Today is publication day for David Young’s fab historical crime debut – Stasi Child.
Watch this space for a review coming soon …
What the blurb says: “Everybody loves a good, juicy murder. So it’s little wonder that crime fiction is the UK’s, if not the world’s bestselling literary genre. In the first of their three 60 Minute Masterclasses, Writing Crime Fiction: An Introduction, acclaimed novelists William Ryan and M.R. Hall give an intensive and entertaining overview of the essentials of the craft.
Fast-paced, clear and accessible, Ryan and Hall distil their years of experience into a definitive guide that will show you how to turn your idea for a story into a page-turning and commercial novel. Written for beginners and experienced writers alike, the authors introduce the essential elements of a compelling story: plot, character, setting and theme, as well as advice on securing the all-important publishing deal.”
So you want to write a crime novel and you’re looking for advice?
Well, who better to guide you through the process than crime writers William Ryan – author of The Holy Thief, The Twelfth Department, and The Bloody Meadow – http://www.william-ryan.com @WilliamRyan_ on Twitter, and M R Hall – author of The Flight, The Coroner, and The Burning – www.m-r-hall.com @MRHall_books on Twitter; both fabulous crime writers and experienced tutors of the Guardian writing masterclasses.
Structured in a step-by-step sequence helpful to prompt your thinking about each aspect of the crime novel you want to write, Ryan and Hall share their expertise and pose thought-provoking questions to help guide you through the choices you’ll need to make.
In clear, concise chapters this information-packed guide covers: what makes a crime novel; research, points of view, character creation – central and subsidiary, the dramatic world, structure and plotting, writing a novel, and how to be commercial.
With examples from classic and contemporary crime novels, this is an accessible, informative and entertaining read – perfect for reading cover-to-cover, or dipping into as and when you need some help.
So whether you’re revving up to writing a crime novel or you’ve already started and are wrestling with a work-in-progress, Ryan and Hall’s Writing Crime Fiction Masterclass is a book that you really shouldn’t be doing without.
You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:
And, if you’d like to learn direct from William Ryan, check out this fabulous Guardian writing workshop http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-masterclasses/2015/aug/27/how-to-research-and-write-historical-fiction-william-ryan-writing-course
[with thanks to William Ryan and M R Hall for my copy of Writing Crime Fiction: a 60-minute Masterclass]
I’m delighted to welcome best-selling Finnish crime writer, Kati Hiekkapelto, to the CTG blog for today’s stop on her blog tour. For her guest post, Kati kindly agreed to talk about what it was like writing her latest book THE DEFENCELESS …
When I was writing The Defenceless, I read an article about Pakistani author Aslam Nadeem, who was locked in one room when he was writing the novel Wasted Vigil. Someone gave him food through the hatch in the door, and he requested that no one let him out until the book was finished. He stayed in that room for seven months without seeing anyone, doing nothing but writing and sleeping. My first thought after reading about his isolation, was Wow! That’s exactly what I need. To be an effective and productive writer I really do need total solitude, without Internet access – some sort of all-inclusive accommodation, somewhere far away and a secretary! Or even better, a wife.
I’ve often been asked if it is difficult to ‘return to normal life’ after an intensive writing session. The answer is yes. However, in my experience it is even more difficult to ‘return to writing life’ after an intensive period in real life. The trouble is that reality lurks everywhere, all the time, and it is often very invasive. It has the shape of family, friends, lawnmower, snow shovel, washing machine, grocery list, shopping centre, bills, and millions of other things you can not escape.
I usually work in the mornings. I like the purity of thought that occurs after a sleep and therefore I don’t allow myself to use the Internet or talk to anyone before I have written my daily words. I often disobey my own rules and check Facebook or emails. Sometimes I have to ring or text, or sit down for a chat with my children. Yes, I get disturbed, but I try to get over it. I have to. I write for between three and five hours a day and after that I answer my emails, surf the internet and take part in the usual round of social media that seems to be part of being a writer these days.
Then I have to stop. I have to cook, do the laundry, be with my children, clean the house, meet my friends and do all that stuff that everyone else has to do too. At first my thoughts and soul are absent from these activities – they want to remain in my fiction world and I want to keep them there, too. After a while reality and its never-ending responsibilities drag my mind into my body again and the text begins to fade away. Finally I’m present in my normal life.
And then the next morning it’s time to start writing again – forget about everything else, get into the right mood, find the right words, sentences, rhythm and try to ensure that the text continues to flow, that it takes on shape as a cohesive whole. And there it is again! That temptation winking at me from the real world, which suddenly seems fascinating. Even washing dishes and Hoovering suddenly looks like a good idea, as does time spent with my family. The longer the ‘real-life’ period lasts, the harder it is to get back to writing. But back I go, because I have to. Not just because it is my job, but because I am compelled.
When I wrote my first novel, The Hummingbird, I did not have a designated room nor a good desk or even a decent chair. I sometimes wrote on the bathroom floor! (No wonder I had to go for physiotherapy several months after finishing the book.)
Nowadays my writing conditions have improved. I have a writing room and an electric desk – I like to write standing. I think my room absorbs all the feelings I want to have in the text and therefore it helps me to find the right mood every morning. Sometimes I need (or rather the text needs) a writing period longer than four hours per day and I have to pack my computer and notes and go away for couple days. When I wrote The Defenceless, I used my aunt´s cabin in Lapland. It was amazing to write murder mystery in the wilderness, surrounded by November darkness…
I envy my colleagues who can write in cafés surrounded by people and voices. I need absolute silence. Some authors also manage to write when they are travelling. Because of many foreign translations of The Hummingbird and The Defenceless, I have to spend a lot of time promoting my books abroad. It is fascinating and inspiring, of course, but it also means putting my writing aside to talk about previous books, which sometimes feels like schizophrenia. In that state of mind, I find it impossible to concentrate on writing!
The Defenceless was partly inspired by Nadeem’s Wasted Vigil. Conception of time is often circular in Eastern cultures, not horizontal as it is here in West, and Nadeem´s novel is a beautiful example of this. Because one of the main characters in The Defenceless is a young Pakistani man called Sammy, I wanted to get similar feeling of roundness in my book, as a reflection from his culture. Crime fiction is a very plot-orientated, horizontally proceeding genre and therefore I had to do my circles with a light hand. I was so happy when one Finnish literature journalist noticed my efforts! But I cannot escape reality around me, like Nadeem did, and, perhaps I wouldn’t want it after all. Maybe constant balancing between sinking down to the text and floating up to real-life duties is exactly what I need to be a productive writer. To have all the time and silence in the world and meals from a hatch would most likely make me so lonely, lazy and bored that I wouldn’t write anything worth reading. I have learned to work under in the ‘unsatisfactory circumstances’ otherwise known as ‘normal life’, and it is probably this that makes me the writer I am today.
A wife, however, would still be useful!
A huge thank you to Kati Hiekkapelto for taking over the reins of the CTG blog today and telling us about her writing process and how it felt when she was writing THE DEFENCELESS.
THE DEFENCELESS is out now from the fabulous Orenda Books. Here’s what the blurb says: “When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko. Chilling, disturbing and terrifyingly believable, The Defenceless is an extraordinary, vivid and gripping thriller by one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.”
You can find out more about Kati Hiekkapelto on the Orenda Books website and make sure you follow her on Twitter @HiekkapeltoKati
To get the book from Amazon, click on the book cover below:
And be sure to check out all the other excellent stops on THE DEFENCELESS blog tour …
So I’m one of The Slice Girls – a group made up of crime writers, a publicist, and me – who took to the stage (actually, onto the bar) to perform a number at Bloody Scotland’s Crime in the Coo cabaret night. And this is how it happened …
I got ‘the call’, or rather, ‘the IM’ about four months ago. A short message from Slice Girls leader, Alexandra Sokoloff, that simply said, ‘Steph, do you sing?’ It was a simple question, but answering it made me feel a little like Neo in the Matrix – should I take the red pill or the blue one – what should I say? No. Yes. Kind of, well, there was that one time I sang with Danny La Rue …
In the end, I said yes. And so, it began. Well, after Harrogate in July, it began, anyway. I got sent the lyrics and the music for The Cell Block Tango from Chicago, was allocated my part (the “POP” monologue, and given instructions to practice. And practice I did. I also watched Chicago the film, watched clips of the Cellblock Tango performed on Broadway, and also by an all-male cast as part of a Broadway Backwards charity event (and the best rendition of the song in my book!).
But, as the months, weeks and days counted down to Bloody Scotland, I’d still only practiced on my own and in private. The fear set in. What if I forgot the words? What if I couldn’t do it in front of other people? Luckily I wouldn’t be up there alone, I was a Slice Girl now, and I’d be performing with fabulous crime writers Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday and Alexandra Sokoloff; and awesome Simon & Schuster senior publicist Elizabeth Preston. I told myself it was going to be fun (and I tried to believe it).
Before long, it was time. I arrived on Friday evening (late, as usual) at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, and missed the first practice. Not such a great start, but at least I’d made it to the hotel – and the bar. I soon forgot my nerves after a few drinks, but the next day – Saturday, performance day – they were back, along with all the ‘what ifs’.
But I needn’t have worried – Alexandra had a plan. She gathered us together and had us rehearsing for as long as it took to change six people who’d never sung together into a group that might have a chance of looking like they knew what they were doing. There was choreography to learn too. And the challenge of actually getting up onto the bar in the first place (without putting our heels through the barstool covers). But we practiced, and practiced, and weirdly it was kind of fun.
So, to the evening. We met up at the hotel and headed down to the Curly Coo for our technical rehearsal at 7pm (with the bar due to open at 8pm). Dressed in our costumes we got more than a few odd looks from people out and about in Stirling. We had our rehearsal, with the lights being put up and cameras being fixed in place around us, and then, as the doors were about to be opened, I allowed myself a large glass of wine – for courage, you understand.
There were some fantastic performances – Val McDermid singing with Doug Johnstone on guitar, Mason Cross reading a rather entertaining one-star review, and numerous brilliant others. But I have to admit it was hard to concentrate knowing that soon we’d be up on the bar, performing our song.
When crime writer (and Maestro of the evening) Craig Robertson gave us a twenty-minute warning two things happened. First, we all got another drink, and second, we started running through our monologues, quietly, in the upstairs hallway.
Then it was time, and we made our way through the crowded bar, climbed up onto the bar (me in a far less elegant fashion than the others), and the music started …
And, you know what, it actually wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it’d be. All the way up to the music starting, I felt the fear – absolute and utterly terrifying. But all the practices of the day had done their work, and we all remembered our words, sung in time and had a very fun time. There’s even a bit of video around, taken by crime writer Mari Hannah – you can watch it here
So a massive thank you to Alexandra Sokoloff for pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival for letting it happen, and to my fellow Slice Girls – Alex, Kati Hiekkapelto, Lucy Ribchester, SJI Holliday, Elizabeth Preston.
I truly had a bloody brilliant time!!
The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival is one of those festivals that goes from strength to strength. This year the organising team, led by the ever sparky Dom Hastings, put on a fabulous programme of events from panels to interviews, an awards dinner, a pub cabaret, and a football match – there really was something for everyone. In fact, it was so good it’s taken me a week to recover enough to blog about it!
The weekend kicked off with Val McDermid and Peter May in conversation, followed by Whose Crime is it Anyway? – with TV presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli throwing out the challenges to crime writers Christopher Brookmyre, Kevin Wignall and Caro Ramsay to improvise on the spot. Once the opening events finished, as ever at crime writing festivals, the rest of the evening was spent in the bar at the Stirling Highland Hotel with a glass of wine (or two, or three …).
On Saturday, I wasn’t able to get to many events as I was in training for a special performance with The Slice Girls at the Crime in the Coo event later that evening. But I heard great things about the Killer Women panel – Louise Millar, Helen Giltrow, and MJ McGrath – who discussed whether the Woman is deadlier than the Male? The thought provoking Self Publishing session with Alexandra Sokoloff and Allan Guthrie, and the New Crimes panel with debut authors Lucy Ribchester (The Hourglass Factory), Chris Dolan (Potter’s Field), SJI Holliday (Black Wood) and Mark Legatt (Names of the Dead) – which all sound like fabulous reads.
In the afternoon, in a brief pause between practices, I did get along to the Breaking the Law panel which had dynamic law buffs Steve Cavanagh, Neil White and Jeffrey Siger, along with Craig Sisterson, talking about the difference between the law in crime thrillers and crime fact, how they draw on their real life experiences in their writing, and the legal thrillers that they especially admire. After that, it was a quick sprint to get ready for the Crime in the Coo before meeting my fellow Slice Girls for one final practice (more about that on the blog tomorrow!)
After a late, late night on Saturday, my start on Sunday wasn’t especially early! The first event I got along to was the Thriller panel with Simon Kernick, Tom Wood, G.J. Brown and Mason Cross. In a lively debate they talked locations – whether to visit them or not, and the perils if you don’t, the fun of writing “lone wolf” characters, and about their routes to publication (the key, so they say, is not to let rejection stop you).
Then, with the sky getting darker by the minute, it was a short walk up the hill to the bowling green at Cowane’s Hospital where the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers Football Match: Scotland v England was happening. After Scotland’s convincing win last year there was a lot at stake, and as the game kicked off both teams looked very determined. In a tense game, where the players had to contend with alternating sunshine and pouring rain, the two sides looked pretty evenly matched with goal keepers Luca Veste (England) and Craig Robertson (Scotland) kept busy as both sides battled it out to win.
At the end of the match, the score was 5-5.
The Scotland goals came from Mark Stanton, Christopher Brookmyre, and Doug Johnstone (3). For England the scorers were Vincent Holland-Keane (2), Col Bury (2) and Howard Linskey. The team captains – Ian Rankin (Scotland) and Simon Kernick (England) held the trophy aloft and then, as the rain got heavier, it was time to trot back down the hill (to the bar!).
The final event of the festival was Literary Agent, Jenny Brown, interviewing bestselling crime thriller writer, Linwood Barclay, who was on his first visit to Scotland. To a packed audience, Linwood talked about his writing career, his latest book Broken Promise – the first of a sequence of three connected stories – and on creating a story with a killer hook. Very interesting and highly entertaining, this was the perfect session to end the festival with. Then it was back to the bar, for one final night, before setting off home the next morning.
Next year the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival runs from 9 – 11 September 2016. If you love crime fiction then you absolutely need to be there – put the dates in your diary and book a hotel, now! Trust me, this is one festival that you won’t want to miss out on.
But, of course, there’s something that I haven’t told you about in this blog post – just what happened at Crime in the Coo on Saturday night.
If you want to know, pop back tomorrow for my “(Not so) Secret Diary of a Slice Girl post.
In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peep …
What the blurb says: “When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open-and-shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.
Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.
Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever …”
THE DOMINO KILLER is the third instalment of Neil White’s Parker brothers series and it fully delivers all the pulse-pounding tension, twists, and page-turning action that fans of crime thrillers crave.
The book opens with criminal defence lawyer Joe Parker being called in for a client meeting with a man charged with a bizarre theft, and detective Sam Parker involved in investigating a series of seemingly unconnected murders. But neither situation is quite as it first seems, and soon the cases collide in an explosive way that neither brother could have anticipated.
This story has the perfect balance between procedural detail and high intensity action. There’s a real immediacy to the writing and a chilling sense of jeopardy right from the outset that carries all the way through the book to the show-stopping finale. As the story develops, and the brothers’ cases become increasingly intertwined, the tension rises ever higher – making this one of those books that has you reading well into the early hours, desperate for sleep but unable to resist reading just one more chapter.
But this book isn’t just about the action. There’s a real emotion kick too, delivered as the brothers get closer to identifying the man who was responsible for their sister’s murder back when they were teenagers. As the stakes ramp up, they are forced to decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to get justice – putting their careers, their friendships, their families, and their lives on the line.
THE DOMINO KILLER is a fantastic read. It stands alone, but if you’ve not read the first two books I’d urge you to go back and start at the beginning of the series – it will be well worth it.
Utterly authentic and captivatingly compelling, this story grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned right from the first page to the last.
An absolute must-read for crime thriller fans, and one of my favourite books of 2015.
You can get THE DOMINO KILLER from Amazon by clicking on the book cover below:
[With thanks to those lovely folks at Sphere for my copy of THE DOMINO KILLER]