My first author events

I’ve been pretty busy since my last post, despite being on ‘holiday’ from work (i.e. waiting for a new project). As well as working on book 2 (of which I have made some progress, and shifted to a more sensible deadline of the end of June), I’ve had my first two author events. Exciting!

The first one was online – where I took part in THE Book Club‘s first ever Book of the Month event. Black Wood was chosen by the readers, who first selected the genre (psychological), then the book – I was up against Mel Sherratt and Megan Abbott, and in the end it was a very close thing!

Where I won by a mere 6 votes!
Where I won by a mere 6 votes!

A Q&A was held on 30th April (after a month, where the members of the club had to download and read my book) and then the fun began. I say fun, it was 5h of hard work, as hundreds of readers left comments, feedback and questions and I had to keep up with it all, discussing the book not only with those who enjoyed it, but those who didn’t. I did three competitions – one to win a signed book, one for a tote bag and the third for a character name in my next novel. Overall, it was great fun but not for the faint hearted – but what it taught me (apart from the fact that most of these readers were used to reading far gorier books than mine) is that people who might not like my book might still like me, so I think I managed to convert some detractors who are now looking forward to the next book. From the feedback received, i think the readers really enjoyed it too.

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Then came my first real life event – a panel at Newcastle Noir over the bank holiday weekend.

This was held at the historic Lit and Phil building in Newcastle, which has the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen. This is me outside 🙂 I didn’t take any photos inside, but there are some on their website here.

Me on the programme!
Me on the programme!

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after meeting up with some of the other authors, attended an event that is always worth seeing – Mark Billingham and Martyn Waites in Conversation. I’ve seen these two before, and I love the way they use their skills as actors and comedians to talk about their lives and their books in the most hilarious of ways. That evening, it was a night out with the other authors (again!). Yes, it was a late one.

Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue
Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue

The next day, we had a quiet morning, before having Sunday lunch and on to the next event – Steve Cavanagh, Clare Donoghue and Peter Murphy. This was a fantastic panel about the legal profession and how these authors have used it in their books. Steve, in particular, was hilarious – especially as he told us he only became a lawyer as he joined the wrong queue at university!

It was great to see my books on display at the shop run by Helen from Forum Books

Then it was off to prepare for the last panel of the weekend… The Girls! Me, Eva Dolan, Susan Wilkins and Kati Hiekkapelto, chaired by Sarah Ward.

I wasn’t really nervous at all, until I sat down and looked at the audience while Jacky, the organiser, sorted out the microphones etc. Once I started though, it was easy to be led along by the excellent questions from Sarah and the responses from the other panelists. We all got on well and seemed to cover a variety of issues, keeping things entertaining by quips from Eva Dolan – who was asked at the end if she’d ever considered switching from crime to comedy! The weekend was topped off with a trip to another bar, and a late night sausage roll from Greggs… only in Newcastle!

I loved the whole event and it was great meeting up with authors, reviews and readers – only sorry I missed the other panels, I will definitely go back next year. My first two events were a great success – and I can’t wait for the next one – Crimefest in Bristol, next weekend!

Now the dust has settled…

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. I can’t even remember how many guest posts and Q&As I wrote to help promote Black Wood. I had telephone interviews with newspapers. I had almost daily discussions with my publisher about launches and publicity plans and all sorts of other things that have already become a blur. I had daily obsessive checking of my rankings on Amazon, and I had my first exposure to reviews that weren’t always favourable. On top of all this, I’ve been ridiculously busy in my day job and have had loads of other real life things to deal with too.

I haven’t stopped!

But I’ll tell you what – it’s been exciting 🙂 I had two (colour co-ordinated) book launches in Waterstones, both of which went brilliantly, despite my initial nerves. We had mini chocolates with book cover wrappers, and we had tote bags made by my brilliant husband. In Chiswick, I was interviewed by Martyn Waites in front of an audience of 72 people, and in Edinburgh I was interviewed by Craig Robertson in front of 47. I signed and sold loads of books (some were almost stolen… accidentally of course). There was a good mixture of friends, family and enthusiastic strangers, and from the audience feedback, it appears that I am a natural at public speaking… not sure about that, but a small alcoholic beverage beforehand certainly helped steady my nerves! I still can’t believe I had two bestselling authors there to support me and cheer me on. Not only that, the amazing Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books made me a cake!

Launching my book could not have gone better. Black Wood has been in the kindle top 100 for 35 days. It has been a #1 bestseller in Scottish Crime, Vigilante Justice and Psychological Thrillers and reached a peak position of #14 overall. People have been sending me photos of my book in bookshops. Fantastic reviews have been flooding in, and everyone has been so excited and supportive that I still feel like I have to pinch myself on a daily basis. Yep… I’m a published author now, and it feels wonderful.

I can’t wait to do it all again… 🙂

Click here to see all the photos from London

Click here to see all the photos from Edinburgh

One week ’til launch!

This time next week, I’ll be nervously biting my nails in preparation for the paperback launch of Black Wood at Waterstones Chiswick with best-selling crime author, Martyn Waites

Just to whet your appetite a bit more – check out this fab video with a selection of the recent reviews from the eBook (which at the time of writing, was sitting at #22 in the overall kindle chart. Wow!) Thank you to everyone who’s bought it and passed on their lovely comments and reviews. It is STILL only 59p 🙂

If you want to know more and the book and about me, you can follow the blog tour – starting on Monday 16th March…

 

I’m so excited… Can you tell? 😉

Sam Alexander is… Paul Johnston!

After weeks of torture from Arcadia Books and the #WhoIsSamAlexander campaign, the author was finally revealed yesterday on the Bloody Scotland website – cue much ‘ah, I should’ve guessed’ shouts from the crime writing readers and writers who failed to get it right 🙂

Sam Alexander is none other than CWA Dagger Award winner Paul Johnston, author of three bestselling series of crime novels, including Greek detective Mavros.

Bloody Scotland will be hosting Sam Alexander aka Paul Johnston at an exclusive event during Book Week Scotland 2014 in November. You can read the full press release here.

Sam… Paul… (Pam?!) has kindly supplied some further info on some of his cryptic answers from last week’s interview below:

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Other authors I was pleased to be identified with include: William McIlvanney, Sophie Hannah, Laura Wilson, Laura Lippman, Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, Martyn Waites, Stav Sherez (the last three kept shtum, but Stav forgot and almost blew it…), John Connolly, Denise Mina, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh, Lee Child, Colin Dexter and AL Kennedy. Not so keen on Agatha Christie (didn’t you know? She’s living in a grace and favour apartment in Buckingham Palace). Or Stephanie Meyer, though to be fair I’m hardly her target audience. Arthur Conan Doyle’s my hero and, being a spiritualist/ spirit, he did nudge my elbow a few times, but he was revolted by the sex and violence (this from an author who cut off an engineer’s thumb and sent a snake through a hole into a young lady’s bedroom…)

– It was also pleasing that there was a pretty much equal split between female and male authors. I was paranoid that my female characters weren’t convincing.

– The person who suggested Jeffrey Archer also guessed who I was. Her reward is to be killed in the sequel to Carnal Acts. [*evil laughter* – SJIH]

Although there have been cops in all three of my previous series, Quint Dalrymple, Alex Mavros and Matt Wells are basically private eyes (Wells is a crime novelist, for pity’s sake…). So tackling the police procedural was a big issue. It was why I invented Corham and the new force – so I could set up a world that isn’t quite ours. That didn’t stop a particularly bilious critic attacking me for getting dog licences wrong. I’m sorry, in my fictional world they still exist. (Neat get-out clause, non?)

Cancer – I’ve had surgery and other therapy three times, so Heck’s a wimp.

Rugby – I was a keen player when I was young and have mentioned the sport in other novels.

Albanians – having spent much of my time in Greece, I’ve met plenty of Albanian immigrants and have educated myself about their country. Of course, only very few Albanians are gangsters – just as well, as the Albanian clan-based mob is seen as more vicious than the Italian equivalent. Matt Wells, crime novelist hero of my third series (The Death List etc), wrote a series starring an Albanian detective called Zog Hadzhi. Amazingly, it wasn’t a success.

Scotland – mentioned since I’m from Edinburgh (in England, according to Glaswegians). Some people spotted the Scottish link and went through every Scottish writer they could think of. Except moi. (Apart from a couple of bright sparks, including the doomed individual mentioned above.) Until earlier this year we had a family house in the Scottish borders, so visiting Northumbria was easy.

People trafficking – it’s a major contemporary social problem, but I think I was also drawn to it because I’ve spent so much time abroad. Clue – ‘Do they miss home?’ When you’re away from your place of birth, you automatically start to think about your ties to it.

I do share some qualities with Joni and Heck, though probably more with the latter. I enjoyed writing Joni – apart from the paranoia mentioned above – because I was able to combine my experience of women I’ve known plus use my imagination. Oh, and nick stuff from female cops in other people’s novels. Actually, I didn’t do much of the latter – I wanted to go my own way. And then there’s the wish fulfilment. I wish I’d been as good a rugby player as Heck (I was a fly boy out on the wing, carefully avoiding the hard-man stuff), I wish I’d won an athletics blue (I didn’t have the nerve to go for a trial, even though I’d been a reasonable long jumper and sprinter at school); and I wish I had their integrity. For good reason, readers like cops in leading roles to have a coherent system of ethics. Those of us who only write about them can be much less ‘good’.

More people were involved in the writing process – this refers to the fact that I recently finished a PhD in creative writing at St Andrews University, and Carnal Acts was the novel that I submitted. Well, a third of it – the rest of the thesis consisted of me arguing myself in circles about the main issues in the book; the so-called critical section. So I went into great detail about the issues of pseudonym, plot, character, genre, gender, the body, race and class. Hope that isn’t too obvious in the novel… The book’s dedicated to my professor Gill Plain. She kept me right, especially on issues of gender, the body and race. I learned a huge amount from her and her colleagues and think I’m a much better writer since doing the PhD.

The main structural difference between Carnal Acts and all the other novels I’ve written is the short chapters. That didn’t happen till the second draft. I – and my agent and my prof – felt the story wasn’t moving quickly enough and brief, filmic scenes seemed to do the trick. Let’s hope a producer picks the book up… [I hope so too! – SJIH]

The lawnmower quote – it’s from the old, good Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), a song called ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ – I mentioned it as a tip of the hat to my pal Mark Billingham, who’s an even bigger fan than I am. The lyrics are barking, which is what we want…

The sequel to Carnal Acts has now been commissioned by Arcadia Books – see what a good publicity campaign can do! It’ll be out next July (if I manage to write it in time…)

Actually, I don’t mind Swedish meatballs. [Glad to hear it – SJIH]

Yes! I’m Paul Johnston. ‘No, I’m Paul Johnston and so’s my wife.’ Actually, I like having two writing personas. Hang on, why stop there? Stand by for persona number 3 – I’ve always wanted to write full blown science fiction. As Margaret Wells (got to let my daughter Maggie have a crack of the pseudonym whip – ow – since my son’s name is Alexander.) Hello? Arcadia Books? Can you hear me?

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Thank you, Paul – I hope Carnal Acts continues to fly off the shelves 🙂

Find out more about Paul at his website: www.paul-johnston.co.uk. He can also be found on twitter.