I’ve only started writing crime novels with any seriousness in the last three years or so and in that time I’ve never attended any sort of literary festival. So when I heard about the line-up for this year’s Harrogate Crime Writing Festival I decided that it was about time I made the effort.
I had no idea what it might be like and it did indeed turn out to be somewhat different to my expectations. So below I’ll briefly talk about what were the highlights for me and whether I’d attend again.
My highlights of the festival
That would definitely be some of the interviews. Best in my opinion were the one on one interviews with Lee Child, Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin and Dennis Lehane. All were incredibly interesting and the difference in their views on writing in general and how they wrote was noticeable. These interviews confirmed my opinion that there’s no right way to write just the one that works for you.
Also good was a late night panel with Val Mc Dermid (who I liked a lot), Mark Billingham, Lee Child and Sarah Millican. It was a light-hearted discussion and made me laugh out loud. Everyone on the panel told humorous stories about themselves and, although I’ve been a little lukewarm about Sarah Millican when I’ve seen her on the TV, I have to admit that live she was absolutely excellent. She moved the discussion along and kept it light while giving me some of the biggest belly laughs I’ve had in years.
I suppose that a personal highlight would be meeting the creator of Jack Reacher Lee Child. We got caught in a queue together and I couldn’t help asking him about what he’d said was his passion when he’d been on the panel. That passion was Aston Villa football club and it’s a passion that I share myself. I found it slightly surreal that here I was talking to one of the biggest selling authors in the world at a literary festival and basically all we talked about was football! I found him to be a genuinely nice man and I hope he found our little chat to be a nice change from all the book talk.
Would I attend again?
Yes, I think I probably would. However I don’t think I’d do it in quite the same way.
The festival is quite properly aimed at the fans who get a real thrill from meeting their writer heroes. They are as dedicated as the fans of any rock band or film star and obviously enjoyed every minute of the festival. While I’d say that most of the sessions were at the very least interesting there were a few that just seemed to be time fillers. I noticed that the best interviews and panels were those that were led by professional interviewers such as James Naughtie, Jeremy Vine and Mark Lawson. They seemed to get the most out of their guests.
Another problem was my being disabled. The policy was to clear the room after each session meaning that we had to queue in the hallway. They let disabled people in first, which was good, but waiting for 20-25 minutes without even being able to sit down anywhere was a bit wearing.
Also a bit wearing was just the cognitive overload that I ended up with, especially on Friday when the first session started at 9 a.m and the last at 11. p.m. This made for a very long day. In future I think I’d pick and choose what sessions I wanted to attend ensuring that there was time in between to rest my brain as well as my body.
Of course the way I’d really like to attend in future is to be invited there as an author. A dream perhaps but I’m sure that at some point events like this were only a dream for the likes of Lee Child and Ian Rankin too.
So I’ll keep writing and now and again allow myself to do a little daydreaming too.