#crimewritersincafesprocrastinating –Christina McDonald talks about The Night Olivia Fell, social media and sun! #crimefiction

 

Today debut crime writer Christina McDonald is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafes Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this QA 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.

Christina’s debut novel – THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL – has a super intriguing premise and sounds fascinating so I can’t wait to quiz her all about her writing and procrastination habits…

Hi Christina, and welcome to the CTG blog

So great to be here, Steph! I’ve been waiting to write this post until I got the cover for my book. Then I got the cover for my book and I was waiting for the cover reveal. Then the cover reveal happened and I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t had the time, and because…well… procrastinating. But here I am!

So tell me all about your latest book?

The Night Olivia Fell is a domestic suspense novel with an emotional plot. It is  about a single mother called Abi who is startled awake in the small hours of the morning by a phone call informing her that her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the bruises circling Olivia’s wrists. When the police rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

How long did it take to write?

The first draft of writing book didn’t take me that long – 3-4 months. It was all the stuff after that: edits, getting an agent, edits for the agent, getting a publisher, edits for the editor. Altogether, from the time I wrote the book until the time it will be published will be three and a half years.

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

In my garden at home on a beautiful, sunny day! Best is when my dog joins me for a cuddle while I’m reading. Reading is incredibly escapist, like skipping out on real life and jumping into another world. Like most people, I can get sucked into social media, too, but I do try to be a little disciplined about it. But reading, nope! I have very little discipline in forcing myself to not read, and when it’s sunny in my garden, all bets are off!

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

I have a general idea of what I want the story to be about and where I want it to go, but really not much more than an idea. From there I start writing from page one – I write chronologically – and see where I go. As I get a more specific idea of themes, characters, tone of voice, etc, I jot out basic ideas for the inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint and third plot point. As I write I plan about one chapter ahead, so I know where I’m heading; and I keep an outline of the main things that have happened in each chapter so I know where I’ve been. I guess I’m a weird hybrid of a plotter-pantser.

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

Oh, definitely the middle! I always find myself very clear at the beginning of what I want to set out for the story, and once I’ve crossed the middle hump I usually know where I’m going and what will be the worst thing that can happen to my protagonist(s), so that last plot point and climax are fairly clear, but the middle part can be a struggle. Like many writers, I used to be a journalist, so I have a fear/respect of deadlines and have never missed one, but right around the middle part I start flogging myself with doubts, worrying that I’ll miss it and that the book will be horrible. Once I get over that, though, it’s usually fine.

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

Drafts! It’s so clear in the first draft, and there’s such a freedom about writing exactly what I want to write. But once I get to edits it all becomes a bit tangled and confused in my mind. I start doubting why and where I’ve put plot points, if my character is ‘likeable’ enough, why I even wrote the book in the first place. From what I hear it’s really normal, so I just push through it. I have to give myself a good week or so after I’ve received edits to just sit on them and just see everything from a different angle. Then I hop back to it and get going on the next draft.

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

Reading and social media. Social media can be a huge time waster, so I try to be really disciplined about it. I do need it to engage with readers, but it sucks you in so much. But when I start reading a book I sometimes get completely lost in it. Once when I was a teenager I was reading a book while sitting outside the classroom and about a half hour later I sort of came to and realised everybody had gone into class while I was totally zoned into the book. I was just left sitting outside the door!

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

Coffee in the morning, wine when I work in the evening. And I love me a good old pack of Biscoff biscuits!

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

I think because this book hasn’t been published yet I feel like it isn’t really ‘done’, if that makes sense. There have been so many things to do: write, edit, market, publicity, publication, etc. I’m in the ‘trying to figure out marketing’ and ‘getting good reviews’ stage. Maybe once it’s published I’ll feel done and can celebrate with a lovely bottle of Champagne, but I feel like I haven’t won against procrastinating just yet. The battle is still on!

I think you should definitely crack open the bubbly on publication day, maybe a pack of Biscoff biscuits too!

***

A huge thank you to Christina for letting me grill her about her writing habits and procrastination pitfalls. 

THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL is out in February 2019 in the US and in March 2019 in the UK. Find out more about Christina and her writing at her website – https://christina-mcdonald.com/

And check out THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL and pre-order it over on Amazon by clicking the links below:

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Night-Olivia-Fell-Christina-McDonald/dp/1501184008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533491822&sr=8-1&keywords=the+night+olivia+fell

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Olivia-Fell-Christina-McDonald-ebook/dp/B07FBQVLCC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533491767&sr=8-1&keywords=the+night+olivia+fell

 

CTG’S #threewordbookreview – TURN A BLIND EYE by VICKY NEWHAM

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Today in my micro review feature series – three word book reviews – I’m reviewing TURN A BLIND EYE, a great debut police procedural from Vicky Newham. Turn a Blind Eye is out now, published by HQ.

My verdict: THOUGHT-PROVOKING. CROSS-CULTURAL. PROCEDURAL.

(As you can see, I’m going all out on the hyphen usage (including an invisible hyphen) on this one! – my blog, my rules!).

To find out more and buy the book in ebook, audio or hardback click the book cover below:

The Falling Blog Tour: an interview with author Emma Kavanagh

 

Author Emma Kavanagh

Author Emma Kavanagh

Today I’m delighted to welcome Emma Kavanagh to the CTG blog as a stop on the blog tour for her fabulous debut novel FALLING. 

Welcome Emma. Your debut novel – Falling is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Falling is the story of a plane crash and a murder – two events that bring together the lives of four characters as they try to deal with the aftermath.

Have you always wanted to be a writer, and what was it that attracted you to crime fiction?

I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I was 5! So yes! I have very eclectic reading tastes and there are so many genres that I love, but crime fiction seemed to come naturally to me. I think mainly because of my background in police psychology. I like exploring the way in which people can be pushed into terrible deeds.

Could you tell us a little about your route to publication?

It wasn’t a simple process, but then I’m not sure that it ever is. I managed to complete a full novel length story, congratulated myself on that, then realised it was pretty dreadful. My second attempt was good enough to land me my agent, but still didn’t get me that coveted publishing deal. So, I rolled up my sleeves and started again, hoping desperately that this next one would allow me to begin my career. That book was Falling.

How would you describe your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan the story out first?

I’m a planner. In fact, I’m such a planner that I think I have a bit of a problem. I even use spreadsheets. Things do tend to move about as the story progresses, but at least using the spreadsheets allows me to keep track of everything.

Who are your favourite crime writers which books and authors have inspired you?

I love Agatha Christie with a passion. Her plotting is so clever and complex. My absolute favourite is And Then There Were None – such a chilling story. My other huge inspiration is Kate Atkinson. She crosses many genres in her writing, and is so hugely talented

Falling cover image

Falling cover image

What advice would you give to new writers aspiring to publication?

Never give up. Getting published is not easy. It takes an incredible amount of perseverance. But it is a myth that you have to know someone to get an agent or get a publishing deal. I knew absolutely no-one. If you need to write, then write. And keep writing until you reach your goal.

And lastly, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you?

2014 has been an incredibly busy year for me, with the release of Falling and the birth of my second son 8 weeks ago. I finished book 2 – Hidden – a couple of months ago, so my goal for the rest of this year is to enjoy spending time with my baby and his older brother before getting started on book 3 in the new year.

Fantastic. Thanks so much for stopping by the CTG blog. We loved FALLING (you can read our review next week) and really look forward to HIDDEN coming out next year.

You can follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaLK

And you can read an extract from FALLING via this link http://bit.ly/FallingExtract

Also, don’t forget to hop over to these other great blogs to check out the other stops along the tour …

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CTG Interviews: Luca Veste author of DEAD GONE

DEAD GONE cover image

DEAD GONE cover image

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Luca Veste, author of DEAD GONE, a fabulous debut that was published by Avon (HarperCollins) last month. 

So, to the questions …

Your debut novel DEAD GONE is out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

It would be my pleasure! Dead Gone is a part psychological thriller, part police procedural book, which follows the detective pairing of David Murphy and Laura Rossi as they attempt to stop a serial killer in Liverpool. This killer is using his victims to replicate infamous unethical psychological experiments, taunting the public by leaving a message with each body.

It’s also about life, grief, and death…and how we deal with all three.

What books and authors have inspired you as a reader and writer?

Stephen King, Enid Blyton and Brian Jacques (three names you don’t see put together often!) were a staple of my childhood/teenage reading. As a writer, I’m inspired by the characterisation in Mark Billingham’s books, the bravery of Helen FitzGerald, and the atmosphere created within Steve Mosby’s work. The 50/50 Killer by Steve Mosby was a major influence when I started writing Dead Gone.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process, do you dive right in, or plan out the story first?

For Dead Gone, I planned out about two thirds of the story, using chapter headings. So, I had the bones of the book with various word documents with different titles. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and scouse-italian blokes etc etc… I ended up scrapping most of those chapters and just writing one piece of the story at a time, before the ending came to me after a few abandoned attempts.

The second – as yet untitled – book I’ve just completed was written completely. I knew the end chapter going in. I also knew what happened in the middle few chapters, but that was about it. I also wrote a lot more which didn’t make it into the final version than I did for Dead Gone.

I think I’m still trying to find the way that works best for me!

DEAD GONE is a fabulous debut. What was your route to publication?

Pretty standard, I think. I identified a literary agent I wanted to work with pretty early on in the process, and after being turned down by him a few times, he eventually relented and took me on. We sent the book out to numerous publishers, with most turning it down, but Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins) have been nothing but enthusiastic about the book since the beginning. Going with them was a very easy decision.

Author Luca Veste

Author Luca Veste

And lastly, what else does 2014 have in store for you?

Starting out with a number of book signings around Merseyside. Lots of lovely independent bookshops to visit, which I’m really looking forward to.

I’ll be finishing my degree at university in June. Four years work done. Hopefully graduate!

I’ve just delivered book two to my editor, so most of the year will be taken up with making that better. I’ll also be visiting a number of festivals this year, as has become the norm for me now. Crimefest in Bristol and Theakstons Crime Festival in Harrogate are now what I plan my year around!

Hopefully sleep at some point.

Oh, and buy a new guitar. I’ve wanted a new one for years, so hopefully I’ll get chance to treat myself to one soon!

Sounds like it’ll be a busy (and fantastic) year! 

A huge thanks to Luca Veste for dropping by the CTG blog. To find out more about Luca and his books pop on over to his wonderful blog at http://lucaveste.com/

DEAD GONE is out now. Watch for our review coming soon …