There is a first time for everything. I have never been womanhandled by an author before. And anyone half my size is ill advised to try it. But Julie Bertagna had a brave go on Saturday morning, and I slunk back to my favourite seat at the back. Seems I’m too much of a distraction at the front (naturally), which is why I like it at the back, and I had only been obeying orders to come nearer the front. Truly. Will never do so ever again.
Afterwards Julie said she realised I would write something like this. Too late! ; ) She blamed it on me being like family (i.e. an embarrassment). I was even warned about taking pictures…
Julie had left the perpetual rain cloud hovering over Glasgow for sunny Manchester to give a talk on Friday evening to a large group of teachers, while missing the joys of accidentally bumping into Professor Brian Cox. (Sean Connery was quite enough for you, Julie!)
On Saturday morning the bookwitch crawled out of bed early, for eleven o’clock at the Midland Hotel. Very nice venue. I could tell that Julie’s teenage girl fans were impressed with their surroundings. Nice room, and tea and juice and biscuits. Unlike me they had dressed up a bit, too.
Julie based her talk on the Exodus trilogy, and started by going through science fiction in the olden days, from Frankenstein’s monster via H G Wells to 1984 and The Matrix. In Exodus it’s the Earth itself which is the monster of the story, when water levels rise, forcing a change in how people live. A few years ago when many places, including Glasgow, flooded, Julie found sales of her book rocketing, proving that people do want to read about dying worlds.
In her youth Julie expected the future to be robots, holidaying on the moon and other magic. Predictions usually go wrong. We do have magic these days, but not in a form you could have imagined. It’s our iPods and text messages and similar. Like my camera, when I can operate it and am allowed to…
She likes David Tennant best of the Doctors, talked about flying cows and other creatures in hurricane Katrina, the Large Hadron Collider, and how our Universe probably is like just one bubble in a bath full of bubbles. And Lord Byron was a male Lady Gaga.
Julie took the opportunity to help Manchester Literature Festival launch a short story competition for teenagers, featuring Manchester in the future. She came up with so many ideas, that even I could half see myself entering, were it not for those extra few years that would disqualify me. The girls in the room had lots of great plot ideas, that they were willing to share. We were reminded that Mary Shelley was a teenager when she came up with her science fiction, so there is every likelihood of this competition going well.
They also had an unusually good selection of questions. One good way of starting a story is to write something that you then ditch, in favour of jumping straight to what matters. Julie might write a fourth book in the trilogy, but only if ideas that keep her awake at night pop up. She also likes endings that ‘infuriate you.’ I think that might mean endings that don’t spell out every little detail, leaving something to the imagination.
(And you know why there are more pictures of posters and hotel interiors than of the star performer, don’t you? Good thing Photowitch was unavailable.)