Doubtless you’re all agog to hear how I got on at the Alderney Literary Festival this past weekend. Well, what a lovely event it was: the authors were made to feel like honoured guests, and the attendees were so interested and so engaged. (I’ve been warned by the other authors that this is the gold standard of literary festivals, and heard some horror stories of others – including one where an author was roundly told off for not bringing her own bottle of water to drink and was offered a glass from the rather murky tea urn in the corner of the room!)
I participated in two sessions: the first was a solo session, where I talked about my novels for thirty minutes and then took questions for another thirty. The theme of my talk was “New dogs, old tricks”, and I focussed on how financial crime has always been with us and will continue to happen as long as there are people who are greedy or gullible or ruthless. I did have flash-cards to remind me of key points to cover, but I generally find that I have little difficulty talking about Sam, and the time flew past. The questions were excellent – from the philosophical “Why do you think people will take such risks for money?” to the practical “Will you miss Sam when you’ve finished the seventh book?”. I was told that a local book club is currently reading “Fatal Forgery”, which is a bit scary!
My second session was a panel one alongside William Ryan (writing crime novels set in 1930s Russia) and Karen Maitland (medieval murders). It was great fun to discover what motivates us and how differently we approach research and writing, and I was greatly flattered to be on the same platform as two professional writers who do this full-time, with agents and contracts and all the proper stuff. One thing Karen said has been fascinating me ever since: we all agreed that one thing we like to explore is why people commit crimes, but Karen said that she is also exercised by why people don’t commit crime. We all have the capacity for murder, she believes, and she likes to consider what it is that holds most of us back from acting out our darkest wishes.
And of course you will want to know whether all of this translated into book sales. Well, the final figures are not in yet, but I sent sixty books to the festival bookshop – twenty copies of each – and I was delighted when they said that “Fatal Forgery” had sold out (the only title by any author at the festival to sell out, in fact). There were a few “Canaries” and “Blossoms” left over, so that’s a lesson to learn: people generally like to start with the first in the series, so always have more of those than the others. But for me, the real value of the weekend was meeting other writers of historical crime, and hearing all about their methods and techniques, and talking to them about agents and marketing and social media and all the other components of the professional author’s life.