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Publish and Perish


Opinion

A considered, reflective session on writing about publishing in crime fiction.

Image of Publish and Perish
Lucy Atkins, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson © 2013.

It’s day two of Aberdeen’s crime fiction festival, Granite Noir, and a session intriguingly entitled Publish and Perish. Sarah Ward, author of A Patient Fury, part of the DC Childs series, introduces Jo Gilbert, one of the talented North East noir fiction writers invited to read as part of the Locals in the Limelight initiative. And what a cracking start it is. Gilbert’s reading of The Cycle is energetic, her writing vivid.

Time for the stellar line-up of psychological thriller writers, including Lucy Atkins, Louise Hutcheson, and Sarah Stovell. We’re in for a literary feast, as each has chosen to write about fictional writers. Three authors, three very different novels.

Ward turns our attention to Atkins, who, along with writing The Night Visitor published by Quercus, writes book reviews for The Sunday Times and is a Costa Book Awards judge.

When questioned about the challenges of creating a protagonist who is a writer, Atkins is firm in that she never set out to write about the publishing industry, but rather about two clever, complicated women and career ambition. Oh – and about dung beetles, creatures Atkins fell in love with during her research.

Her other novels include The Other Child (2015) and The Missing One (2014).

Next we meet Hutcheson, a Muriel Spark fan, who after gaining a PhD in Scottish Literature from Glasgow University, worked in publishing. It was whilst wading through the slush pile that her idea formed of a protagonist who steals a brilliant manuscript, then passes if off as his own. Her historical novella, The Paper Cell, published by Contraband, is an exploration of what happens when someone achieves what they long for, but not in the manner wanted. Ward jests that this is terrifying stuff for the writers in the room.

Finally, Ward focuses on Stovell, a lecturer in creative writing at Lincoln University, whose debut, Exquisite, examines the complex relationship between two women who meet at a writers’ retreat and the sinister events that follow. Stovell coyly states she believes everyone does insane things in the name of love. She confesses to being initially dubious about writing about writers, but acknowledges that readers have an interest in writers’ lives. A lure she found impossible to resist.

A considered, reflective session which, given the length of the queue at the book signing table, makes clear that rather than Publish and Perish, these authors have published and are doing rather well.