Susan Grossey, historical crime writer, shares her enthusiasm for her first ever Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest
Full disclosure: until I became e-friends with Debbie Young, I had never heard of Hawkesbury Upton – let alone its literature festival.
When Debbie started mentioning it, I realised that it was my chance to meet her in person and to attend a free book festival – which is a rare beast these days, with most such events charging upwards of £10 per session ticket.
I felt a bit bad about just turning up as a spectator and so I asked whether I would be any use as a speaker, thinking – arrogantly – that I would be doing a little festival something of a favour. Once I had been accepted and gathered into the HULF family, I quickly realised my mistake: this is a prestigious and well-attended event, and I was jolly lucky to make it onto the programme at all.
The panel session in which I took part had as its theme “authors inspired by their day jobs”, and I found myself sitting alongside an accountant (AA Abbott), a former military nurse (Wendy H Jones) and a commodities trader (Hugh Arthur) – so with me as an anti-money laundering consultant, we were certainly an eclectic bunch. Oddly enough, we are all crime writers (that nurse can think up some dastardly murders…) – and money laundering has featured in books by each of us, so perhaps I am not quite the trail-blazer I had imagined myself to be!
What was common to the three panel sessions I attended – one as a participant and the other two in the audience – was the generosity and fair-mindedness of everyone concerned.
There was no grandstanding, no “I’ve got a three-book contract and you’re only a beginner”, and no barging into anyone else’s spotlight. The audience questions were sometimes predictable but often so thought-provoking that everyone fell silent for a few moments as the answer was considered – and I really like that evidence of true connection with, and deep interest in, the books under discussion.
The fabulous organisation of the HULF was quite something to behold, with locals obviously incredibly supportive of the initiative. The village has an impressive selection of suitable venues, including a brace of lovely chapels, and with a bespoke map and excellent signposting we were all dashing around with true purpose – with a packed programme, no-one wanted to miss a moment. The Wonderland Café was a marvel, and the volunteer-staffed bookshop gave all authors equal status and marvellously prompt payment. And there was even a professional photographer on hand, with a special deal for HULF authors dreaming of needing a head-shot for that Booker Prize publicity material.
Applications to feature in the HULF 2020 line-up will open on 1 September 2019 and I urge you to note the date in your diary: it’s an inspiring and invigorating day – and even if you don’t know anyone at the start of the day, I guarantee that by the end of it you will have made some firm friends.
Susan Grossey is the author of numerous non-fiction books about money laundering and – more thrillingly – the Sam Plank series of historical crime novels set in London in the 1820s. There are five already published, with the sixth due out in October 2019 and then one more to complete the series. After that, unable to contemplate life without a Regency constable, Susan has planned a series of five novels set in her home town of Cambridge, and narrated by a university “bulldog”.