Review of 2016: Jacky Collins

Over 2016, I’ve met lots of fantastic people. Jacky Collins, organiser of Newcastle Noir, is one of those people. Jacky not only assists me with the hosting of Noir at the Bar, she is a wonderful friend who is enthusiastic about crime fiction. Jacky has given support and encouragement to hundreds of writers and I find her energy a great source of inspiration.

I’m so thrilled to have Jacky on the blog to review her 2016. Thanks, Jacky, for being a fabulous friend, here’s to many more happy years! 

Vic x

15817903_10158077765085002_1855225046_o

When considering a favourite memory to do with the professional, rather than focus on the murky waters of Higher Education, I’d prefer to look back on all the exciting things that have happened through the amazing world of crime fiction. Although the hosting of a very successful Newcastle Noir crime writing festival in April was, without doubt, a major high point in the year, my favourite memory came from another similar event at the end of the year – Iceland Noir. I was thrilled when the organisers of the festival had invited me to moderate 2 panels – Dangerous Nordic Women (Jónína Leosdóttir, Sara Blaedel, Sólveig Pálsdottir and Lena Leetolainen) and Queer Crime (Mari Hannah, Lilja Sigurđardóttir and David Swatling). Of course, without hesitation, I said ‘yes’, especially relishing the opportunity to discuss crime writing with an alternative focus which the 2nd panel provided. Little did I know that I was in for an even bigger surprise with this session – both Val McDermid (Queen of Tartan Noir) and Yrsa Sigurđardóttir both wanted in on the debate. I have to confess that the inclusion of two such world-renowned crime writers made me rather nervous. However, the skillful interaction of the panellists and the warm reception of the audience made this the highlight of my year in all this noir.

iceland-noir-panel

If I’m allowed, I’d have to say there have been a series of special moments with one common denominator – the meeting of like-minded women around creative projects. So I have to say a huge thank you to Vic Watson, Shelley Day, Donna-Lisa Healy and Sue Spencer. Not all our ventures are focused on crime writing, but the opportunity to channel my energies into culturally creative endeavours really helped me get over what had been a difficult time emotionally and professionally.

15785676_10158077765180002_1963509097_o

This is an even more difficult decision to make what with my own private reading and the books that we read for Newcastle City Library’s European Crime Fiction group. Nevertheless, I think I’d have to say Quentin Bates’ Thin Ice since it reunited me with my all-time favourite crime fiction character Icelandic police officer Sergeant Gunnhildur and also because the novel offers a very interesting portrayal of the mother/daughter dynamic. If you’re not familiar with this author’s work, and you’re into Nordic Noir, I highly recommend his Gunnhildur series to you.

15785396_10158077764950002_1278298736_o

As part of my job as Senior Lecturer in Film and TV studies at Northumbria University I often include Latin American cinema in my modules. So when the Tyneside Cinema approached me to provide the introductions for a short season of New Argentine Cinema, I leapt at the chance.  Amongst the works screened was an earlier Pablo Trapero film Lion’s Den (Leonera, 2008). Filmed inside a real prison, with real inmates, this hard-hitting film explores motherhood as experienced behind bars and also questions the lack of equality found in Argentina’s justice system. As ever, Trapero uses his work to ask deeply probing questions of society, the unexpected ending providing much cause for contemplation and discussion.

I can identify 2 downsides, these were juggling too many balls and not being able to let go of the past. Why I have mentioned both these aspects is because I reckon they have both prevented me from making all the progress that I could have this year. I’m hoping for 2017 that I can prioritise better and cut the ties to those aspects of my life that no longer serve.

15821015_10158077765045002_564379144_o

As well as what I’ve said above, I’ve also determined to focus on something blogger Noelle Holten posted this month on Facebook: ‘If you’re doing what you love, everything in the Universe will gravitate towards you. This is how the world works. Don’t waste time impressing others or doing something that doesn’t feed your soul. Take a leap of faith and jump into your passion’. That passion for me is crime fiction, film & TV drama.

More than anything from 2017, I hope to take steps that bring me closer to changing careers paths and also to be able to spend more time in Iceland, a country that I believe holds the key to that change.

Review of 2016: Sandra Ireland

Today we’re joined on the blog by the lovely Sandra Ireland who’s here to review her year. I know it’s a funny time of year – the week between Christmas and New Year – so thanks to Sandra for taking the time to appear on the blog.

Vic x

book-signing

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
I suppose everyone says ‘The Book Launch’, which is absolutely true! Mine was in St Stephens, Stockbridge, and hosted by a wonderful indie bookshop, Golden Hare Books. My publisher Polygon selected this venue as my novel Beneath the Skin is set right around the corner! But I have so many great memories of 2016, including being invited to take part in Bloody Scotland’s ‘Spotlight on Crime’ event.

 

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
2016 has been a BIG year. In April, I was a awarded Creative Scotland funding to undertake a year-long creative residency at NTS Barry Mill, Angus, and in May my son Jamie married his lovely girl, Lizzie, at the Mill. The ceremony took place beneath a gorgeous old apple tree. Not a dry eye in the place!

barry-mill-wedding-436-of-618

Favourite book in 2016?
So many to choose from. At the moment I’m reading Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch‘, after seeing the painting in Edinburgh. Such a beautifully-written novel, and that sense of place bestowed by basing it around an actual artefact: brilliant! I’ve tried to do something similar with by second novel, which is set in a fictional version of Barry Mill. I love the idea of literary tourism.

goldfinch

Favourite film in 2016?
Tricky. I’m not a fan of anything connected with ‘Star Wars‘ or action/ adventure/ superhero stuff, and I don’t like all the hype surrounding cinema releases. I’m a rather-read-the-book type! I did enjoy ‘Sunset Song‘ last year, but I guess that doesn’t count! This year I went to see ‘Room‘, and ‘The Girl on the Train‘ which were both just okay!

Favourite song of the year?
I’m a big Nick Cave fan, so I would have to say that my go-to song for a bit of Gothic writing inspiration is his ‘Red Right Hand’. Since it’s the theme for Peaky Blinders (beautifully-written) I think that qualifies it to be included in my 2016 highlights!

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Mainly family stuff. I suppose bright light casts a long shadow, and alongside the good fortune of having my book published are the things that can’t be helped but must be endured. My father is nearly 93 and doesn’t keep well. However he’s doing okay at the moment. My younger son, Calum, is in Australia and managed to come back for the wedding. Neither of them made it to the book launch, which was sad but unavoidable. I missed them both.That’s the writing life – it’s a strange career choice; you just have to write through the downsides of life.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I like to see what the Universe has in store for me – I like to be led by my intuition, so no resolutions for me. Too much like taking control! I do have goals, though.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I hope to get my second novel published, and to build on the other strand of my writing life which is as a tutor/facilitator. I’m about to start working with Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust on a creative writing project at a local Macmillan Centre. I love the idea of well-being through the arts, so I’d like to do more of that in the New Year. I’m hoping for lots of good health, energy, enthusiasm and tolerance in 2017!

Thank you so much for sharing this space with me! Wishing yourself and all my writing friends every success and help from a friendly Muse in the New Year!

Review of 2016: KA Richardson

The prolific KA Richardson is reviewing her year for us today. I had the pleasure of spending time with Kerry at lots of events this year including Newcastle Noir, Harrogate and Noir at the Bar. 

It’s a real pleasure to see her career as a writer go from strength to strength – I don’t know how she does it! Thanks for being a part of it, Kerry! 

Vic x

ka-richardson

Wow 2016 has been a busy one! So much going on I feel like I’ve met myself coming the other way at times. But it’s been an interesting one!

escape

Starting at the beginning is always the best bet I think. March saw the publication of my short story, Escape, which was published by Caffeine Nights – only 100 hard copies were produced so if you got your hands on one then well done you as it’s pretty rare! With Deadly Intent, my first novel in the North East Police series was published in April – and I started promoting, had a launch party and had contact with lots of lovely readers who had fallen in love with Cass and Alex, as I did. I never in my wildest dreams truly believed that people would enjoy my writing – and this gave me the first burst of confidence in my writing and belief in myself.

with-deadly-intent

Those who know me know I’m generally really positive – and I am. But I’ve always suffered with confidence issues and my writing has helped me nourish the belief that I could actually do something other than my day job.

April was an exciting month for other reasons too – I approached Bloodhound Books to see if any other publishers would be interested in my writing – the fabulous Eileen Wharton had been published by them had found them to be amazing and, in truth, I was genuinely curious to know whether my books would be sellable elsewhere. Within 24 hours of the submission, Bloodhound had offered me a 3 book deal. This left me with some thinking to do as obviously I already had a publisher. In the end, though, I made the difficult decision and moved to Bloodhound which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.

ive-been-watching-you

They published my second novel, I’ve Been Watching You in June – and the sales blew me away! It got to number 24 in the paid Kindle chart and was a Kindle All Star 3 months in a row! I’m still in shock at this! So many lovely readers bought it and enjoyed it. This humbled me greatly. And still does.

time-to-play

Because I’m one of those folks who is ultra organised, I actually had books 2 and 3 complete when I approached Bloodhound, and book 4 was well under way. Thanks to it being finished, Bloodhound also published book 3 in the series, Time to Play, in September 2016! So, three novels out within the first nine months of the year. Even saying that makes me sit back and go ‘wow’. It still all feels a little surreal! Almost like it’s happening to someone else. But it’s not – my writing is doing better than I’d ever imagined. And it’s here I’d like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who’s bought the books. It’s the readers that make this all worthwhile and I have so much love for all of you.

I had the opportunity in the later half of the year to be part of something amazing too – I was asked by Bloodhound to produce a short story to be included in an anthology in which all proceeds go to fabulous charities – Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal. Hospice UK provide support for over 200 hospices in the UK, and Sophie’s Appeal was set up by the mother of Sophie Barringer who died from a rare form of cancer. The fund supports other people who suffer. It was an honour to be asked to participate, and even greater honour to be included in something that raises both money and awareness of such great causes. There are 41 short stories in the anthology, Dark Minds, from some absolutely cracking authors, like MA Comley, LJ Ross, Jim Ody, and Betsy Reavley, and it’s available for purchase in ebook, paperback and audiobook via Amazon and in all good bookshops.

dark-minds

2016 has been amazing for all the above reasons – but also challenging in areas not just related to writing, and not just for me, for lots of people I know. I’ve been struggling with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects my joints giving pain and swelling, but also can give bad fatigue which for me, has been horrendous. It’s impacted on so many aspects of my life – work, writing and even my home life. It’s hard adapting to having a disease for which there is no cure, only management, but I’m getting there slowly. My husband, Peter, was rushed into hospital a few weeks ago and was in for almost 2 weeks – he’s been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which is basically ulcers on his colon and large intestine – another auto-immune disease. But despite this, we’ve had so much support from our friends, and relatives, both in real life and online. It’s helped us both come to terms with what we have, and continues to give us the support and love.

I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened this year – both good and bad. Sometimes you need the bad to show you just how strong you are and can be when you have no other choice. And to show you the things in life you shouldn’t take for granted. I have amazing friends, fantastic family, and a whole host of people online who show me every day that life is for living. So I’m going to just forget the bad side of 2016, and focus on all the amazing things that have happened. 2017 will be a great year – because I will make it a great year. Thank you all for being here for me as I’ve hopefully been here for you- I hope 2017 is as fantastic for you as it will be for me. Much love.  Xx

Review of 2016: Ever Dundas

That very well-connected Shelley Day not only introduced us to Catherine Simpson t’other day, but she’s also encouraged the fab Ever Dundas to be a part of our 2016 review.

Thanks for being a part of it, Ever! 

Vic x

ever-and-jenny-signing-freight-contract

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
It has to be my agent calling me to say Freight Books had put in an offer for my novel ‘Goblin‘. Weirdly, the first person I told about it was Terry Gilliam. I’d received the call just as I was rushing out to see him unveil the Don Quixote quote for Edinburgh City of Literature’s Words on the Street. By the time I got there it was all over, but I knew he was heading back to London so I impulsively jumped on his train and possibly maybe babbled at the poor man. It just felt like a strange kind of serendipity, as his film ‘Tideland‘ was an influence on ‘Goblin‘ and it felt amazing to be able to tell him that. ‘Time Bandits‘ also played a part in my love of storytelling when I was a kid.

I was also thrilled when it was confirmed that my husband would be designing the cover for ‘Goblin‘ (which will be revealed in the new year).

terry-ever

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
A holiday to Oxford and London with my husband. In Oxford we visited locations where the film ‘Accident‘ was filmed. I’m a big Dirk Bogarde fan, so walking in his footsteps felt amazing and a little melancholy.

Another highlight was visiting Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Part of my novel is set in WWII London when my protagonist, Goblin, is a kid. She spends a lot of time in Kensal Green Cemetery and I’d researched it online – reading about it, looking at photographs and maps. I was worried it would disappoint, but it was perfect. I actually got goosebumps – I could clearly see Goblin and her dog Devil running round the cemetery.

Making it down to Oxford and London felt like a real achievement too. I have fibromyalgia (chronic pain and exhaustion) and my world had shrunk because of it. I was quite anxious about travelling, but I implemented some coping strategies (pacing, using a wheelchair off and on) I learned on a Pain Course and it worked. It was a struggle, but it was manageable. It’s still not easy for me to get around, but my world has opened up again.

ever-in-kensal-green-cemetery

Favourite book in 2016?
I re-read ‘Annihilation‘ by Jeff VanderMeer for book group and loved it all over again – it’s unnerving, disturbing and beautiful. Definitely one I’ll keep returning to.

If ‘Annihilation‘ is one of the best novels I’ve read, ‘The Lonely City‘ by Olivia Laing is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve had the pleasure to immerse myself in; a brilliant incisive book that faces the taboo of loneliness head-on.

I was going to mention Naomi Alderman’s novel ‘The Power‘, but I’ve written about that elsewhere, so instead I’ll highlight my favourite short story of 2016 – Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life‘ (the Denis Villenueve film ‘Arrival‘ was based on it). I stumbled across this truly stunning, well-crafted story in a sci-fi omnibus. It’s a fascinating slow-burner that’s both a cerebral and an emotional journey and it blew me away.

Favourite film in 2016?
Without a doubt, it has to be ‘High Rise‘. I’m a JG Ballard fan and this felt like the perfect adaptation of his novel. Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley really brought the novel to life, injecting it with wry humour. The acting was all superb (if I was to cast my fantasy movie version of ‘Goblin‘ it would include most of the cast from ‘High Rise‘) and the design was delicious. It’s a very relevant film, and Portishead’s melancholy SOS sums up how many people feel about 2016.

I also adore Karyn Kusama’s ‘The Invitation‘, which seriously creeped me out. The less you know about it the better – just get your hands on it.

Favourite song of the year?
I’ve had Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart‘ on repeat. The video with Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf is very powerful.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
The world is on fire.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Use social media differently. I find it sucks up too much of my headspace – I need more time to think.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
My first novel, ‘Goblin‘, comes out in 2017 and I’m hoping it will do well enough for me to continue in my career as a writer.

I hope I can help put out the 2016 fire in any small way I can. I will raise awareness of disability and chronic illness and how broken and needlessly punitive the benefits system is. I will work to eradicate speciesism and I will be a voice that celebrates difference, multiplicity and complexity. As Joanna Bourke said, here’s to “being more than human.”

Review of 2016: Paul D. Brazill

Paul D. Brazill has been one of my champions for many years. Paul was responsible for publishing my short story Cry Baby in True Brit Grit – a charity anthology – in among a selection of awesome writers.

Oh, and you might remember that Tess Makovesky picked Paul’s collection of short stories The Last Laugh as one of her top reads of 2016 so it’s with great pleasure I present to you Paul D. Brazill’s review of 2016. 

And as a special Christmas treat, you may find a wee preview of some of Paul’s work in this very post. 

Thanks for everything, Paul!

Vic x

Paul D Brazill

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Well, I’m guessing that by professionally you mean writing-wise, though I certainly don’t make a living out of writing!
It was great to get 2 books published again this year. The Last Laugh was published by All Due Respect Books and Caffeine Nights Publishing put out Cold London Blues. Here’s a clip from Cold London Blues, if you fancy:

‘On the opposite balcony, a tall man with long black hair took breadcrumbs from a plastic bag and threw them in the air. Black birds darted down from telephone lines where they had been lined up like notes on sheet music. The birds flew towards the tall man, landing on his balcony and sometimes on him. His raucous, joyous laughter brought an unfamiliar smile to Father Tim’s face.

On the street below, he could see a branch of a small general dealer with a bright green logo above the door, as well as an old bicycle factory that had recently been converted into a Wetherspoons pub, and a stretch of hip bars, including Noola’s Saloon, its green neon sign flickering intermittently.

The street bustled with the drunken debris of the previous night’s New Year’s Eve parties. The still-pissed and the newly hungover mingled.  A massive skinhead in a leopard skin coat walked up to Noola’s Saloon and pressed a door bell. The door opened emitting a screech of escaping metallic music as he slipped inside. Iggy and The Stooges’ ‘Search and Destroy.’ A sense of longing enveloped Father Tim. A feeling of time passing like grains of sand through his fingers.

Father Tim felt his rheumatism bite as he inhaled his first cigarette of the day. His chest felt heavy. If ever there was time to get the hell out of London it was probably now. The quack had told him to piss off to Spain, or somewhere as sunny, for a bit, for his health’s sake. It wasn’t a bad idea, either. He could even stay at his sister-in-law’s gaff in Andalucía if he wanted. But he knew he wouldn’t stay away for long. London was in his bones. His blood. His lungs. For better or for worse.’

Cold London Blues

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
It was great to see my son start Kindergarten and to see that he enjoys it so much.

Favourite book in 2016?
For fiction I’d probably go for Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark.

Marwick is a broken man. Broken but not shattered. Marwick is a violent London gangster, an enforcer who has moved to Spain for a quieter life and who is eventually embroiled in drug smuggling, murder and more.

Published by Near To The Knuckle, Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark is fantastic. Like a Brit Grit Graham Greene it’s full of doomed romanticism, longing and shocking violence.

Beautifully, vividly  and powerfully written Marwick’s Reckoning is very highly recommended indeed.

I rarely read non-fiction finding it a tad drab for the most part however I did love Kevin Pearce’s brilliant music memoir A Moment Worth Waiting For.

The book opens with the release of Vic Godard’s What’s The Matter Boy? LP in 1980. Pearce tells the story of how Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watt and Tracey Thorne first bonded over the record, with Ben later lending her his John Martyn records and Tracey lending Ben her Aztec Camera discs. All of which led to them forming EBTG.

This anecdote is only one of the many, many stories in this exhaustive, exhausting and smartly digressive look at two years in Pearce’s life-in-music. Early Eighties post-punk soon spirals off and out to fifties Soho, Music Hall, bossa nova, Greek neo kyma,  MFP records, Tim Buckley, torch songs and much, much more. Indeed, there is so much here that an accompanying soundtrack album would have to be a box set. And what a belter it would be, too!

A Moment Worth Waiting For is the first in a recently completed trilogy and is essential reading for British men of an uncertain age, such as myself, and anyone with an interest in British pop culture.

Favourite film in 2016?
I actually didn’t see too many films this year. I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War, Zoom, High Rise, Inherent Vice, Afterlife, Hell or High Water, Blue Ruin and Green Room.

But I think, like 2105, it was another great year for telly. I watched a lot of good TV this year, most of it American and mostly crime fiction. Second seasons can be problematic, as True Detective showed, but Fargo’s second season was even better than the first – cinematic, sharp dialogue, great music and top turns from Kirstin Dunst et al.

Better Call Saul was also on top form in its second season, bittersweet and painfully funny. Happy Valley had another powerhouse performance from Sarah Lancaster and quality writing.

Marvel’s Luke Cage was probably the coolest show this year and with the best soundtrack. It dithered off a bit toward the end but still had a lot of punch.

Hap and Leonard was all loose-limbed charm, great acting and great music. Capturing the spirit and feel of Joe Lansdale’s great books.

Goliath gave the boring old legal thriller a kick in the eye. Billy Bob Thornton was particular appealing as washed up Billy MacBride but the rest of the cast were no slouches either.

Ray Donovan is probably my favourite telly show. It’s now the fourth season of TV’s most gleefully nihilistic and cruelly funny show. Great acting and top directors like John Dahl and writers like Michal Tolkin.

Favourite song of the year?
Until The Real Thing Comes Along
by Band Of Holy Joy and Husbands by Marker Starling.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
There are still no jaunting belts, as in The Tomorrow People.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
No. I’m sure to break them.  I know EXACTLY what I’m like … for better or for worse …

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Like everyone else, nice things as much as possible.

Paul D. Brazill’s books include The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovenia. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including ‘The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime’. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.

Review of 2016: Matt Wesolowski

Over the past twelve months, my path has crossed with Matt Wesolowski’s on a few occasions. Matt is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and he leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. 

Matt’s debut novella ‘The Black Land‘, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books and he’s had lots of stories published in anthologies and magazines. Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’; Crime Writing Festival 2015, his subsequent debut crime novel ‘Six Stories‘ is available through Orenda Books.

Thanks for reviewing your year for us, Matt!

Vic x

Matt

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
It has to be in May when I got the confirmation that my novel ‘Six Stories‘ was to be published by Orenda. Being published on a scale like this has been my dream ever since I can remember and even now, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I remember my legs turning to jelly…they still do if i think about it too much!

Six Stories

My favourite moment generally was seeing my son starting to learn to read. Watching him and helping him recognise words is such a privilege – he’s only five and has got a way to go but I can see the doors to a wonderful world gradually opening before him, a world that has given me such pleasure. I’m reading him Jo Nesbo’s ‘Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder‘ books at the minute. He can try Nesbo’s crime stuff when he’s a bit older!

Favourite book in 2016?
I’m in no way biased toward Orenda but they released a stunning book this year called ‘The Bird Tribunal‘ by Norwegian author Agnes Ravatn – the work is simply stunning; it reminded me of Tarjei Vesaas in its rustic poetry. I also was deeply impressed and influenced by Benjamin Myers’ ‘Turning Blue‘ – a really desolate rural thriller as well as ‘The Girls‘ by Emma Cline which is beautifully written and hold you in a vice grip until the end.

Favourite song of the year?
I listen to so much music when I’m writing, a mixture of ambience and atmospheric black metal so in that sense, individual songs often don’t stick out.

I did get into Chelsea Wolfe a lot this year –  she’s a sort of doom-folk singer. ‘Simple Death‘ off her Abyss album is just wonderfully melancholic and bleak…are you noticing a theme in these answers yet?

Favourite film in 2016?
The Witch‘ was hands down my favourite film this year. It’s set in the 17th century with this banished family of Christians trying to tame the wilds of an unforgiving forest and hindered by their own puritanical fear of the unknown. I adored the way the dialogue was lifted from genuine witch trials and of course the character of Black Philip – a goat – stole the show. It was a difficult and tense watch, genuinely unsettling.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
I feel really strongly about animal rights, especially factory farming; it’s not common knowledge that ‘mega-dairies’ are operating in this country in 2016 – huge industrial complexes which allow the cows zero outdoor grazing. For such beautiful animals to be treated this way is just diabolical.

With so much scientific advancement from our species, it makes me sad that we still think it acceptable to treat other sentient creatures as products. For example, it baffles me when a company like McDonald’s brag about having free range eggs yet the chickens they farm for meat are still kept in inhumane and unspeakable conditions.  When someone gets on the bus with a bucket of KFC, the smell makes me want to vomit.

Under a Conservative government, for whom killing animals for fun is a pastime, it won’t be long until the pox that is fox hunting will return to our lands.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I don’t ever make resolutions at new year; I’m my own harshest critic all year round…that part of my brain nags me to be a better father and a more productive writer today!

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I really hope to see more reading in 2017…I’d love to see more people enjoying books rather than social media. There’s this wonderful tradition in Iceland called Jólabókaflóðið which roughly translates as ‘Christmas book flood’ and people give each other books on Christmas eve and spend the evening reading. It’d be wonderful if we could spread that tradition worldwide.

Review of 2016: Catherine Simpson

Friend of the blog, Shelley Day recommended the lovely Catherine Simpson to review her 2016. It’s always fun to find new authors and, from what I’ve been told, Catherine is definitely one to watch! You can find Catherine on Twitter and at her website.

Thanks for being involved in the 2016 review, Catherine – hope to host you again soon! 

Vic x

Catherine Simpson

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My novel Truestory came out late 2015 with Sandstone Press so the first half of 2016 was largely spent promoting it and there were some great moments, including appearing at Aye Write in Glasgow, having my own event at the National Library of Scotland and sharing an event at Edinburgh Central Library with my daughter, Nina, for Autism Awareness Week (Nina is autistic and it was raising her that inspired my novel).

This year I also mentored two young writers for the Scottish Book Trust’s fantastic ‘What’s Your Story’ project and I was honoured to work with Artlink Edinburgh to write about the experiences of autistic people for the Midlothian autism strategy.

Central Library event

These are all happy professional memories but probably the most surreal memory was in February arriving at Hawthornden Castle in Midlothian for a writing fellowship and standing in my tiny castle bedroom overlooking the old keep, which was glittering with frost, knowing I was to share this amazing place with five strangers for a month.

Aye Write

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
This year my husband and I pulled off a long-standing plan – to get our younger daughter settled at university and then move back into Edinburgh city centre from out of town. It went like clockwork. Lara moved to Glasgow to begin her degree in Education on the Monday and we moved to a flat right in the heart of the city on the Thursday.

Favourite book in 2016?
I’ve been getting more and more interested in poetry this year and have been rather pre-occupied with the subject of death so I have particularly appreciated Undying, by Michel Faber and The Drift by Hannah Lavery. 

the-drift

Favourite film in 2016?
I tend to watch films years after they come out – I recently watched Capote (2005) about the selfish, obsessive Truman Capote and how he came to write In Cold Blood. I also saw Little Voice (1998, for goodness sake!) about a young girl obsessed with 1950s/60s singers – a character that my daughter pointed out was autistic.

Favourite song of the year?
Not new either but Wanted on Voyage by George Ezra was stuck in my car CD for the first six months of the year.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
The never-ending terrorist attacks have been shocking.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I love nothing more than to set a goal or two at this time of year.

During 2016 I completed the first draft of what I hope will be my next book – a memoir about the suicide of my sister. In 2017 I plan to rework it into a final version.

I will also write a series of smaller pieces inspired by Dunbar to perform at Coastword Festival.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I am looking forward to seeing my novel Truestory translated into Danish and published in Denmark.

I am Creative Writing Fellow for Tyne & Esk Writers until March 2017 – and I look forward to supporting the very talented and dedicated writers in the groups.

I am also delighted to be a Writer in Residence at Coastword Festival – a small but perfectly formed festival of music and word – to be held in Dunbar in May 2017. I hope for a sunny weekend shared with lots of super-talented artists of all kinds.