Read Regional: Hexham, Northumberland

Hexham Book Festival kicked off on Thursday and my Creative Writing workshop was the first event in the programme. Twelve keen writers had signed up for the session in the lovely Queen’s Hall, which is also home to Hexham library.

Hexham Queen's Hall

In the workshop we explored ways of creating and developing characters, drawing on  a selection of found objects and my collection of pictures of people, including the postcards that I bought in Hull earlier in the week.

We then tested the mettle of these newly created characters by putting them into situations inspired (as I was for The Companion) by adverts from the personal columns of The Times newspaper in the 1920s and ’30s. They included these beauties:


Some fantastic characterisations and beginnings of stories ensued!

Before my author talk in the evening I spent some time exploring Hexham. It is a very pretty town with some beautiful historic buildings including the Moot Hall, the Old Gaol and the stunning Abbey, which in addition to its Early English Gothic architecture, stained glass and carvings also has a very nice cafe that serves a cracking lemon, polenta and almond cake.

It’s a bustling town with lots going on but there are also parts, particularly around the Abbey that have that ‘time stood still feeling’. Moments, such as the one that was another inspiration for The Companion, when you can imagine you might hear the voices, or catch a glimpse, of people whose lives have passed through there before.

My author talk was in the newly refurbished library in the Queen’s Hall, which has my so-far favourite library balcony and ceiling.

Hexham Library ceiling

The Q&A part of my talk included interesting discussions about the writing process (I’m very firmly in the ‘just get the messy first draft down and worry about editing later’ and ‘write (that first draft) as if nobody will ever read it’ camp) and about research and accuracy in historical novels.



Afterwards I met the lovely people from Cogito Books, who have a splendid bookshop in the town. They are selling books in the Queen’s Hall during the festival including signed copies of The Companion.


The line-up for the festival is fantastic, so do check out he programmeif you are going to be in the area.


Next week The Companion and I are heading to Birtley in Gateshead, where as well as meeting some more Tyneside readers, I’m also hoping to get a close-up glimpse of the Angel of the North.


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