Meet Sergeant Gray – my sexy small town Scottish cop

This a little introduction to my main character, Davie Gray, that I wrote for Mystery Readers International. For anyone who wants to know more about where he came from, read on! People often ask me who I’d like to see play Davie on a TV adaptation… well I decided that Dougray Scott fits the bill nicely. If you’re reading, Mr Scott, please get in touch 😉

You can read the full journal here: Mystery Readers: Small Town Cops II

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When I started writing my first novel, Black Wood, I intended it to be a straight psychological thriller – a first person account with an unreliable narrator – a woman confronted with a face from her past, leading to events that sending her into a downward spiral with deadly consequences. But then I realised it was too intense – or the main character was, at least.

I absolutely didn’t want to have any police in the book – main reason being that I didn’t want to go into a lot of procedural detail – that would involve too much research, and for me, research leads to much procrastination… So of course it was a bit of a surprise when my cop walked onto the page. Sergeant Davie Gray (who is NOT a detective) first appears in a scene in the local police station, in my fictitious Scottish small town called Banktoun. This town is very closely based on the town I grew up in, about seventeen miles from Edinburgh, but I changed it a bit to suit my own nefarious purposes (plus, hardly anything happens there – let alone the series of grisly murders I was about to unleash.) The first scene in Banktoun station sees Davie playing wastepaper basketball with his colleague, the two of them spinning about on wheely office chairs. Clearly, they’re bored. Then a call comes in from their Inspector – who is busy on the golf course – telling them to go and investigate a disturbing event up at the old railway track.

This sets the ball rolling for what is to become a full on investigation into teenage girls being threatened by a creepy masked man, and Davie’s role as guardian to my main character, Jo, being pushed to the limits.

How did I go about researching, then – considering I didn’t want to do any police procedural research? Fact is, I didn’t – not really. I found that Davie was an easy character to write, his style of investigation was straightforward, yet thorough. He turned out to be a natural detective after all. He’s reluctant to involve CID, because he’s excited to finally have something to investigate, and he’s convinced that being local and knowing the parties involved, that he is the only man required for the job. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t the clichéd copper with a drink problem, so instead, I gave him a scooter and a Mod hair cut, put him in charge of a karate club and turned him into a bit of a heart-throb. I based his mannerisms on an amalgamation of all the local police I knew, growing up in that town – I’d been questioned by police myself, after a robbery at my dad’s shop where I worked as a teenager – and I got to know others, as I got older, while working as a barmaid in my dad’s pub. Having family businesses in a small town makes you a centre point in the community – especially the type where everyone knows everyone. As for the hair and the karate and the heart-throb parts – they came entirely from my inside my head… although I did do karate myself, so that part didn’t require any research at all. In some ways, it’s his martial arts training that makes Davie good at his job – he is able to calmly assess a situation and work out what he needs to do, rather than jumping in feet first.

So Davie Gray was ‘born’ – and that was that, I thought. He’s not the main character, it’s not his story – he’s just someone who lives there, who happens to be a policeman. Then people read the book – and they enjoyed it – they loved Davie and they wanted to know when he was coming back… Aargh! This wasn’t in the plan!

It was a natural progression after that – the three books that I had planned turned into a trilogy, linked by location and by Davie. In Willow Walk, I give him a girlfriend – he wasn’t particularly lucky in love in the first book, and the readers wanted to see him fixed up. I made his girlfriend the main character, and just as things are starting to hot up between them, I throw in a curveball – give her a dark, dark secret that threatens to ruin her life. Davie is in turmoil, and as well as that, he’s kind of become seconded to CID – he’s turning into a detective! So then I find that I have to do some research, after all. So I start with Google – which leads me to all the local police force websites, then I end up talking to ex-police officers (it’s handy that so many of them are writing crime fiction now, and that I have several of them as friends), and then I talk to a sergeant working at the Scottish Police College in Stirlingshire – and I get lots of great insights there.

So it’s only fair that I let Davie do his detective exams, so that in book three – The Damselfly (out now), he is Detective Sergeant Gray – and he’s dealing with the murder of a teenage girl… and there’s another love interest. This one looks like she’s here to stay.

Fingers crossed.

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All three books in the Banktoun trilogy are available to purchase now – click on the book covers below, or ask your favourite book shop to order one in for you (also available in libraries!). If you’ve already read them, I would love it if you could write me a little review! You can contact me via my Facebook Page and on Twitter too 🙂

If you live in or near Glasgow, I will be appearing at Aye Write on Saturday night with my fellow Slice GirlSteph Broadribb, Angela Lansbury fan, Russel McLean and Gordon Brown (the crime writer, not the other one!) – it’s going to be a fun night! A few tickets are still available here: Aye Write Tickets for 3 Slices of Crime

Purchase Here!!

 

Willow Walk News and Events

Willow Walk is out in paperback a week today, so to mark the occasion there are a few things happening, online and off… Firstly, the blog tour will run for two weeks, starting on Monday 6th June. Expect reviews, guest posts and Q&As 🙂

As well as that, I will be curating BritCrime for a week from Sunday 5th, where I will be sharing crime fiction news from lots of authors & playing a hashtag game on twitter which will involve prizes! Then in the real world, I will be at Paddington Library with Simon Toyne, Claire Seeber and Graeme Cameron on Wednesday 8th, then Victoria Library on Monday 13th with William Shaw and Rebecca Whitney. On Tuesday 14th I will be launching Willow Walk with David Mark at Waterstones Piccadilly, then on Thursday 16th I’ll be at Rochester Library with William Shaw and Rebecca Whitney (again!) The following week, I will be in Scotland – signing in Toppings and Waterstones in St Andrews, doing an event with Neil Broadfoot at Waterstones Kirkcaldy, launching the book at Waterstones West End (Edinburgh) with Doug Johnstone, and finally, on 25th, I will be in my hometown – the real Banktoun – with a coffee morning signing at 10:30am… then I might need a rest 🙂

Oh, and this month, I have an article (and a fab review) in Crime Scene Magazine.

Thanks to all who have bought the ebook so far and left fabulous reviews. If you want to read a bit more than the usual sample before you decide to buy, there is a FREE extended sampler available here.

Willow Walk is here . . .

It’s a cheers from Leo, and a cheers from me!

Happy eBook release day to me! Willow Walk is out NOW (this is both very exciting and very terrifying!) To celebrate release day, I am doing a Q&A on twitter with another four BritCrime authors who have books out today: Mark Billingham, Cal Moriarty, Steven Dunne and Chris Ewan. You can tweet us your Qs using the hashtag #CrimeFive and we will answer them from 5pm. You can also find me over at Jane Isaac’s blog today, Rebecca Bradley’s tomorrow and Anne Cater’s on Saturday.

One of the biggest things I learned from the release of Black Wood is just how important reviews are. Reviews help get a book noticed, and I read somewhere recently that 50 reviews on Amazon really helps get the book into their algorithms, so it is shared more. Obviously I want everyone to find my book – so if you read it, please review on Amazon, Goodreads and any other places that do reviews – they really help! One of my fab blogger friends, Vicki, has been campaigning on twitter recently, encouraging people to write reviews and to cherish books – both sentiments I agree with entirety – you can read about it HERE

Anyway, enough about the book – it’s out there now… and I am dying to know what you all think of it! FYI – Black Wood reached #14 in the overall kindle chart, and #1 in psychological, Scottish and several other categories. I wonder how Willow Walk will do?!

P.S. I had a fantastic time at Newcastle Noir last weekend – there are a few photos HERE

If you want to get in touch – you can comment below, or find me on TWITTER or FACEBOOK

Next stop: Crimefest (Bristol)

I’ve got a book coming out, you know . . .

One of my new photos 🙂

Another mad week in the world of a statistician/author who wishes someone would event longer days… As well as work, this is what I’ve been up to: 

  • Finishing an article for a magazine that will be out in June (exciting, and more details to follow soon!)
  • Getting some new publicity photos taken by the lovely Melanie Moss (great fun and I am really pleased with them – you can view a selection here)
  • Having a ‘home alone’ writing retreat, where I managed to write 10,000 words on Sat/Sun (very tough, especially on day two)
  • Reading… I finished these:
  • Doing a library event at Molesey Library with Louise Voss (brilliant night with a lovely audience)
  • And now I am getting prepared for my trip to Newcastle Noir, where I am doing a panel with Sarah Ward, Helen Cadbury and Amanda Jennings, chaired by crime legend Barry Forshaw, author of Brit Noir (out now)

It’s all go, as usual. Oh, and did I mention that Willow Walk is out in eBook next week?? To celebrate that, I’ve got a Goodreads Giveaway for a signed paperback, running now – click here to enter …and I will have exciting news about the launch nights for the Willow Walk paperback very soon – but as a heads up – if you are in London on 2nd June, or Edinburgh on 23rd – keep your evening free 🙂
Sign-up here if you want to read the opening chapters right now!
(Includes a free Davie Gray short story)

Some Lego. . . and some books I want you to read

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Lego bricks! WTF?

Whether it’s a whodunnit or a whydunnit or a ‘WTF is going on?’ scenario, the thing that all crime fiction has in common is some type of mysterious element. Take this box of Lego, for example. What’s that about? Hmm? We’ll come back to that in a minute…

What have I been up to? Well apart from getting on with writing book 3 (while also being stupidly busy at work), I’ve been starting to prep things for the release of Willow Walk (launch details to follow soon!), I’ve been to my first crime festival of the year – Deal Noir (it was brilliant – some pics HERE if you’re interested), I’ve been to the first occurrence of First Monday Crime – London’s brand new monthly crime gathering, AND, I’ve been reading… ok, I actually read all of these a while ago, but I haven’t had time to write these miniscule reviews…

You know that I only tell you about books that I’ve really enjoyed and want you to read… so here is the latest batch:

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

A hidden side of London, and the ghosts that walk among us. This is a terrific novel formed from elegant writing and filled with humour and many dark things. An exploration of grief turned into an intriguing story full of crime and the supernatural, with some genuinely terrifying images. And mudlarking… Who knew? I can’t stop thinking about this book. Read it.

The Missing by C.L. Taylor

A missing son, a mother with recurrent blackouts and some people acting very suspiciously… C.L. Taylor’s latest psychological thriller delves into the world of online chatrooms and explores the devastation of a family who all seem to be hiding something. Dark and twisty. Loved it.

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

Office Noir. Is that a thing? If you’ve ever worked somewhere where a new boss turns your previously idyllic working life into a daily living hell, this one’s for you. There is a very cleverly woven sub-plot about a heartbreaking case of abuse and neglect that will make you want to cry – but add the two together, and you’ve got an absolutely cracking read. Taut. Tense. Fantastic.

Tenacity J.S. by Law

Not technically a new book, but as the paperback has just launched and being that it is one of the best things I’ve read in years, I am recommending this again. Female naval officer boards the all-male environment of a submarine to investigate a suspicious death. No one wants her there, but she’s not giving up. This is completely unique and totally absorbing. The prologue alone is enough to give you a heart-attack. Claustrophobic and brilliantly written. In a word: Ace.

The Plea by Steve Cavanagh

Eddie Flynn is back! I must confess that I’m am not a huge fan of legal thrillers, but I really think that Cavanagh is doing something different with his series of novels about an ex-hustler turned lawyer. Set in New York and using the set-up of a classic locked-room mystery, this is the story of a high-profile man accused of murdering his girlfriend, merged with the very real threat that something bad is going to happen to Flynn’s estranged wife. Excellent characterisation, and enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes throughout. This is exactly what a thriller should be.

Anyway… back to the Lego. Well guess what – I’m not going to tell you what it’s about. But if you pre-order Willow Walk, you’ll find out soon.

Don’t forget  – if you fancy a preview – you can sign-up here and it will be delivered to your inbox, along with a subscriber-exclusive Davie Gray short story.

WILLOW WALK: TWO WEEKS TO GO!

Three weeks to go… That came around fast!

This is how Willow Walk was sent out to bloggers - can't wait to hear what they thought of it!

This is how Willow Walk was sent out to bloggers. I can’t wait to hear what they thought of it! (Although I am slightly terrified too…)

Lately it feels like I’ve barely had time to breathe, with so much going on – travelling, working, writing, prepping things for the release of Willow Walk. It was only when I saw that some other authors (*cough* Mark Billingham… and Steven Dunne) mentioning their 5th May release dates that I realised it is only THREE WEEKS until Willow Walk comes out in eBook.

Shiiiitttt – that came around fast!!

How do I feel?

Well, thankfully, being so busy with everything else has kept my mind of it – but when I sit down to stare out of the window and think… (I am currently writing BOOK 3 (aka The Damselfly), therefore there is always an excuse to do anything else but that. As much as I love writing, it never really gets any easier – the ideas come thick and fast, but sitting down to write can be a struggle. As any writer knows, the words in your head are perfect – why don’t they come out like that on the page?!) – I start to think about what it was like when Black Wood came out.

Gulp!

That sheer terror that everyone is going to hate it, that I’ll be battered by awful reviews… that I’ll want to crawl into a hole and hide. As it happened, not everyone hated Black Wood. In fact, a lot of people loved it – and those people are looking forward to the next one… and also, I hope, I might attract some new readers for this one too – although the books share the same setting and have some characters that overlap, they are very different and can be read as standalones. So – maybe you didn’t like Black Wood, maybe it wasn’t your thing. Doesn’t mean you won’t like the next one 🙂

It is VERY different. I know pride is a sin and all that, but I am very proud of it, and of the story – which didn’t have any origins in true-life at all – just some random ‘what if’s’ and ideas to mix things up a little bit in the broad genre that comes under the umbrella of ‘psychological’. Yes, there is a somewhat feisty female lead, yes there is a toxic relationship. But definitely not the type you might be expecting…

Oh, and my mum loved it. I don’t think I can get any higher praise Well, except for the cover quote – from one of my writing heroes, Sharon Bolton (cue massive fangirl moment) who describes it as ‘Creepy and Compelling’ and David Mark, who said it was ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung’ and all the lovely words inside (and on the back of) the cover from my early readers (authors and bloggers) who have been so supportive. I can’t thank them enough ❤

You can pre-order your ebook now, and you’ll get it on 5th May:

And remember, you can still sign-up for your free short story (and your sneak peek of Willow Walk before it comes out)

For those who still love a paperback – it will hit shops on 10th June – details of a special giveaway and plans for my launch(es) to follow soon 🙂

Oh, and I have read some brilliant books recently – I’ll share them with you very soon!

Willow Walk Available to Pre-Order

The countdown has begun!!

The eBook of WILLOW WALK comes out on 5th May, for a crazy introductory price of 98p.

That’s less than seven weeks away… SEVEN WEEKS! (But you’ll have to wait until 10th June for the paperback. Sorry!)

I can’t wait for you all to read it – and if you can’t wait, you can click HERE to get an exclusive preview of the first ten pages.

You’ll get a free short story too – it’s called Wrack Line, and it takes place between Black Wood and Willow Walk. My favourite crime blogger, Crimethrillergirl, said it had a nice twist (and she knows what she’s talking about…) so why don’t you put the kettle on, make yourself a drink and give it a read?

Maybe you can let me know what you think in the comments 🙂

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WILLOW WALK can be pre-ordered from all good bookshops (links below):

 

Willow Walk… The Cover is Here!

One of the most exciting things about being an author is getting that email from the publisher with the subject line ‘COVER!’

Luckily, my publisher allows me some input into how I imagine it might look. Then the design team works with sales and marketing to come up with something that fits the theme, as well as being aligned with designs that are currently popular in the market. The other consideration, of course, was to make sure it complemented Black Wood.

I always imagined a fairground scene on the cover, as this is one of the key settings in the book – but other than that, I was happy to wait and see what appeared – and I wasn’t disappointed! When I got the email back in early December last year (which seems like forever ago!) I had no real idea what to expect – and when I opened the file, it was the font colour that was the biggest shock of all – in a GOOD way!

In fact, I’m already thinking about how to coordinate my outfit for the launch nights…

I love it and can’t wait to see it on the shelves – what do you think?

Willow Walk will be out in May (eBook) / June (paperback) – pre-order information will be available soon – in the meantime, you can have a peek at what some of the early readers have said about it HERE

BUT…

If you can’t wait that long, there will be a free Davie Gray short story only for subscribers delivered to your inbox on 18th March which will include an exclusive preview of Willow Walk… so if you haven’t signed up already, you can do it HERE – what are you waiting for? 🙂