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.