10 Questions With… Jacky Collins

Hi everyone, and today I’m delighted to welcome Jacky Collins to the blog. Jacky founded Newcastle Noir Festival, and also discusses her favourite books in lockdown that she is currently reading.

Over to you, Jacky…

1) As a child, did you always have a love of reading? Was there any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’

Yes, I did, from an extremely early age. I was also very protective of my books. I recall a vivid memory from when I was 3 years old. A friend made the grave error of scribbling in one of my precious story books. Needless to say she went home quite bruised and with a newfound respect for books!The ‘Wow’ book for me was The Hobbit (JRR Tolkein). I was totally enthralled by Bilbo’s journey & the book spoke to me of little people being able to achieve much (at 1’53m, that encouragement still holds true!)

2) Why did you choose to set up the Newcastle Noir festival?

Newcastle Noir was established with a view promoting top-class crime writing in the region and as a celebration of this intriguing and increasingly diverse genre. Being aware of the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Bristol CrimeFest & Bloody Scotland, we wanted to host a similar event in the North East to which we could invite local, national and international authors. We are especially keen to welcome writers from further afield, in order to give avid crime readers from the region the opportunity to hear and meet these authors without having to travel great distances. Not only are we mad for crime fiction, but we’re also extremely passionate about making this event accessible to as many people as possible, so our aim is to keep prices as affordable as we can.

3) Is there a difference between NN and Noir at The Bar?

Yes, Newcastle Noir is a literary festival celebrating the best in contemporary crime writing. Based at Newcastle’s City Library, this annual gathering of crime fiction authors and readers offers events geared to a wide audience including panel discussions, readings, talks, guided tours and crime writing workshops.

Since it’s inception in Philadelphia, Noir at The Bar, is usually a relaxed evening in a local pub or similar venue where crime writers (established, emerging & would-be) read from their work. It’s a free event, members of the audience have the opportunity to win books, as well as enter the wildcard round so if they have a noirish story to tell, they can put their name in the hat.

4) You taught Film and TV at Northumbria University. What was your experience like of being a lecturer?

Over 25 years ago, I began my academic career in Modern Foreign Languages, lecturing in Spanish (Language & Cultural Studies). At my core, I am a linguist who delights is seeing others get to grips with another language and gain an understanding of how other societies function and their history. I am proud to say that many of the students I taught in this subject area have gone on to pursue a career in teaching languages at all levels in the education system – there’s nothing to beat the MFL spirit! More recently, I was offered the opportunity to move into Film & TV Studies and welcomed the chance to develop a different side of my knowledge which had been part of the focus of my PhD studies. It was a total delight to work with a different body of students, who opened my eyes to so many contemporary films. In return, I helped them develop their analytical and presentation skills. I have been so fortunate to spend time teaching subjects that continue to fill my life with joy & to work with young people who are so full of enthusiasm, creativity and dedication.

5) What do you look for in a good crime novel? Pace, character, story structure?

I look for a protagonist who grips me, a complex mystery/crime that needs solving and a complimentary story line that provides insight into issues troubling society. I should also say, I usually look first to see where the book is set, as I’m a massive fan of crime fiction in translation. If the book is taking me elsewhere, I’m already hooked!

6) Can you name one favourite author, and why you like their style of writing?

How difficult is this?! There are a number I could easily name for different reasons, but in the end I am going to choose the Icelandic writer Lilja Sigurdardottir, because to me she writes crime fiction like ABBA wrote (write – still longing for the promised new tracks) songs. Let me explain, behind an initial accessibility, there is a delicious complexity sprinkled with just the right amount of gold-dust magic. Also, the structure of the trilogy is reminiscent of a Mexican soap opera, but again don’t be fooled, there is a depth here examining the evils of our time, shedding light both locally (Iceland) and globally. If you haven’t had a chance to read this author, buckle up & treat yourself to a perfect lockdown escape!

7) During lockdown, what are you currently reading? Are you going back to favourite books or finding new ones? I’m a mix of both.

I have been so lucky to have my reading cut out for me, as I have been preparing for the online mini-NN2020 festival, Crime Fiction Addiction Radio Show, Noir at the Bar Edinburgh digital sessions and the Newcastle Library Eurocrime bookclub. I am definitely finding new ones, and please can I give a shout-out to Trevor Wood & Judith O’Reilly, two North East authors who have recently released two cracking crime novels – The Man on the Street & Curse the Day.

8) During lockdown, what are you currently watching? Are your TV habits changing? I’m binging on Netflix in the daytime.

Mostly, I am going between Netflix and Walter Presents for my crime drama fix – so I have just started watching Ozarks & The Other Mother. But where the greatest visual please is to be had for me at the moment is with Season 3 of Killing Eve! It ticks all the boxes & it’s providing the material for my latest research project.

9) Do you enjoy non fiction books?

I do, my choice would be for a good science/natural world publication or a book about the Spanish or Nordic cinema industry.

10) During lockdown, what music do you listen to? Have they changed at all? Mine have stayed the same.

I have been focusing on Icelandic music because I’m trying to learn the language & music is always a great way to do this. I’ve discovered an artist call GDRN (Gudrun) and I’m getting lost in her music, as well as a group with the unfortunate name of Lockerbie, but their music is fab.

Thank you for featuring on my blog, Jacky. It has been a pleasure to interview you.

Bio: Dr Jacky Collins, formerly Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University in Literature, Film & TV and Spanish Language & Culture, is also know as Dr Noir. In 2014 Jacky established the International Crime Fiction Festival that is Newcastle Noir, hosted annually at Newcastle’s City Library. With a keen passion for crime in translation, the festival regularly welcomes authors from the Nordic countries, Germany, France and more recently from Romania. In addition, Dr Noir runs the monthly Eurocrime Book Club, also held at this venue. Jacky is regularly invited to moderate at other national and international crime writing festivals. More recently, she has been venturing into local radio, co-hosting a fortnightly crime fiction programme on SpiceFM, hosting literary events in Edinburgh with the Honey & Stag events team, and has joined Corylus Books, a brand new indie publisher of fine crime fiction in translation: from Romania, Iceland and beyond.

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