A few months ago I was dribbling over the Fantasycon 2011 website and wishing I could go, but unfortunately it was during the weekend we had arranged to hold our eldest’s birthday party. Pim caught me sighing with regret then encouraged me to go, just for the Saturday, we’d still be able to get the party sorted.
Delighted, I emailed David, whose wife then emailed me to say that she wanted to get him a ticket too – fantastic, we’d both be going to meet people in the industry, fellow writers trying to get a break like ourselves, and published authors whom we admire.
So for the second time ever, David and I met up
. . . hang on a minute, you’re probably asking, aren’t you writing a book together?
Yes we are, we met via the blogosphere over the subject of RPGs. The writing and discussing has all taken place over the web – email and Googledocs mainly. Every Friday we have a meeting on the chat function in Googledocs, so when David took the four hour drive down from Hull it was nice to actually have a face to face meeting for a change.
Saturday morning we set off early, the morning mist being blasted off the fields by the burgeoning sun. Friends of mine who live in Brighton kindly let me park by their house and so we were met by a glorious sight of the shimmering sea and streets spreading out before us as we walked down the hill towards the hotel.
I had a whole list of things I forgot, mainly:
Some questions I was going to ask Anne Lyle,
The dictaphone to record the interview,
A list of tweeps I wanted to meet in real life.
At least I remembered the programme, but it didn’t matter too much as we were given goody bags when we arrived with all of that stuff in there. David mentioned feeling nervous and I was ice cool, they’re only human beings after all.
But once inside it was David that was schmoozing, and dragging me over to people, keeping the conversation going when I froze up and bringing up relevant points. Thanks David!
We followed the signs to the Newbie’s area but I couldn’t see that anything was going on so, typically, was magnetically pulled towards the bar. A gin and tonic at ten fifteen and a pint for David settled my nerves a little. Then I saw Anne Lyle and apologised to her for forgetting all my notes and that we would have to interview via email as we had discussed as a back-up plan. This chat turned into an interview as it happens, I wish I could have recorded it! Anne was very friendly and informative and I find both her path to publication and what I have heard about The Alchemist of Souls fascinating.
Lou Morgan had informed me that the Albion is a warren, and when I went to find the loos I realised what she meant. I have a pretty good sense of direction, my husband calls me ‘Maps’, but I got seriously lost once I entered the basement. David and I lost sight of each other for about an hour. I should have had the sense to rummage through my goody bag and find the bleeding map (D&D instincts all abandoned at that point).
In the end I settled down to listen to the tail end of ‘A History of Fantasycon’, panelled by Jo Fletcher, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones and Peter Coleborn. Being my first con ever this was very useful. It turns out this was one of the biggest, with 500 people in attendance. What makes it unique, according to the panel, is that there is no separation between the published authors and other guests, no ‘green room’ where they are corralled away.
When I resurfaced I saw what they meant. David was in the bar (where I had already looked several times) and introduced me to Joe Abercrombie. MD Lachlan appeared soon after and we got into a discussion about swords and fencing – always good.
The bowl of cheerios I’d eaten at seven thirty was rapidly diminishing so we sought out lunch on the pier and were horrified by the prices. A tube of mechanically recovered pig entrails in a sleeve of bread took the edge off for a while before we returned to the Albion.
In the afternoon I went to the hotel next door for a masterclass with Jo Fletcher about the making of a book. It was excellent, a huge reality check, which is a double edged sword (sorry). I learned just how difficult the path to publication is, even when the manuscript has left your hands and is within the publisher’s. We all know it’s hard, but I always imagined that the hurdle was getting the editor to read your manuscript and like it, but even if they do there are several more hoops it must leap through after that. However, what she also taught us was what is really important, what the common silly mistakes are that get hopeful authors rejected. Where and how we should concentrate our efforts on making it the best manuscript we can.
Unfortunately this appointment clashed with Anne’s reading which I had wanted to attend, but David went in my stead and said that he enjoyed it.
We met lots of lovely people, all very friendly and easy to talk to. There were a lot of things for sale that I had to resist with every fibre, it’s been a pretty expensive month.
The last panel we attended was on how to deal with agents and editors. It was very full and very warm by then, and the subject seemed to have strayed onto what the panellists thought the next big thing would be and the contentious issue of ebooks.
At around six my friends Mat and Helen met us in the bar. This was quite an occassion for me as I hadn’t actually told them that I write, they were under the impression that I was attending some exhibition. So over a conversation with Anne-Mhairi Simpson, David, Stephanie King and myself they came to realise that I was in the process of co-writing a book. Mat and Helen then very kindly took us all to the Lanes for a delicious and inexpensive meal. It was a nice, impromptu gathering of people and a pleasant way to finish the day.
After my friends went home the four of us returned to the hotel for some more chinwags, but by then I was feeling very tired and didn’t want to drive too exhausted so we said our goodbyes. I found more tweeples on the way out and said some quick hellos and farewells, then that was Fantasycon over for a year.
The only regrets are small ones – that I didn’t get to talk to anyone as much as I wanted to, that I was only there for a single day, but at least I was there. It was a great time, I learned so much and made some wonderful friends. I will definitely be attending Fantasycon in Corby next year. It is almost exactly halfway between David and me so it won’t be just one of us burdened with an exhausting journey.