...and the living is anything but easy. Usually from the end of July to the beginning of September things are pretty calm for authors. There's Harrogate of course, and more about that later. But there are fewer library gigs, lots of people are on holiday and it's a good time to catch up with some solid writing. On the continent and in Scandinavia, it often feels as if publishing closes down completely for the summer. Frustrating if you're waiting on a contract or to hear what your editor thinks of the latest novel, but great if you hope for concentrated time to work. This year, for the first fortnight in August my diary looked satisfyingly empty, and I'd hoped to push the book on past the tricky middle stage to have a clear view of the end. (Does sound very like the phases of labour this, a cliche but true all the same).
Of course it didn't quite happen that way. Some of the interruptions were domestic: school holidays, my mother feeling poorly, our decorator friend deciding that he had time to paint the outside of our house. Dave is lovely, and doesn't intrude at all, and the house does definitely need painting, but of course I break off at regular intervals to make coffee and chat. Then the proofs of BLUE LIGHTNING came through for checking and I seemed to spend three days chasing up high resolution photos for People magazine in the US, because they're thinking of doing a review of RED BONES in the September issue. This process made me realise again what a joy it is working with Shetlanders. I could remember doing a session with a photographer there in the spring, but had no other details. People magazine was working to a very tight deadline and I needed the pictures before start of business in the US. I made a phone call to Deborah, press officer to Visit Shetland and ten minutes later the photos were emailed to me from Malcom Younger at Millgaet Media. No charge. 'If it's good for Ann and it's good for Shetland, she's welcome to use them.'
Returning to the new book after reading the BLUE LIGHTNING proofs was a sobering experience. I realised it had become far too complex. BLUE LIGHTNING works because of its pace and its simplicity. The novel in progress needs a major re-write. So don't expect an announcement of a birth any time soon.
Harrogate is always a special festival, but I enjoyed this one more than any of the others. Partly it was because it was my last Harrogate as reader-in-residence. I decided some time ago to resign - with increasing involvement from libraries, the role had become more demanding and I was running out of the time and energy to do it well. Besides, every regular event needs new blood and new ideas to carry it forward.
And then I was there with old friends, who were experiencing the festival for the first time. Joni Langevoort had come all the way from Virginia and Jan Ellis had made it down from Shetland. Their enthusiasm made me see how exhilarating Harrogate can be for the readers, and just how slick and seamless is the organisation by Sharon, Erica and the team.
On Monday I go to St Hilda's in Oxford. I've booked myself in to the college a few days before the annual mystery conference begins. A small quiet room, with no demands and no disruption, seems like heaven at the moment. By the end of the week I hope to have more idea about this troublesome new book.