Our ears were still ringing from Bonfire Night by the time we assembled at our beloved Effra Social for a night of new writing and bookish banter on November 9th.
As always, our line up of authors was stupendous and their books covered topics as diverse as climate change, the shady world of spies, serial killers, teen drama, and the aftermath of one very traumatic, real life event.
The room was packed out, the drinks were flowing and we were delighted to see many familiar friends as well as many new faces. It was a belter of a night – here are just some of the things we learned.
That you can ditch any career to become a writer
Our first author of the night, David Barker, was an economist before he turned to writing. And whilst it may not seem like the most creative industry, he was able to bring a lot of his working knowledge to his 'cli-fi' novel (that's 'climate fiction', as if you didn't know) Blue Gold.
Inspiration truly can strike anywhere – even at your desk.
The world might run out of water
Amazing what you learn at The Riff Raff, really. David might have written fiction but Blue Gold touches upon some scarily real themes, including the potential for a world-wide water shortage.
All the best authors went to Durham University
OK, not technically true, but David Barker is a Durham alumnus, as is Matthew Richardson who followed him on the night, as is co-founder Rosy.
There has to be something in that...right?
Why limit yourself to one book when you can write three?
We were expecting big things from parliamentary speechwriter-turned-spy-thriller-author Matthew Richardson. We weren't disappointed – and it shouldn't have been a surprise to learn that he had set his ambitions high, choosing to write and sell his spy thriller My Name is Nobody as a trilogy.
He is writing book two already.
We are kicking ourselves for not having thought of that.
You needn't have experience in your book's subject area to write a cracker
Fiona Cummins' Rattle features a serial killer who has been compared to Hannibal Lecter, and the reviewers aren't wrong – you could hear a pin drop as Fiona read, and a collective shiver went round the room as she finished.
With such a doozy of a debut to her name, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Fiona was a forensic psychologist in her past life. But no – not even a policewoman. Fiona was a hugely successful celebrity journalist who interviewed Michael Jackson and hung with Simon Cowell.
For Rattle, Fiona took elements of her own experience and combined them with imagination touches and cultural references. The result is a fast-paced, multi-narrative novel that rings true.
A little too true, perhaps... Don't read it like co-founder Amy did, alone, by candlelight.
Not everyone can write YA
We were thrilled to welcome Chloe Seager to our November event; having interviewed her on The Riff Raff podcast about her YA smash hit book Editing Emma, we knew she was one very sharp, very funny lady.
So what was her secret to writing successful YA? Don't patronise the reader, she told us. Be relatable, and be a bit risqué – kids these days aren't innocent.
As a literary agent, she had some extra pearls of wisdom for aspiring authors who are looking to submit their work. Top tip: keep your book summary brief and, well, stick to what it's about. No one wants to read a 10,000 word thesis on your minor plot points.
The journey to publication can be long and hard – but worth it
When we confirmed author Winnie M. Li as part of our November line up, we assumed that her astonishing debut Dark Chapter had been a breeze to get published – it's an incredible read, after all.
But no. Winnie's tale of getting to publication would almost make a novel in itself: it had twists and turns, highs and lows, false starts, fake news and a few bad agents thrown in too. But like all the best stories, it ultimately had a happy ending.
Dark Chapter finally found its publishing home with Legend Press and went on to win the Guardian's 2017 Not The Booker Prize – not to mention a much coveted spot at The Riff Raff...
Thank you so much to all our five authors, to Phil Scullion and Alice Lubbock for manning the cameras and of course, to all you lovely lot who came along.
Fancy doing it all again? You're in luck...
We are reconvening for one final hurrah of 2017 on Thursday 14th December. Yet another band of talented debut authors will be taking to the stage and there might just be some Christmas treats thrown in too... Keep an eye on our social media, that's all we're saying.
You can grab your tickets right here.