Elly Griffiths at Wordpool 2013

Elly Griffiths
Elly Griffiths
Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths, who spoke at Moor Park library in this year’s Wordpool on Thursday, has written a range of novels. She is most famous for the series in the crime genre centred on forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. The fifth in this series, Dying Fall, takes the protagonists away from their usual setting in Norfolk to visit us on the Fylde Coast. She told many tales of interest to those wanting more background to her own work as well as writers of all genres. Yes, her research was thorough – even including a ride on the Big One at the Pleasure Beach, despite her antipathy for such thrill seeking machines. She suggested an ideal split for writing a book a year was six months research, six of writing but that this time was often eaten into by demands, including those of publishers. “Why don’t you blog more,” they usefully suggested. She recounted the apocraphal tale of another writer who ended up “tweeting” so much she could only find time to write in the early hours of the morning!

Her initial work in writing were a series of lighter books loosely bound together by her Italian background. She was eventually driven away from these (which some in the audience had read) by publishers once again. They would invest them with strap lines such as “love, Italian style…”

She went in search of new ideas and says she had an interesting experience she did not expect. On a holiday in Norfolk on the coast, she became aware of its ancient history as a place, sacred in the time of the Bronze Age, whose people thought it a landscape between soil and water, a crossing place between heaven and earth. She was out walking and had an uncommon thing nowadays: a vision. She says she saw her main character walking out of the mist towards her and knew the story of the first book at that moment.

She has had a long standing interest in archaeology as does her husband. She told how he had left the world of law to return to university to train in archaeology (what a sensible chap). He is now able to help her out by checking her manuscript for factual matters. What he does suggest is that time scales are often telescoped; things that take a while in real archaeology are made to appear much more quickly in fiction. As she suggests, such is not uncommon especially in the crime genre, where an investigation that might take a considerable time is often made to take place over a few weeks.

As for writing tips, she had a few. If having an idea for a series don’t let too many significant things happen between your main protagonists in the first book. Because she hadn’t set out with the idea of a series, she did allow that and has had to live with the early events and make subsequent fictions fit in. Related to this was an importanyt set of advice – effectively, know your characters. What they do is related to their backgrounds and this can be a use as the fictional world develops – but make sure you keep track of them. One prominent character in her work is based on a relative, which she says helps make his background memorable but sher still keeps a check on what has happened in the world she makes him inhabit in her imagination. Importantly, for the book set on the Fylde coast, her relative was from here and his ways of relating to his past became a useful way of exploring ideas of living away from a place you were brought up in.

There’s clearly a lot to the crime genre and Elly Griffiths’ work explores some of its by ways. I think you’ll be hearing more about her. She’s an engaging speaker, well work catchjing up with if you get the chance, maybe another year at Wordpool?

To find out more about Elly Griffiths go online to www.ellygriffiths.co.uk or to learn more about Wordpool visit http://blackpoolwordpool.wordpress.com.

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