Readers can dream up some interesting questions for an author – but can Helen Cadbury answer them?
Well, hello FictionMixers. It’s been a while. I’ve been launching my crime novel, To Catch a Rabbit, which turns out to be a much longer process than launching a ship.
If at any point I’d harboured (excuse the pun) the misconception that having a book published involved sitting back and letting the public find it on bookshelves or websites, then I was wrong, plain wrong, and that’s not something I often admit to.
My main launch event was here in York, at Waterstones, superbly hosted by the staff there and very well attended, with around a hundred in the audience.
I have also been to the main launch of the Moth imprint, a new publishing venture in northern crime fiction, who were brave enough to take a punt on my first book; then to the launch of one of my fellow Moth authors, where I was unexpectedly asked to speak; onwards to a book group event in Whitley Bay, followed by a talk at Middlesbrough Central Library as part of the Middlesbrough Literary Festival. This will be followed by trips to Leeds, Richmond, York and Thirsk doing a range of events, readings and signings.
It’s a rock and roll Yorkshire lifestyle. Fortunately I love this sort of thing. I worked as a professional actor in my twenties and I’m not shy of an audience. There is often a cup of tea on offer and sometimes a biscuit. I also like the questions people ask because they make me think. Here is a sample and my attempts to answer them:
How Northern is Northern? Your book features North Lincolnshire, does that count?
Yes, because if you leave Doncaster and travel east, you may be in a different county, but you are still in the North.
(At this point, I’m worried that I may have got east and west mixed up. I dropped geography at the age of 14, but I think I’ll be okay as long as no one asks me a maths question.)
Your main character is a young man who works as a police community support officer. What makes you think you can write from a man’s point of view?
Well, (long pause for thinking) I’ve never been a man, and I’ve never worked for the police either. I have, however, worked in a prison with quite a lot of men in uniform, so this was probably quite useful.
(I’m not sure that was the right answer, afterwards I think I should have mentioned that I had two older brothers, I have two sons, a husband and I went to a boy’s school for two years. This is the thing about these events; you hope you’ll get the same questions next time, because by then you’ll sound a lot cleverer.)
Will there be a sequel?
Yes, and it also features PCSO Sean Denton.
(What I don’t say is that I should really be writing it now, not drinking tea and eating biscuits with these lovely people, but suddenly talking about writing feels so much easier and more fun than actually doing it.)
Do you have a writing routine?
No. I wish I did. I don’t have an anything routine apart from feeding the cats because they remind me at exactly the same time every day. It is a miracle to me that I have finished writing a whole book and it will be a miracle if I ever finish the second one because I think I suffer from borderline attention deficit disorder. I don’t often sit down and I rarely sit still, so I how I sat down for long enough to write and edit To Catch a Rabbit is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps I have a quiet twin who did it for me.
(I actually say all this, very fast, as the librarian puts the coffee out of my reach and looks scared that I might run around and break something in the library.)
Is your novel driven by character or plot?
Good question. The plot is crucial in crime fiction because it drives the energy, however, I’d say my characters drive the plot.
(First sensible answer. I begin to think I’m getting the hang of this.)
Driving brings me neatly back to trains and April’s blog competition.
My favourite submission was from Richard Carpenter whose train journey took him on a slightly surreal journey. Short fiction really lends itself to the unusual and this is no exception. I’ve posted his story, IT-rain, below. But first news of a new competition, not run by YorkMix this time, but sent to us from Rommi Smith, who is Parliamentary Writer in Residence. There are actual prizes!
Meanwhile, I hope to see some of you on my travels, check out the author events page on my website and come and catch me out with a maths question. Now, here’s Richard’s story…
IT-rain by Richard Carpenter
“Your face is dirty, don’t you ever wash?”
I stow my papers, look up and examine the couple who are now sitting opposite. Having checked my papers, and the applicant’s technically impressive CV, I can now enjoy my surroundings. My new companions are pleasing. My wife has trained my eye so I can see that the young lady is perfectly dressed; not one item out of place in colour or cut. My wife would nod approval and remind me that the wrap is one of her designs.
Now I could see what she meant about her companion; hoody, loose trousers at half-mast and shaggy hair. But his IT kit was top drawer and this is my interest. I let my mind wander and toy with rhyme;
Your neck is lined with filth as black as tar.
She fixed me with a stare.
“What’s this with soap, you never will go far.”
Now she was playing my wife’s trick and reading my mind. I removed her full stop and mentally continued.
without a suit. Composed, now almost brash,
I’d back this youth to never make a hash.
“Petrachan sonnet form. I like you removing the full stop. A caesura too?”
Now this was too much. I had not said a word. My wife had always seemed skilled at reading people’s mind. I had just thought it well-honed female intuition. Could my wife read my mind this well? Did she know every time I lusted for another or praised her faulty cooking?
“No. Our power is masked by physical love. Intuition yes; telepathic powers no. So your wife is a designer as well? We are both going for interviews today. Little brother is after an IT job.”
So this had been a ‘big sister’ tirade about appearance. Not that it mattered to me. I would be looking for skill.
“Excuse me.” The youth had removed his head phones and was looking, open faced, straight at me. “Do you work in London? Perhaps you could direct me to this address on Euston Road.”
“No trouble, walk with me.” I replied.
The youth and I were soon lost in the IT cloud, much to big sister’s frustration.
“No, I can’t read a mind booted up in IT mode!” she snapped.
“Well, that makes your brother safe,” I laughed. We had all stopped at my office.
“You work here? Can you direct me to Mr Smith?” the youth asked.
“That’s me.” I replied, wondering if it should be I. Me, I – I, me?
“O! Switch it off sister and find a coffee” We said in unison, high fiving into my office.
She did a volta, Jimmy Choos clicking on the parquet floor;
Memo; Detailed report to my wife over supper. Who was she interviewing today? Check re: her telepathic powers.
Ask Darrel how many IT geeks are female.
Helen Cadbury is a York-based writer whose debut novel, To Catch A Rabbit, is joint winner of the Northern Crime Award, and is published by Moth Publishing. To find out more about Helen, check out her website