These days, authors don't just write books - they have to publicise them, too, and one of the ways they do this is by giving talks and readings. Last week we had the Vanguard Readings at Addymans' Bookshop, and earlier this evening Oliver Balch was talking about his book Under the Tump at Hay Library.
10% of the proceeds from sales of the book on the evening were going to Hay Library funds - and the place was packed. I wasn't the only person sitting on the floor.
It must have been fairly nerve wracking for Oliver to have two of the ladies he's written about sitting on the front row, especially as he read out a section of the book where he meets them in Isis coffee shop and walks round Hay Market with them. The talk was all about belonging to a place and becoming part of a community, so it was fitting that one of the ladies said that she had actually been brought up yards away from where we were sitting, in a two bedroomed house that is long gone (her parents brought up ten children there!).
Oliver also revealed some of the research he'd done which hadn't made it into the book, because he felt he had been too much of a journalist. He followed the local hunt, and was a beater for the local shoot (feeling guilty about flushing out the birds towards the guns), but he felt that he was only doing that to get something to write about, which was not what he was aiming at.
Likewise, he avoided interviewing strange and wierd locals, because he wanted to show everyday life in Hay and Clyro, not the oddballs. He said it was actually more difficult than his previous travel writing, where he'd been the journalist with the notebook, done the interview and gone away again. In this case, he has to carry on living with the people he's been writing about, and hopefully stay friendly with them!
Near the end, he was asked about his children, and whether they felt they belonged in Clyro now - by the mother of one of their friends. Oliver said that a big part of the reason they moved to the area was so that the boys could go to school in a village school, and move on with their friends to the local secondary school. And now that may not happen, as the County Council threaten to close Gwernyfed High School. He said that, if the family were to move away, then closing the High School would be one of the reasons that would persuade them to leave.
It was an enjoyable evening, and I hope he sold a lot of books!