Saturday at 5.45pm | Jersey Opera House
Enthusiastically chaired by Cathy Rentzenbrink, this round-table discussion of the different approaches to the thriller genre between Louise Doughty, JS Law and John Samuel threw up many surprising and funny insights into the dark arts of book publishing.
It seems that a novelist can often think that they’re writing one type of book – or don’t write with a thought for which shelf in the bookshop will house their novel – only to be told that they’ve written something else. Or, more to the point, something that their publisher would rather sell as something else that’s more marketable.
Prolific novelist Louise Doughty had such an experience with a couple of her earlier novels, and since then has followed their success deeper in to the genre while still being able to explore tougher social and political issues, such as mass killings in Indonesia in her new novel Black Water. John Samuel’s first novel What I Tell You In The Dark is a sharp, funny book that didn’t remotely strike me as a thriller, but as a debut novelist John bowed to the wisdom of his publisher’s marketing skills.
Conversely, JS Law drew on his own naval experience to set his novel Tenacity firmly in thriller territory, but again using the genre to explore broader issues – here, the treatment of women in the military. He was also amusingly open on the travails of getting published, such as sitting down with an editor who told him “I love your book,” and then tore it to shreds to the extent that the author worried the editor was talking himself out of publishing it.
I’m always fascinated by the different processes of different writers, and this entertaining panel showed once again that there are no rules. When talking about the extent to which each author plans ahead, Louise Doughty admitted that she largely wings it, while JS Law described how he planned his books with military precision to a degree that had host Cathy flapping her hands in horror.