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The Privileges of the Author

It's a special way of life, being an author.

I won't call it a job because I've never seen it that way - for me, it's a love affair.

There's an almost mystical status attached to it. Witness this, from the Callington Book Fair, in Cornwall, where I was fortunate enough to be invited along at the weekend (thanks to all concerned for making me very welcome).


The yellow piece of card is what marked the table for my books when I arrived at the fair. No more words were seen as necessary, simply that - amongst all the many bookstalls - this space was reserved for the "Author".

There are all the usual benefits authors get to talk about, like the places they travel and the people they meet. I've been very fortunate on both scores.

But the greatest privilege, in my humble view, is this; reduce the author's role to its basics and it comes out as -

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The Writing Seasons

It took me a few years to notice it, but there are definitely right and wrong seasons in which to set a book.

It was only after my fourth novel, The Judgment Book - a lovely cheery tale of human follies, blackmail and death - that I realised I tend to set my stories in the winter or autumn.

That wasn't planned in any grand sense, that they were the best times for creating the atmosphere I intended, it just happened.

And then I worked out why - if you're writing crime, with all the darkness it entails, you don't want lots of sunshine and light about, do you? That combo only goes and makes people happy and smiley, and you just can't have that in a crime novel.

I suspect it's down to the all important feel thing of this writing lark. You don't stop to ask why, you may not even know, but the way you write something just feels like it's doing the job.

On the subject of seasons, and feeling right, a quick visual interlude from these autumn days -

Seasons quay.jpg

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How to be Photographed

When I was first published, and began doing book talks and signings, I used to worry about being photographed; what to wear and the right kind of expression to adopt.

It's not easy as a crime writer. Try to look a little suitably mean and moody and, in my case anyway, it runs the risk of frightening children. But my best attempts at smiles would often have people wondering whether to call the police.

Eventually I just stopped worrying, and that seems to be the best policy. I did a couple of talks about media careers at the excellent St Peter's School in Exeter this week -

simon in group.JPG

This is a posed shot, which I'm always less comfortable with. My tip for getting a decent result here is to make sure the background or surroundings are more photogenic than me, and what a great bunch of youngsters they were.

But I think the best photographic results come from the natural, in action pictures, when you're just doing your thing and not worrying about the camera -

Saint peters show.JPG

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Effort and Achievement

I chose the title for this blog because it took me back to school days - I never used to get terribly good grades in either category.

But I was privileged to be asked to an event this week which left me thinking about the familiar old phrase -

Park school leavers.jpg

These are some of the award winners from the Leavers Evening at Park School in North Devon, and what a very fine group they were. It was a delight to come along, say a few words, and give out the awards. Thanks to everyone for looking after me so well.

What I was thinking about was the effort that we, as writers, put into such events, because it's by no means inconsiderable - and what we get out of them.

There's the speech itself, with was only 6 or 7 minutes, but took me several hours of outlining, agonising and then rehearsing to put together.

On top of that, there's the actual getting to the venue and the evening itself. Which, if you were to be a ruthless accountant about this writing life, you might question whether it's worth the time?

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The Loneliness of Writing

I was busily writing away one evening this week, when I realised something surprising -

I hadn't actually had a proper, face to face conversation with anyone all day.

Sure, I'd chatted to a few people on the phone and sent some emails, but that was it. I was so taken aback I made myself get out of the house and go for a walk, just to bid a classical English "Good Evening!" to some fellow members of the human race.

(Maybe I was checking the world was, in fact, still there.)

On the walk, around my beloved River Exe, I took a photo which seemed to sum up what I was thinking -

Lonely bridge.jpg

Writing can be a lonely business.

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