Being a panellist at a writers festival is a novelty for me. I get excited by an invitation to share my experiences of being a writer and particularly a writer of crime (generally what I’m asked to do). However, I sometimes wonder if I have the authority or credibility to talk about the craft of writing merely by virtue of having become a published author, when strictly speaking, I might have just fluked it.
Or is this just a chick thing?
In this light, I am grateful to a correspondent, freelance writer Bruce Clarke, for his feedback on the Crime Writing Panel I was part of at the Williamstown Writers Festival on Sunday 6 May 2007. I’d invited my partner Andrew Nette along, partly so he could meet/hear Garry Disher, and partly so he could let me know if I was being a wanker. But it also helps to have audience feedback.
Here’s an excerpt from Bruce’s post about the panel:
My favourite moments:
Angela Savage, on the editing process, (her first novel went through 11 drafts), “It’s a bit like dentistry – once it’s over and done with you look and feel better!”
Angela Savage, “It’s the curse of the first time novelist”, in reference to a tendency towards ‘blatantly autobiographical writing’.
Garry Disher, on how he goes about finding out about police procedure for his novels, “I make it up!”
For more comments, see Bruce’s blog about the Williamstown Writers Festival.
It was a strange session for me. Sisters in Crime convenor Carmel Shute, who was facilitating the panel, had sent Garry, Adrian and me an advance copy of the script she planned to use. Notwithstanding Carmel’s excellent research, in retrospect I wish I hadn’t seen it, as I usually do better on the fly. Instead, I spent wakeful hours the night before trying to think up witty replies to the questions I knew were coming. However, some of my wittiest replies were to questions she didn’t actually get the chance to ask! It’s probably an object lesson for me not to try and prepare things in advance but to go with the flow on the day.
That said, I did want to say something towards the end of the session but chickened out, and it picks up on Garry’s comment, quoted on Bruce’s blog (above), about making things up as a writer when you don’t know the ‘facts’. Garry reiterated this point at the end of our panel session when someone in the audience asked how writers go about doing research: we make things up. What I wanted to add was that when you read Garry Disher’s Wyatt novels, you wonder how such a seemingly mild-mannered man who admits to being brought up with 1950s Protestant values can write such a gritty, hard-boiled character. And when you read Adrian Hyland’s novel Diamond Dove, you wonder how a white bloke like him can write so convincingly from the perspective of an Indigenous Australian woman. And when you read my novel, you wonder how such a nice girl like me can write such graphic sex scenes. And the answer is, we all have over-active imaginations. We make things up.
P.S. A note of thanks to my cousin/friend Mary Latham for looking after my daughter Natasha during my session at the Williamstown Writers Festival, and to my beloved Andrew Nette for taking over on the childcare front so Mary and I could see Shaun Micallef interview William McInnes.