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Stand-up comedy prepared author for book launches!

By Margaret Chrystall

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WRITER Lesley Kelly wears the orange bio-hazard suit in her photo with the cool of a catwalk model, but she knows from experience you “absolutely melt” inside one.

Quickly it is worth pointing out that Lesley’s experience comes not from personal up-close encounters with deadly viruses of the kind that appear in her pandemic series the Health of Strangers.

It comes from wearing one of the suits a couple of years ago as a fun idea for the Edinburgh launch event for what is now the first book in her series.

Lesley has recently published book three, Death at the Plague Museum – a dramatic death opening the latest episode of the series featuring the Scottish Health Enforcement Team’s (HET) dream team Mona and Bernard.

Lesley – who is published by Dingwall-based publisher Sandstone Press – is making her debut at the Cromarty Crime and Thrillers Weekend on Saturday.

There she will talk about the HET world with her event being aptly titled Viruses, Villains And A Very Special Museum.

Lesley's latest title.
Lesley's latest title.

Her story of finding a publisher is one a would-be writer might dream about.

“I had a novel I’d been sitting on that I entered into the Caledonian Novel Competition. It was longlisted.

“But it was enough of a nudge for me to think ‘Maybe I need to do something with this!’. So my colleague Rebecca McKinney who writes for Sandstone said, ‘Send it to Sandstone and even if they don’t like it they will give you feedback’.

“So I sent it off, they read it and liked it – and I’m just one of these lucky people who actually got published off the ‘slush pile’!” said Lesley, referring to the big pile of books publishers accumulate – and rarely publish many – from hopeful writers.

“It almost never happens now,” Lesley said.

“But I think I was just lucky with timing and things – and it was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize.

“So that was quite a good start, I suppose!”

Lesley’s previous experience of writing had been in the contrasting worlds of poetry and stand-up comedy.

“I would say that a finely-crafted joke is very close to a finely-crafted poem, they both have to have a point to them,” said Lesley. “Comedy is really good for structuring things. Standing up there in front of all these people – most of them are drunk – is scary, but it’s good practise for a book launch!”

Lesley’s event Viruses, Villains and a Very Special Museum at the Cromarty Crime and Thrillers Weekend (Friday, May 4 to Sunday, May 6) is at noon on Saturday. Other guests are Ian Rankin, Shona MacLean and Lin Anderson. A full panel event on Sunday features all the guests. Details: www.cromartyartstrust.org.uk/crime-and-thrillers

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