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Imaginary friends

I've come to wonder whether the signs that I might make an effort at being some kind of an author were apparent when I was very young.

As a child, I had lots of imaginary friends.  And before the cynical raise a word - no, I don't think it was because I was too unpopular to make any real friends! I just liked inventing characters to accompany me through life.

So it goes on today with the tvdetective books.  I'm currently working on some ideas for characters (aside from the usual suspects) for a new novel.  This is another part of the writing process that I find great fun, because it gives such scope for invention.

Akin to many writers I've been lucky enough to meet, I particularly enjoy putting together the villains.  It was something I was asked about last month, when I was doing some work in a couple of schools, and a very good question too - why is it that the bad guys and gals are often the most memorable in books and films?

After some frantic thinking, the answer I came up with was this - that with the goodies, they're usually all good in roughly the same way.  But with baddies, they can be bad in a delightful range of manners, so giving a writer far more scope for creativity.

Anyway, back to the original point, after yet another Hall digression (apologies), and imaginary friends. 

What I was going to say - confess in fact - is that the habit of creating and keeping them has effectively stayed with me, even to this day.  When I'm inventing a character for the books and I think I know enough about them, I'll have a chat with them, to see if I can be sure how they'll respond.  If I'm getting it right, then I'll know the character is working - I'm familiar enough with them to write about them convincingly.

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Psychology

I'm in the plotting phase for a new tvdetective book, which those unfortunates who regularly read my ramblings will know is one of my favourite parts of the writing process.  It's a chance to thrown wild ideas around, think some pretty daft and outrageous things, so you can see why I'd like it.

However! This current plotting process had not been going smoothly.

Without lurching into too much detail, and potentially spoiling any future books for you, I had a thought for a central theme of the new book which I reckoned would make a good plot. I was working away at it, but knew there was something missing.  I could see the end, I could see the beginning, but there was a strand running through the middle which I just couldn't visualise, try as I might.

The result was that I started getting frustrated and grumpy (some may say more grumpy than usual), and progressively disillusioned with the whole idea.

Then, on Thurs evening, after a long day's school I transported myself to a local pub and sat with my notebook working on it.  After approximately a pint and a half (a standard Hall measure of time) the solution just popped into my head.

The relief was wonderful - it required another pint to celebrate, naturally - and I've been pretty much smiling ever since.  The world now looks a much happier place, and I've been feeling energetic and very keen to start writing again.  All that stemming from just one second's inspiration.

So, I was reflecting just how much we can be influenced by little bits of psychology. Have a good moment and suddenly the momentum of life feels like it's with you.

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Food and drink

Another good question has arrived in my inbox, and it asks this - how important are food and drink in the tvdetective books?

Yet again, it's got me thinking about how - subconsciously - significant parts of myself find their way into my writing.

On a basic level, I suppose the answer is that food and drink are important to all of us being that they help sustain us on the planet, and so both are present in the books to an extent.  But it's also obviously the case they mean more to some than others. 

For me, as you may have noticed, I am fond of beer.  Yes, I know that's a masterpiece of understatement, but I thought I'd say it anyway.  I feel blessed to live in Devon for a great many reasons - the people, the scenery, the history, the quality of life, all that kind of stuff - but another factor is that we have some wonderful breweries here, who produce quite the finest ales I've ever tasted.  And taste them I do. 

I often wonder if my love of beer goes back to me being born in a pub, but that's another story...

So, as I was saying, beer features in the books a fair bit, because Dan and Adam both like a pint, and will often pop to a pub for a drink and to discuss a case.  We've got some brilliant pubs in the south west too, but I'll stop there (for now) as I'll only digress again otherwise.

As for food, don't get me wrong, I love a good meal, but it doesn't play the dominant role in my life that it does for some who seem to spend a fair portion of their lives in restaurants.  I'm not into restaurants and fine dining - I find that all a tad too formal for my more relaxed taste - my idea of an ideal night is a gastro pub, with great dishes and ales to complement them.

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Favouritism and questions

Thanks to the kind folk of Ashburton and Charmouth who came along to see my talks at their library and literary festival respectively.  Thanks also for some very good questions.

From my experience of other authors, I've noticed a stark divide in their view of questions.  Some love that part of a talk, others hate it.  I suspect that's because most of a session can be controlled, with the author talking about their work, inspirations, reading from their books, all the usual kind of thing, and some writers like it that way. It's only when the questions arrive that things can get a little more unpredictable.

I'm of the school that likes the questions session, for the very reason that you never know what's going to come up, and it can really force you to think on your feet.   Well, one such fine question came up at Ashburton.

Which of the tvdetective books is my favourite, I was asked?

Now, this is a tough one, because I do have a favourite.  I'm just not sure I should reveal it!

I wonder if it's a little like a parent being asked which of their brood of children is their favourite.  If they were absolutely honest, they might admit they did have one, but would never say which.

So in that tradition I kind of take a literary version of the Fifth Amendment and don't answer - better to let you decide which you think is the best of the set so far, and wonder if I would agree?!

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The table turned

It's a strange experience being interviewed - after all, given my job, I'm used to being the one who asks the questions!

I was musing on how it felt after a couple of media interviews in the last week, for the Western Morning News and Radio Devon.  And it strikes me it's not so easy as you may think, fielding questions.  You reckon you've got the answers prepared for all that you're going to be challenged with and then up comes something you weren't expecting.

The point I'm thinking of particularly was a question about the dedication and acknowledgements in The Balance of Guilt.  They're very personal to me, and are there because I wanted to recognise in print some important events in my life.  But being asked about them brings it all back of course, and that inevitably means a lump in the throat and a reddening of the eyes - and all that in mid interview!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, the questions I was asked were perfectly fair, I've no problem with them at all - in fact, the interviewers were two of the region's finest journalists and presenters, people of great talent in my humble view.  I just thought it was odd how you can be at full steam, talking about your precious books, and then up rears the past and bites you. Ah well, such is life, I suppose.

Anyway, I'm grateful for the interest in my scribblings and the thoughtful and gentle way I was interviewed.  The Radio Devon sequence is still on line - if you're interested in listening, see the news page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html  You need to go 2 hours and 11 minutes into the programme.  The interview includes yours truly reading the first couple of pages of The Balance of Guilt, the first time I've done that live on air.  See what you think!

One final thing to mention here. If you fancy something to do on Saturday and you're in the Dorset area, there's the excellent Charmouth Literary Festival, at which I'm doing a guest slot.  It's a wonderful town and a great idea, which I'm delighted to support.  There are more details on the News and Events page, opposite the link to the radio interview.

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Events nerves

A question arrives. Do I get nervous at book events? I'm asked. 

It's a good question, particularly when my correspondent thoughtfully argues that surely I don't, given that I often appear live on the television with hundreds of thousands of people watching, as opposed to a few dozen at an event.

Fair point, but as so often when logic comes up against emotion, the emotion wins easily. I get very nervous, and for two reasons I think.

The first is that being a reporter, you have to be dispassionate, neutral, detached from what you're covering, however hard that might be. But when you write these book things, it's impossible not to let part of your real self slip into them.  They can almost be an insight into your soul, and baring that in public is a very scary thing to do.

The second part to the nerves is rather more practical.  On the TV, I can't see the masses of people watching.  But with a live audience, it feels very much more real. 

So the answer is a big yes!  I do get nervous, and sometimes horribly so.  But I also think that's healthy, as it helps to give you that edge and makes you perform.  If I didn't get jittery, I suspect I'd think something was wrong.

The question is well timed. I'm just setting off for a Readers' Day at Bournemouth Library.  I'm not due there for another 3 hours, and I'm already getting nervous... so imagine what it'll be like when I walk in and see all the people.  Gulp!

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Lots of nerves and even more thanks

Firstly, a big thank you to the lovely readers and even lovelier librarians of Torpoint and Looe in Cornwall, for looking after me when I visited to talk about the tvdetective books.

As you now know, you were amongst the first victims of my little ramblings about The Balance of Guilt, and I was delighted - and more than a little relieved - at your reactions to the new book.

It is an odd experience this writing lark, when you shut yourself away for weeks, trying to finish a book.  And even when it's done, then rewritten, edited and published, more than a few attacks of doubt creep in - is the thing actually any good?

It's only when you read some of the book to an audience do you get a sense of that - and I was so pleased by your response.  I see the first few reviews have also appeared on Amazon.  If youre interested, you can have a look via the books page - www.thetvdetective.com/books.html

Thanks also to the wonderful teachers and very boisterous youngsters of Willowbrook School in Exeter.  I was visiting to talk about writing, and possibly even more nervous than with the events I did at Torpoint and Looe!  I can now confess that I've never tried to explain my love of words and books to primary school children before, so it was an entirely new experience and way out of the Hall comfort zone.

However! I had a fantastic day, and suspect I might even have learnt more than the youngsters themselves.  If they're reading this - a big hello to Years 5 and 6!  And remember - keep reading and keep writing, they're brilliant things to do, as I hope we all discovered together.

Finally for this post, if you're in Dorset and fancy a day out on Saturday (9th Oct), there's a Readers' Day at Bournemouth Library, at which yours truly will be appearing.  There are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html

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Something new

I have had a new experience. Stop sniggering, before you even think it, it's nothing of a naughty nature.

It's this - I have been the subject of my first podcast.  Now, those of you who are regular readers of the tvdetective blog will know I'm no great adopter of new technology. It took long enough to persuade the Luddite Hall to write a blog, after all.  So a podcast?  Wow! That's so futuristic it's akin to one of those Star Trek transporter things to this writer. However, being the intrepid, boldly going chap I am (well, almost), I gave it a try.

I'm pleased to report it didn't hurt, and I even found it all rather pleasant, if somewhat odd.

Perhaps I should explain a little more.  When I was at the excellent Writers Holiday in Wales in the summer, I met the even more excellent James Nash, a poet, writer, raconteur, and all round good egg.  He was kind enough to ask me to feature on his podcast, so I steeled myself and agreed.

In fact, all I had to do was be interviewed, but that in itself is a strange experience for the Hall creature. I'm used to asking the questions!

Anyhow, we did the interview, and I can now reveal that it has been unleashed on the world wide web thing. If you'd like to hear a few mins of me being grilled to within an inch of my existence about the tvdetective books, you can do so on the podcast section of James' website - www.jamesnash.co.uk/podcast/

One more thing for this post, I've got quite a few events coming up in October, to mark the publication of The Balance of Guilt. You can keep up to date with them on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html

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