Last night H and I went to see Iain M Banks talk at Toppings Bookshop in Bath. Iain M Banks/Iain Banks is a very well known and highly respected author who has managed to carve out for himself successful careers as in both the science fiction and mainstream fiction genres, producing a book a year alternately in each.
IMB, from the outset, was full of life and buzz, his sense of humour irreverent and self-deprecating, and his pre-emption of the 'M question' (why is it there) revealed much about his early days as an author and how his career came about.
The questions were varied, and it was clear that the shop was full of devote fans who were ready to interact with an author who clearly cared deeply for his readers.
We learnt a lot about his writing (he plots very tightly and rarely has characters do their own things), his methods (little or no research) and his personal feelings on a number of the titles he has written (Canal Dreams the weakest and the Bridge a favourite). The origins of the Culture was interesting in its innocuousness, and his obvious joy at still writing science fiction and culture novels was plain to see.
It was a short, if excellent, q&a session that lasted about an hour, after which he signed copies of his new book, Surface Detail, for what appeared to be the vast majority of the audience, happily chatting away with each of them (us!) as he did so.
Toppings itself looks to be a fantastic bookshop, and is one I will definitely revisit in the near future to, um, you know, browse.