I spent last night out at Bookmarked Salon seeing the wonderful Jane Harris (writer of The Observations) and Carol Birch (Man Booker shortlisted for her novel Jamrach’s Menagerie). I thoroughly enjoyed the readings, which resulted in me adding two more books to the pile (Jamrach’s Menagerie and Jane Harris’ new book Gillespie & I). Is it wrong that I was really excited about reading them after the authors read two slightly gruesome excerpts?
Anyway… I did mean to type up a post sharing some wisdom by way of Daphne DuMaurier quotes last night, but that didn’t happen. I’ll be popping up a proper post tomorrow in the form of a review of Justine Picardie’s Daphne but for now I’ll leave you with three of my favourite Daphne du Maurier musings:
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
“We are all ghosts of yesterday, and the phantom of tomorrow awaits us alike in sunshine or in shadow, dimly perceived at times, never entirely lost.”
“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”
Last night I had the pleasure of being able to go along to the second Bookmarked Literary Salon. Hosted once a month at Waterstone’s Deansgate in the centre of Manchester by Simon of Savidge Reads and Adam Lowe, Bookmarked has already seen the likes of successful debut authors S.J. Watson (writer of the fantastic Before I Go To Sleep) and Sarah Winman (When God Was a Rabbit) aptly, at it’s er… debut event in August.
Adam and M.J. McGrath (left) and Simon and Val McDermid (right)
I was very happy to have been able to co-ordinate my trip up North for work with a stop-in to September’s event featuring two crime-writers (readers of Novel Insights will know that I love a good crime novel). Val McDermid, now amazingly on her 25th book, was a writer I had heard such good things about so I swotted up before the event by reading The Mermaid’s Singing, which is one of her very early novels. A review will be on it’s way but I will say now that I’ve been completely gripped by my first Val, and would definitely recommend to other lovers of crime fiction. She’s not for the faint hearted though! Val was also an excellent guest with a refreshingly open and down to earth way of speaking about writing. I really enjoyed hearing about her approach to crime-writing and in particular an entertaining discussion between the hosts and authors about changes in modern technology and the dangers of making the latest trend too central to a story.
Val McDermid reading from Retribution
M.J. McGrath is a journalist-turned author who first book is a murder mystery in the unusual setting of the Canadian Arctic. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of her before the event, (for a book-blogger I’m unfortunately not always on the cutting-edge of things!) however sitting and listening to her reading of White Heat and her subsequent fascinating stories of her own experiences travelling and meeting people in icy landscapes, I was compelled to buy a copy of her novel. Simon’s review here, makes me glad that I did. I also picked up a copy of Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood and was given the latest in her Tony Hill series – a signed copy of Retribution, by my dear bookish friend and host.
At the end of the night Simon and I even got caught up in our own little mystery helping Val hunt for her car, although I’m not sure how helpful we were trying to turn it into a sleuthing moment :).
I had an absolutely brilliant time and am hoping I can make it to future Bookmarked events. If you’re in the area and fancy popping along, keep an eye out on the site for the next date and line-up here.
I enjoyed a culture-packed Saturday with Savidge Reads. After a matinee of the rather fantastic and risque Matthew Bourne dance production of Dorian Gray, we went off to see Tom Rob Smith talk about his life and work as part of the Wimbledon Book Fest.
I was excited to have the chance to go along to hear Tom Rob Smith as I absolutely loved Child 44 which for me it was the perfect thriller – pacy, dark, gripping and… well written! I haven’t been to such a formal book event as this before and I thought that it was very well organised with a good turnout and some interesting questions from audience members. I took some sneaky photos on my iPhone of Tom looking thoughtful;
Tom began by telling us about how he went from being a scriptwriter for Family Affairs to writing a thriller set in communist Russia. Here’s a YouTube video of him talking about the origins of Child 44 in case you want to know more:
Some of the bits of information that I found really interesting were about his chosen writing style for the book. He talked about how being a scriptwriter had taught him to be aware of his audience and that when writing for a soap you had to make sure that there was always a hook at the end of each 15 minute interval before the ad break. Having found Child 44 utterly gripping, I can see how he has translated this knack into writing in his novels.
The audience were very keen to find out about his research and how he had made his characters so ‘real’ – avoiding the pitfall of making it feel too far away in the past. Tom spoke about how he had to find a balance between research and writing – starting with 3 months worth of research but then getting down to writing and editing back, when he learned new things or needed to change. This emphasis on just getting down to it, is probably why the novel is so readable and fluid as opposed to being a turgid historical tome which it could well have been. He said that he had kept the writing style as modern as he could – for example he resisted the use of patronymics for the Russian characters and deliberately kept their names short in order to make them memorable to the reader and allow the focus to be on the plot rather than the detail. I think that this approach is what makes Child 44 so believable and gets you right into the head of the character and the context so easy to understand and visualise.
It was brilliant to hear Tom Rob Smith talk about Child 44 and his journey in writing it, plus I got my copy signed which I am feeling a little bit smug about. I will definitely be looking out for book events like this in future.
If you want to read more about Tom Rob Smith and his work here are some links:
There you go. Links galore! Have you been to any good book events or Q&A’s? What do you think the value of hearing an author speak about his or her work is?