Tag Archives: Stephen King

He can marry me anytime

Patrick Ness wanted to be an author from an early age, but had no expectations about getting to where he is today. Not through misguided modesty or anything, but his Pentecostal church knew the world was going to end (in 1980, I believe), so there was no point in looking further. He is now living on borrowed time, and reckons God just hasn’t noticed.

At this point Patrick tried to deflect the attention from him to Keith Gray by talking about Ostrich Boys, but Keith told him in no uncertain terms that this was no debate; it was an interview.

Patrick Ness

He – Patrick – actually entered the Corner theatre so quietly we hardly noticed he had arrived. But Keith made sure we knew all his achievements by listing Patrick’s awards, from the Carnegies and ‘down.’ The place was packed, and mostly by teenagers, which is almost unusual these days.

So it was interesting to hear Patrick’s next book is an adult one. The Crane Wife was written because he needed to write it, and he sort of omitted telling his publisher about it. It will be out in 2013, and so will the next YA book he is currently two thirds through editing the second draft of.

Keith asked him about his rather public argument with G P Taylor, on age banding, which Patrick felt had more to do with G P T’s wish for publicity (he’s not here today, is he?) than anything else. Then it was on to Will Self, and later Stephen King, after which Patrick might have run out of steam, coming up with caustic comments about his peers… He doesn’t mince words, and I suspect that’s something young readers notice and like.

As for his own writing, if Patrick doesn’t like it himself, why should he expect anyone else to? You need to laugh at your own jokes. He needs to want to hurry back to writing, or we won’t want to hurry back to where we left off reading. You can’t be both an oracle and an author. To him being an author has to come first. Always.

‘Momentum is everything’ and the Chaos trilogy really has come to an end. He can’t rule out another book set in the same world, but these books are done. There will be no more. When he wrote The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick knew what the last line of Monsters of Men would be. (Although, there could be a few more short stories…)

For those who might not already know, Patrick explained the background to A Monster Calls, talking at length about Siobhan Dowd. It was important to him that the book should be his book. He didn’t want to pretend to be Siobhan. When he began, he could see the ruined living room in his head, so he knew what to do.

As to whether the tree is real, he leaves that to every reader to determine for themself. He knows what he thinks. But he won’t tell. He has written the screenplay for A Monster Calls, because he didn’t want it changed by someone else.

Patrick might feel he has left the church behind, but the phrase ‘totems are the work of the devil’ tripped very easily off his lips. One piece of advice he has for would-be writers is to write from a totally new or different point of view. If you are a boy, write as though you’re a girl. And write the best you can. You can always go back and fix it, so don’t wait for perfect.

And then to the last question, which Keith bagged for himself: ‘Will you marry me?’

Patrick pointed out they were both happily married, and not to be an idiot. (He might not have used that exact word.)

The explanation for all this was simpler, and also stranger, than you’d think. Patrick’s oldest friend in America had got married recently. She wanted him to marry her. So he went and got ordained online, and then he married his friend.

Form an orderly queue here.

First Chinley BookFest

Chinley BookFest

The Resident IT Consultant put his walking gear and waterproofs in the car. Unfortunately, the First Chinley BookFest turned out to be far too much fun for any walking to take place. That’s apart from our scurrying between Venue One and Venue Two, up and down the main street in the village, between the Women’s Institute were the author events were, and the community centre were people ate cake, bought books and ate more cake.

Chinley BookFest

Confession; we did not climb out of bed for the ten o’clock event with Edwina Currie. Somehow we didn’t feel the urge. However, Philip Caveney and Stephen Booth must be considered big draws for a Bookwitch, and to get the pair of them in one local BookFest on one Sunday afternoon was a real bonus.

Speaking of urges. We merely came from Stockport, all of 30 minutes away. One Stephen Booth fan came from Australia. Slight difference, there. But that’s books for you. Sometimes you go a bit crazy. It’s nice, though. If you can. (And one of these days I will learn how to take photos with smartphones. It’s not done by holding it the wrong way round, apparently.)

Chinley BookFest

What a wonderful little BookFest! Just the kind you can enjoy with not too much fuss. Chinley is a hard-to-get-to sort of village on the western end of Derbyshire not looking like, but feeling pretty much like Midsomer. Minus the murders. Although, Stephen Booth did call his talk ‘Where the bodies are buried,’ but I’m sure he only intended that in a fictional way. His books are fiction.

Chinley BookFest

We lunched with Philip and his Lady Caveney, and by that I mean we ate our sandwiches at the Women’s Institute before Philip’s talk, while they tucked into their salads. Very cosy. And his shoes were quite cool.

Philip Caveney

Philip’s photo of himself as a young man rather cancelled out those shoes, however. Long hair! Hairy face! Those were the days. He talked about his early days as a writer, inspired by Ray Bradbury, and then how his daughter Grace had caused him to become a children’s author simply in order to prevent her from reading his adult novels, which were so not suitable at her age.

He tried to cheat, of course, but Grace made him write a whole book, and after that more books happened, and they keep happening. It seems a last Sebastian Darke will be published later this year, and because you can never write too many books at any one time, Philip has recently published his first ebook, The Talent, which is a crossover type of story. (More about that at a later date.)

Philip Caveney, Spy Another Day

Coming soon is the second cinema book, Spy Another Day, from which Philip read to us. A short bit only. The bit that makes you want more. I can’t wait! And should this writing career not support him, he could take up singing. Philip sang very passably from his book. Well, from the film in the book, I suppose. He is inexplicably fond of old-fashioned cinemas with sticky carpets.

Philip Caveney

Not surprisingly, when reading for pleasure, he picks what’s recent and good, to keep up with what’s doing well, alternating between adult and children’s. I’m not sure Philip answered the question on whether he’ll write for adults again, but he did point out there’s little difference. Except children’s books have to be better.


We spent the interval at the community centre, where the Resident IT Consultant splashed out rather, buying four second hand books. I walked round looking at everything from the Charles Dickens table to the book patterned fabric. Also saw Stephen Booth unpacking his box of books, and Philip and Lady C enjoying well deserved mugs of something, before returning home to lovely Stockport.

Second hand books for sale at Chinley BookFest

Spotty mug

Entering into the spirit of things, we had mugs of tea and homemade cake. What mugs! Reminiscent of Cath Kidston, no less. And what cake! The Resident IT Consultant took the sensible executive decision to get two kinds for us to share. Someone walked round handing out programmes for the next literary event, which will be the Derbyshire Literature Festival in May.

Book cushion

To make sure of bagging seats to my liking, we went over to the WI again on the heels of Stephen Booth. I’m afraid I stalked him when he went outside again, grabbing a little chat outside the ironmongers (I think). For some reason we talked about Ms Currie, before seamlessly switching to Stephen’s brilliant Swedish success, and via the Bristol Crimefest to Reginald Hill.

After a while we realised that Stephen might need to go back in to talk to the rest of the roomful of people. The organiser introduced him by telling us how she read her first Fry and Cooper before moving to the Peak District. Maybe she was looking for somewhere to stash her dead bodies.

Stephen Booth

Stephen explained how he prefers to write about a place where he doesn’t live, in order to keep it fresh and at a distance. He’s with Sherlock Holmes in seeing more evil in the country than in the city. Apparently it is well known that the Peak District is good for getting rid of bodies, and especially so in reservoirs, but not to worry about our tap water.

He likes the contrast between the White Peak and the Dark Peak, and the edgy contrast between country and city. Fans have been known to read his books with an Ordnance Survey map to hand, but that didn’t prevent him from getting his east and his west mixed up when a character travelled ‘east’ from Snake Pass to Glossop. It was when he found that Boots in Edendale had accidentally moved between books that he started making his own map of his fictional town. (No matter what Stephen says, to me Edendale will always be Buxton.)

To avoid being sued too often Stephen uses real places, changing them ever so slightly. Not that that helps. Someone reported having heard the peacock he wrote about, and even saw the same people camping… (It’s fiction!!) But it must be wonderful to inspire such keen fans, that they will even go out and test whether a particular place has a mobile signal.

Stephen Booth

Listening to this cross between Stephen King and the Brontës is always fun and entertaining. It’s fascinating the way coincidences happen, and the way Stephen can make use of the weirdest stuff in writing his books. He even caused his agent to see decomposing bodies where there were none. (Poor woman.) Why frighten us, when we can do it ourselves?

I was all ready to return home and continue reading my Booth book number six, except I can’t, because it’s the book I allowed Son to take with him to India. (And that will be the only mention of India for today. Thank you for your patience.)

Stephen Booth, Scared to Live

I made up for this by getting the Resident IT Consultant an early birthday present in the shape of a genuine Stephen Booth paperback (number seven), signed and discounted. (I mean, it was very expensive, dear. Erm, no, I just remembered, you’re from Scotland. It was a bargain. Should have bought two.)

They sold the remaining cakes for half price. Because we hadn’t ‘eaten a thing’ all day, I bought some to have when we got home. There were divine scones and extremely drizzley lemon cake slices. But I’m afraid we ate it all before I thought of taking a photo.

Second hand books

Here’s to the next Chinley BookFest!

Gillian Philip

I panicked (long) before Gillian Philip’s event, because I was informed by the press office that it was sold out. Thankfully it wasn’t so sold out that I couldn’t buy tickets for a couple of Gillian’s greatest fans. (I’m in two minds about this, naturally. I want Gillian to sell out, but not before my own needs have been met. Selfishness comes before a lot of other things.) And on the day it was close to full, which is what we want. But where were the boys? Girls and slightly older girls had turned out in force. Boys! You too can read Gillian’s books, you know.

While I was waiting outside, hoping against hope that my photographer could travel in time and be in two places at once, I spoke to a nice lady in the queue. She missed the writer’s workshops that her daughter (granddaughter?, niece?) has attended in past years.

Gillian Philip

Gillian kicked off by talking about Stephen King and Russell T Davies, and the way they write and how they write about writing. She had been under the impression that she did it all wrong, but if Mr King can be ‘needy and insecure, that’s fine’.

She says she doesn’t plot at all, and simply lets the theme leak into the book. It’s very much writing by the seat of her pants and hoping for the best. Well, her pants seem to work just fine.

At this point we had a brief burst of the torrential rain we had all been expecting for days. But we were safe in our tent and it was dry when we left, so that’s all right.

The event was advertised as being about The Opposite of Amber, but Gillian talked about all her books. She likes being a writer, with the power of doing whatever it takes, like moving a Nairobi school to Mombasa, just because she needed it there.

She mentioned Ruby, who refused to talk. And writing romances is a lot harder than any of us thinks. Gillian doesn’t feel that there are any taboos at all in YA writing, and she mostly writes for herself. Swearing gets boring if there is too much of it.

Gillian Philip, Rebel Angels

Her next book in the Rebel Angels series – Sealskin – is about selkies. She always needs to put some Scottish mythology into her books. For the book festival, Gillian wrote a short story called South, about selkies, which you can download.

And there is always one, isn’t there? In the audience, for the Q & As. Someone asked about Gillian’s research, and she had to admit to causing security alerts when inquiring about the embassy in Paris, and also the details about body guard arrangements for ministers’ families…

John Connolly on how to lose a Ferrari

John Connolly finds when meeting fans at events, there are some he likes a lot. On Monday night in Preston he looked around the room at County Hall and came to the conclusion that that wasn’t going to happen with us. Yes, we loved you too, John. (That’s enough of the insults. Can we please get on with all the love?)

Spending a beautiful May evening in the dark, but impressive, rooms at County Hall may seem a bit daft, but I really did want to meet the man who wrote The Gates, one of the best children’s books last year. (Yes, I know all the other fans were there for the regular crime novels, but I don’t mind being odd.) SilverDell Books of Kirkham organised this event, and I have to admit to having begged for a free ticket, which these amazing ladies who sell ice cream and books were happy to offer a complete stranger. Nice running into Super-Librarian Jake, as well, and Phil of Jodi Picoult jellybabies fame. And then there was a roomful of fans, who egged John on to give in to his urge to bang the chairman’s club really hard. It was loud.

John Connolly

He reckoned we looked quite nice (so did John in a purpley sort of maroon jacket affair and artfully arranged grey scarf), but couldn’t be sure we’re not the sort of fans who prefer the new book to be just the same as the last one, only different. I suspect we were, John. It seems that’s what authors who own yachts (or lose their Ferraris) give in to, but obviously John is above that sort of thing. His characters are all him, more or less, and Charlie Parker is John, except handsomer. (Now how is that possible?)

This ‘wet liberal, mediocre Catholic who still believes in hell’ talked a lot about soldiers returning home, and how very hard it is for them to settle to normal life again. Like most authors he goes round looking for things in life that he can steal and put in books, and I believe the homecoming soldier problem (in the new book The Whisperers) is one of those. John listed a lot of facts on the suicide rate of soldiers and the subsequent cost to society, and said he hoped we can support soldiers to make life better for all of us.

John Connolly

He read us a short piece from his latest book, about a ghost encounter in the woods. That’s another thing John does. You’re not meant to put the supernatural into a crime novel, but he likes doing it. To keep the fans happy, while not acquiescing to writing the same book over and over, John writes a ‘different’ book every other time, and he reckons it shows in sales.

Speaking of yachts, we somehow got onto the subject of Dan Brown. (Hang on, didn’t I say I was never going to mention him on here, ever again?) We had to do a hands up on whether we had read ‘that’ book, which of course I haven’t. John had, but the experience he takes from it is that he will never ‘waste time reading crap again.’ He had some opinions about authors not realising that many readers already know certain facts, mentioning mirror writing as an example. He had also once had an unfortunate trip to the cinema in connection with Angels & Demons.

Thanks to the woman in his life John has also escaped becoming a freemason, which can be hard to do if you live somewhere that boasts five masonic lodges. He has only ever met Stephen King once, but at least he managed to have all his Stephen King first editions topple over the master of horror, and I think the occasion wasn’t as good as he’d wanted it to be. Other than that, and the unfortunate geographical proximity to Dan Brown, John finds that living in Maine has freed him from having to write Irish novels. And he firmly believes that an average crime novel is better than an average literary novel. So true.

But – it has to be said – John is as funny and entertaining as most other Irish writers I’ve come across. One fan laughed so much she was barely able to walk.

And he’s polite. His mother clearly brought him up properly. He shakes my hand and pretends he’s really pleased to meet me at last. At last… Hah. And he promised me there are only two more chapters of the next children’s book left to write.

Elaine, John Connolly and Sue

John likes events. Even when it’s an ice cream free event, a fact he returns to so many times that Sue and Elaine of SilverDell look ready to drive back and get him some. And he tells of the customer at crime bookshop No Alibis in Belfast who asked what happens at an author event, as she’d not been to one before, and was told that the author reads a bit and talks about his/her books. And then there would generally be questions. She shrank from this, saying she didn’t think she’d be up to answering any questions.