I've just met Audrey Niffenegger.
When I heard she was speaking at a conference in Falmouth (about illustration, rather than writing), I jumped at the chance to meet the author of one of my all-time favourite books.
The Time Traveller's Wife had me spellbound. When I mentioned it to someone recently, he said, "That's the book that makes men cry." I haven't actually met any lachrymose men, but I'm sure they're out there. And I have to confess I did have a few misty-eyed moments of my own while reading it. A tear might even have been shed at one point.
Niffenegger was vivacious, opinionated and engaging. Despite having participated in a day long conference, she made time to speak to the fans who gathered for a chance to speak to her. I spoke to her about her experiences of becoming a publishing sensation - news has just broken about her multi-million dollar deal for her second novel. You can read the full interview here.
When you're starting out as a writer, the more people you can speak to about the industry, the better. Some of the visiting speakers we've had have portrayed a bleak picture of the publishing industry, so it's nice to meet someone who's actually made it.
That said, there's also a huge element of chance involved. No-one could have anticipated the huge success of The Time Traveller's Wife. Audrey Niffenegger originally thought the novel would sell around 5,000 copies. "I wanted to write a novel and be published. My expectations really ended there." The Today show in the US and Richard and Judy were what catapulted it into the stratosphere.
It's not easy to get published. But that's no reason to give up - you'll never know until you try. As Niffenegger says: "If you think you want to write novels, just get on with it." Wise words.