Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Stroud book festival

November 14th 2016

Inspired by the Bewdley Book Festival earlier in the year, I knew that this one would be another event not to miss. Firstly it was on my doorstep and secondly it promised an evening of historical fiction with two fabulous local writers, Dinah Jefferies and Kate Riordan.
In an intimate setting with seating for an audience of around fifty, there was a lovely atmosphere as Kate and Dinah both talked about what is most important to them - location. This really resonated with the audience especially since the writers' locations are completely different to each other. Kate is inspired by old houses and took a house at the top of Leckhampton Hill as the inspiration for her book. Dinah meanwhile has set her books in more exotic locations of the far East. It was interesting that after writing her first book, The Separation, set in Malaya ( now Malaysia), she then set her subsequent books in locations which had also changed their name. 'The tea planter's wife' is set in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, 'The silk merchant's daughter' is set in Vietnam, which was formerly part of Indo Chine and her new book out in February 2017 is set in Rajasthan which used to be Rajputana.

Dinah Jefferies

Dinah was asked why she sets her books in the Far East and gave a wonderful description of being a three culture child, having been brought up in Malaya until the age of nine when the family came back to England. Whether it is a search for something left behind, a longing to belong in a different culture to that of either of your parents or simply because it makes a good setting, at any rate her readers are grateful for taking us on the journey with her. It was amazing to discover that Dinah hadn't visited any of the other countries before writing about them, which just goes to show what wonderful research she does.
Kate preferred to take a different view. Whilst she takes care to research detail as background to her books, she doesn't do a lot of research. After all, as she says, she is writing a work of fiction not a social history and so aims for capturing a flavour of the period rather than overloading the reader with too much historical detail.

Kate Riordan

There was a gasp of horror from the audience as Dinah spoke about the editorial process and admitted that she had to cut around 49,000 words from her first novel. It was a lesson well learned as she is much more rigorous in planning the structure of her books now. A tip which seems to have worked. In the end, both authors admitted that paradoxically it has got harder and harder to write the next book rather than easier as you might expect. Let's just hope that both of them mange to finish their next work in progress without too much soul searching.

A wonderful evening and a pleasure to meet two fabulous writers.

Me with Dinah

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