CTG Interviews: Brooke Magnanti about writing #TheTurningTide

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Today I’m delighted to welcome the fabulous Dr Brooke Magnanti to the CTG blog to talk about her crime novel THE TURNING TIDE.

Brooke is the writer behind the best selling Belle de Jour books, and has a PhD in Forensic Pathology which she uses to great effect in THE TURNING TIDE – her first crime novel. Having read the book (it’s awesome), I couldn’t wait to find out more about how the story and characters were developed and all about Brooke’s writing process.

So, to the interview …

Welcome, Brooke. The Turning Tide is your first thriller, can you tell us a bit about it?
The story starts in Molesey near London, where a woman named Erykah MacDonald finds out the husband she was about to walk out on has just won the lottery. What she doesn’t know yet is that the money comes with significant strings attached. The very careful, anonymous life she struggled to rebuild after a scandal in her teens is about to be blown apart. There’s also a dodgy new political party trying to establish its roots on Scotland, and a decomposing body that washed up on the beach there – Erykah has to quickly learn who she can and can’t trust before she ends up getting killed too.

Erykah is a great female anti-hero; resourceful, determined and dynamic. What was the catalyst for creating her as a character?
Initially, Erykah wasn’t the main character – the story was told more or less as it is now, but from the point of view of the radio station intern, Kerry. And much as I loved the plot and the characters something about that just wasn’t working out. I realised that I was still trying to write as a twenty-something, someone who was the age I was when I wrote the Belle books. That’s not where I’m at now and writing twenty something when you’re forty something doesn’t really ring true. And there was this already existing character, Erykah, who was someone closer to my age, with more experience of life than Kerry, and who had more at stake, more to lose when things went wrong. As soon as I rewrote the book to put her at the centre of the story it all made sense.

In the book you have some great mortuary scenes and forensic details. How did your PhD in Forensic Pathology and experience in a mortuary laboratory help influence your fiction?
It was a huge influence. The layout in the Cameron Bridge mortuary is patterned like a smaller version of the Sheffield Medico Legal Centre where I studied, though a little bit smaller and a lot older. The techniques and equipment being used, as well – all the things that were used day to day at the MLC. While none of the cases I saw during my time there were exactly like the bodies in this book, I did lean pretty heavily on the many decompositions I did see in my time there to try to put together something that would be both realistic and unusual.

The story also covers social media use (and abuse) and tracking people through technology. How did you go about researching these aspects of the plot?
Nearly all of the social media parts were either something I have done, or seen people do on the internet. For example, getting someone to click on a link to a domain you have control over, to find their true identity… that’s been a strategy to unmask anonymous abusers since long before Twitter. When I was anonymous, I had to be very aware of what technology people might be using to unmask me, and to avoid getting trapped. It helped that I had a background in computer science and web design. A lot of other people have tried to be anonymous and didn’t realise what clues they were unwittingly leaving behind, so were quickly unmasked. Even when fashions in social media change the basic investigating techniques really don’t.

Brooke Magnanti with her book The Turning Tide

Brooke Magnanti with her book The Turning Tide

There’s a lot of ruthless political shenanigans in The Turning Tide. How did you go about setting up this element of the story?
I started writing the book before the Scotland referendum, and of course with no idea how that would turn out, had to follow the news very closely to keep up with all the incredible developments. Once you get your eye in with politics, though, it’s tough both to craft a story that isn’t too close to reality – you don’t want to libel anyone – and that won’t be overtaken by real events. This is almost universally the case in political trillers: the last season House of Cards is not remotely as gruesome as the current US election, and The Thick of It seems a lot like a documentary at times. It was a very strange thing to be writing about, but I loved it.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process – do you plot the story out first, or do you start writing and see where it takes you?
A bit of both. I like to start with a big idea – in this case, it was how much the media controls what we think of other people, and how it feels to survive that – and then start putting characters in that world. From there, I try to keep to a chapter by chapter plotting plan. Though sometimes the characters speak up for themselves, and end up doing things I wouldn’t have expected. That was a fun experience with writing this. I really didn’t know, until the end, what would happen to Erykah.

For those people aspiring to publication as crime writers, what advice would you give?
Write every day. I can’t tell you the number of amazing elevator pitches I’ve heard from people over the years, but 99% of them never sit down and write the damned thing. Start writing, keep writing. You wouldn’t believe the number of unpublished manuscripts I have sitting on my hard drive. It’s all experience.
But also, you know, don’t forget to live life. You can tell the difference when someone is writing from what they know versus just going through the motions. Clare Macintosh’s I Let You go rang absolutely true because she had been in the police, it really stood out a mile. Books and expert sources can fill some gaps but you do the best research by living an interesting life.

And, finally, what does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
I’m currently working on a follow up to The Turning Tide. It’s not a straight sequel, but it’s set in the same world. You’ll definitely see more of the mortuary staff, and there will probably be a few other cameos as well. After that? I’d love to stay in Scotland, and I’d love to stay with thrillers. So we’ll see!

Massive thanks to Brooke for letting us question her about her latest book – THE TURNING TIDE – and her writing process.

The Turning Tide is out now, published by Orion Books, and it’s great read. You can buy it here from Waterstones, or here from Amazon.

To find out more about Brooke, like her page on on FaceBook and follow her on Twitter @belledejour_uk

To read my review of The Turning Tide click here

CTG Reviews: THE TURNING TIDE by Brooke Magnanti

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What the blurb says: “Erykah Macdonald has a nice life – the kind of life you’re meant to want. But on her twentieth wedding anniversary, she’s about to cross a line. Several hundred miles away in the shallow waters of a Hebridean island, a body is found. It’s been in the water long enough to make identification tricky but it’s clear this is no accidental death. Erykah knows she’s about to make a choice you can’t reverse – but she’s lived with secrets most of her life – she thinks she’s ready. The trouble is, there are far worse secrets than her own about to emerge. From the gurney of a morgue in the Highlands, to the media circus of the national press, and from the seemingly calm suburbs of London to the powerplays in Westminster, a net is tightening. And those that find themselves caught are willing to kill to get out with reputations intact. Erykah must work out what she’s capable of if she’s going to keep her head above water – she must leave behind her comfortable life and start breaking rules. She knows she should be scared … but sometimes, stepping over the line is the first step to freedom …”

Erykah Macdonald has spent over twenty years hiding from her past. She wears the right clothes, says the right things, and moves in the right social circles to hide in plain sight; but it isn’t enough. Her outwardly perfect life, and outwardly perfect husband, are not at all what they seem. Erykah feels trapped and has plans to break free, but on the day she decides to put her plan into action something unexpected happens, plunging her into a dangerous world of fraud, politics and murder.

What’s great about Erykah is that whereas a lot of people would have given up in the terrifying situation she finds herself in, she decides to use it as an opportunity. Smart and determined, she sets out to discover exactly what her husband has got them caught up in. As she digs further, she finds connections between her situation, the dead body washed up on a Hebridean island, and a wider political agenda.

Erykah is a great female anti-hero – she’s resourceful, determined and dynamic, and I couldn’t help but root for her.

Fast paced, with some fabulously witty observations, this is a gripping first thriller from Brooke Magnanti. Gritty and well researched, it touches on the 24 hour news culture, the trend around hounding and ‘outing’ people on social media and, through a vibrant cast of characters, explores just how far people will go to get what they want.

Packed with conspiracy, intrigue and political shenanigans THE TURNING TIDE is a cracking read and perfect for thriller fans.

 

THE TURNING TIDE is out now. You can buy it from Waterstones here and from Amazon here

To find out more about Brooke Magnanti hop on over to her website at www.brookemagnanti.com and follow her on Twitter @belledejour_uk 

 

Orion Crime Night: The final word …

Brooke Magnanti with her book The Turning Tide

Brooke Magnanti with her book The Turning Tide

Last week I was super excited to be invited along to the Orion crime night – The Final Word in Crime Writing – where Orion publishing were showcasing all the fabulous new books they’ve got coming out this year. Held in the swanky bar ‘Christopher’s’ it was a fun night of books, bookish chat and wine!

As part of the evening, each of the featured authors pitched their upcoming book – timed to one minute by Orion’s Head of Publicity, Angela McMahon. Reviewers and bloggers were given a ‘dance card’ with each author’s picture and name on, and challenged to get a signature from each one. Once the dance card was full, they were entered into a draw to win an iPad mini! It was lovely to chat with all the authors and to hear more about their next books. Here’s a little taster of what to expect from each of them …

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

The sixth book in the PC Peter Grant series takes Grant back to London and facing up to the terrifying legacy of London’s hangings. Out in hardback on 16 June 2016. Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_Aaronovitch

Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts by A.K. Benedict

This gloriously quirky and chillingly creepy crime novel has supernatural elements, and will ensure that you never look at London the same again! It’s out in Trade Paperback on 25 February 2016. Follow Alexandra on Twitter @AK_Benedict

AK Benedict and Ayo Onatade

AK Benedict and Ayo Onatade

The Dead House by Harry Bingham

The fifth novel in the darkly unique DC Fiona Griffiths series is out on 28 July 2016 in Trade Paperback. A police procedural with a twist, this is one not to be missed. Follow Harry on Twitter @Harryonthebrink

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

The critically acclaimed serial killer thriller The Killing Lessons is out now, and not for the faint hearted. You’ll have to wait until later this year for the second in this spine-chilling series, but put 17 November 2016 in your diary now as that’s when it’ll be out in Hardback.

The Defence/ The Plea by Steve Cavanagh

It’s a great spring for Steve Cavanagh fans – his debut legal thriller The Defence is out in paperback this month, and it’s not long until the second book in the Eddie Flynn series – The Plea – comes out in Trade Paperback on 19 May 2016. Follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav

The Samaritan/Winterlong by Mason Cross

It’s a great spring for Mason Cross fans too! Richard & Judy spring reads pick, The Samaritan, is out in paperback now, and the third book in the Carter Blake thriller series is due out on 30 June 2016 in Trade Paperback. Follow Mason on Twitter @MasonCrossBooks

Mason Cross talking about The Samaritan

Mason Cross talking about The Samaritan

The Turning Tide by Brooke Magnanti

An intriguing thriller about secrets and lies written by the anonymous author of the award-winning blog Belle de Jour and Doctor of Forensic Pathology, Brooke Magnanti. The Turning Tide is out in Trade Paperback on 25 February 2016. Follow Brooke on Twitter @belledejour_uk

Blood, Salt, Water by Denise Mina

The fifth book in the Alex Morrow series will be released in paperback on 24 March 2016. A chilling tale of crimes and secrets set against the picturesque scenery of Helensburgh and Loch Lomond. Follow Denise on Twitter @DameDeniseMina

I Know Who Did It by Steve Mosby

The return of a woman seemingly back from the dead sparks a dark journey of innocence, guilt and retribution. Out in paperback on 1 July 2016 the next book from Steve Mosby sounds scarily intriguing. Follow him on Twitter @stevemosby

Hear No Lies by Robert Wilson

The next book in the acclaimed Charlie Boxer series sees Boxer uncovering trafficking, political corruption and crime on an international scale. Look out for it on 6 October 2016 (Trade Paperback) and in the meantime follow Robert on Twitter @RobWilsonWriter

Steve Mosby talking about I Know Who Did It

Steve Mosby talking about I Know Who Did It

A big thank you to Orion for inviting me along to this fab event. Look out for all these great books over the coming months and be sure to follow @orion_crime on Twitter and check out their Murder Room blog at www.themurderroom.com for all the latest news.