Guest Blog from author AA Abbott (This article previously appeared in a slightly different form on Blogger August 27th 2014)
Brum’s always had a great reputation for making stuff – literally, anything – and lately, for fabulous shops and clubs, and a thriving coffee culture. It’s hardly famous for creative writing, though, despite being less than thirty miles from Shakespeare’s old stamping ground (stomping ground) in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Like many of the city’s strengths, its fiction is a well-kept secret. Birmingham’s diversity gives writers plenty of inspiration. Some focus on the darkness below the surface. James Brogden imagines secret alleys in The Narrows, while Ryan Davis features warring drug gangs in his humorous thriller, 27. Others highlight the beauty and warmth of the city, like Katharine D’Souza’s descriptions of the green lungs of south Brum in Park Life.
I set out to big up Birmingham in my thrillers, so much so that a Bristol reader of After The Interview announced he was planning a trip to the West Midlands. However, my intention is not to write a travelogue. Although I usually set nastier scenes in London and happy chapters in Brum, that’s not always the case. A turning point in Up In Smoke is the fight that breaks out during a funeral at Lodge Hill, only stopping when a long-time smoker begins coughing blood. No prizes for guessing his condition is a tad more serious than the common cold.
Birmingham has a distinguished, if largely unsung, literary history – from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publishing his first fiction when he lived here, through to JRR Tolkien, David Lodge and a whole host of talented novelists writing today. The life of Arthur Conan Doyle is currently being depicted in ITV’s Arthur and George based on the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the book by Julian Barnes.
J R R Tolkien fans can follow in his footsteps by downloading the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s excellent Tolkien Trail. This showcases local landmarks that inspired The Lord of the Rings, including Perrott’s Folly and Moseley Bog.
Although not all Birmingham authors focus on the city itself, an amazing number do – just take a look at Heide Goody’s cool Birmingham Readers’ Map. All genres are represented: thrillers that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, chilling horror stories, romance, humour and more.
Many of the novels on the map have been published by indie authors. Traditional publishing isn’t dead – yet – but there’s a viable alternative. Authors can easily publish e-books themselves and set up their own printing and distribution networks at low cost. The city’s entrepreneurial culture encourages writers to embrace the opportunities offered by the digital age. Many have set up their own publishing imprints, either just for themselves or in partnership with others. Among them are stalwarts of Twitter’s #BrumHour like Heide Goody, Katharine d’Souza and Simon Fairbanks. The libraries,mac Birmingham and the LitFest all offer support to writers and readers as well.
Within this busy city, there’s so much going on, it’s easy to overlook the creativity bubbling away in the background. Yet if you want a great read, you can’t do better than look to Birmingham for it.
AA Abbott is a regular on #BrumHour Sundays 8pm-9pm on Twitter, tweeting as @AAAbbottStories
Check out AA Abbott’s website – there’s lots of freebies on it.
Latest Brum-based thriller After The Interview can be ordered through bookshops or on Amazon
Other regular authors on #BrumHour include:
Heide Goody is on twitter as @HeideGoody, writer of humorous fiction and creator of the Birmingham Readers’ Map
Katharine D’Souza on twitter as @KatharineDS – see also katharinedsouza.co.uk
Simon Fairbanks, Erdington fantasy writer tweets at @simon_fairbanks and simonfairbanks.com