I went to an author event recently for an author I've seen before. His events are consistently packed; people pay to see him; they wait in long lines to get their books signed. And I've been thinking about his appeal, about what works so well.
He's funny, for one thing, and
funny is great for live events. But he's also daring. He pushes things
to the point where he risks going too far: honesty about the grosser
side of human nature; jokes about some things we take seriously and fear
intensely. He's not cruel; there's a generosity in his willingness to
shine the spotlight on other authors, and to draw the biggest laughs at
his own expense.
But it's that daring I'm thinking about today.
That risk-taking, that boundary-pushing. I especially admire it at a
live event, where you can hear the audience groan, gasp, or laugh,
providing the kind of instant judgment that can be difficult for writers
to take. He seems to read a lot of pre-published work, and I wonder if
he censors his ultimately-published material based on live audience
reactions. Does he ever take out something just because it made the
audience obviously uncomfortable or shocked people? Or is he more likely
to leave in those parts?
When I start asking those questions,
I'm not really wondering about his process as much as about my own. Most
writers have to decide how deep they want to dig, how much they want to