What happened to solitary authors?

If you had asked me a year ago to picture an author, any author, I would have imagined them in their study, sitting in front of a typewriter, or at a push keyboard, studiously tapping out their latest story. But it seems I may have to revise this for something a little more sociable.

Over the last year (thanks largely to Twitter) I have discovered that there are a whole host of events where you can get to meet and chat to many leading authors. Yesterday is a perfect example – we went to Reading Town Hall to hear some of the talks at the Reading Festival of Crime Writing. This is apparently its fourth year – but without Twitter I’m not sure I would have heard of it.

Our first session was a “TV Detectives” panel event, chaired by Simon Brett, with a panel comprising MR Hall, MC Beaton, James Gurbutts and David Hewson. They shared their experiences of working with TV including scriptwriting, having their books adapted for TV and writing a novel based on a TV series. There were some horror stories of what can happen when you hand your work over to others, as well as some more light-hearted stories. The consensus seemed to be that you need to accept that you are relinquishing control and not worry too much about the detail. Although it seems that success with TV can be lucrative!

We were also treated to a powerful reading by David Hewson of the opening passage to his adaptation of the hugely successful series The Killing – his equivalent of the opening scene from the TV. The book will be launched at Crimefest Bristol on May 24 2012 and as I’ve not seen the series I am very much looking forward to the novel.

The evening finished with a double-act of Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride, who obviously know each other well, leading to much banter. Both read from their books – Mark from “Good as Dead” and Stuart from “Birthdays for the Dead”. Great readings, but a little unfair to leave us in suspense – especially Stuart as his book won’t be out until next year!

Discussions covered the merits of writing a series versus stand-alone books, and whether or not your main character should age in real-time. There was a little cross-over with the earlier session as Mark shared some of his experiences from the Thorne TV series, something which seems to work very well for him. Their conversation, peppered with anecdotes, also touched on the use of humour in the darkest moments of their books, feedback from readers, and Marmite (yes, really). This was followed by a lively Q & A session, including Marmite-related suggestions!   

The two sessions were a very enjoyable way to spend a Saturday evening and I will now have to add several new authors to my wishlist!

But these are the latest in a number of events I’ve been to this year.  My first experience was at the summer’s “Crime in the Court” event hosted by Goldsboro Books. An opportunity to meet around 40 crime fiction authors – from SJ Bolton to Laura Wilson. This was followed up by September’s “History in the Court” event with a great turnout from historical fiction authors. You don’t have to have read any of the author’s work to have a conversation – they’re more than happy to tell you about their writing, and it does encourage you to pick up their titles when you see them in the shops.

These few events are only scratching the surface – there are such a wide-range of festivals and events – from Aberdeen to York, from poetry to horror, and it seems almost every weekend you could be out meeting authors. So get out from behind those pages & say hello – they don’t bite!

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