Geneva Book Fair and Linwood Barclay

P1020280The Geneva Book and Press Fair took place from 30th April to 4th of May at the Palexpo… and to my great delight it was nearly as crowded as the Geneva Motor Show, which also takes place there every year. There was something for everyone at this very family friendly event: from comic books, to a focus on Japan (including learning to draw manga and a demonstration of the tea ceremony), to travel, education, Arab and African literature, to name just a few of the exhibition areas. Needless to say, the ‘stage’ I was most interested in was the Crime Scene, which featured an early morning relaxed Q&A session with bestselling author Linwood Barclay. Here are some words of insight from this hardworking and humorous journalist turned thriller writer:

My recipe for success? It’s when hard work meets luck. There are lots of fabulous authors who go unnoticed, so luck has to play a part as well.

Linwood Barclay
Linwood Barclay

When you write thrillers, both the publishers and the readers have an expectation of one book per year. Luckily, I find it easy to write at this pace. I start a book in January, get the first draft down by end of March, then I spend another 2-3 months to fix it. But there’s also the challenge that you always want your next book to be your best one, and there is more pressure, more scrutiny, so I spend far more time rewriting now than I used to.

I started off writing comic thrillers about a rather anxious and reluctant investigator, Zac Walker, who is really not equipped to deal with bad people. They got nice reviews, but were never big sellers. Comic crime fiction has a small but devoted following. So if I wanted to reach a wider audience, I had to make my stories darker.

P1020266Lots of writers say they don’t want their editors or agents to suggest any changes, that they want to write what they want to write. But I’m not like that. Editors have always made my work better – just like my 2nd or 3rd draft is always better than my first one –  it’s a mistake not to listen to them. Perhaps it’s because I also worked as a newspaper editor and so I understand that, even if the author does a great job, there is a bigger picture, more of an overview which an editor can have.

I’d love to say that I don’t care about negative reviews, but of course I do. I may get 20 fabulous reviews but the one negative one will be the one I focus on and the one that will spoil my day. At some point, I had the idea of writing a novel about an author who goes round the country killing all those reviewers who give him 1 star on Amazon.


For much more balanced reviews of Linwood Barclay’s novels, see here and here on the CFL website. I look forward to cracking open my signed copy of Trust Your Eyes now, a story of brotherly love, schizophrenic obsessions and witnessing a murder via Google Earth.

Chi by Konami Kanata
Chi by Konami Kanata

On a complete tangent, at the Japanese stand I discovered the adorable series Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata, about a curious little tabby kitten. Since our household is currently rather cat-obsessed, I couldn’t resist this manga, nor the assorted cat figurines or key rings.






The Japan Stand
The Japan Stand


13 thoughts on “Geneva Book Fair and Linwood Barclay”

  1. My recipe for success? It’s when hard work meets luck. There are lots of fabulous authors who go unnoticed, so luck has to play a part as well.

    A good and honest observation from Barclay! (Hm. Unfortunately its corollary is true, too. I’ve just been reading one such . . .)

    1. Yes, there are some books that make you wonder how they can get published when everyone tells you how hard it is to get published… But in Linwood Barclay’s case he really hit the big time when he was featured on the Richard & Judy book club in the UK – and now he is translated in 30 languages. So, when he heard my accent, he told me: ‘The UK has been very good to me.’

  2. Marina Sofia – Thanks for sharing this great experience! It sounds as though you had a terrific time, and I really like what Barclay had to say. Lucky you to have heard him.

    1. It’s always such fun to learn about new books and authors at these events. And, of course, even better fun to meet the authors you’ve already read and liked, like Linwood Barclay.

  3. How wonderful – or scary – is it to hear that big name authors still feel the fear and anxieties.

    On a side note – I’d love to see the tea ceremony.

    1. I left before they served the Japanese snacks, unfortunately – but the queues were massive anyway. Tea ceremonies are really an excellent way to calm down, even meditate: so I’m not quite sure it is quite so inspirational in front of a big crowd. Still, a fun intro to Japanese culture!

  4. Thanks for these insights into Linwood Barclay. I want to read some of his writing, but the books I have read about seem too tense and scary for me. Someday, when my TBR piles are lower.

    1. His better-known thrillers are certainly rather tense (think Harlan Coben), so perhaps his more comic Zac Walker thrillers would be a good place to start? But I know what you mean about the TBR piles…

  5. Small world! I used to read Barclay’s newspaper column for years in the Toronto Star before he began writing thrillers and have followed his career as a novelist. Love his relaxed style!

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