Friday, 25 July 2014

Turning to Crime - Tamsyn Murray


You...yes, you...come here, I've got a confession to make. I've been a naughty girl, see. I've been thinking bad thoughts. I have been working out the best ways to break the law. And last weekend, I met up with a bunch of people who were doing exactly the same thing. I went to the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.

First of all, can I say that there can be no finer place for contemplating murder than Harrogate. It's genteel and gorgeous and manicured to within an inch of its life. If you were to bump someone off, I feel the chief concern would be not getting blood on the geraniums. But we weren't there to admire the blooms or take in a cream tea in Bettys Tea Rooms (although naturally, I did) - we were there to consider dark deeds and twisted motives. We were there to bring on a crime-wave.

TOP Crime Festival is a great mixture of readers and writers. Because I don't write crime, I was technically there as a reader and I certainly picked up a lot of new books but I actually went as a writer, to see how other authors put their stories together. I'm a great believer in being inspired by fellow writers and I knew from the very first talk I attended that I'd made a good choice in coming to Harrogate. Not only did I flesh out my crime novel idea (well you knew that was coming, didn't you?) but I learned a lot too. Denise Mina taught me about Narrative Inevitability (the way the story arcs towards an inescapable conclusion), Natalie Haynes explained that Oedipus Rex was the first whodunnit? SJ Watson revealed the meaning of the Rubber Ducky moment, where an antagonist confesses that the reason he is a cold-blooded serial killer is because his mother took his rubber ducky away when he was six. And I know way more than I need to about the effects of rats on corpses and the inner workings of saunas.

One of my biggest light-bulb moments came during JK Rowling's interview as Robert Galbraith. In her discussion with Val McDermid, they touched upon why whichever book you are writing feels like your worst story ever, and why the book you want to write next is so enticing. And I was amazed to discover that JK Rowling herself suffers from the same insecurities and fears we do. I frequently tell my writing students that every writer I know fears they might never write another book again. At TOP Crime Festival, I discovered that it really is true: even the most successful among us struggle with self-doubt and the conviction that our WIP is a steaming pile of poo.

Now I'm back home and I'm still thinking about breaking the law. The difference is that I know exactly how I'm going to do it now. Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Joan Lennon said...

Sounds like so much fun - thanks for reporting!

Anne Cassidy said...

I would love more people to write crime fiction for teens!

Penny Dolan said...

I got to the two HCF Sunday morning sessions - which gave me lots to think about too - but I really enjoyed hearing about the full weekend experience. Did you take part in the "Creative Thursday" workshops too, Tanya?

Tamsyn Murray said...

Joan - It was fun and my pleasure to report back. May have to go to the BAFTAs next ;)

Anne - you are the queen of YA crime!

Penny - I missed Sunday, sadly, went for a late breakfast and shopping instead. I didn't do Creative Thursday - I thought it was aimed more at aspiring writers?

Sue Bursztynski said...

Wish I'd been there! I love reading crime fiction, but never really had any idea how to write it. Anne, there's a new Aussie writer, Ellie Marney, who has done two books about a teenage Holmes and Watson, and there's Lili Wilkinson's very funny A Pocketful Of Eyes, set in a museum where a girl is doing a school holiday job and her boss is found dead one morning. I'm sure there's plenty out there. BTW, your books are popular in my own library, so there's a market for it.

Penny Dolan said...

By that time, so many sessions in, I think I'd have chosen your option, Tamsyn.

I avoided Creative Thursday. To embittered me, there's seems to be a bit of the local "ladies who lunch" about it. I might be wrong but at over £100 for that day, I can't afford to find out. :-)

Tamsyn Murray said...

I used to read a lot of crime, Sue, but it got overtaken by 'work' reading - children's and YA books to keep up with what everyone else is doing. Luckily, my fellow writers are brilliant so it hardly feel like work. That said, I'm looking forward to reading crime for work now!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Yes, it was exactly that - sitting in the same, hot room for a succession of panels and talks meant I needed a break by Sunday.

I got that impression about Thursday too. Nothing wrong with it, just not for me.