Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Shetland Noir: some news!

As I've mentioned on my blog before, we spent our summer holiday in Sweden this year. I didn't know very much about Sweden before we went, but I love visiting new places, so I visited windmills and churches, shopped at Gekås Ullared AB, and tucked into kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) with merry glee. For a writer, no experience is ever wasted, and this proved to be the case once again because not long after we returned from Sweden I heard about a writing competition with a Nordic twist.

Organised by the Shetland Noir book festival, the competition was to write a piece of crime fiction of between 500 and 1000 words in length which included the following ingredients: at least one corpse, or part thereof; one darkened room; at least one Nordic reference; blood; the misuse of at least one kitchen utensil; a telephone that rings unanswered. I love a challenge, and I very much enjoyed trying to think up a story that could fit all of those things into 1000 words, but I was very grateful that I had spent my holidays in Sweden - otherwise I am not sure what my Nordic reference would have been! (An ABBA record playing in the background, perhaps...)

My main reason for entering the competition was that the first prize was travel to and from Shetland Noir. I didn't think the chances of my actually winning first prize were very high, but I really, really, wanted to go to the festival, and of course, if you don't try, you definitely don't get anywhere. So I got to work, and wove in a lot of memories from our holiday - the story is set in Haverdal, where we stayed, for example. I even gave my hero a kanelbulle to eat! (I'm envious.) The story is called The Beach House, and it is the first piece of adult crime writing I have ever done, although my novels, which are usually categorised as YA, have a strong adult readership too. I especially enjoyed thinking about "the misuse of at least one kitchen utensil" - so many gruesome possibilities!

Anyway, to cut a long story short: my story did win first prize. So I'm thrilled to say that I'll be going to Shetland Noir in a couple of weeks' time to receive the Jimmy Perez Trophy - named, of course, after the hero of the well-known series of crime novels by Ann Cleves, who very kindly sponsored the prize. As well as attending some of the festival events, I'm really looking forward to visiting Shetland itself, as I've never been there before. In fact, I've never been that far north before - I think the furthest north I have ever been in my life is Moscow! So I'll be sure to take loads of photographs and try to see as much as I can. Who knows - perhaps further stories will suggest themselves when I'm there? I'm very often inspired by interesting locations.

If you're interested in attending Shetland Noir, it takes place on 13th-15th November 2015 (how very apt, to have a crime fiction festival beginning on Friday 13th!) and the full programme can be found here: Shetland Noir programme

(Above) The beach at Haverdal: scene of gruesome fictional events...

PS Since writing this, I've been asked by a few people when and where they can read The Beach House. I've been talking to the organisers of Shetland Noir about it, and the current plan is to produce a printed pamphlet for the festival, comprising my winning story and the two stories that won second and third place. I don't yet know whether this will be something that non-attendees can get hold of, but if not I will ensure that my story becomes more widely available in due course, either online or in print.

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