#GraniteNoir: Aberdeen Crime Writing Festival February 2018 @GraniteNoirFest #GN2018


I’m home after what was an absolutely fantastic Crime Festival Granite Noir in Aberdeen. This was the 2nd year of Granite Noir and the first one I had attended, let’s just say I’m going to be back there next year! What a weekend it was!

I am not going to review all the panels I attended as the lovely Mary over at Live and Deadly will be reviewing the panels over at her blog so I suggest you go and check them out for what will sure to be a superb write-up of the event! I will, however, cover Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books event a little later on!


It is over 30 years since I was a student in Aberdeen and so it was a wee trip down memory lane for me! I’m not going to lie, I forgot just how cold the city was so a wee tip for anyone going next year is to take some warm clothes, especially if you are going to be taking part in the #CrimeAndPunishment walking tour! A cracking fresh February Weekend certainly showed the city in a great light, it is hard not to be impressed by the history and the beauty of the city. I did have a wee reminisce down Belmont Street which was my favourite haunt as a student and took in the fabulous Crime Scene Aberdeen, exhibition of crime scene photographs!

The event takes place in The Lemon Tree a vibrant performing arts centre at the heart of Aberdeen. I stayed in the Premier Inn, City, another top tip, it is literally across the street from the venue! Perfect location!


Arriving in Aberdeen at 11.25am on the Friday I flew up Union Street and straight to The Lemon Tree for the first event of the weekend and one that I was absolutely dying to attend, “The Truth is Out There” featuring Michael J Malone and Matt Wesolowski talking about their books, “The House of Spines” and “Hydra”. What an opening to the show!

This year, Granite Noir, also featured upcoming local authors in the “Local in the Limelight” slots taking place before some of the main events. Gavin Gilmore read from his current work in progress “The Laird’s Throat” and there were a few gasps in the audience as he finished his extract. Gavin, I think there were a few folk sitting next to me who agreed that they too want to read this book!


Next up for me was “Breathtaking Thrillers” featuring the most amazing Lilja Sigurdarottir talking about Snare and Catherine Ryan Howard (The Liar’s Girl) who gave a captivating hour of entertainment for the audience! We heard all about Lilja’s smuggling escapades and Catherine’s mammy’s warnings about the dangers of Dublin’s canals. Isn’t it amazing where the inspiration comes from!


I was then treated to “May The (Police) Force Be With You” with Sarah Ward (A Patient Fury); Mari Hannah (The Lost) and Thomas Enger (Killed) who was standing in for John Lier Horst. A fascinating insight into the process of writing and research and the main protagonists from each of the author’s books.

“Petrifying Psychological Noir” was led by the brilliant minds of Louise Voss (The Old You) and Torkil Damhaug (The Oslo Crimes Series) and it isn’t a lie when I say that I could easily have stayed there the whole morning listening to them both!

One of the best things about Granite Noir, apart from the authors, the panels, the venue and the whole ambience of the event was the fact that I actually got a lot of time to spend talking to people. I was especially delighted to eventually meet the not so quiet The QuietKnitter who escaped from the rural countryside of Aberdeen to the big city for the day! Caught up with Mary from Live and Deadly which is always a pleasure and I also got the chance to spend more time with Jen from Jenmedsbookreviews Although Jen and I have met a few times this was the first time that I have actually had the chance to sit and chat alongside her for any length of time! Also joined by the brilliant Alison Baillie, author of Sewing The Shadows Together whom I adore and one of my favourite women in the world of crime the most awesome of awesomest Dr Noir herself Jacky Collins! We had a great chat about the use of language as a means of power and confidence building; how to encourage access to writing as a means of achieving a greater social balance of power and all sorts and of course we had a few wee gins as well!




On the Saturday morning, the powerhouse that is Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books gave a fascinating insight and some really valuable tips and hints to all aspiring authors in her event “How to Get Ahead in Publishing”.  She covered every basis with the enthusiasm and passion that she is known for, seriously if there was anyone in the audience after that event who hadn’t been inspired to go for it then they must have been sitting there with earplugs in!

So what are Karen’s tips:

  • Write the damn book! You will not get anywhere unless you start! Follow your dreams.
  • Don’t try to follow trends, write the book you believe in, make it authentic, full of your passion and your knowledge.
  • Get the views of others and listen to them! You need to be able to take criticism, get as much feedback as possible and don’t be afraid to make significant changes!
  • You have 3 minutes before your book is discarded, make that opening count!
  • Orenda receive 600 submissions per month, manuscripts need to stand out!
  • You must have an online presence so that the publisher can find out about you; you don’t need to be a professional at marketing but you do need a profile!
  • Engage online but do not stalk!
  • Hit the festival circuit, get out there and talk to people, publishers, writers, bloggers but don’t accost them, chat to them, take an interest in what they are up to. Crime Fiction is full of some of the most supportive folk out there.
  • An agent isn’t always necessary if you are good at self promo market yourself. Always ask what can this person do for me that I cannot do for myself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the publisher what you can expect from them
  • Check the submission criteria! Target the publishers carefully and don’t just do a blanket submission to them all!
  • Take time to do your research, who is the contact, what are the guidelines, don’t cut and paste your letters, give a little of yourself in that submission, what makes YOU stand out!
  • Don’t pester after submission
  • Don’t take it personally if you are rejected, it doesn’t necessarily mean your work is no good, it may be not what the publisher is looking for at that time. Do not argue if you are rejected, it doesn’t work, take on board any comments given and learn from them. Don’t give up!
  • Don’t be a diva you will only earn yourself a reputation; publishers do talk to one another you know!
  • Don’t necessarily take the first deal offered, is it right for you, are they willing to grow and develop you as an author?
  • Listen to your editor; you need to go through all the stages, structural edit, copy editing, proofing and marketing; it all takes time but it is an important process.
  • The level of advance is not always indicative of the level of committment so don’t always be lured by the promise of the pounds!
  • Be supportive of others in the field, it will be returned!
  • Don’t make your synopsis too long although a useful exercise to do is a chapter by chapter breakdown, it lets you iron out any last-minute flaws
  • It is never to late to write!
  • Be different, don’t be afraid to push the genre.

Your publisher is going to be your book home! You need to feel comfortable there!

Wow so many amazing tips there from one of the best!

The weekend was over way to soon for me! I can only say that I am dying for next year already! So, if you fancy yourself some warm criminal Scottish hospitality then book yourself onto what is promising to be one of the next top names in Scottish Crime Fiction Festival events!


12 thoughts on “#GraniteNoir: Aberdeen Crime Writing Festival February 2018 @GraniteNoirFest #GN2018

  1. Definitely a great weekend, Karen Sullivan’s talk was very inspiring, you’re right, her enthusiasm is infectious! I really enjoyed hearing the readings from local writers too. If Melanie McGrath does another workshop next year I will be first to sign up – some great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.