What a day it was! Ninety people squeezed into the downstairs of York Waterstones, listened to a talk and a reading, and then challenged me with great questions in the Q and A. The pile of copies of Bones in the Nest soon vanished and the store sold out. My hand ached from signing and I began to wonder what my name really was by the end, something written by a spider, I think. Earlier in the week we’d had another event at the Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town, London. Sixty people came and yet more books were sold, wine was drunk and even more challenging questions were asked. Among my favourites, as I’ve never been asked these before, were ‘do you see the images in the story before you know what the words are going to be?’ and ‘what would you write if you didn’t write crime?’ – the first one had me thinking hard, and the answer was ‘yes, I do see the images, the landscape and location very clearly’. The second one had me stumped, but I finally came up with the obvious answer: I would like to write more poetry and theatre scripts, if I had more time.
Somebody said: ‘you must be very proud’. And I was, I am. But it also feels slightly unreal. It’s hard to map the relationship between hours spent at a desk – despairing of ever getting a plot to hang together, writing thousands of words that get cut in a later edit – with the beautiful cover image on the front of the book, and the stack of copies by the till. Stranger still to realise that some readers took the book home, read it in one sitting and reviewed it the next morning, demanding to know when the next one is due. I clearly need to invent a time machine that enables me to write faster. Publishing a book is often compared to childbirth, but I don’t think that’s accurate; it’s more like midwifery, with another pregnancy to attend to just as soon as this baby is out in the world. The new parent is really the reader, as the story only comes to life in their hands and in their imagination.
I’m back to book three with a vengeance now, making sure I work on it every day. Yesterday, after a morning’s writing, I visited York Library Archives for a different sort of research. I’m running some family creative writing workshops over the summer and I was reading the wonderfully titled ‘Calendar of Felons’ from the 1820s: the court lists for York Assizes. I found some great stimulus for my workshop in some of the more light-hearted crimes, but I was also stunned to discover how many of the cases were similar to those we come across in the newspapers today. Without giving too much away, I found a parallel with a character I’m writing about, and was glad to see this horrible man had received a prison sentence for ruining a young girl’s life, although it was chilling to realise that he would have been more severely punished for stealing a sheep. I think there’s a poem in there somewhere.
Time marches on and I have another book to write. I hope you enjoy Bones in the Nest and if you’re in the area, bring your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, eight years old and above, to York Explore on the 8th or 13th August 10.30 – 12.30 pm and we’ll get the next generation of writers started on their journey. Telling York Stories – Archives Writing Workshop. Details from York Explore: (01904 552828) firstname.lastname@example.org (£2 person, booking essential).