Yesterday I attended a talk and signing session with American author Deborah Harkness and what an insightful, pleasant and warm evening it was. I had never been to see an author give a talk before and in fact have never had a book signed, so I was pretty nervous about what to expect.
There were roughly forty of us that went to Nottingham’s branch of Waterstones and there were a surprising balance of both men and women. The actual evening as a whole lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, but you never became aware of the time at all.
All this was down to the magnificent and mesmerising Deborah Harkness, who commanded the entire room with her friendly, natural and interesting speech. This is a woman who is a historian by occupation, but turned everything she loved into a novel. She first gave a talk about the first book in her trilogy ‘A Discovery of Witches’ and brought everybody round to a conclusion of the book before briefly talking about some of the events in the second novel ‘Shadow of Night’.
Deborah gave two readings from ‘Shadow of Night’ and her reading voice was just so natural and warm and despite already knowing the book, you could just sit and listen to her read all evening. I may in fact look at seeing if her books are read by herself in audio book form. It was really interesting and great to listen to her emphasis on certain words in passages and how certain parts take on a more important role than they did when you read it yourself.
Deborah never came across as pretentious or false and it was very apparent of her appreciation for her readers, as she was quick to note that she was a historian and never had any notion of ever becoming a novelist. She left plenty of time to answer questions and although as a group, I think we were a little shy to begin with, question after question did come. Deborah never fobbed anyone off with quick answers, she took the time to listen to each question and answer it in full length.
Towards the end of the session, she happily sat and signed everybody’s
plethora of books. This too was a surprise to me. It wasn’t a quick signature and move along to the next person, she actually made great conversation with you during the signing and happily sat for photo’s and listened to anything further you may have wanted to add. I actually plucked up the courage to ask a question during the Q and A and then referenced to it whilst I was getting the books signed.
It may have been my first time visiting an author during their tour, but if this one was anything to go by, it most certainly will not be my last. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening and it really does add that something extra as you flip through the pages of the book. When I read her novels again in the future, I will be able to look back to this night and remember all of the explanations behind events and characters and perhaps take a new meaning, or a greater appreciation of things the next time around.
If you like witches or vampires, fantasy for adults or even well written fiction with a ton of historical fact, then definitely give Deborah Harkness a go. A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night are both available now. It is also worth noting that A Discovery of Witches is currently being turned into a film, which will be exciting to see.