Joanna Briscoe had made a mammoth effort to get to the festival on Friday, travelling from London to St Germans in a day to do an event in the Round Room before heading for the dovegreyreader tent for a natter with us, and then home to get packed up for a holiday starting the following day.
After the torrential rain that had greeted Katie and Hari just an hour or so earlier there were hints of dryness and sunshine as Joanna arrived, and in fact this was the fine-weather turning point. The ridge of low pressure had run through, the high was coming and our resident Weatherman heaved a sigh.
Joanna sank gratefully into the sofa, we put a cup of tea in her hand, she picked up some knitting and we were away. I've decided this sofa thing is by far the best way to sit and talk with an author. It creates a calm, relaxed environment conducive to fascinating conversations and we had plenty of those over the weekend.
It was good to talk around Joanna's latest novel You. The plot twists (not all of them) and the location (Dartmoor) featured large, along with teenage obsessions and the relentless way that the spirit of the house that had so dominated her childhood and teenage years kept returning to haunt her. Stopping short of putting that thatch on her London home Joanna wrote the book instead. I had read somewhere that Joanna finds the process of writing a novel 'excruciatingly hard' so that offered great conversation fodder too.
Of course we couldn't extract any literary gossip but we did have a great discussion about the state of the publishing world and how it is impacting on authors.
RevCheryl pondering on how a writer's moment in the spotlight may dim, and in relation perhaps to our discussions about Bruce Chatwin with Katie Kitamura and Hari Kunzru thought this afterwards...
I wondered how this might tie in with Joanna Briscoe’s observation about publishers chasing after first books because they are always looking for the next big thing but not being prepared to cultivate more established writers who have not had a wham bam success. On the other hand there are a group of male writers in this country, contemporary with McInerney who seem to retain their position in the literary firmament.
Asked for her recommends Joanna pointed us in the direction of Thomas Hardy as her all-time favourite and also flagged up Patrick McGrath's Asylum for our delectation.