REVIEW – A L Kennedy, Edinburgh Book Festival

As she limps onstage, Costa award-winning novelist, comedian and columnist A L Kennedy explains she’s suffering the after effects of an unfortunate countryside accident, where she stepped on a large thorn that went straight through her foot.

Fortunately, she manages to solider on, reading an extract from her forthcoming novel, which she hasn’t yet given a title (“I’m superstitious,” she explains).

The lyrical piece – concerning the at-times fevered imaginings of a woman on the verge of falling in love – is classic Kennedy: sharply-observed, humorous and expertly-crafted.

She finishes the piece about love and sex – or ‘indoor games’, as she refers to it – and then enters into a hosted discussion covering the writing craft, her stand-up comedy career and the impact of and intent behind employing the different voices and characters she uses in her novels and short stories.

Kennedy is at her most revealing when talking about the latter. With self-effacing modesty, she describes her love for ‘playing with the people she makes up’, referring to them as a ‘big bag of freaks’ at one point.

On the topic of her voice, she reveals that – whether writing in first, second or third person – she hides her true self in the corners. So, although many readers may think the first-person female characters she writes about represent Kennedy’s own thoughts and opinions, she is in fact more likely to be lurking behind other less obvious personas.

She also explains her approach to rewrites, explaining she adopts a bottom-up approach where she builds up her pieces in layers, rather than paring them down through the editing process.

By the end of her appearance, Kennedy has delighted the audience with her wit and charm, and left us all intrigued about and eager to read her new novel, due to be published – if she meets her deadline – in 2011.

Review by Keith D

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