What it was really like to meet 'rockstar' author Maragret Atwood
They say you should never meet your heroes.
But, after having the chance to meet one of my literary heroes today, I would definitely disagree.
Today marks the launch of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, the sequel to her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
And, at 4am this morning, I began the journey to London to hear the Canadian author do a reading from the book and to talk about the highly anticipated novel publicly for the first time.
I still remember reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time when I was 13 years old. It was one of the few books we were required to read in school that stuck with me - and one that I re-read every few years.
And so when I heard The Testaments was going to be released, I was a mix of skeptical and excited: surely, this was going to be good - right? But I had no idea how good it would be.
The excitement was at an all time pitch this morning when I arrived at the Knowledge Center at the British Library. News outlets across the globe had come to see - and hear - the 79-year-old author speak publicly about The Testaments for the first time.
Everyone was buzzing in the pre-press conference area, where there was a video showing how The Testaments had been produced - as well as two Pearl Girls, characters from the novel itself.
A hush fell over the crowd from the first moment Atwood stepped on stage - with many people scrambling to make sure they had the best view for the memorable morning ahead.
Atwood was incredibly warm and inviting; sharing behind-the-scenes stories from the creation of the novel and the TV show that any fan would dream of hearing. Every move, every story, every moment - the audience was absolutely captivated by the author, who was being hailed as a "literary rockstar".
However, when discussing her thoughts about the "rockstar" status, Atwood took the chance to thank her readers "who have stuck with me for all these years" - adding that she was "grateful" for them.
As the audience hung on her every word, the author made it perfectly clear: this book hadn't almost been written. A sequel was never on the cards. Until times drastically changed.
"I always said no to [a sequel] because I understood it to mean it would be a continuation of the narrative voice of Offred and The Handmaid's Tale - and there was no way I could recreate that.
"However, as time moved on, instead of moving further away from Gilead we moved closer to it - particularly in the United States. I reexamined that position [on a sequel] and decided that although I couldn't continue the story of Offred, I could continue with three other people who are concerned in these events.
"I could tell the story of the beginning of the end."
And while it's been 34 years since the publication of The Handmaid's Tale, it was definitely worth the wait.
- The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is published by Chatto & Windus in Hardback. It hits shelves on Tuesday, September 10 and will cost €20.
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