Girls On Top: Sex in Crime (Part 2)

‘Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers?’

…says Mark Edwards (The Devil’s Work) over at CrimeThrillerGirl (aka Steph Broadribb)’s blog, where we are talking about SEX in crime fiction (you should read PART 1 first!) Part 2 continues below…

[STEPH] Many of the female crime thriller writers we spoke to agreed with Mark and enjoy putting sex into their books. Angela Clarke has a sex scene in a disabled toilet in her thriller Follow Me, and Elizabeth Haynes has her detective almost die in a queening box in Under a Silent Moon.

Alexandra Sokoloff said, ‘Most of my books have the common theme of an equal male and female protagonist (or in my Huntress series, an equal and combative male protagonist and female villain) joining forces to solve some horrific crime. And erotic tension is just part of the mix, and when those two people finally come together (yes, I meant that) it has to be explosive and character revealing.’

Marnie Riches writes a lot of sex scenes in her ‘The Girl Who…’ series, she said of women writing sex scenes, ‘Maybe we have the vocabulary for desire more naturally and are less embarrassed.’

[SUSI] I think Marnie makes a good point here. I don’t think there are many female writers out there who didn’t read some of their mum’s books with the naughty bits in, as teens – you know, stuff like Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins – girls, I think, are more inclined to explore these images of desire, and thus as adults are possibly more inclined to write about them? Mark Edwards aside (who makes a good job of it, so to speak), I think females might have the upper-hand when it comes to making sex scenes sexy and not cringey! My biggest problem with sex scenes is when people use what I consider to be THE WRONG WORDS, especially too many of the wrong words… Doing research for this article I searched several novels for certain words and found that ‘penis’ came out as a very over-used word (especially by male authors) – please… come on. It’s cock, surely?

[STEPH] I totally get that, there’s nothing more likely to put you off your stroke than a badly used sex word. ‘Her sex’ is particularly cringe-worthy to me, as are ‘lady-parts’; she’s a woman, therefore all of her is a lady part – be specific! My only exception to this is that I think it’s important the choice of word fits the character – so if the character is very repressed maybe they would call it ‘her sex’ (shudders) but if they’re a tough talking, kick-ass woman that’d be the totally wrong fit.

While we were writing this the only area of disagreement Susi and me had was over ‘panties’. I have the word panties in DEEP DOWN DEAD at least once – during flashback to when my lead character was working as a stripper. It works for the scene and it works in the American voice, but I know the panties set Susi’s teeth on edge!

Even if you decide you’re going to include it, writing good sex is a tricky business. Too little information and its just confusing, too much and it reads like a sex manual – neither are much fun, and neither are sexy – so how to get the perfect balance? If the nominees in the annual Bad Sex Award are anything to go by, the more metaphors and similes used when describing sex increase your risk tenfold. Critically acclaimed writers can fall foul of this too. And, if you’ve not already had the chance, I recommend listening to the hilarious Bad Sex Award special podcast by the brilliant Two Crime Writers and a Microphone.  Listening to Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste reading out each nominated scene makes the pitfalls of writing a sex scene abundantly clear!

[SUSI] Exactly. Just as in the art of seduction itself, writing a good sex scene involves giving it just the right amount, and no more. The words used are important, and you need to make sure it’s just the right length (ahem!) – any more and you’re venturing into erotica territory, and that’s not what we’re talking about here (btw, for brilliantly written erotica/crime – try something by Ava Marsh… for grubby but nonetheless entertaining erotica/crime… try L.S Hilton‘s Maestra) As author Mel SherrattWatching over You – says, go for the ‘hot and horny, but quick scenes.’ This is spot on. Don’t get too graphic, but don’t be too scared to give us a decent flavour. My top tip for writing a sex scene – if it turns you on when you are writing it and reading it back, it will most likely have the same effect on the reader.

[STEPH] That’s a great tip! Another thing I’d say is that although books (and films) like Bond have always included a lot of sex scenes, and they’re always told from the male point of view. Personally I always give a little cheer when I’m reading a book and the female character takes the POV for a sex scene. Maybe that’s one of the subconscious reasons I wanted to write a sex scene from Lori Anderson’s point of view. Maybe I just like to see girls on top!

[SUSI] I agree. I definitely think women writing it from the female POV works best. You know, all the way through this, all I’ve been able to think about is the reverse cowgirl squat, which would be quite apt for Lori, don’t you think?

[STEPH] Oh hell yeah!!

So, we’ve had our say, what do you think – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @sjiholliday using #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

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Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now – here’s the blurb: Lori Anderson is as tough as they come keeping her career as a Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills rack up, she has no choice but to take a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things go wrong. The fugitive she’s chasing is JT, Lori former mentor – the man who taught her all she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com.

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This article was first Published on Barry Forshaw’s blog: CRIMETIME

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You can buy my books here: SJI Holliday’s Amazon Page (and in all good book shops)

Join my mailing list HERE to be entered into competitions and receive my occasional newsletter.

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!

Chatting to Pete Sortwell

SJIH: Hi Pete, thanks for popping in. The kettle’s on. Help yourself to biscuits! Your novel ‘So Low So High’ has just been re-released… how does that feel?

PS: It’s a mixture of feelings really. I’m hopeful that it might find a lot more readers this time, while I’m also a bit nervous that maybe the only people who bought it last time where the only ones who wanted it anyway.

I can say that I’m really pleased to have this back in my stable and under my control. That is the over riding sense I have, which I suppose we’d have to mark down as relief.

I can promote this as I please and not have to worry about running it past anyone or having to put up all the budget myself while still sharing the profits.

SJIH: Can you tell us about it in a couple of sentences? No spoilers please…

PS: So Low So High is a thriller, but not like a normal whodunit, it’s more a Willhelive. It’s written as that but also to put the reader into the eyes of someone with a chronic addiction.

SJIH: You’ve based it around the world of an addict. How ‘real’ is your fictional portrayal? I imagine you had to do a lot of research?

PS: A lot of the situations surrounding the story are true, although not to one person. I’ve worked with people either in or in recovery from addiction for almost nine years now, also being in recovery myself, some of the feelings and thoughts are that of how I felt when I was going through it. So in that sense very real.

SJIH: You’re better known for writing comedy and parodies. What made you want to write this one? What was your favourite thing about writing it? Was it the characters… the setting… the subject matter?

PS: I actually wrote this one first. It took me just under two years from start to finish. The comedy books were a bit of an aside which came about because I’d just lost a close friend who a character in the follow up is based on, and also because I’d just signed SLSH with a publisher and felt that I could now self publish without feeling like a failure. An outlook I no longer hold, and probably never should have, however, that was how I thought in 2012.

The comedy books have just done better than this one, which is one of the things that’s exciting about releasing this again as I can use all the tools I learnt with my other books to get this one out there.

My favourite thing about writing this book was to get to say something of things in the fictional world that I never could at the time (in the small parts that are based on real events).

I think the subject matter was something that motivated me to write this, I just wanted to put out there what it was like to live in that hopeless world of not being able to choose what it was you did that day. I know a lot of people say addiction is a choice. It’s a lot more complex than that, I have never met anyone in Simon’s position who left school thinking ‘I’m going to be injecting in my neck in ten years time’.

SJIH: Was it hard to be inside Simon’s head the whole time?

PS: I think it was actually quite therapeutic to write. It was nice to be able to look at things from the other side and add in the dry humour. I know it’s a tough subject to wonder what there is to laugh about but there is humour to be found in all situations, it’s just a case of how your portray it.

SJIH: So what’s next? What are working on now?

PS: I’m slowly working away on the follow up, Die Happy, Die Smiling. It’s something that is almost four years in the making. I’m committed to finishing it and releasing it next year though and am looking forward to really editing it into a good book.

SJIH: Who (or what) inspired you to start writing?

PS: It was being at school and seeing a book my father wrote in the school library. I thought it was so cool that he had his name on a book. For me there’s still something almost magical about books. Kept well they’ll last a lot longer than us and in a way they are a way of making us, if not immortal, then certainly a lot more memorable than the three score and ten we get if we’re lucky.

SJIH: What’s the most exciting thing about being an author? Are there any downsides? Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out?

PS: I think the most exciting things about being an author are sometimes overlooked (by me) by the amount of rejected or feelings of not being able to pull off the next book, but all in all there are exciting things, one of best that spring to my mind is hearing that my first short story was going to be published. More recently, hearing that an editor at one of the big five liked what she’d read and wanted to meet with me to discuss working together. Finally, and I’m not sure if I’d but this under the ‘exciting’ banner but meeting a lot of crime writers either at festivals or book launches is pretty.

SJIH: What have you enjoyed reading recently? Do you have any favourite authors we might not know about? You listen to a lot of audiobooks, don’t you?

PS: My book of the year is Steve Cavanagh’s The Defence. I met him last year and saw he had an audiobook out so I got it and listened, he has a fantastic way of story telling and the style is just right for me to listen to as I drive to work in the mornings. I do like Audio, mainly because my reading speed isn’t as quick as I’ like it to be, but also because I can listen to the books when I normally wouldn’t be able to read, I.e. driving. I’ve also enjoyed Luca Veste’s books which where recently released on audio and I have yours all lined up ready to go, too.

SJIH: Thanks – hope you like mine! And finally, the question that I ask everyone… What does no one ever ask you that you wish that they would ask you? 

PS: Q: How would you like your payment, gold or platinum? A: Both please.

SJIH: Er… the cheque’s in the post? Thanks, Pete. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Best of luck with ‘So Low So High’  – I predict exciting times ahead…

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You can find out more about Pete and his books on his Amazon Page, on his Website and on Twitter and Facebook.Pete and Lilly

 

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!