Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – September update

We had our usual great meeting. I’m always amazed at how, in spite of being unscripted, we learn new things, meet new friends and feel good after. If you think you might want to start your own, let me know and I’ll be happy to give you some pointers.

aliceOn Saturday, October 8, from 10-12.30pm, Alice Mattison will present a Master Class at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio in Westport. She is the author of six novels, including When We Argued All Night, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her guide to writing, The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale, is included in the fee for the workshop. Check out the FCWS website for details on this hands-on way to jump start a stalled story or begin a new one.

Try to see Patti Smith in conversation hosted by the Mark Twain House in Hartford on October 13 from 7-9pm. By all accounts (people who heard her in New Haven) she gives a great talk. Tickets are $25, and you should book soon. I think they will sell out fast. Her memoir, The M Train, got rave reviews earlier this year.

WESTPORT WRITES – at the Westport Public Library

For those wanting an introduction to Scrivener, the writing software, The Westport Public Library’s Westport Writes program is offering a free introductory class at 6.30pm on Monday September 26, with a follow-up class on the 28th.  This is a good way to see how Scrivener can help you be a better organized writer. I couldn’t manage my writing without it.

Chris Friden, the teacher of this workshop, will be among the faculty at The Fairfield County Writers’ Studio – who are planning a wide range of classes, master classes and seminars this fall. Please check them out here. There’s something for you here, beginner, professional or a fiction writer who wants to try essay writing.

The following week, on Sunday, October 2, novelist Stephanie Lehman – Thoughts While Having Sex, Are You in the Mood?, You Could do Better and The Art of Undressing– will be doing a workshop on Planning Your Novel.

On Saturday, October 15th, The Westport Library is having its annual CrimeCONN Mystery Conference from 9-5pm.  I went last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  You can see some of the interviews I did with the authors (Chris Knopf, Daniel Handler, Liz Mugavero, Lucy Burdette)in previous blog posts. The cost is $25, and you’ll need to register in advance. You can find the list of author, and police detectives/crime experts here.

On the same day, there’s an Open write in of the Fairfield County Writers’ Group, a drop-in event where you can join other writers to sit and write among friends from 1-4pm. If you’re practicing for NaNoWriMo, This could be useful, and if you want to get an early start on this month-long November novel-writing challenge, you can do so at the library, with an overnight write-in beginning at 12.01am on November 1. With 50,000 words as your goal, it might be as well to plunge right in

Writers Read will be happening On Tuesday evening, October 4, from 7-9pm at the Fairfield Public Library. Come and read some of your writing to a supportive non-judgmental audience.

On Friday, October 7, from 4-6pm, the Writers’ Salon is hoping to host an experienced local editor for a question and answer session. To be confirmed.

FCWS will be starting a season of monthly open mic readings on Thursday October  6th  from 6.30-8pm in Westport. You can choose simply to read for 3-5 minutes, without a critique. Or you can sign up to get feedback on how to improve your performance, and perhaps be filmed

Get all the details here and contact faculty member Linda Legters at info@fcwritersstudio.com for more information.

On a completely different topic, I’ve begun using AutoCrit, an editing software that can help you get your work into better shape before you hire a professional editor. I discovered that I have a few writing tics, and writing ‘that’ as I just did, is one of them. So, to rephrase – I discovered I have a few writing tics. Another of them is overusing ‘after all’. The program can do much more complex analysis, but I’m not ready for that yet (sentence length, pacing, dialogue and more). After all, I’m just a novice…Check it out.

I met successful self-published author PJ Sharon the other day, whom I’m hoping to interview for the blog in a week or two. She has many great ideas for how to make that success happen. You can see for yourself how she’s doing, here. One suggestion she made for self-published authors was to donate a copy of your eBook to your local library, for people to borrow digitally. And apart from the YA books and other fiction she writes, she’s written a book called Overcome your Sedentary Lifestyle – perfect for writers.

It looks as though it’s going to be a busy autumn. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – August update

Welcome to the August update from the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous.

First up, here’s news from the Westport Library and the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio.

The FCWS is working with the Westport Library to create a new program called Westport Writes, designed to guide writers through all stages of writing and publishing. They’ll be offering talks, workshops etc, with the next one taking place this weekend.

You Wrote a Book, Now What? is a 2-hour talk by Jan Kardys. From 10-12pm on Saturday August 20th

Writing Scripts for Television – 6.30-8.30pm, August 25th   

Advanced Writing Classes led by Mary-Lou Weisman begin September 6 1.15-2.45pm. Beginners’ fiction and non-fiction classes are available, too.

A two-part introduction to Scrivener writing software with Chris Friden, on September 26 and 28, from 6.30-8.30pm.

This is just a selection. Check out the complete list of writing events here. All these events are at the library and require registration.

The Connecticut Chapter of the Romance Writers of America is holding its annual Fiction Fest in Norwalk from September 9-11. The conference is open to any writer, and there’s the possibility of having an agent or editor look at your work and give you feedback. Registration closes on August 25th. $209.

A propos of ‘You Wrote a Book…, Jan Kardys is offering a one-day conference in Groton on September 10th, with Marilyn Allen (agent) Sal Gilbertie (herbalist and non-fiction writer) and Katie Henderson, who will tell you about social media marketing, among others.

Alex McNab recommends the ‘away days’ offered by FCWS, where you can spend the day just writing without distractions, and without the internet, if you’re strong enough not to ask for the Wi-Fi password. This how he got to the end of a major edit on his novel.

His latest blog post for the Fairfield Writers is up now. It’s an interview with Betsy Lerner, agent, editor and author of The Bridge Ladies, a memoir, but also of The Forest for the Trees, a book about editing.

Aalicelex also found a good article about hiring a professional editor. You can read it here. And he recommends these two new books on writing:

The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers by Terry McDonell (Knopf, $26.95) and The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control—and Live to Tell the Tale by Alice Mattison (Viking, $25)

The Mark Twain House in Hartford is hosting its annual Writers’ Weekend from September 23-25th. It’s a conference that covers many genres and offers more than 30 different workshops. Registration is $180, and you can write in Mark Twain’s Library on Saturday or Sunday morning for an additional $30.

Don’t forget to come and read at the Fairfield Public Library if you can. Writers Read open mic is on September 6,  at 7pm. The Writers’ Salon , a discussion group, is on  September 9, at 4pm (a week later than usual, to avoid conflicts on the Labor Day weekend).

Norwalk Public Library is running several literary/writing events, too. Their next author visit if by Anne Korkeaviki, author of Shining Sea, who will be talking about her most recent novel at 12pm on August 22nd.

Norwalk is also where Leslie Kerr (their author-in-residence) runs the Norwalk Writers’ Guild, which meets every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month from 5.30-7pm. For those members of the Writers’ Rendezvous who were looking for an evening group, this might offer an opportunity. One session each month is dedicated to discussion of the writing process, then writers can post their work online for critiquing before the second meeting. And the Guild is planning an annual conference next year, too.

Sheryl Kayne is organizing a contest on her website for people interested in Volunteer travel. Details here.

Places to submit: Glimmer Train very short fiction (300-3,000 word) and fiction open (3000-20,000 words) is offering cash prizes for the first three winners in both categories, and even if not a winner, will pay you $700 if they publish your story. Deadline 8/30/16.

Dogwood, Fairfield U’s literary magazine is also looking for submissions in fiction, non-fiction and poetry – deadline: September 5, 2016.

And there you have it. I think there’s enough stuff here to keep you going until next month… As ever – if I’ve made any mistakes, please let me know or correct them in the comments. Thanks!

 

 

 

Author interview – Linda Legters

Website Pic1-2Linda Legters’ debut novel, Connected Underneath, is unusual in several respects. Its chief protagonist, Persephone, is a confused teenager whose life becomes even more complicated when her tattooing habit, which she pays for with sex, gets in the way of her love for her best friend, Krista. Meanwhile, Celeste, a wheelchair-bound young woman who lives nearby, is watching and meddling in other people’s lives. I’ve not read a novel like it, and although the writing was a little tricky because of its unusual style, it seems to suit the novel perfectly, as the characters collide with one another like pinballs. The book is available as an eBook right now, and as a paperback on April 2nd. (Just so you know, I know Linda and she gave me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.)

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GC: You’ve picked an unusual set of characters and story-lines in Connected Underneath. Was it the characters or their situations that developed first for you?

LL: The characters, definitely the characters. Celeste, for example, grew out of a childhood memory of a neighbor, and aspects of Persephone’s character come from the many wonderful and interesting but sometimes troubled students I have worked with while teaching at Norwalk Community College.

GC: Would you say that the overall tone of the book is dark?

LL: It certainly has some shadows, but there is also hope, hope that we can be more self-aware, more honest, and, well, more connected. The title of the book comes from the first line of Muriel Rukeyser’s poem “Islands,” which chides us in our thinking that we stand alone.

GC: How important is the location, a decaying upstate town, to the novel? Could the story have worked in a more upmarket place?

LL: I don’t think so. I didn’t want readers thinking about upscale solutions, such as therapy. Also, the fictional town, Madena, has been left behind by ‘progress,’ and yet maintains its struggle to survive and even move forward. At the beginning of Connected Underneath, the characters are isolated, and this parallels the ways the town is isolated, even though only a short train ride away from big cities. At the end of the story, Madena comes together, as do most of the main characters.

GC: Did you feel the changing points of view were a risky way to tell the story?

LL: In fact it’s always Celeste’s point of view, even as she describes others’ experiences. At first her information comes from what she witnesses or thinks she witnesses from the safety of her kitchen. Later, as her circles of contact widen, and her connection to the truth is on firmer ground, the story she tells becomes more and more accurate. In terms of the ending – which I won’t give away – we often imagine what moments like this must have been like for someone, and our imaginations can run wild in the way Celeste’s does.

GC: Your book is published by Lethe Press, a publishing company that specializes in books across the gender spectrum. The gay theme in the book is relatively minor, so would you describe this as a gay novel?

LL: I’m delighted Lethe Press welcomed my novel to their list, but, no, I don’t see this as a gay novel. Members of the LGBT community are part of the fabric of our lives, just as Persephone is part of Madena’s. A good friend, Dan Jaffe, who is also published by Lethe, and who first read this manuscript, appreciated the way it was not ‘one more’ coming out story, but instead showed Persephone in the throes of all-too-common teenage problems, of which her sexuality is only a part. Connected Underneath is also about parenthood, particularly single-parenthood, and about coming to terms with family dynamics, in all of its dimensions.

Thank you so much for chatting with me!
You can connect with Linda via Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.

 

 

 

Author Interview: Nora Raleigh Baskin

280493I met Nora Raleigh Baskin at the Unicorn Writers’ Conference in August and was interested to find that she was a prolific writer of middle grade novels, who’s been writing since she was in 5th grade. I read YA novels from time to time, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a middle grade one. So I read her latest book Ruby on the Outside, because it dealt with a topic I hadn’t seen covered anywhere else in children’s books. It’s about a girl whose mother is in prison for life, convicted of being an accessory to murder. There are many questions about truth and lies, friendship and family, as well as some spot-on characterizations of 11 year-old girls. Apart from being a page-turner, it offers the reader hope that he/she doesn’t have to stay ‘on the outside.’ After reading the book I had some questions for her.

GC: Ruby on the Outside is your 12th novel for middle graders. This is a relatively new genre in terms of marketing. Why did you choose to write for this age group?
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NRB: I’m not sure how new this genre is. I think the YA spin-off is the one that marketers have really jumped all over. Middle grade is what we used to just call Children’s books. It’s what most of us remember from school, Nancy Drew, E.L. Konigsburg, A Wrinkle in Time. In fact, as a writer I feel that these publisher/library imposed categories are very limiting but that’s a whole other topic of conversation. I write for all ages. I write for myself. I write the stories I needed to tell and when I told that story (my first book in 2001) in a 6th grader’s voice it worked best. And so that’s where I mostly stayed.

GC: Your books are often about outsiders. Is there some particular reason why you find these characters interesting?

NRB: I have a strong feeling that all writers, to one degree or another, at one time in their life, or still, feel like outsiders and so have become observers. Writers are viewers, watching and listening and analyzing the world as they see it, and as they want others to see it. For me, it began when I was three and a half and my mother committed suicide but the truth was kept from me for many years. This disconnect between what I had witnessed as a child and what I was being told created an “I-don’t-belong” sensibility. From a very early age I became a “truth-seeker” and that is what I do in my writing to this day.

GC: What’s the most fun thing about being a middle grade author?

NRB: Interesting question. Being a writer is a great profession but writing for children is an added responsibility, at least I believe so. I’m not sure if that qualifies as fun, but is it what makes being a middle grade author important. Just like middle school teachers, who can play very important roles in a child’s life (more so than any other age in many ways), I care about what I write and how it is going to be read by children. I feel deeply that I need to write stories that are realistic and do not offer false hope, but do offer hope. And that present characters of strength, acceptance, and resiliency.
GC: Do you get direct feedback from fans about your books? And do they comment on your amazing ability to capture a young person’s voice?

51Q7daYMuQLNRB: With the internet, Twitter, and FB I get more feedback than I’ve ever gotten. I’ve gotten requests from students doing book reports, complaints from parents about some minor (I mean, teeny tiny) bad word in my basketball book (Have you ever BEEN on a basketball court???) but mostly I get wonderful, validating, and affirming letters from students, teachers, and parents. In particular I hear from many people about my book, Anything But Typical which told the story of a 12 year-old autistic boy from the first person POV. Books move people, make them think, and feel, and care. There is nothing more meaningful than finding out that I’ve achieved that.

GC: What’s up next?

NRB: My next book is being published in August 2016 by Simon & Schuster. It’s titled: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story, and tells the story of four children across the United States in the 24 hours before 9/11. It is not a depressing or scary story, but again, hopeful.
Other than writing, I’ve lately found myself drawn to teaching. I enjoy very much talking to writers about writing, and helping new writers figure out their creative paths. I have been teaching for years through Gotham Writers Workshops and various conferences around the country and I’ve decided to start offering my own workshops and manuscripts critiquing. I’ve made a new website just for this new teaching venture: LightOnWriting.com. I do hope people will find the site and take an interest. The first workshop,Trade Secrets: Writing for Children & Young Adults, is scheduled for Saturday, November 21, 2015, 10-4 in Norwalk, CT.

You can connect with Nora on Google +Twitter and Facebook.

Writers Connect: Jacqueline Masumian

We’re very lucky here in Fairfield County, Connecticut, because we get a constant stream of authors willing to visit and share their wisdom. I’m not saying that selling some books has nothing to do with it, but I’m often impressed by how willing they are to discuss their writing process, how they found an agent, etc. So I’ve decided to begin recording some of them, and asking for a piece of advice about writing.

 

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The first up is Jacqueline Masumian, a local writer, whose memoir, Nobody Home, has garnered critical praise. I loved her book; it’s a charming memoir. From her childhood in Ohio, to her life as a landscape architect, via acting, singing and market research, she takes the reader through a vivid journey. The memoir tries to make sense of her distant mother and a father who left the family when she was a child. Attempting to understand one’s family is something I suspect most of us do. Jacqueline has made it possible for us to understand hers in a very readable way.
When she came to the Westport Library recently to talk about the art of memoir, I asked her what particular advice she would give to her fellow writers.Here’s what she said:
The best advice I could give would be to share your work with a group of other memoir writers; a workshop setting gives you deadlines, forcing you to write every day, and provides very valuable feedback on your writing. Groups in which you read out loud to the other writers provide a special advantage, because reading your work aloud alerts you to any awkward sentences or incomplete thoughts you may have overlooked. I could not have written my book without the many thoughtful comments of my workshop friends.

 

Best Books on Writing and Creativity in 2013

Maria Popova of the online magazine Brain Pickings Weekly, is a wonderful source for all things of interest to writers. This recent post of hers, The Year’s Best Books on Writing and Creativity is self-explanatory. She gives excerpts for the books, and comments on why she’s chosen them. The books include Why We Write, edited by Meredith Maran, Odd Type Writers, by Celia Blue Johnson, and Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, to name but three of the eight she’s chosen. Enjoy!

Author Interview: Marta McDowell

indexI’m English, so naturally I love books, and I love gardening (although I must admit that my gardening is of the if-it-lives-it-lives variety). Still, I pore over gardening catalogues in between reading other books, so I was particularly pleased recently when I had the chance to meet Marta McDowell. She’s the author of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, a beautiful and fascinating look at Beatrix Potter and the gardens she created and featured in her books.

I sort of knew that Peter Rabbit lived in a real garden, but I didn’t know about Miss Potter’s tremendous talent for drawing or much about her private life at all. So I have found this book absorbing, the perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea when I’m taking a break from my computer. In addition to the biographical element, the photographs and illustrations are lovely, and the list of plants she grew helps me dream of improving my own humble plot. The book would make a great gift for a gardening friend – perhaps accompanied by a copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Marta McDowell was kind enough to let me interview her for this blog:

GC: Your previous book was Emily Dickinson’s Gardens. What gave you the idea of writing about famous writers’ gardens?

MM: I had a eureka moment on a chance visit to The Homestead, Emily Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts in the 1990s.  As a student I’d found the poetry of Emily Dickinson  difficult. At The Homestead that afternoon I discovered that Dickinson had been an enthusiastic gardener. It was a tiny common thread — I was recently bitten by the gardening bug — and became a personal entrée into her life and work.

After that I was on the lookout for writers who garden. The pen and the trowel as I like to say.

GC: When did you first become interested in Beatrix Potter?Beatrix Potter Cover CMYK

MM: At an exhibition at the Morgan Library in 1988.  It was a spectacular show that explored her biography and work:  the Tales, her art including botanicals, and her life as a Lake District farmer and preservationist.  I visited her home, Hill Top Farm, in 1997.  Then I got distracted by Emily Dickinson and didn’t come back to Miss Potter until 2007 when Linda Lear’s biography, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature came out.

GC: You’re a horticulturist. Was it Beatrix Potter’s watercolor illustrations that first interested you, or the woman herself?

MM: The woman.  Beatrix Potter was a person of grit.  She reinvented herself several times, and classed herself with “people who never grow up.”  I understand that.  And the more I learned about her gardening and personal style the better I liked her.  She was relaxed about her manner of dress, direct in her conversations, loyal in her correspondence, regular in her work habits.  She described her garden as survival of the fittest (evolution was relatively new in her lifetime — equivalent to DNA in ours).  Just ask my plants — mine is the same.

GC: How did you go about researching the book?

MM: There are many excellent archives with Potter material. The largest is with the Victoria & Albert in London, but I also spent time in the National Trust archives and the Armitt Museum in Ambleside in the Lake District. I worked at the Morgan Library’s Reading Room, at Princeton University and at Connecticut College. I was also able to find material online. F. W. Warne’s image database was a key resource. And I hired a photographer, Dayve Ward, in the Lake District.

GC: She seems to have been quite a private person. How easy was it to find the information you needed?

MM: I was blessed with researching a person who became famous in her lifetime and wrote engaging letters.  So while, before she died, Beatrix Potter Heelis burned her correspondence, most people who received letters from her seem to have saved them.

When she was a teenager, she kept a journal, (in code!), that was painstakingly translated by an early scholar of Beatrix Potter. Because her father was a photographer, there are many pictures of the people and places (and plants) important to her life.

There are wonderful biographies and studies of Beatrix Potter, many fostered by the active and engaging Beatrix Potter Society. The members of the Society couldn’t have been more generous. They helped with material, ideas, reading drafts, making suggestions — I’m still amazed.

GC: What was your favorite part of writing the book?

MM: For me, I loved to step through Beatrix Potter’s garden with her, to try to see it through her eyes — what was growing, her favorite plant (snowdrops!), the work that needed to be done in the beds and borders — and how she honored her garden by including it in her letters, her illustrations and her writing. My best day of the research was one November morning when I got to work in her garden at Hill Top alongside the National Trust horticulturist, Pete Tasker. We were cutting back the perennials. Heaven.

You can connect with Marta on Twitter

Author Interview: Catriona McPherson

CMcPI’ve recently been enjoying the books of Scottish author Catriona McPherson . Her first series was the Dandy Gilver mysteries, featuring an aristocratic lady sleuth in Scotland and the books take place after the First World War. Unlike Charles Todd (author of the Ian Routledge mystery novels) and Jacqueline Winspear (The Maisie Dobbs novels) which are set in the same era, McPherson’s heroine moves easily among the upper classes, and sometimes among the people below stairs. She’s helped in her detecting by a handsome young man called Alec…and occasionally hindered  by her husband, Hugh. It’s the tone of these books that sets them apart from the others. There’s a lightness to the prose like that of P.G. Wodehouse, and a self awareness in the heroine that makes her very credible and likeable.

Catriona’s last book, As She Left It, is set in 2010 and has us in a working class area of the North of England. The plot concerns the disappearance of a child ten years before, and the determination of the young  protagonist, newly-orphaned  20-something Opal, to find out what happened back then, as well as unraveling several other mysteries in her own life along the way. This was, in fact, the first of Catriona’s books that I read, and I loved it. It was proof that a Scottish writer doesn’t have to stick with a Scottish backdrop; the characters, language and plotting had me utterly convinced. This is one of the few mysteries I would read again, just for the pleasure of the writing. (see my Goodreads review here)

I contacted Catriona to ask her a few questions about her work.

GC: On checking out your bio, I found that you had a strong background in academia. What made you switch to writing mystery novels?

I did an MA and then a PhD and worked as a university lecturer for five years.  In that sense, you’re dead right.  But the thing is, I was a hopeless and miserable academic.  I loved my subject – linguistics- and loved teaching the students, but it wasn’t my world.  My PhD supervisor and good friend, Ronnie Cann, always said my thesis was as close as you could get to a science fiction novel and still be awarded a degree for it.

I had always wanted to write stories.  But for one, I thought working-class kids from small Scottish towns didn’t burst out and become writers.  And for two, when I told a careers adviser I wanted to write (I was fourteen), she scoffed and told me not to be so daft.  I was a clever girl, she said. I should stay on a school and make something of my life.  So I stayed on at school until I was thirty five.  What a chump.   

Moaning to a friend one night about how much I hated my job but how stuck I was (first in my family to go to university, parents so proud, all that) I tried to prove I had no options by passing on that careers adviser’s scorn.  “The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is write stories.’ I said.  ‘And since that’s daft, I’m stuffed.’

She didn’t even have to say anything.  She just looked at me.  The light bulb came on.  I resigned and started writing.  But seriously, what a chump.

GC: How did the character of detective Dandy Gilver come to you? dandy

CMcP: She arrived fully formed the day I started planning to write a crime novel.  I had to decide where she lived, what she was called and who her friends and family were, but Dandy herself just turned up. Where from?  The answer to Q.1 tells you she’s not me, right?  she’s posh, English, dark-haired and a dog-lover.  I’m unposh, Scottish, “blonde” and  – here’s the clincher – a cat-lover.  On the other hand, one of my favourite descriptions of Dandy comes from a Guardian review “brisk, baffled, kindly, heroic and – above all – very funny.” I’ll admit to brisk and baffled, and I aspire to the rest, so maybe she’s sort of me.  We’re both tenaciously logical and passionate about truth and justice too.  That helps no end with solving cases and with plotting novels.

GC: I would say that the Scottish settings of the Dandy Gilver novels add a great deal to the reader’s enjoyment of them. What made you switch to the North of England? Is that an area you know well?

Thank you!  It’s always a juggling act.  I want the books to be rich in setting, without that horrible info dump.  You know – “I’ve spent months finding this out so you’re damn well going to read about it.” 

The reason As She Left It is set in Leeds?  The University of Leeds was where I worked for those five unhappy years and I adore Yorkshire people.  Still miss being called “love” by strangers.   And the real-life incident that set the story going happened in Leeds: I met that little old lady, in her apron and slippers, looking for the party, and took her home. I should say, even though Opal’s house in the book is my friend Diane’s real house in Leeds, none of that stuff happened there.  But the bed’s real.  

GC: Opal, the main character (among several other memorable ones) in As She Left It  is a world away from Dandy. What is your favorite thing about her?

CMcP: I love Opal!   She has had a tough life so far but she’s not hardened by it or broken.  She’s got her tender spots – places she doesn’t go – but she’s fierce and brave and she cares about the people around her.  Also, I love her haplessness.   She’s like an anti-diplomat, charging in with the best of intentions and getting thing calamitously wrong.  But what a good heart.  It was very refreshing writing a character who’s never careful.

GC: I know you have a new novel coming out next week. Could you tell us something about it?

CMcP: Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses is coming out in the US on the 19th of November.  It appeared in the UK last year.  In it, Dandy is undercover as an English mistress in a girls’ boarding school in Portpatrick, where teachers are vanishing (five) and bodies are piling up (four).  That mismatch is what makes the number of corpses bothersome.

And I’ve just finished the edit of Dandy Gilver and the Reek of Red Herrings (trouble and strife in an Aberdeenshire fishing village) which is slated for June 2014 publication in the UK.

day she diedThere’s also the second in the modern stand-alone strand.  A follow-up to As She Left It, although not a sequel.  That one, The Day She Died, will be out in May 2014. It’s the story of Jessie Constable – a survivor – whose careful little life gets turned inside out and upside down by a sudden death and the appearance of a stranger.  I love Jessie just as much as I did Opal and there’s a gallery of secondary characters – toddlers to elderly Irish priests – that are now my friends for life.

GC: Will these be available in all formats?

CmCP: The Dandy books appear in the most traditional way: hardback followed six months later by paperback and (these days) eBook.  The stand-alones come out as trade paperback and eBook simultaneously.

GC: Now that you’re living in California, do you have any plans for a book set there?

Hm, it took me ten years after leaving Leeds to set a book there, so California might not figure very soon.  There is an idea for a mid-twentieth-century suspense thriller (possibly a series) but it’s the faintest whiff at the moment.  Like smoke from a distant bonfire. One thing I think I can guarantee is that Dandy Gilver will never get in a wagon and roll west.  At most, she might take a luxury liner to New York (how I’d love to do that research!) but I think Inspector Morse should stay in Oxford, Miss Marple belongs in St Mary Mead and Dandy Gilver should be tramping about rural Scotland in the plotching* rain.

GC: * I have to admit I didn’t know the word plotching, so I asked Catriona what kind of rain this was and here’s her answer: heavy, windless, downpour, plopping off leaftips and drumming on roofs! The Scots have a word for everything!

 

Hercule Poirot rides again…with Jeeves and Wooster

HPI read today on the BBC website that Sophie Hannah (poet and author of the Zailer and Waterhouse mystery series) has been commissioned by the author’s grandson to write a new crime novel based on Agatha Christie’s immortal (it seems) sleuth Hercule Poirot, probably best known from the television series starring David Suchet. From the comments I’ve read on the BBC’s website, reactions are mixed, and I suppose mine are too. On the one hand, it seems a shame to let the character disappear, but if the new novel doesn’t read like Agatha Christie, will it be as good? Conversely, would it be better not to attempt Christie’s style but simply use her character? Clearly the plot will have to be set in the past – there’s no way Poirot could be expected to grapple with the modern world.

A few months ago, Sebastian Faulks, (author of Birdsong, Charlotte Gray and Jeevesmany other literary novels) was commissioned by the Wodehouse estate to write a new Jeeves and Wooster novel in the style of their original author P.G. Wodehouse. Faulks has already written a hugely successful James Bond novel, Devil May Care, so this isn’t his first attempt at writing in a style other than his own. Wodehouse seems easy to copy, but in fact, his erudition and incredible knowledge of poetry, the classics and the Bible, which he uses in many a throwaway line, will no doubt render the job difficult. But I think I will give the new book, due in November, a try because I adore Wodehouse so much that any new offering is welcome. But if it doesn’t satisfy within the first chapter, I will have to abandon it. Here’s what Evelyn Waugh had to say about PGW: “Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.” Exactly. So I can’t have my memories of Wodehouse’s world sullied by an inferior copy.

Get a Clue!

I already knew that crime actually does pay, if you’re a crime writer, that is. But I had no idea how widespread the fascination is, until I read a recent (July 19) article by Louise Millar, one of the Guardian’s reporters, in which she picks some of the best crime-writing festivals. They are held in places as far flung as Reykjavik, Munich, Oslo, Bristol and New York. If you’re a crime fiction fan, and would like to meet your favorite authors, here’s a way to do it.

The best crime writing festivals around the world

Whether you’re a fan of Scandi dramas or planning to pen your own thriller, add a twist to a city break at a crime-writing festival. The hunger for Scandi TV and fiction has sparked a new interest in crime festivals (as perhaps will JK Rowling’s foray into the genre with Cuckoo’s Calling). No longer solely the domain of die-hard thriller fans, these events are increasingly offering everything from live music and food stalls to film screenings and tie-in tours. If you want the thrill of seeing your favourite crime author in the flesh on a city break, here’s our round-up of the best crime-writing festivals around the world.

(The first on the list was in Harrogate, England, but it’s just finished, so I’ve left it out. GC)

Stirling: Bloody Scotland, 13-15 September 2013

A stunning setting is part of the appeal of Scotland’s crime festival, with views over Stirling Castle and the Forth valley. At the Stirling Highland Hotel this year, you can meet lots of Scottish crime writers, including Denise Mina, Louise Welsh and Stuart MacBride, alongside Jo Nesbø, Lee Child and many more well-known authors. As with Harrogate, events are individually priced (from £7), leaving you time to explore the medieval city. For an extra thrill, attend the festival dinner to hear the live announcement of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

The book to read: Cold Grave by Craig Robertson (Simon and Schuster, £6.99) follows DS Rachel Narey’s investigations into a 20-year-old cold case that haunts her retired detective father, that of a young woman who disappeared after walking across the frozen Lake of Menteith in winter.

Take a local literary crime tour: Follow in the footsteps of Ian Rankin’s DI John Rebus in Edinburgh. The guided tour starts at the Royal Oak Pub on Infirmary Street on Saturdays, 12-2pm, £10, rebustours.com. (The tours will be running every day during Edinburgh Festival.)

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