Tuesday, July 25, 2006

After The Harrogate High

I was reminded of Brett often while I was away. You might say he was the bookends on my journey. Sunday the 16th Kevin got home just in time for us to drive to the city, have dinner and then go to the airport. As we were finishing dinner, the song ‘You’re Beautiful’ came on. That might bother others, but I don’t listen to popular radio so it hasn’t been overplayed to me. In fact, I’d never heard it before. It made me think of Brett, and the day he knew I was upset and dedicated the song to me on his blog. Yes ladies, he’s a sweetheart and a gentleman – want his phone number?

Anyway, I was thinking of Brett, and then Killer Year and everything that’s happened this year. It has, simply, been overwhelming. I thought of last year, of me being excited about who I met when I went to Harrogate.

And how weird it was to know people wanted to see me this year.

I met my friend, Marsha, in Edinburgh. We’ve been talking on the phone for two years now, and have one of those bizarre internet friendships, but we didn’t skip a beat face to face. We’ve already been on the phone, in the 9 hours since I got home.

And we had a fantastic time in Edinburgh. I know I’ve been hinting around that a bit, and you aren’t getting the full story yet, either. Sorry. But there will be photos up soon, and they’ll say it all.

Harrogate was also an incredible experience. The hotel sucked. Let’s just get that out of the way from the start. I mean, it could have been great, but just a few things really didn’t work and undermined the weekend for us. One of them being that they would only give you one key for a room, so when Marsha went to bed, because we were sharing, she had to go to sleep and leave the door unlocked so I could get in. NOT impressed. They told me it was because it was so expensive to have keys made – bullshit. 50 p. And charge a fucking damage deposit already – I’d have happily left a 20 pound note at the front desk to ensure I returned both keys.

Anyway, just arriving was fun. I saw Val McDermid in the lobby and let me point out that, of all present, Val’s the person I’ve met the most times. I went to hear her read on my wedding anniversary a few years back (hopeless romantic, I know. We spent the weekend hearing Ian Rankin and then Val McDermid. Kevin’s so accommodating, I should treat him better) and then I did see her last year. Still, I was surprised she recognized me. I got a hug and a chance to see her scars from knee surgery – ouch. It was great to see her up and about and looking really happy.

And she had reason to be happy later, winning the Theakston’s prize. I’m so pleased for her – The Torment of Others is a great read and she’s a fantastic author. The only author I have more books by is some Scottish fellow. What is it about the Scots and crime fiction?

I met Ali Karim and then he introduced me to a bazillion others and got people talking about Killer Year. But then people started coming up to me and saying, “I remember you.” And then I walked into the bookstore – and the reaction from the lady was, “You’re back!”


And it was weird to hear people saying, “I read your blog.” Very weird. It was all I could do not to ask, “Why?”

I don’t know – I’m sitting here, functioning on about four hours of sleep, it’s already roasting, and I can’t believe it’s over. The conference just went so fast.

And I want to have a chance to really mention everyone I met, properly. That’s what the train trip yesterday was good for – making notes.

But here are a few highlights, a few regrets and quick thoughts.

That I didn’t get to actually talk to Shane Maloney about Australian crime fiction. You know, at these things, you schmooze. You have many short conversations as people filter in and out of groups and when I said bye to Val on Sunday she said you keep saying you’ll catch up with people later and you never do. It’s the way it is. But I really wanted to talk to him, because I’m really interested in reading work from Australia. And maybe profiling some in Spinetingler. And he was so funny. I videoed the skit, and can’t wait to watch that again. Stella Duffy sure can work it!

That I didn’t get to buy Mark Billingham a beer. We’ll try again at BoucherCon. Or when he’s in Canada in the fall. So, I feel like I still have a chance to see him, but if we’d had the chat on Sunday that we had on Thursday, I’m sure I would have burst into tears. Of course, no sleep will do that to a person.

There was somebody looking for me, and I thought it was Chris High at the time. Turned out it was someone else, and I don’t think they ever found me. Sorry I missed you, whoever you were.

That I didn’t get my picture taken with Steve Mosby and his girlfriend.

Probably a zillion other things will come to mind later.

Martina Cole. She could have been me. I was mesmerized by her stories, and her insights. I’ll talk about her more later this week.

George Pelecanos. One of my dream interviews, and I didn’t have the courage to ask him. But I was just delighted I got to meet him. I told him I’m a fan of The Wire, but forgot to mention I started reading his books because of The Wire. I’m such an idiot.

Interviewing Simon Kernick. Damn, it only took us a year to work this out, and it’s a looooooong story, but he was great. And gave me about an hour of his undivided attention, which isn’t something you tend to get at these things. Oh, and thanks for the beverage tip, Simon. I bought two bottles and managed to get past customs, although I was well over my limit.

Being told that I’d asked Simon questions nobody else ever had. He said something to the effect of it showing how superb I was doing this, and that’s such a compliment.

Seeing Val with the Theakston’s prize. I love Val. We’re probably too much alike in some respects, as Gemini’s with our birthdays only two days apart, but I admire her so much and was really pleased for her.

Meeting Agent Phil. If that sounds like a biological weapon that you should reluctantly use in combat, you’re probably close to the truth there. He’s hysterical. Just don’t even drink around the man – it’ll come out your nose.

Meeting Al Guthrie. More on masturbating hamsters when I fully recover. Or maybe the less said, the better. But I have his phone number, so I can always make prank calls with phffff phffff phffff sounds and scratching noises and I think I’ll move on now.

Doing the group of guys. A group interview, you perverts. Mark, Al, John Rickards (hurrah! I finally met John, who’s quieter in person than I expected), Stuart, Richard Burke, Steve Mosby, James Oswald… damn, am I forgetting anyone? Oh, yeah, Ian Rankin’s editor, and another editor from Orion, who didn’t realize they were being recorded until after I had some interesting comments made. Never join a group of people in the dark and talk first, ask questions later.

Okay, I’ll do a full list of who I met in a few days, because from Russel in Edinburgh (by way of Dundee, the wannabe Fifer) to Vincent to James, it was great to meet people off the blogs. Everyone I met was pretty much as I expected them to be. Except Russel talks more and John talks less. But if I keep at it here, I’ll forget someone, and my eyes are starting to burn. Again.

Quick Thoughts
When you blog, you have no idea who’s reading. When you comment anywhere publicly, this is true. If you read at Stuart’s you know Val McDermid drops by. She posted a comment the other day about Stuart’s nose that made me laugh so hard. But this past week, I finally realized how exposed you are through your blog. In a way I’ll never forget. I mean, can you imagine how I’d feel if I found out someone like Ian Rankin was reading my blog? Well, a lot of people met me and said, “I read your blog.” And I was flattered and shocked and overwhelmed, to say the least. I mean, I type these things in a half-awake state, before working out (yeah, slowly I'm overcoming the back injury and trying to get into shape) and having breakfast, and seldom edit them. It’s very raw thought from me. I think I’ll have to spend more time on my posts now! Give people something worth reading.

I do think I need to state, for the record, that I don’t have a thing for Stuart. I adore him as a friend. I owe him a lot. Let me put it to you this way: no single person in this industry has done more to help me as a writer. I'm not talking influence, I'm talking giving me a kick in the ass and a stern talking to when needed and encouragement when I'm doing things well. I don’t know why Stuart’s given me so much guidance, but I will never, ever forget that he has and that he’s a great person. As long as everyone’s on the same page about joking, I’m cool, but that’s all it is. I think anyone who’s ever met me has a pretty good idea of my personal value system. As much as I joke here about loving men, I don’t screw around. Of this, my husband has no doubt, or I wouldn’t have stayed with my friend, Steven Boyne, when I was in Edinburgh last year.

Oh, and James, when you said you hadn’t kept me up all night but were glad to give me a ride, I wonder how you thought that would be taken! This is, after all, my blog! Not some pristine, proper blog like yours or Vincent’s.

Yesterday, at the beginning of the end of my travels, I was in Manchester Piccadilly train station, and the song ‘You’re Beautiful’ came on. I was reminded of Brett, again, and then other friends, and I was glad to be going home.

That might sound like a negative on the festival, but it’s actually a compliment. Truthfully, my heart was full. I had absorbed about as much as I possibly could. I needed sleep.

And a bear hug from evilkev.

That’s why I still don’t feel like talking straight on about the festival in a post. There’s just so much there for me to process. And there’s a bit of sadness, too. There were things I experienced this trip that will never happen again.

And if I learned one thing, it’s that when you get a chance to meet people you’ve always wanted to meet, all those questions you thought you’d like to ask go right out the window. It just becomes the experience.

I started this on the train ride yesterday, and will do it in stages this week.

Five Dream Interviews (exempting anyone I’ve interviewed before from consideration)
- George Pelecanos
- David Simon
- Ian Rankin
- Martina Cole
- Jan Burke

Five places I want to see again before I die
- Edinburgh
- Florence
- La Fortuna
- The Sahara
- Inuvik/Tuktoyuktuk

Five things I’ve done I never thought I’d do
- Watch the sun rise in the Sahara
- Fly over the tundra and swim in the arctic ocean
- Climb an active volcano
- Get married
- Spend an afternoon at Ian Rankin’s

I would have put the picture here, but blogger's being pissy. If you read what I said about last Tueday, sun, lack of sleep, lack of food and a lot of alcohol (for me), well, I'm just surprised I was standing, but there will be a photo up tomorrow.

As long as blogger lets me post.


angie said...

Yeah, yeah. It was great, awesome, etc., etc. I want pictures!!!

JamesO said...

I guess I gave Marsha a ride, too. What kind of person does that make me?

Glad to hear you got back safely, Sandra. I look forward to more of your Harrogate insights in the days to come.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Wow. Sounds like you had quite the time. Glad it was fun.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Angie, blogger's being pissy! But I hope for pictures tomorrow!!!

James, in a word, loose. Good thing you didn't say it on some shameless Scot's blog!

Stephen, indeed I did, and I have something for you I think you'll like! Stuart even drew pictures for you.

Flood said...

...my heart was full.

That really says it all.

Trace said...

WOW! Sounds like you had an awesome time! Wish I could've been there!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes Flood, I agree. It does.

Trace, it was awesome. And I have something for you, too! Stuart was very accommodating.

Bill Cameron said...

Glad you're home, Sis! And damn that Blogger!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Tell me about it! But maybe I'll get them up on the KY blog tomorrow, with luck!

JT Ellison said...

Oh Sandra, I love this. You manage to make a festival on another continent come alive with blog entries. Talent, my dear, pure, unadulterated talent. I envy you the time you had, the experiences and can't wait to hear more.
Great pic of you and God too!

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

You just have a way with words. You made me wish I had been there. It sounds like the most amazing time. Can't wait to see the pictures.

stevemosby said...

Hi Sandra - glad to hear you had a good time. Sorry I missed you after the Jeffery Deaver thing: I looked around for you for a bit, couldn't find you, and needed to head off to eat something and address my editor's comments. You know my editor, don't you? The one who's a bit nervous about that interview thing we did... ;-)

Seriously, lovely to meet you in person, and I'm just hoping you can make it over next year. Because the chances of me making it to America are pretty slim. Sorry, I mean Canada. :-)

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Sandra, you're a goddess.

I must admit that the idea of Stuart drawing pictures for my benefit has me a little frightened. I can only imagine what warped and twisted things his mind has put on paper. Can't wait to see it.

M. G. Tarquini said...

There was a possible rumor that you had a thing for Stuart?

Damn. I miss all the good gossip. Even the stuff that's not true.

Dynamite picture of you and the illustrious Mr. Rankin. You're amazing. Glad you're back. Glad you had fun.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Yeah, I must have missed that Stuart rumor, too.

Yes, post pictures of your trip, though!

Sandra Ruttan said...

JT, yeah, great picture. Nice chair too, don't you think?

Andrea, you would have had a ball. I hope you get a chance to see Stuart next month- you'd love that.

Steve, we must have just missed each other. I went up to get bags not long after that session and then it was off to load the car. Since James dropped Marsha and I off in Manchester, we left shortly after the end. But it was great to meet you, and if Harrogate isn't in the cards next year, I'll seriously think of a UK holiday anyway. I've been so many times and just love it.

And as for your editor... Well, it's always nice to have inside info, don't you think? Wonder how much he'd offer for the tape? Seriously, I got his card and will let him check it before it goes up. I do believe you were responsible for what he's worried about, anyway!

Stephen, feel free to tell everyone I'm a goddess. Certainly not in the looks department, but still, it sounds nice! And maybe I'll send a jpeg of the drawing... Or should I leave you in suspense? Hmmm...

Mindy, Dana, you two are just so out of touch. Really, you call yourself women? Honestly, I was as surprised as you to learn this. I wonder when that happened and how I missed the whole high school angst experience. Might have made me feel young. Alas, I was clueless. Sigh.

And as soon as blogger cooperates, there will be photos!

stevemosby said...

Sandra - Yep, it was me. My fault. My big mouth. A couple of seconds edit will probably take care of things, and if my editor doesn't pay then I will. ;-) The more I think about it, the more I cringe...

Evil Kev said...

I would like to comment of this whole Sandra/Stuart thing.

I got a chance to talk to Stuart this week and have had email contact with him. He is a very pleasant and considerate fellow who does not deserve this small minded speculation.

I am thankful for his friendship with Sandra as he has been very supportive of her writing when other people would not even take a look and shown his true character on a few occasions.

For anyone who thinks there is anything sordid going on does not know Sandra and is asking for a kick in the ass. I am more than willing to provide it free of charge. I have a pair of one size fits all dumb ass boots.

And as my father would say:

"Don't make me come over there."

Daniel Hatadi said...

Sounds like a blast and a half. Looking forward to the photos!

Makes me feel terribly isolated in the Great Southern Land of mine. You guys in the North get to have all the fun. :)

A 'bear hug' hey? In Australia, we call it a 'root'.

But we don't have a lot of bears down here.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Steve, don't worry! Nothing I plan to use against you. As long as you behave.

Thanks Honey.

Daniel, I empathize with you way over there. I wish you could have been at Harrogate - you would have had a blast. And I hope we mean the same thing by a bear hug and a root, because I'm wondering why on earth you call it a root!!!

Daniel Hatadi said...

Sandra, I think we do mean the same thing, but unfortunately I am not aware of the etymology of this particular idiom.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well then, I'll just have to investigate it! It's amazing how we can use the same language so differently, and that's one thing I love about the internet. I hear things I'd never hear here.

Daniel Hatadi said...

It's a bloody corker of an investigation. There's definitions everywhere, but no origin. Tell me if you find it!

And just for future reference, the authority on Aussie slang would have to be The Macquarie Dictionary.

Brett Battles said...

Glad I could help! (Sorry I'm jumping in a little late...but I am on vacation after all!) Also glad it was such a great time.

Brett Battles said...

Glad I could help! (Sorry I'm jumping in a little late...but I am on vacation after all!) Also glad it was such a great time.