Wednesday 26 June 2013


It's been an exciting couple of days. On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be on stage at the Winchester Readers' Conference, organised by Newbooks magazine. It was brilliant fun, though I was more than a little nervous about speaking after Ben Aaronovitch (who was very, very funny). As it was, a lovely audience and some fine moderation by host Guy Pringle meant that everything ran smoothly.

Then, last night, I was at Waterlooville Library for a panel event with Pauline Rowson and Dominic Ranger. Moderated by Carol Westron, this was part of the CWA's Crime Month, but also to help mark the library's 40th anniversary. Another great audience, and some lively discussion made for a brilliant evening.
Having the chance to meet and talk with readers is so important – it helps and encourages me in my writing – and makes all those solitary hours at the keyboard seem worthwhile.
It's been a lot of fun, but if I had to choose one highlight, it would have to be on Saturday, where Guy caught me cold with a brilliant question. After leading up with an explanation of how I go to each location and painstakingly investigate everything, he quizzed me about my research for certain back alley in Salisbury… the setting for a sex scene in Eye Contact!
After that, I like to think I'm ready for any questions people can throw at me.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Too Soon?

I'm always very keen to do book events. It's great to have the opportunity to talk to people about a story, to find out which characters and situations resonated with them, and why...

...but tonight I may have been a little too keen.

The venue was Flitwick Library near Bedford - a two hour drive from where I work. Traffic was pretty hectic, but I got there in good time and parked up. After a quick, pre-talk cigarette, I made my way into the building. The place was quiet, but I could see a good number of people already in the lecture hall, and one man sitting at a desk. He came over and asked if he could help me.
"Hi," I greeted him. "I'm Fergus McNeill, and I'm here for the author talk."
"Author talk?" he said.
I nodded at him.
"Tonight is Weight Watchers," he explained, glancing towards the lecture hall.

I began to think I'd come to the wrong place, but then I was briefly encouraged when I spotted a small poster behind him, with a photo of me, and details of the author event - 7pm on the 11th.

"That's me." I pointed at the poster.
He turned, looked at the poster, then turned back to me.
"That's not 'til 11th of July," he said.

Everything snapped together in my mind very quickly. Had I not checked the date several times in the last few weeks? Of course I had. I'd checked it on my Amazon author page... unless...

I quickly looked through my emails. Sure enough, the event was down as July, not June. I'd obviously set the wrong month when posting the event on Amazon.

Understandably deflated, I turned to leave. To his credit, the man didn't laugh. But his parting line was sheer deadpan gold.

"See you again next month."

Sunday 2 June 2013

CrimeFest 2013: The Aftermath

Years ago, I booked a one-to-one appointment at the Winchester Writers Conference with author and critic Peter Guttridge. When we met, for our appointed fifteen minutes, he apologised and told me that, due to a mix-up, he hadn’t received my sample chapters, and was unable to offer me any helpful feedback. However, he did tell me that if I emailed the material to him directly, he’d take a look and get back to me when he could.

He never did.

Fast-forward to the present, and CrimeFest 2013. This was to be my first ever literary festival, and I was fortunate enough to be on two different panels. One was for debut authors, entitled Fresh Blood, moderated by the lovely Rhian Davies. The other, entitled The Power Of The Author, was to be moderated by me, and the panellists included... Peter Guttridge!

In a novel, this might have led to murder in the Green Room, and a conference-wide search for the missing writer, but in reality Peter and his fellow panellists Ruth Downie, Andrew Pepper, and John Matthews were all great fun and delivered an entertaining discussion for the audience.

It was a fabulous four days. CrimeFest takes place at the Marriott in Bristol, just across the road from the Watershed cafe where I often go to write, and it was hugely enjoyable to wander around in the midst of so many famous authors. There was Julia Crouch walking along the corridor, Ann Cleeves sitting at the next table in the bar. I chatted with George Mann while we waited for our drinks, and popped out for the odd cigarette with Sophie Hannah and Stav Sherez. It was as though my Twitter feed had come to life and been transported en masse to Bristol.

There were some excellent panels, leading to deep discussions in the courtyard afterwards, especially once the drinks started flowing. There was Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue giving a talk on Sherlock. And there was blazing sunshine throughout.

Above all though, it was great to meet so many lovely people, particularly the readers who were kind enough to take a chance on buying "Eye Contact". I’m glad I had the chance to talk to them about it, I hope they enjoy reading it, and I hope they can make out what I scrawled in the copies I signed!

I wish the weekend could have lasted longer. Too soon, it was time to make for Bristol Temple Meads and the train home. Funnily enough, Julia Crouch sat two seats away from us on the way back but, as the last thing I read by her involved a quiet woman murdering an irritating fellow rail passenger, I thought it best to leave her in peace.

Roll on CrimeFest 2014!