Last Thursday I did my first author visit. My dissertation director is teaching Alcestis in one of his courses this fall, which has led to a lot of delightful things — seeing the book get linked to Robinson Crusoe and The Tempest on Amazon, first of all, when a number of his students bought them together. We did a Q&A and they had great, insightful questions. (Lance is an amazing teacher and they are obviously careful readers.) They’d read the novel just after reading the Odyssey — how’s that for pressure? I didn’t ask them how the two compared. But we did talk about books that inspired the novel, about what Admetus really feels when Alcestis stood up at the banquet table, why Hades reacts the way he does to Persephone’s interest in Alcestis, and why Hermes has a tattered cloak. On that last question I had to resort to the frustrating artistic answer and admit that he just does.
It felt a little weird, honestly, to be in a literature classroom as a writer and a source of information about my writing. As a creative writing teacher, of course, I’ve talked about my writing, but in that case I’m usually talking with students as fellow writers. Normally when I’m in a classroom discussing books with students my role is not to impose my viewpoint, though of course I have topics I’d like address and readings that I consider more or less valid depending on the textual evidence. But this time I was there as Author, complete with Intentions. And I was definitely not dead (though I was a little migrainey).
Lance also tells me that some students in the class may be writing papers on the novel. It’s probably my years of academic conditioning talking, but I find that ridiculously exciting, and also kind of reassuring. As delighted as I was to answer questions about what I was thinking while I wrote the book, I’m glad they’ll be developing their own interpretations of it, too.