This event featured Julia Donaldson, Samantha Shannon and John Marsden.
Chaired by Kate Mosse.

Above is a picture of the crowd, eagerly awaiting the discussion that was about to take place.

Kate describes herself as a adventure writer and writes fiction which has female heroes, they are the protagonist of the story and they don’t want to be rescued.

Julia kicked off the discussion by asking if one thinks of gender issues when writing. Most writers will tell you no, they write what they want to write. The Gruffalo is a traditional tale so all the main characters are male. However in later books The Gruffalo has a daughter and this was a conscious decision to introduce a female character into the books. However in some countries when the book has been translated the daughter has been made a son. In the world of traditional children publishing, female characters are usually feisty but are politically correct. In fact there are a lot of men campaigning to be portrayed better in children’s literature. Stereotypes have changed over times, the granny no longer knits, she rides a motorcycle.

John put across the point of how adolescents are given a low social status within our society. For example the Garden of Eden and Camelot are given an idol status and a lot of people construct childhood on the same principle. Childhood can be a place of purity and innocence. It is important as a writer to educate people to see children how they actually are, by idolising children we are ultimately setting them up for a fall from grace and this tends to happen at adolescent. Teenagers are seen as a danger to society and this is how they are portrayed in the media. John started writing for adolescents with an agenda he wanted to raise the status of them within society. Young people are excited to see themselves portrayed as heroes. When writing emotion, John feels it easier to do when writing in a female characters voice, this is mainly due to his own psychology.

Samantha mentioned how they first thing that came to her was her main characters voice, it seemed to make her female as Samantha feels she would have had to do research to write in a male voice. Through out The Bone Season the main female character is dominated by men, this was done on purpose as it is going to be a series of novels. In this age the literary scene is a lot more aware of feminism. The idea of labelling characters are “strong female character” gives the impression that by default women are not strong and this is an unusual characteristic. We need to get to the stage were it does not surprise us that the female character is strong.

Kate added that we need to be free to write the characters we want to write.

Julia does not feel any pressure from her publisher when writing. However there are certain thing you are not allowed to have in children’s books but they exist in real life. There is more pressure on authors that write books for younger children. For example in the USA you are not allowed to have nudity in a picture book, in one of Julia’s books a goat had it’s udders removed.

John added the fact that so much about writing is giving the reader what they want. Samantha added that often characters are more settled in adult books and in Young Adult fiction they are just figuring themselves out.

Kate added that even in the digital age we are in the book still exists, they still matter to us as we see ourselves reflected in the characters within the novel.

With that a very interesting hour discussion was brought to an end.


Neil Gaiman was appearing in conversation with Charles Fernyhough.

On one level, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story about childhood memories. Memory is like seeing things in the mist, the further into your memories you go the more you detail you get. Originally was not planning on writing a novel, this was meant to be a short story for Neil’s wife. It was going to be a dialled down fantasy with the protagonist being a 7 year old Neil. In some ways the story went fractal on me. The story kept walking through the mist. At times memory can be very specific and as you get older you realise that people have died and you are the only person left with a specific memory.
The process of writing a novel is a lot like a game of what if? As you get older you realise that you are never quite sure what memories are the important ones. Any mistakes that you do make are important as long as you learn from them. Neil would hate to lose any of his memories as the define who he is as a person.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane has been reviewed in a variety of ways. It has been described as magical realism, horror, fantasy and a novel about memories that cover other memories.

Children can be extremely powerless in situations but something’s are built into the human condition. Everyday children are born into the world without an instruction manual. They have to face a world with an already occupied force and are forced to learn our language.

This most recent novel has been described as a fairy tale and Neil feels that as humans we have not forgotten the need for fairy tales. Good fairy tales just feel right. The best thing people can tell you when you are a writer is that they didn’t like reading, then they picked up your book, finished it and know they read all the time. The second best thing people can tell you is that is feel like your book will always be a part of me, even long after I am finished it.

Normally when writing a book, Neil has a specific target audience in mind. However at the start of the process it wasn’t clear if it was going to be a children’s book or an adult book. It is primarily an adult book, with adult books you can leave the boring bits in. It is a book that says sometimes the dragons are huge and they win the battle or there is always a price for winning.

With that final thought a very interesting hour was brought to a close.

Chaired by Richard Lea

Both authors gave a short reading from their novels to start the event.

In Eugen’s book the narrative jumps back and forward but it leaves gaps for the imagination. You can only ever show the reader a fragment of the story but you will always have the wrong idea of this book. If someone left GDR it was like they had vanished. The novel is told in pieces to make it shorter as it is possible to compress the marative. The prospective is always changing, you wouldn’t be able to manage that in a film without driving the audience crazy. Each chapter is about 25 pages and in each chapters there is flashbacks present but the narrative does not jump during the chapter. The book is about the fall of the wall and most people have a basic knowledge of this and you can use this knowledge to compress the book even more.

Patricio started by apologising for his English (personally I thought his English was fine), apologised for his voice (he is sick) and for the fact he didn’t know what day it was as he was in Argentina less than 30 hours ago. Part of the story within the novel is common knowledge and it was a painful story for Patricio to write and this is why the story must be written in fragments. It was important to find a form that was unconventional to tell the story as there has been many versions of this story over the years. It was important that the book was not closed at the end of the novel, it was also difficult to think about the right structure and have a balance between fact and fiction. The fiction aspect was added to allow the reader to have the opportunity to think that they story was fiction. Adding fictional aspects was also a way to escape parental control over the novel. The feeling of your parents reading your novel can be very paralysing.

Eugen’s book has the same mixture of fact and fiction within it as parts of the story had to be invented. Fiction in some cases, can be more true than reality. Readers from East Germany feel like the novel is taking their history seriously and West Germany are curious about what really happened during that period of history. As a writer, Eugen feels it is important to keep out of your book as much as possible so you don’t influence the characters.

Where you consulted by the translator during the process? How do you feel about the English translation?
Patricio stated that he has worked with a lot of translators, they ultimately offer a different view of the book. He really likes how his books sound in English and feels like none of the musicality of the novel has been lost during the translation process. Sometimes writers don’t like what they write but they must write it. It is important to write a book that allows people to ask questions again.

Eugen didn’t met his English translator however they did talk over email. He feels like he can tell that the book has been translated by a woman, the rhythm is different and seems weaker.

With that final thought an hours discussion was brought to a close.

EIBF: Ian Rankin

Chaired by Allan Little

ian 1

Jackie’s Leven song, Standing in another man’s rain, was playing as we awaited Ian Rankin coming onto stage. This is the sing that inspired the title of Ian’s novel Standing in another man’s grave as when listening to the song he misheard rain as grave and thought it would make a good title for a book. In Ian’s mind at the end of Exist Music, Rebus was gone so in a way he is returning from the grave. He thought that Rebus would be working in the cold case unit, as they employ retired cops. When they changed the retirement age, he knew that Rebus would apply to be back on active duty and have one last chance at being a cop.

Those of you who have read any of Ian’s novels know that music features in all of them. Ian’s reason for this is that most crime writers are just frustrated writers

Did you have doubts about bring Rebus back?
Of course, replied Ian. He hadn’t written about Rebus in 5 years and was wondering if Rebus’s voice would still be there but when he started writing he realised that Rebus had been sitting in a little compartment in his brain this whole time.

In a way Rebus is a dinosaur, he is the kind of cop that doesn’t exist any more. He always is doing things for the correct reasons but he is willing to break the rules to get the correct result. In a way Cafferty is a dinosaur as well, he is a gangster who has a moral code and they rarely exist in this day and age. Due to this Rebus and Cafferty have a lot of empathy towards each other.

In the new book, Saints of the Shadow Bible, Malcolm is no longer working in the complaints department and he is back in CID with Rebus. The two of them are forced to work together. Ian hopes that Malcolm will be more likeable in this book. The title of the new book is also inspired by a Jackie Leven lyric. The lyrics will be in the first page of the book. The title came to Ian first and then had to think what does this title mean?

Ian then read a short extract out of Chapter 5 of the Saints of the Shadow Bible.

When writing you have to find a writer’s style that you admire and try to steal it and make it work for you. You have to trust that the reader will get what you are trying to do. Ian thinks that “Dan Brown doesn’t trust his readers as he lays the plot out for the readers”.

Time for some audience questions.

Who Inspired Rebus? Is he your darker side?
He is becoming my dark side, replied Ian. In the first few novels, Ian couldn’t see the similarities between himself and rebus but gradually over time they have become apparent. In a way authors are all their characters. After all Cafferty lives in Ian’s house in the books.

Edinburgh has everything that a big city has but doesn’t feel like it is a big city. There is plenty of green space and you can always find somewhere to be alone. There is always a new angle of Edinburgh to discover.

Your name appears a lot in Scotland Street series, is there a reason for this?
Alexander McCall Smith lives down the street from Ian. He knocks the door once a year, to tell Ian that he is going to appear in his latest novel. Ian told the audience that revenge is a dish best served cold and Alexander McCall Smith will appear in one of his books in the future. However Ian does put people in his book, that have paid money in a charity auction to be in his book.

We spotted you in Oxford Bar last night, what is it about that place that makes you go back?
In the older books, everywhere Rebus went was a fictitious place. After the first few novels, Ian moved Rebus to a real police station, he lives in a real street and drinks in a real bar. The Oxford Bar was where Ian started drinking as a student. It is a hidden side of Edinburgh and you have to know it is there otherwise you will not be able to find it. There is no music, it is a place to have a conversation and a drink. People leave notes for Ian at the Oxford Bar all the time.

What do you think about Scandinavian crime?
As a UK crime writer you regularly have to walk past table after table of Scandinavian fiction. Some of it is fine however there is a lot of good Scottish crime fiction that is not getting enough attention.

Do you feel there is a certain level of snobbery when it comes to the Man Booker prize and crime fiction?
If crime fiction gets longlisted it does not tend to get shortlisted. If it does it become literary fiction not crime fiction. However crime fiction is not dealt as bad a hand as Si-Fi or fantasy. There is less of a stigma attached to crime fiction and there are creative writing courses that focus solely on crime fiction. Why do we continue to do bad things to each other? Is the central question that crime fiction is trying to answer. Crime fiction can give you a sense of what the social and political problems are at a given time.

You have developed Siobhan as a character, did you consider giving her a book where she was the main character?
It was one of the options, after Rebus retired. However Ian got interested in the Complaints department and Siobhan would not fit into that storyline. Maybe in the future, Ian stated that he has a lot of time for Siobhan.

How would Rebus vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum?
Rebus would vote no, Siobhan would vote yes and Ian is somewhere in the middle. There is some stuff about the YES/NO campaign in the new book.

Will there be a new book next year?
No, Ian is planning on taking a year off and going traveling. He paid tribute to Gavin Wallace and Ian Banks, both who died this year.

With that final thought a very entertaining hour was brought to a close.

Featuring James Kakalios
Chaired by Helen Sedgwick

Above is the audience, just before the event started. Little did we know, we were all going to be getting a physics lecture with a superhero twist.

The title of the presentation given was The uncanny Physics of Super-hero comic books. He started off by thanking everyone for coming to the event….Nerds. In 2001, James created a seminar class at the University of Minnesota called ‘Everything I know about science I learned from reading comic books.’ In spring 2002, with the release of Spiderman film, James thought it was an ideal opportunity to get science into the newspaper. He wrote one article about Spiderman and it went all round the world. He then started showing up in places where physics professors don’t usually appear. Like Trivial Pursuit!

Superheroes in comics get their science right more than you think. You just need to suspend your disbelief. The physics of being super strong or super fast is correct if you suspend your disbelief. ‘Just the other day I picked up an object that was going at 600 miles an hour, it was a ginger bear I poured on my plane. But so was I moving at the same speed.

Talk then moved to newton’s third law of motion. For every action there is an opposite but equal reaction or forces come in pairs. There was sighs in the audience at this remark and it led James to say ‘ I am a teacher, your hatred only makes me stronger.’

As a child I really wanted to be hit by lighting or roll around in nuclear waste, as this seemed to be the way to gain superpowers.

In June 1938, superman made his first appearance. The very first superman villain was a crooked politician, that’s who he used to fight. He fought crooked politicians, landlords and owners of coal mines. However as soon as Superman became top comic of a multi-million empire, the villain switched to people like Brianiac. They still wanted to take over the world but left the USA economic structure alone.

Comics have always envisioned what our future world will be like. For example we do have jet packs, why do we not take them to work? Well you could if you lived next door to where you work on average a jet pack will only last 7 minutes. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to use a jet pack.

In spring 1926, pulp magazine Amazing Stories was the first magazine to focus soley on sci-fi. Also published in the same year was Schrodinger. One led to lasers, the other led to death rays.

Quantum Mechanics in three easy steps:
1) Light is both a wave and a particle.
2) Matter has wave and particle properties.
3) Everything has intrinsic spin
The above properties of matter form the base of the physics behind the MRI machine. We used to think that helium only existed in the stars, which is why it was named after Helios, the sun god. It wasn’t until years later that helium particles were discovered naturally on Earth.

Before Spiderman, every month the world would be attacked by giant space invaders in Tales to Astonish. The world was doomed if it wasn’t for scientists! Some of giant space invaders were, Lo-Kar. Moomba, Groog and Fin Tang Foom. James’s favourite space invader was the tax collector from outer space.

When the laser was first developed, journalists reported that it was an invention of a death ray. It took four years from the invention of the laser until it was used to try to cut 007 in half in Goldfinger.

The final slide of James’s presentation stated that ‘with physics comes both great power and great responsibility.’

With that final thought the event was drawn to a close. This event was extremely entertaining and incorporated quantum physics and superheroes. The nerd inside me wishes that the event was longer.
I highly recommend that everyone should read ‘The physics of Superheroes’ and see for yourself how often the physics behind the comics is actually correct.

Chaired by Peggy Hughes

richardRichard’s novel The Kills was a digital first and with the digital downloads you can restructure how the novel is presented to you. You can read it character by character or day by day. The Kills is 4 books, one a crime novel and the other 3 are more political thrillers but all the novels are interlinked. With the digital edition you can also choose what order you want to read the novels in. After this brief introduction we were treated to a reading from The Kills.

Sergio’s novel A Naked Singularity was originally self-publishedsergio and just won the PEN/Robert W Bingham prize. It is set within the Manhattan criminal justice system but it is not a liner or traditional criminal justice system novel. Sergio then read from his novel, he reads with such passion that you can not help but hang onto every word that he is saying.

Peggy then started the discussion by asking both authors to explain the publishing journey that they have went through with their novel.
Sergio had to pay to make his writing into a book, after it was self published he was done with it. However his wife was not, through her hard work she created a buzz about the novel through various literature lovers. It was then picked up by University of Chicago press and has just been picked up MacLehose Press and is being published internationally. It will be available in the UK from the 29th of August. It is a book that would literally not have existed if it was not for the internet. Richard had a different journey, his novel was first published digitally, one novel being released a month. With the digital copy of the book you get extra videos and audio press which stretches the book. However all the digital pieces are designed to stand alone.

Where did the idea for your novel come from anh how long did it take to write?
Sergio is a public defender in New York and he was always interested in the notion of a public defender breaching the line and becoming a criminal themselves. The novel was the perfect platform to explore that idea, the novel took about five to six years to write. He added that this is painful and embarrassing to say aloud. Richard started out with two images, what is it like to be socialised with an event and what if what someone says ultimately is not what happened. The three main volumes of the novel took three to four years to write.

What are you literature influences as a writer?
When reading The Kills you can sense that there has been a Roberto Bolaño influence on the novel. This is very true, Richard states that 2666 opened up many possibilities and showed that there is a way to play with form when you go beyond the traditional 70,000 word novel. Sergio’s response could not be more different, he states that as a reader he is more likely to pick up a book from 100 years a go. It is really a question of it you are truly aware of these books being influences when you are writing. The 19th century Russian classic are a huge influence, as well as Moby Dick. Literature to me is a form of religion, one of the ways I choose to worship it is through writing.

Was there a certain aspect of freedom attached to writing A Naked Singularity? As when writing it you did not have a publisher.
Sergio responded with I hope not, cause if the freedom was the only way I could write then I have lost that freedom. You ultimately have to resist the temptation to think like that. Sergio plan to continue to operate like the only person who is going to read his work is himself and maybe his wife if she got curious. He believes it should be mandatory by law that everyone has to write everyday, doesn’t matter if you are no good at it. Art forms are a siren song for a reason.

Talk then moved onto the art of writing a bigger book. Richard described the long novel as a canvas and it is ultimately a suspension of ideas. Sergio added that the long novel is its own thing and is separate from the short novel. It has a certain demand to it and you rarely hear people complain that a novel is too long. When they do complain it is because the novel does not work. A novel should transport you to another world and make your own life seem very boring. The long novel requires a higher attention span than the short novel and he added that he gets a pay off much quicker through reading Dubliners than reading a 19th century Russian Classic. (Personally I love the fact that he considers Dubliners light reading, as people who know me will know I am a great fan of Joyce’s work)

Time for some audience questions

Would you recommend self publishing?
Yes but you need to be careful not to be taken advantage of. Get other people to read your work before you go down that route as it is very expensive to self publish. If you find that you are the only one that likes it, you have already found your perfect reader. Richard added that he shot most of the material that is available digitally. All this was done on an extremely low budget.

Do you understand the power of the reader?
The best thing you can hope for when writing, is that your book will linger with the reader long after they are finished it, like a good scent. He likes books that treat you like you are intelligent and treat the reader with a bit of dignity.

A Naked Singularity is a very unique title, how did you think of it?
The title is explained in the book near the end and when it is explained you will realise that it has in a way formed nearly every sentence within the book. It was a cool phrase and he ultimately just wanted to use it. A naked singularity is a gravitational singularity without an event horizon. In a black hole, the singularity is completely enclosed by a boundary known as the event horizon, inside which the gravitational force of the singularity is strong enough so that light cannot escape. Hence, objects inside the event horizon—including the singularity itself—cannot be directly observed. A naked singularity, by contrast, is observable from the outside.

Do you think that non-mainstream ways of publishing will become common?
Sergio started his answer by saying that as a writer you need to feel like an outsider. The novel has to be something new, it has to emerge from the margins and then that idea becomes mainstream. The writer that are madder are normally better. He added that he read the description of Richard’s novel and got thrilled, as it hadn’t been done before. The novel will never die, if writers refuse to accept the status quo.

With that final thought an hours discussion was brought to an end. I have to add that this event will probably be one of my highlights of this year festival. There are certain events that you know are going to be good and this one did not disappoint me. It was lovely to hear the amount of passion that each man have for the written word. It was also lovely to see that Sergio got his copy of The Kills signed by Richard at the singing after the event, this just goes to show how much this man does love literature and I look forward to see what each of these writers does next.

Chaired by Russell McLean

Each author kicked off the event by treating the audience to a small reading.

Talk then turned to the common theme that is present in both novels, finding out who you are and finding your place in the world.
Matt said that the idea for his novel started of with an idea of looking at life from far away. In parts the book has a certain autobiographical feel to it. The Humans is written to Matt’s 24 year old self. Kevin did not deliberately set out to write a novel, he stated that he wrote it selfishly as at the time he was working as a journalist and film reviewer, writing a novel was a form of escape into a fictional world.

The other common theme both books have in common is the father and son relationship at the centre of both novels. The Humans originally started out as a family story and Matt thought it was going to be more about an alien and wife love story. However when writing it became clear that it was becoming increasingly more about the father and son relationship. Kevin described how he thinks certain subjects are red flag and he tries to avoid father and son relationships when writing. The idea is so traditional and he danced around it for so long that he couldn’t avoid it when writing.

Humour comes through in both books and it is rare to read a book that makes you laugh out loud. Matt responded to this by saying that, you write how you see life, I see life as a black comedy. Kevin added that writing takes you away from so many things in he your personal life, the least it can do is make you laugh.

Time for some audience questions

What was the soundtrack to your novel while you were writing?
Matt responded by saying that he writes in his attic, so he is always trying to block out the noise of the house below. The Beach Boys would be the soundtrack of the novel, The Humans.
Kevin response was more comic, The Strippers, which is a song that defined his teenage years and since he was writing from the prospects from a teenager it seemed like a good song to get him back into the mind-set.

You have talked about red flag subjects, that you try and avoid. Are these not the subjects that readers identify with?
Kevin responded it is more the practical aspect that makes it a red flag subject. It has been done so well in the past, it can be hard to make it seem new. It is mostly a reflex and a lazy thing, as trying to make something seem new that is so well done can be very challenging. Matt’s response was simple he finds it a lot easier to write from the prospective of a alien or a Labrador than write a straight forward father and son relationship.

How far does social media contribute to selling books?
Matt kicked off his response by saying that it is impossible to quantify how many books are sold through social media outlets. He has a very addictive personality and is addicted to twitter, he went as far as describing that twitter is the social medias crack. It can be a thin line though, people don’t know if you as the author should be directly promoting your books over these platforms. It can give the author a certain illusion of control over an aspect that is normally not within their control. It is also a way of having a direct relationship with the readers. Kevin added that he feel like the old-school style of publishing is hanging around for a good reason, cause it does work. Sometimes selling your book on twitter can verge on stalking.

How much are you aware of the market when you are writing?
You have to know what battles to choose, Matt responded. Every writer wants to be read, that is why the words exist on the page rather than stay in their head. Personally he wants to be read by as many people as possible but without taking away what he wants to say.

With that final thought an hour discussion was brought to an end.