Susi Qs – Week 45 – Danny Marshall

This week I’m talking to my agency stablemate and all round good bloke – Danny Marshall! Born in Halifax, Danny is an award-winning writer of thrillers tinged with horror, exploring the impact of isolation and geography. His debut novel, Anthrax Island, was published in May 2021. The sequel, Black Run, is out on 5th December (and you can pre-order a lovely signed copy HERE). Danny lives with his partner and children in West Yorkshire

Take it away, Danny!

Where was your best holiday?

About seven years ago we did a three week road trip around Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, in a bright orange Dodge Challenger R/T. We got off the plane and drove 900 miles north, from San Francisco to where they filmed Twin Peaks, then meandered back nearly 1500 miles down the coast, stopping at filming locations – Kindergarten Cop, The Goonies, The Birds, the lighthouse from The Fog, Return of the Jedi, ET, The Lost Boys… the only real downside was we diverted hours to visit Aberdeen, to see where Kurt Cobain came from. I can see now where the teenage angst came from, the one-way system there sucks.

Who do you love?

In no particular order, My son, my daughter, Eva Mendes, and my partner.

What would you cook on come dine with me?

Mexagne. Like lasagne but a layer of chilli, a layer of pasta, a layer of Doritos, a layer of chilli, a layer of pasta, a layer of Doritos… continue until the topping, which is crunched up Doritos and cheese with BBQ sauce.  I wouldn’t win the cash because my entertainment would suck. And you know that bit where the other guests go rooting round the host’s house and start dressing up in their outfits or whatever? I just know I’d go totally overboard hiding questionable things for them to find.

What are you having for lunch tomorrow?

You’ve touched a nerve, this is a sore point in our household. No-one in Halifax has lunch, we have dinner. Except my partner, who’s a southerner and says lunch. As such my kids say it too, instead of dinner and tea. And my son gets confused at school because literally all his classmates call it dinner, but when he’s at home his mum tells him that’s wrong. She also makes him pronounce his Hs and Ts. Anyway, probably crisps and tomatoes and cucumber, same as I’ve been having most days for over a year now!

Did you like school?

I absolutely loved it, I’m very lucky. I’m the only member of my family to get into a Grammar school, I was punching above my weight and consequently ended up in the bottom percentage of the class for most subjects except French and Geography. I was always in detention or on report, and spent a lot of breaks ‘standing on a square’ – a punishment where you had to stand on one square tile in the entrance foyer of school for the whole of dinner time, shitting it as you waited for the headmistress to appear and bollock you.

She hated me, she withheld my GCSE results because she thought I hadn’t handed a text book in at the end of term (I had). I had to travel the four miles to school, wait until everyone had their results, to be called into her office and be told to come back tomorrow with the book. I went back the next day to get my results and the teacher remembered I’d handed it in… Ah, the good old nineties.

I was once almost suspended for attending another school. My school finished earlier than the others in the area and I’d jump on the bus to my best mate’s school, remove my tie, borrow one from a girl at his school who I fancied, and go and attend my mate’s detention with him in his school. After doing this a few times it was discovered I wasn’t a pupil of their school. Unfortunately someone grassed and told them my real identity. Snitches get stitches, if I ever find out who it was…

I managed to briefly get suspended while on a school trip to the Alps and was confined to my room for the rest of the trip but I’m not putting why in writing.

Despite all this and many more instances of almost-suspension and trouble (or maybe because of it) I genuinely loved school.

Do you pair your socks?

Of course. I find it incredibly therapeutic, I pair all the socks for everyone in our house.

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

Not including winter boots etc, six – which is the correct number:

One formal pair of Oxfords, for black tie,

One informal pair of Derbys for work – never worn any more thanks to now-permanent home working, but they’re there for weddings and funerals,

One best pair of trainers,

One everyday pair of trainers (the relegated best pair when you buy a new pair),

One pair of trainers for mowing the lawn and walking the dog and stuff (the relegated everyday pair when you buy a new pair),

One pair of trainers for working on the cars. These should always be Converse Allstars, to double as driving shoes in the event you need to be a getaway driver at short notice.

Why are coconuts so hard to open?

Because if they were soft they wouldn’t be lethal, and we’d have no scale of ‘you’re more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than…’ (insert less risky activity here).

Would you rather have no forks or no plates

I mean, bowls exist, so…

But in the spirit of the question – probably no forks. I don’t mind using fingers. I actually get unduly worked up when people use a knife and fork to eat pizza just because they’re in a restaurant. Like, you don’t use a knife and fork to eat the bread they brought out just because you’re in a restaurant, do you? So why the pizza? It really shouldn’t annoy me as much as it does.

Who was your first crush?

I’m going to go with Juliette from Muskahounds, and now you’ll have the theme tune in your head all day. I actually really fancied M’Lady too, but she was evil so I remember consciously trying to fancy Juliette more.

As a child, clearly considering the questionable morality of fancying evil people, but not the fact that they are a cat and a dog.

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If you want to know more about Danny, you can find him on twitter @DLMWrites. His books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 44 – Rob Parker

Today’s guest is one of the nicest chaps in the whole crime writing world… it’s Rob Parker! Rob is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow, Blackstoke and the Audible bestseller Far From The Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity. He spends a lot of time in schools across the North, encouraging literacy, story-telling and creative-writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers Crime Podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

Hello, Rob!

Have you ever had your fortune told?

Nope, but my wife did, just before she fell pregnant with our first. The result was a lot of stuff that missed the mark by some distance, but there was something like: ‘you will have a baby with someone beginning with the letter R.’ Obviously it was deemed as portentous. I thought maybe a quick facebook search might have already pointed said sage in the right direction.

Have you ever heard voices in your head?

Not that I can remember, but I do try out dialogue in my head all the time. Actually, thanks to lockdown and my family being home a lot more in the last 18 months, it turns out I don’t try it in my head that much at all, and just speak out loud in different voices like I’m having some kind of breakaway episode.

When was the last time you were arrested?

I love the implication that I’m a serial offender. But the closest I’ve ever come was when my friend and I jumped out of a taxi at university, and there was a sign on a wall that he, for some reason, took an immediate shine to—and started to pull it off. Something about the whole thing didn’t feel right to me, and my vision started to pull back, almost like in a film going from a close up to a wide, and I saw that the building in question was the back of Lancaster police station, a security camera was watching the whole thing and the sign itself read: ‘Police Vehicles, No Waiting’. Two bobbies appeared just as the sign dropped off into my friend’s hands, and my friend was led away for the night. He cemented himself in folklore by shouting over his shoulder to me: ‘Mickey mouse arrest!’ as he was led away, then proceeded to do press ups all night in his cell because he’d ‘seen 50 cent do it in a music video’. I was left on the street dumbfounded.

What is your most unrealistic ambition?

At 38 now, with every year that goes by, I’m like: ‘huh, looking less likely I’ll play for England’—without ever taking into account the small matter of an obscene lack of talent.

Where’s the worst place you’ve been sick?

Under a bunkbed on a lads’ trip away… which was forgotten about. ‘Anyone know what that smell is?’ Not good.

What would you cook on come dine with me?

All disguised as something posh, I’d go with a pepperami to start, pot noodle for main, and a kinder egg for desert—done in the style of that chap who tried to create the swankiest restaurant in London from his back garden, serving microwave meals on old plates. I reckon I could get away with it, especially when I dump out the noodles into a small bowl and lay a sprig of parsley on the top.

What’s you favourite joke?

‘If I see a cougar in the wild, I’ll puma pants.’ I’m still laughing now.

Do you prefer buttons or zips?

Depends on the item of clothing, and the location on the person. I’d love to see an experiment though, like a zip on a tux. Could be very Roger Moore.

Do you find it hard to take criticism?

I love criticism. It’s pure fuel. If it’s constructive, you’ve got tools with which you can improve. If it’s not, and it’s nasty, then even better—because now I want to beat you. Criticism is win win for me, always has been.

Is there life on other planets?

I sincerely hope not. ET gave me night terrors for years as a kid. Something about his rancid screeching and wet-nosed shuffling in the woods that always gave me the heebie-jeebies. Then when he appeared coming out of the shed at Elliot’s house? Looking like a reanimated poop with a long neck. Absolute nightmare fuel. So, if the aliens are like that, please no, let’s hoy them off that bridge towards the end of the movie and have done with it. I also really don’t like those grey ones with the big black eyes. There’s something utterly repellent about them. Any other intergalactic species is fine.

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If you want to know more about Rob, you can find him on twitter @robparkerauthor. His books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 43 – Lisa Gray

Today’s guest is my good pal, the very lovely Lisa Gray – an Amazon #1, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Her debut novel, Thin Air, was the third-bestselling Kindle book on Amazon.com in 2019. She previously worked as the chief Scottish soccer writer at the Press Association and the books editor at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. She is the author of the Jessica Shaw series: Bad Memory, Dark Highway, and Lonely Hearts, and now writes full-time.

3 Interesting facts about me and Lisa – I first met Lisa at Harrogate in 2012 (I think?) when we were both unpublished and both won prizes of huge boxes of books that we couldn’t transport home. We also won our names in upcoming novels – I became PC Susi Holliday in a couple of Peter James books. I later stole Lisa’s surname to create my lovely policeman Sergeant Davie Gray in the Banktoun books. Lisa interviewed and featured me several times in the Daily Record before giving up journalism to write full time.

Welcome, Doll, so…

Who do you love? 

My family and my best friend. And Brad Pitt. 

How many pairs of shoes do you have? 

If I get to count black ankle boots and wedge sandals as shoes, then lots. I’m basically the Carrie Bradshaw of the crime writing community. Too many shoes, not enough luck in love, and I get to write for a living. 

Do you empty your own hoover bag? 

Not to be all Alan Partridge about it but do you mean Hoover or vacuum cleaner? I have a Shark vacuum cleaner, rather than a Hoover one, so I suppose the answer is no. 

Who was your first crush? 

The Rangers footballer, Ally McCoist. I adored him as a little girl and got to know him years later when I worked as a football journalist. I never told him I fancied him though. I mean, he’s never going to find out, is he? IS HE?? 

Who was the best Beatle? 

Sometimes I think it was Paul because he was the most handsome and wrote some great songs. Sometimes I think it was John because he was the coolest and wrote some great songs. And sometimes I think it was George because he wrote and sung ‘Something’ which is my all-time favourite Beatles song. So, um yeah, sorry Ringo. 

What was your favourite toy? 

It’s a toss-up between my dozens of Barbie dolls and my Girl’s World styling head. None of them escaped getting their hair chopped off so I’m surprised I didn’t grow up to be a hairdresser who inflicted bad ‘dos on people. 

Tequila Sunrise or Pina Colada? 

Both. Why choose?  

Would you rather have no forks or no plates? 

No plates. You can’t eat a Pot Noodle without a fork. 

Have you ever written a fan letter? 

Loads. Bros, New Kids on the Block, Take That… Name a boy band, I’ve stalked them. I also wrote to the producers of Byker Grove once asking for a part on the show. I’m still waiting for a response. 

Sum yourself up in one word. 

Fabulous. 

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If you want to know more about Diane, you can find her on twitter @lisagraywriter. Her books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 42 – Diane Jeffrey

This week’s guest is the very lovely Diane Jeffrey, who I got to know after it turned out that she lives near one of my childhood friends. In France! Diane has written four bestselling psychological thrillers, all published by HQ (HarperCollins). Those Who Lie (2017), He Will Find You (2018), The Guilty Mother (2019), a USA Today bestseller, and The Silent Friend (ebook 2020, paperback 9th Dec 2021). She is currently working on her fifth novel. When not teaching or writing, she runs (a little) and swims (a lot). Diane was born in Devon and now lives in Lyon with her husband, three children, black Labrador and cat. She was the first female lifeguard to work on UK beaches.

Hi, Diane!

Have you ever broken a bone?

Technically, no, but someone (he shall remain nameless) broke my little finger. I was early morning swimming training and a teammate going the other way in the next lane sort of took my little finger with him. I was taken to hospital wearing my bra with my school blazer around my shoulders. My little finger was sticking out and quite swollen, so that I couldn’t get my arm through the shirt and cardigan sleeves of my uniform.

Have you ever written a fan letter?

I’m not sure if this counts as a fan letter, but I wrote a letter to Lady Diana when she got married to Prince Charles. I was eight years old. I must have tried my hand at drawing something, too, because she thanked me for the picture when she wrote back! I cringe to imagine the quality of it as I’m really, really crap at drawing. Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to the letter I received – I think it got lost when my parents moved house. It was typed – no doubt one by one of Diana’s staff –on thick cream stationery, embossed with the blazon of three ostrich feathers and a gold crown. But Lady Diana signed it!

How often do you change your sheets?

Quite often. At least once a fortnight, but usually once a week. If I were a rich A-list celeb, this would be my thing. I wouldn’t wash my face in Evian or demand rose-scented candles in my backstage dressing room, like some celebs are rumoured to do, but I’d want my sheets changed every day (by an employee, obvs).

Do you find it hard to take criticism?

I used to be very, very bad at taking criticism, but I’ve got much better. I can usually take constructive criticism on board and do something with it. I’m not good at dealing with catty criticism or bitchy jibes and tend to (over)react badly to that sort of thing.

Where was your best holiday?

It was in the Lake District in August 2012. It was a fantastic fortnight for many reasons. The kids got on so well that summer, the Lake District is incredibly beautiful and overall, we were lucky with the weather. The first week, it rained a bit, but we watched the swimming and athletics on the TV (it was the year the Olympics were held in London). The second week was a scorcher and we went on lots of hikes and did water activities in the lakes. My dog (a black Lab, Cookie) was welcome everywhere, which was wonderful. And the people were so kind and friendly!

I also got inspiration for a novel, which turned into my second book: He Will Find You, which is set partly in the Lake District.

We have plans to return there …

What’s your most treasured possession?

It’s a gold bracelet with the names of all of my children engraved around it. I had some gold jewellery melted down by a jeweller, who then made me that bracelet from the molten gold. I never take it off, not even to go through security at the airport.

Where’s the worst place you’ve been sick?

By sick, do you mean vomiting? I get migraines and have done since I was eight or nine. I take treatment every day to help with this and so I don’t throw up as much as I used to, but I have thrown up in several places when a migraine came on, including people’s houses and on public transport. Probably the worst place I have thrown up due to a migraine was in the theatre when I was quite young and my parents took my brother and me to London to see Evita.

I also got morning sickness with my pregnancies (like many women, not just in the mornings). One morning when I was about three months pregnant with my son, I went into school (I’m an English teacher) feeling nauseous. I threw up during my first lesson … I grabbed the wastepaper bin and sprinted out of the classroom, but my pupils all heard me puking in the corridor. It was very embarrassing! They were worried about me, which was sweet, so I had to tell them then that I was pregnant. They bought a teddy bear for my son when he was born!

What is your most unrealistic ambition?

I want to swim the English Channel and break a record. If I did some serious training, I could probably do the swim. It’s the breaking a record part that’s tricky! There’s no way I could ever beat the fastest woman’s time. So, I thought about setting a record for a family relay. We’re an Anglo-French family – I thought it was a great idea! My husband used to be a competitive swimmer, too (he was my coach, actually), and my son and two daughters are all competitive swimmers (they all swim far faster than I do), but I just can’t seem to get them on board with this plan! So, I think my best bet is to wait until I can break the record for the oldest woman / person to swim the Channel. The current record holder was almost 72 years old when she broke her own record.

Which actor do you fancy the most?

Matthew Goode. He’s from Devon, like me. I think he’s lovely!

I also have a soft spot for Jason Bateman. In fact, I based the physical appearance of my character Jonathan Hunt in The Guilty Mother on Jason Bateman, which was a great excuse to have an A4 print-out of his face sellotaped over my desk for ten months. Very inspirational!

Do you pair your socks?

God, yes! Doesn’t everyone? I even peg them on the washing line separately, but next to the matching sock – and the clothes pegs have to match, too! Is this too much? OCD?

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If you want to know more about Diane, you can find her on twitter @dianefjeffrey. Her books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 41 – Lisa Hall

My spooky Halloween guest is none other than Lisa Hall – who has the perfect creepy book to scare yourself silly with. The Woman in The Woods is out now! Lisa loves words, reading and everything there is to love about books. She has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl – either that or a librarian – and after years of talking about it, was finally brave enough to put pen to paper (and let people actually read it). Lisa lives in a small village in Kent, surrounded by her towering TBR pile, a rather large brood of children, dogs, chickens and ponies and her long-suffering husband. She is also rather partial to eating cheese and drinking wine.

Welcome, Lisa! So…

Sum yourself up in one word

Errmmm…probably exhausting? Or annoying. I think I am quite exhausting to live with because inside my own head it’s quite tiring…and I think that other people probably find this quite annoying. LOL.

How often do you change your sheets?

Every week, without fail. If I don’t then I imagine the sheets feel all clammy, which is exactly how I imagine a prison bed to feel, and it makes me feel all skanky and weird. Sometimes, after less than a week, I’ll get into bed and say to my husband, ‘prison bed?’ and he’ll say, ‘yeah, prison bed,’ and we’ll have to get up so I can change it.

Have you ever had your fortune told?

Yes. And it was weirdly accurate. She told me I’d live in the country, next to water, and there would be lots of rabbits and horses and that I’d have twins. At the time I was living in a town, but now I do live in the country, next to a stream, with lots of wild rabbits and horses around me. No twins though, thank God.

How many times have you seen Top Gun?

Too many times to count. Me and my sisters can still recite whole chunks of that movie.

What were you in a previous life?

If I wasn’t Cleopatra, then I definitely went down on the Titanic. I love swimming in the sea, but boats make me squuueeeeeeeeeeee. I am always 99% sure I am about to drown when I’m on a boat. (See what I mean about being exhausting/annoying?)

Did you like school?

Absolutely yes, because I was a Grade A, top nerd. Still am. I’m trying to persuade my kids that school is brill but they’re having none of it.

Have you ever been punched in the face?

No. Although, I reckon lots of people might have wanted to (see my answer to question 1). And I have a long list of people that I’d quite like to punch, but I am too nice/chicken to do it.

Who was the best Beatle?

Ringo – and he’s still the best Beatle. His mad rant telling people not to send him any more stuff because he would throw it in the bin, then wishing everyone “peace and love, peace and love” is the stuff of legends in our house.

Would you rather have four arms or four legs?

Who the fuck would want four legs? What can you even do with four legs? (Susi, what the hell is wrong with you? Haha). Four arms all the way – I am too busy to have four legs. With four arms I can write my book (sometimes), eat good snacks and cuddle my dog all at the same time.

Who do you love?

My family, obvs. My dogs – I have 5 all together and they are all amazing…sometimes they are amazingly dickish but amazing all the same. And Elton John. I really, really love Elton John.

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If you want to know more about Emma, you can find her on twitter @LisaHallAuthor. Her books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 40 – Mark Billingham

Today’s very special guest requires no introduction, but just in case you don’t recognise him… it’s… Mr Mark Billingham! Mark’s series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award and he received the award for Outstanding Contribution To Crime Fiction at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. When he is not living out rock-star fantasies as a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, he is hard at what is laughably called ‘work’, writing his next novel.

Welcome, Sir! So, tell us…

When was the last time you were arrested?

The sad and deeply uninteresting truth is that I have never been arrested. This could mean that I have lived a blameless life because I am a thoroughly decent person or alternatively that I’m too much of a coward to risk doing anything that might get me into any trouble. An alternative explanation – and the one I urge everyone to go with here – is that I am simply far too brilliant and cunning to have ever been caught for my hugely long list of nefarious crimes and misdemeanours. Yes, that’s it…definitely.

Who Do You Love?

Well, let’s take it as read – even if it’s not true – that I love each and every member of my family without measure. Right, we can move on from the cheesy stuff. Those people aside, it’s not a massively long list, certainly nowhere near as long as a list of the people I really don’t love would have been and most of the names will mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t know me, but it’s my list, right? So…Lottie and Ruby (dogs), Kevin and Stan (cats), my friend Mike, Elvis Costello, the Beatles, my fellow Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Martyn, George, Sarah, Paul X 2 (that’s two different Pauls and not one Paul who I love twice as much as anyone else) and, though it’s probably more of a love/hate relationship than anything…myself. Sometimes.

What’s Your Favourite Kitchen Appliance?

Toaster. All day long (see below)

Do You Have Any Weird Habits?

I’m a huge fan of toast. Huge. But the toast has to be stone cold and very crispy. This means that when I have toasted the bread to my satisfaction I must leave it to cool in a kind of ‘toasty tent’ with the slices arranged standing up and leaning against each other. After ten minutes of leaving the slices in toasty isolation, I then move on to the ‘toast semaphore’ where I wander about the kitchen waving the pieces around in an effort to cool them further, though it looks like I’m bringing a plane into land or have simply lost my mind. You choose. On average, it probably takes me around forty-five minutes to make a perfect piece of toast. Then there’s an entirely separate and equally bizarre spreading ritual involving butter (which must cover every millimetre of the bread) and Marmite, but if I go into too much detail people might start thinking I’m anal. By the way, I’ve always thought that ‘anal’ is an odd choice of word to use when criticising someone who puts things in the right place…

What Were You In A Previous Life?

I didn’t have one.

Have You Ever Broken A Bone?

Yes, several. The most awkward occasion was when I was an actor and, while appearing in the world’s worst production of Macbeth, fell over a chain-link fence (titting about in a car-park) just before the show and broke both my arms. I didn’t know I’d broken them until half way through the performance when both my arms seized up and my performance during the denouement was even more wooden than it might otherwise have been. I was plastered up that night but my lack of movement did mean that certain…toilet-related activities became tricky and involved a degree of…assistance. I apologise for the pictures this puts in your head. My partner at the time was very understanding, but we did split up soon afterwards.

Do You Find It Hard To Take Criticism?

If we’re talking about negative criticism (and why wouldn’t we be?) I don’t love it. In common with a lot of people, that’s because it’s only ever the shitty reviews you remember. It’s the same as when I worked as a stand-up. I could be doing a gig in front of 400 people at the Comedy Store and, even if 399 of them were pissing themselves, I would only be able to think about the one person who didn’t crack their face. Similarly, however many good reviews a book might get, I always remember the bad ones. Because they’re the ones I suspect are right. Impostor syndrome/insecurity etc etc.

What Would You Cook On Come Dine With Me?

My signature dish, obviously. It’s basically pasta, in a thick cheese sauce with bits of hard-boiled egg and bacon. A kind of deconstructed carbonara which, although I think it’s delicious, my family somewhat unkindly calls ‘cheese slop’. Look, I’m not saying I’d win

What’s The Last Book You Read?

The last book I finished was the latest in a very long line of Beatles-related volumes. I’ve read far more than is healthy, I’m well aware of that, but I can’t resist them. This one was called Like Some Forgotten Dream by Daniel Rachel and posits a world where the Beatles didn’t split up when we know they did, but went on to make one final great double album. Rachel suggests the tracks that might have made up this masterpiece, turning a common pub discussion among Fab Four nerds like myself into something that’s every bit as sad as it is fascinating. I bloody love the Beatles. Did I mention that?

What Is The Most Annoying Thing?

How long have we got? Well, as it might well come down to a simple toss-up between global warfare and paper-cuts, I should probably just stick to the tried and tested ‘long list’ format. So: forgetting where I’ve left my glasses; arseholes who throw litter out of car windows; Tories; my stupid printer; starting a book; conspiracy theorists; soggy toast; stepping on a snail in the dark; having a dodgy knee; people who pretend they don’t like the Beatles; bags of dogshit hung on branches; The Archers (Radio 4 and Jeffrey); people not wearing masks on the tube; Elvis Costello’s restraining order; the continuing absence of chicken livers from the Nando’s menu; Michael Gove dancing; Michael Gove doing anything; the inexplicable lack of appreciation for a fine western shirt; ditto a jaunty hat, be it porkpie, baker-boy or fez; setting a hotel toaster on fire; the scary giant teddy-bear in the window of the house opposite; Twitter pile-ons; not getting the money that Nigerian prince promised he’d send; people being snobby about crime fiction; people being late; people saying ‘yourself’ instead of ‘you’; intolerance; people who don’t get irony…

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If you want to know more about Mark, you can find him on twitter @MarkBillingham. His books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 39 – Emma Haughton

This week’s guest is the very lovely Emma Haughton, whose (literally) chilling thriller,The Dark, was published by Hodder in August 2021. She grew up in Sussex, then after a stint au pairing in Paris and a couple of half-hearted attempts to backpack across Europe, she studied English at Oxford University before training in journalism. During her career, she wrote many articles for national newspapers, including regular pieces for the Times Travel section.

Following publication of her picture book, Rainy Day, Emma wrote three YA novels. Her first, Now You See Me, was an Amazon bestseller and nominated for the Carnegie and Amazing Book Awards. Better Left Buried, her second, was one of the best YA reads for 2015 in the Sunday Express. Her third YA novel, Cruel Heart Broken, was picked by The Bookseller as a top YA read for July 2016.

Hello, Emma!

Who was your first crush?

Romantically, a boy called Richard who joined our year when I was 12. He was gloriously popular and barely knew I existed. My first non-romantic crush was Enid Blyton. I wanted to be George in The Famous Five so badly it hurt.

What was your favourite toy?

Lego. I used to nick my brother’s stuff if I was off sick from school and build the world’s most boring houses. I had no talent for it, but I liked all the different colours.

Do you find it hard to take criticism?

Doesn’t everyone? I need a good week after edit notes arrive to have a good sulk before I can even begin to take it on board.

How often do you change your sheets?

I’m not even going to answer that because the answer is so appalling. But I do regularly change my pyjamas!

Do you empty your own hoover bag?

Have you set up a spycam in my house or something? These questions are disconcertingly close to the mark! The answer is I so very rarely use the hoover that it isn’t much of an issue.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My dogs, followed by any memorabilia from my childhood or my children’s. I find it really difficult to throw anything away.

Would you rather have four arms or four legs?

This is exactly the kind of question my kids would ask me about fifty times a day! The easy answer is four arms, cos I love knitting and crochet and I could work on two things at once.

What was your first gig?

I did a panel at the Edinburgh Book Festival for one of my YA books. It’s a complete blur of nerves and me saying things I’ve now thankfully forgotten.

Which actor do you fancy the most?

I had a huge crush on Gerard Depardieu when I – and he – was younger. Now I’d probably pick someone like Jared Harris. I’m much more into interesting faces and character than classic good looks.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?

When I was around 12 or 13 I babysat for a neighbour. A neighbour from the other side, a girl a few years older than me, decided it would be a massive hoot to pretend to break in while I was sitting alone watching telly in the lounge. I could these noises getting closer and closer and was so petrified I couldn’t move. When she finally burst into the room, laughing, I had an actual fit of hysterical crying.

Did you like school?

Not really. I just remember being very, very bored most of the time. I’d drift off into daydreams and leave the lesson having no clue what it was about. That said, it was better than home, and I had a core group of friends to gossip in the girl’s loos with every break and lunchtime.

When was the last time you were arrested?

It’s never happened. I’m very good at not being caught.

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If you want to know more about Emma, you can find her on twitter @Emma_Haughton. Her books can be found HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 38 – Miranda Kate

This week’s very lovely guest is one of the first writers I got to know on Twitter, back in 2011 – Miranda Kate! Miranda started out life wanting to be a film director, but when directing people didn’t work, she turned to writing and started directing words instead, and finds them much easier to deal with – most days. She has been featured in several Flash Fiction anthologies, and has published two collections, one of dark flash-fiction tales, called Mostly Dark, and another of science-fiction stories, called Slipping Through. The latter containing a short novella called The Game, for which a novel length sequel, Pool of Players, has been recently released. Under the pen name, MK Boers, she has also released the novel, Sleep, a psychological thriller. Miranda spent her early childhood in Surrey, and her teens and early adulthood moving round the UK, but currently resides in the Netherlands.

Welcome, Miranda!

When was the last time you were arrested?

I’ve never been arrested – although I did end up in juvenile court for knocking down walls when I was 11!

I hung about with a gang of which I was the youngest. I didn’t actually knock any down though, just bore witness. One of the gang got caught stealing a lorry load of goods and apparently snitched us all up.

I got two years probation and became an official ‘disturbed child’. I’ve been living up to the name ever since.

Have you ever been punched in the face?

I might have been, in the ‘scrap’ I had with my best mate Wanda at school when I was 12/13. I ended up with this huge lump on the side of my forehead, and she had a massive scratch down her face, but I told the teachers I’d fallen over.

And I can’t be sure if it was punch, cuz I had my eyes closed as we flailed at each other – as you do when you are have a fight with your mate and pretend to be hard, when you are actually terrified.

Would you rather have four arms or four legs?

That’s a hard one! Four arms would be SUPER useful. But four legs means you could get about so much faster. Overall I think the four arms would look better – like a Hindu deity.

Who was your first crush?

Famous or not?

Not famous: – Jamie Abbs, at high school *swoons just thinking about him* I was sure he looked like David Bowie back then. (I bumped into him later in life. He really didn’t age well – even in his late teens).

Famous: – Martin Shaw, from The Professionals (TV series). Wow, I was totally in love with him when I was 9 years old. I was taken with his curly hair, blue eyes and that scar on his cheek. I’ve just googled him – he’s 76 now! Good Lord! I’m aging myself now!

Do you have any weird habits?

That depends what you think about book sniffing, imaginary friends and talking to yourself. Personally I think they’re perfectly normal.

My husband might consider the fact that I like things to be put back in their place as weird, but he likes to peel off the ends of his finger and toe nails and leave them on a shelf. Eewwwwww!

Would you rather have no forks or no plates?

No forks. You can eat with your fingers if needs be, but trying to serve a hot meal either into your hands or on a table, might be tricky. Peas would just roll away, and gravy would get everywhere.

What are you wearing?

Denim-look shorts and a pale blue/green t-shirt. Totally boring. It’s 30 degrees outside so I’m barefoot and sweating and trying to catch a mosquito that is under my desk, but it keeps activating its cloaking device. 

What’s your most treasured possession?

Ooo, there’s a few. My mother passed this year so the painting she bought in Ibiza in 1976 and sent me for my 50th in 2019 is one. And my great-grandmother’s engagement ring (diamond & sapphire cluster) that she gave me on her last visit to my home is another.

But the copy of Lisey’s Story that I got signed by Stephen King at Borders in London when he came there is probably my biggest. I was No.100 in the queue. I arrived at 9am and he came out at 1pm. I was at a complete loss for words when it was my turn and simply said ‘thanks for all your writing’. Doh!

Have you ever heard voices in your head?

All the time. It’s part of being a writer, isn’t it? *looks around shiftily* I currently have a particularly loud one called Tricky. She wants me to get on with writing her second book. She’s a witch … of sorts and very … erm … Tricky. She’s got a trilogy for me. And she’s even whispering about another one after, but I’ve told her she has to get in line – as do the other character voices vying for attention.

Do you find it hard to take criticism?

It totally depends what is being criticised, and how it is delivered, but in general, yes.

I will always check my reaction, and put myself on pause while I process it though, and decide if it is something I can or want to act on. So I will usually give an initial ‘thank you’ (assuming it is a writing based constructive criticism), before I go away, and curse and get angry, and maybe cry a little in private. Then once I have that out of the way, I’ll look at it impartially.

If it is an insulting, personal criticism, I will ignore, block, delete. Because life is too short to waste my time responding.

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If you want to know more about Miranda, you can find her on twitter @purplequeenNL. Her books, websites, free stories and flash prompts can all be found HERE (she also creates lovely notebooks – check them out!)

 

Susi Qs – Week 37 – Alexandra Benedict

This week I’m talking to my lovely friend, the very talented Alexandra (AK) Benedict. She is an award-winning writer of novels, short stories and scripts. Her most recent novel is The Christmas Murder Game. She was an RLF Fellow, ran the highly successful Crime Thrillers MA at City University, and now mentors, coaches and edits writers.  She lives by the sea with writer Guy Adams, their daughter, Verity, and dog, Dame Margaret Rutherford.

Take it away, AK…

What’s your secret party piece?

I can recite Pi to many places, sung to the tune of The Smiths’ Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over. I can also do the splits, and juggle. I have yet to do all of these at one time. 

What was your first gig?

BROS, Global Push Tour, Bournemouth International Centre, February 1989. I didn’t have Doc Martens so I attached Grolsch bottle tops to my Clarks corrective shoes.

Are you any good at potato sculpture?

I love crafting but had hitherto not partaken in potato carving. Always keen to acquire a new skill, today I made a first foray into the art by attempting to sculpt a heart. It was a soothing activity, yet full of melancholy, for I found deep symbolism in how I kept whittling away at the heart, trying to make it perfect. 

Who would you rather play golf with – Michael McKintyre, Take That, or The Queen?

Crazy golf with all of Take That, and I mean all, would be an excellent late afternoon activity. I would place a bet on Jason Orange winning by some margin, Robbie cheating in a charming manner, Mark getting cutely annoyed by people not following rules, and Gary Barlow managing to win another round on that last hole that pilfers your balls.

Do you worry about swallowing spiders in your sleep?

I am an arachnophile so the idea that I could eat one (live! Aah!) by mistake is horrifying. I apologise to the spectres of any spiders I’ve swallowed.

Have you ever broken a bone?

When I was 17, I went to see Jim Rose’s circus at Poole Arts Centre. Me and my best friend were approached in the interval to join Jim and his self-proclaimed freaks backstage after the show. Now I was, and remain, rather naive, and hadn’t counted on entering a room filled with other teenage girls, and only girls, and a lot of booze. We were all told to sit on the floor for a ‘ special after show performance’ which involved one particular circus ‘member’ taking out his cock, in close proximity to me and the other young women, and twisting it into odd shapes. It looked, and I felt, extremely uncomfortable. We didn’t stay for the finale. It was the night before my first A Level exam so afterwards I had to run for the bus in the depot opposite. My only obstacle was time and the railings that surrounded the bus station. I tried to vault the railings, and instead crashed onto the pavement. I screamed. Fortunately, an ambulance was in the depot and took me to Poole Hospital where it was found that I had badly broken my elbow.

You can’t plaster up a broken elbow so I had to wear a sling, and it fucking hurt. The injury continued to be painful for years, until one day, stopping at Glastonbury after going to the festival, two women approached me. One looked like, and probably was, a cat, the other called herself a psychic surgeon. The Cat Woman declared me a Star Child and the psychic surgeon gave me a free consultation at the back of a shop that smelled of patchouli, feet and chai. My elbow has yet to hurt since. I presume the placebo effect giving it welly, but it’s still weird.

Is there life on other planets?

Probably. It is highly unlikely that Earth is the only planet to support life of some kind.

What’s the last book you read?

Bob Mortimer – And Away. I adore Bob and he writes SO WELL.

How many times have you watched Top Gun?

I watched it a lot when growing up. I’m going to guesstimate 17 times. At a Christian camp talent contest when I was 14, I dressed up as Maverick and serenaded a male leader in a Kelly McGillis wig with You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling. I couldn’t understand why the leaders were so concerned that we were going to corrupt the watching innocents. They should have more concerned with all the innocents having sex in the bushes.

Why are coconuts so difficult to open?

Coconuts are a test sent from the gods. When humans can open coconuts using only their minds, the gods shall reveal themselves.

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If you want to know more about Alexandra, you can find her on twitter @ak_benedict. Her books can be purchased HERE and HERE.

 

Susi Qs – Week 36 – Chris McDonald

This week’s guest is the very prolific and very funny Chris McDonald! Chris grew up in Northern Ireland before settling in Manchester via Lancaster and London. He is the author the DI Erika Piper series A Wash of Black, Whispers In The Dark and Roses for the Dead. He has also recently dabbled in writing cosy crimes, in the shape of The Stonebridge Mysteries, as a remedy for the darkness. He is a full time teacher, husband, father to two beautiful girls and a regular voice on The Blood Brothers Podcast. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Let’s hear it, Chris…

What was your favourite toy?

I’m a slave to Sony. I’ve had every PlayStation since it’s conception and almost exclusively play FIFA (which I am shit hot at!). If anyone fancies a game, do let me know. I’m very happy to embarrass someone. 

Where was your best holiday?

We went to Lake Garda for our honeymoon. Our hotel was right on the water, the little town was bordered by mountains and it was stunning. We paddleboarded (I couldn’t stand up), canoed, kayaked and ate a lot of pizza. We did day trips to Venice and Verona and had a smashing time. The best bit, though, was discovering Coke came in 500ml CANS!!! Why aren’t they sold here?!

Who was your first crush?

Probably Jet from Gladiators. 

What’s your favourite joke?

Q: What’s the best thing about Switzerland?

A: I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.

My actual favourite joke is rather crude, but if anyone wants to hear it, do let me know!

What’s your favourite kitchen appliance?

My initial response was the toaster. It’s a work of art. But, without the fridge, you couldn’t keep the butter cool, rendering toast useless. Also, chocolate from the fridge is the only way to eat the stuff, so I’ll go for the fridge. I’m learning lots about myself. 

Who’s your favourite cartoon character?

Probably Homer Simpson. The Simpsons has long gone off the boil, but back in the day it was genius. I still say things now that Homer said 20 years ago like ‘Stupid Sexy Flanders.’

What’s your most unrealistic ambition?

To write full time or to go to space. Both are never gonna happen!

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

I have one pair of trainers, one pair of Astro turf footie boots, one pair of wellies, a pair of converse where the sole has come away from the rest of the shoe but I can’t bear to part with, and a pair of wellies. I wear my only pair of trainers to death and then wonder why they don’t last that long. 

Have you ever broken a bone?

Yes. I was having a water fight with some friends and I ran into some bricks. My little toe immediately crumpled. We went to watch The Mummy Returns afterwards and I had to leave as the pain was making me feel sick… or that was the excuse I gave anyway! 

What’s the most annoying thing?

I’ve been on this campaign for years and I’ve finally got an audience. The most annoying thing, BAR NONE, is how Ben Shepherd talks to the machine on Tipping Point like it’s a person. I know he’s trying to polite, but it’s an inanimate object. You don’t need to say please every time. Makes my blood boil.

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If you want to know more about Chris, you can find him on twitter @cmacwritescrime. His books can be purchased HERE.