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Christmas Fairs and all that …

What more ideal gift is there to give than a book?

Think of it.

It’s easy and satisfying to wrap. It suggests careful thought and consideration. And if signed by the author it is particularly personal to the receiver.

All of which, of course, is my unsubtle way of drawing your attention to the fact that this coming weekend I am going to be at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke – 4th and 5th December – as part of their Christmas Fair.

Along with two other writers I will be hoping to entice shoppers to buy copies of my novels to give as presents – some are even ready gift-wrapped! – or simply to buy for themselves as an antidote to the pressures of the season. What could be better than to have a novel ready to read on a dark and bleak winter afternoon?

My fellow writers on this occasion – Helen Matthews and Katharine Johnson – write psychological crime novels so very different from my own genre.

Which has led me to consider what attracts authors to writing in particular genres in the first place.

Of course one tends to write what one reads.

I don’t read fantasty, parallel universe, science fiction et al and have never been drawn to these stories. Sometimes I think it’s because I don’t have a scientific bone in my body and gave up the delights of bunsen burners, graphs, statistics, sums, square roots, equations (have to confess I don’t even know what those latter two even are, but people talk about them …)around the age of 14 at the first possible opportunity.

I don’t read crime apart from the very occasional bit of soft, light crime that might creep unwittingly into a story.

Even as a child I liked to read books about real families and people and the world that I could see all around me and gave short shrift to magical talking animals or time-shifting scenarios.

And it’s the same now. I find the complexities of ordinary life and relationships, the unknowability of other people, the curious chance events that shape our lives far more compelling than any so-called larger themes. There are stories everywhere – with a couple having a conversation in a cafe, a family playing in the park, a man or woman sitting alone on a train. The everyday details can reveal or at least hint at some much – through body language, gesture, speech inflections, dress, gait. Everyday so-called normality is so rich in story and plot potential.

Besides, if you write crime, I imagine you have to be organised! And clever. And astute.

I find it hard enough following the plots of most tv crime dramas, let alone creating my own in novel form.

And as for the pursuit of fantastical scenarios, futuristic settings and differently evolved characters …..

It’s not for me. I struggle to understand the world we already live in – I’ve never got my head around sun and earth and moon and what rotates when with any clarity – so my novels focus on, simply, that.

Trying to understand it all. My fascination is always with normal people in normal situations – which so often end up being far more complex and conflicted than first appeared.

But if you happen to be anywhere near Milestones Museum, Basingstoke this weekend, do buy a ticket for the Christmas Fair and come and find me and my two fellow writers and see which novels attract your purchase.

Or better still, solve several Christmas present dilemmas in one swoop by buying from all three of us!

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