Thursday, August 29, 2013

Living the dream...

I am somewhat surprised by folk who dream of meeting and chatting with their author idols. Not because they have them and I don't - oh no - I have author idols (Jane Austen -  although meeting her would probably mean sifting some dust through my fingers which I imagine would be reasonably unsatisfying, Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman - who I did get the chance to meet but didn't, Maggie Steifvater, and a small but very select bunch of others who I truly admire). I have author/illustrator idols as well (Maurice Sendak, Theodore Geisel - to name a couple) and a few illustrators too. I just don't really want to meet them.

My relationship with them happens on the page. They're very good relationships. Happy, magical ones even. I'm okay listening to my idols talk and happy enough to be in the same elevator with them, or best of all have them buy my book without any word about it from me (although I am sceptical about miracles so lets not dwell on that last one). I'm just not so fussed about their process - because I have one of my own and it's taken me awhile to get to that and if I change it inorganically it might stop working. I'm not that fussed about what they eat, or whether we enjoy the same tv programmes or have our coffee in the same way  - "Why yes I do peg my sweaters under the arms when I hang them out to dry," or 'Yes it is pantene and don't be jealous, but it did happen overnight."

I have no idea what I'd want to say to them or what I would want to know about them. They're human beings just like me so our habits probably aren't that dissimilar apart from the fact they're best sellers so their lifestyle probably does include a bit more international travel and public speaking than mine. I just want to read their books because, really, they tell me everything I want to know. They teach me what beautiful sentences and cunning word play look like. They demonstrate effective settings, satisfying plots and credible character developments. I can learn about motifs, metaphor, imagery, and onomatopeia. Why ask the writer what they were trying to do in a particular passage, or plot twist? - the challenge is mine as reader to work it out.

I have met and talked to some starry authors but it was jolly hard work composing sentences which didn't make it sound like I'd had a stroke or swallowed a dictionary of cliches, or a shipload of ums. My main aim was to sound smart enough not to embarrass myself which meant my questions weren't based on things I really desperately wanted to know (especially because there weren't things I desperately wanted to know) but on things I though the writer might want to talk about. If cannibals are correct in their theories I might have been better off eating their brains but it would be cheating to be using their skills when really I would be better off developing my own. I could try and discover whether their values and politics and beliefs are similar to my own but asking runs the risk of finding out that they aren't which might be disappointing.

Ultimately, talking to my author idols would be a false or transient relationship. I would much rather be Neil Gaiman's Diana Wynne Jones or Justine Larbalestier's Holly Black but this is a very different thing. And I already have my own writery/illustratery friends with whom I discuss the kinds of things that Neil and Diana used to talk about and Justine and Holly talk about now. And I already get to do that. It would seem I am already living the dream...

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