My favourite professional memory of 2013 is a very recent one: I self-published my debut crime novel, ‘No Stranger to Death‘, on 20th November. I announced the launch on Twitter and Facebook, and sent out emails to lots of friends. Everyone was amazingly helpful in spreading the word, and by the next morning my book had reached the giddy heights of Number 17 in the Scottish crime e-books chart, nestling next to a couple of Ian Rankin’s novels. It was an amazing feeling.
I can pinpoint my favourite single moment of 2013: late in the evening of Saturday July 20th at the annual Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. I wasn’t planning to go this year, but won a ticket on Twitter at the last minute. And then I heard Mark Billingham read out my name: I’d won the Festival raffle, which included two tickets, plus accommodation, for 2014’s event. My husband John will also have a character named after him in Ann Cleeves’ next Vera novel. That’s some prize.
My favourite cultural experience unrelated to books was visiting a fantastic exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art of work by SJ Peploe. Samuel Peploe was a post-Impressionist, one of four artists known as the Scottish Colourists, and is famed for his still life paintings. In June, we also saw a wonderful live version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at the Regent’s Park open air theatre.
My favourite read of 2013 has to be ‘Alex‘ by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne. Frank and Pierre appeared at CrimeFest in May, and made such an appealing double act that I just had to buy the book. It’s not an easy read (especially if the mere thought of rats is enough to make you shudder) but it is a fascinating story of past evil deeds and revenge.
We rarely go to the cinema these days; middle-aged people aren’t most films’ target audience. But at the Berwick-upon-Tweed Film Festival, I caught an adaptation of Camilla Lackberg’s ‘The Hidden Child‘, which was Scandi-crime at its best. 2013 was also notable for my first experience of 3D cinema: we saw the latest ‘Star Trek‘ film while on holiday in London. Sadly, it wasn’t a patch on the first, even with Benedict Cumberbatch and those daft specs.
I’m even less up-to-date with modern music than I am with recent films! In fact, I regressed to the 1970s while editing ‘No Stranger to Death’, because I gave my main character a library of CDs which she had inherited from her late husband. For example, in Chapter 2 she’s listening to Supertramp, who were one of my favourite bands when I was in the sixth form at school.
I recognise that many people have had far worse things to deal with this year, but in May I had the shocking experience of coming across the aftermath of a fox’s raid on my chickens. I don’t know which was worse: finding the bodies of the ones it left or knowing others had been taken away to be eaten. We still have a cockerel and eight hens, but lost some real characters.
I’m not one for New Year resolutions, but there is something I am determined to do during 2014: write the sequel to ‘No Stranger to Death’.
Finally, if a very rich Santa is reading this, I wouldn’t mind an original Peploe painting. Failing that, I have a weakness for sugared almonds.