It was the Resident IT Consultant’s birthday, so I abandoned him for a younger man. Well, it’s not every day that John Connolly comes to a bookshop near me, is it? Though to be fair, people don’t have birthdays every day, either.
John’s on tour with Hell’s Bells, although his talk at Waterstone’s Deansgate was primarily a physics lesson, with some humour thrown in. I carefully arranged to bring my photographer-cum-physics student, and apart from the unfortunate ether (which apparently does not exist) she enjoyed John’s talk. And that’s high praise indeed.
Hodder’s Kerry had commiserated with me about the onslaught of children I’d have to face, but setting aside the fact that I’m used to the little creatures, the adults beat the children. Not literally, you understand. Just in numbers. We may have been old, but we sat in the nice and airy children’s department, and the air we breathed in (he told us to!) had previously been used by Elvis. Probably. Which somehow had some bearing on what Hell’s Bells is about.
Writers are magpies, who use the same shiny ideas over and over again (and I don’t think he meant you, Anthony). In good catholic schools you didn’t study biology, so it was physics for John, which was probably a good thing. There are lots of universes, all at the same time. In one of them you are down at the pub and in another you’re not.
When John asked for scariest Doctor Who monster it took three tries before we got to the weeping angels. I was on the verge of suggesting ‘are you my mummy’. Again.
He broke the sad news to the assembled children that life ends with something quite bad happening. One boy kept coming back with clever questions and John hates those who are younger and cleverer, but managed to keep his audience under control by pointing out we’d not get any freebies if we weren’t good. (That’s the drawback with these author types. Think they are boss.)
When he writes he sits down and writes and hopes for the best. He always hates his books after 20,000 words, and is now down to a mere ten drafts per novel. People ask him why he’s taken up writing for children (although as someone in the audience said, he doesn’t, really) and it’s so that he can be funny and let his imagination run riot.
Then he ended up in deep water, talking about little old ladies while seemingly staring at the lady whose birthday it was (see, good day for it!), but she was a born heckler and John didn’t get far.
The really good thing about printed books is that you don’t have to switch them off as the plane comes in to land. And you want books to enjoy, not to be improved by.
John could barely stop when his hour was up, so he was good value for money. Especially since it was free.
(Photos by Helen Giles)