Writing without facts — Not!

p1120559I can’t flow without facts. T doesn’t exist in a vacuum. She is not a name on a page. She is worried, scared, angry. And she is looking for her husband. Worse: she’s been lying about him. So I have to know where he was meant to be. Two hours on Google maps and Wikipedia: what are the minerals in Kazakstan (and how do you spell it?), where else would he go to get the muds and the plants for the spa, rare and exotic. Finally I get T back to her husband’s inbox scrolling through and finding Tashkent — and eeek it’s time for me to make dinner. For real I mean, not on the page.

I discover later that it will make things too easy if she can get at his emails, so decide that it’s all on his laptop which he’s taken with him. And she doesn’t know the passwords to his accounts. … Nyah-ha-ha (rubs hands and twirls moustache) I know another way that will reveal his intended locations, but T and reader will have to wait. NaNoWriMo Discovery Draft continues!

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Writing crime

2016-06-11 09.05.16 2016-06-11 16.44.38 2016-06-11 08.35.48 What a useful day! Police, forensics, pathologists, barristers, dna, footwear, fibres, spatter analysis… real life crimes and creatively imagined and solved ones — by Paula Hawkins of Girl on a Train, no less. There she is reading the end of her crime story with compere Peter Gutteridge — we took part in it throughout the day. It all happened at Northumbria University in Newcastle, a conference for writers and readers.

Put on by New Writers North, I was lucky to spot it in my NAWE newsletter a couple months back, so I even got the early bird rate. There were agents, editors and some one-to-one sessions available too. But I was there for facts and procedures, and came away with gold. Like the fibres that might be on my victim’s clothes. And that, yes, telecoms forensics can trace a received text back to source — but it will take longer if it’s in another country. And of course, I still have more questions, but I got a good lead for those from DC Holmes (first name was NOT Sherlock).

Researching — plus a long train ride each way — is a great aid to hatching and plotting. Do it! Then there’s the writing part…

2016-06-11 08.34.00

Writing festival rewards

The writing world, cold and lonely? Or fun and friendly? A local festival made it fun and friendly for me last week. I went to one Famous Author talk (Max Hastings) and bumped into local friends. Next day went to two ‘inside the writing-and-publishing business’ talks which included, in total, four local authors, three of whom selling in mega-quantities even though not yet household names. More friendliness encountering two former Writers at Work students of mine, including the recently published Diane Chandler. Following that I went to an evening of another Writers at Work student, the now very published Louise Voss sharing the discussion of writing modus operandi with SJI Holliday otherwise known as Susi. They are both ‘killer women’ and that’s a whole organisation of criminally inclined (so to speak) writers, friends and supporters to each other. I’m interested in aspects of the genre for an idea I’ve been noodling with for a while.

As for my part as a local author in the local festival, The Chiswick Calendar interviewed me for The Extraordinary Dr Epstein along with two other authors at Waterstones bookstore. That was friendly too, including friends in the audience.

But there was a spillover reward I have to share with you. The next afternoon after the Joy of Crime Writing event I was taking a local train. I glanced as I headed along the platform and saw a young woman deeply engaged in a paperback book, a good quarter-way in. Glanced closer and saw it was Black Wood, the SJI Holliday book. Surprise! Glanced even closer and recognised the young woman as one across the aisle from me who asked about how the authors researched police stuff. And so I spoke to her (saying she had asked the question I wanted to ask). We had a good crime writing chat, trading authors for three stops until she got off the train. Esther is a philosophy student at Bristol and a mad keen crime writing fan. A reward to warm the heart cockles of any writer who gives talks at festivals and a friendly titbit I passed on to Susi. The reward I liked most of all was the wider friendliness of reading-passion.