Hamnet Q&A #Hamnet #MaggieOFarrell #VirtualEvent #Writing #NewBook

A Q&A featuring Maggie O’Farrell about her new book Hamnet and more…

I joined to watch this insightful Q&A with Maggie O’Farrell. Her latest book is Hamnet, available now. For those wondering who she is or what Hamnet is about, here is a quick introduction and blurb, before I get onto the event.

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I AM, I AM, I AM, and eight novels: AFTER YOU’D GONE, MY LOVER’S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award,  THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and HAMNET.
She lives in Edinburgh.

Blurb For Hamnet

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

Hamnet

The Main Event

It was interesting to hear that Maggie O’Farrell gets editorial feedback from her husband. So she doesn’t really tell her husband too much about what book she is working on or indeed chat much about a book until it is finished. She went onto talking about how all writing is personal, but decided harsh feedback can be in the best interest to either cut a character or to see if it can be made better.

Why Write Hamnet?

She decided to write Hamnet because she studied Hamlet in Scottish Highers and was intrigued by the symmetry of the play’s name Hamlet and Shakespeare’s son. She was interested in the fact that there is so little known about Shakespeare, but the fact that the play (and in fact one of his most popular and enduring plays), was named after his dead son, so she wanted to bring his son more to the forefront. It sounded like she had an interest in writing this story for quite some time.

Research

In the research, she found most interesting in the gaps as there is a lot of potential to fill them. Research was library based and she discovered that he probably would have walked 4 or 5 days between Stratford and London.

She did some physical research. This included, cultivating her own medicinal garden and making bread as in Tudor time to really get a feel for and experience what that was like for research purposes for her book.

She talked about, with research, you need to know more than you actually put down on the page on the book, so it doesn’t feel like any essay or clunky.

Crafting her voice

How long it took her to craft her voice, she doesn’t feel she has ever completely nailed it, but that keeps her writing.

She found it awhile to pinpoint where in the chronology of Shakespeare where to start to write. It sounds like it took a few attempts, but then she found the pinpoint of where to start the story, the voice came.

Setting and Shakespeare (or not)

The setting is of course Stratford-upon-Avon, which she did travel down to (it really is a very long way from Edinburgh), but it was an effort she made.

For a chapter about an infected flea, Maggie O’Farrell tried to imagine what it was like in Warwickshire and what it was like for the plague to spread through the place and coming into your house. She then researched the trade routes and also how it travelled. 

Shakespeare is not mentioned by name in the book because everyone has a sense of him and wanted to ask readers to think about him again and to see another side of him. She reckoned a lot of Shakespeare’s drama happened, not all on stage, but in the time with his son and she didn’t want him to be the focus of the book, when it is about Hamnet.

Routines and Challenges

She tries to do something new with every book and sets herself challenges and creates almost like hurdles to go over.

For writing, she doesn’t really have a routine. She has sometimes a big surge of inspiration that is followed by a bit of a fall, but thinks both is useful to get words on paper and then it can be looked at critically and then writing can be edited.

She wrote a memoir, but not all in chronological order. She wrote diaries, but didn’t look back at them when writing the memoir. There are gaps that she didn’t want to divulge everything or write someone else’s narrative.

What’s Coming Next

Maggie O’Farrel has a children’s book coming out around the autumn. A girl wakes up one night and a snow angel has come into her bedroom. It will be a bit like a modern fairytale.

Hamnet

Talk with William Shaw and Jo Spain@william1shaw @SpainJoanne @sophieglorita #bookevent #TheLockdown #MondayMotivaton #CrimeFiction

Today author William Shaw was joined by Dublin based author and scriptwriter Jo Spain. Normally I take notes and then write it up like a day later or so, but I thought I would write as I watched and get it published as soon after as I could, so advance apologies if it all looks a bit rushed or doesn’t quite read as well in parts.

Crime writer and scriptwriter. Did an original show for RTE. She is doing a few author’s books for screen.

A book and screen are two different things in the way they are worked it would seem, Completely different in fact as it’s all about showing and also everyone in the tv production saying what is required. 

So far things have come quickly to screen for Jo Spain.

Sophie and First Monday Crime – going for about 5 years. They do book recommendations and Q&As. They talk about accessible films too and watch a film together. This is something everyone can join in with. Here is the link for First Monday Crime

They talked about having to be creative to connect and how work is still going on with how to publicise books and with some bookshops closing. I will add here that there are a number of independent bookshops now trading online.

Ssix-wicked-reasons-jo-spain-9781529400274ix Wicked Reasons is a new book by Jo Spain – locked room set on the east coast of Ireland in a grand country house. The head of the household has been killed. They are all coming home for a family celebration as someone disappeared years ago, but returns. The reasons for the murder emerges. It sounds like if you like Agatha Christie, you will enjoy this. There’s a psychological/sociological element and a sense of realism about it with characters you can care about, even though there is a narcissistic father who leaves damage within the family in different ways. The characters sound like people who you’re really going to get to know and why they are how they are and how they are individually marked.

After the Fire
After the fireTom Reynolds is a Chief Super Intendant – this is part of a series, so this is where he eventually becomes promoted to. He has a difference that there is still investigation work. 

 

 

 

 

Sophie talks about an area in London – rainy and quiet. Sadly some boy racers but nature seems lovely with wild garlic.

How Dublin is feeling is maybe strained with homeschooling and little time to write but in general liking daily exercise maybe and not too fazed and having interviews and online drink parties.

Publishing has got good at changing shape and adapting with different circumstances, still conservative in some ways with a flexible industry. More online launches have been pushed by some in marketing with online streaming given the circumstances. They talked about there being scope for different ways of accessing events. I myself love and much prefer to go to an actual book event/festival, but in the circumstance of this, I think it is fine and opens it up to others, who may then try some festivals or other more local events if the huge events aren’t local to you.

With our Blessing by Jo Spain is one to begin with, but can be read as stand-alone too. Dirty Little Secrets is published in May.

Check out William Shaw on FB for other events, if you would like to, (his profile pic is of his book Deadlands). 

The Stay at Home Festival – Running from now until 11th April #BookFestival #OnlineBookFestival #SocialDistancing #StayAtHomeFestival #Festivals

After seeing a call for bloggers from Janet Emson to be part of The Stay at Home Festival with From First Page to Last, I decided to join in. You can too as an audience member, right from the comfort of your own home. There are many author events between now and 11th April for you to enjoy of all different genres. It’s a bit like a library event in a way. If you’ve never heard or read anything from the author, then now is the opportunity to give someone new a chance as it is for free. If there’s an author you love, now is an opportunity to see them talk about their latest work and more… Why not sit back and relax and watch an event unfold that you weren’t expecting, whilst staying at home.

From First Page to Last

This is one of the bookish activities I am taking part in, along with my usual book reviews. Many authors have seen events and entire festivals cancelled, so they have gone online. This is for free and it would be really great if you can support them.  Any time I attend one either from here or elsewhere over the internet I will be blogging about it to support authors.

Find below the link that will take you to the relevant page, for a scheduling list and links to access each event. 

From First Page to Last

Re-blog post of Bloody Scotland – Mark Billingham and Richard Osman – 2 Entertaining, Warm Authors, 1 now published, the other is coming – 5 Star Review @Richardosman #TheThursdayMurderClub #TheirLittleSecret #BloodyScotland #Pointless

In light of the fact that there has been a cover reveal for Richard Osman’s new book – The Thursday Murder Club – published September 2020. I thought I would re-publish my review of his talk, when he was at Bloody Scotland in Stirling, to give you a glimpse of what was said. I must say, this is a book I am super excited about on the account that instincts tell me it’s going to be a very good book indeed. The premise of it sounds excellent and I am pretty sure that will translate well on the pages of the book.

Bloody Scotland
Mark Billingham in Conversation with Richard Osman
Rated: 5 Stars *****

The weather was warm and sunny on Saturday 21st September 2019 when I attended Bloody Scotland in Stirling. One of the greatest crime festivals, which also showcases new authors as well as the well-known ones. I was in for an amazing night and as my blog turned 1 year old, it was lovely to be able to be back at Bloody Scotland, where I wrote my first blog post.

I went to see Richard Osman and Mark Billingham in conversation. First up was Daniel James for the spotlight section, which gives new authors a chance to talk about their books and read an excerpt. First impressions were that his book – The unauthorised biography of Ezra Mass sounds intriguing and dark.

The main event was Richard Osman and Mark Billingham in conversation with each other. If you ever get a chance to see these two, go for it. You’ll be in for a highly entertaining time and they are both warm and very kind. What I liked too was the way they both seemed to have genuine respect for each other, even when they were ribbing each other about things, but it all seemed to be in good humour,the way that could only be done if someone knew each other well. It was a lovely atmosphere.

Richard Osman, who has produced many popular tv shows, such as 8 out of 10 Cats etc, presents quizzes and been a panelist on shows such as Have I Got News For You etc and can currently be seen presenting Pointless alongside Alexander Armstrong. He has a new fictional book called The Thursday Murder Club. Be aware that it amazingly isn’t published until September 2020. I felt very privileged to be part of an audience to hear so much about it, so far in advance. It is set in an enclosed retirement type of place with the main characters being in a gang of 4 in their 70s and because they are of an age they can get away with practically anything.  It was described  as having a cosy setting but very funny, moving and razor-sharp. Mark Billingham praised Richard Osman about how readers will get to know the characters quickly and of them being likeable. They talked about how there isn’t much police procedural but lots of cakes feature. I quickly decided that this is a book that I would like very much to read and would be happy to review. It seems to have an interesting premise and good “ingredients” to it.

It was so interesting hearing about how Richard Osman has always been a fan of crime fiction and how he always wanted to write and how he and Mark Billingham got together and about a lunch. It sounded like a great lunch, full of amazing opportunity.

It was fascinating to hear about the huge gap between writing and having a book published and on shelves and the public reading it and how with tv, the reaction is more instant. It wasn’t anything I’d ever heard authors talk about at events. There seemed to be great honesty spoken of. Other authors of course talk honestly too, but sometimes of different things. They spoke well and so openly about how authors, whether they are new or been writing for a while have some self-doubt and how so many wonder if their work is actually un-publishable. This wasn’t spoken of in a negative light as people may have expected, rather in a more positive one in some ways.

As for books, Richard Osman admitted that he didn’t read a book until 21. Just shows that no one is too old to pick up a book and start reading. He also talked about how contemporary fiction led to crime fiction and about writing something that is commercial.

Mark Billingham’s latest book is Their Little Secret. Already, it’s an intriguing title.

Tom Thorne is the award-winning Mark Billingham’s main  character and this is the 17th in the series. He has also written short stories, stand alone stories and a non-fiction book. He, alongside crime authors such as Val McDermid, is a member of the singing group – Fun Lovin Writers.

Richard Osman said of it that it was extraordinary how he moves the characters on and also praised about how it was detailed and modern. The interesting thing here was that Mark Billingham talked about the twists and all the other tricks and armour up crime writer’s sleeves, but reckoned the quieter moments were exciting too.

How they plan was discussed. The fact is they don’t really plan, compared to other authors. Everyone is different, which is exciting. It was interesting to hear of the challenges posed when that debut novel is out there and the second novel is being created and the differences between that and furthering a series, as well as reflecting what is going on in the world, especially if something major happens.

Mark Billingham spoke of where he got his inspiration from and so did Richard Osman and I won’t say what it is as the material that could be used in many talks, but there was a moment when Mark was telling of something extraordinary happening that really made me shudder and I am sure I wasn’t the only one to in the audience.

They both spoke of their love of creating books and it became clear that this was genuine by the way they spoke. Richard Osman talked about how he loves being a sidekick on the likes of Pointless but also loves the solitude of writing and of being part of the crime writing community and how lovely people are. I have to say that I too have found that authors are lovely and it was at Bloody Scotland a year ago when I started my blog and then went to another crime festival from there and even though they write about murder etc, the authors, I have found to be generous and very nice indeed.

It was interesting seeing their personalities being totally shown and hearing how hard they work and how pressures often come from themselves. Something I too can relate to. I often think that if you’re going to do something, you might as well try to do it to the best of your ability. Richard Osman also spoke candidly of being an introvert. I think he does amazingly well and it is inspiring how he still puts himself out there to do something, like being on the stage to do this talk or on tv. Sometimes it is just something that has to be done to acheive something, again something else relatable. 

Richard Osman is now working on his second novel, which he spoke a little of and I am already interested in what may happen to his characters and the first book isn’t even available yet. A whole year to wait! I’ll just need to try and be patient. Mark Billingham is working on a prequel to his series. At least there’s already one of his to be getting on with.

There was much fun to be had with a game of guessing author’s ages and it was Mark Billingham v the audience. All the way through the event there was much fun to be had as these men are sharp and are great at the humour as well as the serious and mix it up so well.

All in all I am looking forward to reading Mark Billingham’s book, who I thank for signing and writing such an encouraging message. I look forward to Richard Osman’s book being released and I hope he returns to Bloody Scotland when it is. I also thank Richard Osman for allowing me to talk to him briefly. I thank the two of them for such an excellent evening.

So, I will conclude in saying thanks and that I highly recommend to anyone to see these kind, talented and warm gentlemen and I hope that I get the opportunity to see them again. I also hope Bloody Scotland invites Richard Osman back when his book is actually published.

Let’s Talk Mental Health – Penultimate Morecambe and Vice Panel @MorecambeVice @drcjmerritt @Dr. LizBrewster @BarbaraNadel #Crimefiction #Psychology #Mentalhealth

Let’s Talk Mental Health

The Penultimate Morecambe and Vice panel

 

Tel: 0300 123 3393

Text 86463

This was a panel consisting of Liz Brewster, Barbara Nadel and Dr Chris Merritt.

Liz Brewster wrote a paper on the healing power of books – bibliotherapy. Teaches sociology of medicine.

Barbara Nadel is a crime writer and worked in psychiatric institutions and in the community. She herself suffers from depression and has psychotic episodes, that is under control. Her books are the Inspector Ikmen series.
Chris Merritt clinical psychologist and also writes crime. His series is the Boateng and Jones books about corruption and organised crime in London.
Dr Merritt panelLiz Brewster. Barbara Nadel, Dr Chris Merritt
I must admit to being really interested in what this panel had to say because it has long been said that reading is beneficial to well-being. I was also interested in hearing what the panel had to say about mental health within writers too.
There was such a fabulously thought-provoking question to start off with –
Are writers more at risk of mental health problems?
It was interesting because writers of any kind are all human after all and crime writers in-particular are writing about pretty dark characters at times. Some methods to assist in keeping good mental health as well as some very honest thoughts on their own well-being was talked about.
Dr. Chris Merritt sounded very wise and kept his advice do-able for everyone. He talked about writers spending lots of time in isolation and inside their own head as well as the heads of maybe unpleasant people (characters).
His recommendations  to writers are:
*   To try to be around some people like a cafe and write. It produces some good feelings.
*   Going for a walk, so it is not always just you and your material.
Liz talked about how writers (understandably) put their heart and soul in but rejection happens and reckoned you’ve got to learn how to deal with that.
Barbara said events can be hard, depending on the day, how you feel. Her advice is that you have just got to go out there for the publicity.
Challenging situations.
Dr. Merritt said, when writing, there’s got to be a purpose and not to cross the line into voyeurism.  He admitted has creeped himself out a little. He also said for writers, it can be upsetting when researching real crime.
Liz says you should work out how to make sense of getting through to the end of the book.

Liz thinks you’ve got to find out  what your resilience is.

 

For Chris, it is about how you deal with, the presentation, the motivation of the book. Thinks nothing should be off limits.
It was discussed that for mentally ill characters, it is about how to present them and the types of mental health.
It was discussed that crime writers want to know why crimes are committed and the whole web of people who are affected by the psychology.
Liz reckoned that ongoing character development in crime series means that personalities can be developed further.
Why Crime Fiction is playing an important part in Mental Health
Liz talked about bibliotherapy and explained that it as a broad, diverse field. When people find books, it’s those that really speak to them that gives people time and space. It can be non-fiction, fiction, poetry. Research was done and said crime books are very important. It was discussed that crime books are intellectually stimulating and gives people something else to focus on. The other idea is there’s a sense of closure and there’s a safe distance. Sense of closure was said to of had real positive impact on mental health issues.
Chris PTSD overlap between trauma and PTSD in crime fiction. If depicted sympathetically and readers can empathise and sympathise and hopes that shows and feeds through in society.
He thinks there’s a responsibility to do your homework for a mental health disorder. He rates Val Mcdermid for writing this well.
Successful author, Simon Brett and others are trying to get more support for authors.
What they are enjoying reading just now
Liz is a fan of cosy crime and the mystery can be light and be solved. Can be very clever mysteries too. Likes locked room type of mysteries and can think about how to solve it yourself.
Chris likes any author that creates an immersive world, which can take him out of stresses and strains, such as Jo Nesbo and Michael Connelly.
Chris – said there is an arc in his books, but can be read as standalone.
March 2020 will see the start of a new series – Lockhart and Green.
I hope people who are needing some support will seek it out. Below (and above at the beginning of this post) are links and contact details to Mind. If you are feeling you need support, people are there to do this in a confidential manner and there will be nothing to be ashamed of. Humans are created with so many complexities and that is okay. The Morecambe and Vice team put in all their programmes for this weekend, the website to Mind and contact details too, for those of you who attended. I have done the same here. If you click on the link, no one will ever know, that includes me.

Tel: 0300 123 3393

Text 86463
These are a selection of books that were suggested in the Morecambe and Vice programme to “Read for Wellness”. Please note there will be many others and there are many other books in other genres too that get recommended in lists for Reading for Wellness. Visit your local library and your librarian or library assistant will be able to recommend “Reading for Wellness” books too.
Click below for the websites of both Dr. Chris Merritt and Barbara Nadel. Both have their books, but Dr. Chris Merritt also has some very interesting research and info on “tech psychology” too.
It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Chris Merritt, at the water-cooler as it happened. It was an interesting and pleasant chat. Thank you!
A Knife to the Heart (Ikmen Mystery 21) (Cetin Ikmen Mysteries) by [Nadel, Barbara]      Sinner        Bring Her Back: An utterly gripping crime thriller with edge-of-your-seat suspense
Incorruptible (Inspector Ikmen Mystery 20) (Inspector Ikmen Mysteries)         Toxic         Last Witness: A gripping crime thriller you won't be able to put down

Femme Fatales @MorecambeVice @WhartonEileen @kerryannrichardson #SheilaQuigley #CrimeFiction #Bookish #Review

Femme Fatales

Excellently, it was another panel with Dr. Jacky Collins, which covered many different and unique topics as part of the Morecambe and Vice Festival.
Sheila Quigley adores Stephen King. She intriguingly writes the title and then story.
Kerryann Richardson did a degree in creative writing and has written 6 books to date. 
It was talked about readers getting relief from real world as they read as most books (9 out of 10) do bring a closure that can be cosy and comforting. That being said, it was also debated about how there can be a dilemma in which character to root for at times as not all characters were just all good or bad. It was thought-provoking.
The next part of the talk was about the author’s books. It took a different take on it as they each had to think of their favourite/most memorable characters from them to enlighten the audience with,
Kerry Ann said Cas as she is  much like author, but her absolute favourite is Ben (female) strong character and keeps overcoming a lot that’s thrown at her and the relationship with Jacob.
Sheila – Smiler, 15/16 year old  in trouble with drugs and she said readers won’t let anything happen to character.
Eileen likes Elsie, who gets everything wrong, says everything wrong.
Places
How important to write the north-east of the country? Was a profound question for the authors to ponder over.
Kerry sets where she worked. Easy when you already know area. She sets hers in Edinburgh and they go down to Darlington.
Sheila loves the NE but characters do travel. She imparted on the advice that you’ve got to really know the place that you are going to be writing about.
Eileen, set in NE but then travels to many other places, including abroad and her characters then go back to NE.
When there are moments of it not flowing are you tempted to say you’re done.
Kerry says life throws things at you and can’t always just write full time, so got other job. Enjoys writing for her.
They talked openly about how some hard times, they still write and still want to continue to write, basically it brought about the fact that even though they are known people and have their names on books within bookshops etc, they are still human and sometimes situations in life can happen. It was good that this wasn’t any pity-party or anything like that, they just briefly talked about how things can be at times.
Positively they talked about what was next for them. They sound busy and industrious:
A short story is being written by Kerry. She has also started a new series and a new book for current series.
Sheila is writing a new book.
Eileen is writing a book and a sitcom. She has written a YA book, not yet published.
So plenty for people to be looking out for by them all.
It was interesting to hear how most the panel like reading female authors over male, whereas Sheila cares more about it being a good book etc and doesn’t care about the gender of author.
To inspire you to also try other authors:
Eileen likes Pat Barker
Kerry likes Mary Higgens Clarke.
It was lovely how they closed the panel by talking about the support they give each other.
Blanket of Blood (Paperback)