Public speaking is something I’ve done often over the years, yet I’m far from being a ‘natural’. I spend my youth dreading and therefore avoiding it, and when I became a solicitor, I coped with advocacy (in less formal employment tribunals rather than conventional courts) by treating each case as a battle to be won. I started lecturing on legal topics in my 20s, but found this hard going, and I still try to dodge it when I can.
When my first novel was published, I found my first ever radio interview to be quite an ordeal. But over the years, I gained a lot of practice in talking about my writing, and I became more confident. I also found it easier to talk about crime fiction than, say, legal issues, because crime fiction is what I love. Attending crime conventions and participating in panels also helped to build my confidence.
Since publishing Dancing for the Hangman, I’ve given my talk about Dr Crippen several times. Each time it’s a little different, because I talk without notes and consequently change it a bit every time, varying the parts of the story on which I focus. Last night was different again, because I gave the talk as part of the Lymm Festival, and members of the audience included quite a number of people who know me as a neighbour rather than a writer. And, of course, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself in front of people you might bump into any day.
Fortunately, there was a good audience, with lots of questions, and the atmosphere was very positive, with plenty of books sold at the end of the evening. I really enjoyed sharing my enthusiasm for a story which really is stranger than fiction. The Crippen mystery is endlessly fascinating, and the Lymm Festival-goers seemed to think so too.