Me, far too early.
So there I was up like the lark and speeding towards Aberdeen on Friday morning before 7.30am.
I was fortunate to run into the lovely Alison Baillie Taylor as soon as I got to The Lemon Tree, and not long after we were joined by the fabulous Sharon Bairden.
The first panel session at 12 noon was a great way to kick off the festival. Matt Wesolowski and Michael J Malone discussed The Truth Is Out There with Tim Baker.
After reading from Hydra and House of Spines respectively, the authors chatted about their books. Matt Wesolowski talked about the inspiration for his novel, Hydra in which a young girl batters her parents to death with a hammer. Not so much a who done it, more of a why done it. Matt was interested in exploring what drives someone to commit an act so heinous; what darkness is behind the crime.
Asked whether story or form came first, Matt said that he just loved listening to the podcast, Serial, and loved it’s rhythm, much like an audio documentary, so he wanted to see whether a similar approach could work in a book. It was purely an experiment for him to begin with, but when he knew it could work, the story just slotted in.
Michael said that he had been casting around for an idea for his next book when he happened across a paragraph in an old notebook. It was in his handwriting, but he had no recollection of having written it. That paragraph contained the genesis of his story and he knew when he read it that it was an idea he just had to follow.(The paragraph was about young man who inherits a house and when he goes into the lift he sees a huge mirror, and in that mirror is the face of a woman looking back at him.
The two authors both have supernatural elements in their psychological thrillers, – Michael has the woman in the mirror, Matt has his black eyed children, though both also have rational explanations for what occurs, but it is up to the reader to decide what happened.
As Michael eloquently put it, “it’s like poetry, the space between the lines is where the answers lie.”.
As the two authors chatted it was clear that Matt had never really appreciated that Scottish tradition of talking to strangers whenever you meet them, whether at a bus stop or in a cafe. Apparently, that doesn’t happen in England – who knew?
The pair discussed the growth of online myths, new urban legends as evidence of young people being creative with stories in new ways and referenced The Slender Man as an example.
Both books have elements of mental health to them and both authors were clear about the need to be respectful to the conditions they were describing, to research them well and not to be exploitative, as you would expect.
Both use personal experience to inform their writing – which is true for most writers. As Michael said, there are no new ideas, you just have to write the story you want to read and put a lot of yourself into it.
The two authors, both published by Orenda Books, worked very well together and it was a great panel to start the Festival.