Harrogate Crime Writing Festival

The Harrogate Crime Festival happens every year, but this was my first one as I’ve been away on hols for this weekend for the past couple of years. I went in my capacity as editor, as we had lots of lovely authors attending – one of whom. C.L. Taylor, won an award! However, it was also my first time going as an author too, and it was so nice (if a bit strange) to have people congratulating me. The writing community and especially the crime/thriller community is a very supportive one; everyone ends up knowing each other, and everyone is excited about each others’ books.

My highlight this year had to be seeing Ian Rankin; myself and my colleague were lucky enough to get last minute tickets to a sold-out talk at 7pm on the Saturday, held in Orion’s very cool incident room. It was quite an intimate talk (we all sat cross-legged on the floor like we were primary school children listening to story time) and we were each given a shot of whiskey too. Ian Rankin now has his own brand, called Highland Park Rebus30, which was made to celebrate 30 years of his famous character. That must be when you really know you’ve made it as a writer! I’ve seen Rankin talk once before at CrimeFest in Bristol, but that was to a much larger room and the size of this smaller one made it more special. He was very chatty with the audience, inviting people to shout out questions rather than standing on ceremony.

I took the opportunity to ask him what his low and high points had been since getting published, and his low point was very inspiring. He said he’d been living in France with his wife and first child, and had been so worried about money that he used to drive around at night screaming, just to release the pent-up energy. From there to receiving six-figure royalty cheques which he originally thought must be a mistake in the number of zeroes, his journey sounded like an amazing one and I think the whole room was grateful for his honesty.

Other highlights included meeting Phoebe Locke again – we met ages ago at a Foyles event and I love her previous YA books. She’s now written a thriller called The Tall Man which I can’t wait to read, and she was kind enough to sign my copy.

Whilst there, we also attended a brilliant talk with Val McDermid and four new authors (the New Blood Panel), and listened to Fiona Cummins, Joseph Knox, Kristin Lepionka and Jane Harper talk about their novels. I’ve read Fiona’s and Joseph’s is in my TBR pile but after the talk I’ll add the other two as well. It was again very inspiring to hear about their paths to publication – Kristin said she’d never imagined she’d get published, let alone to where she is now.

The other notable experience for me was when I dressed up in a forensic outfit as part of Think Forensic‘s detective room! It was very hot inside the white one-piece complete with mouth guard and latex gloves, but it was so fascinating hearing about the incredible work forensic teams do at a murder scene. We got to see how they search for DNA, and learn how many coats of paint it takes to cover up blood (answer – you can never cover it!)

Harrogate is a beautiful city, albeit pretty cold (we had to run to H&M to buy emergecy scarves!) and well worth a visit even if the festival isn’t on. We stayed in The Cairn, which did have a look of Fawlty Towers about it but was perfectly comfortable and clean inside. If you’re an aspiring or already published crime writer, there are so many interesting talks going on all weekend, and it’s a great opportunity to bond with like-minded people in the bar. Tickets are reasonably pricy, but you can choose from a few price options rather than getting a whole weekend pass if you prefer. It’s always great being at these events, and being surrounded by people who are all happy to talk about writing for hours on end. Ian Rankin answered another aspiring writer’s question as part of his talk – and his ultimate advice was: ‘never give up.’ So don’t! One day you too might have a whiskey named after your character…!

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