If sex sells so well, why don't we see more pictures of authors naked?
I mean, they have the firefighter calendars (no, evilkev isn't allowed to pose) and they have policeman calendars. Why not author calendars? I could just imagine JA Konrath holding the manual of his words of wisdom over his...what's the phrase de jour? Manhood? Is this where I say it's a good thing he doesn't need mu...
Okay, maybe I'd better not say that. Not where he can read it, anyway. But aren't you all dying to know if Stuart MacBride really does have both nipples pierced, or just one?*
Now, if you're wondering where this is going, and if it's anywhere intelligent, likely not. But I've had a lot of things going through my mind the past few days, and one of them is about the extraneous job requirements authors face.
When you start out, usually it's the love of writing, of storytelling, that's compelling you. But when you start to think about selling work and being published, you have to think about book signings and speaking on panels, public readings and such.
People who know me reasonably well usually can't comprehend how shy I can be, especially with strangers. The Blog is one thing - I can say anything here. I'm not making anyone read it. I don't have to see how you react (unless you kindly leave me a comment). But this is a very controlled medium of communication.
I was recently on a panel, talking about Harrogate, and one of the questions I was asked was how you could register to just go to one session instead of the whole thing. I was sitting there thinking, "Why would anyone from Canada go to the UK for one panel? WTF?" See what I mean? Public setting = no control. And then you say things, like Mark Billingham's admission that he generally leaves about 15 minutes for sex on a panel at Harrogate, and people never forget.
Which made me really unsure how to respond when he said he'd give me 15 minutes this year...^
I did a reading of my work last year and it was brutal. As much as I "can" put it on and perform in public, this was my work and it was the first time I was reading from a manuscript of my own. I had classic verbal diarrhea and the front row was sweating profusely from the amount of heat in my cheeks.
And lucky them, I've signed on to do it again.
Now, I think we've all heard the old saying "picture the audience naked."
Is this really helpful? What if you look out into the crowd and see John Rickards in a tutu? Would the thought of him naked help me relax and enjoy the reading experience?
I think I'd be trying to stifle the laughter, reach for the water and snort it through my nose, just for good measure.
Which reminds me of one of my most embarrassing moments. My 16th birthday party, my cousin, his girlfriend, a guy I had a crush on all at my house pre-party. We're having dinner. I'd just taken a sip of coke and someone made me laugh.
I sprayed pop all over the floor. Yep, that Sandra, she's one classy chick.
Why is it I can be such a total performer with a group of children and I can turn into a quivering idiot around adults?
This year, I've had to do a lot more public speaking than usual. Introducing speakers, some teaching again, including teaching adults. Oh fun. But it has really helped me mentally, as I start to think about reading from my actual book in public. And facing those completely off-the-wall questions.
Fortunately, I know I'm not the only one who goes through this. I was surprised at how shy Michael Connelly seemed last year at Harrogate. And when Ian Rankin was in Calgary in 2004 he put his foot in his mouth and there was probably a solid five minutes of laughter over the slip of the tongue.
It helps when you have a supportive crowd of admirers. But I think when you're able to laugh at yourself, like he did, you can also win sympathy.
At least I hope so.
Though I'm definitely not picturing the audience naked. Or co-readers or co-panelists. Or interviewers.
So what strategies do you guys have to help you get over your nerves?
Now I'm off to learn a new signature so that anyone who should ever ask for a signed copy of my book can't forge my cheques.
^ For an interview. Really, you people are just disturbed, always twisting things.
* No, I'm not telling how I know. I don't tell everything!