London Book Fair 2013



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Iím just back from my first trip to the London Book Fair. Itís a tremendous event. 27,000 publishing industry representatives over three days. I didnít know whether to be excited to be part of it or dwarfed to insignificance by the scale of it.

  The trick was to focus on the people I really wanted to see.

  I was glad to meet with Lesley Pollinger, the head of my literary agency, and with their rights manager. Both introduced me to potential clients dealing with such extras as large print editions and talked about getting my backlist into print.

  But the highlight of the day was the reception at the Lion Hudson stand to celebrate the launch of Lion Fiction. It was great to come face to face with so many of the staff who have worked on my books. It was the first time I had met my editor, Tony Collins.

  I was also delighted to make contact with Claire Dunn, who also writes for Lion Fiction, and whose novels I really admire

  The tables were piled high with books by Lion authors, including those by friends Donna Fletcher Crow and Claire Dunn.

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Andrew Hodder-Williams, the new publishing director, spoke first about Lion Fiction, and then it was over to me. This is, more or less, what I said:


  Iím delighted to be here celebrating the launch of Lion Fiction and the publication of my latest book, Death on Lindisfarne, this week.

  My connection with Lion goes back a long way. In the 1980s they published Pangur BŠn, the first in a series of Celtic fantasies for children Ė though it has many adult fans too. It was the start of a long and, certainly on my side, a happy relationship. I was only saddened when Lion dropped out of childrenís fiction.

  But it didnít end there. They also re-issued Visions and Voyages , one of my rare excursions into non-fiction. Itís a narrative history of the Celtic churches.

  I have also written many adult novels, and worked with different publishers. A few years ago, my career took an unexpected turn when I strayed, almost accidentally, into crime fiction. I set out to write a story about a woman researching her family history, but before I knew where I was, dark deeds in the past became entwined with dark deeds in the present, and I found I had a crime novel on my hands. This developed into the Suzie Fewings series with Severn House. I was still getting used to the idea of myself as a crime writer when, out of the blue, Tony Collins of Lion rang to ask if I would write a crime series for them. Would I? Of course I was delighted. The second in the Aidan Mysteries, Death on Lindisfarne, is the one which is being published this week.

  These may seem very different genres: childrenís fantasy, church history, adult crime novels. But you may have noticed a common theme running through them: my personal enthusiasm for the Celtic Churches.

  Iím not a great fan of crime fiction which is solely about the detection of a murder. The ones I really enjoy have an extra dimension to the writing. I particularly like the novels of Tony Hillerman. These are set in Arizona, and one of his two policemen is a Navajo. Each of the books has a lot about the culture and beliefs of the Navajo. Itís that extra dimension which adds richness to the read.

  I want that ďextra dimensionĒ for my own books. In the Suzie Fewings series itís the many ways in which you can research family history. Youíre getting get two detective stories for the price of one. With the Aidan Mysteries, that extra dimension is a sense of place. The books are is set around the sacred places of the British Isles. For the first one, The Hunted Hare, it was Pennant Melangell, a remote pilgrimage site in North Wales. Death on Lindisfarne is obviously set on Holy Island off the coast of Northumbria. Blood in the Well, which is currently taking shape, will visit some of the holy wells of Cornwall. The extra dimension here is the sense of sacred space.

  But this is not just about my own books. Iím delighted that Claire Dunn, who also writes for Lion Fiction, is here today. This ďextra dimensionĒ holds true for all Lion Fiction authors. Whether we write crime or romance, fantasy or history, we seek, not just to create books which will stand comparison with the best in their genre, but which bring to the reader the richness of that ďsomething extraĒ.