Trisha Cooper on hosting It’s All About Fiction – Readers’ Afternoon

14 October 2016

Five exquisite writers, each one a delightful surprise.

Two first-time novelists, three experienced writers, all with common threads.

The Fiction afternoon is a well-loved fixture in the Off The Shelf calendar.  It's also called a Readers' Afternoon.  You can see why.

Brilliant, cohesive programming brought together Linda Green and Cath Staincliffe.  Both have written novels based on horrific tragic events - set in believable real-life scenarios.  Linda's experience as a Sheffield-trained journalist triggered the story of an abducted child.  We were reminded of the McCann family trauma, but surprisingly heard the voice of both victim's family and perpetrator.  Linda shared with her audience her story-board and even the clothes she bought to dress her victim in - to make it real.

Cath Staincliffe's meticulous planning for her novel based on a terrorist attach on a train was a revelation.  Her reading of the first chapter demonstrated her genius juxtaposing comedy and tragedy. Again we heard the voice of the perpetrator's family, along with the stories of 8 passengers on the train.  Unputdown-able.

The second session brought together award-winning Jenn Ashworth, already writing her 5th novel but here to talk about her fourth, "Fell".  Her reading was mesmerising and she skilfully shared with the audience her sulks when the story she didnt want to write just wouldnt go away - and the fact that Fell is a tailoring term.

Conor O'Callaghan's dreamy Irish brogue entranced us all - that he is a poet is apparent in his novel.  But he didnt want that to show: the discussion of his skill as a novelist was fascinating and - as with Fell - centred round a house. Conor's house is on the so-called "ghost estates" which exist on abandoned building sites in his native Ireland.

Eleanor Wasserberg's debut novel is set in a house called Foxlowe.  In contrast to Linda Green and Cath Staincliffe, Eleanor confessed to very little planning, and believed in the book leading her on as the story takes shape. 

A joyous afternoon