My Big Canadian Adventure
I'm just back from a book trip to Canada, slightly heady and hazy with jet-lag, but with dozens of brilliant memories from the time I spent there. The excuse for the visit was that Bouchercon - the big mystery convention usually held in the US - was taking place in Toronto. But when more invitations arrived, we extended the trip into a proper book tour and ended up travelling across the country from Ottawa to Vancouver Island, taking in Bouchercon, a couple of writers' festivals, some magnificent stores and a spectacular library event on the way.
We started in Ottawa. It felt a very welcoming city, but perhaps that was because I caught up with my old friend Brenda Chapman, who hosted a conversation between me and her fellow crime writer Barbara Fradkin. The Writers' Festival event was held in a church and the pews were packed with enthusiastic readers. A great introduction to the city and the country.
Next stop was Toronto, where we met up with the Publishers Group Canada team. PGC works to distribute and promote Pan Macmillan's titles in the country and the wonderful Jen Lynch worked with Maura to plan the trip. It was down to their organisation that everything worked so well.
Bouchercon was a bonkers mix of social events, business and the chance to catch up with friends from all over the world. Along with the panels and interviews that made up the programme... Perhaps the high-light of the conference for me was my event with Louise Penny on the last morning. Louise is hugely loved in the US and her native Canada and it was an honour to be asked to interview her. One of the benefits of the role was that I binge-read Louise's Three Pines novels before my trip and realised again what a thought-provoking and clever writer she is.
We stayed in Toronto for a day after the Festival and headed out into the suburbs with Jen. After signing stock in a few stores, we were hosted to a lovely afternoon chat with customers in A Novel Spot, a tiny bookshop in Etobicoke. Then we hit the road again for a public library event in Oakville Ontario. I love libraries and this was a library event at its very best - a great theatre space in a community centre, a thoughtful intro by Florence, the librarian, and an independent bookstore to sell books. More importantly, the space was full of readers determined to have a good time.
The next morning brought a horribly early start and a five hour flight to Vancouver for the writers' festival there. The festival is held on Granville Island, with its food market, craft shops and performance spaces. It attracts writers from all over the world. Vancouver in the autumn seems a very rainy city, but the weather cleared just when it was needed - for the tiny seaplane ride to Victoria on Vancouver Island, and for the ferry ride back the following day, so we had magnificent views of the islands on both crossings. My final event was in Victoria in Munro's famous bookshop. What a way to end the trip!
Thanks to everyone who made the tour so friendly, fun and stress-free: Maura and Jen, the organisers and volunteers of the writers' festivals and Bouchercon, the team from Minotaur, my US publisher, booksellers and librarians. And most of all, thanks to the readers, who turned out to share their reading passions and who stood in line to get books signed.
The Seagull flies
There is no such species as a seagull. I don't know much about birds, but I do know that much. The Seagull, the title of the book published at the beginning of September is a completely fictitious art deco nightclub on the shore in Whitley Bay. But in the last few weeks, it's felt as if the novel and I have been spreading our wings and taking flight around the country.
Lots of the events were local, which was a real treat. A huge thanks to Helen Stanton of Forum Books and her staff for selling at some wonderful gigs. We've been to an art gallery at North Shields Fish Quay and The Word, the award-winning library on the south of the Tyne. There was a party in my local café and a murder mystery in the very spectacular Alnwick Castle Gardens.
Then we went further afield, first to North West England, to Merseyside, Lancashire and the Lake District and then to the west country, ending up where I grew up in North Devon for the Appledore Festival. Thanks to all the readers, booksellers and library staff who made it such fun. And next week we'll be crossing the Atlantic, to Canada, where I'll be speaking at the Ottawa Writers' Festival, at Bouchercon in Toronto, at a library in Oakville and events in Vancouver and Victoria. Do check out my author Facebook page and the events page of my website for details.