Being on tour for Oleander Girl and Grandma and the Great Gourd has made me think a great deal about what makes a successful author event.
Three things I consider important are:
1. Tell the audience something they wouldn't know just from reading the back jacket of the book, or from reviews and interviews. Something personal. With Oleander Girl, I often talk about how my grandfather was an inspiration for Korobi's grandfather, the loving but stern Bimal Roy who kept a huge secret from her all his life.
At Evergreen Valley College, San Jose
2. Keep the presentation short, enjoyable and appropriate without dumbing it down. Leave them wanting more. I try to be aware of who the audience is, and what the people sitting in front of me would be interested in. Is it a general bookstore or author luncheon audience? Are they writers or writing students? Are they people from my Indian background? I gear my talk toward what would be of interest to them.
At the New York Public Library
3. Be willing to do a question and answer session. People love to engage one on one with speakers, and a question and answer session is perfect for that. It's also good to offer to sign books afterwards, for those people who are too shy to speak up in a crowd. Questions from the audience also make me think of my writing in different ways, and to be aware of what readers are getting out of my books. A question I'm asked often is where I get ideas for my books. I give various answers: Oleander Girl and Sister of My Heart came out of visits to India and what I saw during these trips; Palace of Illusions came out of childhood evenings when my grandfather told me the story of the Mahabharat; Arranged Marriage came out of the gossip I overheard at Indian parties. But ultimately, it's a mystery to me where story ideas come from.
At a middle school in the Houston area