Yesterday afternoon, I returned from my annual trip to Harrogate for the Theakstons Crime Writing Festival, the event where 100s of crime writers, bloggers, authors, industry professionals and many, many readers converge at The Old Swan hotel (of Agatha Christie disappearance fame…) for a weekend of talks, parties, drinks, books, scandals and hangovers. As usual, the festival was excellent fun – and even the rain didn’t stop play 🙂
The Pimms-in-A-Tin tent… genius
Promoting my new book The Deaths of December at the Hodder drinks party, which included pulling crackers and saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to a lot of bemused faces (and keeping my reindeer antlers on all night afterwards)
Reading my short story ‘The Chair’ while my fellow Slice Girls A.K. Benedict and Steph Broadribb duct taped author Neil White to a chair at The Blues Bar (thanks to Zoe Sharp for the torch!)
The Slice Girls performance afterwards (as part of fringe event Noir At The Bar)
The Dark Side panel on Friday, featuring Clare Donoghue, Elly Griffiths (this year’s fab festival chair), Simon Toyne, Lesley Thomson & James Oswald – chatting about supernatural elements in crime and why we should all read it
Chocolate cake and Prosecco at the Bonnier drinks party
Hanging out with lots of really cool people and laughing very much at lots of unrepeatable and ridiculous thing (…laughing at Katerina Diamond telling me to stop laughingso much)
Danny not being dead
Not getting a burger because it started to piss down with rain and they had to close it down before everything blew away
Not spending enough time with some people (and not seeing others at all…)
My agent not being there
Forgetting to buy Farrah’s fudge
Thinking about the beautiful Helen Cadbury, who had planned to be there and will always be missed 💔
Some pics below, mostly stolen from others. Thanks to the organisers for a fantastic event, my publishers for spoiling me with a lovely meal and showering me with praise, the cleaner at The Cairn for giving me extra biscuits, and all the lovely people who kept me entertained. Roll on 2018!!
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 Giveawayfor 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 🙂
Earlier this month, I travelled to Raleigh, North Carolina for my second US based crime festival of the year – Bouchercon. This was a whirlwind of panels, parties and mingling in the bar (of course) and it was great to meet up with lots of readers and fellow authors, spending time with old friends and new.
This is the biggest crime festival I’ve been to so far in terms of reader attendance – I have never seen so many crime fiction fans in one place… and books – the books!!! I was very pleased to sell out of my stock of Black Wood at McIntyre’s Books (I just wish I’d had time to go and visit their gorgeous book store).
I was part of the ‘Stiff Upper Lip – British Investigations are Murder’ panel on Thursday afternoon, along with Aly Monroe, Deborah Griffiths, Anne Cleeland and Elly Griffiths.
We were in a large room and there was a huge (and very responsive) audience, so although daunting, it was great fun.
My second event was a very early start on Saturday morning – the 7am Debut Authors’ Breakfast (sponsored by Crooked Lane Books).
This is where approximately 60 debut authors (except for the ones who slept in…) were invited to give a one minute pitch to try and tempt a room full of avid book-reading breakfasters to buy their book. I kept mine short and sweet, and the main comments I received afterwards in the lobby were “We’re going to buy your book because we just LOVE your accent!” 🙂
After the festival was over, my mum and I took off on a road trip to celebrate our joint 100th birthdays… we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the gorgeous fall scenery, and the towns of Blowing Rock and Asheville. You can see lots of photos here:
AND, as if that wasn’t enough for one month, one my return (while battling a horrible cold), the news of my second and third books was released via The Bookseller. You can see the announcement here… and you can look at my pinterest board to get a flavour of Willow Walk here – more info to follow in due course (I am currently working on the edits) 🙂
What else? Well I’ve read a few brilliant books recently – Mark Edwards and Louise Voss’s ‘The Blissfully Dead’, Steve Mosby’s ‘I Know Who Did It’, Jennifer Hillier’s ‘Wonderland’ and Alex Marwood’s ‘The Darkest Secret’… and one that you should be reading right now: Chris Ewan’s ‘Dark Tides’… here’s the creepy poem that children sing for Hop-tu-Naa (Manx Halloween):
Hop-tu-Naa, My mother’s gone away, And she wont be back until the morning. Jinnie the Witch flew over the house, To fetch the stick to lather the mouse. Hop-tu-Naa My mother’s gone away And she wont be back until the morning Hop-tu-Naa, Traa-la-laa.
…and now I’m off out to buy a pumpkin to carve to get prepped for this weekend.
Well it’s only been 5 days since Black Wood was released into the wild, and I’m delighted that it’s already broken into the kindle top 50…
…and it’s a Number 1 Bestseller in both Scottish Crime and Vigilante Justice, and #2 in Psychological Thrillers – next to my release day twin, Louise Voss 🙂
Thank you all for buying it – and thank you to those who’ve already read it and either sent me lovely messages or left me an Amazon review (currently rated as 4.8 with 11 reviews). I am still terrified every time someone tells me they’ve started reading it, but am delighted that the reaction so far has been very positive!
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, what better than to share my thoughts on a fantastic psychological thriller of obsession and unrequited love?
Here’s the blurb:
Jo Atkins’ sixteenth year was disastrous: she lost her dad, was assaulted by a stranger, and then had her heart broken. For the last twenty-five years, she’s believed that nothing could ever be as bad again.
She was wrong.
Now, still smarting from her recent divorce, pretty, self-effacing Jo finally gathers the courage to enter the dating scene. She meets Claudio, whom she vaguely remembers from her youth, but after a few dates decides he’s creepy and politely tells him ‘thanks but no thanks’.
But Claudio has no intention of letting her go.
Instead of never seeing him again, Jo wakes up sick and terrified, handcuffed to her own bed. She is given a week to prove her love for Claudio—or he will kill her.
Claudio, it turns out, is a man with nothing left to lose…
And what did I think? Well, firstly, thank you to the author – the lovely Louise Voss – and the publisher for the review copy via Netgalley.
This is the first of Louise’s solo novels I’ve read, and I did wonder how it would differ from those written with her co-writer, Mark Edwards. I’m not sure what comparisons can be made, other than to say that both authors produce very well written, engaging stories that pull you in and keep you there. The main difference, I’d say, is that this is much more of a woman’s book, in many ways (not to say that men couldn’t learn a thing or two from it about what NOT to do!) In The Venus Trap, there is a lot of talk of past dating disasters and the main character, Jo, narrates these in the midst of her current biggest disaster – a date that has led to her being kidnapped and imprisoned in her own home by a man she vaguely remembers from school.
Her tormentor tries to torture her into loving him.
As things unravel, we start to work out what has made him act like this, and through the schoolgirl diaries of Jo, we get a beautiful, if tragic, story of her past loves, her difficult teenage years and what has shaped her into the woman she is. Voss has a knack for capturing the teenage angst with brilliant, often dark humour. There are many excellent turns of phrase and proper laugh out loud moments, in both teenage Jo and adult Jo’s accounts, and the dark side of her current situation is neatly and believably handled. This is one of those books that you’ll want to recommend to your friends, so much of it is relatable – especially for anyone who has suffered the perils of the dating scene.
‘Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet…’ says Mark Edwards, this week’s guest. Well, I dunno. I suspect my neighbour of similar offences, but as I have no proof… *sigh* Read on for the story behind The Magpies – and a competition to win a copy of the book (which is brilliant, by the way – review is here)
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In The Magpies, a young couple move into their first home together and start planning the future – imagining all of those things that form plot points in the story of most people’s lives: nesting, marriage, kids. But, unfortunately for Jamie and Kirsty, they have moved into a building where the neighbours are not as friendly as they first seem. And soon, the young couple’s nest is under threat of being torn apart…
In my twenties, I lived in a flat in a converted Victorian building in St Leonards-on-Sea, a small town stuck onto the side of Hastings, where I grew up. My then-girlfriend moved into the flat first and lived alone for a few months while I was finishing university. During this time on her own, she met our new neighbours – a couple in their early thirties who spent the next two years doing everything possible to make our lives miserable: constant complaints, insulting letters and notes, hoax parcels, cigarette butts pushed under the door… It was all quite low-key stuff, although some of the letters, in which they complained about such things as the sound of ‘the toilet brush thrashing about the pan’ and my ‘boring guffaw’ (guffaw? I don’t guffaw!) were flabbergasting.
It made me think about how much worse it could get. What if our neighbours had not just been a bit nuts, and pesky, but actually….evil? What if they had set out to ruin our lives? Could they have done it? How would we have reacted? Thus the seed of The Magpies was born. I wanted to write a horror story that had no supernatural elements – more an everyday horror that could happen to anyone.
In Britain, we are obsessed with our homes. Apart from other people’s sex lives, cats, fuel prices and the rubbishness of the country’s public transport system, it’s one of the golden topics that everyone is interested in. Property prices, what the people next door have done to their living room… It’s a middle-class conversational topic that we never get bored of.
And while we are obsessed with our – and other people’s homes – we are thrown together, crammed onto this little island, forced to live in close proximity to other people and all the annoying things they do. Most of the stuff that irritates us about our neighbours is pretty mundane: excessive noise, where they park their car, the cat that craps in our flower beds, the mental Christmas lights that make their house look like Las Vegas every December.
Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet in his flat. Not many of us have neighbours like Fred and Rose West, or even the 83-year-old gran Ethel Watkins who was recently convicted of waging psychological warfare against her neighbours after a football landed in her garden. Ethel banged on the walls all night, made up rude songs about the family and taunted them over the death of their baby.
But what if we did live next door to a psycho who is intent on ruining your nest? What would you do? In The Magpies, Jamie is forced to make a decision – should he stay and fight, or run? What do you do when all of your dreams, and the things you took for granted, are dismantled or smashed to pieces? Especially when you have no real idea what you’re up against.
The Magpies was released last week and the reaction from readers has, so far, been incredible, which is a relief as I was nervous about putting out a solo book. But people seem to connect with the story and find it exciting and scary. Now that it’s in the Amazon top 40 I’m bracing myself for all the reviews complaining about how there aren’t any real magpies in it, when they thought it was an ornithological guide, but hopefully the book will connect with people and make a few readers have sleepless nights – and not because there’s an 83-year-old woman banging on their wall and making up rude songs about them.
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Mark was born in Tunbridge Wells and grew up in Hastings on the south coast of England. He started writing after he left university, where he studied Sociology, and wrote half-a-dozen novels during the 1990s while doing two of the worst jobs in the world: working for the Child Support Agency and Connex Rail, where he spent his days being shouted at by angry absent parents and even angrier commuters. He secured an agent but was unable to get a publisher.
In 1999 he featured on a BBC documentary about aspiring writers, which led to his partnership with Louise Voss. As well as writing, he is a freelance marketer, copywriter and operates IndieIQ, a website for self-published writers.
Mark has kindly donated a signed paperback copy of The Magpies for the winner of the best scary/crazy/weird neighbour story. Tell us about your experiences in the comments below, and Mark will pick a winner.
Comp will close on 7th April.
Note – some people have issues with my commenty thing – sorry about that! You don’t need to sign in or enter your email to comment and you don’t need to connect to twitter etc, but please put a way of contacting you in the comment thread so we can send you your book if you win!
UPDATE: The winner of the book is Anna (@ruanna3) – well done for surviving that one, Anna! Thanks to all who entered – some very scary tales 🙂