Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Shetland Noir

Dark & stormy, as all good crime festivals should be! Jacky Collins reports.

Despite the threats from Storm Abigail a couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to take part in Shetland’s first ever crime fictional festival. Although the wind fairly buffeted our small plane on its short journey over from Edinburgh to Sumburgh, I was in the fine company of Quentin Bates, James Oswald and Jake Kerridge, which did wonders for steadying the nerves!

Sadly, I was unable to get to the opening event that was held at the Shetland Library in Lerwick, but was told this really set the mood for the rest of the weekend. However, I did have the amazing good fortune to be moderating the first two panels of the festival. We kicked off with "Where do you get your ideas from?", with Arne Dahl, Valerie Laws and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. Here we explored the inspiration behind their crime writing, looked at how authors pursued their initial ideas, revealed no-go topic areas and discussed any regrets for not having pursued a line of enquiry.

It was so encouraging to see such an excellent turnout, despite the blustery conditions outside. The Mareel Arts Centre was an ideal venue, with its spacious auditorium, inviting & well-stocked café-bar and glorious views out over the harbour. We were even provided with free tea, coffee and home baking at the breaks, enabling us to refuel on a regular basis and make the most out such a wonderful array of panels and workshops. There were many familiar faces at the gathering and it was a great opportunity to catch up with so many fine ‘criminal’ friends, but it was also a great pleasure to see crime fiction lovers who were attending their first festival!

The second panel of the day, “It’s really you isn’t it?”, saw me engaging with our very own Mari Hannah, Sarah Ward, Alison Baillie and Quentin Bates, discussing the process of character development, the importance of setting in this regard and the author’s relationship to their main protagonist, either a newly conceived or as a long-standing character.

On Screen, the third panel I moderated on the Saturday, saw us exploring the question of adaptation with Mari Hannah, Ann Cleeves, Denise Mina and Alex Sokoloff. We considered the process both from the perspective of the author, and that of the script/screen writer, we discussed the differences that exist in US and UK TV series production and contemplated how it felt to release your work for adaptation.

By the Sunday, Abigail seemed to have blown herself out and we were treated to a calm and peaceful Lerwick. This change in the elements was most fortuitous, ensuring that the In the footsteps of Jimmy Perez excursion, led by Ann Cleeves, Davie Gardner and Masarli Taylor, provided festival goers with a great tour of the island and the possibility of visiting places so expertly drawn by Ann in the ‘Shetland Quartet’.

As Quentin and I headed back to the airport on the Sunday morning it was not easy to leave. Donald Anderson, Mishka Hay, Lauren Doughton and all the Shetland Noir team really showed how an event like this should be run, ensuring that authors and readers alike had a truly wonderful experience. Indeed, I’m hoping that it won’t be too long before they hold the next Shetland Noir crime fiction festival – there so much more to discuss and so many intriguing places left to explore. Thank you, Shetland Noir, for a most memorable time!

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