Sunday, 5 October 2014

Bloody Scotland again

Having attended Bloody Scotland as a member of the crime-reading public this time last year, I was delighted to be invited to be part of an author panel this time around.

The weekend got off to a well-lubricated start with a drinks reception hosted by Stirling Council at the old town hospital. After that, we headed down the hill (Stirling is big on hills) to see the opening event: Chris Brookmyre and Denise Mina, who had a lively and free-flowing conversation onstage about everything from their latest work to the referendum that had taken place the previous day. Ah yes, the referendum - after the frenzied debate of the past few weeks, it was nice to spend the weekend in a bubble where people were more interested in talking about books and where to go for the next drink.

Saturday dawned and I managed to finish the second of my co-panelist's books before my event at lunchtime. After being briefly delayed by a quartet of Elvises dressed as janitors...

...(did I really just type that sentence?) I found myself sharing a stage with two other debut authors: Eva Dolan (Long Way Home) and Hania Allen (Jack in the Box). Although I think we suffered a little from being scheduled opposite the Scottish vs English crime writers football match (Scotland won convincingly), we had a pretty good-sized crowd.

We discussed a wide range of topics, from why women read more crime fiction than men, to how we come up with the characters, to how we got published. It was really interesting that the three of us had followed quite similar routes: failing to find a publisher for our first novels, experimenting with self-pubbing through Amazon, and eventually getting a deal with a traditional publisher. It could be a giant coincidence, or perhaps this is the way it happens in the 21st century. Either way: a great advertisement for not giving up at the first hurdle.

With my panel out of the way, I headed down to The Murder Room - Orion Crime's popup presence alongside Waterstones in Stirling's Albert Halls. It was great to see POD paperbacks of some of the classic noir titles Orion has been bringing back as eBooks (everything from Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male to Robert Bloch's Psycho) and to be inveigled into being photographed in a really crap John D Macdonald related pun. On the other hand, they also had gorgeous samplers of The Samaritan, alongside the new Denise Mina and Anthony Horowitz books (it was awesome being mentioned in the same breath and on the same banner as these bestsellers). 

I stuck around for the big Saturday evening event: Ian Rankin interviewing Kathy Reichs, and as a big fan of both, it was great to hear them talk shop for an hour. I particularly liked hearing about the different approaches they had to TV adaptations of their work, with Reichs exec-producing and consulting on Bones and Rankin having taken a more hands-off (to date, at least) approach to Rebus.

After dinner at a pretty good Italian place, I headed to the bar in the Highland Hotel and had some interesting conversations, including one where a few of us came up for a pitch for a romantic cat detective mystery. Late night chats in the bar are one of my favourite things about book festivals, although I think I might leave it to others to execute that particular idea.

After signing some copies of Killing Season at the Stirling branch of Waterstones, Sunday at Bloody Scotland got going with some multi-hyphenates: journo-turned-author Craig Robertson interviewing actor-turned-author John Gordon Sinclair and footballer-turned-author Arild Stavrum. I was particularly inspired by JGS's example of building a writing shed at the bottom of the garden, complete with electricity, a burglar alarm and a beer fridge.

After that, I saw Alexandra Sokoloff, Gordon Brown and James Oswald discussing the supernatural in crime novels, and a rumination about the nature of evil. I rounded the weekend off with Ian Rankin, solo this time, speaking about his career to date, his year off, and his next book.

In a competitive field, I'd have to say Bloody Scotland was narrowly my favourite festival next year. Looking forward to hitting the circuit next year with a new book.

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