I was thrilled to be invited to speak at this year's Cheltenham Literature Festival about my new book, Paternoster. It was great to be in front of my home crowd, all eager to hear about the 'dark side of town', and tickets sold out quickly!
I was introduced by fellow History Press and Cheltenham author Anne Strathie, who pointed out that we also both went to the same university (St Andrews in Scotland) and that Paternoster contains a car chase down her street.
Alex Clark was my interviewer, nobly stepping in at the last minute after the original interviewer was ill, and asked great questions which elicited some things that surprised even my friends:
- I don't just read crime fiction - I like to read a variety of books including the classics, history books, chick lit, and contemporary literature
- I wrote my first novel when I was nine, and yup, it was a time-slip murder mystery, this time about a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I and put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne
- I have a reference book I call my 'Writers' Big Book of Poisons' that I consult when I want exactly the right poison for a story
The audience had super questions, too, asking about how I soak up the atmosphere of Cheltenham to add authenticity in my books (answer: I walk the streets. I've been advised to re-phrase that in future!); how to make characters become real to me (answer: talk to them, take them places, see what happens. Though this can backfire - some of them are so loud now I have to tell them to be quiet!); and how I do my research.
This last question led to the sorts of scrapes you can get yourself into as a writer. A number of years ago I was writing a novel about a dirty bomb, and consulted people about weapons grade anthrax. When I wrote Sacred Site, I needed to know about guns and rifles. And when I wrote another thriller, about Aboriginal terrorism, I needed to know about petrol bombs. I had a bit of explaining to do!
Then after the talk, the questions, and the book signing, I was taken off for champagne with my friends.
It's a tough life on the mean streets of Cheltenham!
Kim Fleet lives and works in Cheltenham. Her two cats help the creative process by standing on the delete key.