Well hello there, I know it’s been a while! It’s been chaos in the M-Steel house, or more to the point house-move.
I’m not however going to bore you with those details, I’m here because I had a fantastic weekend at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. It was, quite frankly awesome!
What made it so awesome? Well where do I begin?
Watching the amazingly talented Belinda Bauer win Crime Writer of the Year for her novel Rubbernecker. The first night was this marvellous treat, which was preceeded by the fantastic Lynda LaPlante winning the Outstanding Achievement award, after this a fantastic party to kick the weekend off. Already I was mingling and chatting away which for this shy introverted writer to do is a task, especially seeing as I was driving and hence sober. I did however manage to introduce myself a little and begin to get to know who I was milling among.
Friday presented us with a line-up to get anyones murderous juices flowing starting early doors with Denise Mina with an insightful and humorous discussion on not just her books, but inspiration, method and even a touch of poilitics.
A great panel with self published writers followed, a first for the festival in its 12 year history, and we heard some of the greatest success stories, a great boost to authors like myself. Authors like Mel Sheratt who provided great insight into how to make a success of self publishing and how to stay motivated…and a wonderful signed copy of her novel Watching Over You.
The Turning to Crime panel with the amazingly talented Tony Parsons then had us all wetting our appetites before lunch as the writers explained how they came to become to crime Writers from multiple other walks of life; Journalism, Rock and Roll and even stand up comedy…we all eventually falter to a life of crime!
A whirl wind of panels taking us through different angles on how to approach crime writing and other genres to pull into the mix: domestic, comedy, historic, fantasy and of course my favourite: sci-fi. Yes I have obtained myself a copy of Lauren Beukes’, The Shining Girls no spoilers please!
I found myself incredibly drawn into the Domestic Noir panel and walking away with twenty different ideas for stories to come. Of course we know this isn’t knew, my favourite topic to write about is family; they do after all have the best secrets to hide!
The Headline act, of course, Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling herself; what a star! She was humble and softly spoken, but very certain about what it was she wanted to say and teased the audience with humour and wit. She was very gracious with her compliments and seemed genuinely very excited about now stepping up as a crime writer, but of course not away from Harry completely. There was the hint of something special to come with Fantastic Beasts.
Of course the best part of the entire few hours she gave us of her time was when she signed my copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling and said she really like my turtle necklace! That is of course, quite simply, because Turtles are cool!
Is it over?
Of coure not, along comes Saturday and the most hilarious hour I’ve had in a long time as Lynda LaPlante took the stage and had us all nearly falling off our chairs we were laughing so hard. For a woman who writes about dark, terrifying people and the acts they can commit, she is absolutely hilarious and I encourage anyone to go and see her if they get the chance.
Very quickly though she had us all remembering the darker side of what we were all there for; crime writing and explained how she wants to write for the victims. She stated:
“How can you see on one hand, people like Myra Hindley in prison, having rehabilitation, therapy, qualified psychologists.
“The victim’s mother haunted the moors with a bunch of flowers, asking ‘where is my son’s body?’ There was no therapy for her. There are no guitar lessons, nothing.”
The room hushed into silence and there was an angry simmering over us as her words touched everyone in the room. I believe that statement will stick with me for quite some time. Not because it is new to me, I know the horrific story of Hindley and Brady, but because she was able to bring us to almost angry tears from hysterical laughter in an instance with that one statement. She reminded us that although we indulge in the literature, crime is real and when it’s real for you, it’s horrifying, tragic and life changing.
Seriously if you get to see Lynda LaPlante, go, she’s an inspiring, wonderfully funny woman!
Val McDermid then brought us to the attention of The new blood panel and introduced us to some authors just emerging in the crime fiction world and they brought to us their journey’s into the publishing world and their inspirations. Of course most importantly they brought their stories of which I was particularly intrigued with Eva Dolan and her tale of migrant workers here in the UK. I quickly got on the internet and purchased the eBook.
Of course the panel that I was really looking forward to was The New Wave of Forensics, to indulge not just my love of crime fiction but the forensic scientist in me stirring to hear how experts in my chosen field approach crime writing and how they feel the reality of science and investigative work is portrayed in novels today. I was sat next to a great new pal, who just happens to be a former police officer and even in the amazing heat of the weekend we were both alert and eager for the q&a at the end when both of our hands shot into the air.
For me the weekend came to a close at 6pm, of course only after the final panel with the marvelous Olivia Colman, fantastic script writer Chris Chibnall, brilliant author Erin Kelly and top of the shop Yorkshire Lass and cracking actress, Jodie Whittaker on the Broadchurch Panel. Of course I got myself a signed copy of that too.
So what made this weekend so awesome?
People: people are so friendly and writers all with the same thing in common and a host of readers milling around you openly asking you what your book is about and where they can find a copy. I met a former cop, a current cop, Journalists, agents, actors and actresses, authors, publishers, poets and writers and of course those most important of all people: Readers!
Every single one of them was kind, talkative, funny and genuinely as interested in me and everything going on around us as I was in them. I came away with a sense of accomplishment, though I didn’t write a word. I came away with a sense of camaraderie and new friends.
I also came away with a whole heap of reading in Crime and justice:
If I would change anything? Book a hotel, forget the driving and stick around when the drinks start flowing!
So that’s me now googling hotels in Harrogate, see you all next year!