#DeepDownDead DEBUT DIARY: LAUNCH PARTY!

Last week we had the official DEEP DOWN DEAD launch party at the fabulous Waterstones Piccadilly bookstore in London. I was really nervous beforehand – what if no one came? What if I said something stupid? What if I was too nervous to say anything at all?

I shouldn’t have worried – so many lovely people came along to celebrate the launch, and we packed out the room until there was standing room only – amazing! Also, I had my marvelous publisher Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books at the helm, my brilliant agent Oli Munson providing moral support, and the awesome crime writer Martyn Waites to interview me. They made it fun (for me, and hopefully everyone else!), and soon after Martyn asked me the first question (possibly something to do with tasers!) I forgot to be nervous and had fun.

There was wine, and beer, and bourbon, and cake. There was cornbread (my most favourite food!) and peanut butter chocolate cookies (big thank you to Joy Kluver for baking them) plus Reeces Pieces and Hersheys Kisses. And country music!

Me and Martyn dressed appropriately for the occasion – he wore a gorgeous red western shirt and I wore my favourite red with white flowers cowboy boots. I wore a sparkly black dress too, although in some pictures it kind of looks like I’m not wearing a skirt (note to self – wear a longer dress next time!).

A huge thank you to everyone who came along to celebrate the launch of DEEP DOWN DEAD, who bought books and let me sign them, and who took photos and live tweeted, and who came over and said hello. And to those who couldn’t make it and sent messages and tweeted and RTed the event.

Thank you – you made the night special.

 

 

CTG’s 10 COOL THINGS THAT HAPPENED AT BOUCHERCON

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THE SLICE GIRLS at the HOUSE OF BLUES [L-R: Alexandra Sokoloff, CTG, AK Benedict, Louise Voss, SJI Holliday, Harley Jane Kozak]

It was my first time at Bouchercon and OMG it was amazing!

Firstly, Bouchercon is a massive festival – almost 2000 writers, readers, bloggers and industry folks all poured in from across the world for the mystery convention that ran from Thursday September 15th to Sunday September 18th. The atmosphere was electric!

Plus, it was held in New Orleans this year – a city unlike any other that I’ve visited – loud, bright, dirty, magical, shiny. A place of many contradictions!

It’s super hard to pick just ten cool things as in truth it was a whole week of cool, but I’ve had a go at picking out just a few highlights in words and pictures …

  1. Watching the hilarious IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE panel with the brilliantly funny Mark Billingham, Laura Lippman, Martyn Waites and Alex Marwood and chaired by John Connolly
  2. Hanging out on Bourbon Street with the most wonderful group of UK crime writers
  3. Drinking a ‘Hand Grenade’ cocktail – like rocket fuel, but with more bang!!
  4. Music, music everywhere!
  5. Seeing Darth Vader dancing in the street
  6. Being on the Continuous Conversations panel chaired by the lovey Austin Lugar
  7. Seeing Jeff Abbott (one of my thriller writing heroes) on the YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE panel
  8. Singing with THE SLICE GIRLS (SJI Holliday, AK Benedict, Alexandra Sokoloff, Louise Voss, Harley Jane Kozak) at the legendary HOUSE OF BLUES
  9. Playing up to the fabulous (and masterfully stern) Heather Graham on stage at HOUSE OF BLUES as she sang When You’re Good To Mama
  10. Seeing the genius that is Mark Billingham, Stuart Neville and Doug Johnston performing live at the HOUSE OF BLUES

Next year Bouchercon is being held in TORONTO. I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to be there!

Visit the website to find out more www.bouchercon2017.com/registration/

And check out the fantastic article written in The Independent by Andy Martin on the Bouchercon experience here

What happened when CTG met … Martyn Waites aka Tania Carver

waites-website

I met Martyn Waites (aka Tania Carver) at the Princess Louise pub in London. It’s an old Victorian place with wood panelled booths and a traditional bar. Over beer and pork scratchings, we chatted about crime fiction, country music, and what it’s like writing under multiple names …

Your latest novel – HEARTBREAKER – is the 7th Tania Carver novel featuring DI Phil Brennan and Psychologist Marina Esposito. As you know, I’m a huge fan of the series, and I found the killer in this book especially chilling. What was it that led you to create that particular character?

I never set out to create a villain. The character might have done horrible things, but everyone is the hero of their own story, so I come at it from that angle. It’s about making monsters more human. I think you have to look at characters that way or you don’t get the depth of psychological involvement needed for the story.

Their side of the story was quite interesting to plot. At first I wanted to let the reader know the killer’s identity halfway through the book and have them see the character manipulating and manoeuvring the chess pieces during the second half. But in the end I went back and changed it, so that the story kept the reader guessing till close to the end.

The question in my mind was what would attract someone who’s a natural predator to do [what they do in the book]? I like the juxtaposition between their job and what they do privately, and at the same time I wanted to make them good at their job. I wanted to create someone who had a life – I like giving good characteristics and traits to bad characters. I hate looking at things as black and white – grey is so much more interesting.

During the course of the series, and especially in HEARTBREAKER, you’ve put Phil and Marina through a lot both professionally and as a couple. Was their relationship something you’d planned out from the start of the series or has it grown organically book by book?

I make it up as I go along! I know when I start a book they have to be in a different place emotionally at the end, and that the story has to have moved them on as characters – without that, everything stays on the surface. In a series it’s difficult to do, but worth doing. Every novel needs to be a good jumping on point for new readers, but also give readers of the series something more. I like surprising the reader!

You’ve written books under your own name – the Joe Donovan series, the Stephen Larkin series, the Woman in Black: Angel of Death, Great Lost Albums – as well as the Tania Carver novels. What is it that attracts you to a story idea, and how do you decide which of your names it’s right for?

I’m not sure! I had actually started working on a Tania book, but about fifty pages in I realised it was a Martyn Waites novel so I stopped. I’ve got another idea for a standalone, and an idea for a comic series which I’m putting together. I’ve got an idea for a supernatural horror crime novel too where the premise came to me fully formed – I was on the tube at the time and had to get off so I could write it down. With writing, I think it’s about opening up yourself to different ideas, and then finding someone to pay you for writing them!

When I write I don’t have a specific reader in mind, but I do want to give the reader a good experience. It comes from when I was acting. I was on tour in a Catherine Cookson play (as the villain) and my mother and her friends had all saved up so they could buy good tickets to come and watch it. That really reminded me that the audience have paid money to see a play and deserve to enjoy it. It’s the same with readers – I don’t write for a specific person but I want the reader to have the best experience they can. It means you can never feel complacent and do something half-arsed. It makes me my own worst critic – I always think I can do better.

What’s your writing process – do you plot everything out in advance or dive right in and see what happens?

Bit of both really. I start with a premise, maybe a couple of images, and some questions – what’s happened? Why did it happen? From there I’ll write a bit and see what happens and where it gets to. In the new one I’m writing [the 8th Tania Carver novel] a couple of new characters have popped up and I just love putting them in scenes – that’s the exciting bit. I tend to use the first part of the book as an audition for the characters, then do a bit of structuring and plan a list of things that will happen.

With this book I’ve changed to writing at night. I start work at 8pm and write through to midnight, or if it’s going well until 2am. I like working at night. It’s like you’re alone with your thoughts and the house is silent. It’s comforting. It makes it feel like a good time to write.

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Like me, you have a love of country music. What are you listening to at the moment? And do you listen to music as you’re writing?

I need silence when I’m writing. I’ve tried writing in coffee shops, but I can’t do proper work away from my desk or dining room table (which I sit at for a change of scenery). So I can’t listen to music as I write, although I wish that I could.

I do listen to music to get me into the right mood to write, and this is different depending on the book. For one book I would listen to Night Owl by Gerry Rafferty, and for another it was Verdi Cries by 10,000 Maniacs. I’m currently listening to Everything’s Fine by The Willard Grant Conspiracy (really miserable) and Mark Lanegan (kind of less miserable) – both put me in the right mood for writing. If I want something more upbeat, then I listen to some sixties southern soul like James Carr.

What was it that drew you into writing crime fiction and how did you get started?

I was a fan of crime fiction. I read a lot of the stuff, and am a huge comics fan, but couldn’t read sci-fi. I read a lot of pulp fiction and when I picked up a copy of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely I knew I’d found my thing. I read everything by Chandler, Ross MacDonald, and Dashiell Hammett. Then discovered James Ellroy and James Lee Burke. I didn’t really like the UK stuff like Agatha Christie, but I loved the contemporary American stuff and the way it was reporting on a society I recognised. I wondered why no one was doing that it in the UK – so I decided to write a novel. At the same time others had the same thought and were taking the idea in their own direction – people like Ian Rankin. Crime fiction was the only type of books that really connected with me, I was left cold by UK literary fiction – it all seemed to be about the beauty of a sentence and showing off. I hated it. Whereas Ellroy and Lee Burke demonstrated that literary crime could be accessible and contemporary.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to publication?

Someone once said that the main difference between an amateur writer and a professional writer is that a professional writer doesn’t take no for an answer! It took me five years to be published and during that time I was turned down by everyone!

Keep writing. Keep getting better. Don’t take no for an answer.

I still turn up to crime fiction events feeling like I’m going to be told my time’s up. You just need to keep on writing, and re-writing and re-writing. And if you get knocked back ask why – you’re never going to get better unless you know why you’re getting rejected, so ask.

And finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

Finishing the next Tania Carver novel, which will hopefully be finished sooner rather than later – it’ll be out in summer 2016 as an eBook, and autumn 2016 in paperback. Then my back catalogue is being published in France and I’ll be going there to attend some festivals.

And with that our drinks were finished, the pork scratchings eaten, and the interview over.

A huge thank you to Martyn Waites (aka Tania Carver) for letting me ply him with beer and interrogate him about his books and writing.

Be sure to check out HEARTBREAKER – the fabulously gritty, super-chilling latest book in the DI Phil Brennan and Psychologist Marina Esposito series by Tania Carver.

Here’s the blurb: “After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband. She has taken one debilitating beating too many, endured one esteem-destroying insult too much. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she know it’s safe to get in.

And that’s the last they hear from her.

Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again …”

You can find out more about Martyn Waites (and Tania Carver) over on www.martynwaites.com and follow Martyn on Twitter @MartynWaites

And click on the book cover below to buy HEARTBREAKER from Amazon:

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Bloody Brilliant Scotland 2014

 

The Female in Crime Fiction panel being introduced

The Female in Crime Fiction panel being introduced

Last weekend was Bloody Scotland 2014. This hugely friendly and welcoming crime writing festival is going from strength to strength. Now in its third year, the festival played host to a plethora of crime writers in three days of entertaining, informative and massively fun events.

Having spent the best part of seven hours on trains travelling from my home to Stirling, I met up with some friends at the Stirling Highland Hotel and then headed over to Hotel Colessio for Mark Billingham and Stuart McBride’s Dead Funny event. As with the Billingham and Brookmyre double act last year, Billingham and McBride answering questions from readers (allegedly) made for a hilarious evening with McBride’s dark poetry, and the skilful answering by both authors of some rather random questions from the audience, real high spots.

Next morning, Saturday, I helped out SJI Holiday (acting as her notetaker) at an interview with Kati Hirekkapelto, author of fabulous book The Hummingbird, before having a quick walk around Stirling – seeing the Castle, the city walls, and peering into the old Gaol.

Then it was off to the New Blood/Fresh Meat panel featuring Eva Dolan, Hania Allen, and Mason Cross. Each of the panel began by reading from their debut novels – three different styles and stories, and all super gripping. Then, led by moderator Peggy Hughes, they spoke about how they got the idea for the novel, the research they did, and what their route to publication was like.

At the same time, the Scotland versus England 5-a-side Football match was taking place. With Ian Rankin captaining Scotland and Mark Billingham captaining England there was a good turnout to watch the battle commence and the #BloodyScotland twitter feed was alive with score updates and photos. After a tense game, the final score was Scotland 13 – England 1, and the magnificent silver trophy went to Scotland.

Next up, I went along to The Female in Crime Fiction (in association with Glasgow Women’s Library) panel with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Lin Anderson, and Catriona McPherson. The panel debated female protagonists in crime fiction (including how many crime books would pass the Bechdel test which looks at whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man), the joy of reading a thriller that compels you to turn the page (crime writing top tip – always keep the secret withheld as long as you can!), and why it might be that women make up more than half the readership of crime fiction.

The next panel featured Luca Veste, Michael Malone, and Martyn Waites, chaired by Mark Billingham. This lively and entertaining panel discussed their most recent books, the importance of location and why they’d chosen to locate their books where they had, how they go about doing research, their route to publication and how Martyn Waites came to take on his alter ego – Tanya Carver.

The final event of the day was Ian Rankin in conversation with Kathy Reichs. This session in the Albert Halls seemed to fly by with Kathy Reichs talking about her route to publication, what it’s like working on a long running TV show (having to think up new murders after 200 episodes being one of the challenges!) and what it’s like co-writing a YA series with her son.

Then it was off to dinner with friends at the amazing Maharaja curry house before chatting in the bar well into the early hours.

On Sunday I was actually part of an event rather than just watching. Having submitted a 100 word synopsis for the Pitch Perfect session I was excited (and terrified) to hear that my story was one of seven that had been picked to be pitched. Along with the other six pitchers I was ushered into the green room and introduced to the wonderful Jenny Brown who chaired the session. From there it was on to the event with publishers Alison Hennessey (Harvill Secker), Krystyna Green (Constable & Robinson) and Tricia Jackson (Pan MacMillan) on the panel. Each pitcher had three minutes to pitch their story. There were some great pitches, and I think it was probably the longest three minutes of my life! But good fun and I’d definitely recommend it. The panel were friendly and their feedback hugely helpful, and Margaret Stewart was a most deserving winner.

And then it was over.

As I set off on my journey home, I reflected on what a fantastic weekend I’d had – great panels, a fabulous location, a warm and friendly atmosphere and the chance to catch up with all my writerly pals.

The seven hour trip was definitely worth it.

 

Confessions from CrimeFest: Part Three

Mark Billingham interviewed by Martyn Waites

Mark Billingham interviewed by Martyn Waites

And so onto Saturday!

First up, I headed to the 9am panel Name Your Price: The Hired Gun. Moderated by Meg Gardiner, with panellists Mason Cross, Hanna Jameson, John Gordon Sinclair, and Mark Allen Smith, the panel discussed the attraction of the ‘hired gun’ as protagonist, the mystery surrounding the character that rides into town, sorts out the problem, then disappears again, and the joys (and challenges) of writing them.

Next, I headed to the lounge to interview Mason Cross, author of The Killing Season and creator of the rather mysterious Carter Blake. It was a fun interview to do – watch this blog for the write-up coming soon.

After a leisurely lunch with friends, I headed to one of the main events of the weekend – Featured Guest of Honour: Mark Billingham interviewed by Martyn Waites. Both wearing fabulous western shirts that I’m sure Mark Billingham’s series character, Tom Thorne, would have been proud of, they took to the stage for a lively and entertaining interview covering everything from Mark’s books, the future of police procedurals, Thorne’s taste in music (it changed quite dramatically between the first book and the second) and even dachshund detectives!

Then it was on to the Arcadia Books Reception complete with tasty wine in beautiful Bristol Blue Glass glasses, followed by the Gala Awards Dinner. It was a fabulous evening with the merriment continuing way into the early hours of Sunday morning.

On Sunday I had a hangover, and it was a big one, which meant I didn’t get up very early! But I did make it along to the last event of the festival, Criminal Mastermind with Quiz Master Maxim Jakubowski interrogating contestants: Mason Cross (specialist subject Lee Child), Kate Ellis (specialist subject Josephine Tey), Paul Johnston (specialist subject Dashiell Hammett) and Susan Moody (specialist subject Raymond Chandler). It was great fun playing along in the audience, but the general crime fiction questions in the second round were seriously hard! In the end Paul Johnston was victorious.

And then the weekend was over.

As ever I was determined to resist the festival book shop – my ever multiplying ‘to be read’ pile already stretches across several rooms of the house! But, as usual, I was unable to resist the papery lure of the all those fabulous looking books, and over the weekend bought several bags full.

Authors whose books I’ve added to my mountainous ‘to be read’ pile are: Simon Kernick, Helen Giltrow, Nev Fountain, Tom Wood, Kevin Wignall, Tanya Carver, and Kate Griffin. Along with the latest books of a few of my favourite authors including Mark Billingham (The Bones Beneath), Meg Gardiner (The Shadow Tracer), and a signed copy of The Killing Season by Mason Cross.

All in all, it was a fabulously fun weekend.

Now I’m off to book my ticket for next year!

Confessions from CrimeFest: Part Two

L-R: Kevin Wignall, AK Benedict, James Oswald, Anne Zouroudi, Ben Aaronovitch

L-R: Kevin Wignall, AK Benedict, James Oswald, Anne Zouroudi, Ben Aaronovitch

I did indeed get up in time to make it to the first panel of the day, but I didn’t manage breakfast. Still, it was worth it. The Debut Authors: An Infusion of Fresh Blood panel was great fun and all the panel members were surprisingly perky for a nine o’clock start. Moderator Jake Kerridge talked to panellists MJ Arlidge, Mason Cross, Jake Woodhouse, Kate Griffin and Colette McBeth about their debut novels and the route they’d taken to publication.

Next up, was the Death in High Heels: Women as Victims panel. MR Hall, Jessica Mann, Jessie Keane, and Martyn Waites (who also writes as Tanya Carver) debated the issue of how women are portrayed in crime fiction, especially when the victim of the crime is female. It was an interesting and thought provoking discussion covering everything from at what point violence becomes ‘torture porn’ through to the use of female images on book covers.

I then had time for a swift coffee (black, no sugar) before heading into The Modern Thriller panel. As thrillers are my absolute favourite of the genre, this was one of the panels I’d been most eager to see. Moderated by Doug Johnstone, the panel of Belinda Bauer, Helen Fitzgerald, Chris Ewan and Simon Kernick talked about what constitutes the modern thriller, and how it differs from a crime novel. Defining characteristics seemed to be agreed on as pace, and a sense of urgency. They spoke of their own favourite modern thrillers, with Harlan Coben’s Tell No One coming out as a popular choice.

I didn’t stop for lunch, instead going straight on to watch the Things That Go Bump In the Night: Magic, Paranormal & All Things Supernatural panel. Moderated by Kevin Wignall, with Ben Aaronovitch, AK Benedict, James Oswald, and Anne Zouroudi, this was a lively panel with some great discussion about mixing crime with the paranormal. I particularly enjoyed some of the more random questions poised by Kevin Wignall to the panel (which were questions he had been asked by children when doing author events) – these included: ‘Can you tell me a story about a hamster?’ And ‘What would be your X-Man name and superpower?’ Fabulous.

By that point in the day I was rather panelled-out, but managed to find the energy to head along to the drinks reception that evening to watch 2014 CWA Diamond Dagger Recipient Simon Brett in performance. Then it was off for a fabulous curry with the Icelandic crime writers before heading to the bar for a few last orders drinks (and beyond!).

CTG Reviews: The Woman in Black: Angel of Death by Martyn Waites

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “Autumn 1940, World War Two, the Blitz. Bombs are raining down, destroying the cities of Britain. In London, children are being removed from their families and taken to the country for safety. Teach Eve Parkins is in charge of one such group, and her destination is an empty and desolate house that appears to be sinking into the treacherous tidal marshes that surround it.

EEL MARSH HOUSE.

Far from home and with no alternative, Eve and the children move in. But soon it becomes apparent that there is someone else in the house; someone who is far deadlier than any number of German bombs …

The Woman in Black.”

 

I’ve long been a fan of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, having read the book and watched the play at the theatre, so I was intrigued to see how Martyn Waites approached the writing of a sequel.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Angel of Death is every bit as chilling, heart-thumping and edge-of-your-seat thrilling as the original.

The central character, Eve Parkins, is a courageous woman. Kind and fiercely protective of the children in her charge, she’s a more approachable teacher than her boss, Mrs Hogg. As they leave London she feels especially protective of one particular child, Edward, who has recently been orphaned.

It’s difficult to go into plot details without spoiling the story for you, but what I can say is that Eel Marsh House is every bit as scary as in the first story. Now it’s rotting, the mould eating away at its structure, decay destroying its contents. This story will have you looking at mould in a whole other way, and watching the shadows in case they start to follow you.

When Eve, Mrs Hogg, and the children arrive at the house bad things start to happen. Edward becomes increasingly distant from Eve, his only solace found in an ancient and mouldy Mr Punch puppet. It isn’t long before Eve realises that they are not the house’s only occupants.

And as for The Woman in Black, well she’s a menacing presence. Watching. Manipulating. Killing.

Given that this is a sequel the presence and identity of the Woman is not a secret from the reader. She has more ‘on the page’ time than in the original book – you see her before the characters do, and because of her history you can guess what she’s thinking and you know what she’s capable of. But Waites still manages to keep the tension high, building the suspense towards a nail-biting, hiding-behind-a-cushion-as-you-read conclusion as The Woman in Black turns what should be a safe haven for the evacuees into a place more horrific than their worst nightmare.

Highly Recommended.

 

[With thanks to Arrow Books and Hammer for my copy of The Woman in Black: Angel of Death]