It’s sort of the way it’s done now, isn’t it?
You, an author, publish your book and the very next thing is your out doing signings or talks about writing. Doesn’t much matter what your book’s about–the appearances are de rigeur.
So you dress yourself in what you imagine the public would like to believe authors dress like–a bit on the slovenly or scruffy side of vaguely arty (yes, the boots and breeches stay home)–and turn up to do your bit.
All well and good.
And I should say, one meets some genuinely superb people this way. Fascinately, engaging, intellectually active people. Which is a delight.
(You knew there was a but coming…)
There’s always one. One who’s watched every documentary–no matter how naff–on your subject, and they know best and will not be gainsaid.
And they are there for the distinct purpose, not of listening to you. No, not that. They are there for the distinct purpose of demonstrating to anyone who is forced to listen by virtue of courtesy just how much they know.
And they will argue with anything. Absolutely ANYTHING.
You say it, they will argue with it.
It can be something as boringly incontrovertable as “the upper ranks of the French navy were not as badly decimated by the Terror as the ranks of the French army”. Fine. Terrific.
But this individual will see this not very provocative statement as a neon red rag to a particularly malevolent bull.
And charge in.
Now, let me just say, I loathe confrontation. Detest and despise it. (Which may be a clue to my affinity with horses–the ultimate ‘fleeing’ animal.)
I would do just about anything to avoid a confrontation, an argument, a let’s see who’s best and who knows more, a competition. And I don’t care what the subject is. I don’t care if the individual is spouting absolute drivel about things upon which I’m a bit of an expert.
I will head off in the opposite direction the second they open their gobs. Because these sorts of people have to be right. They have to be. Doesn’t matter how much you know, how much research you’ve done, how many degrees you hold, they know best.
Wonderful. I’m delighted for them.
But to me, it’s just not worth it. Which is now starting to present a problem, do you see?
Because now, as a published and publishing author, I have to turn up and either sign books. Or, heaven help me, burble something meaningful about the early nineteenth century or research or that kind of thing. And as I say, in the main, it’s good and I meet tremendous people.
And having been annoyed myself when people have muscled in on speakers I have very much wished to listen to, I reckon I need to think of a way to terminate these incipient disputes with the greatest of diplomacy and tact and without alienating the individual who’s determined to demonstrate their knowledge and acumen to the wondering world.
So, from this angle, it looks to me as if I should concentrate a bit more on the riding and less on the authorship…What d’you think?