Great Book Festivals in 2019 – Final 2019 Blog Post #BookFestival #BloodyScotland #MorecambeVice #bookish #wrapup2019

Great Book Festivals in 2019
Final Blog Post of 2019

 

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

I went to Bloody Scotland. This festival takes place annually in September, in Stirling across a few venues, most notably – The Golden Highland Hotel and The Royal Albert Halls. It attracts top authors and those debuting or looking for a festival to pitch their book ideas. It is lots of fun and an amazing and friendly experience in such a compact city.
I went to see Richard Osman from Pointless and House of Cards tv fame (look out for his crime fiction book The Thursday Murder Club in autumn 2020) and Mark Billingham. His latest book is – Their Little Secret. Full review is on my blog. I am looking forward to his book and hoping he returns to Bloody Scotland in 2020. I thank again, Richard Osman for the quick and nice chat and Mark Billingham for signing my book and for a nice chat.

I also saw Ian Rankin, who is also very good and very interesting, talking about his latest Rebus Book – In a House of Lies. I thank Ian Rankin again for the quick chat.
There is also a torchlight parade, which I took part in.
In 2018, I saw the author M.C. Beaton – author of Hamish Macbeth, Agatha Raisin and many others and actor Ashley Jensen – tv credits include Agatha Raisin, Love, Lies and Records, Ugly Betty and much more.
It attracts many, many more authors and their website and brochure is always worth checking out. This is a popular festival, so it is worth seeing who is on relatively early as tickets do sell out.
I had such a great time, so had to go back in 2019.
I look forward to returning to Bloody Scotland in 2020 and seeing who the authors will be.

My review of Richard Osman with Mark Billingham can be found on my blog.

I was invited back to Morecambe and Vice Crime Book Festival to review the entire weekend of amazing panels and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. This festival attracts an array of authors and speakers to Morecambe and is quirky, fun, interesting and informative. It even attracted a podcast. The authors varied from children’s authors to YA to adult fiction and non-fiction. There were talks about festivals and what it takes to set them up and the different types. There were topical talks about mental health too. I saw so many authors that it would be quite some list to mention them all, but there are blog posts about each of them in each panel within my blog.
I went first of all in 2018 after a conversation with actor and writer Hugh Fraser. It’s a long story… So, moving on, I was excited when I was invited by the organisers Ben and Tom to return. I look forward to seeing who the panels will be in 2020.
This is a newer and growing festival which is becoming established and making a name for itself, so is worth checking out.
Full reviews of each panel can be found on my blog.

So these are great festivals that will still be around in 2020 that are worthwhile checking out.

I have, before my blog began been to other book festivals, such as Edinburgh and Harrogate, which are also great, but the two I have written about here are the most recent and the festivals I have been to and they are the 2 I have attended whilst writing my blog.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you to all for following my blog. There are more exciting reviews from books to stage and more, to come in 2020, which I hope you will also enjoy and be inspired by. Thanks too for all the organisers and authors, speakers for making these experiences possible.

Write up of Festival of Festivals @mcdevitt_bob @bloodyscotland @ayewrite @CollinsJacky @NewcastleNoir @NoirBarEdin @bradleybooks #NorthernStoryFestival @graskeggur @MorecambeVice #IcelandicNoir #writingcommunity #crimefiction #review

Festivals of Festivals

First thing on a Sunday morning (lots of dedication to be at the venue early, but it was all completely worth it and better than the average Sunday).
Festivals of Festivals was a great behind the scenes insight to a certain extent by those who actually put together these festivals. If it weren’t for them, they wouldn’t be happening. This was an amazing panel of people who have dedicated a huge amount of time in creating festivals. Not just any festivals, but those that are now well-known by many.

    The festivals being discussed and their organisers:

  • Bloody Scotland, Aye Write, Winter Words – Bob McDevitt
  • Newcastle Noir and Noir at the Bar – Dr. Jacky Collins
  • Northern Short Story Festival – SJ Bradley
  • Icelandic Noir – Quentin Bates
    Find out below which months each of these are held.

Bob McDevitt and Quentin Bates Bob McDevitt and Quentin Bates

Bob McDevitt runs 3 literary festivals – he talked about Bloody Scotland and how over 10,000 people attended during a weekend in Stirling. Winter Words in Pitlochery focusses on nature and travel, Aye Write in Glasgow in March – 250 authors attend. Had short films, sometimes and not all are your usual book panels. It spans across 3 weekends.

Aye Write is staged in Glasgow. It interestingly was started by library service. It mostly Scottish and some English authors. For Pitlochery, he spoke about it depending on what publishers can do. He highlighted the Spotlight section like Bloody Scotland and what it means for up and coming authors. He has had event experience of organising from his time working in Waterstones.
He made clear that ALL Scottish festivals pay their authors.

These are some amazingly staggering figures – 350 authors pitched and 80 authors make it. Independent publishers also invited to Bloody Scotland.

SJ Bradley runs the Northern Short Story Festival in June with readings and workshops. They also have Frightfest in the winter.

Leeds Litfest also got a mention and has predominantly northern writers.
SJ Bradley primarily wanted to shine a light on authors. As an author learnt a lot too about publishing world and had some opportunities for networking.
The festival has a focus on celebrating short stories.  they also aim to make it: Affordable, Inclusive and Accessible. She talked about where funding came from and about audience sizes in that smaller audiences for short stories.  She too pointedly remarked that they also pay their authors.

Quentin Bates is the man behind Iceland Noir and organises it every second year in Reykjavik. It consists of some British and Nordic writers and was decided from the outset that everything would be in English. It was interesting that festival happens in Iceland and yet the locals don’t really do this type of thing. It was thought that it is perhaps to do with Icelandic culture and also the fact they don’t commit to anything.
The festival started in 2013. Why? Well, apparently that’s what happens when 3 folk share a curry and beer, leading to someone mentioning it strange there was no crime festival in Iceland. 4 weeks later they talked more and 6 months later and it began. The next one is in 2020.

Jacky organises Newcastle Noir. She has a great anecdote about her boss telling her to change her research and how she ended up with Newcastle Noir. It is on the premise of ticket price is always accessible. Never become a big festival. No point in replicating others. National and International authors. 2014 started.

Jackie also gets involved with Noir at the Bar in Edinburgh. Authors established and new go to this. It is there to create a community for writers and have a social occasion.

The conversation changed to community spirit and how festivals create a sense of community at festivals for authors and returning audiences as well as for the organisers.

She talked about how some festivals sadly not paying their authors. She went on to mention that some authors do charitable and library events for free to support.

Jacky talked about how to invite authors, some say just ask and others like to go through their publisher/publicist.

There was an interesting question – Should authors go to festivals? Consensus was yes. There was talk of how authors can practice at the likes of Noir at the Bar and try to get onto festivals. It was considered important to get out there and if you’re good at talking to an audience, people want to buy your books. This is true I have to say. I’ve attended festivals and bought books sometimes just from hearing the person talk and the same with some library events, I’ve bought books I may not have otherwise.
There was talk of doing  your own promotion as publishers won’t always do this for you.

There was some great advice for authors. People can’t abide rudeness, even if you’re a good author and written a lot. Don’t take stuff out on volunteers, even if you’re annoyed at something. They’re doing their best.

Be polite in your engagement in the festival. Don’t send snarky emails or slag off other festivals.

Be prepared for your talk. Be punctual. If you’re late because of trains being delayed, then that’s seen as being acceptable as it is out of your control.

Remember sometimes speakers/authors can’t turn up at times. Always be gracious as stuff happens and there is normally a good reason behind the appearance being changed or cancelled.

  • Bloody Scotland – September
  • Aye Write – March
  • Winter Words – February
  • Newcastle Noir – May
  • Noir at the Bar – September
  • Northern Short Story Festival – October
  • Icelandic Noir – November
  • Morecambe and Vice – September

If you ever see them talk about their festivals, then do go. It’s a very insightful talk, which was done very well. It was so enlightening.

With thanks to Bob McDevitt and Quentin Bates for permission to take their photo. Thanks to Bob McDevitt for the nice chat about Bloody Scotland, of which I attended this year and hope to in 2020 too.

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Noelle Holten in Conversation with Lin Anderson – Morecambe and Vice Festival Review @Lin_Anderson @Noelle Holten @MorecambeVice @BloodyScotland @Blazespage #CrimeFiction #Bookish

Noelle Holten in Conversation with Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson closed the first day of the festival in style with her latest book – Time for the Dead as well as entertaining and interesting anecdotes and talk of festivals.

 

Lyn Anderson and Noelle Holton                                                     Noelle Holten and Lin Anderson

What a life Lin Anderson has had so far. She taught Maths and Computing before giving it up to write for a living with her first story to tell – River Child. She has a book optioned for tv and is the co-founder of crime book festival Bloody Scotland.

Noelle Holten has her debut novel published and was featured on the Spotlight part of Bloody Scotland before Ian Rankin talked about his latest book The House of Lies. Noelle’s book is called Dead Inside. She also reckons crime books have the most diverse collection of stories told within them.

Noelle was great at asking the questions to Lin about her latest book and a dog called Blaze – a border collie up in Skye, which she describes as being majestic as well as Bloody Scotland.

Lin Anderson has not just the talent for writing books, but also of telling amusing anecdotes to her audience, such as about Blaze taking her for a walk in a place which inspired the opening of her novel. 
She also talked about how axe throwing is empowering. I’ll take her word for it, never having tried that myself. Turns out she sounds like she’s pretty good at it.

Rhona McLeod books, are inspired by a place or a meeting and can be read as stand-alone.

Time for the Dead is Lin Anderson’s 14th novel.

She read an extract from her book and I must say it seemed atmospheric with the sounds and environment that is described, which would draw readers into the immediate surroundings. Very quickly there is intrigue that makes you want to hear more.


It w
as so interesting to hear about how Lin started to write with short stories and the courses and writing retreats she went to, one in-particular being situated in Inverness.

Noelle posed an interesting question asking how important are crime festivals and in inspiring and to aspiring new authors?

It turns out very important as crime books tell the world of today and cross all sections of society as police can get into it all.
Lin recalled Ian Rankin saying “if you’re going to go to a country you’ve never been to before, buy a popular crime book and you’ll learn more about the country than a travel guide”. It certainly was thought provoking. Crime writers certainly seem to, in my experience of reading their books, give great descriptions about many places and areas that aren’t necessarily touristy too, for example, I’ve never been to Gibraltar, but I feel I could confidently go if I were to have the time because of the way Robert Daws describes it in his books. Ian Rankin, Lin Anderson, Alex Gray and many other crime writers also allow readers to really gain good knowledge of a place through their skilful writing.

She then went onto talk about Driftneck and also how real life encounters can play into fiction. She has an amazing tale to tell about how she decided, her protagonist, Rhona McLeod, was going to be a forensic scientist. Some other situations were a bit more harrowing, but none-the-less important she brought them up and were worth mulling over and hearing things from a different perspective. Lin Anderson certainly seemed to ahead of time as she recalled it was at a time there weren’t many about in the fictional crime world. She talked more about forensics and the pace it changes and in relation to her writing. Talks like these are always interesting as they often throw something out there that a reader may not particularly always have thought about.

The talk about Bloody Scotland was so informative. This is another festival I also love and is amazingly so close to where I come from.

Everyone could tell how much work is put into putting on a festival. It was 3 1/2 year in the planning, although they got their headliners quickly for the first one. Credit to Alex Gray who suggested it should be in Stirling. Stirling has so many great venues to offer and so much to offer visitors, such as restaurants, the shops, the castle and the Wallace Monument, the scenery and the architecture.
The founders launched Bloody Scotland in both Stirling and London and certainly had a plan for a direction to go in and what they wanted to achieve. They had 3 aims:
1 – Find brand new writers – it became Pitch Perfect – it’s a 100 word pitch of your work.        They’ve seen writers being published from this.
2 – Give a platform for new writers – this became Spotlight where writers can read an            extract  from their books.
3 – Have authors at different stages in their career.
These all run simultaneously and I must say that they are more than acheiving this and are doing it incredibly well. Many things from crime writers quizzing, playing football, singing, giving talks and signings can all be seen during the weekend of Bloody Scotland.

Lin also gave a mention to Capital Crime Festival in London, which was on the same weekend as Morecambe and Vice Festival.

Lin went onto concluding talking more about festivals and also about how authors are approachable at them. I have to say they certainly are and it doesn’t seem to matter whether you’ve seen an author more than once or meeting them for first time, or whether they are a best-selling or award-winning author or not, in my experience anyway, they’ve always been warm and most approachable.

The Bloody Scotland segment of her talk certainly sparked interest (as did her books), but people were certainly asking others about the festival, trying to get more information and there seemed to be quite a buzz about it.

If anyone ever gets the chance to see Lin Anderson talk about any of her books, I highly recommend you do because you’re in for a fabulous time!
I also highly recommend attending Bloody Scotland in September in Stirling.

                                                   

Lin Anderson Books

 

Bloody Scotland – Mark Billingham and Richard Osman – 2 Entertaining, Warm Authors – 5 Star Review @MarkBillingham @Richardosman #TheirLittleSecret #BloodyScotland #Pointless

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.

The Crossing Paths of an Author and an Actress

Sometimes there is a meeting of two art forms. In this case it is television and books. Bloody Scotland brought together 2 wonderfully, warm and funny people – M.C. Beaton and Ashley Jensen. M.C. Beaton, full name: Marion Chesney, has been writing for years, since at least the 1970s. She has written from Historical Romance to today’s wonderful crime books that have a wonderful sense of humour within them. Most recently she has written Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin.

Agatha Raisin has spanned over many years and she has not slowed down yet! It all began with the Quiche of Death, first published in 1992 and she has just finished her latest and 29th book in the series in 2018 – The Dead Ringer. There are now 33 books in the Hamish MacBeth series with first book being Death of a Gossip, first published in  1985 and the 33rd book also just published now, in 2018 – Death of an Honest Man.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, #1)        Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer           Death of an Honest Man (Hamish Macbeth #33)

There is a now well known tv series of Agatha Raisin on Sky, starring Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin. M.C. Beaton acknowledged that Ashley Jensen, although doesn’t look like the character described in the books, she gives all the persona that was originally written. It is fair from what was said on the night that M.C. Beaton absolutely gives her blessing to this tv series and to Ashley Jensen in the title role. The 2 appear to get on very well and from the conversation, there really is the sense that the bridge between author and actor is well has well and truly come together. On set they describe it as a family atomosphere brought each day between the actors as they all have fun and its something when pressed in the Q&A session, really came across as being absolutely genuine.

With the blessing of Ashley Jensen (and M.C. Beaton), here is a picture of them.

 

For a most interesting night and entertaining night out I highly recommend seeing M.C. Beaton. You won’t go home glum or disappointed, whether her next event features Ashley Jensen or not. Please be aware that she was there as a guest, so may or may not feature in other events.

Alight Literary Stirling with Flames

Bloody Scotland came with much anticipation and excitement. Stirling Crime Festival opened for its 7th year running with the McIlvanny Prize, held in the Church of the Holy Rude at the top of the historical city. Bagpipes played and the Stirling Gin cocktail was served as this sell out event took place.

On the shortlist were: Lin Anderson with Follow the Dead, Chris Brookmyre with Places in the Dark, Charles Cummingham with The Man Between and Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker. The winner of 2018 was…… Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker.

The atmosphere was friendly and one of excitement as everyone applauded before heading out and up to the Castle Esplanade to collect torches. The atmosphere was lovely with the buzz of people talking and standing in line as each person shared their flame to light the next person’s torch. The dusky sky turning to night only enhanced the spectacle of flames as they danced to the tune of the slight breeze, with their heat helping to keep everyone warm on the dry autumnal evening. Led by well known authors: Val McDermid and Denise Mina, the procession meandered through the streets of Stirling down the Albert Halls began as people lined the streets to watch.

Bloody Scotland Torchlight Procession

Would I recommend this experience? Absolutely, it is such fun to experience something that is a bit different from the norm. So, if you’ve done it lots of times or are the person who has wondered if it is for them, I say give it a go and help fill the streets and be a part of bringing Bloody Scotland in Stirling to life.