Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Meeting Jasper Fforde

Last week I attended the UK launch of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde at Foyles bookshop. For two hours Jasper spoke to a packed gallery (it was standing-room only!) and regaled us with a humorous talk, interspersed with some short readings from his new novel, before opening it up to the audience for Q&A. Fforde comes across as a comedian doing stand-up, complete with opening gag to size up the room, which was an approach to a author event that I found worked exceptionally well. The talk was balanced between amusing and interesting and was engagingly entertaining enough for those attendees who were not already Fforde fans (i.e. my boyfriend, who is now even more interested in reading his books). Fforde was self-effacing, charming and exceedingly funny, of which I had no doubt considering the wittiness of his work. Moreover, he also provided insightful commentary into his new book whilst reading us extracts; it was clear that Fforde doesn't enjoy reading aloud and I think he has handled this aversion in the best possible way, by playing to his strengths. The Q&A ranged from his new work; existing work; future work; writing style, routine, influences; film adaptations; he answered all with humility and hilarity and a very fun evening was had.

Of the author events I have enjoyed so far, Fforde can be best compared to Neil Gaiman, who is also memorable; in contrast, Gaiman is an assured and eloquent orator but both writers are very enjoyable speakers and the most charismatic authors I have yet met. Each of these authors' events are successful, in my mind, because they both appear to enjoy them and fully engage with their fans; I have always had the utmost respect for Neil Gaiman's work ethic when it comes to signings and the way he repays his fans' support; I am pleased to discover that Jasper Fforde is of a similar mindset to one of my other favourite authors. If you are also a fan of Jasper Fforde then I would highly recommend attending any of his signings if you ever have the chance to do so; he is very friendly when signing and also provides promotional postcards and, in the instance of Shades of Grey, a special stamp (as seen above).

What do you enjoy about book signings? If you haven't had a chance to attend one, which writer would you love to meet in person and what would make a successful signing for you?


Molly said...

I haven't attended too many author signings in the past, but this is something that I am working on :)

I love when authors speak of their writing process and how the germ of an idea manifested itself into a published novel. I also enjoy when an author reads a selection from novel; I feel that they know "how" the section should be read which provides another layer of literary enjoyment for me.

I have only read The Eyre Affair, but I hope to read more by this fantastic author.

stu.j.allen said...

always great to meet writers ,i enjoyed a great talk from ben okri last year

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a wonderful and entertaining evening.

The only author signings I've ever attended have been ones I just dropped in on while they happened to be in progress at a bookstore. I should try to go to more.

JoAnn said...

What a wonderful evening... thanks for sharing! Although I haven't read Fforde (yet), my daughter is a big fan. The author lecture series my book club is attending has been wildly popular. They will be announcing next season's line-up in March and I'm certain we will be renewing our subscriptions.

Becky said...

That sounds like a really fun time!

I haven't been to book signings before. Well, I have vage memories of going to see Bryce Courtney at a book signing and getting his signature, but I think I wouldn't have been any older that 14 at the time and its a dim memory now.

I have been to writers festival and seen authors speak on topical issues which is really great.

I would love to go to more bookish events though! I would love to hear Margaret Atwood speak if I ever get the chance.

Samantha said...

I love going to author talks - I attend the Sydney Writer's Festival every year (and over several days) to get my fix. I am usually fairly shy about getting books signed though ... don't want to look too much like the "would-be groupie" that I can be sometimes!

Annabel Gaskell said...

I've been to lots of book signings, but all local - we're very lucky in Abingdon to get some very interesting authors, and some very entertaining celebrity authors (who are always charming in the signing queue).

I keep going on about it, but Ali Shaw who wrote The Girl with Glass Feet was wonderful the other week, the bookshop was packed and he was so interesting to listen to and chatted with the audience the whole way through which worked really well in the small shop.

verity said...

Lucky you! It's fun to go and hear authors talk. My favourite so far was Nicola Beaumann - although she is more of a publisher now. I also enjoyed Vikram Seth and Sebastien Faulks a while ago.

Rachel (Book Snob) said...

Well you know I nearly wet myself with excitement when we went to see Audrey Niffenegger! That's the only signing I've been too and I loved it - I'd like to go to more but I never seem to get around to it.

Sounds like you had a brilliant time - I'm not familiar with Jasper Fforde so I'm off to look him up.

Vivienne said...

Sounds like you had a fabulous time. I haven't read any of his work, but I keep hearing his name cropping up, so I will definitely keep an eye out for his books.

I have only met one author and that was Kate Mosse, the author of 'Labyrinthe'. She was lovely and very friendly.

Darlene said...

A thrilling evening!

I met Ian Rankin at a signing and he said something which I thought was 'How long have you been cured?'. Rather odd I thought, so I said 'Sorry?'. What he really asked was 'How long have you been queued?' but with his accent...doh!

Steph said...

Claire, thanks for sharing your experiences! I haven't been to a ton of author signings, but I have seen Jasper in person 3 times now and he is always fabulous and very funny, just as you found! I love that he seems very gracious and makes his book signings such an interactive experience (plus he always has some wonderful goodie like a postcard or the like, which make for wonderful mementos!).

Paperback Reader said...

Molly, good luck with future author events; I'm hoping to attend even more myself.

JF was very amusing when speaking of how his ideas came to him as he honestly didn't know!

I hope you enjoy his books when you do read them.

Stu, I intend to read The Famished Road this year. I'm sure his talk was fascinating.

makedo, dropping in on signings sounds fun! I've never attended one randomly.

JoAnn, your daughter definitely has good taste! Your book club evenings at the lectures series have been great to read about and I hope there are some fabulous writers scheduled for the future.

Becky, literary festivals are wonderful things and I'd love to attend one where some of my favourite writers are speaking.

I'd love to see Margaret Atwood too; I missed her last year, which made me sad.

Samantha, I'm shy about appearing like a groupie too! Or a stalker! Hee. I try to conduct myself in a mature, adult way and not gush too much...

Paperback Reader said...

Annabel, I love your enthusiasm for Ali Shaw and The Girl With the Glass Feet! I love when an author experience can intensify your enjoyment and fondness for the book.

Verity, all great writers! Author events are such insightful and interesting things to attend.

Rachel, I remember! That was another very enjoyable evening.
I'm not sure if Jasper Fforde is your cup of tea, although I am sure that you would adore the literary allusions and the cloned Danvers.

Vivienne, I remember reading about your Kate Mosse signing and thinking that it looked idyllic!
You simply must keep your eyes open for Jasper Fforde books.

Darlene, it was thrilling!
Your Ian Rankin tale amuses me :). Do you use "queuing" in Canada or is it like America with lines? Being an anglophile at heart, I'm sure you knew and it was just the accent :).

Steph, his graciousness and interaction with fans is what I so admired. I've developed something of a literary crush! Like you, I would more than happily attend further events of his.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fantastic evening. I've not gone to a book signing in years, which is a pity. Really should change that.

I do want to read this book, and it's high-ish on my wishlist.

Paperback Reader said...

anothercookie, it was a fantastic evening and I will actively seek more bookish nights like that one.

I hope you enjoy the book when you do read it; I'll be interested in your thoughts.

Darlene said...

The signage will say 'Line' and so do most people but there is a large ex-pat population so 'queue' is not uncommon. Yes, once Ian repeated his statement I realized it was his accent. Lovely man.

farmlanebooks said...

It is great when authors are able to be entertaining as well as fantastic authors. In my (limited) experience I haven't found any that are both yet. I'll keep an eye of for Fforde at the literary festivals this year and hope I can hear him at some point soon.

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

Glad you enjoyed meeting him as much as I did this week.

I got a stamp in First Among Sequels as well when I went to a previous signing.

Paperback Reader said...

Darlene, I've never seen him myself but he always comes across as friendly and down to earth in interviews (TV).

Jackie, I hope you find a writer that engages you both in person and on the page. Do you find yourself put off their books slightly if you've been disappointed in meeting them?

Darren, I'm pleased to have someone else online to share the experience with!

It was my first signing of his but I have a signed copy of First Among Sequels with the stamp too, leftover from a signing in a bookshop; it has a postcard too and the footnotes on the cut & paste sheet, due to major first printing error!

Anonymous said...

I've been to readings by both Jasper Fforde and Neil Gaiman and was very impressed by both. Other authors who were equally impressive and entertaining were Val McDermid and Jeanette Winterson who were also very generous with their time and attention. I'm so jealous that you already have Fforde's new book. Which reminds me that I need to order mine!

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Sakura, I have actually moved and this post can be found at my new site: