I think spending time with other writers, being surrounded by books and stories, inspires you to write more stories yourself. I was at the Bloody Scotland Festival at the weekend. At first I felt as if I didn't really belong there, with Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Christopher Brookmyre, Alex Gray.....and so many others. All great writers of adult murder mysteries. The weekend seemed to have an edge to it, perhaps because it was all about murder. There were talks about historical detectives, about the alter egos writers had created in their characters, about how true crime inspires fiction. One event as interesting as the next. I had been asked to do an event with the title. Once Upon A Crime. ( Great title for a session on children's crime fiction,eh? ) Gillian Phillip was also on the panel. She not only writes great teenage thrillers, but also fantastic fantasy. Wolfsbane is her latest. Helen Fitzgerald was on our panel too, a writer I hadn't met before but who writes for adults and teenagers. Her new book is coming out in the US first. Its title? Deviant. Makes you want to read it already, doesn't it? But it didn't take long for me to realise that even when we are writing for children we are still writing strong, dramatic murder mysteries. Writers of teenage crime fiction take a murder, a mystery, and see how a young person will react to it, or solve it. Our protagonists can't be police detectives, or pathologists or psychological profilers. Our characters have to go to school, ( although I did get round that in the Nemesis series by having my hero a boy on the run!) They have mums and dads to worry about, they have curfews. They can't drive, or follow suspects from one town to another. We encounter real problems when writing crime fiction with these kind of restrictions. Yet we choose to do it. I think it's because we don't see them as problems, but as challenges. How do we get round them? How do we make sure it is the child who solves the mystery, without the help of those mums and dads, those forensic tests, those profilers? Do you remember the film, ' Witness'? An Amish boy sees a murder in a gents' toilet at a train station. The story is about how the handsome detective and the boy's beautiful Amish mother, protect and save him, and bring the murderers to justice. Okay, here's a project. Write a synopsis of that story,( you can forget the Amish bit if you want) with the boy protecting and saving his mother and the detective and the boy bringing justic. How would he do that? More importantly, how would you do that?
The weekend finished with a Sherlock Holmes play, The Red Headed League. Stuart McBride was Sherlock, David Ashton a fabulous Watson, Val McDermid was also in the cast along with a host of other crime writers including Gillian Phillip. ( Honest, you can't keep her out of anything.) I was in it too. One of the red headed league with one line to remember. I was terrific.I'm waiting for the casting call from Steven Moffat as I write.
A big congratulations to the organisers. Next year's Bloody Scotland is already in the planning stages.
A wonderfully inspiring weekend. I can't have been the only one who came home buzzing.