Stars shine for literati

A STAR-studded list of writers kicked off the first day of the Byron Bay Writers Festival yesterday.

Hundreds of guests descended on the festival site at North Beach in Byron Bay not only to see the various international and domestic writers but to play some Scrabble, listen to poetry, purchase books from the makeshift bookshop, and to gaze at the various local art pieces that littered the festival grounds.

Australian writer Phillip Gwynne, renowned for his successful young adult fiction novels, swapped genre hats to talk about crimewriting with Mark Dapin and Shamini Flint.

Anyone walking into the Blue Marquee, where The Plot Thickens: Crime Writers Confess program was taking place, would have thought it was comprised of a panel of comical writers, not three authors known for serious crime stories.

Festival goers laughed as Singaporean writer Shamini Flint told her secret to keeping readers guessing right until the end of the story.

“I usually don't decide till the end of the book who did it,” she said.

“Or I get my mother to tell me.

“So I don't even really know who is going to be doing it till the end, so when people come up to me and say, ‘I knew that would happen', I think ‘how can you?'”

Ms Flint also touched on the harsh realities of book reviews.

“I think book reviews are worse in your own country.

“I had one at home that was like ‘why did she do that?' and ‘why did she even write about that?' and pretty much ‘why doesn't she just move countries?'”

Mr Gwynne, on the other hand, has had success with his toughest critics – the real-life characters his novel Build-Up is based on.

“My book is usually taken with a stubby of beer,” he said.

“I had the police commissioner come and tell me he liked my book, which was a great relief. Thank God.”

Meanwhile, accomplished writer Alex Miller sat in for an In Conversation session with Angelo Loukakis and Sydney Morning Herald journalist Susan Wyndham and discussed the influences of his story-telling.

“The beauty of a story is the context in which you tell it,” Mr Miller said.

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