Books · Jottings

Authors in September – Madeline Miller

How do you like to spend a Friday night? Pubs, clubs, drink, food, chatting and dancing? Front of the telly in your “jim jams” and a bar of chocolate? Or going to a library and listening to an author talk about their book?

Well for me the latter option was how I spent last Friday. (I am not very keen on the first option apart from the food bit, and the waistline does not like the second option, despite me liking the chocolate!)

Who did I see? – Madeline Miller author of The Song of Achilles, her debut novel and winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012.

There were about 25 people in the audience, of varying ages and both sexes. Many had read the book, many like myself had not, but wanted to hear an author talk and sometimes you cannot pass these opportunities by. I am so glad I did not.

Madeline Miller was a very humble lady, who was very enthusiastic about her work, her writing and very appreciative of all the people sat in the audience listening to her.  Questions ranged from what inspired her writing of the book (being read the Iliad as a child), the process of writing. I am always fascinated by the fact an author plays out the scenarios in her head and basically write what she sees, without much thought to actual structure  Although with a book like The Song of Achilles, there was some inevitable points she needed to hit at some point. The book consumes the author, and when the book is read if it does the same to the reader I think that is a success. How did it feel to start the book from scratch after throwing away the first version 5 years after writing it.

The process of getting the book from authors pen to published, and a lovely story where her agent helped and also made Madeline re-look at the ending without telling her exactly what was not quite right about it. (One of my questions)

My other question was what Madeline liked to read, other than the classics which she has studied, for herself. Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell to name a couple; anything with a good story. I always find it fascinating what other authors read, especially when their subjects can be very diverse.

It was a very lovely way to spend a Friday evening (more please – local library!) and I am so glad I went. I learnt so much and now very keen to read the book. Many people would probably question why go and see someone who you know nothing about (in my ignorance I did not realise Madeline was American) but you can learn so much and also meet some other lovely people all connected in some way to the writing world.

I met up again with Denyse Kirkby who I met at an event back in July and was also introduced to Abbie. It is always interesting to hear what other people do, and when they ask me in relation to being there I always answer I am a reader (and blogger). I am proud to be a reader and glad to go along and support such events. I will read my personally signed copy and treasure it.

If you want to hear more from Madeline Miller, then go and check out the latest podcast from The Readers where Gav and Simon cover some of the topics that Madeline spoke about on Friday night.


5 thoughts on “Authors in September – Madeline Miller

  1. It was a nice evening and I think we were very privileged to have Madeline Miller in Portsmouth when she was only over in the States for one week.

  2. Well done to Portsmouth Libraries for getting hold of such a prominent author and thereby proving that there is literary life outside London. All the more impressive at a time when libraries (like all enterprises that don’t make a profit, including some that are supposed to) are under so much pressure. I can imagine a bean-counter speculating whether the cost of keeping the building open for the event was worth it for a turn-out of 25! At least there are no heating costs in early September.

    I am fortunate to have a very good library service where I am, up North, though I am not aware of it hosting many author events, and those that it does do tend to focus on local interest or children: good priorities I’m sure, particularly the young readers. Meanwhile, the bookclub episodes of Simon and Gav’s podcast are good alternative for those who do not get the chance to be in the same room as leading authors. The regular episodes of The Readers generally make for a pleasant, easy listen too.

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