New authors 101 - or how to get through a writers festival without sobbing in a corner!
Or one I'd rush out and buy - Behavioural Tips for Fans at Festivals (how not to frighten the poor bugger half to death).
I worry a lot about new authors - how on EARTH do you do it! Firstly you have to lock yourself in a room somewhere and write and write and write and write. (If Peter Temple is anything like accurate during his one on one interview with Graeme Blundell at MWF this year - you then edit and rewrite and edit and edit and edit) and that's a process that often takes years.
Then the book is published and you've handed your baby over to an editor and a company that has opinions about your title and about your story - again Peter Temple mentioned that the first editor he worked with on Bad Debts suggested that he take out the horse racing, the football and the cabinet making (yeah right - a 3 page book about nothing)......
But horror of horrors surely then has to be your first Writers Festival. You show up - people seem to know who you are - there are all these people whispering your name - you're meeting those fans, you're having to stand up in front of an audience and wax lyrical about your book, you have to be charming, you have to write your name god knows how many times in the book and try to put something witty for the owner of the book.
You're stuck on a signing table beside Alexander McCall-Smith!
Authors - particularly crime authors it seems to be - are incredibly generous with their time and encouragement for other authors and their fan base. After a while I guess they sort of get used to (let's face it) mostly women of a certain age - trotting up to them in queues for the loo and loudly disclaiming how they killed that bloke in their last book was delicious! Or just standing there in front of them swapping feet and muttering I loved your book......
This year at MWF we saw quite a few first time authors.
Firstly - Adrian Hyland - who won the Ned for Best First Crime novel. Adrian is a charming man who shows an immense capacity for compassion and interest in the Aboriginal communities of Central Australia in which he set his book. You can tell that from the book - and you can get it even more strongly when you have a bit of a chat. Not only a compassionate and kind man, but generous with his time and interesting to chat with - mind you - any fan of Ken Bruen......
We managed to catch Leah Giarratano at 2 panels - and she bought a practitioner's perspective to a couple of areas of crime writing that - frankly - was utterly fascinating - and I could have listened to her for hours more. In her first book - VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE - her central character was a victim of a violent kidnapping as a child that included sexual abuse. Leah took us through the nature of survival of that sort of crime - the strategies and behaviours that Jill exhibits in the book are actually the classic methods used by many many victims. She then discussed a new interrogation and offender understanding method - kinesiology like - that her second book will concentrate on - it's due out in 2008. In the second panel we saw with Leah - she took us through the profile of a psycopath. Very very chilling and utterly fascinating. Addressing the issue of whether a psycopath is born or made she said that it's not 100% cut and dried - some people with many of the emotional components of a psycopath - but raised in a loving and "normal" family may never advance to psycopath status; the same emotional profile raised in a dysfunctional family - particularly with an emotionally distant or abusive mother - may. She also mentioned - in response to a question - that child psycopaths are had to diagnose and puberty plays a part - but she had met one 13 year old that showed distinct and obvious tendancies. She was also very candid when she said that she now concentrated on working with victims - working with offenders at the same time as victims had become too fraught.
John Ajvide Lindvquist - well you all know I was going to see him - but aside from my absolute and dedicated enthusiasm for his book - I was so pleased to get an opportunity to see the author himself - in the end on 3 separate occasions which was (I know you're not going to believe me - a lucky coincidence). We saw him firstly on a panel which was discussing Unconditional Love - and that's the one that I particularly wanted to hear his take on his book from - a chaste love story between a young child and an ancient vampire (in the form of another child) has got to be about as Unconditional as it gets. As I had sort of hoped / suspected / wondered about - Oskar in the book is partially autobiographical (John hastens to clarify without the vampire bits), and he's quite open to the fact that much of the dreadful treatment that Oskar endures from the bullying school friends is the treatment that he encountered (how very very elegant to kill off your tormenters in such a spectacular manner!). We then saw Euan Morrison and John again as they discussed the problems / challenges of translation - being a huge fan of "other culture" books - I read an enormous number of translations so was interested to see what the process did to an author. Euan Morrison mentioned the inclusion of an exclamation mark somewhere in the German translation of one of his books - with him having little / no memory of ever having written an exclamation mark in his life nearly drove him bats. John's book has been translated many times as well and one of the interesting things is that in many cases they just have to trust - as the language is not one that they can read themselves. Mind you - LET THE RIGHT ONE IN will endure the ludicruous change of title in the US to LET ME IN - it seems this time that US audiences can read an entire book but don't have a big enough attention span to cope with a 5 word title. If I was one of you Americans I'd be tracking down these publishers and smacking them repeatedly until they CUT IT OUT. The title of the book is a quote from a Morrisey song - it means something people!
Enough for one post - those of you who actually got to this point are probably losing the will to live.