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2018 Review: Vic Watson

So that was 2018, was it? What a year. First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and the people who have contributed to it. Wishing you all a very happy 2019. 

2018 has been a very fun year for me, professionally and, although I have found that there have been lots of highlights, the one thing I am most proud of is finally completing the first draft of my novel, ‘Fix Me Up’. I have lots of people to thank for encouraging me to get it done – my friend Kay Stewart very helpfully set me a 500 words a week goal in 2017 and that helped get me into a rhythm and realise that it wasn’t an insurmountable task.

Stephanie Butland’s retreat at the Garsdale Retreat helped push me on too and I’m ever so grateful. When I’ve read extracts of ‘Fix Me Up’ at events like Noir at the Bar and After Dark, they’ve been really well-received. There are so many people who have encouraged me and kept nagging me to finish it – now I just need to get it in shape to submit to agents and publishers. Seriously, though, I began writing ‘Fix Me Up’ in 2010 as part of my Masters and I thought it would just be 20,000 words – I didn’t believe I could write a full-length novel. The moral of this story is: you can!

With that in mind, I was delighted to be accepted onto the Writers’ Block North East mentoring programme to write a novel in a year. I have an idea for my second novel – provisionally titled ‘Death at Dullahan’ – and I’m looking forward to completing it a lot quicker than the last one! 

It’s been a lot of fun to see Noir at the Bar continue in popularity and I was delighted to be involved with getting it off the ground in Sunderland. Harrogate’s Noir at the Bar was insanely well-attended again, with amazing writers like Steve Cavanagh and Martina Cole in the audience. I also got to meet Peter Rosovsky, the guy responsible for this amazing event. 

I’ve really enjoyed doing more interviews and panels this year. Thanks to Newcastle Noir and North Tyneside Libraries, I’ve interviewed new and established writers including L.J Ross, Mel McGrath and Kate Rhodes. I’ve also been lucky enough to interview A.M. Peacock at his book launch. I really enjoy chatting to authors about their processes and aspirations so I feel really privileged. 

In non-work related joys, I went on my honeymoon with my lovely husband at the beginning of the year and it was a truly wonderful experience. We spent time in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Phuket. I’ve never been to the Far East before and it was brilliant. Going to Vietnam wasn’t top of my list, it was actually a compromise on my part, but I absolutely loved it. When we arrived there, I was convinced I’d never be able to cross the road due to the crazy traffic but it’s funny how quick you adapt to your environment. I loved the whole experience and would definitely like to see more of Vietnam. Thailand was a more laid back, luxurious time and that was equally great but I am just so pleased we visited Vietnam.

Most of my top 2018 memories involve spending time with my husband – we’ve been to Yorkshire, Northumberland and London this year and had a ball no matter where we went. Having said that, it was really special to celebrate my parents’ ruby wedding anniversary with them in July. 

Also, I had pink hair for a while.

Top books that I’ve read this year: ‘Thirteen‘ by Steve Cavanagh, ‘East of Hounslow‘ by Khurrum Rahman, ‘The Rumour‘ by Lesley Kara, ‘Calypso‘ by David Sedaris (who was hilarious when Carly and I went to see him), ‘The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox‘ and ‘I Am, I Am, I Am‘ by Maggie O’Farrell. There are lots more that I’ve really enjoyed but these are top of the list for me. I think my favourite, though, has been ‘Educated‘ by Tara Westover.

I’m still listening to Michelle Obama narrate ‘Becoming‘ which is everything I hoped it would be. 

I have been wracking my brains as I’m not entirely sure I’ve been to the cinema since January which was to see ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘. I watched ‘Selma‘ recently which was really powerful. I really enjoyed ‘Ladybird‘ and ‘Ocean’s 8‘.

I haven’t watched a lot of films this year, I’ve been going to a lot of gigs instead. I think the best concert I went to was Beyonce and Jay-Z’s OTR2. I went with my friend and we had the best time, I think the car journey to Manchester and back may have been better than the show itself. That said, Katy Perry put on an incredible show too. 

Nobody Knows I’m a Fraud‘ by Grace Petrie. Grace was one of the guests when I went to see ‘The Guilty Feminist’ podcast recording at Northern Stage. I loved her stories, her sense of humour and now I’m totally into her music. 

Downsides? Brexit, Trump, the usual shite. Intolerance, injustice, poverty.

Personally, the slipped disc I suffered over the summer was insanely painful and it made me miss the Britney Spears gig in Blackpool. *sad face*

I don’t tend to make resolutions but I think I would just like to try and remain even-keeled. I read a HuffPost article earlier this week that suggested the resolutions you should make are get more sleep, say no more often, look after yourself etc etc and I think they seem really sensible (but how realistic are they? Time will tell). 

I’d love to forget all about Brexit in 2019 – the EU are fine with us forgetting about it so I am definitely hoping for that shambles to go away. It’s like the shittiest gift that keeps on shitting on you. On a more selfish note, a publishing deal would be very welcome. 

Wishing all of you a very happy, productive and successful 2019. 

Vic x

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2018 Review: Trevor Wood

Trevor Wood has had a pretty good year but I’ll let him tell you all about it…

As always, Trevor, it’s been a pleasure.

Vic x

home sweet home

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2018? 
Easy one this. The moment I got an e-mail from my agent Oli Munson to confirm that I’d been offered a two-book deal with Quercus. After some near misses it was such a combination of joy and relief. I am not sure I will completely believe it until I have an actual book in my hands.

And how about a favourite moment from 2018 generally? 
The book deal happened while I was spending two months in Ottawa so it was all arranged via Skype/e-mail/telephone. I’ve been to Canada a lot over the years but this trip was full of lovely moments, and we really settled into the local community, great next-door neighbours, a fantastic local pub, Quinn’s (hi Kieran!), some white-water rafting, a parade of animals through our back yard (raccoons, groundhogs and even a skunk). Just perfect. 

Favourite book in 2018?
I loved The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh. A slightly futuristic thriller set in a small gated community in the middle of the USA.  All the residents are in a kind of witness-protection scheme. The problem is they’ve all had their memories wiped so they don’t know whether they were good guys or bad guys previously. And then people start to die. I can’t sum it up any better than Dennis Lehane (who could?!) so I’ll just give you his quote “a propulsive and meaningful meditation on redemption and loss. It’s witty, electrifying, vivid, and thoroughly original” 

That would have been a clear winner but I have just finished Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li and the strength she somehow summoned up to write this fictionalised version of her own rape, including giving the rapist a narrative voice deserves every accolade going. It’s a remarkable book which will leave you in awe: powerful, though often distressing, but beautifully written and entirely admirable. 

Favourite film in 2018?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
is quite brilliant, with fantastic performances from Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and the always excellent Sam Rockwell. Should have won the Oscar. A Quiet Place also deserves a mention, a great idea, superbly executed. 

Favourite song of the year? 
The band I’ve listened to most this year is Gang of Youths, who are huge in Australia but practically unknown over here. The only downside of being in Canada this summer was that I missed their UK tour when they played in some very small venues. I’m sure the next time they’ll be playing stadiums. Their album Go Farther in Lightness is practically perfect, check out Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane or Keep Me In The Open. As a bonus, their lead singer David Le’aupepe is a very cool (and very good-looking) dude.

Any downsides for you in 2018?
I don’t think I’ve ever been as out-of-step with the rest of the world in my life. Just about every political event is beyond my comprehension, Trump, May, Johnson, Brexit, Tommy-fucking-Robinson, all completely inexplicable to me. I’m getting to the burying-my-head-in-the-sand-and-hoping-it-will-all-go-away point. Thoroughly depressing.

Are you making resolutions for 2019?
Don’t do resolutions but plenty of plans. I’ve got to finish the as yet untitled Book 2. I’m heading to several crime writing festivals: Newcastle Noir, Harrogate and Bloody Scotland. And I’m very much looking forward to returning to Glastonbury again, where hopefully Gang of Youths will play. 

What are you hoping for from 2019?
Last year I wanted a book deal, the cancellation of Brexit and the impeachment of Donald Trump. One out of three ain’t bad but I’d still like the other two this time around.

On a personal note, I’m hearing rumours that the publication date for my first book The Man on the Street (currently March 2020) may be brought forward to Autumn 2019. I’d love them to be true.

Review of 2017: Nikki East

Our final St Nick of today is Nikki East. It was a pleasure getting to know Nikki better during Newcastle Noir then seeing her again at Harrogate and Bloody Scotland. 

Nikki, along with Nick Quantrill and Nick Triplow, were responsible for Hull Noir which included a special Noir at the Bar. Anyway, let’s hear all about it from Nikki herself. 

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day – check back for another end of year review tomorrow. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Without doubt, Hull Noir. Nick Triplow, Nick Quantrill and I took over Iceland Noir this year and hosted it in Hull as part of the City of Culture celebrations. Our feedback has been amazing and we’ve been asked to do it again already. It took a lot of organising however the results speak for themselves. We had the most tremendous guest authors and moderators who made the whole event worthwhile for everyone attending but was very special for us as it was our very first one.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
As part of Hull Noir, I was able to introduce and host Hull’s very first Noir at the Bar. I was nervous as the whole NATB concept is so special to so many however, again, it went very well and we had some wonderful readings. I feel very honoured and privileged to be part of it and hopefully will be part of more in the future.

Best book of 2017?
Abir Mukherjee’s second novel A Necessary Evil published by Harvill Secker. It continues with the adventures of Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee in 1920 Calcutta. This and the award winning debut, A Rising Man, are wonderfully written with brilliant characters that thoroughly transport you back to another time and a whole other world. Simply magnificent and a must read.
Favourite film this year?
Guardians of the Galaxy 2! I just love these movies!! I get very little time to spend with my son now he’s an adult and we’re both very busy with conflicting schedules but we managed to find time to go and see this together. What a laugh, great music plus I had good company.
Favourite song of the year?
Bruno Mars 24k Magic album. Although the album came out last year, I only downloaded it this year. I love it. My favourite track is Perm. It makes me dance about like no one is watching whether I’m in my home, on the tube or walking down Whitechapel High Street!!  I do get looks but that song is just soooo good!!! 😉
Any downsides this year?< /em>My downsides are very limited to be honest. Consequently all I’d say is I don’t have enough time to get to all of the amazingly book related events now I live here in London.
Are you making resolutions for 2018? Resolutions!??! Hmmmm, maybe start planning for another festival, host more NATBs and who knows, maybe land a full time position somewhere in this awesome industry. Fingers crossed people! 🤞
What are you hoping for from 2018?Mostly just to build on the foundations I’ve laid in 2017. Onwards and upwards is always my mantra. I’ve had THE BEST 2017 and all I can hope is that 2018 brings even more amazing opportunities for me and mine.

Review of 2017: Miriam Owen

Since then, our paths have crossed a couple of times and it’s always a pleasure. 

My thanks to Miriam for taking the time to chat to us today.

Vic x


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I chaired panels at Newcastle Noir and Bloody Scotland. Both of these were great memories.  At Newcastle Noir I had the late night slot on the Saturday entitled ‘Presenting The Case.’ I was so pleased the room was full and we had lots of interesting chat and laughs with the panel and audience.  After being involved in this festival for 3 years I finally got to see some of the city, try a stottie and found a wee jazz bar.  There were lots of special moments with friends at Bloody Scotland and I enjoyed trying something different on The Dark Lands panel.  We asked Norwegian author Thomas Enger to play some music he had composed for a character in one of his books which was beautiful. The panel was made even more memorable by Thomas and Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson marching on to the stage with the Bloody Scotland Football Trophy held high. They both played for the Scottish team this year and we won!  

Photo by @Timea

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Finally making it up to the northern Outer Hebrides in the summer of 2017 was great.  I have always wanted to see Luskentyre Beach and it was truly stunning.  We arrived in a storm, struggled to find our accommodation off a single track road then woke up the next day to sunshine and to find Luskentyre was literally over a sand dune from our front door. We also got to spend some quality time on a croft in Uist with friends as well which was long overdue. I went to Dublin for one night to meet friends from Nova Scotia who were over visiting Ireland, that trip was a blast.

Favourite book in 2017?
My favourite book of 2017 was The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen.  The story is dark and funny and totally appeared to my sense of humour.  Antti has a twinkle in his eye at the best of times and I can easily imagine him chuckling away to himself as he wrote it. 

Photo by Orenda 

Favourite film in 2017?
Alien Covenant was decent and Series 3 of Fargo was brilliant.  The TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale was utterly terrifying.  

Favourite song of the year?
Hearing New Focus play their album On Song live at the Tolbooth in Stirling was amazing.  I also heard Phil Bancroft play Sonny Rollins Freedom Suite in Edinburgh which was quite astounding.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Brexit plus a conservative MP being elected in my constituency is pretty depressing. Anything involving the words Boris or Trump is utterly unbelievable. The lack of compassion, empathy or responsibility by those in powerful positions frustrates the hell out of me.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I don’t make resolutions. Every day brings new challenges. I always try to do my best, remain positive and think about the bigger picture.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
To be happy, healthy, learning and exploring and to have love in my life.
I am also starting a major piece of research around Nordic branding and do-it yourself culture (eg Noir at the Bar) in live literary events in the Marketing Department of Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow. I hope 2018 brings lots of discussion, events to go to and peace and quiet to study. If you want to talk to me about this piece of work please email me.

Review of 2017: Louise Beech

To me, Louise Beech – another of Orenda Books’ wonderful authors – is a person I really admire. She’s funny, kind and writes thought-provoking stories. 

It would appear that Orenda’s Karen Sullivan not only considers the quality of the work but also the people themselves when adding to her list. How else could you explain the fact that her authors are not only brilliant writers but lovely people? 

My thanks to Louise for sharing her eventful year with us.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 was definitely up there for me professionally – I did the Crimefest, Newcastle Noir, and AyeWrite festivals. Did the Orenda Roadshow. But the moment I saw that Maria in the Moon had been picked as a Must Read in the Sunday Express was a true peak. When I was a chambermaid ten years ago, I used to sneakily eat biscuits and read the Sunday Express magazine on the hotel bed, and dream of having a book reviewed in there. So I think you can imagine how it felt to see that.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Visiting Paris with my 17-year-old daughter Katy. She has declared she’ll no longer be coming on holiday with us, so I cherished every moment with her.

Favourite book in 2017?
Obviously, all of the Orenda ones I read. Outside of that, I absolutely loved Cassandra Parkin’s The Winter’s Child. A haunting, gripping, poetic thrill of a novel.

Favourite film in 2017?
I finally watched Interstellar and was absolutely blown away. Made me think, made me cry, made me question. What more could you want from a film? Beautiful soundtrack too, which I listen to while writing.

Favourite song of the year?
Maria in the Moon
 by Carrie Martin.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Some personal sadness in 2017. Personal tragedy. But these things just make us grow.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Always. But if I tell you it won’t come true…

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Complete world domination. And a new washing machine.

Mid-Year Review Book Tag nominated by @LoveBooksGroup

Massive thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for nominating me to do this mid-year book tag. 2017 is whipping by and it’s interesting to reflect on which books I’ve enjoyed this year so far.

So, here goes…

  1. Best book you’ve read in 2017 so farYear of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Shonda, writer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, challenged herself to say yes to every opportunity she was offered for a year. As an introvert who lacks self-confidence, I enjoyed this book immensely. I loved reading about Shonda’s writing process, her family life and her challenge. Oh, ok then, I loved it all. I’d love to hang out with this fierce woman.
  2. Best sequel you’ve read in 2017 so far: The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay. I read the three books from the Promise Falls trilogy this year. Linwood Barclay is my favourite crime writer and I was impressed with the way the final instalment tied things up.
  3. New release not yet read: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
  4. Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017: A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena. 
  5. Biggest disappointment of 2017: Thankfully I haven’t had one yet!
  6. Biggest surprise of 2017: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell. I first heard Sarah talk at Newcastle Noir this year and I was so taken in with the themes she talked about that I just had to read ExquisiteIt was a surprise because I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to Newcastle Noir. It’s a story that keeps you second guessing until the very end – very cleverly done. 

  7. Favourite new author: Bizarrely, I’d never read Stephen King until 2017 but I read Bazaar of Bad Dreams which is a collection of short stories. I think I bought it because it was on offer and I liked the look of the cover – yes, I did judge a book by its cover – but when I read it, I really enjoyed the stories.
    In fairness, though, Matt Wesolowski is my favourite new author. I want to tweet him every day and ask when we can expect his next novel.
  8. Newest fictional crush: Haven’t got one as I’m pretty taken with my husband – we got married in March this year. 
  9. Newest favourite character: Archie from Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland. Everyone should have an Archie in their life.
  10. Book that made you cry: Year of Yes and Lost for Words.
  11. Book that made you happy: Year of Yes.
  12. Best book to movie adaptation of 2017: I haven’t seen any film adaptations although I’m looking forward to seeing My Cousin Rachel. I am loving The Handmaid’s Tale which is currently being shown on Channel 4.
  13. Favourite review you’ve written in 2017 so far: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski. The book just really captured my imagination and I loved writing about it. 
  14. The most beautiful book you bought / received in 2017: The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards. I bought it for myself last weekend at Barter Books. I just love the colours and shading on it. As previously mentioned, Bazaar of Bad Dreams is also a very colourful book. I think this has established how vacuous I am.
  15. Books to read by the end of 2017: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Girls by Emma ClineIt Devours: A Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout… The list goes on. I’d also like to read more Agatha Christie. 

I’m passing the Mid-Year Review Book tag onto Emma Welton @damppebbles, Juliet @bookliterat and Sheila Howes @thequietgeordie. I look forward to finding out what you choose!

Vic x

 

Review: ‘The Escape’ by CL Taylor

Following C.L. Taylor’s appearance at Newcastle Noir in April, I downloaded The Escape as I thought the premise sounded interesting. I wasn’t disappointed.

A stranger asks Jo for a lift and Jo, too polite to refuse, acquiesces but quickly wishes she hadn’t when the stranger reveals that she knows Jo’s name, Jo’s husband’s name and also has a mitten belonging to Elise, Jo’s little girl. A warning is issued and things quickly spiral with the authorities involved and Jo’s husband Max turning against her.

The Escape deals with a number of issues which give this novel real depth. It’s such a cracking yarn that I found The Escape difficult to put down.

I will definitely be seeking out more of C.L. Taylor’s work.

Vic x