Where to begin to write about Bloody Scotland 2015? Like all great crime writing festivals it’s taken me the best part of a week to recover from all the excitement and socialising but has left me inspired to crack on with writing.
I won’t bore you with a step-by-step guide to my frivolities but will share with you 10 of my festival highlights. It’s taken me a while to settle on these 10. (With plenty of procrastination and cries of ‘but that bit was so good as well’) There could easily have been 20, but that would be as laborious to read as the aforementioned step-by-step guide.
1 – Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Masterclass – Top tips for aspiring and established writers
A while ago Michael J Malone advised me that a blog post such as this is far better with photos and images. He is right, however this first highlight has no relevant photos, not because I have chosen to ignore this advice (honestly) but because I was too much of a chicken to start snapping photos whilst some stella writers were sharing their wisdom.
Instead here is a picture of Michael J Malone and a link to his author page (click on his name) to both thank him for his (unheeded) wisdom, and allow you to link straight into some fabulous book.
Back to the masterclass –
Denise Mina was brilliant as the Key Note Speaker, reminding us that the obligation of a writer is to entertain. We should constantly be asking ourselves ‘what questions will be in the reader’s mind?’. She warned us to create interesting series characters, as we will get fed up of writing about them before readers get fed up reading. She closed with the gem that –
‘Writing is like falling off a cliff face first and seeing where it goes.’
Allan Guthrie ran a session on self-editing. He said the main rule of writing is ‘Don’t be boring’. Sounds simple when you put it like that. He also taught me what a pleonasm is. Look it up as a way of procrastination. I am a huge fan of Allan’s writing so spent most of the session being a massive fan-girl.
Alexandra Sokoloff rounded off the day with an incredibly insightful session on using screenwriting techniques in crime writing. I am very excited to apply this to my own work.
2- Whose Crime Is It Anyway? – Friday Evening Event
Hardeep Singh Kohli led Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay through the hilarious process of improvising a crime story on the spot. To help them along the way were randomly selected lines from Katie Price’s autobiography and audience participation.
3 – Killer Women – Deadlier Than The Male? – Saturday Panel
A new collective of female crime writers, the Killer Women – (represented here by MJ McGrath, Louise Millar and Helen Giltrow) – discusses women’s relationship to violence in crime fiction. They raised questions such as –
‘In reality men are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than women, yet in crime fiction the women are typically the victims. Why?’
And ‘A large number of crime readers are women, they choose (and like) to read this? Why?’
There were no answers, just various opinions and a lot of food for thought.
4 – Nordic Noir – Panel.
‘Snowblind’ by Ragnar Jonasson has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while so this panel was not to be missed.
Johan Theorin and Gunnar Staalesen were also on the panel and at the next highlight I had a wonderful chat with Gunnar.
5 – Crime At The Coo – Piss Up
Crime at the Coo was held in the Curly Coo and was the alternative to the Crime Book of the Year dinner. An ‘intimate’ venue, where top crime writers read poems and stories, sang songs and drank beer. It was excellently put together and wall-to-wall with authors (including Ian Rankin and Steve Mosby) up for chatting about anything and everything.
A highlight within a highlight for me was the ‘Slice Girls’, sassy female crime writers performing on the bar. Two floors of the building crammed into the bar area for this once in a lifetime event meant there was less than standing room only. Craig Robertson, author and organiser extraordinaire, issued the warning, ‘I take no responsibility if anyone gets pregnant during this performance’.
6 – The Book Club
‘The Book Club’ is a Facebook group for people who love reading to share their thoughts on books. Fantastic. Several members of ‘The Book Club’ were in Stirling for the weekend, so it was decided an impromptu meeting in Weatherspoons was called for. After initial confusion, due to there being two entrances to the building – ‘We’re at the entrance’, ‘Really? So are we, I don’t see you’ and so on – we enjoyed a good chat and a few… cups of tea. It was lovely to meet fellow readers Sharon and Fiona (I am still in awe you read 2-3 books a week) and writers Neil Broadfoot, Douglas Skelton and Michael J Malone.
Again no appropriate photos so here’s Douglas hosting the festival’s opening panel with Val McDermid and Peter May (No pressure there and an excellent job well done).
7 – Football
Scotland V England ‘The re-match’ was played on Sunday afternoon and saw Scottish and English crime writers take to the pitch. Whilst I still have no idea what the rules of football are, I did see England restore a little pride in this 5-5 draw. And Ian Rankin and Ragnar Jonasson in shorts so it was all good.
8 – Caffeine Nights Buddies
It was a pleasure to hang out with Graham Smith and Col Bury, fellow Caffeine Nights authors.
Graham and Col were selected for highly sort after ‘Intro Slots’ at the festival. An Intro Slot was the chance for debut authors to showcase their work before one of the headline speakers at the Albert Hall.
Graham shared a stage with Arne Dahl and Ian Rankin
Col with Martina Cole
A well earned drink after? These guys earned it, I just tagged along, well, it would be rude not to.
9 – Fan Girl
Graham Smith introduced me to several of my favorite authors. It was a delight to chat to them. I have been a huge fan of Steve Mosby for years, his books inspire me to be a better writer. Gordon J Brown’s book ‘Catalyst’ inspired me to keep writing my own debut novel. Thank you for being a festival highlight. Look out in 2016 when I plan to launch ‘Author Selfie Corner’ and have my pic snapped with everyone.
10 – And Finally something completely unrelated but intriguing I happened across in the Premier Inn …
An iron with a little light on the top (!?!) should I ever need to iron in the dark, in a power cut for example, I’d be fine… Oh, wait… So near and yet so far iron makers, so very near…
A ‘not highlight’ of my weekend was having to stay in three different hotels due to poor planning, making me feel like the littlest hobo by Sunday morning. Needless to say I have already reserved a room for Bloody Scotland 2016 which is guaranteed to be a corker. I look forward to seeing you all there.