Chatting to Diane Jeffrey

Today, I’m very excited to be sharing an interview with the lovely Diane Jeffrey, whose debut psychological thriller THOSE WHO LIE is out now! I met Diane online via one of my oldest friends, and I’m thrilled to see her published. Diane lives in Lyon, France and her book is set in Oxfordshire and Devon – and let me just say, it will keep you on your toes! Before you rush off to download it, read on for a bit more info about the book and the author.

Hi Diane! Firstly, congratulations on the release of your debut novel. How does it feel to be a published author?

It feels really good. Also a bit scary. There are little bits of my soul between those electronic pages! It took me so long to get the book into a presentable state (two years) and after that it all happened so quickly (just under five months) that I don’t think it has completely sunk in yet.

Enjoy the moment! It’s the most exciting time 🙂 Can you tell me what it’s about in a couple of sentences – an elevator pitch…

Emily only realises she is responsible for her husband’s death on the day of his funeral. But then she starts to receive disturbing messages from him on Facebook, messages that will force her to question her reality and face up to her past…

A very creepy premise! What made you want to write a psychological thriller?

I wrote a novel years ago when my son was a baby. It was RomCom / ChickLit and it didn’t get published, which I now find completely understandable! I have quite wide tastes in books, but my favourite genre is crime and mystery, so I tried my hand at that.

And who are your influences, favourite authors, books…

I think Elizabeth Haynes’s Into the Darkest Corner was the book that got me hooked on psychological thrillers.

In the genre of crime and thrillers, Dennis Lehane is hard to beat, IMHO.

My favourite book ever is Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, but more recently I have been blown away by The Hundred Year Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Cloud Atlas, The Rosie Project, The Help and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

Into The Darkest Corner is a masterclass in psychological terror. I would love to see it as a film. You set your book in Oxfordshire and the setting is very authentic – did you spend time there doing research?

Ah, now you’re making me spill my secrets! I spent a lot of time virtually exploring Oxford with Google Earth. Emily’s home is based on a description of a real house that I found on an online Oxford estate agency. When I started writing the novel, I hadn’t actually visited Oxford at all (shhhush), but I went there with my pupils on a school trip and recognised Emily’s road as we drove along it in the bus! That was a big moment for me! It had to be Oxford because of the influence of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on my main character.

The past scenes are set in Devon, where I grew up, so that setting was easier!

Ha. It’s not that unusual though – Stef Penney wrote The Tenderness of Wolves without ever visiting Canada 🙂 Those past scenes are quite dark, covering elements of abuse and addiction – did you find these difficult to write?

No. Tbh, I find it harder to write romantic or raunchy sex scenes!!!

In the main abuse scene, which takes place near the beginning of the book, Emily concentrates on her favourite childhood memory, and she takes us there with her so the reader is spared the more disturbing details of the rape and I was spared from writing them! In fact, it is probably more shocking to have an ellipsis than the graphic description in that episode.

There was a scene in the middle of the book that I found difficult to write, simply because elements of it were close to my own experience, but it had nothing to do with abuse or addiction.

I know what you mean – if you can distance yourself from these things, then they can be easier to write. It’s funny how most crime writers are able to write darkness more easily than a bit of sex! Another thing that I’m intrigued about, as a fellow writer, is how you choose your character names – I always spend far too long faffing around on those. How do you pick yours?

My main character is called Emily Klein. She had to be either an ‘Emily’ or an ‘Emma’ because of the ambiguity of the diminutive ‘Em’ in the book, which spells ‘me’ backwards.

The novel was entitled Out Of The Blue to begin with, and Emily, who is an artist, is named after Yves Klein’s shade of blue. Emily is associated strongly with that colour as she struggles not to succumb to a bout of depression, and tries to come out of a dark blue time into something lighter and more hopeful.

For all the other first names, I’m letting you in on more secrets here!

I looked up popular baby names for the year of birth of that character on the Internet and tried to choose one beginning with a letter somewhere near the middle of the alphabet. At one point, I had a whole load of characters whose names began with the letter “J” until a friend of mine pointed out that it was confusing and I had to rechristen some of them! And my copy editor picked up that both Greg’s and Will’s sons were named “Luke”. That was a Star Wars thing and a huge mistake, obvs!!! One of them was renamed “Oliver” at the very last minute!!!

So, I don’t think my method is to be recommended really!

I’ve started using the names of people that I know, mixing up first names and surnames. I often name characters after people who are annoying me and then change them later. Haha! So, do you have a set writing routine, words per day etc or do you write in chunks?

I wrote Those Who Lie on a sabbatical. It took me the whole year. Then it took me another year to rewrite. There were days when I worked non-stop on it for 8-10 hours, and then weeks when I didn’t touch it, but scribbled down thoughts and ideas, usually in the middle of the night!

Well I know how hard you worked on it and it certainly paid off! There is a tendency, these days, for people to rush things, and I think that especially in the beginning, you really need to spend time honing your craft, getting feedback, and rewriting again and again! It’s hard, and I’m going to let you into a secret now – it doesn’t actually get any easier! Can you tell me what, for you, are the best and worst parts of the writing process?

The worst part is the self-doubt and feeling guilty because I always seemed to be inspired when my family needed me! The best bit, by far, was getting The Call after all the rejection emails. On the phone, my editor said so many lovely things about my novel that I was a blubbering mess.

Oh that is so lovely! Everyone remembers The Call. It’s exciting and it’s a relief that you’ve got there and it’s surreal, because then it hits you – you’re about to become a published author! So, did you have the story all planned out before you started writing, or did you wing it and fix it later?

I am a planner! I changed the plans frequently as I went along, but it was mapped out fairly thoroughly before I started typing. I even had a timeline on Excel! All very OCD!

I should probably try winging it more – when I teach and haven’t prepared my lessons, they often turn out better than the ones I have meticulously organised before going into the classroom!

I think there is a balance to be struck between the two – some people always plan, others always wing it (or plotting and ‘pantsing’ as it’s often referred to) – I tend to do a bit of both. Having a timeline mapped out is a great habit to get in to from the start – makes things a lot easier later on! Can you tell me what you’re working on now? Have you started the next one?

I have. I started it about three months ago, but then came Round One of edits for Those Who Lie, followed by Round Two, then Author Amends, then Christmas… I have written the prologue and about a third of Chapter One. BUT I have planned it in some detail…

Excellent! I look forward to hearing more about it 🙂 Assuming you find time to read, these days – what have you read recently that you would recommend to others?

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue and Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. Definitely 5 stars for both books!

Both currently on my teetering TBR pile! And finally, tells us something about you that will make people go ‘Ooooh!’

Mmmm. Most people are impressed by the fact that I have a bronze medal from the Surf Life Saving World Championships from 1989. I was 16. I’m not sure why that surprises people! Perhaps because I’ve kept the medal all this time or maybe because they work out that I’m not quite as old as I look!!!

I love that! My swimming claim-to-fame is that I have a photo of me with Olympic swimmer David Wilkie, from around 1986. I read recently that he’d been told off at his local health club for swimming too fast… 

Thanks Diane! Good luck with THOSE WHO LIE!

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Diane Jeffrey grew up in Devon. She lives in Lyon, France with her husband and their three children, mischievous Labrador and crazy kitten. THOSE WHO LIE is her debut psychological thriller. Diane is an English teacher. She hates marking and Mondays. When she’s not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays.Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. You can find Diane on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Q&A with Horror Writer Nic Parker

Nic Parker

Nic Parker (she looks so sweet…)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (How long are we supposed to keep saying that for?!) Anyway, today I’m pleased to welcome a good friend of mine, Nic Parker, to tell you about her love of horror and her excellent new book, Descent to Hell. I asked Nic a few questions, and she gave me some excellent answers – btw, in case you don’t know Nic already – she’s very funny and she swears. A lot 🙂

So I know you’re a big fan of horror. What is it about it that really attracts you? Monsters? Gore? Psychological chills? Ghosts? Or none of those – you just have an unquenchable bloodlust?

Probably the latter 😉 As long as I can think I was fascinated by all things dark and obscure. While others in my class were taking dance lessons I could only think about how to find an uncut watchable video copy of Evil Dead. Horror is the genre with the widest range – for example, Alien is sci-fi but also horror – and I adore all facets of the genre. I’ve been fed up a bit with vampires and zombies lately and I’d say I wouldn’t want to see the 645th torture porn bullshit with a story as thin as a wafer but other than that horror is the genre that just keeps on giving.

What’s your favourite horror movie? 

If I have to break it down to just one it is definitely John Carpenter’s The Thing. I was lucky enough to see the movie on the big screen for the first time ever this year and I was almost moved to tears. Thirty years after its making it remains pristine with awesome actors, perfectly applied tension and handmade effects that get every horror geek drooling.

What’s your favourite horror novel?

I’d have picked a classic like Stephen King’s It or Clive Barker’s Coldheart Canyon and I said I am fed up with zombies but I read M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts this year and the characters and story just blew me away. Carey managed to inject completely original ideas into the genre and a zombie novel that is so poetic without being pathetic and that makes you cry at the perfect ending is worth putting at number one.

Do you think horror works better in books or on screen, or does it depend on the story?

I think horror works on many levels, the obvious, the subliminal and the subconscious. There are monsters that scare you shitless when you see them on screen but two hours after seeing the movie they are cool but not scary anymore. Then there are characters that cling on to you and that keep haunting you for months or years. No matter if it’s written or on the screen, if it’s well done it will scratch at your soul.

What do you really hate about the horror genre?

As I mentioned above, serving the same shit for the umpteenth time, like endless rape and revenge shit. I love gore and violence in movies but not just for the purpose of serving base motives. I am not bothered about sequels as long as they continue the story or tell another story. My absolute pet hate is the goddamned bloody remakes that the coke snorting Hollywood producers come up with.

Who is your favourite horror character? 

My big role model: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Awesome characterisation of a villain everyone would love as a friend.

He’s my favourite too. With Patrick Bateman coming a close second 🙂 Your debut novel, Descent to Hell, focuses on an important quest – the search for a missing child. What made you want to write about this, in particular?

Well, the main character of the story is Charlie Ward, who will stop at nothing to help his niece because she is more like a daughter to him. My central idea was that he descends to Hell to help a loved one who is trapped down there. I wanted Charlie to be completely unprepared on how to try and find his niece because, honestly, how would you prepare for a trip to Hell? Sunblock 50 and holy water?

So, what did you enjoy most when writing the book?

Conjuring up places in Hell that nobody has read about before, making Hell my own place. Also, being lazy as fuck and doing zero research as you can bend the rules to your own will when you are writing about Hell and demons.

Are you working on something else at the moment?

I’ve got few projects in the pipeline, one is another supernatural story, the other a psychological thriller and I am one third into the sequel to Descent to Hell.

What advice would you give to anyone who’s trying to write a horror novel?

The first advice I’d give to everyone thinking about writing a novel would be: Fucking write it because no one else will do it for you.

Horror is so great because you have so much to choose from, ghosts or ghouls, vampires or monsters, serial killers or aliens – just make them your own creatures and don’t be afraid to add your own ideas – the more fucked up and extraordinary the better!

Writing about fictional characters and the supernatural is a great way to let your mind completely run havoc – anything is possible and the sky – or Hell – is the limit.

And finally… What did you think of Stranger Things? 🙂

There isn’t a love button big enough to express what Stranger Things means to me. I was quite late watching it and this television series captured the essence of the 80s immaculately. Apart from Winona Ryder’s terrible overacting this TV series was an event not to be missed and I wish I had written the story. Watching it meant feeling like being 14 again. The set design, the actors, the awesome soundtrack – a nostalgic blast and beyond brilliant!!

I loved it too! Thanks Nic!

Nic Parker was born in 1971. Her love for the horror genre flourished in early childhood. She enjoyed the opulence of genre productions in the eighties, chasing after forbidden video nasties with friends, and reading mainly Clive Barker and Stephen King. Since her twenties she’s had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing many household names from the horror genre in her role as a journalist for Moviestar magazine. She is an avid book collector, passionate about art and likes to try out new recipes from her many cookbooks. She lives in rural Germany with her husband and six cats. Descent to Hell is the first part in the Hell trilogy with main character Charlie Ward. You can find Nic at her blog and on twitter.

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In case you’re wondering what I’m up to… my latest novel THE DAMSELFLY is out on 2nd Feb (you can pre-order HERE) – and if you sign-up to my website, HERE (or click on the prize image), by the end of January, you can win this very cool bunch of goodies.

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AND for another chance to win a copy of the signed paperback (and a mystery gift) – check out the goodreads giveaway HERE.

THE DAMSELFLY will be launched at branches of Waterstones in Edinburgh and London in February – full details HERE.

Recent Reads: One Word Reviews

Here are the last twelve books I read. In short, they were all excellent and I highly recommend them all (I don’t blog about books I didn’t like – life is too short!) They’re a mix of police procedural, domestic noir, psychological thriller, sci-fi/horror thriller,  dystopian thriller, thriller-thriller, crime-with-a-bit-of-romance and just a hint of the paranormal… take your pick from below 🙂

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Capricious Kitty (or “when characters come to life”)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Ava Marsh to the blog to tell us a bit about the heroine of her fantastic second novel EXPOSURE. Ava’s debut UNTOUCHABLE was one of my favourite reads of last year, and her second is every bit as good. if you fancy something a bit different (brilliantly written, engaging, twisty and twisted, dark and sexy!) give them a whirl… plus, there’s a fun competition at the end of the post to win a copy of the book, where you can find out exactly what Kitty Sweet has been up to 🙂

Over to you, Ava.

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I never believed all that guff you often hear authors say about their characters taking over the story. Thought it was just a fanciful way of making the endless slog of writing a novel sound more glamorous and mysterious than it really is. More magical, as if words and ideas sprang from some ineffable external source. Characters, I firmly believed, did exactly what you told them to do because, quite simply, you made them up. You, the author, were the one in control of this whole shebang – though of course, all readers bring their own stuff into the mix, and read between the lines things you never consciously intended to be there.

My author-as-god pragmatic approach remained intact until I met Kitty, the capricious ‘heroine’ of my latest novel, Exposure. I set about getting to know her the way I did most of my characters – deciding on her background, family situation, needs, likes, whatever. I carried out the exact same exercises I always use – a few character prompts, some brainstorming, a lot of thinking and scribbling ideas down on bits of paper. Armed with a rough idea of what I wanted to say via her character, and how the plot would unfold, I set forth into my first draft.

I quickly came unstuck. Kitty, apparently, had other ideas that didn’t seem to have anything to do with my original intentions for the story. It was all very frustrating. Whereas Grace from Untouchable was someone I got to know fairly quickly, someone I innately understood pretty much from the get-go, Kitty point-blank refused to cooperate. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get a sense of what made her tick.

This, needless to say, was all very disconcerting – I blamed myself, my methods, my inability to fully realise her character in my mind. Whatever I did, she remained slightly unknowable, as if I was peering at her obliquely through a pane of glass smeared with dust and dirt – I could delineate certain aspects of her personality, but couldn’t make out the whole. I began to feel genuinely sorry for her prison therapist, Yvonne, who seemed to be having the same trouble getting to the bottom of what was really going on inside Kitty’s pretty little head.

Looking back, I was being impossibly dense, but thankfully Kitty waited for me to catch up. Eventually, after drafting out most of the book, I finally got what she was trying to tell me – that nothing about her was quite what it seemed. As soon as I grasped this, everything fell into place. I had my character, and I had a much stronger grasp of the sort of book she wanted me to write. And Kitty, finally, sprang into life, in all her capricious, enigmatic, inscrutable glory.

The whole experience taught me a lot. Never imagine you’re in complete control of your characters or your world. Never assume that writing one book will be the same as writing the next. And never give up when your story stalls – the solution may be just around the corner.

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I’m a massive fan of both of Ava’s books, and I can tell you that Exposure is currently only £1.99 on Amazon – a bargain! But if you’d prefer a paper copy, I have one signed copy to give to one lucky reader… all you have to do is share this blog post on social media, and answer the question below (in the comments, please) – Ava will choose a winner on 31st October. (UK only, sorry!)

Good luck!

QUESTION: If you could choose a secret identity that meant you could do anything you wanted and no one would ever know it was you, who or what would you choose to be?

**COMPETITION NOW CLOSED: WINNER IS ALISON BARLOW**

Why #TheDamselfly was a difficult book to write…

Hello!

Ok, I realise I haven’t written anything on here for quite a long time. July, actually… and a lot has happened since July! There’s been three major crime writing festivals – Theakstons Crime in Harrogate, Bloody Scotland in Stirling and Bouchercon in New Orleans, plus I taught a creative writing workshop in a prison, and I took some time off from the day job to finish writing the third book in my Banktoun trilogy – The Damselfly.

I’m sure I might’ve blogged last year about ‘difficult book 2’ – in hindsight, Willow Walk wasn’t tricky at all. Deciding which idea to run with was the hard part, but once that was nailed down, I was able to outline and throw down the words pretty fast before a neat edit to add lots more creepiness 🙂

So book 3 should’ve been easy, right? Well, no. It wasn’t… and it’s not for the reasons I originally thought.

I’ve managed quite well in the past, juggling day job and writing, but with this book, there was a horrendous crash of timings that meant I had to stop writing for a few months to deal with day job stuff and then when I was ready to get back to the writing, I had the release of book 2 and all the promo that entailed. This was the reason that I found writing book 3 so hard, I thought. That, and the fact that it was much more of a traditional murder mystery whodunnit, with lots of red herrings and more police procedure than I was used to writing. It wasn’t until I’d finished it (after many angsty calls to my agent and some brilliantly supportive writing friends) that I realised the REAL reason why it was so damn hard to write.

Here’s the thing: I knew I was going to write The Damselfly before I wrote anything else. You probably know that my first book, Black Wood, was sparked by a true story – a thing that almost happened to me when I was young – a thing I used as a starting point to come up with a dark tale of buried secrets. Well, The Damselfly is also based on something real – something awful and tragic that happened in my town, many years ago – something that rocked the community and destroyed lives.

It’s all very well to read about fictional crimes in fictional towns, but as always, the reality is always darker – fascinating, but when it’s real, it’s not always so easy to talk about it, or to read about it. Not when real people are involved.

I always knew I wanted to write my own version of this story, and I always knew I would use the real story as a starting point only – just like in Black Wood. But when I was writing it – when I got to the end of my version of the story – when I realised ‘whodunnit’ – I cried.

The Damselfly is not a true story, but there is an element in there – a horrible tragedy, a huge sadness – that reminds me of the real case that inspired it, and that – I think – is the reason that I found it so difficult to write. I hope I’ve handled the topic sensitively, and I hope you’ll be as drawn into the community as I was while I was writing it. Before you ask, I’m not going to share the real story. I don’t want to exploit it, as there are people in the town who will remember it; who were directly affected by it (however, if you really want to find it, it won’t be too hard.)

I might need to write something lighter next, as a palate cleanser… although whenever I try to do that, it inevitably takes a darker turn! The Damselfly is out on 2nd February 2017, available in all the usual places…

…and I absolutely LOVE the cover 🙂

If you haven’t read the others, why not?!

Only joking 😉 Each story stands on it’s own, but if you want to read them in order, you can get them here (or at all the usual places, e.g. Kobo, Waterstones, iBooks, WH Smith…)

Recent Reads

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 15.00.29Exposure – Ava Marsh

If you ever wondered what leads seemingly ‘normal’ people into the sex trade, this is the perfect book for you. A sharp, dark and edgy thriller with a cracker of a heroine and a neatly woven storyline. Ava Marsh is a talented writer with the wonderful knack of pulling the reader right in to the story, dragging them kicking and screaming right through to the explosive and completely unexpected ending. Highly recommended.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.58.36The Stepmother – Claire Seeber 

A psychological thriller in the style of a fairytale, this is something daring, different and impossible to put down. I loved and hated the expertly drawn characters in equal measure. I had butterflies throughout, awaiting the next twist, never quite knowing who was doing the dastardly deeds. This was an extremely clever read, and a refreshing change from the usual toxic marriage situation that is currently the fashion in crime thrillers. A quirkily written mystery from an excellent author. Read it now!

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.57.00Never Alone – Elizabeth Haynes

I’m a big fan of Haynes’ standalones thrillers, mainly because she writes creepy villains so, so well. This is a neatly woven story of a lonely woman, an isolated farmhouse cut off by inclement weather, and an old friend who may not be quite what he seems. Throw in some complicated family dynamics and a good dose of sex, and you’ve got a suspenseful, emotionally charged tale that will get right under your skin.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.55.25The Devil’s Work – Mark Edwards 

The office environment is a great setting for a creepy tale (nicely done earlier this year, too, by Tammy Cohen in ‘When She Was Bad’) and Edwards uses this dynamic to his advantage in his latest page-turning thriller. What’s the story with publisher Franklin Bird, who seems to know things about his employees that he shouldn’t really know? And what secrets from university are taunting Sophie Greenwood, as she returns to work and tries to take charge of a challenging project and an over-keen assistant who is seemingly doing all she can to bring her down? With his last book, ‘Follow You Home’ and now this latest offering, Edwards is tapping into his influences of King and Levin, to bring a good dose of horror into his everyday situations. Twisted and chilling, I dare you to try and put this one down.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.53.23I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid

This is a short, intense read (which I read late at night and early into the morning), a book that as soon as you finish, you really want to read again. Expertly written, stylish, oozing with suspense and in the end, very, VERY clever. If you want something a little different, that will stay with you and haunt you for a long time afterwards, read this.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 14.50.11Vanishing Point – Daniel Pembrey

An excellent short story by a writer who is fast becoming one of my favourites. This is about a rather dodgy sounding yoga retreat, and one man’s search for answers surrounding the death of his wife. Told with Pembrey’s characteristic wit and dark humour, not to mention his wonderful use of language, this is yet another tale that oozes so much authenticity that you just KNOW the author has spent time in a place like this. Brilliant.

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My latest novel WILLOW WALK has been getting rave reviews. You can buy it in all good bookshops, and the ebook is currently on offer on Amazon and Kobo. If you liked it, please leave a review 🙂

quentin

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.

What happens at Crimefest . . .

People often ask me what happens at these things – these things where 100s of crime fans (readers, bloggers, authors, editors, publicists, agents and anyone else who finds their way there) gather in a hotel for the weekend… and I always say a few words about how you can go and watch loads of talks by lots of very interesting people, talking about interesting things… many of them are funny, and it’s a very entertaining experience. but I must confess – I rarely make it to many of these interesting and entertaining talks because I am usually elsewhere.

The bar.

Because this is where the real action happens. This is where the real stories are told. From the minute I arrived in Bristol on Friday, I was bombarded with excited, happy faces of the many, many authors who generally spend their days locked in their garrets penning beautiful tomes (or perhaps in Costa, mainlining espresso, or at home on the couch, trying to get their families to shut the hell up so they can actually write something). On the train there, I found out I had been reviewed in The Sun. As this was my first ever national newspaper review, I was ridiculously excited, bought two copies at Bristol Temple Meads, and proceeded to tell everyone “I’m in THE SUN, I’m in THE SUN”. I then moved onto the terrace of the Marriott Bar, where somehow, and I don’t know how, I started talking about that controversial book Maestra. This became the day’s theme (along with the word ‘glistening’), and it is extremely interesting what interesting people will tell you when you ask them probing and interesting questions.

I’m not going to list all the people I talked to, as that would be ridiculous (mainly because I need to protect the innocent, but also because there are some I will surely forget… and there are some I may choose to forget, but that’s another story) – I talked (and laughed) for 16 hours straight. Yes. 16 hours. I got there at 2pm. You work it out. I talked about lots of authory things, like the world of publishing, and how hard it is to write things and the excitement of new book ideas, and marketing plans, and books I’d read. I talked about homemade cornish pasties, chess sets, and the new (nude?) version of Top Gun that I have cast (with a very low budget, but including travelcard for zones 1-6) using several crime authors as the leads. I talked about… things. Things that were in Maestra, mainly. I drank pink cocktails (paint stripper, raspberry & Jif), I made faces at the camera (I draw the line at sharing that photo publicly. I have a reputation to uphold, you know). I hugged (and stroked the hair of) so many people that I have sore arms. I was given a life-saving chocolate Mini Roll from the ancestor of all chocolate. I saw the actual Dr Who. I stole someone’s gin. I broke a new record in late-night revelry, along with a fellow Scot who is always there for me when it starts to get light outside and people think we’re actually up for breakfast.

Then I got up on Saturday* and had a day of quiet reflection**… and I had lunch ***, then did a panel about ‘dark pasts and complex characters’ with James Carol, Julia Crouch, Matthew Frank and Hilary Bonner, where I got a murmur of interested woos from the audience when I said my thing with secondary characters was to give them a couple of lines in one book, then give them a starring role in the next (I know, I’m a genius). I went out for dinner in a Cuban restaurant with a zillion of my best friends, where dancing girls and the world’s worst piano player threatened to ruin my zen. I spent lots of time with my favourite bloggers, one, in particular, who likes to stay up as late as I do and never shies from a probing question. I talked about childrens’ books and cashew nuts and there was horrible, horrible wine. I was trained in high-and-low-fiving (I was not a good student), I sniffed a shoe. And I got my hair plaited at 3am by one of the loveliest and prettiest (porniest?) people in the world.

On Sunday, despite very little sleep (again) I had breakfast with lovely friends, already starting to feel the comedown that was threatening to make an appearance. I had tea in the lounge, trying to squeeze out the final minutes of my time there, chatting about how I started writing ten years ago (on a train from Beijing to Moscow) and about ears and prostitutes and potato waffles. I chatted more, I said goodbyes… and then I got the train home with a beautiful blue-haired lady.

Amazingly, I still have a voice. Some lost theirs.

Then I came home, back to reality… back to work, but bursting with excitement about my writing plans for the rest of the year, and the rest of my life… and thinking it’s not long until Harrogate, where we can do it all again.

And that, my friends, is what really happens at Crimefest.

*******

Footnotes

  1. *It already was Saturday, by several hours
  2. **hangover from hell
  3. ***drank loads of Coke
  4. Photographer credits: Jo Penn, Steve Dunne, Liz Barnsley, Sophie Goodfellow, Fergus McNeill (I think…)
  5. THANK YOU to everyone who made this such a memorable weekend – old friends and new – the most supportive, friendly and funny people I have ever met
  6. THANK YOU to the fantastic organisers of Crimefest, who work ridiculously hard to make us all so happy 🙂
  7. If you want to know more about the panel events, try these:
    1. Vicky Newham – Crimefest 2016 Observations and Highlights
    2. Rebecca Bradley – Doctor Who Meets #Crimefest16
    3. Alis Hawkins – Crimefest 2016
    4. Matt Johnson – My First Ever Crimefest
    5. The twitter hashtag – #Crimefest16

This is my fab review in The Sun! As well as the full eBook still being 98p, Willow Walk is now available as a FREE extended e-sampler – click on the image to go straight there… Also – both Black Wood and Willow Walk are now available as eBooks in all worldwide English territories (US/Canada/Australia/NZ/India) – you’ll find it on your local Amazon/Kobo/etc.

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)