Last year I did very little publicity work for my books. I was moving house and I had to have quite a serious operation. This year I promised myself I’d do more but of course I was woefully out of the loop, skint and quite honestly a bit scared of going out on the road again.
But I forced myself to at least make enquires and, via the offices of the great Quentin Bates, I got my first gig at Newcastle Noir (2nd and 3rd May 2015). Initially they just wanted me to facilitate a workshop about crime and mental illness on the Saturday but then I also got a panel on the Sunday too. Baptism of fire after hermiting it for a year.
I chose to drive up to Newcastle from south Essex. And yes I can hear you say the word ‘bonkers’ underneath your breath. But the rail fare was enough to make your eyes water and also I wanted to go and visit my son in Lancaster at the end of the festival. It wasn’t a fun drive. Two accidents and five sets of road works on the A1 resulted in a seven hour marathon only relieved by a fabulous one hour examination of the Angel of the North whilst stuck in a traffic jam. To say that I was shagged out by the time I crossed the Tyne Bridge is an understatement. But I was soon enfolded in the welcome embrace of Jacky Collins, Newcastle Noir’s fantastic organiser who instantly made it all better. I checked into my hotel and went unconscious.
The next morning I got up and went straight to my workshop at the elegant Lit and Phil building. Luckily I wasn’t entirely alone with the workshop group (about 12 people) because Christiana Gregoriou from Leeds University had the first section. She was great and eased me in gently to what was a very enthusiastic and fun group. To my delight I soon got into the groove and it was brilliant to field excellent questions and just soak up the positive atmosphere.
Free for the rest of the day I attended panels about screenwriting and writers working in prison. I also caught up with old friends David Mark, William Ryan, Sarah Ward and of course Quentin Bates. It was also great to meet new faces too. People I’ve maybe ‘met’ on line like the lovely Eva Dolan and just interesting writers like M J McGrath, Bea Davenport, Christopher Brookmyre and a fabulous new Icelandic author, Ragnar Jonasson.
That night we all went out on the ‘toon’ which was huge fun. I’d never been to Newcastle before and didn’t know it had such a massive buzz. We started again the next morning with a fascinating panel about translating and then I was on again. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay until the end of the festival as I had to get over to the north west. But I will do next time because there will be a next time.
A good festival, which Newcastle is, opens the mind to new ideas and new people and I have come home enthused. And after the year I kissed goodbye just a few months ago that is an achievement. But then a really great festival can do that. Not only do you learn and discuss you also meet people and get to explore what they do which broadens your own horizons. Newcastle is, as yet, only a small festival, but I do hope that it will grow. There’s so much enthusiasm for crime writing and the location is just marvellous.
So my message to you is this ‘Next year in Newcastle.’ Get booking now. But don’t drive. Go and see the Angel of the North by all means. But don’t drive.