People often ask me what happens at these things – these things where 100s of crime fans (readers, bloggers, authors, editors, publicists, agents and anyone else who finds their way there) gather in a hotel for the weekend… and I always say a few words about how you can go and watch loads of talks by lots of very interesting people, talking about interesting things… many of them are funny, and it’s a very entertaining experience. but I must confess – I rarely make it to many of these interesting and entertaining talks because I am usually elsewhere.
Because this is where the real action happens. This is where the real stories are told. From the minute I arrived in Bristol on Friday, I was bombarded with excited, happy faces of the many, many authors who generally spend their days locked in their garrets penning beautiful tomes (or perhaps in Costa, mainlining espresso, or at home on the couch, trying to get their families to shut the hell up so they can actually write something). On the train there, I found out I had been reviewed in The Sun. As this was my first ever national newspaper review, I was ridiculously excited, bought two copies at Bristol Temple Meads, and proceeded to tell everyone “I’m in THE SUN, I’m in THE SUN”. I then moved onto the terrace of the Marriott Bar, where somehow, and I don’t know how, I started talking about that controversial book Maestra. This became the day’s theme (along with the word ‘glistening’), and it is extremely interesting what interesting people will tell you when you ask them probing and interesting questions.
I’m not going to list all the people I talked to, as that would be ridiculous (mainly because I need to protect the innocent, but also because there are some I will surely forget… and there are some I may choose to forget, but that’s another story) – I talked (and laughed) for 16 hours straight. Yes. 16 hours. I got there at 2pm. You work it out. I talked about lots of authory things, like the world of publishing, and how hard it is to write things and the excitement of new book ideas, and marketing plans, and books I’d read. I talked about homemade cornish pasties, chess sets, and the new (nude?) version of Top Gun that I have cast (with a very low budget, but including travelcard for zones 1-6) using several crime authors as the leads. I talked about… things. Things that were in Maestra, mainly. I drank pink cocktails (paint stripper, raspberry & Jif), I made faces at the camera (I draw the line at sharing that photo publicly. I have a reputation to uphold, you know). I hugged (and stroked the hair of) so many people that I have sore arms. I was given a life-saving chocolate Mini Roll from the ancestor of all chocolate. I saw the actual Dr Who. I stole someone’s gin. I broke a new record in late-night revelry, along with a fellow Scot who is always there for me when it starts to get light outside and people think we’re actually up for breakfast.
Then I got up on Saturday* and had a day of quiet reflection**… and I had lunch ***, then did a panel about ‘dark pasts and complex characters’ with James Carol, Julia Crouch, Matthew Frank and Hilary Bonner, where I got a murmur of interested woos from the audience when I said my thing with secondary characters was to give them a couple of lines in one book, then give them a starring role in the next (I know, I’m a genius). I went out for dinner in a Cuban restaurant with a zillion of my best friends, where dancing girls and the world’s worst piano player threatened to ruin my zen. I spent lots of time with my favourite bloggers, one, in particular, who likes to stay up as late as I do and never shies from a probing question. I talked about childrens’ books and cashew nuts and there was horrible, horrible wine. I was trained in high-and-low-fiving (I was not a good student), I sniffed a shoe. And I got my hair plaited at 3am by one of the loveliest and prettiest (porniest?) people in the world.
On Sunday, despite very little sleep (again) I had breakfast with lovely friends, already starting to feel the comedown that was threatening to make an appearance. I had tea in the lounge, trying to squeeze out the final minutes of my time there, chatting about how I started writing ten years ago (on a train from Beijing to Moscow) and about ears and prostitutes and potato waffles. I chatted more, I said goodbyes… and then I got the train home with a beautiful blue-haired lady.
Amazingly, I still have a voice. Some lost theirs.
Then I came home, back to reality… back to work, but bursting with excitement about my writing plans for the rest of the year, and the rest of my life… and thinking it’s not long until Harrogate, where we can do it all again.
And that, my friends, is what really happens at Crimefest.
- *It already was Saturday, by several hours
- **hangover from hell
- ***drank loads of Coke
- Photographer credits: Jo Penn, Steve Dunne, Liz Barnsley, Sophie Goodfellow, Fergus McNeill (I think…)
- THANK YOU to everyone who made this such a memorable weekend – old friends and new – the most supportive, friendly and funny people I have ever met
- THANK YOU to the fantastic organisers of Crimefest, who work ridiculously hard to make us all so happy 🙂
- If you want to know more about the panel events, try these: