Andrew Miller's event was another one that I tried on spec, and found fascinating. He's and author I've seen highly praised by critics and award-givers, but somehow I've never been persuaded to read his work - but having heard him talk, I shall be adding his latest novel, The Crossing, to my 'must read' list.
Miller's approach to The Crossing started with the central enigmatic character Maud, and thoughts of snug spaces, boats, and a voyage, but he didn't know where it would all lead.
An important aspect that came out of his conversation with Paul Blezard was that Miller likes to write a book that readers don't quite 'get' - that for a while has the reader wondering 'where's this all going?' and leaves them at the end, wondering 'what was that all about then?' A book, he believes, should take risks for both him as author and for the reader.
This ties in with a comment he made about writing to feel engaged with the world but not overwhelmed - if you're out in the rain, he says, you're likely to just want to get inside and dry; writing about being out in the rain, you stop, try to describe how it falls, and how you feel. That is enough to make me want to read his writing!