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HighlandLIT workshop with Highland writer Gareth Halliday focused on thriller-writing

By Margaret Chrystall

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Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness

5 stars

The latest event from HighlandLIT – the Inverness group supporting writers and would-be writers – delivered irresistible clues about crime writing from Gareth Halliday.

Crime writer Gareth Halliday guested at HighlandLIT.
Crime writer Gareth Halliday guested at HighlandLIT.

Three books into the Highland-based writer’s series featuring Inverness detective DI Monica Kennedy, Gareth – who writes as GR Halliday for Penguin – led a workshop that included an exercise to practise writing the ‘hook’, a sentence or two that would entice readers, and possibly a literary agent, to want to read more.

In the group’s regular meeting place at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness on Tuesday night, an enthusiastic group got stuck into creating a first sentence that set up a cracking idea you could build into a book.

And though it might have been a dreich winter’s night outside, imaginations were on fire creating scenarios from a scary surprise in an obituary column to a bitter lovers’ row.

The bonus was writer Gareth giving a sneak preview of Under The Marsh, his third book which will be out in July. The pindrop silence as he read from the start of the book was a testimony to the power of his own ability to create the kind of ‘hook’ a talent-spotting agent would dream of.

With many tips about writing crime and insights into the publishing process, Gareth’s session was also rewarded with a healthy deluge of questions that led to more wise words and entertaining stories from the guest writer.

Asked how many suspects you should put into your crime novel, Gareth quoted his friend Jonathan Whitelaw who says “You can never have too many!”.

And should the crime writer know who their murderer is when they start a book?

Not necessarily, said Gareth, referencing Cromarty resident and bestselling crime writer Ian Rankin who has said he often doesn’t know his killer until the second draft of his book.

But after all the discussion to demystify the dark arts of creating crime fiction, Gareth had a sobering story for wordsmiths, having met a woman at an event who confessed she literally chose her next crime read – only by its cover. MC

HighlandLIT’s next meeting on March 15 is an open mike when writers can share their own work. Details: highlandlit.com

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