I went to the above festival last weekend and made 108 pages (fortunately only A5) of notes so I thought I’d share them with you. Today is the first instalment and because of the quantity, it’ll be pretty much as I wrote it (not word for word but paraphrasing) so my apologies if it feels fragmented. You can read part 2 here.
Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Award Ceremony – Thursday 17th July 2014
After meeting up with some fellow crime writers from Crime and Publishment, we headed off to the first event, the (short) festival’s award ceremony.
Scottish crime writer Denise Mina had won the award for the previous two years and she had again made the shortlist. It was won however by Belinda Bauer for her novel Rubbernecker and she went to accept the award to a rapturous applause. I’ve not read the book but clearly a popular winner. There was another award given out: an outstanding achievement award to Lynda La Plante who when thanking the organisation, voters and audience, had us all in stitches. She was due to return for a one-hour interview on the Saturday morning so I think we were all look forward to that.
After more chat with C&P friends, we went to our respective hotels (most were staying in the venue hotel, I’d left it too late – not a mistake I’ll make next year as I’ve already booked to return). I was staying at a hotel only a few yards away, The Majestic, which certainly lived up to its name with its car turning circle (with a fountain in it) that would have given the Savoy or Dorchester a run for its money. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for the staff (it felt like they were just going through the motions) and floor-hard bed. This isn’t a hotel review so I shall move swiftly on.
Interview with Denise Mina – 9am Friday 18th July 2014
BBC Radio 4’s Mark Lawson interviewed Denise.
Mark: Were you prepared for winning a third time?
Denise: No. I’d not written a speech as always better ad libbing but it’s a relief and Belinda’s great.
M: Do you plot? I’ve never guessed what happens in any of your books.
D: I’m a pantser, falling off the cliff headfirst. Two-thirds of the way through writing, I’m not sure if I can finish it as I don’t know who the murderer is. Some authors shoe-horn in characters to fit. Just read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock so aspects of that in The Red Road. Crime writing is about narrative, about story telling. I hate the thought of someone reading her books because they have to, I’d rather them read something else.
M: Have you had a book where you’ve been two-thirds of the way through and stopped?
D: I have with the present one but I’m confident I’ll find the rest. I’d rewrite all my books if I could. It’s like finishing a house – when you’ve finished you’d go round repainting the skirting etc. Sometimes I send a part-written book to my editor for a second opinion. I love playing with endings and usually have the resolution on the last but one page but then something ‘shatters’ (cosy crime = a perfect resolution).
M: There is no resolution for someone whose loved one has been murdered.
D: There was a similarity in one of my books (The Field of Blood) to the Jamie Bulger case but it wasn’t based on that.
M: There are lots of rude women in your books.
D: Some are based on friends including ‘Lesley’. It’s not something covered much in crime where there are moody characters but they have a happy home life. Also rare is the tenderness between people e.g. carer for a patient. I read a lot of the same thing over and over.
M: You have a character who’s happily married but flirts with someone else.
D: Yes, a barrister. Older women are more confident.
The discussion then turned to Jimmy Saville and Stuart Hall, and that their ‘bad behaviour was normal’.
D: The 1970s was like that. Juries didn’t convict rapists because they didn’t believe people could do that. Nice people try to make sense of things that they don’t understand or can’t accept. There was a huge backlash to the anti-gay movement as pre-1970s being gay (in the UK) was still illegal and thought of as a mental illness. ‘Touching up’ girls on ‘Top of the Pops’ was seen as positive social behaviour in the 1970s. It was a very creepy time.
M: <raised the subject of Scotland pre-independence voting>
D: I was asked to go on half a dozen TV/radio programmes talking about the topic which boosted my ego. I said to my partner that I could go in and ‘sort it out’ but he’s very sensible and told me I should go to Syria and sort that out too. I had people on Twitter saying “how dare you” when I voice my opinion (ironically). Some were convinced I was a ‘yes’ and other ‘no’ when I’d actually not said either.
M: <made a joke about a ‘yes/no’ poll and that they’d been asked to have an ‘undecided’ vote option but that they were undecided about doing that> So, how will you vote?
D: <reluctantly> I’m a ‘no’ but I don’t like saying that because I don’t want to influence or advise people who they should vote.
M: When’s the next book out?
D: I shall be finishing in about a month and it’ll be published in April.
M: Will it include the referendum?
D: No. People see debates on TV and switch off so I don’t want them doing the same with my book.
M: Have you considered writing books set outside Scotland?
D: I was brought up in London and don’t consider my books being typically Scottish. My Glasgow is every city (except people talk more in Glasgow). Most writers know their locations well or a reader will spot mistakes. It’s not so important for short stories. I moved to Glasgow in 1986 and found most people were moving to London at that time but Glasgow is now a ‘hub’. It has gorgeous red buildings and when the sun shines it’s mesmerising which London rarely feels.
Questions were then invited from the audience.
Q: Are you put off by lots of research?
D: Best to know the questions then go and find out. Don’t research first – just write it and see what you don’t know, but the police are keen to tell me the information. Some writers research too much and try to put it all in.
Q: How to you feel about the TV adaptations?
D: Loved them. They’re so close to real life. One of the actresses was the spitting image of me at ‘that age’ and it turns out that she came from where my family lived. The Field of Blood was made on a very limited budget and I’m very proud of it. I sat next to Peter Capaldi at the Baftas and he said that his first film (a short on Franz Kafka’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’) was very special.
My notes continue next week with the other Friday events…
- The Good Old Days (panel)
- Turning to Crime (panel)
- In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream (panel)
- Worse Things Happen at Home (panel)
- Ann Cleeves & Peter May
- Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) & Val McDermid
- Let’s Twist Again (panel)
- and from this blog, my guests who have written the topic of events (inc. book signings): Alice Shapiro, Carol Wyer, Feather Schwarz Foster, Jane Wenham-Jones, Judith Marshall, Lev Raphael, and Terri Morgan.
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