It was great and novel idea. At least, I think it was novel. For one of the schools events last Friday they teamed Theresa Breslin with adult crime writer Karen Campbell, and that worked really well. When I first heard about it I was so keen to go, and it was just as well that Mr B wasn’t going and the photographer and I could get in as Theresa’s guests.
It also happened to be another Kathryn Ross event, and as the three ladies walked in I was struck by the somewhat frivolous thought that they all had great hair. (I know. It shouldn’t matter.) And then I forgot all about hair when Daughter nudged me and whispered something about Theresa’s shoes. Wow! (I know. It should’t matter at all.)
Like most of the students I knew little about Karen, but she was good at explaining her background as a police officer and mother and author. Most crime writers aren’t ex- police, so I imagine Karen can bring a lot to her books that you don’t usually get.
She read from her second novel, about the life of a firearms officer and his thoughts and his fears when out on a job. Whatever we might feel about the police, that extract makes you think. Until she started writing, Karen had never seen a book about what it’s like to be in the police. And it’s the ordinary policemen and women she finds interesting. They have the hard jobs, whereas she feels CID have it easy.
Karen has never shot anyone, and she has only ever been to Barlinnie prison once, as an escort, and she was so relieved when she could leave again. Afterwards she needed to take the dog for a walk. Policemen are normal people with families and homes and feelings. We forget that sometimes.
Now she’s working on a story about a Somali refugee, dealing with the small everyday difficulties like wanting to buy fish and not speaking the language and finally coming face to face with a packet of fish fingers.
Theresa read the beginning of Divided City, showing how easy it is for a young well behaved boy to end up in the wrong place. She started the book by wanting to write about an asylum seeker, and looking for tension, she was surprised to find herself writing a book about football, never having been to a match. (So it’s not just ‘write what you know’. It can be ‘write what you haven’t got a clue about and get help with the facts.’)
Both authors find Glasgow a beautiful city, especially if you look up, away from the sometimes narrow streets (narrower than Edinburgh’s, anyway). There is at the humour, the banter that’s so Glaswegian, the quick-fire wittiness. Karen feels she knows so many different Glasgows; the place she was a child in, where she ‘posed’ as a teenage girl, her university city, and the place where she worked as a police woman.
Theresa would have liked to have more of the ‘man in the hospital’ in Divided City, except that wasn’t part of the plot. He wasn’t needed any more. The book she found the hardest to write was Remembrance, set during WWI, because at the time people were still alive, and it was important to get it right.
It was good to see the interest the pupils had in the writers and there was demand for books by both at the signing afterwards. Something that would be worth remembering if this kind of children’s author and adult author event happens again, is that schoolchildren don’t generally come equipped to buy £20 hardbacks. The bookshop was helpful and found some paperbacks by Karen, so hopefully that sorted things for some of the prospective book buyers.