#CrimeWritersInCafesProcrastinating – debut author Margaret Kirk reveals her procrastination habits! @HighlandWriter

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Today debut crime writer Margaret Kirk is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Ready for a grilling about her procrastination habits is Margaret Kirk whose debut crime novel – SHADOW MAN – is out now.

Welcome Margaret! Tell me a bit about SHADOW MAN…

Shadow Man, my debut novel, is a police procedural set in Inverness and the Highlands. The winner of the Good Housekeeping First Novel competition in 2016, it introduces Lukas Mahler, a half-Scots, half-German ex-Met DI, and is the first in a planned series.

How long did it take to write?

Well, when I won the competition (June 2016) I really only had about 25,000 decent words written. I then had a bit of a scramble to get it finished and sent off to Orion, which took another six months. Not too bad, considering I was in a state of shock for at least a month after finding out I’d won!

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

I have a lovely writing shed (dubbed ‘The Murder Room’) in our garden, where I should theoretically be able to shut out the world and get writing. But I’ve also got two demanding cats who wander in and out, and a really comfy day bed in there, so…

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

I plan quite carefully. I set up a word document called ‘Chapter Plan’ and do a one or two-sentence synopsis for each chapter, which I then add to/amend as I go. And I always write the synopsis for the book first – it really concentrates the mind and shows me where the book is going. And it alerts me to any potential plot holes I need to look out for.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Probably in the middle. There’s a lot of momentum that carries me through the first third, then as the plot becomes more complex, I start fretting about whether I’m going in the right direction etc. I gradually feel my way through and start gathering speed again for the finale!

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

I think edits, really, because there’s that sense that you’re working with what you have to make something better, and that’s always easier than pulling words out of thin air and sticking them down on a page. The shape of what the book should be starts to feel a little closer at the edits stage.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Cat-cuddling. Finding a new must-read series and absolutely bingeing on it, telling myself it’s all in the name of research. Sort of…and afternoon tea is a huge favourite!

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

Coffee and chocolate – basically, I run on caffeine. But in an attempt to combat the onset of writers’ posterior, I try to severely limit the chocolate, and make sure I get at least 30 minutes’ exercise every day. Honest…

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

…is celebrated either with Prosecco or a nice Scottish gin (Shetland Reel or Rock Rose) and Fevertree tonic. Cheers!

Huge thanks to Margaret for letting me quiz her about all things procrastination.

Be sure to check out her debut novel – SHADOW MAN. And keep up to date with all her news via social media at: 

Facebook: Margaret Kirk Author    Twitter:     https://twitter.com/HighlandWriter

Click on the book cover below to view SHADOW MAN on Amazon UK…

#CrimeWritersInCafesProcrastinating – @Anne_Coates1 reveals her procrastination habits

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Today crime writer Anne Coates is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.

Ready for a grilling about her procrastination habits is Anne Coates whose latest crime novel – SONGS OF INNOCENCE – is out now.

Welcome Anne! So tell me all about your latest book – Songs of Innocence?

What a marvelous opportunity to procrastinate by answering your questions, Steph! Songs of Innocence is the third book in the Hannah Weybridge series. Still recovering from the traumatic events of Death’s Silent Judgement (book two), Hannah, a freelance journalist, is asked to help investigate the death of a teenage Asian girl found drowned in Peckham Pond by her family. The police think it’s suicide; her aunt is convinced it is murder. Hannah’s enquiries reveal a trend of Asian girls missing school, or disappearing altogether and someone is determined she will not expose the reason why.

How long did Songs of Innocence take to write?

I started more or less as soon as I’d submitted the second book to my publisher and it took about eight months to write. I remember being on holiday when Matthew Smith, the publishing director of Urbane Publications, contacted me about publishing book three and what was the title? All the books’ titles are linked to a poet or poem I love. I dithered over book three but Blake was my inspiration and so I borrowed part of his own title and a poem I love within it. My deadline was four months away.

What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot – home, café, bar, other?

People who manage to write in cafés and bars intrigue me. How do they manage to stop people watching and eavesdropping long enough to actually get words onto the screen? Mind you I keep promising myself I’ll go and work in my local with a glass of wine for inspiration! Mainly I work from home although I have been known to write on the bus, especially if I see someone whose characteristics or way of talking I could use for a character. My powers for procrastination are legendary. Unlike some who have to clean the house/rearrange their working space or whatever, I am able to sit and watch the dust accumulate while I look out of a window for inspiration. When I get stuck on something I find changing my writing location helps so I tend to move around the house. However I have three cats who all compete with my laptop for a place to nestle and stroking a feline is very therapeutic.

What’s your writing process – do you jump straight in, or plan and plot first?

Frequently when I get stuck on a plot problem, I wish I were more of a planner. However I “jump straight in” but rarely is the first chapter I write the one which appears at the beginning of the finished novel. For my current WIP, the beginning changed several times before I found my way into the story. In Songs I had a very tight time-frame for the narrative which helped with the plotting as all the action takes place in May 1994 and I used some real events to keep a check on the narrative path. Even so I don’t write chronologically so I have to write loads of notes to remind myself of what is happening and what should go before and after.

When you’re writing, do you find you procrastinate more at the beginning, middle or end of the draft, or equally across all three?

Probably equally across all three. At the beginning I spend a lot of time thinking about the plot and characters – this involves pruning the roses, weeding, filing my nails, making cups of coffee, anything rather that actually putting words onto paper. Cups of cold coffee and uneaten snacks indicate when the writing is going well. Towards the end of the first draft I may slow down to postpone the exquisite agony of knowing that I will have to begin rewriting and sorting out plot holes.

Do you prefer first drafts or edits (and why)?

The relief of a finished first draft is second to none. Then at least I have something to work with and on. I do two or three drafts before I start editing and I print out each time to give myself a physical feeling for the MS. I love the last draft/edit as that’s usually when I change the ending for something more extreme. As I don’t plot and plan, characters lead me on sometimes into unknown territory. The finale is often a shock to me – and, I hope, for the reader.

When you’re procrastinating, what’s the activity you turn to most?

Research – pause to polish halo – can lead a writer up and down all manner of highways and byways. Although I prefer to get a first draft written and worry about fact checking and so on at a later stage, I find looking up something or Googling a location can be all it needs to spur me on. I sometimes read reams about a subject and then only a tiny element makes it into the book. Of course, social media (which is how I happened to read about your new series, Steph in the middle of draft one of book four!) can be a huge distraction as can getting immersed in a novel.

Ah yes, very true – social media is a great distraction!

When you’re writing what’s your drink and snack of choice?

I love coffee but, as an insomniac, I avoid it after lunchtime. Then I drink water until it’s an acceptable time to have a G&T or a glass of wine. I’m a terrible snacker and how immersed in my writing I am dictates how healthily I eat. I try to make sure plenty of fruit and nuts are available but sometimes only chocolate will do.

And how do you celebrate the completion of the book (you winning against procrastination)?

The finished book always takes me by surprise somehow. It’s fabulous to see and touch but often it’s the reaction of my daughter and friends that gives it credence. The official launch party of Songs of Innocence was a few days after publication so on publication day we went to a local pub which features in the book and celebrated with Prosecco.

Huge thanks to Anne for being great fun and letting me quiz her about all things procrastination.

Be sure to check out her latest book – SONGS OF INNOCENCE.

Click on the book cover below to view it on Amazon UK…

CTG INTERVIEWS: NGAIO MARSH AWARDS FINALIST BEN SANDERS ABOUT MARSHALL’S LAW

Ben Sanders

 

Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on the Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists Blog Tour and featuring one of the finalists – Ben Sanders.

Ben Sanders scored a multi-book deal and published his first crime novels while he was studying engineering at university. Now juggling engineering work and writing, Sanders’ most recent tales are action-packed thrillers starring former New York City undercover cop Marshall Grade, living in witness protection in the American southwest. His fifth novel, Marshall’s Law, is a finalist for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel.

CWA Gold Dagger winner Michael Robotham has described Marshall Grade as a ‘noble loner’ who’s a great read for fans of Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne. Let’s find out more…

Marshall Grade is a pretty hands-on, action man kind of lead – what inspired you to create him as a character? 

I like a good mix of noir in my crime, so I knew my hero (or anti-hero, as he turned out) would be the kind of self-sufficient gentleman who could get to the bottom of things, and be happy to throw the odd punch along the way. My previous three New Zealand-set novels had focused on an Auckland police detective, but when it came to my US books, I wanted to write about a character who was ‘outside the system.’ So Marshall (being a former undercover policeman) has the experience to move in criminal circles, but he doesn’t have the heft of a government institution to back him up. In plain terms he’s a vigilante. That of course puts him in competitive territory among fictional male heroes, but Marshall being a self-taught bruiser with a guilt complex means he has his quirks and points of difference.

You’re from New Zealand, but you set your most recent two novels (the Marshall Grade series) in the United States; New Mexico and New York. How did you go about researching where you set those stories, and making it as authentic as possible? 

I’d been reading American crime novels since I was thirteen, and Western culture is fairly US-centric anyway, so I felt like I’d had good ambient exposure to Americana. But of course the best research is first-hand experience, so I visited all of the locations I wrote about. A big element of authenticity—or at least the impression of authenticity—is being confident in what you write. All fiction relies on speculation to some extent, but confidence helps camouflage the guesswork, and makes writing persuasive. For me, detailed knowledge of settings gave me confidence in other elements of my work. My process is very visual—I see everything in my head as I write—so once I could picture my backdrop, it didn’t feel like a great leap of imagination to then superimpose characters and plot. And travel obviously has benefits beyond the purely visual. The details are valuable too: what the seasons are like, how people speak, the price of coffee in a diner. Such things bring an extra layer of credibility to a story and add to the illusion that This Actually Happened.

Your books are fast-paced, and full of action. What are your top tips on creating tension and pace when writing a thriller? 

‘Pace’ in mysteries or thrillers is all do to with how the author reveals information to the reader. A scene in a book should have a function: is it (for example) giving character backstory? Introducing someone? Is it purely for humour? Does it contain some crucial revelation to drive the story? (The most adroit scenes can do all of the above and more, simultaneously.) So for me, controlling pace amounts to being aware of what I’m revealing about character and story. Basically I want to ensure that all the interesting bits are parcelled out appropriately across the course of 350-odd pages. ‘Appropriately’ is an elastic term—pace can increase and decrease through the course of a novel, and it’s not until something is on paper that I can see whether it ‘works.’ Tension in my work often derives from a sense of looming catastrophe or conflict. Particularly in my American novels, I have competing characters who are in stark moral contrast to one another. By switching perspectives between various players and hinting at a common trajectory, I try to create an impression that something very bad could happen. But depending on the type of novel, the same emotional effect can be achieved by other means-I watched an interview with Lee Child in which he explains that the trick to suspense (or tension) is to simply pose a question and then refuse to answer it for three hundred pages.

Which books or writers in the crime genre do you enjoy reading, and why? 

I love Michael Connelly and Lee Child, because I can’t get enough of their characters. I love Elmore Leonard because his dialogue reads like a wire-tap. I love James Ellroy for his style, and his ability to bend history to the shape of his vision. I could go on and on, but those guys are my top four.

Your first Marshall Grade novel, AMERICAN BLOOD, was optioned for a film before you even finished the manuscript. When you picture Marshall in your own head, which actor does he remind you of?  

While the film plans were all-go, the Marshall in my head looked like Bradley Cooper. Now the movie’s been scrapped, Marshall just looks like me (tall and blond, but with bigger muscles). That way, I get to live an exciting thug-busting life by proxy, from the comfort of my desk.

You published your first crime novel while you were at university, and already have five under your belt. How has your writing style evolved over the years, and what are the biggest lessons you learned going from budding author to published to established? 

My first novel The Fallen was accepted for publication in December 2009, but it wasn’t until I began reading Blood’s a Rover by James Ellroy on Christmas Day of that year that I appreciated the importance of style and voice. Ellroy is famous for his clipped rat-a-tat syntax, but the lesson I learned from Rover wasn’t so much that a book should be written in a bold and obvious manner; more that whatever the style, it needs to be consistent. Most of the crime writers I’d read before Ellroy used a very smooth and understated authorial voice, and so the need for consistency didn’t really occur to me. So that was the first way my writing changed: improving from a stylistic mishmash in my first book, to something more controlled in my later work. My American novels have all been narrated in third-person, but I adopt one character’s perspective for each scene. It’s made my style more colloquial, and I tend to use a lot of dialogue to move the story forward. My biggest lesson has been the importance of editing. Some people can write a book and nail it on the first try, but once I’ve finished a draft, I need to leave it alone for a week or two, and then hit it hard with the backspace key: invariably, something needs re-doing.

What other advice do you have for budding crime writers out there, who are trying to get their first book published? 

Writing is a difficult trade to break into if you’re wanting to be published, so it’s obviously important to maximise your chance of being noticed. Research which agents and/or publishers are interested in crime, and when you’re sending them material, treat their submission rules as gospel—agents may have dozens or hundreds of submissions a year, so providing material in a format they don’t want will ensure a quick rejection. Most importantly, never submit anything that isn’t totally pristine. Write your novel or your sample, leave it in a drawer for a month, and then edit mercilessly.

A big thank you to Ben Sanders for popping onto the CTG blog today. For more information about Ben and his books hop over to https://ben-sanders.com

 And to buy Marshall’s Law click this link: https://www.amazon.com/Marshalls-Law-Novel-Marshall-Grade/dp/1250058805

Be sure to check out all the other fantastic stops along the blog tour too.

Blog Tour book covers

CTG Interviews KJ Howe about The Freedom Broker

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While I was at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate I met up with fellow debut novelist KJ Howe to chat about her fabulous thriller THE FREEDOM BROKER. Over coffee, we talked research, writing process, and how she created the kick-ass action heroine Thea Paris…

Thea Paris is such an authentic all-action female lead – what inspired you to create her as a character?

I always wanted to write a strong female protagonist. As part of my research I went out to the Phoenix desert and trained in hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting and more. I’m a big believer of if you’re going to write about it you should have experienced it. I’ve got this rolodex of Special Forces guys I can call on – they read the book – and wanted to bring an authenticity to the page. I would have loved to have been a spy! I’ve been zip lining, cage diving with sharks, but I’m also feminine and enjoy dressing up – I wanted to show a woman can be a real woman but also really strong too, but not in a comic book way. Thea Paris has very human baggage and with her diabetes there’s a ticking clock – she has to have her insulin [which can be tricky given some of the situations she gets into during the course of The Freedom Broker]. I wanted to show that if you have a chronic illness it shouldn’t stop you, and if you’re a woman it shouldn’t stop you doing your dream job.

Thea’s job as a Response Consultant [kidnap negotiator/rescuer] is an unusual one – what research did you do?

I’ve spent the last four years immersed in that world and found out first-hand about what it’s like. As well as speaking with people who’ve been in real life hostage situations – like Peter Moore who was the longest held hostage in Iraq – I’ve found out about the world of kidnap and ransom. I attended the Kidnap and Ransom Conference – I didn’t know anyone, and it’s a dark, closed world – but I needed to learn about it so I could write authentically. Now I’ve got contacts all over the world – including special ops people, response consultants, a psychologist who specialises in hostage mentality, and security guys who protect journalists in war zones.

I wanted to do something fresh and unique, and I didn’t want to do FBI or Police as I’m not a rule follower – I wanted the freedom to go wild! Private industry doesn’t have the same restrictions, and it’s interesting how the whole system works – from big companies, to kidnap insurance, through to response consultants [interestingly, Lloyds of London are the people who first started selling kidnap and ransom insurance]. People can be insured for as much as fifty million dollars, and negotiators will often haggle down from the ransom demand – usually 10% or so. In the US and the UK the penalty for kidnap is high, and there’s also a 95% chance of getting caught. But in Mexico there are no laws on kidnap and a 95% chance of not getting caught – so it’s more worth the risk to kidnappers. Plus there’s no lack of potential victims – everyone has loved ones – it’s scary. With every book in the series I’m hoping to explore a different aspect of kidnap.

THE FREEDOM BROKER is super twisty-turny – what was your writing process?

I’m an organic writer. I do plan ahead, but mostly the story is held in my head. I do go back and plant things later though. You can’t fight who you are – if you need to plot to feel in control then do that. I find there’s a freshness from organically writing – the characters come alive. So listen to your heart and write how you want to – my style is ‘pants on fire’ writing. You can sometimes get into trouble writing organically, but for me it’s well worth the risk. If I get into a corner I think ‘what’s the theme of the book?’ – it’s often family – and can work out what next from there.

What got you into writing thrillers?

When you look at the book you’re reading and the books you chose to read there’s always an emotion attached to them. With thrillers it’s energy and adrenaline, with mysteries it’s puzzle solving, with romance it’s hope, and with sci-fi it’s wonder. I’m into adrenaline and energy – I’m a very action orientated person. I read David Morrell’s Brotherhood of the Rose – a spy thriller – and thought I’d love to be an author and be able to do what he did to me to another reader, to take them to another place – like Athens – and fascinate them. The Eye of the Needle and Day of the Jackal are great books. I grew up in different places around the world and wanted a character that can go anywhere – each book will go to different countries.

KJ HOWE

What words of advice do you have for those aspiring to be published?

Embrace criticism from credible sources. I worked on my book for two years and had to go on the journey – it’s 10% about talent and 90% about perspiration – and you have to be in it for the long haul. Everyone I know has been at it for a while. Write every day or as often as you can – get out the junk words and keep going! David Morrell is my mentor and he has a saying ‘Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else’ – only you can write your book. It’s like with me having had a very international life – I’ve lived in lots of places where the shadow of threat is always there – I can bring to the page what I’ve learnt. Be fresh. Unless there’s great writing and a unique voice don’t do something that’s already been done. Stay the course and get help – never bring your ego to the table. Although I’m published I feel like I’m at the beginning of the journey. I want to stay at it, keep getting better, and then getting word out about my books and reaching readers. Learn everything you can about this business. Do your own social media, and get involved and be part of the writing community (events like the Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival held at Harrogate every July are a great place to start). I try to help as many writers as I can – playing it forward as I’ve had a lot of help from authors. You can contact me through my website and the ThrillerFest website [she’s the Executive Director of the fantastic crime writing festival] – I’m always happy to hear from people.

And with that the coffee was drunk and the interview was over. KJ Howe was a brilliantly fun interviewee and it was great to meet her and talk about all the fascinating research she’s done – she really is an action woman herself!

To find out more about KJ Howe visit her website HERE and be sure to follow her on Twitter @KJHoweAuthor

You can read my review of THE FREEDOM BROKER HERE and then hop over to Amazon to buy it by clicking the link HERE

And check out the ThrillerFest website HERE for all the details on this amazing crime writing festival held in New York every summer.

#NIGHTMARKET BLOG TOUR: CTG + @DPemb TALK GIN, BOOK SHOPS AND HA-HAs!

 

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on Daniel Pembrey’s – aka ‘DPemb’ – blog tour for his latest thriller NIGHT MARKET. To mark the occasion, Daniel stopped by CTG HQ for couple of gins and a chat about what he’s getting up to this week…

Good to see you DPemb, what’s going on? It seems you have another book out, already!

Well ….

Well? *taps fingers against glass* Tell me all about it.

Strictly speaking it’s the second half of the same story, which started with The Harbour Master. Part two of two, if you will.

But this is a different story – it’s not The Harbour Master, it’s Night Market?

That’s true. And my Amsterdam detective Henk van der Pol is really put through the wringer this time!

Well, he went through quite a lot in the first book so sounds like gin is required.

That’s exactly right, CTG. This Wednesday 26th April, I’m doing an event at South Kensington Books in London – http://www.kensingtonbooks.co.uk/ – with the wonderful Fiona Cummins, and gin will most certainly feature.

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Excellent! That sounds like a very fun event – I loved both NIGHT MARKET and Fiona Cummins’s RATTLE. And then what, I hear you’re out and about all week?

And then … publication day is the next day, April 27th, which happens to be King’s Day in Holland, so I’m trotting along to the Dutch Embassy to celebrate that. Koningsdag, as they call it. (Not that this has anything to do with my book, still!)

The Embassy, very fancy! *CTG resists the urge to ask DPemb about the likelihood of Ferrero Rocher* And then later in the week?

Ah yes, I’m going to up to Newcastle Noir to chair a spectacular thriller panel on the Sunday evening, 30th April featuring Paul Hardisty, Luca Veste and…

Me!

Yes, you! How cool will that be?

I think it’ll be very cool and a lot of fun!

We shall be talking about Deep Down Dead. And Deep Blue Trouble

Excellent – I’m looking forward to it! Now is there anything else I need to know?

Actually there is. The following Thursday 4th May, I’m doing an event at Nomad Books in Fulham with the brilliant David Young (STASI CHILD/STASI WOLF). Find out more at www.nomadbooks.co.uk/whats-on

Is he bringing his Stasi police car?

I believe that’s kaput, but perhaps he’ll bring some jet fuel-strength ex-GDR schnapps, or similar. Let’s see!

You’re going to have a busy couple of weeks! Now what’s this about ha-has, I hear you’ve been doing some rather unusual research?

*DPemb gulps down the rest of his gin* What’s what about what?

You know … *gives knowing look* Ha-has!

Ohhh … *notes down reminder to contact Jilly* yes, fingers crossed for that!

ha ha pic

A ha-ha. (Huh?)

*CTG laughs*

I guess D Pemb is keeping his ha-ha story under his hat for now!

Well best of luck with the launch of NIGHT MARKET, Daniel, and see you in Newcastle at the weekend!

Likewise CTG, and thank you for having me.

NIGHT MARKET by Daniel Pembrey is out this week. You can buy it here

Here’s what the blurb says: “When Henk van der Pol is asked by the Justice Minister to infiltrate a team investigating an online child exploitation network, he can hardly say no – he’s at the mercy of prominent government figures in The Hague. But he soon realises the case is far more complex than he was led to believe… Picking up from where The Harbour Master ended, this new investigation sees Detective Van der Pol once again put his life on the line as he wades through the murky waters between right and wrong in his search for justice.

Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like one. . .”

To find out more about Daniel Pembrey and his books hop over to his website at www.danielpembrey.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @DPemb

And be sure to visit all the other stops on the fab NIGHT MARKET blog tour…

night market blog tour poster

Bloody Scotland Preview: EVA DOLAN, MARI HANNAH & BEN MCPHERSON

One of the events I’m really looking forward to at Bloody Scotland is the Saturday 10.30am panel with Eva Dolan, Mari Hannah and Ben McPherson. Having seen each of these dynamic writers in action before, I’m sure this is going to be a lively and entertaining debate. So, in advance of the festival, I thought I’d pop them a few questions, you know, to get them warmed up …

Firstly, for those new to your work, can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel?

EVA: After You Die is the third in the Zigic and Ferreira series and follows the investigation into the suspicious death of a young right-to-die activist and the murder of her mother, in an idyllic commuter village a long way away from the team’s usual stamping ground. It was quite an emotional book to write as it covers the complicated and contentious issue of right to die, the demands of being a carer and the way a family copes in the aftermath of a terrible accident.

BEN: A Line of Blood is my first novel. It’s about a father and his eleven-year-old son who discover a corpse in the house next door. The father fails to stop his son from seeing the dead man, and at first he thinks that’s his biggest problem, but then his marriage begins to unravel, and he realises his wife knew the dead man. The murder exposes fault lines in the marriage and confronts the family with a past that none of them can escape. I’m deep into my second novel at the moment. Again it’s about a family, and again something terrible happens to that family, but this time they’ve done nothing to deserve it. They have to choose between justice and revenge… 

MARI: I’m best known for my Kate Daniels series but my latest book is a standalone. THE SILENT ROOM is conspiracy thriller introducing Special Branch DS Matthew Ryan who I am a little bit in love with. The opener sees his disgraced boss, DI Jack Fenwick, sprung from a prison van. Professional Standards officer, Eloise O’Neil investigates. Under suspicion of aiding the audacious escape, Ryan is suspended, warned not to interfere. Convinced of Jack’s innocence, he works off-book with Grace Ellis (ex-DCI) & Frank Newman (ex-MI5) to find him. I had such a lot of fun writing this book. Fear not if you are a Kate Daniels groupie. She’s back in GALLOWS DROP in November.

You’re on stage at 10.30 – 11.30am on Saturday 10th at Bloody Scotland – what can the audience expect?

EVA: At half past ten in the morning? Three bright-eyed and bushy-tailed crime writers who definitely didn’t stay up all night in the hotel bar and then quickly freshened up to go straight on stage. I think it will be a pretty lively panel, Mari Hannah is a marvellous writer and lovely lady and Ben McPherson’s book starts with a dead guy with an erection, so he’s obviously not shy!

BEN: I’m on with Mari Hannah an Eva Dolan, so I think the audience can expect to be entertained! I also hope we’ll have something to say about the big questions that crime books raise: What makes a murderer? How should people react when terrible things happen? And for me the two most important questions: Why do good people do bad things? And what does it take for a bad person to do the right thing? But the pleasure in being on a panel is that you never know exactly which way the conversation is going to go. The audience can lead you in unexpected directions…

MARI: There will be blood! Ben, Eva and I have written very different books. The discussion will no doubt reflect this. We’ve all met before and I’m looking forward to taking the stage in such brilliant company. From a personal point of view, I’m hoping to meet some passionate readers and have a few laughs.   

Bloody Scotland is one of my favourite crime fiction festivals. If you’ve been before, what makes it great for you? And, if you haven’t, what are you most looking forward to?

EVA: I love Bloody Scotland and am delighted to be back again this year as it really is the highlight of the crime calendar. The programme is always a good blend of big names and newcomers and the organisers have a knack of putting the right people together on stage so the panels are generally much sparkier and funnier than at some more, um…staid festivals. I’m marking up Chris Brookmyre and Stuart Neville in conversation, Into the Dark with Malcolm Mackay, James Oswald and Craig Robertson looks very good too and (Not) Born in the USA on Sunday afternoon is bound to be fascinating and fiery. Away from the purely bookish things I’m looking forward to catching My Darling Clementine and Mark Billingham’s The Other Half show, which I’ve heard is brilliant. Then the late night cabaret at Crime at the Coo straight after. And, of course, the Scotland v England football match, where the fittest authors available – and some who probably aren’t – show off their silky skills.

BEN: I was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, so it’s great to becoming home to Scotland. I’ve heard such good things about Bloody Scotland. I’m most looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues, and just talking! Writing is lonely, especially if you live away from your home country, so festivals give you the chance to see people you would otherwise only know from Facebook. And the crime fiction community — writers, readers and bloggers — is very supportive. It makes you feel part of something bigger.

MARI: Living in rural Northumberland – no that far from Scottish border – I was delighted to learn that Scotland was planning its very own International Crime Festival back in 2012. So, like a true Border Reiver, my clan and I hopped over Hadrian’s Wall to see what all the fuss was about. Any excuse for a trip to Stirling. Right from the off, I knew that Bloody Scotland was a wee bit special. Over and above the quality crime writers on the programme – everyone knows that Scotland has produced some of the finest in the genre – what I like most about the festival is the relaxed atmosphere and how much fun the fringe events are. Crime in the Coo is a sell-out, must see event. Please someone drop out so I can get a ticket! And then there’s the grudge footy match. C’mon England!

And, lastly, do you have any pre-panel routines, green room riders, or quirky foibles, that you’ll have to do before you go on stage?

EVA: I’m quite relaxed about events generally and the crowd at Bloody Scotland tends to be very welcoming, which is a big help. So it’s a quick nervous wee and check my dress isn’t tucked into my knickers and I’m good to go!

BEN: Coffee. Far too much coffee.

MARI: Other than checking that I haven’t split the waistband of my pants before I’m called for a sound check – yes, that really did happen – I don’t think so. I suppose it very much depends on my fellow panelists. If Eva’s up for a rum beforehand, it would be churlish to expect her to drink alone. I’m sure Ben and I could manage a wee dram of something to take the edge off the nerves. J

Brilliant! And if you want someone to join you for a quick dram let me know!

Huge thanks to the terrific EVA DOLAN, BEN MCPHERSON, and MARI HANNAH for chatting with me in the run up to the fabulous BLOODY SCOTLAND CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL.

As you can tell, their panel is going to be a cracker. It’s not too late to get yourself a ticket. Hop over to the BLOODY SCOTLAND website and grab one quick at www.bloodyscotland.com

To find out more about EVA DOLAN follow her on Twitter @eva_dolan and AFTER YOU DIE is out now, you can buy it here

To find out more about BEN MCPHERSON follow him on Twitter @TheBenMcPherson and A LINE OF BLOOD is out now, you can buy it here

To find out more about MARI HANNAH follow her on Twitter @mariwriter and THE SILENT ROOM is out now, you can buy it here

THE BLOODY SCOTLAND CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL is held in Stirling from the 9th – 11th September 2016. It’s a fantastic programme. Find out more at their website here and be sure to follow them on Twitter @BloodyScotland to stay up-to-date with all their news

CTG Interviews: Jenny Blackhurst about BEFORE I LET YOU IN

Before I Let You In

Today I’m delighted to be joined by brilliant crime writer and all round fabulous person, Jenny Blackhurst. Jenny’s debut novel – HOW I LOST YOU – was a runaway bestseller, and with her second novel – BEFORE I LET YOU IN – just out as an eBook and coming out in paperback on 3rd November she’s kindly agreed to come into CTG HQ to let me grill her.

Welcome Jenny!

Your fabulous second novel BEFORE I LET YOU IN was published in eBook on the 28th August, can you tell us a little bit about it?

It’s the story of Dr Karen Browning, a psychiatrist who finds that her new patient knows a little more about her and her close knit group of friends than she should. Who is Jessica Hamilton? And what does she want from Karen and her friends? It explores the friendships women have and how they can sometimes be, let’s say less than healthy…

The relationship between Karen and Jessica is a rather complicated one (!) what inspired you to write about these great characters?

A walk to Tesco! I can’t drive so I do a lot of walking with my son who is two now and while he naps in the pushchair I create characters in my head. I loved the idea of a relationship where the normal roles you would expect to see are reversed – Karen is usually very in control – as you see from her relationships with her friends – and so I enjoyed having Jessica take her out of her comfort zone. I guess I saw Jessica as a psychopath and Karen as a control freak and I wanted to put them up against each other to see who came out on top.

Your debut novel, HOW I LOST YOU, was a Number 1 Kindle bestseller, can you tell us how you found the experience of being a debut author?

I’d had nothing to do with the writing world before I got the contract for How I Lost You, I wrote it in kind of a bubble, didn’t know any other authors and didn’t expect anyone to ever read it so going from that kind of isolation to suddenly everyone having an opinion on something you created out of your head is a big thing to take on board. There was a point where I thought ‘I never want to do this again’. Then I got more involved with other authors and my experience completely changed. Crime writers are amazing – it’s like having a huge support network and helped me to enjoy what I was doing and remember what I loved about writing.

And, coming back to BEFORE I LET YOU IN, how did you find the writing process the second time around and can you tell us a bit about how you like to write?

The actual writing process was so much harder – it’s a different ball game when you’re writing for a contract rather than for yourself. With How I Lost You I never had any worries or insecurities – I thought it would stay as a Word document on an old laptop so it didn’t occur to me to worry about what others might think. A second book comes with so much more pressure – more so when people enjoy your debut and say they can’t wait for the next! Saying that I feel like I’ve learnt so much since How I Lost You was published that I really enjoyed putting those things into practice for my second.

I use Scrivener to write now – it’s an amazing tool and now that it integrates with Scapple and Aeon it has everything I need. I plotted Before I Let You In out before I wrote it but it wasn’t until the end that I realised it wasn’t the story I’d set out to write – without giving too much away the real story behind the words shone through in the last few chapters. That was a real epiphany in Tesco café so despite my gruelling plotting I had to rewrite about 50% of the book!

 

Jenny Blackhurst Author Photo

What’s your approach to research – do you research things up front or wait until the story is written and check facts then?

Up front usually – procrastination is my worst habit when I’m writing so if I think something needs checking I’m straight to Amazon to buy the books or Google to look for answers. With my third I’m trying to curb the habit – I’m making use of the notes tool in Scrivener so I can avoid pulling myself out of the writing, and I find myself typing @look this up@ in the manuscript fairly often now.

As a reader (and a writer) what do you love most about the crime fiction genre? 

I love the whydunnit. You can give me any character as your villain but I want to know what drove them to their actions. I think that’s why I lean towards psychological thrillers; procedurals are quite often about the who. Having said that I love a good procedural when the mood takes me.

And what books, aside from your own, would you recommend as must-reads?

There are SO many. This year has been brilliant for books – I’ve particularly loved Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant, The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood, Willow Walk by Susi Holliday and He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton was amazing, I See You by Clare Mackintosh, You Sent Me A Letter by Lucy Dawson and What Goes Around by Julie Corbin. Also I’ve just finished Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas and that was great. Can I keep going? I could talk about books all day…

Finally, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

I have a book to write! The mysteriously titled Book Three is underway… And more reading of course.

 

Big thanks to Jenny Blackhurst for coming round to CTG HQ and letting me grill her!

BEFORE I LET YOU IN is out in eBook now – buy it here from Amazon

And be sure to follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyBlackhurst to stay up to date with all her news!