I’m just out of my last booked event at Granite Noir, and feeling a bit ambivalent. I’m not sure it’s the fault of the festival – well, I’m pretty sure it’s not the fault of the festival. I think if I were going along just as a reader, I’d probably be quite happy (despite one or two microphone issues, and a chairman I didn’t particularly warm to). After all, I saw and heard some excellent writers: Val McDermid, for heaven’s sake (now she was chaired by Fiona Stalker of BBC Scotland, who was terrific), Chris Brookmyre, and one of my own favourites, James Oswald. I came across some new ones, like Will Dean who has written Dark Pines (bought that one and I’m looking forward to it), Michael J. Malone of whom I had heard, Matt Wesolowski of whom I had not (and if they had deliberately gone out to find two white British males to compare and contrast for a panel, they could hardly have done better – Wesolowski thirty-ish, hair shaved close at the sides and a little pony tail, tattooed arms, ripped jeans, DMs, and Malone sixty-ish, bald head, three piece tweed suit and purple bow tie). There was a workshop on plotting with Colette McBeth (I might come back to that later), and a talk by Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books on how best to try to attract a publisher.
There was an interesting panel comprising the actors Hugh Fraser (Wellington in the Sharpe series and Captain Hastings to David Suchet’s Poirot) and Robert Daws (who seems to have been in everything), who are also now both crime writers. They were very amusing about their work and charmingly humble as only actors seem to manage to be. I liked the fact that while the ‘ordinary’ writers, however experienced at this kind of thing, tend to shamble over to the sofa and arrange themselves on it before beginning to ‘perform’, the actors were in part from the moment they appeared, with a pause in the spotlight and a little nod to the audience before they sat.
There were readings from some local authors at the start of some of the panels: I only caught two of these, from John Bolland (writing in Doric) and Shane Strachan. Both were excellent, though I think neither is published in book form yet – Strachan’s retelling of a Denis Nilson killing was absolutely chilling, and Bolland’s retired police officer was hilarious.
Last year the Lemon Tree was lathered in police tape, and this year we had an exhibition of police wanted posters from Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives, which made for fascinating reading on the stairs. There were evening events, from cocktail parties to folk music to quizzes, none of which I attended, I have to say, being a person who shies away from socialising, and a few panels I should like to have fitted in, but at just short of £10 a pop I have to look to my budget. And there, in those two facts, lies part of my problem.
I’m toying (again) with the idea of approaching a mainstream publisher for my new series (as yet it has about 1,500 written, so I’m trying to think ahead). I found Karen Sullivan’s talk both useful and interesting. What kind of things help to attract a publisher’s attention? There were the obvious things, of course, but these two set off my own personal alarm bells: a covering letter telling them how interesting you are (I’m not!), and hitting the festival circuit, Harrogate, Bloody Scotland, Edinburgh … I can’t afford to go to a whole festival on my own doorstep, let alone pay to stay somewhere, and anyway, what is one to do when one gets there? Apparently one is to talk to writers, make oneself known, make friends. Well, I’m not very good at that – any time I show polite interest in a new acquaintance I come across as a stalker in the making, and I can’t help thinking that even socially adept people doing the festival circuit look a bit creepy (but that’s probably just me not able to see myself doing it successfully). Elizabeth Bennett would tell me I need to practise more!
Anyway, because of the way my mind works (or doesn’t) this whole thing winds itself around in my head until I begin to look at the work I’ve done so far on the new series and wonder if it’s worth doing at all, and indeed whether any of the publishing I’m involved in is worth doing at all, or whether I should just go and find something else to do with my time. I’m supposed to be trying to make a paper tropical bird for something on Wednesday, and I have a bookcase to put together. Much more useful employment, I’m sure! And maybe they'll afford me some recovery time.