The reason I thought the people with the drinks and the canapés looked a bit too posh for me might have been because they were. I strongly suspect I gatecrashed the pre-Patrick Ness hospitality session at Manchester Town Hall on Tuesday night. (But I brought my own food and drink which, while not very posh, at least meant I wasn’t a burden on anyone.)
Patrick was appearing at the Manchester Literature Festival in his adult guise (mostly, anyway), talking about The Crane Wife with Katherine Beacon, who like all of us is a great fan. At least as long as there are no jokes about David Bowie.
While ‘my’ lot had wine and listened to a speaker whose name I didn’t catch, the rest of the audience was being entertained by The Bookshop Band in the next room. Beautiful singing in what I would label the best of English traditional style. And what could be more appropriate than singing about books at a literature festival?
(And you know, the evening was sign interpreted, which included the singing. I’ve never seen songs like that. Sensual.)
Patrick has strong opinions on all sorts of things, including wanting us to come and sit on the front row (I wouldn’t dream of it!) and asking for the houselights to come on a bit more. He asked for this more than once, claiming he felt hot up there in the spotlight. Or was it warm? Let’s go for hot.
He’d had the inspiration for The Crane Wife since he was five, but it was while he was writing More Than This that the story insisted on being heard, and he ended up writing both books simultaneously, occasionally switching books in the middle of the day. Never again!
Patrick read a few pages from the book, with asides whenever we needed to know more. That’s where the ‘kind or nice’ conundrum comes in. He reckons you are either one or the other. And people need to know they are loved. With teenagers feelings can fill the whole room, whether good or bad. And the reason dystopias are so popular is that they are high school!
People invented religion to deal with fear of death, and comedy for fear of life. All writers are outsiders, and being an expat just adds to it. George in The Crane Wife and Seth in More Than This are both examples of this. And here the lights finally made an appearance and we could see!
Asked about Todd’s voice in The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick said it just came, and that the voice in a story ‘is what it has to be.’ Someone wanted to know why he killed the dog, and he replied that he knew it was right, and that even a hero has to go sometimes.
When he writes, Patrick has the last words ready and uses them to write towards, as well as a few scenes on the way to guide him. He doesn’t believe in wasting time on building a fictional world before starting, but relies on friends to read early drafts and ask questions to let him know what needs more description. And an empty world would be paradise!
People should read everything, classics, new stuff, and rubbish. The young Patrick devoured Stephen King’s IT, and he also read Judy Blume, whereas he felt that Enid Blyton was mainly about food. (Too right!)
Before we could go to the ‘signing corridor’ Patrick was whisked out and subjected to more photos, leaning nonchalantly against some pillar or other. (For me it was too dark, hence my use of ‘one we took earlier’ which has his approval.) The rest of us were serenaded some more by The Bookshop Band, and then it was everyone for themself in buying books and queueing up.
I had abandoned restraint this time, so brought the lot with me. When I was approached by the publicist clutching the post-its, I was most gratified that she had heard of me, despite us never having met (I know, this is getting repetitive), and Patrick informed me he certainly didn’t require a post-it for my books. Which was nice. And since he is kind, too, I’m guessing it’s possible to be both. Along with opinionated, obviously.
But he was right; adult events have far fewer people willing to admit to either writing stuff themselves, or asking questions. I did have a question, but unfortunately I forgot what it was. And most of Tuesday evening’s questions came from writers and people associated with the local book festivals…
It was a dark – yes, I know we have mentioned this already – and balmy night. It’s nice when October evenings are warm (OK, so it was warm. Patrick was hot.) Outside the Midland Hotel I almost ran into Manchester Children’s Book Festival’s Kaye and James, but it was dark and I was invisible. At the Town Hall it was dark, and they were invisible.
That’s life. And I am kind. More than nice, anyway.