Earlier this week we shared Kate’s trip to Harrogate last weekend, but what is the festival like from an author perspective? Anya Lipska shares her experience…
Theakstons Crime Festival in Harrogate is Europe’s biggest crime fiction event and an annual highlight for writers and hardcore fans of the genre, so when Val McDermid chose me to appear on her ‘New Blood’ panel showcasing debut authors, to say I was chuffed would be a howling understatement.
When I climbed down off the ceiling, it dawned on me that the biggest audience I’d ever faced was six members of a book club in the back room of my local pub, an informal affair involving much pinot grigio. Clearly, I would need a bit of pre-match training if I wasn’t going to freeze, faint or gibber in front of what I was told would be a big crowd of crime aficianados. Luckily, I had a date in the diary to speak to a reading group at Barking Library, which was an enjoyable and useful dry run in finding out what people were – and weren’t – interested in hearing from an author.
On the big day, I was asked to turn up half an hour early to get miked up by a sound engineer in the ‘Green Room’, where I met lovely fellow panellists Malcolm Mackay, Colette McBeth and Derek B Miller. And then, in came the ‘Queen of Crime’ herself. I’ve been a fan of Val McDermid’s work ever since I was gripped by the atmospheric A Place of Execution, so meeting her in person was a treat in itself. Val’s something of a legend as a panel moderator and had clearly developed the knack of putting us at our ease. The key thing to remember, she told us, was that the audience were passionate crime fans and that they “wanted to love us.” She told us she’d be asking four main questions: what our books were about; what had drawn us to crime; our journey to publication; and a sneak preview of the book we were currently working on.
And then we were entering a vast room, a good 40 metres long, bubbling with chatter, and mounting the stairs to the stage. The event was sold out, with some 300 people in the audience. Barking Library this wasn’t.
I was pretty nervous at first, but as it went on I began to enjoy myself and by the end, I was disappointed to find it was over! People said they enjoyed my contribution and I signed a lot of books so hopefully I didn’t made a complete ass of myself… And now that I know what to expect, and how warmly supportive an audience of enthusiastic readers can be, I’m itching to do the next one.