Nobel Prize Winner Steals Festival Director’s Pillows

Or so the story goes. And it’s not alone. It’s one of those stories that circulate among writers, but don’t usually make their way into the wider world.

With a new book about to come out, the experienced writer marshals their best anecdotes about it and gets them ready for telling. And then tells them and tells them and tells them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The best anecdotes can make some of the best radio, or best TV, or best podcast, and that’s in everyone’s interests – the writer’s, the broadcaster’s, the audience’s.

Writers talk about the new book, their processes and their writing lives in varying combinations across the interviews, festivals and other events that come together to make up a book tour. But what do writers talk about when they’re off-mic, writer-to-writer, in a festival shuttle bus or while hoovering up the sandwich platters and choc mini-muffins in the hospitality tent (and pocketing the per diem)?

Welcome to the Green Room.

The Green Room, on RN’s The Hub on Books, is me talking author-to-author with some writers who have done more than a lap or two of the circuit. It’s a chance to lift the velvet rope – or scrawled note on a repurposed piece of corflute – that often separates the private conversations of writers from the public, on the occasions when writers are corralled together at festival time. Forget the sucking up and the editor-love we come out with in public, how do writers really feel about the editing process? Who are the biggest divas on the tour, and what’s earned them the crown? Even the most glittering of careers have their mortifying moments, and greens rooms are a chance to bring them out and debrief – let’s have some of those stories too.

But getting those stories out is a bigger trust game than falling backwards and hoping your motley crew of workmates will catch you. How would we create a safe-ish space that might lure an author or two closer to full self-disclosure, in a very public way?

Here’s how. Pick authors who have done so many interviews that they’re bursting to talk about something different. Agree to go on the ride with them, and to spill my own guts along the way. Show them the net before they step onto the tightrope – give them all the possible questions in advance, and let them choose which to answer. With the proviso that they don’t play safe, and instead pick the ones that’ll lift the lid on their best stories.

Which questions did they pick? Which did they avoid? As you listen, feel free to mark them against the complete list below and see for yourself.

The Green Room is a chance to get to know a different side of some otherwise very well-known authors who are no strangers to interviews or the tour circuit. It’s a chance to give their best untold stories an airing, along with some quality gossip and a glimpse or two behind the scenes of publishing.

And, yes, one of my guests even confesses to pillow theft, though in a rather more considerate manner than the Nobel Prize winner. All will be revealed …

Here’s who’s coming up, at The Hub on Books on RN at 10am Tuesdays:

22 May Cory Doctorow
29 May Anita Heiss
12 June John Birmingham
19 June Toni Jordan

If you’re out of range or the timing’s wrong, it’ll be available as a series of podcasts, very likely from the moment the first interview is broadcast

The Questions
What are the best and worst green rooms/hospitality suites you’ve found yourself in at festivals? Who are the most unlikely people you’ve met in them?
In public, most of us talk about how much we appreciate what the editing process adds to our books, but how do you really feel the moment you read your editor’s feedback letter?

What’s the most brilliant story idea you’ve ever had for a genre in which you know you’ll never write?

What’s your most awkward interview moment, or experience in front of a live audience?

What’s the oddest venue you’ve appeared in on tour?

Writers tour with publicists to keep them on track and allow them to focus on nothing but the job. How bad are writers’ life skills really? Any examples? (please feel free to include yourself, and equally free to mention others)

How low are people’s expectations about writers’ life skills, and what’s the most patronised you’ve ever been by a minder who thought you had none?

It’s said that at least one author prefers his Mars Bars peeled. From all those you’ve heard, what’s your favourite example of author diva behaviour?

What’s your own most diva-esque demand? (regular, or one-off moment of diva madness)

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to write on a book at a signing?

What’s been the nicest thing a fan’s ever done to you or your work, and what’s been the weirdest?

What’s the most ludicrous contract clause you’ve ever been asked to agree to (and did you end up agreeing to it)?

Is there anything you’ve buried deep in a book that, as far as you know, no one’s picked up yet?

Which have you preferred: writing [breakthrough book] or being the writer of [breakthrough book]?

Free choice. Is there any story you’re desperate to tell, but have never told because the trigger question hasn’t been invented? Invent the question and I’ll ask it.

Note: A big thanks to Sarah L’Estrange from The Hub on Books for asking if I had any segment ideas, willingly going with this one, and handling all the technical aspects to make it happen. And being great to work with.

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4 Responses to Nobel Prize Winner Steals Festival Director’s Pillows

  1. Irma Gold says:

    LOVE this idea, Nick! Will be tuning in via podcast.

  2. Peeling a mars bar?? How strange. Great list of questions and I’ll be interested to hear the answers.

  3. Squiggly says:

    I like the ‘buried deep in a book’ bit. Sounds like so much fun, Nick. Well done!

    • nickearls says:

      I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to do a few more, so I can dig out a few more hidden things.

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