Bumper virtual book launch part 1: We quiz the authors whose Scottish events have been cancelled
Kirstin Innes / credit: Becky Duncan
The physical launch events have been cancelled but the books are still coming out. Find out about new publications and hear a few words from the authors themselves in our virtual gathering
In a time where responsible organisations and individuals are limiting social contact, we're delighted that authors and publishers are still giving us books to read. Many launch events in the coming weeks have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely, but we're not letting our authors get away from those awkward audience questions that easily.
We pinned down our writers and I put on my very best 'this is more of a statement than a question' hat to simulate the Q&A that tends to round off a launch. We're sorry that you have to provide your own refreshments, but please join us in raising a glass to the authors below!
As your host for the morning / afternoon / evening, please first let me introduce our authors and their books.
Kirstin Innes is joining us to talk about the brand new Scabby Queen, a gorgeous multi-faceted novel about fictional Scottish singer Clio Campbell.
John and Sandra, AKA Metaphrog, are giving us some insight into their latest book, a gorgeous graphic retelling of Bluebeard.
Claire Askew is launching the paperback of her second crime novel, What You Pay For. DI Helen Birch is back for another enthralling adventure
David MacPhail gives us the lowdown on Thorfinn and the Putrid Potion, the eighth book in the popular Thorfinn series about a very polite Viking who makes scones.
What inspired you to write this book?
Claire: In my first book, All The Hidden Truths, there's a huge unanswered question: where is Charlie? He's been missing for fourteen years, presumed dead, and even his sister, DI Helen Birch, can't find him. In What You Pay For he reappears on her doorstep in the middle of the night without warning … and when she figures out where he's been, they're both in big trouble.
John and Sandra: Bluebeard is one the most gruesome and powerful fairy tales and it stayed with us ever since we read it as kids, but it's seldom published nowadays. And of course we love Angela Carter's interpretations.
Kirstin: I started out with the idea of a woman who is charismatic and magnetic, who forms a great number of intense relationships throughout her life, but is unable to sustain them. I wondered what would happen when she died, and I was interested in how each of those people – former friends, co-workers and lovers – would have a different understanding of her. It became a political book, and my lead character became a political activist, as I wrote it – it became my way of coping with the political hopelessness that I was feeling during 2016 and 2017 as the world seemed to get more and more right-wing.
Does your book have themes you didn't notice until after writing?
John and Sandra: While writing the book we realised that the original tale had a very dubious moral ('don't be curious, you silly girl, stay in your place') and we were re-interpreting it for a modern audience, which is essentially feminist. But the main theme is kindness and love, and helping each other. There were indeed themes that only revealed themselves after writing – our concern about the environment (and not just the patriarchy) came through strongly as did the widening rich/poor divide.
Kirstin: Four different people have told me it's about empathy. I didn't set out to do that, but perhaps it's come naturally from writing multiple different narrators, and having them all try to imagine or remember one person. I really do like people; I'm fascinated by the tiniest details about their lives, the little offcuts of living, and the books I gravitate towards are always those where the storyline follows the characters.
Did you have first / second / third / fourth book jitters while writing?
Claire: I feel like any time I talked about the book to anyone, they'd say 'ooh, the difficult second novel!' That's … not helpful. People should maybe stop saying it.
David: The great thing about writing a book series is that you already know the characters before you start. They're like old friends, so it's like putting the band back together. There are some new characters that I've introduced in this book, such as the scheming Soothsayer, Ragwich, and Piebald the Potion Maker, which mixes things up a bit. Nevertheless, I always start the process of writing a book with a feeling of nervous excitement
What's the one question everyone has asked you about your new book?
Kirstin: Is it a sequel to the first book? No, it isn't, sorry. It's better than that, though!
David: Does it really include rainbow farts?
A big round of applause for the authors, whose books are out now or coming soon.
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