Wednesday 25 June 2014

YALC Readathon Guest Post: When authors meet other (more famous) authors by Holly Bourne

Hi guys! We're on day three of the readathon now and I hope that you're all making great progress with your TBR piles. If not, no worries! We still have another four days to go which includes a weekend so keep calm and read on!

Speaking of keeping calm my YALC Readathon guest today is the lovely Holly Bourne who is going to be talking about her experience meeting an author she admires and sharing some tips on how to keep your cool.

I'm going to be meeting some of my all-time favourite authors during YALC. It'll only be my third book signing and so some tips on how to not get too overwhelmed by it all could not be more welcome!

Here's Holly to talk about her experience including what it feels like to be on the other side of that signing table...

When authors meet other (more famous) authors by Holly Bourne 
I don't want to sound anti-social but... I find meeting readers scary. Like, really scary.

I LOVE it, but I also spend the build-up to any author event hyperventilating into a bag and sweating all over the floor.

There is SO much to worry about. In my case:
• Swearing
• Spelling someone's name wrong when signing a book
• Spelling my own name wrong when signing a book (this has happened three times)
• Not being 'nice' enough - if people have gone to all this trouble of meeting you, what if you're not the person they want you to be?
• Etc...etc...etc... thus all the sweat.

It never occurred to me that it's equally nerve-wracking to be on the other side - the reader side. That was, until, I got to meet one of my own writing heroes recently.

EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert is a marmite book. If you love it, perhaps that's because it's like a heat-seeking missile that finds its way into your life exactly when you need it. When I was 24 and a miserable news reporter I picked up an old copy in an Oxfam shop and read it within a few days. It changed my life.

Within a month or two, I'd quit my job to go travelling, just like she did. While travelling, I stood on top of a mountain, feeling all deep and meaningful and a bit like Kevin Spacey at the end of American Beauty, and had a very profound thought I'll never forget:

"Holly, go home and write that book you've been thinking about writing."

Four years later, that book is on bookshelves. My life has changed considerably and for the better. Last month I got to meet the woman partly responsible for all that happening. Elizabeth Gilbert was coming to London to do a talk, and I got tickets to see and meet her.

Holly meeting Elizabeth Gilbert

It was so weird going through the process from the other side after only ever being on the 'author' side of these events and it came with its own set of anxieties:

• How early do you need to go to get a good seat?
• Whereabouts do you even sit? Isn't it too keen to go right at the front? But you ARE KEEN!
• Do I look too much like a crazy fan? Oh God, I'm at the front of the queue, I do!
• What the hell do I say to her? Do I tell her I'm a writer too? Or will that annoy her because I'm making it about me? Will I come across OK? Will she even remember me?
• Will it annoy her that my book is a secondhand copy?
• What if her talk is crap? What if I don't like her? Will that ruin the book for me?

It was oddly surreal when she walked into the room - suddenly I was sharing the same breathing space as the person who wrote those words. This person, who has no idea I exist or how her words and story have touched me, was now inhaling the same oxygen.

Of course, Elizabeth was WONDERFUL and her talk was everything I wanted it to be. Then for the really scary part, actually meeting her. WHAT DO YOU SAY?

For me, it all happened in a rushed blur. I blurted out: "Your book changed my life, and now I'm an author too. Thank you so much."

I waited for her to roll her eyes, or look at me as if I was bonkers, or both. Instead, she asked all sorts of questions: 'What's it called? What's it about?' And she looked pretty darn happy when I said her other book, COMMITTED, provided a lot of the research for SOULMATES. She finished by high-fiving me and saying 'ROCK ON.'

It's fair to say, my literary crush is now fully fledged. But despite the good vibes, I still left in a state of worry. Had I made a fool out of myself? Should I have said what I did? Should I have asked for a photo? Damnit! I should've asked for a photo! Did she enjoy meeting me? Will she remember me? Or do I just fade into the long line of fans?

That's when I remembered what it's like on the author side of the table, and how it feels to meet your readers. Here is the essence:

• The author is just as nervous as you are, I promise.
• If you love their book, TELL THEM. That is why they wrote the book - spending thousands of hours alone in their jimjams - for people like you to tell them they loved it. You won't sound gushing, or like a strange sad fan. To the contrary, you will be making their day/week/month/year.
• Please do write your name down beforehand so the author can see it and spell it correctly. A lengthy queue of Catherines and Katherines can easily produce some embarrassingly mis-signed books.
• But that should not suggest that we won't remember you. Anyone who has ever come up and chatted to me at a signing is etched on my memory forever in the section marked 'happy place'.

So, with all that in mind, my advice to anyone coming to YALC this year to see your favourite authors is this - don't panic, enjoy every moment, and make sure you take that photo if you want one!

 Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today Holly! I think I'm going to print these tips off and take them along to YALC with me!

 Holly will be appearing at YALC on Saturday 12th July

For news on Holly's new book The Manifesto on How to be Interesting check out my exclusive reveal post here

 Only just heard about the YALC Readathon? There's still time to sign up here.
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