I enjoyed a culture-packed Saturday with Savidge Reads. After a matinee of the rather fantastic and risque Matthew Bourne dance production of Dorian Gray, we went off to see Tom Rob Smith talk about his life and work as part of the Wimbledon Book Fest.
I was excited to have the chance to go along to hear Tom Rob Smith as I absolutely loved Child 44 which for me it was the perfect thriller – pacy, dark, gripping and… well written! I haven’t been to such a formal book event as this before and I thought that it was very well organised with a good turnout and some interesting questions from audience members. I took some sneaky photos on my iPhone of Tom looking thoughtful;
Tom began by telling us about how he went from being a scriptwriter for Family Affairs to writing a thriller set in communist Russia. Here’s a YouTube video of him talking about the origins of Child 44 in case you want to know more:
Some of the bits of information that I found really interesting were about his chosen writing style for the book. He talked about how being a scriptwriter had taught him to be aware of his audience and that when writing for a soap you had to make sure that there was always a hook at the end of each 15 minute interval before the ad break. Having found Child 44 utterly gripping, I can see how he has translated this knack into writing in his novels.
The audience were very keen to find out about his research and how he had made his characters so ‘real’ – avoiding the pitfall of making it feel too far away in the past. Tom spoke about how he had to find a balance between research and writing – starting with 3 months worth of research but then getting down to writing and editing back, when he learned new things or needed to change. This emphasis on just getting down to it, is probably why the novel is so readable and fluid as opposed to being a turgid historical tome which it could well have been. He said that he had kept the writing style as modern as he could – for example he resisted the use of patronymics for the Russian characters and deliberately kept their names short in order to make them memorable to the reader and allow the focus to be on the plot rather than the detail. I think that this approach is what makes Child 44 so believable and gets you right into the head of the character and the context so easy to understand and visualise.
It was brilliant to hear Tom Rob Smith talk about Child 44 and his journey in writing it, plus I got my copy signed which I am feeling a little bit smug about. I will definitely be looking out for book events like this in future.
If you want to read more about Tom Rob Smith and his work here are some links:
- My own (glowing) review of Child 44
- Savidge Reads meets Tom Rob Smith Interview
- The Tom Rob Smith’s website
- An interview with Tom Rob Smith for the Guardian
- Wimbledon Book Fest
There you go. Links galore! Have you been to any good book events or Q&A’s? What do you think the value of hearing an author speak about his or her work is?