Most of us crimewriters have been to festivals and conferences at one time or another. Some of us are regulars with a store of polished anecdotes that can be wheeled out as needed. Others of us emerge occasionally, blinking into the daylight to join in the discussion and the throng at the bar.
There’s a regular circuit of crime fiction festivals; Harrogate, Crimefest, Bouchercon, plus the ones dotted around Europe and other far-flung parts of the world. Not everyone can get to crime festivals to listen to us sparkle. Normal people have jobs and families that tend to keep them occupied with other things that seem to be more important.
But now there’s an alternative, and it grew out of an obscure corner of Facebook where crime writers also tend to congregate.
Britcrime is the brainchild of the magnificently energetic Helen Smith, who has marshalled a small army of crimewriting Brits to come up with the first online crime fiction festival. It’s something of a British thing, hence the BritCrime name, and it takes place next month where practically everyone can get to it from the comfort of wherever they might be as it’s all set to happen on the internet.
‘I love attending crime fiction festivals around the world,’ Helen said.
‘The biggest of those is Bouchercon, held in a different US city every year. Because of the time and expense involved, I sometimes ask myself why I go to these events. The answer is quite simple – because I enjoy them so much. I love meeting readers and spending time with other authors.’
‘I wanted to see whether I could put together something similar online. I thought it must be possible to make contact with readers around the world who might not otherwise have a chance to chat to authors, while helping authors protect their writing time. As Sarah Hilary says, this is a writing festival you can attend in your pjs. And you know how much that lifestyle appeals to authors!’
There’s something at BritCrime for any crime reader, with authors ranging from well-known figures to relative newcomers, their work spanning the range from some with a fairly low blood spatter rate to others that definitely aren’t for the faint of heart.
It all takes place through Facebook, with live Q&As and crimewriters taking two-hour slots to live chat with whoever wants to turn up and meet, keyboard to keyboard, plus there’s the equivalent of the chance to meet us in the virtual bar afterwards, which is when things should start to get properly interesting.
‘There’s an irreverence and sense of fun about BritCrime. Our combined creativity (and natural urge to procrastinate) means that we have new BritCrime projects going up on Twitter and Facebook all the time,’ Helen Smith added.
‘If you take a look at the Our Authors Prepare album on Facebook, you will see why I’m spending so much time working on this. I love it! Those photos make me laugh every time I look at them. The programme is now up on our site. With most of the admin out of the way, it means I can focus on the fun stuff. Next up, auditions for our Opening Ceremonies. Look out for a hashtag on Twitter for that. And I need to organise a meat raffle for our virtual pub, The Slaughtered Author, where we will be meeting readers after the panels on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 July, 10.00pm to midnight. (Will not contain actual meat.) So there you have it. BritCrime is about having fun, collaborating, and connecting readers with authors.’
On top of all that there are giveaways, some publishers are offering deals for that weekend, downloads and more over the weekend of 11th and 12th of July. There’s a Kindle Paperwhite to be won, and between now and the 11th when it all kicks off there are bound to be a few more ideas added to the brew.
It’s a remarkable effort and I’m delighted to be a part of it. The fact of the matter is that in today’s tough times, every little bit of exposure to a wider readership is welcome for any author who isn’t in the top 100, and we’re all aware that this is something no author can afford to ignore now that publicity is something publishers would really prefer us to look after for ourselves. So Britcrime has grown as a grassroots effort run by a bunch of writers and it has already managed to attract plenty of interest, and not just in Britain.
It’s going to be a whole load of fun, so turn up and ask a question or two. It’s a midday to midnight schedule, so drop in at any time and there’ll be something happening, or else take a look at the programme and decide just when’s the moment to jump in with an see what’s going on. Sign up for the newsletter to keep up to date with what’s being organised.
Timings are all British Summer Time (GMT+1) See you on the internet for a weekend of virtual criminal activity, all the fun and interest of crime festival that usually takes place in a hotel or a conference centre, but without having to leave home for it… But without the buzz around the bar into the small hours when the cleaners start to show up, although we’ll do our best to replicate that part of it.