This is open to anyone (you don’t have to know me) and you can ask anything. I won’t answer questions that require much research at my end – open question season is not a place for me to do significant amounts of research for others. If I don’t know an answer off the top of my head, however, I will say so.
I’ll try answering all questions (one way or another) but your best bet is to ask questions that fit my areas of expertise. I’m strongest on things historical (especially Medieval, but not by any means only Medieval), things political (especially given my recent post on my personal blog), things to do with writing, editing, research, literature…
Let me take care of the standard questions. My current research is all to do with cultural constructs and genre and how we tell stories. The novel I’m working on right now is science fiction and about alien engagement with Earth and is sarcastic and feminist and full of chocolate and fruitcake. My next novel (publication-wise) is about colonialism and is not set on Earth.
The questions that are hardest for me to answer during question time are the ones that require long answers or are nebulous. With the nebulous questions, if you don’t know precisely what you want to ask, then the likelihood is quite high that I will have equal difficulty giving you an answer. Also, very broad questions are difficult, because I’m a writer/historian and I see the world as complex. In other words, try to keep your questions specific. Be as precise as you can. “Did London shoes have shoelaces in the early fourteenth century?” is preferable to “What’s the history of shoelaces ?” It also helps if I know a bit about you or why you want to know. “I am interested” will often get a quite different answer from “I need to know for my new novel and it’s a NaNoWriMo novel so I can’t go away and research for a week.” I’m happy to be asked why this difference exists…
With history questions, remember that if a hundred years is a long time to you personally and if you’ve seen heaps of changes in your less-than-100-years, that this might also apply to people in the past – this is another reason to ask precise questions.
Frivolous questions are fine. I do not answer “How long is a piece of string?” or “What’s your shoe size?” for once was enough for both of those questions.
Personal questions are fine for I can always be snarky or refuse to answer. I reserve the right to be snarky, in fact, or cheeky, or even impudent. I will take serious questions seriously, however. It’s OK to ask me about being Jewish, especially if there isn’t anyone else you can ask. It’s not OK to ask me about my housekeeping.
This thread is open for questions until next Sunday.
Edit: Some weeks are just like that, aren’t they? I know that there are people wanting and trying to ask questions and it’s just not working. I’m therefore moving this post to my Livejournal blog and keeping it open until 1 December. I hope this helps. Gillian