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Shots: The Crime & Mystery Ezine

Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2004

Ayo Onatade's Soundbites

At the second Harrogate Crime Writing Festival a number of authors and the odd attendee were asked a number of questions (with slight variations of the theme):

  1. Whether or not they attended the first festival in 2003
  2. What made them come back
  3. How they were enjoying the conference
  4. What they were working on at the moment and/or what were they reading at the moment.

Richard Burke

Ayo:

You didnít come last year, did you?

Richard:

I didnít come last year, no, and I canít frankly remember why. I think it was because my first book wasnít even out yet and I was busy. I think I was just away. I really wanted to come but I had done Crime Scene and I couldnít do both.

Ayo:

What are you working on at the moment?

Richard:

I am working on my second book which is called Redemption, about a prison officer whose wife is taken hostage and he has to kind of cross the legal lines to get her back.

Ayo:

Thank you very much, Richard.

 

John Baker

Ayo:

Where you here last year?

John:

No I wasnít. I was on holiday in Norway.

Ayo:

What are you reading or what are you doing at the moment?

John:

Iím reading The God of Small Things and really enjoying it. I should have read it a few years ago but never got round to it. I am writing, I am about two-thirds of the way through a new novel which is neither Sam Turner nor Stone Lewis, a standalone.

Ayo:

Thank you very much, John.

 

Stella Duffy

Ayo:

Is this your first time at the conference?

Stella:

No second time, I was here last year at the inaugural conference.

Ayo:

Sadly I missed it.

Stella:

So you are a Harrogate virgin!

Ayo:

Yes I am! How are you enjoying it so far?

Stella:

Really well. Having a very good time. I have just been at the only proper panel, as opposed to the other three that I am doing in which I am just showing off, and it was really good I think.

Ayo:

What, may I ask, are you reading at the moment?

Stella:

I have just finished Andrew Levyís Small Island (which won the Orange Prize this year when I didnít) and I had to read it to see if it was better than my book and of course itís not but itís a bloody good book. So thatís what I am reading at the moment. I have just that and Caroline Carverís new book.

Ayo:

Black Tide!

Stella:

Yes, because Iíve got it in proof.

Ayo:

Thank you very much Stella.

 

Alison Joseph

Ayo:

Is this your first time at the conference?

Alison:

No, I came last year. I was just sort of hanging about last year, I was not actually on any panels.

Ayo:

How are you enjoying it so far?

Alison:

I think itís fantastic, I am really impressed. We have just started at 9:30 on a Saturday morning and weíve had a fantastically good audience. I am just really impressed at the number of people who have quietly turned out to listen to me witter on about my work.

Ayo:

What are you working on at the moment?

Alison:

I have got a new Sister Agnes novel, which is the seventh, coming out in September. The title is The Darkening Sky and itís published by Allison & Busby. I am also doing a lot of radio at the moment. I have just finished adapting some of the Maigret novels for the wireless and I am currently working on a radio play which is just a sort of one-off afternoon theatre at 2:15pm about a Benedictine Monk who takes up management training. Nothing to do with crime, nobody dies actually, amazingly, and I am also doing a radio drama for the Womanís Hour slot, you know, the 15 min slot that is at 10:45 on weekdays. What I like about that is it is kind of soap operary, you can have ordinary everyday life, you know, every day. I think both of those are going out in late October.

Ayo:

Thank you very much Alison.

 

Mark Billingham

Ayo:

I know itís not your first time here, you came last year.

Mark:

I did, yes.

Ayo:

How are you enjoying the conference so far?

Mark:

Itís absolutely brilliant. I just think that for a conference to have found its feet as quickly as this one has, just in the second year, supremely well organised, enjoyable as this, we are all having a ball arenít we, itís just great. You know because itís called ďThe FestivalĒ and I think when anythingís called ďThe FestivalĒ it needs to have a festival atmosphere. Some of these things can be very po-faced and serious but this has a brilliant mixture of serious events, big interviews and fun events in the evening and knockabout stuff and everybodyís in the bar and there is a big social atmosphere. Itís really a great festival.

Ayo:

What are you working on at the moment?

Mark:

At the moment Iím working on publicity and promotion for The Burning Girl which just came out. I have finished the next book and my pattern is always to have the next book finished and delivered by the time the new book comes out so that I can now relax and enjoy stuff like this. I can do events, I can do promotion; basically Iím promoting in the UK then Iím having two weeksí holiday and then Iíve got to tour in Australia and then Canada, and of course I can do all that without a deadline hanging over me and then start the next book in November.

Ayo:

Thank you Mark!

 

Martin Edwards

Ayo:

You came last year but I understand you werenít very well. I know that you havenít been here all that long but how are you enjoying the festival so far?

Martin:

I am very impressed with it so far. Great book room, lots of people, great positive atmosphere and Iím delighted to be here.

Ayo:

What are you working on at the moment? I know that your new book, The Coffin Trail, is out.

Martin:

The Coffin Trail, which is the first in the Lake District mysteries, and I am currently trying to work out the synopsis for the second in the series - I shall be doing that over the next couple of weeks.

Ayo:

Do you have a title or an idea of a title for it yet?

Martin:

No title, just an idea for a motive for an interesting murder.

Ayo:

Thank you very much indeed, Martin.

 

Jacqueline Winspear

Ayo:

I just wanted to know how you felt about the conference. Is this the first time youíve been to this conference?

Jacqueline:

It is, and in fact itís the first conference Iíve been to in the UK. I really like it. I think itís been very interesting, itís had some good panels, and of course Harrogate is a really lovely venue. Itís a bit different from in the US.

Ayo:

Such as Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic?

Jacqueline:

Sure, itís a bit different. A lot of those fans are very, very much in evidence, I know the fans are here. Plus there are little things, you have name badges, so you kind of know whom they are. I guess there are also a lot of people dropping in here. Anyway, I think it is a great conference, very relaxed and the camaraderie is excellent.

Ayo:

What are you working on at the moment?

Jacqueline:

The third novel in the Maisie Dobbs series.

Ayo:

Do you have a title?

Jacqueline:

I have a working title only, which means it could change. My working title is Pardonable Lives. I doubt it will change.

Ayo:

Thank you very much.

 

Mo Hayder

Ayo:

Is this your first time at this conference?

Mo:

No, I was here last year and did a panel on how we were influenced by place and what our relationship to place is, and what our charactersí relationship is.

Ayo:

How are you enjoying the conference so far this year?

Mo:

Last year it was really, really well organised. It was so well organised last year and it has just got better this year from a writerís perspective. We have been really well looked after and everyone knows you and everyone seems to have done their homework. Iíd give it full marks.

Ayo:

What are you working on at the moment? I know that Tokyo came out earlier this year.

Mo:

Yes, I am working on a book about a journalist - it might be the beginning of a series character, I am not sure - who is investigating rumours that a creature which is half human and half animal has been seen on a remote offshore island. Also on the island is a rather strange semi-religious community and the rumours are that they have been dabbling in Satanism. Itís the journalistís job to find out what really happened, and he does. There is lots of fun and dead pigs along the way.

 

Denise Mina and Louise Welsh

Ayo:

I understand both of you were here last year, so what do you think of the conference so far?

Denise:

I think itís great, well, everybody I have met so far have said that this has been even better than last year and itís very well organised and tight and everyone is going to all the panels which is great.

Louise:

Last year I spent two nights here and I just loved it, so I was just really excited about coming back. I just kind of parachuted in today, commando style (and that does not mean that I am not wearing pants!!), it just means that I am only here for one night. Iím so jealous of all the people that are going to be here for the whole period because Denise was right, theyíre all looking really happy and interested. I think it is a really interesting combination of people.

Ayo:

I like the way it has been organised but do you think that there should be more of these conferences?

Denise:

I donít know if there is a huge market for them but I think what we really want is one or two that are really well run, that are in-house so that you are not travelling ten miles back to your hotel where everybody is hanging about together, where the audience who want to go know about it. That wasnít happening in Manchester, people were saying - ďYou know I didnít even know that was onĒ or not finding about it until it was finished.

Louise:

I think Denise is right, to have one or two that are done really, really well because if there are too many then people will split up and it would be more disparate, you might get the same amount of people going to more events, if you know what I mean. So they would be split and perhaps not the same audience and itís a really nice chance for writers to get together.

Ayo:

Do you like the fact that everybody is in the same room together, you donít have parallel panels; is that a bonus do you think?

Louise:

Yes, it is actually, and I guess sometimes as things get bigger then thereís no choice. You only have these things over three or four days so people canít help but double up things. But for me this way is great because sometimes it can be absolutely tantalising that the event you want to attend is on at the same time as your own.

Denise:

Yes, and in Manchester, which we both went to sometimes, I was chairing panels and there were more people on the stage than there were in the audience because some big writer was on and everybody wanted to see them. And just like youíre saying, even the panel members were reluctant to do their panels because they wanted to go and see somebody, you know.

Louise:

I went to a big, quite a nice event in Prague recently where one panellist was meant to be both presenting a film and on a panel at the same time because it had got so big that it was like spaghetti, somehow. It had got really hard to work out where you were meant to be and when, and if thatís the case with the people that are reading, what is it like when you want to attend something. It was quite unwieldy.

Ayo:

Louise, your new book is coming out soon, but what are you working on at the moment? Are you working on the next one or are you taking a break?

Louise:

I am working on the next one - I handed in Tambourlaine a wee while ago - but at the moment I am calling it My Secret Diary because I am not at the stage where I can talk about it too much. I can say that it is set between Glasgow and Berlin, which will reflect my experience to deal with a wee bit more travel, and has a male narrator again and so far thereís no sex in it.

Ayo:

Denise, I know that youíre still grappling with the book. Howís it going?

Denise:

Well itís finished, actually, and itís coming out in January.

Ayo:

So have you started thinking about the next one?

Denise:

I am supposed to be starting the next one on Monday, but probably what Iíll be doing is shuffling about in my pyjamas - this sounds like your My Secret Diary - shambling about in pyjamas watching past life regressions on This Morning. So Iím starting the next one on Monday and Iíll start research on Monday.

Ayo:

Denise, Louise, thank you very much.

 

Mary Charles

Ayo:

What do you think about the conference so far?

Mary:

Extremely well organised, some really big names and I think they chose their mix of people well. The people mesh together so the panels were really well organised. I thought that Minette Walters was funny, personable, and brilliant.

Ayo:

If you had the opportunity would you come back next year?

Mary:

Definitely, absolutely definitely. Yes, because I think it is a great way to network, itís a great way to meet friends, very nice to meet a lot of people who are interested in the same thing, and itís a real privilege to be able to meet under one roof so many really great writers.

 

Ruth Slater

Ayo:

Ruth did you come last year?

Ruth:

I did.

Ayo:

How are you enjoying the conference so far this year?

Ruth:

I think itís brilliant, Iíve really enjoyed it.

Ayo:

And have you got a favourite panel?

Ruth:

Stella Rimington. I didnít think I would enjoy that but it is actually one of the ones that I have enjoyed the most. I thought that she was absolutely fantastic, very interesting and I rushed out and bought her book. The forensic ones were absolutely amazing, but last year they were as well. They were the highlight last year for me as well.

Ayo:

What are you going off to do next in relation to crime fiction?

Ruth:

I am going to St Hildaís conference next which is very nice. You get the big names as well but it is a bit more informal. You get the chance to talk to the authors as well and there are so many avid crime fans there, so it is great to talk with them and get information about new authors you wouldnít have heard about in other ways.

Ayo:

Thank you very much.

 


 

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