Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of last weekend’s (gay) ‘literary festival with a bent’ booQfest, is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. I was invited as a local author (and one of the few non-LGBT attendees, although I felt at home, and very welcomed) and this is part 2… You can read part 1 here. Photos from http://booqfest.webs.com/authors unless specified.
booQfest 2013 (part 2) – Sunday 15th September
I was a few minutes late arriving on a very soggy day. Crin started the session with a reading from her book ‘The Supernatural Detective’ before asking the audience whether they had any questions. I asked Crin why she chose a supernatural element.
She said she likes to mix genres and mix the ‘normal’ contemporary element with a fantastical thread. Her first novel was of vampires based in everyday life (one worked in a club).
Another member of the audience mentioned that fantasy seems to be more popular than ever, especially based in real life.
Crin agreed and mentioned Harry Potter.
Crin then asked the audience what their favourite fantasy characters were. Jane Lovering (one of last year’s speakers) said she loved Terry Pratchett’s characters because they were so well drawn. Crin then talked about fans dressing up as their characters and I mentioned my brother having dressed as Rocky Horror Show’s Frank N Furter for a showing in London (many years ago).
A discussion then followed about the film before Crin read another extract from her book.
Crin was then asked about her writing schedule and she explained that she has a two-year-old son who is very demanding so she’s changing from a night writer to getting up far too early (I think many of us know that feeling).
Jane asked what the hardest part of writing is for Crin. Not surprisingly (because I’m the same), she said the editing process is the hardest, especially the comments she gets back from her editor requesting changes, although she admitted that her books had improved because of them.
Crin then read a third section (still near the beginning of the novel). This had more humour, talking about attractive dentist (AD) being married to brusque dentist with a quiff and thought they probably had little dentists.
I then asked whether it’s easy or hard to write a sequel or subsequent prequel. Crin said it’s easier because the characters are already established.
Jane then asked how to know what to leave out or put in the second book for new readers or those who have read the first book. Crin said it’s very hard and she’s reading other writers’ series so see what they have done.
I mentioned about Lee Child not putting much detail about Jack Reacher and the readers being up in arms when Tom Cruise was cast has Jack when they felt he was too short and too dark haired. Crin said she knows film makers and they recommend putting a lot of description.
Jane said she doesn’t write much description. I favour half and half.
The second session was with crime writer Peter J Merrigan
Antonia Underwood introduced Peter and invited him to talk about himself. He said that he’d been writing for as long as he can remember.
Peter was then asked about writing different formats and which he enjoyed most. He said he enjoyed them all and had started writing a screenplay that he thought he’d try as a novel (he’d written two-thirds) but it didn’t work as well as a script so continued as a novel and finished it two weeks later.
Antonia then asked what had inspired his novel and Peter talked about the plot of ‘The Camel Trail’. He then read an extract from his second novel, ‘Rider’.
The audience was then invited to ask questions.
Mark O’Connell (Bond autobiographer, who I interviewed after Peter’s session) said that he is about to embark on novelising a script and was interested in Peter’s process.
Antonia asked about why Peter wrote a sequel. He said his agent wanted a sequel and Peter wanted to do more with the characters.
Antonia asked whether it is important to address LGBT prejudices in writing? Peter replied that it is quite a minimal underlying theme, but tries to show characters that can get on with their life.
Peter was then asked what’s the best thing about being a writer? Peter loves making new worlds, characters etc because they take on a life of their own.
And bad things about being a writer? Killing off the characters. He always knew he would have to kill off Ryan so that wasn’t so hard but there are characters that you grow to like that you just have to kill…
How do you promote your work? Social media, great to have the interaction with the audience.
Antonia then asked for more questions – one lady asked if he enjoys the editing process. His editor wants him to kill his darlings which he finds hard, although he knows it’s better for it.
Mark asked Peter about his characters’ names. Peter said he tries to pick names that have some meaning behind but also not names of people he knows so his friends don’t ask if the characters are him.
I asked about sequels, any limitations? Peter said he’d used a minor character in the first book then as a main character in the second book and wished that he’d “bigged him up” in the first one.
He was then asked if he does character sketches (to get to know the characters better before writing them) and Peter said he has done.
Antonia said there are several gay female crime writers, are there many gay crime male novelists? Peter said he didn’t think there are. (I couldn’t think of any)
Antonia asked whether Peter felt pigeon-holed using gay characters? He said he doesn’t, although his editor was concerned but then changed her mind when she started reading what he’d submitted.
Where does he see himself in five / ten years? No plan but still writing, hopefully a few more novels. (me too :)).
I asked whether he has an agent and how you got the publishing deal? Peter doesn’t have an agent but has known his editor for 15 years
Being greedy, I then asked Peter how long it takes him to write a first draft. It took him 11 months for The Camel Trail. Rider took longer. Lynch (novel 3) has already taken 7-8 months, Peter adding that the editing process takes the longest time.
Because I wasn’t taking notes I can’t be so thorough with this section but below is Mark’s biography followed by the questions (although we did go off-piste)…
Mark is a talented comedy writer and author who writes for a range of actors, directors and performers, including the legendary Ronnie Corbett, numerous sketch shows, sitcom projects, stand-up acts, promos, and online shorts.
Mark won the prestigious Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge for his short film, Carrying Dad, which starred John Simm and Larry Lamb, one tenth of a BAFTA for The Comedy Unit’s Blowout (2007) and praise from the Coen Brothers, plus a Five Star album from a local radio phone-in he has still yet to receive. He also scooped the coveted Jerwood Film Prize for Skedaddle and has worked with top comedy producer Jon Plowman. A recent horror comedy short Saw Misgivings (2013) featured successfully at various international film festivals.
His works have also appeared on the BBC, Channel Four, Five, various Fringe productions, and magazines. He has also worked with comedy legends such as John Sullivan, Paul Mendelson, and Jonathan Harvey (who Mark featured alongside in a BBC3 documentary, The Last Laugh).
Mark appeared in Sky Movies Bond’s Greatest Moments, headlined a Polari literary salon at the Southbank Centre, was a ‘BBC Comedy Apprentice’ on Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful People (BBC2), and has appeared as a pop culture guest on various BBC outlets, Five Live, Talk Sport, Heart FM, as well as writing for The Guardian and the Sunday Express. He is a warm witted punditeer, was chosen by London 2012 to be one of the official Storytellers of the London Olympics and contributes to OUT magazine, The Advocate, Beige, Sabotage Times, various film sites and more.
His debut book Catching Bullets – Memoirs Of A Bond Fan, published by Splendid Books, is a gilded account of growing up as an eccentric film fan in the 1980s.
Welcome to booQfest, Mark. When I’m interviewing authors I usually ask them how they came to be a writer, but your book’s synopsis on Amazon tells me that your grandfather Jimmy O’Connell took a job as chauffeur for 007 producers Eon Productions and that’s where your love of all things Bond came about.
3-part question: James Bond is a notorious ladies man, how difficult was it for you as a gay writing to tackle a very straight subject? Is there an LGBT ‘representation’ in the world of 007? Is there any responsibility to LGBT readers when writing a ‘gay memoir’, however light and eccentric…?
How did you begin trying to tackle a large subject like the Bond films through a memoir? Given that much of your material is from your own experience, did you have to do much research?
And how did you get it published?
How did you manage to get the film producers Broccolis involved? Barbara Broccoli provides your ‘Prelude’ introduction (and Dr Who’s Mark Gatiss your Foreward)…
Bond and the world of 007 is such an entity, how was it received and do you have any stories to tell of your journey publicizing your book?
I listed some of your many achievements earlier, how did you find out about being nominated for the Polari First Book Prize and did it feel any different to any of the other nominations or awards?
You’ve written a variety of formats, do you have a favourite?
What are you working on now or next?
Other than Bond, if you could write any fan fiction, what would it be?
She distributed a copy of her booklet to the audience and asked us to read some of the stories and read out ones that we enjoyed, which we did. My favourites were ‘Nan sed “when did u jump on the other bus?”’ and ‘My mother has Alzheimer’s so I have to keep coming out. Doesn’t get any easier!’.
Shelly then handed out some forms for us to complete with our coming out stories. I was sitting next to Julia, one of my writing group colleagues, neither of us are being gay so we weren’t going to complete the forms but Shelley said we could complete them based on gay people we knew, but I didn’t come up with anything, although I have three gay writing friends (sadly none of whom went to the festival).
Shelly then showed us a selection of 12-second films (12 seconds being the estimated equivalent of a 140-character tweet) on her website: www.out140.org.uk/films, before playing some audio clips of some of the tweets.
A very interesting session and a very enjoyable weekend. Thank you booQfest for inviting me again.
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, tutor, speaker, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), freelance author of numerous short stories (available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk), novels, articles, and dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary and she loves chatting with other writers and readers. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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