Jill Dawson in conversation
Woodhall Manor near Sutton, just outside Woodbridge, is just the most beautiful location and it's no wonder that it has been the almost exclusive preserve of weddings for a number of years.
While I hadn't realised that this was how the venue was run, I still thought it would be out of my price range for running author events. Yet, eager to find a fitting venue for the authors I wanted to bring to Woodbridge, I approached the team with my ideas, and was thrilled when they responded so positively. We've discussed lots of exciting options capitalising on the different facets of this stunning venue.
This evening with Jill Dawson was the first event we have worked on together and immediately it was apparent that the author, the book and the venue were a big hit with our potential audience.
Some 80 people arrived at Woodhall Manor at 6pm and, after a day of torrential downpours, were able to enjoy a beautifully clement summer's evening wandering the grounds and taking drinks on the terrace.
We all gathered in the ballroom at 7pm to hear Jill speak about her latest novel 'The Crime Writer', and we were all enthralled by her stories about the conception of the book, the discoveries she made in her research, and her analysis of creative writing generally.
The American crime-writer Patricia Highsmith is probably best known for her psychological thriller 'The Talented Mr Ripley' but she wrote 22 novels altogether and hundreds of short stories. For three years, from 1964 until 1967, she lived in the tiny village of Earl Soham, Suffolk.
In this stunning, unsettling and intriguing novel, Jill Dawson imagines this period in Highsmith's life, cleverly melding together biographical details and various elements from the plots of Highsmith's novels, as well as offering her own perception of this rather dark, eccentric and obsessive character.
Jill has written eight other novels, many of them revisiting the lives of real people and real events. She's written about the poet Rupert Brooke and the murderer Edith Thompson, as well as the abduction of a child on the Fens and the past lives of the donor and recipient involved in a heart transplant!
Jill was a warm, entertaining and engaging speaker who talked about writing and the subjects of her books with passion and energy. Her handling of the various devices used in 'The Crime Writer' is intriguing, and Patricia Highsmith's life was astonishing - did you know she was obsessed with snails and used to carry them around with her?!
Many people purchased Jill's book, fascinated and inspired by all that she had shared with us, and no one was in a hurry to rush away from this beautiful location. We hope to revisit Woodhall Manor very soon!