Friday, March 03, 2006

Val McDermid

I went to a wonderful lecture by Val McDermid this evening, the author of the Tony Hill series of books (made into the Wire in the Blood tv series), amongst others. She was a very entertaining speaker, and had some really interesting things to say on the process she goes through to write her novels, and how that process has changed for her recent books. It would seem that she used to rather meticulously plot out her stories beforehand, but for her last two books that hasn't worked at all, and she's just had to start writing, trusting in the fact that she'll eventually reach the end. Apparently she wrote 65,000 words in nine days while working on The Torment of Others, a fact which impressed and scared me in equal parts.

McDermid also spoke on why she started to write mystery stories - it would seem that she had been 'raised' on the Agatha Christie book Murder at the Vicarage - it was the only book apart from the Bible in her grandparent's house where she used to spend her summers. Later in her life, when at Oxford (where it was still deemed intellectually 'acceptable' to read mysteries), she moved on to other Golden Age writers such as Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. It was this initial exposure to the 'classics' of the genre that convinced her that she too could write a mystery, although not a village cozy like those of Christie - apparently she was very surprised not to find "retired Colonels from the British Army and spinsters tending herbacious borders" in Oxford, like there was in much of Christie's work, particularly the Marple stories.

I bought a copy of her newest book, The Grave Tattoo, while I was there, and had it signed afterwards by McDermid, which was very cool. Then I went to film group and saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which wasn't cool at all, but which deserves its own post.

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