Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Louise Welsh - crime fiction writer

Melbourne Writers' Festival - Session 4

Before this session, I'd read one of Welsh's books about a guy who performs as a magician-come-illusionist. It was one of those unsettling books, in which the main character is not very likeable and you end up feeling sorry for him more than anything. So I wondered what the author would have to say. Firstly she talked about the issue of being sensationalist as a crime writer - how far do you go with the blood and gore? And what ethics should we have as writers? She didn't really answer it for herself, but crime does has a broad range of subgenres, so it's up to the reader.

She said that she thinks all crime novels are quests, both internal and external, for the main character, and she likes the idea of a character going off into the wilds (probably mentally as well as physically). All of her main characters so far have been male, but her comment on that was that putting yourself inside another 'person' is a huge leap, so changing gender is not that much further. She was asked whether there was a continual challenge to be innovative, and she said most writers don't think about that - but I had to disagree with her!

She likes to use historical objects, and touch them, as a way of reaching back into the past. In the same way, her characters are reaching for the truth but it's not always possible. A book takes her three years to write, but the level of intensity changes. The last 6 months are intensive, but the first year involves a lot of thinking. She's become more of a planner, and spends a lot of time laying the foundations of the novel, using mind maps and taking lots of photos.

She did a Masters of Creative Writing and then joined several writers' groups early on. She had two short stories published quite quickly, then nothing for ages, and finally her first novel. The degree gave her the confidence to keep writing and sending out, and helped her to take her writing more seriously. This was a fairly interesting session, and her new book, Naming the Bones, sounds interesting, so I might give it a go!

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