Last Saturday I headed off with fellow writer Darren Paterson, to sample a day of delights at Crimefest in Bristol and rub shoulders with some of the big names in the crime fiction world. It was my first visit to this event (although their eighth year, I believe) and proved to be a very special one with legendary names like Lee Child and Maj Sjowall appearing alongside many friends that were attending and appearing on panels.
The festival offers a packed schedule of events which means that generally there are three panels running at the same time, so you have to choose which you attend. We kicked off with ‘Got Demons’ where they discussed whether a crime fiction protagonist needed to have an angst. The authors here all wrote series fiction and discussion circled mainly around how they created their lead characters and strove to address their issues during the books.
Other panels we watched were ‘Gritty or Gratuitous’, where panellists discussed the levels of violence in crime fiction and whether they felt there was a need to shock the reader, and ‘Writing the Thrills’, where the authors chatted about their methods of creating a page turning read. It was interesting to hear the views and opinions of different authors on what influenced their work, how they went about it and how they dealt with certain issues. There was a big feature on characters and the importance of their depth and relevance to the story, and strangely a focus on scalping which made me flinch, even though it was very informative!
I enjoyed Lee Child’s eloquent interview with the lovely Maj Sjowall, whose personal writing career was both interesting and fascinating, and my favourite panel was ‘Mean Streets and Small Towns’. This was a lovely lighthearted and humorous discussion chaired by Craig Robertson on how the authors chose the settings for their novels. The consensus of opinion here was that the setting often informs the story and makes it feel real to the reader. Even authors whose chose fictional settings based them on a real place and just changed names in order to make them feel authentic. I was also introduced to an Icelandic author, Ragnar Jonasson, here who was very charismatic and after my recent visit to Iceland I simply had to buy his book!
One of the nicest things about visiting these festivals is meeting and catching up with friends you speak to online and, although only there for a day, we did manage to meet and catch up with quite a few.