Back in November, a number of CWC members took part in the Exeter Literary Festival, as organisers, speakers or members of the audience. This week, Bea Hutchings writes about a fascinating crime-based session she attended. Plus, we bring you breaking news about this year’s festival.
“As fiction writers, we’re always on the look out for character traits, observing our surroundings etc., and it was thereby with great interest I observed the talk given by Lucy and Bernie. Lucy sat back in her seat, arms folded, legs crossed, which I would normally have said was a defence mechanism, or at least one which we often perceive as such, but her talk was anything but defensive and she was very keen to tell us about her writing journey and subsequent, impressive, success.
Lucy Hay is the author of domestic noir books set in Devon. She comes from Ilfracombe in North Devon, where she grew up, and writes stories associated with personal experiences of the area during the 1990’s and onward. Ilfracombe has evolved into a thriving town where artist Damien Hirst’s 65ft sculpture, Verity, brought much needed tourist trade to the area. Made of stainless steel and bronze, it has been the subject of much controversy, and of course, Lucy mentioned the impact of such an iconic piece in her talk.
Multi-talented, Lucy is also a screenwriter, producer, script editor, blogger and shares writing craft tips for both screenwriters and novelists on her blog site Bang2Write’. She is a forthright character who doesn’t hold back on her opinions, which came across admirably in her talk.
Speaking about her debut crime novel The Other Twin, her second book, bestselling ebook, Do No Harm, and her writing guides on Character, Drama, and How to Write and Sell a Thriller, it’s clear Lucy has a lot to offer the world of fiction, and ultimately to her fellow writers. Her latest book, Never Have I Ever is available now on Kindle.
Former teacher, Bernie Steadman reminded me very much of Jilly Cooper in appearance, although, as far as I’m aware, it is the only similarity. A bubbly, engaging speaker, Bernie’s talk was a huge contrast to Lucy’s; not in terms of the quality of the talks, both of which were excellent, but inasmuch as their mannerisms were entirely different. Chatty and down to earth, Bernie sat to the front of her seat, leaning forward to talk to the audience about her books, which are set in the West Country. Bernie writes, in her own words: “accessible crime procedurals, with a great team of officers and intriguing story lines” underlining the fact while the writer needs to know the ‘techy’ stuff, the reader doesn’t. Her trilogy of novels, Death in the Woods, Death on Dartmoor and Death on the Coast, featuring DI Dan Hellier, is set in Exeter, and she mentioned Heavitree Police Station as inspiration.
Bernie writes her books using layers of observation of what people show to the world. One of her key subjects during the talk was about setting. In her books, you will find familiar places of interest such as Killerton, Dartmoor; the beaches of Exmouth and Dawlish, etc.
Something very interesting which Bernie shared with us, is her way of writing timelines; writing each timeline on an A4 piece of paper then putting them together as the story unfolds. This way she doesn’t lose track of anyone. She also mentioned that, in writing, truth is sacrificed for drama. Her books are fast paced, with lots of twists to keep the reader guessing as the characters carry the plot forward. “
Our spies tell us there are all sorts of great things planned for this year’s Exeter Literary Festival, including a new website, centralised venues for the events, separate streams for readers and writers, plus collaboration with other organisations across the city. There will be more details as we move through the year, but make sure you save the dates: 23rd to 25th October. You won’t want to miss ExeLitFest2020!