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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Amanda Coetzee

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

In the flesh, figuratively speaking

Click escape if you were hoping for some saucy banter about erotic fiction. I’m not talking about being naked on the pages, but rather being exposed in interviews.

What’s your preference?

I’ve got to say it’s a tricky question. There’s a very real connection between a writer and a journalist that takes place over a cuppa and a lengthy interview about so much more than just the book, that simply cannot be replicated in an electronic interview. Is it preferable? Not so sure.

I like control. I like to know where my book and characters are heading and I like to know what is going to end up in print attached to my name. Does that mean I am extraordinarily precise in my email interviews; absolutely. I rarely take risks or reveal more than I wish to about myself or my private life and generally breathe a sight of relief when the interview looks exactly as it did when I typed it.

Is it a fair reflection of my personality, contradictions and eccentricities? I doubt it. In fact I would go further and say deliberately not. But should it be? What is that people want to know about an author? Is it the process or the person behind the pages?

I enjoy interviews while they are taking place, I positively glow at the opportunity to talk animatedly about a wide range of topics and can happily be diverted to say far more than I intended. It’s afterwards that I begin to worry. Like a night out with too much alcohol and lowered inhibitions I start the sweat induced replay of events. I cringe as the conversation loops through my mind at all the ‘witty, self-deprecating’ anecdotes that feel a little cheap in the cold light of day.

I have reason to be self-conscious. I have made blunders in person that would never have escaped my scrutiny in a document, I have tripped, got my coat caught under my chair, had lipstick on my teeth, incorrectly pronounced Guantanamo Bay and miscounted my siblings. Just writing this I can feel the sweat pooling at the base of my spine. Still, thinking before writing isn’t foolproof; I remember an awkward conversation with my editor about a comment I left in French on my Amazon Book page – don’t ask…

The writer in me wants perfection, the sometimes overwhelmed mother of a four year old and deputy principal is learning to expect less. Do I like to read thought provoking and insightful commentaries on the artist as well as their work; of course. Do I want that spotlight in my direction?

Only if I can proofread it first…




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