Lesley Glaister and Sophie Hannah

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Paul Johnston (presenter)
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Lesley Glaister has written 11 novels, winning the Betty Trask and Somerset Maugham prizes for "Honours Thy Father". She lives in the Borders and Orkney as well as teaching a Masters' degree in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University.

Sophie Hannah is a literary polymath -  poet, short story writer ( Daphne du Maurier award) and psychological suspense novelist from West Yorkshire. During this lively event on Monday 13 August, featuring two very distinctive young crime writers, chaired with flair and wit by Paul Johnston (also a crime writer), we learnt a good deal more about the research, ideas and plotting behind the writing of a thriller.

Glaister read from the opening pages of her new book, "Nina Todd has Gone", about Nina's strange encounter with Rupert, a dark, handsome stranger, at a conference. He invites her to dinner - she hesitates. "Suddenly I felt reckless. What the hell, I thought, Why not - what harm could it do?"   What harm indeed. The story goes on to explore what happens when ordinary lives are turned upside down. 

Then Sophie Hannah (who is so witty she could be a stand-up comedian as well!) explained the background of her new novel, "Hurting Distance" about Naomi who has had a long term affair with a married man, meeting once a week in the same motel room. But one day Robert fails to turn up and she reports him missing to the police. When they don't pursue the matter as anything serious, she invents an unsavoury background as a psychopath.

To questions from Paul Johnston and the audience, they both described how their stories had evolved (both coincidentally while on respective holidays in Borneo and a British Spa hotel, while swimming) and how they plan their novels.

Hannah compiles a 40 to 60 page outline, detailing the entire narrative from beginning to end. Glaister however finds writing is a "process of discovery", comparing reading with writing - "what will happen next?" 

There was an hilarious discussion on acknowledgements in books - who should be thanked and why, often prompting a mystery in themselves. And finally on the topic of reading crime fiction:  "I read books to be gripped,"  says Sophie .... "I want to be lost in a book, to be taken into a different world to be surprised," agrees Lesley. And in this entertaining hour we were certainly gripped by their illuminating discussion and left desperately wanting to find out what happens next to Nina and Naomi ...

Lesley Glaister, "Nina Todd has Gone"  Bloomsbury Press

Sophie Hannah, "Hurting Distance" Hodder and Stoughton