Write-up from the Gollancz Literary Festival 2016!

Hi guys, me again! 😀 I was thrilled to attend the last day of the Gollancz Literary Festival  today at Foyles Bookshop in London- listening to some of the finest fantasy and sci-fi writers discuss their writing, including Ben Aaaronovitch (Rivers of London) Scott Lynch (The Lies of Locke Lamora) Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself) and one of my all-time favourite authors, Joanne Harris (Chocolat, The Gospel of Loki.) As the talks were fascinating, and full of writing tips, I thought I’d share with you my write-up of the talks, especially for my followers who are aspiring writers and bookaholics. (Hmm, pretty much all of you then! :D) Hope you enjoy!

Joe Abercrombie, Tom Lloyd, and Scott Lynch in conversation:

-This talk featured an interesting discussion on:

-Origniality in writing

-The importance of keeping familiar themes within your writing, whilst also writing uniquely

-Whether Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora could be televised

-The challenges of writing screeplays- e.g. for Joe Abercrombie’s Half A King

-The danger of suddenly vanishing production companies!

-The popularity of fantasy on screen

-Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels, Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Le Guin.

Ben Aaronovitch in conversation with Elizabeth Bear (author of Pinion):

Apparently, Aaronovitch threatens to kill off characters if they don’t behave for him! 😀

This discussion focused on:

-Protagonists and viewpoint characters

-‘Grim dark’ fantasy

And featured a lively discussion on what Aaronovitch and Bear both dislike in fantasy/mediaeval literature, including:

-Absolutist monarchy mixed with mediaeval monarchy (because they are DIFFERENT!)

-Using concepts that would not have been around at the time (e.g the 14th century)

-How female writers are rarely called ‘grim dark’ writers, even when they write grim dark fantasy material

-The false idea of ‘grim dark’ fantasy as a new concept

-Fantasy that lacks proper infrastructure

-How the media only pays attention to fantasy if it is successful in America and/or on television

-The recurring trope of ‘effete townies vs. country people’ in mediaeval fantasy

-The idea that mediaeval people didn;t travel

-Generic fantasy/mediaeval quests

Aaronovitch and Elizabeth Bear also gave the following important advice to any aspiring writers:

-That there is always room for excellence

-Be as good of a ‘you’ as you possibly can

-Find your own voice

-Don’t follow the zeitgeist, because by the time you finish your writing, the zeitgeist will have moved on.

Suggested reading by Ben Aaronovitch and Elizabeth Bear includes

The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land

Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Anne Karr

Stephen Baxter in conversation with Alastair Reynolds

This talk was a fascinating sci-fi themed discussion on:

-Arthur C. Clarke

-H.G. Wells

-The importance of world building

-Space travel, cyborgs, airships and alternate timelines

-Sci-fi ‘Boys’ Own’ adventures

-The challenges of collaboration in The Long Earth sequence with Terry Pratchett (which involved writing the plot in installments, using spreadsheets with facts and figures, blocking out narrative strands, exploring landscapes and timescapes within the novel.)

-The idea that you can only visualize so much when plotting- you also need to be prepared to go off on a tangent

Joanne Harris in conversation with Edward Cox (author of the Relic Guild)

In this discussion, Joanne introduced the character of Loki from her novel The Gospel of Loki, and explored:

-Loki’s modern adolescent voice and how this hides a lot of self-loathing and confusion about the modern (physical) world

-The Prose-Edda and how Harris used this to do a modern-retelling

-Loki’s sense of bizarre alienation and ‘otherness’

-How myths have been claimed by academics, not people

-How Loki is a spirit of chaos and volatility

-(the wonderful illustrator) Charles Vess

-Tom Hiddleston as Loki in the Thor movies (and how that may be not quite such a good thing!!!)

-How many of Harris’s novels are similar thematically- they deal with the volatile chemistry of small communities and the idea that one person can make a good/bad difference, especially when in a patriarchal community. (We see this in both Chocolat and Different Class.)

-Harris’s own experience of synesthesia, which influences the imagery in her novels and means that she sees colours as tastes. (Red= chocolate, which has ENTIRELY CHANGED the way I see Vianne Rocher and her love of red in Chocolat!!)

-How feelings can attach and modify to other things

-How music-particularly lyrics- inspires and influences her work- from the Spotify-created playlists for blueyedboy to the mention of David Bowie’s ‘Laughing Gnome’ and ‘Diamond Dogs’ in Different Class, and Joanne’s own band, Storytime (so cool!)



Interestingly, Joanne Harris is currently at work on a novel that will link up both The Gospel of Loki and Runemarks, her other Norse-themed fantasy novel.

All in all, this was a fantastic day and I really enjoyed the variety of discussions and hearing from some of the most talented contemporary fantasy and sci-fi authors around today. I can’t wait for next year’s Gollancz Fest! 😀


Also, if you too like Joanne Harris, make sure to check out my previous review of Harris’s The Evil Seed, and my previous ‘Literary Hero of the Month: Vianne Rocher from Chocolat.‘ Enjoy!


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