So day 1 of the Edinburgh Book Festival saw us basically stalking Nathan Filer (The Shock of the Fall) from one event to the next.
In the first he was joined by Stewart Foster (We Used to Be Kings) in a moderated discussion about writing characters with mental illness. In Filer’s the boy suffers from undiagnosed schizophrenia while in Foster’s novel the boy seems to have split personality disorder (This is what I gathered from the discussion. I’d only read Filer’s novel.)
It was an okay session. We all felt the moderator didn’t do a great job of directing the discussion. She seemed to focus more on the nuts and bolts of the stories instead of the themes or character development. She gave away quite a few plot points for Filer’s novel, especially concerning the ending which those of us who’d read the book felt she shouldn’t have done. Filer was entertaining though, engaging with the audience. Foster seemed a bit on the shy side, but it is quite a flustering thing I suppose.
“The first sign that a book works is when the characters talk back to their author…”
The next event we saw also had Filer on the panel, along with Edward Carey and Matthew Quick (Silver Linings Playbook). The session was about Voices in Our Head and the moderator did a much better job of engaging the audience and panelists on the subject. It was quite a philosophical discussion, on how writers “hear” the voices of their characters and how that differs from sufferers of mental illness who also hear voices. What makes one acceptable while the other inspires fear? Is it the fact that writers can see the distinction between the real and unreal? Is it that we use the voices to tell a story?
It was interesting to me because I’ve often wondered those things myself. When I’m walking down the street muttering dialogue to myself or testing exposition on my tongue, I often catch myself and wonder if people looking at me think I’m crazy. Lord knows when I see people muttering to themselves on the street, I give them a wide berth; do people think/do the same to me?
They also briefly touched on how it feels when the writer releases their work, relinquishing their creation to the public. Filer felt that this “mourning period” began when his manuscript went to his editor. Carey, who is writing a trilogy, is begging his characters to leave him alone :p while Quick talked about how when Silver Linings Playbook was adapted to film, he found it odd as the voice wasn’t what he’d heard in his head during the writing.
There was a lot of talk about postpartum depression with Quick in particular talking about a six-month period of severe anxiety/depression when the film rights had been sold. Carey agreed with this, saying he still misses some of his older characters. Filer, being the newest author, thought he might be coming to that point with Shock of the Fall.
All in all, successful first day of the festival! Stay tuned for more highlights!