Saturday, 12 October 2013

Helen Cadbury talk and book signing event review 12/10/13

hc headshot


This morning I attended the Yorkshire Crime Author Helen Cadbury event at Dewsbury Library and what a fascinating and informative talk it was.

Helen has lived in York for the last 12 years and grew up on the other side of the Pennines.  She lived in London for a time and has been a theatre actor, a teacher in a women's prison and delivered training in youth arts.  When she turned 40 she decided that she wanted to write, so she attended night class in York, where she wrote poetry, prose and playwriting.  Then she undertook an MA at Sheffield Hallam, producing an 80,000 word manuscript ready for publication and sent it out to agents, but it kept coming back - the rejection line that will live with her is 'I loved it, but I just didn't love it enough' - so she decided to concentrate on her playwriting and poetry.  A year later she saw a new Crime Writer in the North competition advertisement for Moth Publishing, in conjunction with New Writing North.  She entered and was shortlisted to the final four, but when she went to Newcastle to see them, she found out she was one of the four winners.  She was given an Editor to work with and the book was published in May.  The book has been set for readers groups in Kirklees and she has had some valuable and positive feedback.

Helen read a little from the beginning of To Catch A Rabbit and then she opened the floor up to questions.

When asked if she wrote it as things happened or backwards and forwards as it is in the book, Helen revealed that in a crime novel certain things have happen, but some characters can know about them and some not, so it fluctuates.  She wrote Sean's strand from his point of view, Karen's and her brother Phil's.  She worked on Phil's point of view but it is only on one day in the book and Karen and Sean's follow real time.  At one point she printed it off, separated it out and then read them to check the chronology.  When writing the manuscript it comes out randomly, but the editing process is when it gets more organised.

One attendee felt that Helen's writing style is similar to Kate Atkinson and was wondering if there was going to be a sequel.  Helen revealed that it is on her laptop.  She now has an agent and has just received suggestions for changes.  Sean is in the sequel, but her agent feels she had moved him on too far (in that she's missed the opportunity for five more books).  She set the first book in 2007/8 as she started the novel then and it features an historical event that took place in February 2008, but it is more sensible not to set a novel in a recognisable year.  Sean has finally joined up to become a proper copper as he was already going way out of the things that he could do as a PCSO.  Helen did have a PCSO read it who gave her useful feedback and she now also has a policeman who she can text and ask questions such as 'What does the inside of a squad car look like?'  The answer was not something she was expecting in that it would be full of rubbish from the previous shift, probably not the same vehicle they had last time so the driver would have to get used to gearstick changes etc. and the car would be a bit of a jalopy due to being driven too fast all the time.

Helen informed the group that in the sequel Sean is a newbie again in that he is just out of police college, but he still has the instinct that cuts through that and Carly has a bit of a role.  When asked, the audience could not think who would be best to play Sean if it was ever chosen for television but it was agreed that when he gets romantically involved, no woman will be good enough for him.

When asked about the crime genre, Helen revealed that she prefers hers less gory, like Kate Atkinson and Mark Billingham (she knew him before he was a writer) as some books have nasty sexual violence.  She has just bought some Sophie Hannah novels and she recommends Scottish author Louise Welsh because the books are not always police procedurals.  She also recommended King Suckerman by George Pelecanos, writer on The Wire and Lesley Glaister, psychological thriller author.

Helen revealed that if she was to write another genre (like J K Rowling with The Cuckoos Calling and The Casual Vacancy, both of which were recommended at the event), it would be romantic fiction and that Sean was originally inspired by a work colleague, but when she writes Sean now, he no longer looks like him.  She believes it is better to suggest a characters looks rather than specifics so that a reader can paint their own picture.  She made the character of Sean dyslexic due to her personal knowledge of it, but it was not a conscious decision, as it would cause him to make mistakes and it would be harder for him as a regular officer and fight to be taken seriously.  Most crime heroes have a flaw.  In the sequel, Sean's Dad is in it more and he is not a nice character.

She has a folder she uses when writing and a map of the fictional estate, but it is based on bits of real places that she has been to and that the editing is the real work of a novel - it is all worth it in the end.

Helen explained that the New Writing North organisation organised a meet the agents event for the winners of the Northern Writers Awards and the winning four went on the Awards day to have quick meetings with agents about their respective books.  She received an email from one of the agents the next day and by lunch she had sent her manuscript by post and electronically with the first three chapters of the sequel to the MBA Agency in London, who also represent playwrights. 

When asked if working in the young offenders unit helped with her writing, Helen agreed that it did with the characterisation.

She recommended her MA that she did at Sheffield Hallam and felt so lucky that Lesley Glaister (who has written 10 books over 10/15 years) was her tutor.  Part of the course was to get feedback on your work from all the group, where you have to sit back and be quiet (not justify anything), just take notes of what everyone tells you.  You can then go away and ruminate on it.  She also felt that her background as a poet helped with the editing process.

Helen revealed she felt very lucky with the cover in that she is delighted with the picture that was designed by Moth Publishing. 

Helen is also a fan of Si Barber's photography, which is rural yet of odd stuff, for example a photo of a caravan with an advertisement for a massage parlour on the side.

The event finished with a book signing and I am looking forward to reading my signed copy of To Catch A Rabbit.  For more information on Helen Cadbury see:

#ToCatchARabbit            #HelenCadbury                   

For more information on upcoming Kirklees author events:

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