5 questions for author Emlyn Rees [INTERVIEW]

Emlyn Rees

Host of November’s BookMachine Brighton, Sarah Juckes, talks to speaker on the night Emlyn Rees, a fiction and non-fiction author, editor and director of the Dark & Stormy Crime Film, TV and Book Festival.

Grab you tickets for BookMachine Brighton here.


1) You launched the Dark and Stormy crime festival in May this year, do you think there is a bigger connection between Brighton and crime fiction than in other places in the UK?

There’s certainly a lot of excellent contemporary crime writers living here, from established bestsellers like Peter James, who was kind enough to do our opening event for us, and Simon Toyle, Peter Guttridge, Julia Crouch, Lesley Thomson, as well as screenwriters like Tom Grieves and Tony Basgallop, songwriters like Nick Cave, and brilliant debuts like Rebecca Whitney. There’s always been a big connection between Brighton and real life crime too, which might have been what’s fostered its suitability and credibility as a location for fictional criminal activity over the years, from infamous murders such as the trunk murders, various serial poisoners, added to general mayhem like the mods & rockers riots, as well as the city’s proximity to London and its status as an open city for any gangs operating out of there. In a lot of people’s minds, though, the city’s seedier side was first pinned down by Brighton Rock, the original film of which we also showed this year as part of our programme, and more recently by film directors such as Ben Wheatley and films such as London to Brighton and Before I Go To Sleep, which continue to mine the city’s rich and murderous vein. I think Keith Waterhouse summed it up best: ‘Brighton looks as though it is a town helping the police with their enquiries’


2) As a relatively new festival, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt about the process of creating Dark and Stormy, and making it happen?

It’s a lot of hard work, and not just in programming the events, but physical work too, setting up bars, lugging around beer barrels and generally hurtling everywhere like greyhounds for three days. Which of course doesn’t mean it’s not fun too. The best thing I learned was that the publishing and film communities – from publishers, to editors, to film directors, readers, critics and authors – are incredibly generous with their time and enthusiasm. Festivals are the result of a huge joint effort and it’s largely thanks to all these people that Dark & Stormy happened at all.


3) We’re really excited to have you speak at BookMacine Brighton on the launch date of ‘The Very Hungover Caterpillar’! How easy do you find it to switch between writing comedy and crime? Do you have any tips for other genre-crossing writers?

Caterpillar, which is a follow-up to last year’s illustrated parody, We’re Going on a Bar Hunt, was a lot of fun to write, insofar as it was written on the back of beer mats in the Lion & Lobster here in Brighton. So, yes, very easy indeed compared with the kind of full length thriller novels I more usually write these days. That said, the real hard work was done by our brilliant illustrator Gillian Johnson. I find switching genres is a real treat and a challenge and I’d do it more if I could. The real problem is that a lot of publishers don’t like you doing it at all. They prefer to label writers as being one thing or another, so they can build your brand around that, and you often encounter stiff resistance if you try stepping outside of whatever box you’ve been put in.


4) You’ve co-written a number of books with Josie Lloyd, how much does the writing process differ between writing collaboratively, and writing on your own?

Oddly, for me at least, not that much. Writing co-authored novels like Come Together with Jo, we both got into the habit of editing each other’s work as we went along. The theory was that both of our names would end up on the cover, so we both had to be proud of what was inside. It’s a habit that’s stuck and Jo always reads my work before anyone else and vice versa. The hardest thing about this is that you have to be brutally honest with each other if something isn’t working. The best thing is that you then feel a lot more secure handing it in to your editor, knowing that it’s already had one other pair of eyes scrutinizing it to make it the best that you can.


5) Finally, what’s your favourite beach snack – fish and chips, or beach barbecue?

BBQ, definitely. The biggest mistake I ever made in Brighton was throwing a chip to a fluffy baby seagull sitting there sadly alone on the beach. I then discovered it was ‘the bait’ – the second I did it, a hundred other gulls descended in a frenzy of flapping wings like a scene from The Birds. I BBQ a lot on the beach these days and one of my favourite sights is that ‘Native American Indian camp moment’ of seeing hundreds of smoke signals rising up all over Brighton beach around sunset as everyone cooks and chills out.


BookMachine Brighton, sponsored by Completely Novel is on 6th November. Tickets are available here.

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