Writers expect questions from the audience at readings, and I hope I never tire of hearing any of them, even the ones that are predictable. But I was unprepared for two questions that should not have stumped me.
At my first reading, someone asked me about my favorite fantasy writers — the ones who had influenced me the most. The best reply I could think of was a lame “Tolkien? and Ursula Le Guin?” Yes, just like that, complete with an embarrassing “uptalk” intonation pattern .
My book cases are full of books by fantasy writers: Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cornelia Funke, Joan Aiken, Michael Scott, Michael Buckley, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Lord Dunsany, Neil Gaiman, T. H. White ….
Yet, when the audience member posed that question, my mind emptied like a bucket full of holes.
And then, at my second reading, someone asked me if there were rules about how the magic worked in the world I’d created.
Five seconds of silence. I’m thinking, Rules? Like gravity has rules? But perhaps that isn’t what you mean. I’ve no idea how to answer your question.
As I stuttered and spluttered, he clarified his question: For instance, he explained, could someone use magic to find the Book of Spells?
But I still need to think about his initial question.