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.
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
- La Fortuna
- The Sahara
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.