A funny thing happened to me at this year's Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.* 

It was a good weekend, and I managed to catch up with a lot of people, but If I had to pick one word for this year's event as I experienced it, that word would be subdued. The festival itself wasn't subdued, far from it. This year will probably have broken all records at the box office - tickets for the Ian Rankin vs. Val McDermid bare knuckle fight were sold out before the event even started. But in amongst all this bustle and busyness, I was a small centre of tranquillity and calm. 

Or at least it felt that way to me.

But that's not the funny thing, or perhaps that's not the funny thing that I intended to write about when I started this post. 

I didn't get to see much of Stuart, as he was busy being festival chair and whipping up the panel audiences into a frenzy before the main act came on. He did have time to introduce me to one of the editors at HarperCollins though, and then promptly left us to go and organise something else. This wasn't too much of a problem since the editor - let's call him Emad, since that's his name - turned out to be a really nice bloke. As is the way of such things, particularly at the bar as Friday turns into Saturday, the conversation went this way and that, covering politics (yawn), the drinking habits of crime writers, Ukrainian sand art and how best to  avoid getting dragged along when a group of people decide they want to go clubbing.   

Conversations can only go so far, though, and eventually the tiresome topic of writing came up. I have a policy of trying not to bore people I've only just met, but sometimes they ask what I'm doing at a crime writing festival. I guess it's a fair enough question. Emad, it turned out, had assumed I was a published author well on my way to fame and fortune (you can see why I thought he was a nice bloke). When I disabused him of this notion, and explained that I didn't even have an agent, he immediately offered to introduce me to a friend he knew who was at the festival on the hunt for new talent (ahem). Formerly another HC editor, she had recently jumped ship to a prestigious literary agency I'm not going to name here.

The only problem was that it was very early on Saturday, and Emad had to leave just a little later in the morning. The chances of being able to arrange a meeting were slim to negligible before he had to sprint for the station to catch his train. Still, he took my email address and promised he'd do his best.

Later that morning, my having hung about the lobby for as long as I could, I went into a panel entitled 'Putting The Boot In', where Ray Banks, Charlie Williams, Stella Duffy and Craig Russell waxed lyrical about violence in fiction and other good stuff, under the skilful guidance of Martyn Waites (who wasn't wearing a dress for this one). I was a little disappointed at not having seen Emad again, but resigned to that sort of thing happening to me. My life is a series of such small disappointments. Chalk another one up to experience.

Just as I was about to switch it off before the panel started, my phone rang. It was the Horse Doctor, but before she could say anything, my ear was blasted with a terrible wailing screech. It appeared that Tegid the Patterdale Terrier had made the fatal error of assuming the rawhide chewstick that Haggis was chewing was, in fact, his. A few rude words had been exchanged, and being a bit of a drama queen, Tegid had decided to howl like, well, a puppy. So I had to vacate my seat, go to the back of the hall and wait for the Horse Doctor to calm everything down before I could actually speak to her.

By the time the call was over - and I won't bore you with what it was about, as that's unimportant - someone had pinched my seat and I was forced to take another, further back. Soon afterwards, Russell appeared, in that way that he has, and perched himself in the row behind me. The panel still hadn't started, so I proceeded to tell him about Emad's friend and how sad it was that I'd missed him that morning. No doubt I'd get his friend's name and email address in the fullness of time, but it's always nicer to meet someone face to face.

At which point a nice lady sitting directly behind me coughed lightly and said: 'Excuse me, but are you James Oswald?'

It turns out that Emad had spoken to his agent friend, waxing lyrical about how brilliant a writer I was, for all that we'd met each other for perhaps a couple of hours and he'd never actually read anything I'd written.** Then by some strange twist of fate, I'd actually sat down right next to her in a seat that wasn't my original choice - if Tegid hadn't howled the moment I answered the phone, I'd never had moved. And by some even stranger twist of fate I'd had someone to talk to about the situation so she could overhear me and introduce herself. In a crime novel such coincidences might well be described as laziness on the part of the author. Or maybe the influence of supernatural forces.***

We had a good chat about my writing - it turns out that she's looking for both crime and YA fantasy, which is great since I write both - and then she gave me her card. As soon as I got home I emailed off a copy of one of my manuscripts. I'm not so naive as to think everything's going to be beer and skittles from now on - chances are the next email will be an embarrassed and apologetic 'it's not really for us' kind of thing. I've had a few before, so I know what to expect.

But for a while I can bask in the odd feeling that the fates are somehow directing me. My destiny awaits.

* or the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Harrogate, to give it it's full and rather unwieldy title.
** I had saved him from being dragged off to the notorious Harrogate night club, Rehab, so perhaps he felt he owed me a favour.
*** a point that was touched upon during the panel, and of interest to me since I use supernatural forces in my crime books. Sort of. The consensus seemed to be that having a ghost turn up at the end of your book as the resolution of the plot was pretty lame, but perhaps weaving the supernatural delicately through the whole narrative was acceptable. Which is a relief.


highlandwriter said…
no coincidence....synchronicity. so, go ahead and write your destiny.


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