Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Val & Stewart & the Stolen Library Card

Looks like a road trip! And it was. Stewart Bain of Orkney Library took Val McDermid out in the library van for a tour of the West Mainland the day she arrived. I don't know about seizing the moment, but they were certainly grabbing what light there was in the day, so that Val could see something of Orkney before her session and before she flew off the next morning.

They went out the Orphir Road, passed Scapa Flow, then across the Brig o Waithe to Stromness. There, I believe shelter - and some refreshment - was taken in the Flattie Bar. Strictly non-alcoholic!

Scapa Flow from the Orphir Road

From there they went to the Standing Stones and Ring of Brodgar. Val was suitably impressed - if not by Stewart's driving, then at least by the Orkney countryside. She had a lie down in a darkened room before her session in the evening in Kirkwall Library!

Val McDermid's Session

Val clearly has a fan base in Orkney. There was an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd there to see her and listen to her story of how she began to write. It started of course with reading, and she credits the public library system with turning her into a writer. As a child, restricted to two fiction and two non-fiction books a week, she stole her mother's library card and told the librarians that her mother was ill and couldn't get to the library. Thus she augmented her reading to include adult titles and began her career of telling lies. A short hop then to writing fiction, Val maintained.

There was a lively Q&A then after she'd talked for a while, about the sources for some of her dark stories. Her latest book, she says, began with the experience of having her replacement metal knees set off the alarm at O'Hare airport in Chicago. She was held in a perspex box until the source of the metal was verified. Her son, around seven at the time, was made to wait outside. What if ...? Val thought. What if somebody came and took my son while I was detained by Chicago's finest in a perspex box ...? This became the central plot of her new book, The Vanishing Point. All fiction starts with What if...? she says.

Stewart interviewed Val on video for the library and drew comparisons between her career and that of Kylie Minogue! Not many people would get away with that! You can watch it here. I also interviewed Val for Radio Orkney's arts programme, Tullimentan which will air on Wednesday 19 December at 6.10 pm. If you miss it, you can catch it and previous programmes on SoundCloud.

Keep up with the various, sometimes nefarious, goings on in Orkney Library by liking the Facebook Page and following it on Twitter . You can also find the wonderful Stromness Library blog published regularly. Just click the link here. And check out the Reader in Residence's Facebook and Twitter pages.

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