This afternoon’s guest post is part of the Great Grimbold Discount Weekend, and is by my fellow Kristell Ink author Joel Cornah (The Sea-Stone Sword). Here he’s talking about reading in public, which is an essential part of an author’s job and often one of the parts that’s the most scary. Take it away, Joel!
Reading in Public – The Writer’s Enemy
I want to give some thoughts on my experiences reading in public. I’ve done a fair few book events that have called for reading out loud in front of people. Some of these experiences have been good, others not so good.
For a long while I’ve not been the most confident public speaker in history. Watching myself back on video and hearing myself in audio always makes me cringe but I have noticed some things that I do to help me cope. Not all of these are conscious and not all of them make for a great experience. But they stop me from falling completely to pieces.
I have some fairly deep self worth issues and low self-esteem. I try and get around this by trying to put as much focus on the book itself as possible. Talking about the story, the characters, and what it is about the book that excites me. When I see people talking about their passions, it doesn’t always matter so much if they are completely coherent when you can see that they a genuinely enthusiastic about the thing. Remembering why you wrote the book, why you love your characters, and what motivates you to tell these stories – even if people don’t connect with your motives, they will connect with your enthusiasm.
So, drawing on that often leads me to ramble on and on for far too long, but it makes it easier for me to not have a complete breakdown in front of a crowd. So I count that as a win.
Voices are another useful thing. I really do not like the sound of my own voice, and many writers have expressed the same discomfort. I never consciously started affecting a slightly different voice in public, but watching and listening back to myself it is something I’ve noticed happening. Somehow it becomes a lot easier to ‘perform’ if you adopt a voice-persona of sorts; if you are in front of a crowd of people it can create some sense of distance and protection.
The result for me has been to try and sound less overtly Lancastrian. This was not by design, but does amuse me somewhat. I’ve heard myself trying to affect a ridiculous West Yorkshire accent, or else something vaguely cockney when I’m trying to be funny. The more ridiculous the voice, I’ve found, the more freedom I feel to speak openly. It’s a very weird experience.
The voice thing comes into play when actually reading, too. Giving your characters different accents and silly voices can be entertaining. Sometimes it can distract from the seriousness of a piece, other times it can make the experience more memorable for the listeners. In an early reading I gave of The Sea-Stone Sword I insisted that one of the characters had a thick Yorkshire accent, as if he’d just come in from t’ mill. People who heard it have still mentioned it to me a year later as something they remember about the book.
Getting dressed up is another thing that helps me cope. I don’t know what it is about wearing a ridiculous get up that makes it easier to ‘perform’, but it does for me. Perhaps it is again creating a separation between yourself and your ‘public image’ as it were. Essentially, you find yourself playing a character – one that is more able to do these things than you are. Even if I fail it feels less like a personal issue, and more a point of refining the character you play.
Anyway, these are a few of the methods I employ to deal with public speaking and reading. I hope they’re of use to some people.
Joel’s debut novel The Sea Stone Sword is currently 99p/99cents across the Amazon platforms for this weekend only as part of the Great Grimbold Discount Weekend. If you like pirates, high adventure, conflicted heroes, cursed swords and sentient penguins, you’d be well advised to check it out….