I’m doing the book launch circuit at the moment, so I’m becoming very aware of the questions that interest readers. It’s perhaps not surprising that the same questions come up again and again. What is surprising is the nature of those common themes and just how many readers are concerned with issues that to the author seem, at best, tangential.
I have yet to do an event, for example, where I have not been quizzed about my decision to adopt a writing name. It wouldn’t occur to me to ask another author about this, but it seems to be a topic of endless fascination for many.
I started writing fiction while I was still working as a journalist, so I used a pseudonym to avoid blurring the two professional worlds. I spent all of thirty seconds deciding on Bea Davenport: Bea came from the B in Barbara and Davenport is my husband’s surname, which I have not taken in everyday life. I spend far longer considering names for my fictional characters.
But readers will not let me get away with this. They tend to give me a fierce grilling on the issue. Ought I not to have different names for children’s and adult writing? Does it help protect me from the paparazzi (who, to date, have found better things to do)? Does it cause me tax problems? Would I recommend they adopt a false name so that their mother will not know about their writing?
I mentioned it to a fellow writer, who did not share my surprise. She spent most of her childhood deciding on her future author name, she said. She is, however, yet to be published in order to see those efforts come to fruition, which feels like a shame.
Also in the Top Three of common questions is: Did I design/choose the book cover? Readers are often disappointed to learn how little input authors often have into this. I am trying not to conclude that the concern with names and covers suggests a certain trivial streak amongst readers.
Another question that comes up, without fail, is: ‘Which of the characters in your book is actually you?’ The reply that they are ‘all made up’ never satisfies. ‘But which one is most like you?’ tends to be the follow-up. I confess that of course, there is something of the writer in any novel. But I do wish readers would credit authors with more imagination.
As my latest is a children’s book, however, this time I am meeting younger audiences. They introduce a different and entertaining dynamic into Q and A sessions. Here are some of the questions from this week, for your interest:
- How much money do you get? (One I suspect many adults would like to ask, to be honest – and again, the answer often disappoints).
- How old are you?
- Do you believe in ghosts?
Ah, well. If only I could counter with my own question: Why do you ask?