When author meets audience

September 4, 2010, 5 Comments

Exactly what an author loves to see!


Writing can be lonesome work sometimes. Just you, your thoughts and your computer. At some stage, the circle broadens a little to include friends & family, then wider still with the publisher and its editorial, marketing and sales departments. But it’s not until your book is published that you, as the author, realise that hundreds of complete strangers will be reading the words you toiled over for months. And even then, those precious readers don’t seem real; they could be anywhere, could be anyone. So what a difference it makes to sit down with them and talk about your book. It is truly a special moment for an author.   

I’m in the unusual, but lucky, position of working in a bookshop and so am able to sell my book every day. And be there when customers come back to tell me how much they have enjoyed it. That’s great; I love it. But it’s even better to go off to another city and meet a roomful of people who are all there to listen to me read and ask me questions. There’s something so intimate about that; it’s a pleasure that I have only recently discovered. And this week I’ve had that pleasure twice.  

Wednesday night, 6.30pm. I’m sitting in a small English bookshop in Basel, facing a good-sized audience, who all seem to be waiting for me to say something momentous so I’m a little nervous. But I needn’t be. Bergli Books’ Talk Parties are a Basel institution so Dianne, the lovely bookshop owner, knows exactly how to please the crowd. It’s an interview-style format (rather like Michael Parkinson on TV), with questions from Dianne and the audience. That might sound daunting, because you never know what will be asked, but it actually makes it easier, because you are not wholly responsible for every word. An hour of lively chat and healthy debate follows, and a fun time was had by all.

Friday night, 8pm. 46 hours later I’m in Zurich. A few readers have said that in the book I’m a bit hard on Switzerland’s very own metropolis, or more precisely its inhabitants. I blame that on living in Bern. So now I’m nervous for different reasons: not the speaking, but the reaction. The Orell Füssli English Bookshop team has rolled out the welcome mat, with a giant window display and row upon row of my book inside. Seeing your own book in a shop window is what every author waits for, so I bounce into the shop, ready for whatever Zurich throws at me. And that’s nothing but applause, making the 90 minutes fly by. They came, they laughed, they bought the book. What more could I ask for?

Those two events, and all the emails, have made me contemplate why I wrote the book. Not for the money (at least not just yet!) but for pleasure. I love writing – but have discovered that I love the response just as much; how gratifying to hear an audience react to words that I wrote, to feel their enjoyment match my own. Is that vanity? Egotistical pride? Or simple satisfaction at bringing a bit of light relief into people’s lives. Maybe a mix of all of the above. Storytelling is one of the oldest art forms we have, and it’s great to be part of that. 

Now it’s on to the Big One: the home crowd in Bern, with 200 people at Stauffacher next Wednesday. Let’s hope it’s a case of the more the merrier.

5 Comments on "When author meets audience"

  1. Michael Wednesday September 8th, 2010 at 09:50 PM · Reply

    Diccon, I just attended your talk on the book and really enjoyed it. Thanks so much for writing such an informative and funny book. It will really help get recalcitrant ex-pats (like me) “with the programme” when it comes to getting stuck into Swiss life. It should be required reading with your B/C permit when you arrive in Switzerland!

  2. swisswatching Thursday September 9th, 2010 at 09:10 AM · Reply

    Hi Michael. Glad you enjoyed it – I did too! And it was great to have such a good crowd. Pop in and say hello in the shop sometime.

  3. berlinoise Thursday September 9th, 2010 at 09:50 AM · Reply

    Hi Diccon, Not only have I read your book – but I’ve reviewed it!! The book was fabulous, really informative, well-written and funny, and I’m addicted to your blog. Are you planning a sequel to Swisswatching by any chance? I can’t wait to meet you (and get my book signed) on one of your next forays into Suisse Romande! 🙂 Liz

    • swisswatching Friday September 10th, 2010 at 02:26 PM · Reply

      I saw your review, Liz – and very lovely it was too. Thank you. I have four different events coming up in Suisse Romande, so hope to meet you at one of those. And of course bring your book along and I will signit. And tell all your friends! Unlike in Bern, I don’t know many people on the other side of the Röstigraben so the more people who come along, the better.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. A big thankyou – and the tour goes on « Swiss Watching

Leave a Comment