What happens at Crimefest . . .

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.

The bar.

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.

*******

Footnotes

  1. *It already was Saturday, by several hours
  2. **hangover from hell
  3. ***drank loads of Coke
  4. Photographer credits: Jo Penn, Steve Dunne, Liz Barnsley, Sophie Goodfellow, Fergus McNeill (I think…)
  5. 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
  6. THANK YOU to the fantastic organisers of Crimefest, who work ridiculously hard to make us all so happy 🙂
  7. If you want to know more about the panel events, try these:
    1. Vicky Newham – Crimefest 2016 Observations and Highlights
    2. Rebecca Bradley – Doctor Who Meets #Crimefest16
    3. Alis Hawkins – Crimefest 2016
    4. Matt Johnson – My First Ever Crimefest
    5. The twitter hashtag – #Crimefest16
This is my fab review in The Sun! As well as the full eBook still being 98p, Willow Walk is now available as a FREE extended e-sampler – click on the image to go straight there… Also – both Black Wood and Willow Walk are now available as eBooks in all worldwide English territories (US/Canada/Australia/NZ/India) – you’ll find it on your local Amazon/Kobo/etc.

October Update: Bouchercon and Book News

Me with Jennifer Hillier
Me with Jennifer Hillier

Earlier this month, I travelled to Raleigh, North Carolina for my second US based crime festival of the year – Bouchercon. This was a whirlwind of panels, parties and mingling in the bar (of course) and it was great to meet up with lots of readers and fellow authors, spending time with old friends and new.

This is the biggest crime festival I’ve been to so far in terms of reader attendance – I have never seen so many crime fiction fans in one place… and books – the books!!! I was very pleased to sell out of my stock of Black Wood at McIntyre’s Books (I just wish I’d had time to go and visit their gorgeous book store).

I was part of the ‘Stiff Upper Lip – British Investigations are Murder’ panel on Thursday afternoon, along with Aly Monroe, Deborah Griffiths, Anne Cleeland and Elly Griffiths.What am I saying?

We were in a large room and there was a huge (and very responsive) audience, so although daunting, it was great fun.

Stiff Upper Lip - British Investigations are Murder (Aly Monroe, Deborah Crombie, Anne Cleeland, Elly Griffiths and me)
Aly Monroe, Deborah Crombie, Anne Cleeland, Elly Griffiths and me

My second event was a very early start on Saturday morning – the 7am Debut Authors’ Breakfast (sponsored by Crooked Lane Books).

This is where approximately 60 debut authors (except for the ones who slept in…) were invited to give a one minute pitch to try and tempt a room full of avid book-reading breakfasters to buy their book. I kept mine short and sweet, and the main comments I received afterwards in the lobby were “We’re going to buy your book because we just LOVE your accent!” 🙂

After the festival was over, my mum and I took off on a road trip to celebrate our joint 100th birthdays… we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the gorgeous fall scenery, and the towns of Blowing Rock and Asheville. You can see lots of photos here:

AND, as if that wasn’t enough for one month, one my return (while battling a horrible cold), the news of my second and third books was released via The Bookseller. You can see the announcement here… and you can look at my pinterest board to get a flavour of Willow Walk here – more info to follow in due course (I am currently working on the edits) 🙂

What else? Well I’ve read a few brilliant books recently – Mark Edwards and Louise Voss’s ‘The Blissfully Dead’, Steve Mosby’s ‘I Know Who Did It’, Jennifer Hillier’s ‘Wonderland’ and Alex Marwood’s ‘The Darkest Secret’… and one that you should be reading right now: Chris Ewan’s ‘Dark Tides’… here’s the creepy poem that children sing for Hop-tu-Naa (Manx Halloween):

Hop-tu-Naa,
My mother’s gone away,
And she wont be back until the morning.
Jinnie the Witch flew over the house,
To fetch the stick to lather the mouse.
Hop-tu-Naa
My mother’s gone away
And she wont be back until the morning
Hop-tu-Naa, Traa-la-laa.

…and now I’m off out to buy a pumpkin to carve to get prepped for this weekend.

Happy Halloween!

Midsummer Update

With Jeanette and Jane at Crime in the Court

The summer so far has been a bit of a whirlwind, what with moving house as well as trying to get on with writing book 2 (which after many frustrating false starts, is coming along nicely, at last!)

I kicked off my events schedule with an appearance at Newcastle Noir, followed by Crimefest (where I almost missed my first panel after accidentally ending up in Wales), then on to my first solo events at Hammersmith and Ealing Libraries. I was the Crime Readers Association (part of the Crime Writers’ Association) featured author of the month in May (you can find my posts here). I worked on two Flashflood Journals, and had a brand new flash fiction story included in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology, ‘Landmarks‘. I had a great time at Crime in the Court, then a crazy double header last Saturday with Beaconlit in the morning with Dave Sivers, Eve Ainsworth and Jules Wake, followed by a 3h drive across to Felixstowe to appear on a panel there with Jane Isaac, Jeanette Hewitt and Andrew Whittaker. I also ran the Felixstowe Book Festival adult short story competition, and recently attended launches for Anya Lipska’s ‘A Devil Under the Skin‘ and Sarah Ward’s debut ‘In Bitter Chill‘, and met up with loads of great crime writers, bloggers and readers.

Meanwhile, in the background, there has been much going on in the run up to the first BritCrime Festival, which is organised by author Helen Smith. I’m very pleased to be doing a panel there on Sunday with Colette McBeth, Jenny Blackhurst and Clare Mackintosh. Helen and several others have worked non-stop to get this festival up and running – it’s all online and there will be lots of author/reader interaction, not to mention giveaways and a virtual pub and cafe. I’ll actually be doing my panel from a hotel room, probably still in bed, as I will be New York…

…taking part in the Debut Authors’ Breakfast panel at Thrillerfest, the annual festival organised by ITW (International Thriller Writers), who are another volunteer led organisation for authors who have been very supportive of me via their Debut Authors’ Programme. This is particularly exciting as it’s my first US based festival and I imagine it’s going to be bigger than anything I’ve been to so far. I’ll report back, with photos, of course. I actually planned the NYC trip as a surprise for Mr H, and managed to do all the organising behind the scenes and keep it all a secret until… Friday, when he guessed where we were going… damn it! On the plus side, it means he can pack his own suitcase now 😉

In other news, Black Wood is doing really well, with 200+ 4 and 5 stars reviews on Amazon. Thank you so much to everyone who has read it and enjoyed it and kindly left a review. It will be popping up on the tube as part of Books on the Underground on 14-15th July, the audio book is due out in August, and I sold my first foreign rights, to the Czech Republic and it will be out there late next year, which is very exciting… and I’m delighted to be featured in this month’s Writing Magazine.

The rest of my summer will be taken up with finishing book 2 (news on that to follow soon) and of course, the annual trip to Harrogate to drink Pimms on the lawn at The Old Swan. Then there’s my event with Fergus McNeill at Marylebone Library, and the biggest launch of the year for James Law’s brilliant ‘Tenacity‘ at the submarine museum in Hampshire. It’s a hard life, being an author…

Hope you’re all having a great summer and reading lots of books in the sunshine!

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You can see a full list of events HERE.

BLACK WOOD can be purchased HERE (free shipping worldwide).