CTG’s Sneaky Peep: Meet DI Gus McGuire from #UnquietSouls by Liz Mistry

Liz Mistry Unquiet Souls

Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the Unquiet Souls blog tour.

For the stop today I’ve got a fabulous extract from the book that introduces the hero – DI Gus McGuire …

 

Friday, 10am, Shipley, Bradford, 2015

Detective Inspector Angus McGuire, can of Irn Bru in one hand, looked around the waiting room. He hated it, from its cloying vanilla-scented candles to the china clutter on the mantelpiece and the seaside paintings on the chimney breast. The only thing remotely bearable was the oversized aquarium that stood dead centre, providing 360 degree footage of tank life. He didn’t particularly like fish, but, in this tank, he’d found one he could relate to. He’d named him Nemo out of sheer bloody mindedness because his Nemo was neither a clown fish, nor orange and white. His Nemo was, by aquarium standards, a monster lurking in solitude near the bottom of the tank. Its lazy eye blinked only once every century or so. Cold and dead, it reminded him of Becky’s eye. The one without the knife protruding from it. The one that blinked reproachfully at him in his nightmares. Nemo was Gus.

He tapped the glass and Nemo moved, the frondy things springing from the back of its head floated in the water. They reminded him of his own short dreads which he kept at the regulatory ‘above-the-collar’ length to avoid hassle from DCI Hussain. Gus’ finger trailed across the tank. He’d happily spend the whole hour painting abstract patterns for Nemo to follow. However, such reckless indulgence with a friend who was, nonetheless a ‘bottom feeder’, was not to be.

The door opened and Dr Sabrina Mahmood beckoned him into her lair. Gus, flicked his empty can into the bin and stood. Walking past her, quads clenching painfully, he forced himself not to limp. Ever conscious of her role in his future and resentful of it, he’d trained himself to exhibit no weakness. For Gus, these bi-weekly sessions were the equivalent of a siege. She was the negotiator, trying to worm her way under his defences and he would not comply. Not when so much depended on her assessment of his mental stability.

Despite his pain, he strode towards his usual chair, opposite her desk. In here, vanilla was replaced by occasional wafts of Chanel No 5. No amount of careful lighting and magnolia paint could disguise the age of the building but, Gus had to admit, she’d tried really hard. Little touches, like the fluffy turquoise rug thrown over a threadbare blue carpet, and the coffee table with fresh flowers in the corner were an obvious attempt to humanise the process. Dr Mahmood took her place behind the desk and waited for him to sit. Gus stretched his legs, feeling the pull of scar tissue in his upper thigh. Immediately, he found the damp spot on the wall, above her right shoulder. With a practised half smile, he focussed on the spot and waited for the usual ducking and diving to begin. These sessions were like a strategic ballroom dance and Gus wasn’t a great dancer. All he wanted was to immerse himself in his sole salvation – work. Dr Mahmood, he felt, was hell bent on making him dance to her tune. A dance Gus was determined not to share.

 

A massive thank you to Liz Mistry for making the CTG blog a stop on her tour and letting me post this exclusive extract.

Unquiet Souls is out on July 30th. Here’s the blurb: “When the body of a prostitute is discovered DI Gus McGuire is handed the case. But what first appears to be a simple murder soon turns into an international manhunt for the members of a twisted child trafficking ring. McGuire who is suffering with problems of his own, he must pick his way through the web of deceit and uncover the truth in time before the body count rises. Can McGuire identify The Matchmaker before it’s too late? And can he trust those he is working with?”

From 30th July you can buy Unquiet Souls from Amazon here

To find out more about Liz Mistry hop over to her blog at https://lizmistrycrimewriter.wordpress.com/ and follow her on Twitter @LizCrimeWarp

And be sure to check out all the stops on the Unquiet Souls Blog Tour …

Final Blog Tour

Confessions from #TheakstonsCrime (Part 2): The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2016

Val McDermid - Life Time Achievement Award Crime Novel of the Year Award 2016 Clare Macintosh - Winner Best Crime Novel of the year (c) Charlotte Graham/Guzelian

Val McDermid – Life Time Achievement Award (on left) and Clare Macintosh – Winner Crime Novel of the Year 2016 (on right) Photo credit: Charlotte Graham/Guzelian

 

The annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate happened last weekend and, as always, it was an amazing weekend of crime fiction, bookish antics, parties, and awards. It was a time to rub shoulders with like-minded types who write and read crime fiction, and to catch up with friends and meet new ones.

Here’s one of the highlights from the weekend …

The first big event was the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2016 ceremony. Sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd and supported by WHSmith and The Radio Times the award is one of the most hotly contested crime fiction prizes and had a stellar shortlist.

After introductions from the festival organisers and sponsors, each of the six shortlisted authors was presented with a silver tankard and invited to speak about their novel. The shortlist was:  Time Of Death – Mark Billingham (Sphere), Career Of Evil – Robert Galbraith (Sphere), Tell No Tales – Eva Dolan (Harvill Secker), Disclaimer – Renee Knight (Black Swan), I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh (Sphere), Rain Dogs – Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail).

Then the winner was announced … Clare Mackintosh for her outstanding debut novel, the psychological thriller I LET YOU GO. I Let You Go was one of the fastest selling books of 2015, a Sunday Times bestseller and a Richard & Judy Book Club winner. Clare was presented with the award by Simon Theakston and broadcaster Mark Lawson. On winning, Clare said: “I first came to Harrogate as an unpublished author so to win this award tonight is a dream come true. I would like to thank my publishers and agent for supporting me, everybody who has read and recommended I Let You Go, and the crime writing community for their endless encouragement.”

During the ceremony, a special presentation of the Theakston Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award was made to the fabulous Val McDermid. Mark Billingham paid a heartfelt tribute to Val saying: “It’s fitting that Val should receive this award at a festival she was instrumental in starting, and it’s one that is richly deserved. She has represented this genre quite brilliantly all over the world, both in person and through her novels, which have earned her legions of fans and a place among the very greatest crime writers of all time. She is the Queen of Crime, and long may she reign over us.”

On receiving the award, Val said: “It’s an honour and a thrill to receive this award. The community of writers and readers at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is unlike any other in its warmth and generosity and so this means a huge amount to me. This year sees the publication of my 30th novel and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that.”

It was a fabulous high energy kick-off to the festival, and afterwards everyone spilled out to the bar and the lawn to congratulate the winners and much fun (and drink) was had!

Confessions from #TheakstonsCrime (Part 1): Things CTG did for the first time …

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The annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate happened last weekend and, as always, it was an amazing weekend of crime fiction, bookish antics, parties, and awards. It was a time to rub shoulders with like-minded types who write and read crime fiction, and to catch up with friends and meet new ones.

Over the next few days I’ll be blogging all about it, and today I thought I’d share four things I did over the weekend for the first time …

 

 

 

1. Got a photo of the iconic ‘chalk outline’ at the front of the Old Swan Hotel

Okay, so I had to word this one very carefully. I couldn’t use the words ‘Took a photo’ as technically that isn’t true. I did see the chalk outline – it’s one of the iconic features of the ‘scene setting’ for the fabulous Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. I just didn’t photo it! Big thanks to crime writer Caroline Mitchell (@Caroline_writes) for taking the picture!

 

2. Sat in one of the Green Chairs

Another of the iconic fixtures at Harrogate is always the fabulous green chairs. They’re huge. High also (as I discovered). And almost impossible to get into in a ladylike fashion when wearing a long dress. I say ‘almost’ impossible, as with a bit of improvisation using a white plastic garden chair, and a few well timed instructions from the helpful chap already sitting in the other green chair, I was able to scale the chair-face in a relatively elegant way. I have the picture to prove it – here’s me and crime writer Susi Holliday (@SJIHolliday), sitting proudly in the chair. Photo curtesy of crime writer Rosie Claverton (@rosieclaverton) – who also provided the garden chair and removed the evidence!

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CTG (looking a bit grumpy – it was hot!) and Susi Holliday (looking much cheerier!)

 

3. Watched a panel from the front row reserved seating

The first two rows of the massive festival room are VIPs only. The room (well, two rooms joined together) that’s used for all panels and interviews is so huge that there are big screens halfway down it – same as at the O2 arena, or Wembley and the like – just so everyone has a good view of the action on the stage. Anyway, as I was looking for some seats to watch my mates on the New Blood panel (having arrived just moments before the planned start), a very lovely man from Theakstons said he had space up the front and I was welcome to sit there. So I got to view the panel from the front row (and what a brilliantly fun and interesting panel it was – more to come on that in my next post). Fabulous.

 

4. Sang live in a gym

Technically this happened in The Cairn Hotel rather than at the festival, but it’s in Harrogate so I’m counting it! On Friday and Saturday morning, The Slice Girls had band practice. We don’t get to practice together in the same place that often, and with performances coming up in September at both the Bloody Scotland Crime Festival, Stirling, and Bouchercon, New Orleans, we needed to try out some new songs and practice our routines. The best place for this was the gym at The Cairn Hotel. It has great acoustics and (as it used to be a lounge bar) it still has the bar in place – so we could get up on it and practice our moves. It was a lot of fun practising with my fellow Slice Girls – Susi Holliday, AK Benedict (@ak_benedict), and Louise Voss (@louisevoss1) and our dynamic maestro Alexandra Sokoloff (@AlexSokoloff). But it might have been less fun for the poor male crime writer (who will remain nameless) who had to run on the treadmill for over an hour to the sound of us singing our new number for Bloody Scotland!

 

Pop back tomorrow for the next instalment in my confessions from Harrogate …

CTG’s TOP TEN “MUST PACK” #CrimeFiction SUMMER READS

 

 

If you’ve been stressed out and counting the hours (minutes, seconds …) till your holiday the last thing you want is more stress from picking the right books to take with you!

But there are so many red hot sizzlers of reads out there, how do you pick the books to pack into your luggage? It’s a tough call, so to help you out I thought I’d do a top ten selection of my favourite reads from the past few months to give you a bit of a head start.

And so, after A LOT of deliberation, these are my top ten “must pack” reads.

**drum roll**

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If you love super smart and sparkly fun non-fiction … then REACHER SAID NOTHING by ANDY MARTIN is the perfect companion to lie back on your beach towel with.

Through Andy’s eyes, you’ll get a backseat view of Lee Child as he writes his most recent bestseller – MAKE ME. It’s a captivating snapshot of the life of Lee Child during the writing process – illuminating how his life and his writing feed into each other – and a lesson in thriller writing distilled through the expert observations and analysis of Andy Martin. REACHER SAID NOTHING is an honest, access-all-areas study of a writer at the top of their game, and a damn entertaining read – an absolute must for Reacher fans and aspiring writers too. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers this is a book you just have to read!

Read my review of REACHER SAID NOTHING here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Andy on Twitter @andymartinink

 

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If you love your crime to come with a heavyweight emotional sucker-punch … you’ll need IN HER WAKE by AMANDA JENNINGS in your rucksack when you head off to the British seaside.

It’s a remarkable book – part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age story, it entices you in with a gloriously rich web of secrets and mystery, and holds you spell bound right through to the final heart-wrenching revelation. Beautifully written, IN HER WAKE is a story of toxic relationships, family betrayals and self-discovery. It’s both gritty and tragic, and achingly emotive and heart-warming. A stunning read.

Read my review of IN HER WAKE here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Amanda on Twitter @MandaJJennings

 

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If you love a classy whodunit with a psychological twist … be sure to take DIE OF SHAME by MARK BILLINGHAM with you when you load the truck to drive Route 66 on your road trip.

Told across two timelines, the story follows the police investigation, led by no-nonsense DI Nicola Tanner, into the murder of a member of a North West London addiction therapy group in the ‘NOW’. While in the ‘THEN’ it shows the group, and its members’ lives, as they were in the weeks leading up to the murder of one of their own. It’s a book that explores the lasting effects of addiction, the guilt of having to live with the consequences of actions you may have little recall of taking, and of each person’s battle to find and keep (or get back) their place within the world. It also shows the lengths that some people will go to in order to hide their secrets and take their revenge. For police procedural fans, the investigation narrative is as rich with detail and as tensely pacey as you’d expect from a crime-writing master of the genre. Gritty, thought provoking and utterly addictive!

Read my review of DIE OF SHAME here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBillingham

 

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If you love a modern luxury twist on the classic locked room mystery … take THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by RUTH WARE along for the ride when you journey on the Orient Express.

It tells the story of Lo Blackwood who has been given the career opportunity of a lifetime – attending the press launch of a new boutique cruise ship and writing about her experience on its maiden voyage. But in the days leading up to the cruise her flat is burgled while she’s sleeping, and her relationship with her boyfriend, Judah, hits the rocks. Unsettled and exhausted, Lo makes her way to the ship, convinced some rest and recuperation will help her feel better. But things don’t work out like that. Against the backdrop of ultimate luxury – white velvet, raw-silk, chandeliers with over two thousand Swarovski crystals – and the breath-taking natural beauty of the Norwegian fjords, Lo finds herself facing the possibility she’s trapped on a boat, cut off from the outside world, and one of the other passengers is a murderer. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 brings the classic locked room mystery bang up to date, with creepiness and ever increasing dread oozing from the pages. It’s packed with suspense and twisty with tension to the final page.

Read my review of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 over on the @deadgoodbooks website here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthWareWriter

 

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If you love gritty American noir … a copy of BLACK NIGHT FALLING by ROD REYNOLDS is essential reading while you’re waiting for your date to arrive in that back street whiskey bar.

The second book in the Charlie Yates series is another noir-drenched belter of a thriller. “Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.” I think that if Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald had co-written a book it might have been rather like BLACK NIGHT FALLING. Darkly gritty, authentically compelling, this is a flawless treat of a thriller.

You’ll be able to read my review of BLACK NIGHT FALLING when in comes out in August. In the meantime, click here to pre-order it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Rod on Twitter @Rod_WR

 

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If you love seeing beneath the cash and the glitter thrillers … then EXPOSURE by AVA MARSH will keep your eyes wide open as you lounge by the rooftop pool.

At the start of the book, porn star Kitty Sweet is in prison for double murder, but she’s never told the secret of what really happened. When a long lost friend visits, bringing some upsetting news, Kitty’s offered some sessions with a therapist. She figures why not, she’ll turn up and play along. It’s hard to squeeze EXPOSURE into a single sub-genre – it’s a thriller for sure; a tale of deceit, and exploitation, and murder. It’s also a tale of friendship, of love and of heartbreak with a real emotional core. And the twist at the end, well, let’s just say it’s not many books that can make me cry – and this one did!

Read my review of EXPOSURE here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Ava on Twitter @MsAvaMarsh

 

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If you love high adrenaline action thrillers … then you’ll want to take THE TIME TO KILL by MASON CROSS with you when you jet-ski back to your yacht.

This is the third book in the Carter Blake series, and it’s one hell of a read! The story starts with Blake accepting a new job – finding an employee of an internet tech company who’s gone AWOL with a piece of ground-breaking software. But as he starts tracking his target, Blake isn’t aware that he himself is firmly in the sights of his old employers – Winterlong – and that they’ll stop at nothing to neutralize the threat they now believe him to be. THE TIME TO KILL is an adrenaline rush from the first page to the last. Packed with stunning set-piece action sequences, and an emotional punch as you discover more of the rather mysterious Blake’s backstory, this cinematic action thriller is like reading Reacher crossed with Bourne plus added fabulousness.

Read my review of THE TIME TO KILL here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Mason on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

 

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If you love your police procedurals packed with ghostly wonder … you’re going to need JONATHAN DARK OR THE EVDIENCE OF GHOSTS by AK BENEDICT to accompany you on that London city getaway you’re planning (maybe you’ll even be tempted to try some mud larking).

Every once in a while you read a book that enthralls you, wrapping you up tight inside its world and holding you spellbound throughout the entirety of the story. For me, this is that book. “Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it. Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways. Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never know. To find the truth they’ll have to listen to the whispers on the streets.” Quirkily original, with deeply drawn unique characters and a brutally magical London setting, this story has you traversing all the emotions from darkness to delight with a gut wrenching honesty – rather as if you’ve been kissed and sucker punched all at the same time, but in a good way.

Read my review of JONATHAN DARK OR THE EVIDENCE OF GHOSTS here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Alexandra on Twitter @ak_benedict

 

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If you love twisty-turny legal thrillers … take THE PLEA by STEVE CAVANAGH on your New York city break – you could even visit some of the locations in the book while you’re there.

The second book in the Eddie Flynn series, THE PLEA, sees con-man-turned-criminal-defence-lawyer Eddie Flynn facing another terrifying situation: persuade social media genius David Child to become his client and get him to plead guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, or the FBI will make sure Eddie’s wife goes to prison for involvement in an illegal scheme operated by her law firm that she had no direct knowledge of. But Eddie suspects that David Child is innocent, and he won’t send an innocent man to jail. Eddie sets out to prove David’s innocence, and to protect his own family. Problem is, there is more than one bunch of bad guys after David, and some are closer to home than even Eddie might think. With an urgent, time pressured feel from the get-go, electric courtroom scenes, stunning action sequences and the witty and unique character of Eddie Flynn, THE PLEA a tremendous read.

Read my review of THE PLEA here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav

 

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If you love heart-racing creepiness in your thrillers … WILLOW WALK by SJI HOLLIDAY is the book to pack for that walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

This is the second book in the Banktoun trilogy. Set in a small town community in Scotland where everyone knows each other’s business and secrets are deeply held, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a series of deaths linked to legal highs, while also trying to work out what is going wrong in his relationship with girlfriend, Marie.

This twisty, turning police procedural has a strong psychological twist, and tackles some controversial issues. It’s a gritty tale of obsession, revenge and escape. Chillingly nuanced, and pulse-poundingly suspenseful, it’s totally unputdownable.

Read my review of WILLOW WALK here. Click here to buy it from Amazon. And be sure to follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday

 

So don’t forget to pack your books in your suitcase (or pack them virtually onto your Kindle) and have a fab summer hols!

 

CTG Reviews: CUT TO THE BONE by Alex Caan

Cut to the Bone

What the blurb says: Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself?

Ruby’s millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares.

And the videos keep coming . . .”

CUT TO THE BONE is the latest debut coming out of Bonnier’s Twenty7 Books imprint, and it’s an outstanding edition to their line-up. Utterly contemporary, with a rapid pace and nail-biting tension from the get-go, it’s a super-twisty police procedural that kept me guessing right until the end.

The story starts with the disappearance of superstar vlogger, Ruby Day. This is a novel hot on technology – it’s bang up to date – but the human element is strong too, and Ruby’s story is heartbreakingly compelling. Bullied at school, Ruby turned to vlogging as a way to overcome her demons and help others. When her subscribers grew, she was catapulted into the spotlight, and with that came loyal fans, but also hangers on, and those looking to exploit her for profit. When she goes missing, DI Riley and DS Harris have a number of possible suspects who each has a stake in Ruby, but who would profit most from her disappearance? As the investigation cranks up, and more videos of Ruby in distress are released, it becomes clear that beneath the surface of Ruby’s business relationships and personal relationships there are darker, and seedier, motives than any of them could have possibly imagined.

The two main characters – DI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris – make for an interesting pairing. Both damaged by the events in their past, they’re equally suspicious of others and find it difficult to trust people. They’re also both exceptional at what they do, and determined to get to the truth, and for justice to prevail (even if Zain’s version of justice may be a little more ‘hands on’ at times). Their origins – finding out why Kate Riley had to leave America and start over in the UK, and why Zain Harris is struggling to fit into his new role as a DS in Riley’s team – are fresh and original, and really made me want to spend time with them.

CUT TO THE BONE is perfect for readers who like their police procedurals fast paced, twisty-turny, and served with a side order of grit. I loved it, and can’t wait to read the next in the series.

CUT TO THE BONE is out in eBook now. You can buy it from Amazon here

Check out my interview with Alex Caan here and be sure to follow him on Twitter @alexcaanwriter

CTG Interviews: Claire Seeber author of psychological thriller THE STEPMOTHER

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Today I’m delighted to be joined by the fabulous Claire Seeber who has agreed to let me grill her about her latest thriller – THE STEPMOTHER.

Welcome, Claire!

Your latest book THE STEPMOTHER is out now, could you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a kind of spin on Snow White and a look at whether the age-old adage ‘the evil stepmother’ is justified, or a skewed take on a complicated relationship – and why the stepmother is always the outsider (and the father never gets blamed!). It’s also about mental health, I suppose, as in what drives us to the edge; and about familial relationships generally – it centres around two sisters, Jeanie & Marlena, who’ve had a raw deal growing up. That may or may not have pushed them to extreme behavior as adults…and it’s about jealousy, generally.

I found THE STEPMOTHER a real page turner. The relationship between the two sisters, and their unique voices, really hooked me in. What was your inspiration for creating them?

Thank you! I originally wanted to make Marlena the central character (the younger sister, who is a newshound, very career driven, has blotted her copy book in the phone hacking scandal) and I was more interested in her trying to find out what had happened to the girl who’d run off to join ISIS. But my editor was a bit worried Marlena was too ‘controversial’, I think – she’s quite spiky! So I came up with Plan B…tell the first part of the story from Jeanie’s point of view, because she’s (possibly) more sympathetic…and I made it more about families generally. But I managed to sneak the ISIS bit in too J

Within the narrative, you use a twist on a well loved fairy tale to great effect. Did you enjoy fairy tales as a child? And, if so, what are your top three?

Yes, I loved fairy tales, though I wasn’t a particularly girly girl, but I loved books generally. My dad worked in publishing when I was little (he had nothing to do with my writing career though, I ought to add!) and he brought us an amazing big hard-backed fairy-tale book, which I loved. Also all the old Ladybird books, I can still remember Cinderella’s dresses from those, and I also remember Rose Red and Snow White! My favourite…hmm. The ones I remember most are Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid and probably Cinderella – but having said that, I chose Snow White because I was so interested in the relationship between the child and the stepmother, & the obvious jealousy it causes in that tale.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot everything out first, or just dive in and we where the story takes you?

A bit of both. It depends on my deadline really. I had to be super discliplined on THE STEPMOTHER because I had very little time to write it in. I had to make myself a plot outline and stick to it, and having that as a reference point was handy. I’ve written books with no plot outline, and I think it makes me feel more panicked!

What’s your favourite part of the writing process and why?

Probably just making it up as I go along on the first draft, and feeling like ‘ooh I’m onto something here’ and being really lost in the process. That’s when I really love it and it feels a bit like flying.

“Grip Lit” is a label that’s started being put on a lot of thrillers these days. As a well established writer of psychological thrillers do you see Grip Lit as something new within the genre, or just an new label?

Just a new label and a slightly irritating one at that!! It’s something I’ve pondered a lot as my first novel was written in 2004, before this whole ‘domestic noir/ grip lit’ became such a ‘thing’. Now the media heralds it as new, ‘specially since Girl on A Train, and I think – what’s new about reading the voice of women like us, telling us how it really is?! Worrying about relationships and drinking too much and fancying the wrong people, with some crime / plot twists thrown in?! It’s a bit galling, to be honest, when I’ve been doing it for about twelve years now!

And, finally, what does the rest of 2016 hold for you?

Well, having written 6 psychological thrillers, much as I love them – and I do – I’d like to do something hopefully new…still in the thriller area, but quite different. It’s written, and it’s with my agent – but you’ll have to watch this space because I’m so superstitious, I don’t want to jinx it, not because I’m being precious J !! And I probably will write another pysch thriller but I’m not sure what yet!

Sounds very intriguing! I can’t wait to read it.

A massive thank you to Claire Seeber for popping over to the CTG blog and letting me grill her (I owe you a drink, Claire).

To find out more about Claire and her books visit her website here and be sure to follow her on Twitter @claireseeber

To buy THE STEPMOTHER from Amazon, click here

 

CTG in conversation with Alex Caan: author of CUT TO THE BONE

Cut to the Bone

Today I’m super excited to be hosting a stop on the CUT TO THE BONE Blog Tour. The lovely Alex Caan has joined me on the CTG blog to chat about all things writing, reading and to tell me what it’s really like being a debut author.

Welcome, Alex!

I always read about writers knowing from a young age they wanted write. What do you think? And when did you decide to do it professionally?

For me I think it was about 8 I remember starting to write stories and wanting to be a writer. I think I saw Roald Dahl in his shed on Blue Peter (I know the glamour of my youth!) sharpening his pencils and writing his stories, and that made me realise it could actually be a career. Like so many though I didn’t have the confidence to pursue it, until I hit thirty and decided if I wanted to pursue my dreams it was now or never. So I joined writing groups, did short courses and eventually an MA. But from trying to make this my profession to the publication of ‘Cut to the Bone’ I think it’s taken me a decade of hard graft.

CTG pauses a moment, adds up years: thirty plus a decade … then says [in shock] there is no way you’re fourty!!!!

But, seriously, I’ve talked to quite a lot of authors who’ve said it’s taken them about ten years of ‘apprenticeship’ before getting published. So, you did an MA (like me). How did you find it?

Ha, thank you I think! Mine was a general MA and I spent most of it trying to write the next great Booker winner style novel. Only towards the end, when I had to submit a novel for my dissertation did I have the confidence to write something I really wanted to. I think I learnt a lot about how to cope with criticism, and constructive criticism. And I knew nothing about the business of publishing, how to approach agents and how the process works. The MA helped greatly with that.

Yes, that’s a really great point – I found it gave me a much better understanding of the world of publishing too. And the ‘writing what you want’ thing you mention is key, I think, it’s easier to find your own voice that way perhaps.

America. Why?

My reality especially as a teenager was dire. I think it’s why I connected with the character of Ruby so much, that sense of alienation and being an outsider, which I think both Kate Riley and Zain Harris also share. And when you’re growing up in a deprived inner-city area, and having a tough time, the American Dream is just so big and brash and seductive. The TV, films and especially the novels. Everything just seemed so exciting, even the grittiest thrillers had a touch of glamour. Plus the country was always so different depending where you were, so New York was different from LA, and both different from Texas and Boston. However, I’ve never been and I thought my novel would read as a poor pastiche if I tried to fake it. Instead-I transported Kate Riley from her New England/Washington past to London. That will give me I hope the vehicle to tell stories about America as her past comes back more strongly in future novels. And once I’ve been!

Oh yes, you absolutely must go! I can’t wait to discover more about Kate Riley’s past. And I get what you mean about the gritty but glamorous US-set films and TV shows. I’ve spent a lot of time in the States, and have family out there, so I’m more confident writing about the locations and such, although I do spend a lot of time checking my facts are correct – and getting my Step Mom to say things ‘in Amercian’ for me to ensure I’m getting the phrasing right!

What’s the weirdest research you did?

I ended up wandering around the South Downs late at night while on a work trip to Winchester once. And I think I spent about four days watching YouTube vlogs non-stop. I was by the end of it an honorary teenager, and my world-view was all over the place. But none of this is as exciting as your stint as a bounty hunter!!

An ‘honorary teenager’ – brilliant! But from what you’ve said, you wanted to experience some of what your characters do in order to write about it, and I guess that’s the same with me and the bounty hunting!

Who would you use your taser on?

So far everyone’s been lovely…so far…but I might borrow it if I start meeting writers who act like erm not very nice people (am determined not to swear).

Ha ha! Yes, you’re very welcome to borrow it, so long as you promise to give it back! In return, what advice can you give me as someone approaching publication as a debut?

So advice for you as a debut. I think you’re already leagues ahead of so many writers, the most difficult part for me was breaking into the crime world. Everyone seems to know everyone, and I was terrified. Thank you for your advice by the way, it really helped. So I think you’ve done all of that, and people have so much respect for you already, and I really feel like your novel has a buzz around it. It will really hit the ground running. What I would say, and what I’m failing to do fully, is enjoy it. The nerves make it difficult, the idea that people you have no control over will review it, how much it sells, Tv deals etc etc. Try and ignore all that if you can. And practice your ‘I didn’t win the oscar face’ if you get a questionable review. I have to remember how subjective reading is, and not to take it personally. If someone’s bought the novel and spent the time to read it, they are entitled to feel any way they want to about it.

*blushes* *goes off to practice I didn’t win the oscar face* *returns* – thank you, that’s great advice. I do hope you get to enjoy the experience. Your debut, CUT TO THE BONE, is a fantastic novel.

Speaking of which, can you summarise your novel for readers in a paragraph?

Cut to the Bone is about Ruby Day, a vlogger with millions of fans who goes missing. An elite new unit of the Met are called in under questionable circumstances to investigate, led by Kate Riley, Zain Harris and the rest if her team. What starts of as a misisng person’s case soon escalates into a creepy hunt for a kidnapper, as videos are anonymously uploaded of Ruby pleading for her life. And the kinapper has issued a threat that she won’t be the only one.

It’s a great read, folks. Be sure to watch out for my review next week.

And finally, I don’t believe I swear more than you. Are you sure you counted all bad words? Anyway, my next novel I am determined to swear less. What’s your resolution?

Ha! I think you swear more on the page and less in real life perhaps. I’m the other way around – I edit my sweariness on the page, but in real life I am a pottymouth. Perhaps my resolution should be to even the two out a little more!

And, sadly, that’s all we have time for.

A huge thank you to the wonderfully talented Alex Caan. To keep up with all his news, follow him on Twitter @alexcaanwriter

A bigger thank you to you though for letting me part of the iconic CTG blog, and I can’t wait to read Deep Down Dead (not that this is a MASSIVE hint to get me a proof copy or anything…)

CUT TO THE BONE is out now. You can buy it from Amazon here

And be sure to check out the rest of the fabulous CUT TO THE BONE Blog Tour stops …

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