Last month I spoke about my writing journey to a View Club for International Women’s week. This View club was in Goulburn, which is the area where my first novel, Suzannah’s Gold, is set. It was clear the audience was really engaged as I spoke about early settlement around the Goulburn Plains, the development of small towns such as Yass and Marengo, and the characters in my stories who had lived , married and raised children so close to their own, now much expanded town of Goulburn.
It was a special meeting for the View Club as it was International Women’s week, which this year had its focus on the ongoing struggle for equal pay for women. I was able to talk about my second novel, Rebecca’s Dream, which is set in the 1880s when women had no vote, no right to own property, to have a bank account or to enter into tertiary education. It was great to acknowledge how far we’ve come with women’s rights, even though we still have a way to go. These aspects of my stories, which connected with the audience, made my talk so much more relevant and interesting, and it showed in my book sales afterwards. Even though only my first three books were set in the Goulburn area, two of the women bought all 9 of my books (it was just before the 10th was released).
Listeners also enjoy the old photos of my ancestors, or of the remnants of early settlements, which seem to take them back to their own roots and memories. The first questions I get after my talks are almost always about family history research. Listeners want to know if I’ve come across their family name in my research. There is often someone who is keen to tell me about an ancestor who lived in the same area as one of mine. They are intrigued by the idea of turning the researched facts into novels, and often keen to read a story set in places they know about or have lived.
I feel fortunate that my novels so readily connect me with Family History groups, with First Fleeter groups, and also with View clubs and U3A groups (University of the Third Age) because members of these groups are most often around my age and seem very interested in stories which have historical aspects along with family sagas, especially when they can relate to the setting of the story, or the story of convict roots, or the struggle of immigrants to adjust.
I speak more often to these kinds of groups then I do to church groups, which I find much harder to book speaking engagements with. I think this is because they are looking for a talk which is much more focussed on Christian life or spirituality. However, when I do have the opportunity to speak to church groups, I can connect with them best by focussing on the aspects of my writing that portray my faith and my endeavours to have at least one character in the story who might challenge or inspire readers in their spiritual journey.
While many people read for sheer pleasure, entertainment or relaxation, I think we need to engage potential readers in some particular way, in order to compete with the zillions of book choices readers have. I’m sure other authors find this a similar challenge. Perhaps others have particular ways to engage an audience when speaking and selling books. I hope you’ll share some with us.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream were re-released by EBP. Her novel, Next of Kin, was released last year by Rhiza Press and her latest novel, Beyond the Fight was released this April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.