Femmes Fatales of the North East

On Wednesday 15th March four female crime writers from the North East of the UK came together in a panel on regional crime fiction – run by Waterstones Newcastle.

The event brought writers Sheila Quigely, Eileen Wharton, KA Richardson and Danielle Ramsey all together to discuss their fiction, in a discussion chaired by Jackie Collins, a lecturer from Newcastle University.

The discussion started with a look the main uniting factor: the regional identity of the authors and their books. All of these women were either born or live locally, and they are down to earth, easy to relate to and understand. Sheila Quigley, with a thick Geordie accent, talks of the importance of producing North East literature, to combat the London and South oriented focus in the industry. However, the dialect itself could pose a problem, all writers note that to some extent if used too much it wouldn’t travel well overseas. However, KA Richardson was keen to emphasise that this makes the books more accessible locally – speaking to people in the way that they speak and about places they know.

In discussing accessibility and the publishing industry itself Quigley points out the issue with ebooks, which are often a similar price to their hardcopy counterparts. Quigley is humorous and relatable, picking up on such issues, and she frequently triggers a wave of laughter throughout the audience.

Looking more closely at their specific books, Danielle Ramsay discussed how her detective character began as a female but she wasn’t flawed enough and ended up being rewritten as a man. This triggered some consideration of the tropes in crime fiction which we have come to expect. Even Ramsay acknowledged that the flawed, anti-hero male detective, a response to previous typical figures, has become a cliche itself.

Quigley described the process of character creation as compositing a number of real people. Wharton notes that all of her female characters are strong, of not likeable – some are even nasty. KA Richardson explains how all of these writers are just real people writing what they know and giving voices to those who don’t have them.

The discussion was so interesting because these writers are real working people – KA Richardson worked as a Crime Scene Investigator, and still works with the emergency services, while Eileen Wharton is a working single mum. They are all enthusiastic about their region and keen to represent the North East within their fiction. I for one will be looking to read more from my local area starting with these wonderful writers!




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