when Ali, a literary writer, stated that there was no such thing as genre. As soon as he’d said that, I’d expected hands to fly up and his remark to be challenged by those keen to assert that genre certainly existed in commercial fiction. But not a hand was raised. All around me, people continued to listen with interest.

It hit me at that moment that readers didn’t care about the ins and outs of the publishing industry, about genre and literary definitions – they cared about the finished book, and that was what they wanted to hear about.

Over the past seven years, I’ve been to so many workshops, author talks, writing groups, that I’d rather lost sight of the fact that there were people who wanted to be transported into the world of the fiction, and left there in peace.

My novel, The Road Back, falls into the category of commercial historical fiction. It is, therefore, a very different sort of book from Ali’s, whose works are lyrical, modern-day fables, and any talk I give will ineviably be different from Ali’s so I can’t look to his structure for guidance.

I’ve just seen the programme for the Historical Novel Society Conference 2012, which is to be held at the end of September at the University of Westminster, London, and it looks as though I shall be giving a talk/workshop there. It is important to me that I get it right, and this reminder about remembering the composition of your audience when preparing a talk couldn’t have come at a better time.

So, Dear Readers ( and Dear Writers, too), perhaps you would help me. When you go to hear a talk given by an author, what sort of things do you like to be told?