Monday, 15 March 2010

An Evening with Author, Elizabeth Kostova

Cynically I am famous for saying that “I never ever win anything”, but my glass is half full friends are always quick to remind me “That’s because you never enter anything”. They are right! So when Good Reading Magazine started promoting Free February on their Facebook Fan Page, I decided it was time to put the clichéd got to be in it to win it mentality to the test. The result is in – I was in it and I did win it! My prize, an evening with best-selling author Elizabeth Kostova.

For those of you who don’t know Kostova she is most renowned for her debut novel ‘The Historian’, a part fact, part fiction story based on the legend of Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, as he is more commonly known. Kostova was in Australia for the various writer’s festivals around the country promoting her new book ‘The Swan Thieves’, and Good Reading Magazine was lucky enough to host an evening with her in Sydney on Thursday 4th March.

Despite my ten years as a bookseller this was my first experience meeting an author. The cosy attic bar of The Arthouse Hotel was the perfect setting for an intimate Q & A with an author whose obvious love for writing seems only equalled by her love of art and history. As a whole the evening did not disappoint. Kostova spoke well and I found out much about her background and childhood, which were all clearly reflected in her writing. However, I did find that the generally dull questions, stumbled over by the interviewer, led to a generic merry-go-round of responses that left little to discern much about Kostova’s real personality.

After the staged interview, Kostova opened the floor to questions and was met with what I assume is the customary nervous silence, before some brave soul had the courage to raise their hand. Alas, this brave soul was not me. I was a little tongue-tied if the truth be told. Despite, or maybe because of, my eager criticism of the interviewer, I was fearful of asking the world’s stupidest question. What followed from the audience was a series of rather predictable questions and a little too much gushing by adoring fans. The Q & A session was saved a by a young man who dared to ask a question outside the box – ‘Do you ever get the feeling that you were born in the wrong era, and if so, when do you think you should have been born?” What followed was a lively and amusing few minutes of banter between the young man and Kostova. The crowd giggled gaily, whilst they learnt the young man would have preferred to be born in the 50s, and Kostova admitted to sometimes feeling largely out of place. When the interviewer called a halt to questions I found myself wishing the young man had asked his question first rather than last as the ensuing Q & A session might have been a more revealing and authentic experience.

As I joined the queue to get my copies of her books signed, I found myself rifling through different questions I could ask when my brief moment with Kostova arrived. I was amazed that the interviewer had not asked Kostova what she was working on next, and thought I might be able to get an exclusive tid-bit of information. I learnt that Kostova had indeed been working on a new project since October, but she was reluctant to give up details. Her only promise was that she intended on finishing the book more quickly than her previous two, and was exploring writing in something other than the first person. I walked away with a smile on my face, two signed books in hand.

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