Peter Bartram – Where I Get My Ideas From

Today I have a guest post by crime author Peter Bartram.

040Peter began his career as a local reporter before working as a journalist in Fleet Street and finally becoming freelance. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700-feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. His novels are fast-paced and humorous – the action is matched by the laughs.

Over to you Peter.

WHERE I GET MY IDEAS FROM

Shortly after I joined my first newspaper as a reporter, the news editor sent me out on a strange assignment. “We’ve just had a call from this bloke who claims his relatives are stealing his stuff – and the police don’t want to know. Go and see whether there’s a story in it.”

The bloke turned out to be a thin shambling character, about seventy, wearing old stained clothing and with a shaving cut on his chin. He lived in a large Edwardian house with big rooms and high ceilings.

He showed me into one of the rooms. I could hardly get through the door. The place was stacked almost to the ceiling with old clothes. There must have been tonnes of garments in there. The heavy musty smell of damp fabrics made it difficult to breathe.

I asked the bloke how the clothes came to be there. He told me that his nephew was putting there but also stealing other things from around the house when he did so. I asked him what sort of things. But he seemed too confused to answer. Back in the 1960s, we didn’t know as much about dementia as we do today. Often, the condition wasn’t recognised – even by medical professionals.

Looking back, I think the old bloke may have been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. But that didn’t explain why a large room was stacked with more clothes than he could possibly have owned in a lifetime. I never got to the bottom of the puzzle – and the paper never published a story.

But when I started writing my Crampton of the Chronicle series of crime mysteries, it was one of many incidents from my career as a journalist that came flooding back. I’ve used lots of them in my books and short stories. I turned the incident I’ve just described, complete with fictional solution, into a short story – The Mystery of the African Charity – which you’ll find in Murder from the Newsdesk, a free e-book you can download for your kindle.

Other incidents inspired action in Headline Murder, the first of my full-length Crampton novels, and in the second, Stop Press Murder. I’m certainly not the first author to use his own experiences as the raw material for storytelling. It is a truism to say that fact is stranger than fiction – and as long as that is true, real-life will continue to be a source of inspiration for many authors.

But although my own career provides incidents, characters and atmosphere that I can draw on, it doesn’t produce what I might call the “big idea” which underlies each murder mystery. As I see it, the big idea is a central puzzle which the protagonist – in my case, Colin Crampton – has to figure out in order to crack the mystery.

And how do I get those big ideas? Generally, I find, they come from sitting down – or, preferably, lounging in a hot bath – thinking hard and asking “what if?” questions. For example, what if an honest man overheard two hardened criminals planning the perfect crime, but decided to commit it himself before they did? The answer to that question could be turned into a satisfying murder mystery. (Perhaps I’ll write it one day.)

Of course, an idea like that provides no more than the bare bones – and it’s the hard work of plot development which puts the flesh on the bones. But that, as they say, is another story.

 

Stop Press Murder: a Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery

STOPhighresFIRST, the saucy film of a nude woman bathing is stolen from a What the Butler Saw machine on Brighton s Palace Pier. NEXT, the pier s night-watchman is murdered – his body found in the coconut shy. COLIN CRAMPTON, ace reporter on the Evening Chronicle, senses a scoop when he s the only journalist to discover a link between the two crimes. HE UNCOVERS a 50-year feud between twin sisters – one a screen siren from the days of silent movies, the other the haughty wife of an aristocrat. BUT COLIN S investigation spirals out of control – as he RISKS HIS LIFE to land the biggest story of his career. STOP PRESS MURDER, a Swinging Sixties mystery, has more twists and turns than a country lane. It will keep you guessing – and laughing – right to the last page.”

There is a free Crampton taster novella – Murder in Capital Letters – available to download at colincrampton.com

You can find Peter on his website | Facebook | Amazon

 

How It Feels To Bring A Crime Series To A Close

Today Douglas Skelton is talking on the blog about bringing a series to a close. For fans of series fiction as I am, this is certainly an interesting read.

Douglas-Skelton-200x300Douglas is a crime writer who specialises in non-fiction and fiction from the darker side of the world. His non-fiction charts the true life exploits of murderers, criminals and cause celebres. His fiction focuses on the underbelly of Glasgow – Scotland’s biggest, industrial and working-class city; with a history of tobacco barons, Victorian elegance, manufacturing, gangs, culture and the Commonwealth Games. A hard but sentimental city. A city with a fierce and abiding heart.

over to  Douglas…

A few months ago I typed the words THE END to bring my Davie McCall quartet to a close.

Now that book, Open Wounds, has been published

Was it with a heavy heart that I brought the series to an end?

Can’t say it was, not at the time.

But now that the book is out I’m beginning to wonder if doing so after only four titles was the way to go.

The series, which began with Blood City, was always designed to be a quartet.

I don’t really know why. It was just the way the conversation went at the pitch meeting.

You know – Publisher: “How many books are there?”

Me: “Emmm … (desperately thinking of a number, wants to say three but getting greedy) … FOUR!”

Open Wounds was written first, although it wasn’t called that then. It’s changed a little to suit the events of the first three but the ending you read now was pretty much what I wrote back then.

So why bring it to an end?

Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be tied down to writing the same character. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But there are more stories I want to tell and they don’t feature Davie and his pals.

Davie’s hard to write. He doesn’t say much and I like writing dialogue. He broods. He internalises everything.

But I do like him. I like his stillness. I like his taciturnity (is that a word? Ah, hell – I don’t care.) I like the fact that he has this ability cut through the bulldroppings – usually by battering seven shades of it out of somebody. I often wish I could do that.

There’s one question I’ve been asked about the final book more than any other. Given my tendency to bump major characters off, is Davie going to survive?

In other words, if Davie goes off to that big remainder store in the sky, how can I ever reverse my decision and return to his world?

Well, naturally, I’m not saying at this stage.

However, I can tell you that at least one major character does remain standing at the end of the day and that means perhaps – maybe – possibly – I’ll return to it all in the future.

In the meantime, I’m moving on. Davie’s moving on. Somewhere.

But where are we going?

Watch this space….

Open Wounds

openDavie McCall is tired. Tired of violence, tired of the Life. He’s always managed to stay detached from the brutal nature of his line of work, but recently he has caught himself enjoying it. In the final instalment in the Davie McCall series old friends clash and long buried secrets are unearthed as McCall investigates a brutal five-year-old crime. Davie wants out, but the underbelly of Glasgow is all he has ever known. Will what he learns about his old ally Big Rab McClymont be enough to get him out of the Life? And could the mysterious woman who just moved in upstairs be just what he needs?

You can find Douglas on his website, Twitter and Amazon.

The problem with Guðríður by Quentin Bates

Today’s post has been written by crime author and Icelandic translator Quentin Bates as part of his Thin Ice blog tour and is a fascinating insight into the language of the Icelanders as we all love to read Nordic crime we as crime fiction fans.

You can read his First Draft Q&A Here.

 

q-tony9733Quentin escaped English suburbia as a teenager and found himself working in Iceland, where his gap year eventually became a gap decade, along with a new language, a new profession and a new family acquired in the process.

He trained as a ship’s officer before unexpectedly side-stepping into an obscure branch of journalism and from there into fiction. The Gunnhildur novels were born of his intimate knowledge and fondness for Iceland and its people, plus a fascination with the turmoil of the country’s recent history.

The Gunnhildur novels are Frozen Out, Cold Comfort, Chilled to the Bone, Winterlude (e-book novella), Cold Steal (e-book only), Summerchill (e-book novella) and Thin Ice (2016)

He is also translating the novels of Ragnar Jónasson, Snowblind and Nightblind, into English, published by Orenda Books.

The problem with Guðríður 

There’s a problem that can’t be avoided when you set your fiction anywhere that has a language of its own and the further removed from English, the greater the problem can become.

It’s the names. One criticism I see all the time is that the names in books set in Iceland are so difficult. Well, yes. They would be. I have to admit it bugs me. Icelanders aren’t called Jim and Mary. If you want fiction with easy names, then choose something that’s set in Tunbridge Wells rather than in Peru, Japan or Iceland.

People in Nordic countries have names that often sound awkward to our ears, but it’s not something a writer can avoid –although it’s something that can be mitigated and I admit that I have simplified names as far as I dare without sacrificing too much reality.

Icelandic has letters that only a handful of other languages use. Þ is a soft th, as in bath. Ð is more complicated and it can’t be replicated easily in the same way that Þ can be replaced with th. Ð is a hard th as in bathe, and a simple th or d don’t come close to the sound that ð has in the middle of a word or name.

So I chickened out. I don’t use names that have ð in them, which rules out around a third of Icelandic names. Þórður, Auður, Guðmundur, Daði, Iðunn, Óðinn and Guðríður are all out, as are Davíð, Hreggviður and Þorgerður. I chose to just not use them rather than try to produce a clumsy equivalent that wouldn’t do justice to the rather beautiful sound these names have.

Many Icelandic names are of Biblical origin; Tómas, Sara, Jakob, Jón, and many others. But it has to be faced that most names are Norse in origin and that’s just the way it is. There’s no getting around that fact Thór, Freyja and Loki are still alive and well in the names of present-day Icelanders, Norwegians and others across the Nordic region.

One day while I was working on Chilled to the Bone a few years ago, one of these comments popped up.

Call me cross-grained, but I decided on the spot that if there were going to be complaints about awkward names, then I’d come up with something properly awkward, a tongue-twister of a name that would at least be worthy of criticism.

It was the villain in the story who was just taking shape at the time, a rawboned, vicious, filthy-tempered, old-fashioned kind of criminal and someone who deserved an old-fashioned name to go with it.

So Hróbjartur Bjarnthórsson came into being. Yes, it’s a name that calls for a moment’s thought and a deep breath before you try and say it. I never expected it to stay in the manuscript, and was sure that my editor would demand that it be exchanged for something a little more easy on the tongue. But she didn’t say a word, so Hróbjartur Bjarnthórsson stayed, although like virtually every Icelander, he has a nickname, a shortened version of his name. Only his grandmother or a police officer would call him Hróbjartur. The rest of the world knows him as Baddó.

What I hadn’t reckoned with was that the Gunnhildur books might one day become Audiobooks. That was when I started wondering if I hadn’t been a little rash introducing Hróbjartur Bjarnthórsson to the story. Reader Mel Hudson and I spent a good few hours going through the names in the books, both people and places, with me teaching her rudimentary Icelandic pronunciation so she could get it as right as possible. Guess what? After a couple of tries, Hróbjartur Bjarnthórsson just rolled off her tongue without missing a beat.

It looks like I’d better try harder.

You can find Quentin on his website, Amazon author page,  and the website for the Icelandic crime festival, Iceland Noir, he organises.

Thin Ice

ThinSnowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…
When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.
Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.
Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages…

 

You can follow Quentin and the rest of the Thin Ice blog Tour on the below blogs.

Blog Tour

 

Revising A Novel And Making It Fresh For A Current Market

Today I have another guest post for you. The subject is revisiting a past novel after a period of time to see if it can be revised and made fresh for a current market.

I’m pleased to welcome Christopher West to the blog.

Christopher WestChristopher writes in a range of genres, starting with travel (Journey to the Middle Kingdom), then crime (the China Quartet), then business (the Beermat books) and history.  he likes to look at history through unusual lenses: he’s done two books telling the stories of the UK and America through their postage stamps, and now its ‘Hello Europe!‘, which uses the Eurovision Song Contest as a way of telling the story of Europe since 1956.

He also ghost-writes and co-authors, most recently with NLP / TA  trainer and entrepreneur Robbie Steinhouse on a series of books (his favourite of these is Brilliant Decision Making). He enjoys helping people develop book projects.

Christopher lives in North Herts with his wife and daughter, in a house that was once the country cottage of a remarkable Victorian / Edwardian doctor, James Cantlie, and which was visited several times by his close friend Sun Yat Sen, who is regarded as the Father of Modern China in both mainland China and Taiwan.

Over to you Christopher…

With the rise of the ebook, I decided to revisit a crime series I wrote back in the 1990s. The China Quartet had been liked by critics and sold fairly well – but I’d let it run out of steam for various reasons. As I reread the books, I wondered if I would find them dated and best left on the shelf.

I’m glad to say I didn’t. The series, set in 1990s China, actually seemed to have improved with age. No longer ‘contemporary’, it provided a fascinating view into that country as it began to turn from Maoist backwater to the industrial superpower it is today. In its world, Beijing’s streets were still thronged with ‘Flying Pigeon’ bicycles, but the wrecking balls were beginning to move into the city’s old hutong alleyways. So a tick there.

I had to ensure I still had rights to the texts: luckily three of the four contracts had been signed in the days before ebooks, so there was just a bit of work to do there.

I thought of doing the e-publishing myself. Various gurus say this is a doddle, but actually it isn’t: most of the people who do this best seem to have IT backgrounds. I was lucky to find an author-friendly independent e-publisher. Another tick.

Then there’s the business of reworking the text. This was great fun. I found I could take out chunks of information that I’d thought were essential, and that somehow that information was still in the text anyway, at a subtler level. Less is still more, after thirty years as a professional wordsmith. My new editor was keen on upping the pace by taking colons and semis out of the text (not totally, but quite ruthlessly). Swallowing my love of subtly balanced sentences I did this, and found the narrative did gain pace as a result. I also felt that shorter paragraphs would suit the Kindle format – no doubt for a literary novel this is not necessary, but for popular fiction, albeit intelligent popular fiction, this worked.

There were one or two ‘but how would he know that?’ moments – none of them fatal to the narrative (a sentence somewhere sorted all them). I also changed the name of the detective – since starting the series, I’d read more Chinese mythology, and wanted to feed that back into the text. Bao Zheng is a name that all Chinese will associate with a passion for justice.

The joy of seeing the book on sale again in its new format, with a new cover, was immense. And so is the pleasure of telling people all about it, all over again. Death of a Blue Lantern, the first Inspector Bao Zheng book, is now available as an ebook. Gosh, that feels good!

Death of a Blue Lantern by Christopher West

Death of a Blue Lantern cover artwork “Everything one can ask for in a crime novel ‒ pace, excitement, and a skilfully contrasted set of characters.” Simon Brett

“The ambivalent morality of modern China is intelligently exposed, but not at the expense of a first-class crime story.” Marcel Berlins, The Times

Beijing, 1991. Detective Inspector Bao Zheng just wants a pleasant evening away from his nation’s booming capital and goes to enjoy some traditional opera. Instead of a rest, he finds himself with a murder on his hands. Who is the anonymous young man stabbed to death in the back row? How close are the victim’s links to the renascent Triads? What is the connection with the glamorous Jasmine Ren, who seems obsessed with life in the west? Is there a connection to the theft of priceless artefacts from an archaeological dig north of the city? The further Bao looks into the mystery, the more he finds himself unable to trust anyone around him. He must act alone and venture unprotected into the capital’s underworld. At the same time, the once-loyal Party member must wrestle with the agonizing politics of post-Tiananmen China. Dare he voice his true feelings about the events of June 4, 1989? Or does it not matter? Has someone already decided he is expendable?
Amazon UK, Amazon.com and Amazon AU

 

Translating Your Own Novel by Gwen Parrott

Today I welcome to the blog crime author, Gwen Parrott who is going to talk to us about the process of translating her own novel.

Gwen ParrottAlthough now resident in the city of Bristol, Gwen Parrott was born and raised in rural Pembrokeshire, at the far south-west tip of Wales. Working as a translator and having  written for Welsh–language radio, television and theatre, her first love is detective novels. It pains her that Della Arthur, the protagonist ofDead White, is a lot thinner and braver than she is, but such is life.

Over to you Gwen…

It isn’t normal, is it, to translate your own novel? In my innocence, I thought it was. I supposed that all my Welsh speaking compatriot authors would naturally be translating their work at the first opportunity so that friends and family who couldn’t read Welsh would be able to appreciate (or, more likely, criticise) their magnum opus. But the authors who do so are surprisingly few in number, even when they are translators by trade, like me.

Perhaps I should explain how it happens that someone can translate their own novel. Writing a novel is a labour-intensive enterprise, which suggests that you would only wish to do it in the language that comes most naturally to you, that is, your native tongue. But what if you have two native tongues? What if, from your earliest childhood, you have lived in two languages, which have been reinforced by education and circumstances? This is the position for over half a million Welsh speakers. I’m not claiming that their abilities in both languages are equal, but they are all bilingual. Having said that, being bilingual does not necessarily mean that you are a linguist. It appears that if you learn more than one language during that precious window in early life when you are receptive to it and continue to speak both, you can function to a very high level in both languages without displaying the least talent for learning a third. Other people claim that the habit of bilingualism helps in the mental gymnastics required to assimilate more languages.

It never occurred to me, as I said, not to translate my Welsh language novels into English. I started translating them many years ago as a member of a writing group here in Bristol. Too lazy to type out a translation of a chapter every couple of weeks to read to the group, I would translate verbally from Welsh on the spot. It was painful at first but I got better at it as time went on, there were fewer occasions where I blanked out completely and, gradually, I began spot places where I needed to edit or enlarge. I realised that one huge benefit of translating your own novel is that it acts as another layer of editing. It is as if conveying it in another language clears your mind. It divorces you from your emotional attachment to the original, and your only concern is to transmit the sense and style of it. If the original doesn’t allow you to do that, because of lack of clarity or any other reason, you need to go back and review it, and strangely, I find that I’m less reluctant to tackle this than when I’m just doing a read-through. For me, it is more effective than the most careful reading in the original language. I don’t get swept up in the story and ignore vital mistakes.

As for the particular languages concerned, they couldn’t be more different. Welsh is phonetic, ancient, inflected, grammatically complex and historically rural, while English is comparatively modern, has very little grammar in comparison but a vast range of synonyms borrowed from every language under the sun and a difficult spelling system as a result. Welsh is irritatingly precise where English is annoyingly vague. Welsh sentences very often start with the verb in which a personal pronoun is included – the danger then is that every corresponding English sentence starts with ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’. You are forever juggling word order to overcome this.

But the real difficulties are ones which I imagine all translators face. It has often struck me as I read yet another Scandinavian blockbuster that those countries are small, sparsely populated and mountainous, just like Wales, so that when I read a phrase like ‘ he said in his thick Skäne accent’ I do wonder what the Swedish person actually said or, more precisely, whether what the Swedish person said was instantly recognisable to Swedish speakers as being Skäne dialect, but that it can’t be rendered into English, so that the translator has had to add a phrase to make the point. Dead White is set in North Pembrokeshire where we speak a dialect all of our own. Readers would only have to see one sentence of dialogue to realise this – but it only works in Welsh. In English, there are really only two recognisable Welsh accents, North and South. In Welsh itself there are half a dozen or more, as distinct as, say, Geordie or Scouse in English. I have long pondered whether I should point out where characters from other areas come from in the English version, or whether that is making heavy weather of it. Something that is so easy to convey in Welsh becomes a real sticking point in English.

The other puzzle, which was one I didn’t really recognise until I was on top of it, as it were, is how to convey cultural differences. You wouldn’t think that there would be a lot of them, but with a novel set in 1947 in a small village in Wales, you are faced with the dilemma of how to explain the busy religious life of dedicated chapel-goers. What could I call all the different meetings that took place during the year? Their names are largely untranslatable again, and so much part of Welsh culture that even modern readers would recognise them, even if they’d never set foot in a chapel. But in English, you are reduced to ‘Singing Festival’ or ‘Whitsun Meetings’. It feels very flat somehow, perhaps because it has no resonance out of its cultural context. It made me realise that you always do lose something in translation, and it’s inevitable, unless you’re going to spend ages explaining everything. You can’t help wondering what we’re all missing by not being able to read Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic.

At least I’ve never had to agonise over the author’s meaning and purpose. Well, I wouldn’t, would I?   It’s my meaning and my purpose – if I don’t know, who does? To be fair, it also means that they are my gaffes and my clumsy phrases. I sometimes feel, when I read other people’s novels in English translations that it’s a pity that the authors aren’t in a position to comment on what’s been done. As translators, we all knock ourselves out trying to render the original convincingly. I feel lucky that the only person I have to consult with is myself.

Dead White

dead whiteDuring the harsh winter of 1947, Della Arthur arrives at a remote Pembrokeshire village in the middle of a snowstorm to take up her new job as headteacher of the local primary school. Losing her way from the train station, she comes across a farmhouse and takes shelter there. After finding two dead bodies inside, Della struggles to discover the truth behind their deaths. She soon realises that in this close-knit community, secrets and lies lurk beneath the surface of respectability.

Della must choose who to trust among the inhabitants of this remote village – should she reveal what she knows to the sardonic minister of the local chapel, Huw Richards, or the Italian prisoner of war, Enzo Mazzati? Della finds herself under siege on all sides, and encumbered by an unwelcome lodger, a missing colleague and a disturbed pupil. It is only when her own life is threatened that she understands how dangerous her discoveries in the farmhouse really were.

You can find Gwen on Amazon.

The Favourite Reads Of Crime Author Marnie Riches

Today, I’m pleased to have Marnie Riches on the blog with a guest post about her favourite reads.

Marnie10Nov003 (2)Marnie grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, aptly within sight of the dreaming spires of Strangeways prison. She swapped those for the spires of Cambridge University, gaining a Masters degree in Modern & Medieval Dutch and German. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser. In her spare time, she likes to run, renovate houses and paint. Oh, and drinking. She likes a drink. And eating. She likes that too. Especially in exotic destinations.

Having authored the first six books of HarperCollins Children’s Time-Hunters series, her George McKenzie crime thrillers for adults were inspired, in part, by her own youth and time spent in The Netherlands as a student. Her debut crime thriller, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die won the coveted Patricia Highsmith Award for the Most Exotic Location in a crime novel, in the Dead Good Reader Awards, 2015. Marnie also writes contemporary women’s fiction.

Over to you Marnie!

We all love great stories that transport us to different worlds; getting inside the heads of people who are unlike us or perhaps very similar but subject to different, trying circumstances. We root for them or wish them ill. We embark on a thrill ride from the comfort of our own homes – taking dreadful physical and emotional risks within the safe confines of our imagination. This is how I see literature as a reader. I like to read a book and become utterly absorbed by the story, turning page after page just to see what happens, or revelling in a beautifully written passage.

Here are my favourite books, chosen with my reader’s hat on, in a list as untidy as my desk:

lambsThomas Harris’ novels – particularly The Silence of the Lambs (you can’t be a self-respecting crime reader if you haven’t read that baby). Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series and everything by Jo Nesbo. Non-crime favourite reads include a lot of children’s, fantasy, historical and YA fiction: Conn Iggulden’s stunning series about Genghis Khan, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter books by St. Whatsherface, Charlie Higson’s splendid Young Bond books, most things by Eoin Colfer and Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Lord of the Rings and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. I also admire YA authors Melvin Burgess and Anthony McGowan and I love a bit of Bill Bryson.

As a writer, however, reading performs an entirely different function. When I read a book as an author, I see the construction and literary underpinnings of others laid bare. I set out to identify how they have told a story brilliantly…or badly! To improve my own craft, I read many different age groups (I started out as a children’s writer and have had a series of books for 7+ year olds published under a pseudonym) and genres. Like a magpie, I can potentially pick up a variety of great new narrative techniques from different authors – many of whom write outside the crime fiction genre. You’re never too old to learn. Analysing and learning from great writing can help me to become a better crime writer!

Here are my favourite books, chosen with my writer’s hat on, in a similarly haphazard list:

airmanThe Silence of the Lambs (just because it’s bloody ace), We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (it has the best twist I’ve ever read), anything by Jo Nesbo (he’s the king of plotting), His Dark Materials (for sheer beauty of language and the vivid nature of Philip Pullman’s imagination) and pretty much every book written by Eoin Colfer, especially Airman (a good children’s writer writes fast-paced action far better than most thriller writers, and Colfer is top of his game).

So, I read for fun and I read to learn. Long before The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die launched in April, however, I was working on The Girl Who Broke the Rules and thereafter, on The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows. I’ve been on a very tight writing schedule that has seen me working stupidly long hours, 7 days per week. Consequently, I’ve had barely any time to read.

die

Bearing all that in mind, my reading pile this year has been disappointingly small but wonderfully eclectic. I’ve really enjoyed all three books by Joshua Ferris, who won the Dylan Thomas Prize for his thought-provoking and funny To Rise at a Decent Hour. I read Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World and half of Zadie Smith’s NW (It’s good. I will finish it at some point)! I’ve read Gill Paul’s No Place for a Lady, which is a romantic saga about the Crimean War. I read Matt Haig’s The Humans, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm was a belting read (my Mother-in-Law is from Southern Sweden, so this resonated with me). I’m planning to read Buffalo Soldier by Carnegie Medal winner, Tanya Landman and The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by the lovely Catherine Johnson, as those books tick my boxes for quality YA/historical fiction. I’ve got Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread on my bedside cabinet too.

BritCrime-Ball-Golden-Ticket31Before I was published as a crime author, I was a huge Scandi-noir fan. Once The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die burst onto the crime scene, dragging me with it, I started to read the writing of my new-found friends in the crime genre – i.e. largely British and Irish writers. So far, I’ve been enjoying Elizabeth Haynes, Ava Marsh, Eva Dolan, C.L. Taylor and Angela Marsons. Lying in wait on my kindle or in a book pile are novels by Sarah Hilary, Paul E. Hardisty, Helen Cadbury, Simon Toyne, Clare Macintosh, Louise Voss, Mark Edwards, Steve Cavanagh, Stuart Neville, J.S. Law, Peter Swanson… Loads. Helen Smith’s BritCrime website lists all of my crime buddies, and at some point, I aim to read all of their books – Rebecca’s too, of course! E-books are too cheap by half and have turned me into a bookaholic. I should get round to reading them by 2017. I’ll let you know what I think…

The Girl Who Broke The Rules

rulesWhen the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic.

Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running.

The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…

 

You can find Marnie on her website and on Twitter.

Cover Reveal – #CaptchaThief by Rosie Claverton

Today we are having a cover reveal – and I love these! – There is just something I love about covers. Never mind that old adage about never judging a book by its cover, that might be an allowance for people, but come on, let’s ogle those book covers, because they are fabulous!

The book cover being revealed today is Captcha Thief by Rosie Claverton. Not only do we have the cover, but Rosie is answering a few questions about her cover for us.

We also have a giveaway for anyone tweeting this post or commenting! 

You could win ebook copies of both Binary Witness and Code Runner, plus a postcard of the book’s stolen painting with lines from the first chapter! Two books! Just for commenting or sharing. 

CaptchaThief_Cover

 

Were you able to have any input in the design and if not, are you happy with the results?

I sent my editor at Crime Scene Books a list of key words and ideas for imagery, along with a Pinterest board of visual inspiration. And I was wowed by the cover!

What are you allowed to say about the book right now?

In Captcha Thief, agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane and her ex-con assistant Jason Carr are solving the puzzle of a murdered security guard and a stolen Impressionist painting. But Jason starts questioning his role in their partnership and speeds off to North Wales with an ice-cold, attractive NCA agent. Amy is wrecked by that decision, and there are bad consequences all round.

I’m rubbish with titles. At what point did the title come to you?

After several previous versions had been booed off stage! At different points, the novel was called Exhibit @ and Stealth Portrait, but I really love Captcha Thief. My husband and I came up with it at the eleventh hour.

When is the publication date?

4th February 2016 – and for the first time Amy Lane will be in paperback as well as ebook!

And without giving anything away, if you could be one of the characters, who would you be and why?

I think I would be Cerys Carr, Jason’s sister – she’s come a long way since her bratty roots in Binary Witness, through the upheaval of Code Runner, and she’s now starting out as a probationary constable in Captcha Thief. I’m so proud of her!

Thanks for talking to me, it’s been great having you and I can’t wait to read Captcha Thief.

You can find Rosie on her Website, Twitter and Amazon.

What do you think of book covers, is your first impression made by a book cover?

Don’t forget the giveaway as well! 

Bloody Scotland Blog Tour – An Interview With Val McDermid

Bloody Scotland crime festival is held every year in the historical and beautiful town of Stirling in Scotland. This year it runs from 11th – 13th September and has a wonderful line-up of crime writers. Full events listing can be found HERE.

Writer Val McDermid at home in Alnmouth, Northumberland.

I am incredibly lucky to have been able to  interview one of the most well-known – and whose books are always much  anticipated – of crime writers, Val  McDermid.

Val’s novels have been translated into 30  languages and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. That’s some going. You can find her event pages for Bloody Scotland (she’s doing two!) Here and Here. The events as you will see are on Friday and Saturday so plenty of opportunity to see her around the festival and pop in to one of her panels!

Thanks for coming onto the blog today Val. I see that you are doing two panels at Bloody Scotland. One of them very factually related as you discuss forensic science with Lin Anderson, the other you “discuss murder and mayhem” with the equally brilliant, Peter May, as well discussing your new novel, Splinter the Silence, which brings back Tony Hill and Carol Jordan.

The blurb for the forensic panel states that forensic science is a major theme in Lin’s books as well as your own. Do you think that readers have a thirst for knowledge that is mixed in with their fiction reading nowadays? And if so, why do you think this is?

I think crime fiction readers are curious about the world they live in. That’s why they choose a genre that explores the things we do to each other and the reasons why we do them. The scientific developments that have grown around criminal investigation in recent years are fascinating in themselves, and by incorporating them into our books, we are giving our readers something more to get their teeth into, which they love.

Because we are mostly discussing fiction, what do you make about the argument that it is in fact fiction and too much detail takes a reader out of a story or slows down a story narrative?

I think that’s true. We need to give the reader enough to intrigue them without showing off how thoroughly we have researched the topic. We have to keep the reader engaged with the story and the characters or they stop reading, which defeats the purpose of the exercise. My job is to create an authentic world with the key informative details that are necessary for the book to keep working. If they want to know more, there are plenty of online resources and books that can fill in the details.

As well as writing fiction and nonfiction books, you have also helped create a free online forensics course for the Open University’s Future Learn platform. I read that it hit over 10,000 subscribers shortly after it became available. That is an amazing figure and goes to show how interested people are in the subject. You must be thrilled with how well it has taken off. How did your involvement with the learning platform come about?

I’m delighted that so many people are joining in with what promises to be a fascinating project. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Prof Sue Black at Dundee University and some of her colleagues. They’ve always been incredibly generous with their time and their expertise so when I’ve been in a position to return the favour, I’ve always been happy to help out. I was involved in a major project to raise funds for the revolutionary new mortuary at Dundee, and the MOOC that I’m working on with Dundee University and Future Learn is the next step in the journey of collaboration. I’ve just finished the short story that will accompany the course – once students have reached the end of their quest, they’ll be rewarded with access to the story that explains the background to the body they’ll be investigating.

What is it about the science of forensics that fascinates you so much?

I always enjoyed science and maths at school. And since I’ve chosen a life of crime at a time when the science has taken so many great leaps forward, it seemed only natural to me to follow those original interests. And besides, the stories are so terrific!

This year sees a new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novel released. The first of which, The Mermaids Singing (which is brilliant!) was released in 1995, do you still get as much enjoyment from writing them as your readers obviously do from reading them?

Well, the readers probably have more pure enjoyment than I do because it’s still pretty hard work to get the book down on the screen! But yes, I do enjoy sitting down with Tony and Carol as much as I did in the early days. Their characters and their professional lives are so full of potential, it’s always intriguing to figure out where I’m going to take them next. If I ever stop feeling like that, then the series will end. I promise not to churn them out just for the sake of the franchise!

In 2012 you released your first children’s book. Could you see yourself writing in another (adult) fiction genre novel, other than crime, one day, and if so, what would it be and why?

I did rework Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey last year, which was both demanding and challenging. But it was also a lot of fun. So I don’t rule anything out although I have no specific plans for shifting genres. But writing should be about being willing to push yourself in new directions, so I never say never! (except probably to erotica…)

When you’re not reading books on a work-needed basis (awards, blurbs etc), what do you enjoy reading, purely for Val Mcdermid?

Good fiction. Sometimes crime fiction, sometimes not. Increasingly I find myself drawn also to narrative non-fiction as long as it’s well-written and carried along with a good sense of story.

Can you tell my blog readers something about the next book you’re working on that isn’t yet out there – just a titbit?

Next year’s book will feature Karen Pirie again, my Scottish cold case detective. She’ll be investigating two cases, one officially and one off the books. I know the bare bones of the story, but frighteningly little detail at this point…

Thank you very much for your time, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the blog.

Thanks for inviting me.

 

You can find all the previous Bloody Scotland blog tour interviews listed on the below banner. They are definitely worth checking out as is the festival itself!

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The Inspiration Behind – Dark Place to Hide

Today I have A J Waines on the blog as part of her blog tour and she’s talking about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Dark Place to Hide. Inspiration behind novels are always interesting topics and this one is no exception.

AJWainesleftAJ Waines was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, was released on July 30, 2015.

Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

I’ll leave you in Alison’s capable hands;

The Inspiration Behind the Book – Dark Place to Hide 

The inspiration behind all my books comes essentially from two main areas – an interest in psychology and a fascination with problem-solving. As it happens, these two themes came together in my earlier career, when for fifteen years I was a Psychotherapist in London. The experience I gained from this, especially when working with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, came in very handy when I started writing psychological suspense novels!

As a therapist, I am fascinated by the hidden persona and unseen worlds people create and inhabit. What you see when you meet most people is nowhere near what you get! Take, for example, those words most of us say every day: ‘How are you?’ ‘Oh – I’m fine,’ is the usual response. But with my clients, what I always wanted to know was – ‘How are you, really?’ I loved the unique privilege of being able to climb inside another person’s mind and help them see what they were unable to see for themselves – and then help them find a way out of their muddle by discovering who they really were and what they wanted.

As a reader and now a fiction writer, I’m hooked on mysteries. I love clues and the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going on at the opening of a book. I love secrets, lies, deception and mistrust – not in real life – you understand! Just within the safety of a novel that gradually reveals the truth.

The starting point for Dark Place to Hide was the idea of a misunderstanding that clashes with a secret. I’d just read a wonderful book by Claire King, The Night Rainbow, about a young child struggling to grow up when no one takes much notice of her and I wanted to write about a child in different circumstances. For my sub-plot, I chose a plucky seven-year-old girl who retreats into the world of fairy-tales – and no one is sure why. Is it because she was trapped in the dungeons of a castle after a day trip? Is it because her mother is dying from cancer? Or is it something else entirely?

Each of my novels (The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train) features a lead character with skills that give them a special edge for solving crimes. In Dark Place to Hide, the lead is a criminologist who always notices more detail than anyone else. His wife goes missing under confused circumstances after a secret he’s been hiding comes to light. Then the little girl I mentioned earlier, disappears in the same village. So, like my other books, there’s a deep mystery running through two seemingly unrelated stories and the troubled protagonist has to try to piece everything together – desperate to find those who are missing – while the clock is ticking.

A novel often needs tiny seeds like these to spark off my intrigue and excitement. I write quite quickly (Dark Place to Hide took around three and a half months for the first draft). Once I’ve got the plot worked out (sweat and tears), I usually can’t wait to get the story down!

Dark Place to Hide

DARKLargeEBookShe’s trying to tell you – if only you’d listen…

About to break the news to his wife, Diane, that he’s infertile, criminology expert, Harper Penn, gets a call to say she’s been rushed to hospital with a miscarriage. Five days later, when Diane fails to return from the village shop, police think she must have taken off with a secret lover, but Harper is convinced the online messages are not from her.

In the same Hampshire village, plucky seven-year-old Clara has retreated into a make-believe world after an accident. Then she, too, goes missing.

As Harper sets out on a desperate quest to find them both, he has no idea what he’s up against. Could the threat be closer than he thinks? And is there a hidden message in Clara’s fairy tales?

DARK PLACE TO HIDE is a chilling psychological mystery with a cold-blooded deviant lurking at the core.

Follow the blog tour at the following places!

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Emma Kavanagh – Hidden Blog Tour

Emma Kavanagh 2014 © Matthew JonesToday I hand the blog over to Emma Kavanagh as she stops off on her hectic, Falling, blog tour….

 

My Inspirations…

I often get asked where my ideas come from. It’s fair to say that those who ask this often do so with an air of wariness, as they wait for me to spill the secrets of my deeply dark mind. The truth is that I am not in fact a frustrated criminal (honest!).

That said, I do have a fascination with crime. I think it is a distinctly human property, to be so interested in the very things that can do us the most harm. I have always been interested in learning about the criminal mind, in exploring past crimes. What I tend to find is that within those true events will often lie the idea for a story.

Now, let me be clear – I have never, nor would I ever, lifted an incident from real life and turned it into a novel. That idea makes me distinctly uncomfortable. True crimes are not stories. They are events that have affected and, in all likelihood, traumatised the real people involved in them.

That said, my characters will often take inspiration from the dark deeds of others. What fascinates me is the why – taking a crime and looking beneath the surface of it to examine its impact on the people involved.

I read voraciously (or as voraciously as my 3 year old and 7 month old will allow). I know that some writers struggle to read when they are writing themselves, but for me it is critical. There is something about following the flow of another’s words that soothes me, pushes me to drive my writing on to another level.

There is something else about crime that serves as an eternal inspiration – that is the puzzle element. I think that is why police thrillers remain so popular. They have within them all the elements of a puzzle, testing your abilities to twist the pieces and figure out where they lie. For me as a writer, that is endlessly appealing – telling a story, but laying it out just so, so that the reader is taken on a journey of discovery.

Hidden

23346669HE’S WATCHING

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He’s unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently.

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman—before it’s too late.

SHE’S WAITING

To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety—both for her, and her young niece who’s been recently admitted. She’s heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks…

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman’s next target will be. But he’s there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks…

Hidden Blog Tour