I slipped in at the back of the room, a little amazed that there were so many seats empty. Rows and rows in fact. Didn't people know that he was going to be there? Did they not realise who this guy was and what he has written and how he has influenced so many young people? Actually how he has influenced generations? While standing in line at the end of the talk waiting to have him sign my paperback I eavesdropped on the conversations he was having with people in front of me as he signed. "I had one woman," he said, "who told me she had read the Tomorrow series when she was a teenager and now that she has a teenage daughter she has made her daughter read it. That was the first time my books have been read across generations like that."
The speaker at the back of the room delivered Marsden's voice directly into my ear, as if he was only speaking to me and not to a room of avid listeners.
He was a very engaging and entertaining speaker. So much so I had to crack open my note book and start taking notes (a few people gave me funny looks). He was insistent that all knocks on doors were part of a character's voice; a loud and no-nonsense or barely there, timid and only two strikes or something with a funny rhythm or even the consistent and annoying knock of a "Jehovah Witness," Marsden demonstrated. His absolute love for language poured out of him. But the most interesting piece of information I have taken from him is; Interesting Character = Plot. There is no need for explosions or life and death situations like in a James Bond film (which he referenced a lot), just as long as the character is interesting and develops along the way, that is the best sort of plot out there.
My nerves were strangely under control as I placed my paperback in front of him and said hello.
"What's your name?" He opened the cover, pen ready.
"Is that the name I'm putting in here? Or is this for someone else?"
"This is my book."
Four words and he was done.
I forced the courage to appear and spoke again. "My drama teacher told me a story about Jehovah Witnesses once."
He paused and looked at me.
"Apparently her brother saw them coming up the driveway and so stripped off all of his clothes, answered the door and said 'Hello'."
John Marsden laughed. "I guess you can only really do that if you have confidence."
My cheeks scrunched up as I grinned back.
No, I didn't tell him I was an author or ask him any questions. Which may have explained why I felt fine and didn't absolutely face-plant with an embarrassing "Hey, I write too, let's be friends". So not smooth. It was strangely nice being part of the crowd.