Hazel McHaffie

Appearances – deceptive or otherwise

Yes, indeedy! Appearances (in both senses) can be deceptive in more ways than one.

One of the most enjoyable events I do is visiting bookgroups. Usually I sit in on their discussion of my book, and answer any questions that they direct at me about it. It’s always a great thrill to hear people talking about my characters as if they know them, reflecting on the people they like or dislike, the bits that resonated for them, the aspects that were less convincing. (Nobody’s totally assassinated my writing so far, which helps, of course!) It’s usually all very relaxed, with a glass of wine along the way, the odd crisp/nut/biscuit, and I have leisure to learn from their comments about what works and what doesn’t. Incidentally, the negative comments are often more powerful and instructive for me than the compliments.

However, last Thursday’s ‘author appearance’ was rather different. The setting, the welcome, the people, were all deluxe, but from the outset the questions came thick and fast – in my direction! My career, my subjects, my choices, my opinions, were all under the microscope. The assembled ladies had a wealth of knowledge and experience between them – both personal and professional; they were most encouraging and engaged and generous, but I was most definitely in the big black chair! They’d all read Over My Dead Body for this session but that merely served as a reference point; they were interested in the why and the how of writing about medical ethical issues – forcing me to  think fast. Why did I go down the fiction route after years in academia? Why did I write a particular novel at a particular time? What prompted me to write about that specific topic? Where do ideas come from? Why did such and such a character have to die? How do I cope with the emotional drain of writing such books? How would I tackle the issue of too few organ donors? It was all very stimulating and great fun, and very good for me to be put on the spot – I can prepare for a discussion on the book; I can’t really prepare for so many challenges out of left field. 

BookgroupI salute you, ladies! You were wonderful. This picture (apologies for the quality – I didn’t like to bring the big camera!) captures the essential qualities of a super session: intelligent articulate people, a stimulating topic, peaceful ambience, excellent lubrication. My only regret … I can’t join all the bookclubs I visit!

 

 

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