Author Brown and Pixar president close the show

What started out as a nerdy technology conference took on more of a rock concert status yesterday as Disney and Pixar’s president Ed Catmull and multimillion-selling author Dan Brown took to the Web Summit stage.

Author Brown and Pixar president close the show

Brown, who has sold over 200m books since the 2003 runaway success of The Da Vinci Code, said Ireland would be a fascinating place to set a book in.

“If you’d asked me a week ago if I’d base a book in Ireland I’d say ‘jeeze I’m not sure’ — and today ‘quite possibly’, so that’s as much as I’m going to give you,” the somewhat reclusive author told the gathered media.

When asked by the Irish Examiner if Ireland’s fractured history with the Catholic Church would draw him in, he said it certainly would. “I’ve always been fascinated in the effects of religion and the conflicts religion causes so the answer is yes, this would be a fascinating place to set a book,” he said.

The New York Times best-selling author, who made €20m from books sales alone last year, might also have some peace were he to spend time writing in Ireland.

The 51-year-old writer, who rarely accepts invitations to speak, said he had enjoyed quite a lot of anonymity while walking around the RDS. “I pulled on a baseball cap and walked around, and thought ‘this is incredible’,” he said. “My agent thought, ‘This is terrible — nobody knows who you are’,” he added.

Although the New Hampshire native was at the conference to talk technology, he did not shy away from commenting on the controversies of the Catholic Church.

“When the people that are the moral leaders, that are supposed to be our spiritual guideposts, have those sorts of human foibles — that’s heartbreaking. But at the same time that’s entirely understandable.

The Church, like any organisation, is made up of people and people are imperfect. And I don’t think that it’s any more shocking to find that sort of abuse in a large organisation like the Church, as it would be in a large corporation.”

And in terms of his own religion, the only thing he does religiously every day is to write. He maintains a strict and unwavering routine of putting pen to paper every single day of the year. He rises at 3.30am to begin writing at 4am, he said during his talk on centre stage, where he was there to speak about creativity meeting technology.

In this creative mind’s case, it’s very much about not meeting technology, however.

“I actually have an app that turns my computer screen off every 90 minutes for five minutes no matter what,” he said, explaining how he keeps away from the virtual world.

The reason, he continued, for his early starts, is to work when the internet is “off” and no emails are coming in.

And also getting a lot of attention at the summit was a man who has completely embraced technology for the sake of art — computer scientist Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

Catmull closed the Web Summit to an absolutely jam-packed RDS main hall, when there was no standing room whatsoever.

Journalists and fans who got some one-on-one time with the animation legend said he was “very open and interesting”. Catmull even embraced a super fan who reached out for a hug in the country and western-themed Speakers Lounge.

But despite his serious demeanour in the main hall, in front of thousands, he promised that not being boring is his goal in life.

“I had a fear as a kid that as I grew older I’d turn into an old fart. Old farts come from young farts, that’s the guiding principle in my life.

“When things are going right there is laughter in the room.”

In an attempt to jazz up the talk, his interviewee, a Financial Times journalist, asked him what was on his bookshelves that would surprise people.

“I’ve got a number of toys on my bookshelf. I’ve got an eclectic collection of books. I find the most interesting things are books about the psychology of how people work together. I’m reading a book about transition at different points in our life. Another book is Mindset [by Carol Dweck] — how you look at the world, how you perceive things,” he replied.

And with that Web Summit 2015, came to an abrupt end; no one took to the stage and wave him off. The lights came on and the thousands of Web Summit attendees filed out into the capital for the last time.

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