March 5

Aye Write – Know The Authors: Antti Tuomainen

Aye Write is upon us.  Events are already underway as the last couple of weekends have hosted the Wee Write festival – that’s the family events aimed at younger readers. This week sees the main festival kicking into gear and the guests start appearing thick and fast.

Tuomainen
Picture copyright Toni Härkönen

Once again I am delighted to team up with the lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce another of the authors who will be appearing at Aye Write in 2017.

Liz sets the questions to Antti Tuomainen, author of The Mine. Antti joins us fresh from a series of appearances across the UK as part of the Orenda Books Roadshow. On Saturday 11th March he will make the long journey back up North for an appearance in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library.

Over to Liz and Antti:

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

AT: THE MINE is a crime story and a story of a father and a son. I hope it is a suspenseful and an entertaining read that also gives you something to think about.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

AT: I grew up in Helsinki. I’ve lived here all my life. Wonderful family. My Mom and Dad were very important in my becoming a writer. They read a lot and there were always books in the house.

the-mineAcademic or creative at school?

AT: I think extracurricular is the word. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about school.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

AT: I was 18 or 19 when I just knew – instinctively and deep down – I would be a writer. I never wanted to be anything else since then.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

AT: See above. Also: I liked Finnish at school. We got to write essays and stories. I made up everything. I realized there is magic to this.

Who are your real life heroes?

AT: My mother, my father and my incredibly wonderful wife Anu.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

AT: First DIY, then phone a friend.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

AT: I like mornings. I like to go to bed early, get up early. When I was young, it was the other way around.

A book that had you in tears.

AT: Not tears, exactly, but I immensely liked John Williams’ Stoner. A beautiful novel.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

AT: Any book by Elmore Leonard.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

AT: I try my best to not give anyone any advice. But, if anyone asks, I am always willing to share my experience on a given topic if I have any.

 

Antti will be appearing at Aye Write on Saturday 11th March at 6:30pm.  He will be accompanied by Orenda stablemate Kati Hiekkapelto and Swedish crime-writing due Roslund & Hellstrom.  Tickets can be purchased here

 

Antti is all over social media – you can find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnttiTuomainenOfficial

On Twitter: www.twitter.com/antti_tuomainen

And Instagram: www.instagram.com/antti_tuomainen

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February 24

Aye Write Getting to Know the Authors: Abir Mukherjee

The countdown to Aye Write 2017 is well and truly underway so I am teaming up with the lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to introduce a few of the authors who will be entertaining us this year.

First up with me is Abir Mukherjee.

Abir grew up in Hamilton and Bothwell, while I am from Motherwell. Local geographers will know that we were separated by a big park, Abir on the posh “South” side while I was on the less glam “North” side. When he appears at Aye Write in March, Abir and I will be separated by a big road. He will be in Glasgow’s gorgeous Mitchell Library, I will be in the building across the street (at my desk for the day job) frantically getting my work finished so I can come along to hear him speak.

Here is Abir chatting with Liz…

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it.

Well there’s a dead Scotsman on page one and it sort of carries on from there.

Seriously though, it’s called A RISING MAN and it’s set in Calcutta in 1919 and tells the story of Captain Sam Wyndham, an ex-Scotland Yard detective, who’s come to India after surviving the Great War. Within a fortnight of arriving in the city, he’s faced with his first case – a high ranking British official found with his throat slit and note stuffed in his mouth warning the British to quit India. In addition to solving this apparent assassination, Wyndham and his officers have to investigate the death of a railway guard, murdered during an attack on a train where nothing was stolen.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up just down the road from here in Hamilton and Bothwell. Deepest, darkest, Lanarkshire, they call it. Family life was…odd but fun. At the time, I think we were the only Asian family in the village and so we were always considered somewhat exotic – at least by Uddingston standards. Still, I can’t think of a better place to grow up than the West of Scotland.

I must have done something pretty bad in a previous life though, as nowadays I live in London.

Academic or creative at school?

I’m Asian. What do you think?

First job you *really* wanted to do?

Mum tried to brainwash me into becoming a doctor, but that never really appealed to me (and I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me).  The sad truth is that at the age of twelve or thirteen, I watched a film called The Secret of My Success. It starred Michael J Fox as a 23 year-old financial whizz kid. Of course he gets the girl, the fancy job and all the trimmings. From that day on I wanted a career in finance. It was only when I was in my twenties and working in mergers and acquisitions that I realized that like ain’t like the movies.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I can’t recall the exact moment. I’ve always had a hankering to write for as long as I can remember. What I can tell you is the moment when I decided not to write (at least not for a long while). It was in my sixth form English class (I was the only student in our school who did sixth year studies English that year) and I got on really well with my English teacher. I still remember him telling me not to do a degree in English at university, as I’d only end up teaching snotty kids in a school somewhere. So I did economics instead and wasted twenty years of my life.

Who are your real life heroes?

Difficult one. I’ve not really thought about it. Probably, Gandhi, Roger Federer and Pat and Greg Kane from the band, Hue & Cry.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

Recently? Having to explain the difference between ‘haggis’ and ‘Huggies’ to a shop assistant in Waitrose, Canary Wharf, making it clear that I didn’t want to eat nappies.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Definitely DIY expert. I have two power drills and so much other DIY equipment gathering dust. What normally happens is that I’ll attempt to fix something, like a leaking sink, and then be forced to call a plumber when the kitchen explodes.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Nights out in a hot climate.

A book that had you in tears.

I can’t actually think of one. Alas I come from a generation of emotionally stunted Glaswegian men who can’t cry about anything other than the football.

In terms of a book that had the greatest emotional impact on me, I’d say The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It tells the story of a Bengali family who emigrate to the United States. There were so many parallels between that family’s experiences and my own that it just floored me. It was the first book I read that encapsulated the experiences of my life.

How To Be Really InterestingA book that made you laugh out loud.

I’m tempted to say, ‘How to be Really Interesting’ by Steve Davis. I was given it as a present when I was fourteen, but it’s still funny.

In terms of proper books, it would have to be Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Don’t listen to me. If I knew what I was doing, I’d be sitting on a beach right now, sipping Margaritas.

 

You can catch Abir at Aye Write on and tickets are available through this link:

http://www.ayewrite.com/Pages/whats-on.aspx#/event/ec9493e8-812d-4d9d-a5fa-a70100f60989#top

 

A RISING MAN

A Rising Ma

Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.

A senior official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues – arrogant Inspector Digby and British-educated, but Indian-born Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID – embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.

The start of an atmospheric and enticing new historical crime series.

You can order A Rising Man here

 

 

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January 27

Stav Sherez – To Plot or Not to Plot?

The IntrusionsI’m always slightly amused when a novel of mine is described as “effortlessly plotted”. I’m very happy readers think so but the truth is I never plot and the process is anything but effortless.

   It’s one of those perennial questions students of creative writing always ask – should I plot out the novel beforehand or just go where it takes me? And all the writers I know are split between those who map out flowcharts and utilise Scrivener and other programs and those, like me, who just hope it will all make sense in the end.

   Of course, there is no right answer. Every writer takes a very different journey into the heart of their novels but we all arrive at the same place – a finished book with a coherent plot.

   It’s strange, because in every other part of my life I’m a planner. If I’m going on holiday, I’ll make notes of all the places I want to visit, work out the best itinerary – I make lists of books to read, people to call, CDs to listen to.

   But not with fiction. I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried. But after a few weeks of trying to hammer out a plot I always give up in frustration. It used to really bother me. It doesn’t any more. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is how my brain works and for all its disadvantages, this is the only way I know to write books.

   But what does it mean not to plot?

   I always start a novel knowing only the opening scene. With The Intrusions, all I knew before I started writing was that it would be primarily set in a backpacker’s hostel in Bayswater and that residents would go missing. That was all. I normally have a location in mind and the inciting incident that sets the plot rolling but I have no idea where the plot is going or who the killer is. It normally takes me about a year and a half of working on the book before I know who did it. Personally, I think (and, obviously, I’m biased) that this is an advantage – that if I don’t know who the killer is, it’s far less likely that I’ll inadvertently telegraph it to the readers. That’s one of the advantages of not plotting – the flexibility to twist and turn with the rhythm of the story rather than sticking to the marked path.Stav Sherez

   Writing, for me, is a way to work out what I think about a given subject. I often don’t really know what I think about anything until I begin to write about it. With The Intrusions, I wanted to write a classic serial killer thriller. So I began with the hostel and the disappearance of one of its residents. But as I kept writing, and then drafting and redrafting, I realised that the serial killer aspect was the part I was least interested in – after all, it’s been done so many times before by better writers than me. But something was happening within the draft – technology and all its ramifications was creeping deeper into each chapter. About a year into the book I realised that what interested me most was technology and how criminals use it as well as how policing has adapted to this new investigative tool. Themes of the intrusiveness of modern wired life kept creeping in too. If I had plotted the novel out beforehand, I would never have found this different tributary and, I believe, the book would have been much weaker for it.

   But of course, there are disadvantages to this approach. The most important is that it takes me much longer to write a book this way. I have to go past many dead ends before I find the right path. There’s also the fear that the book will collapse. Every book I’ve written, there’s been a stage where I was convinced the book wasn’t working, would never work, and that I should ditch it and begin something new. A year into The Intrusions I very nearly chucked it. There were so many clichés, so little surprise; I was embarrassed by how bad it was. But I’m quite stubborn about stuff like this and didn’t want that year to have gone to waste so I kept at it, through another six drafts or so, and slowly, draft by draft, I could feel the plot beginning to interlock. There’s nothing better than that feeling when all the disparate ends suddenly click and you realise your unconscious has been guiding you all along and everything that didn’t make sense is now crystal clear.

 

THE INTRUSIONS by Stav Sherez is published on 2nd February

You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Intrusions-Carrigan-Miller-Stav-Sherez-ebook/dp/B01I0H2T0S/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1485469833&sr=1-1

 

Intrusions-blog-tour

 

 

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January 22

TM Logan – Five Writing Commandments To Live By

Lies

Today I am delighted to be joined by TM Logan, author of LIES, who is sharing

Five writing commandments to live by

I’m going to start with a confession: I’m not sure I could name all Ten Commandments even if you held a gun to my head. I was a church choirboy for five years (including a stint as head boy) so you might assume I would have absorbed the details. And I would probably get six or seven. But ten? No chance. So after writing LIES I’ve created my very own five commandments for debut authors…

1. Thou shalt write every day.

When I’m into a first draft I will write every day, without fail, until it’s done. I believe it’s really important to maintain that momentum, to keep on top of the story and stay in touch with your characters. For me that means writing on buses, trains, planes, in hotel rooms, in car parks, in bed – wherever I can use the time. I’ll write anywhere. The flipside of this is that you should also read every day, challenging yourself with a variety of genres rather than always reading the same type of book.

2. Thou shalt observe, and listen, and pay attention to way people look and speak and move.

Honing your observation skills can help bring your characters to life. How does a particular individual walk into a room? Do they gesture when they talk? What does their expression tell you? Here’s a game you can play: the next time you are in a boring meeting, or sitting on the bus, or standing in a queue at the supermarket, pick someone out and think about how you’d describe them in a single sentence. If you had to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, how would you do it in 20 words or less?

3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s plot.

Write the story that you want to write. Don’t follow the trend, don’t try to copy what was popular last week or last month. Don’t mimic the book that landed a big advance or a film deal. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from other books, other writers – quite the opposite. But you should find a story that you want to tell, and do your best to tell it. Aim to write a book that you would like to read myself. If your heart’s not in it, it will quickly become obvious to the reader.

4. Thou shalt avoid distractions.

My desk at home faces the wall so there’s nothing to distract me, no window, no view, no music. Because basically there are a lot of things that are easier to do than writing: never has doing the washing up been more attractive than when you’re supposed to be writing. But you have to resist the siren call of chores and social media (or at least organise your time better so you can do both). There’s always going to be something easier to do than sitting in that chair and putting your hands on the keyboard. But you have to realise when you’re making excuses to yourself – and just get on with it.

5. Thou shalt seek out feedback

This is a tough one. Seeking out constructive feedback can be difficult step to take. For a long time I didn’t show my work to anyone (even my wife) but at some point you are going to have to bite the bullet and ask for opinions on your writing. But if you choose the right people, feedback can improve your work immensely. Writing groups can be good for this, as can organised courses that bring like-minded writers together.

Good luck!

@TMLoganAuthor

 

LIES is currently available in digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lies-gripping-psychological-thriller-breath-ebook/dp/B01M0R1Y1J/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1485118716&sr=1-1&keywords=tm+logan

You can read my review of LIES by clicking here.

 

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December 12

Guest Post – Marnie Riches (The Girl Who Had No Fear and Born Bad)

the-girl-who-had-no-fearI am delighted to welcome Marnie Riches back to Grab This Book.

The 4th George McKenzie novel, The Girl Who had no Fear, released a couple of weeks ago and plunges George into a whole new level of peril. But not content with putting our favourite criminologist through the emotional ringer, Marnie has also been working on a new series which will kick off next year when Born Bad releases.

I caught up with Marnie to chat about her busy year and what we can hope to see in 2017…

 

It’s been a busy 2016 for me. In addition to writing The Girl Who Had No Fear, I have also penned the first book in my brand new Manchester series, entitled Born Bad. I’m extremely excited about it. Not only am I playing god over a killer cast of new characters, but this is my first foray into print as well as e-book. As digital-first acquisitions by Avon’s imprint, Maze, the George McKenzie series (aka The Girl Who series) is not yet in print, though it has been both award-winning and best-selling. I do think we will see George in print at some point, but not yet, which makes the release of Born Bad on 9th March 2017 a real milestone for my career as a crime writer. I’m hoping it’s going to be, like, EVERYWHERE (as my teenaged daughter would say).

Born Bad is set in my home town – Manchester: the most violent city in the UK. Though I’ve lived in London, Cambridge, Huddersfield and Utrecht, I’ve spent most of my life in Manchester – my formative years until the age of 18, and also the last nine years. I have great civic pride in this melting pot of a city, with its world class music and culture. Anyone born in Manchester has a little bit of grit running through their bloodstream, and of course, a little webbing between the old fingers! It being the most violent city in the UK, of course, means that Manchester is constantly abuzz with criminal activity. What better place therefore to set a series all about the (fictitious) villains that run Manchester’s criminal underworld – a story about north vs south and men vs women? I can reveal that the series has some incredible, surprising anti-heroes, feisty heroines and an entertaining army of quirky, mentally unstable muscle. I’m told readers of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers will love it but I think anyone who likes a good yarn about bad guys in a gritty setting will love it too.

I wasn’t in any way ready to take a break from the George McKenzie series, and in fact, I’m contracted to write a fifth book, which will be released in early 2018. While readers still clamour to read George stories, I’m clamouring the write them. There’s always more for George to say and do, and The Girl Who Had No Fear opens the door to a whole new dynamic in George’s extended family. It was my publisher that suggested I might like to write something set in Manchester. I jumped at the chance to have two series running concurrently. What fun to write! And long may the two series run…

Juggling the editing of one novel in a series at the same time as writing another novel in another series was a bit of a challenge logistically, but I got there in the end, thanks to some good time management and long hours. Fortunately, the manuscripts I deliver are, in the main, in pretty clean shape already (Solid graft. Nothing more), so the work wasn’t too extensive. It does require some mental agility to leap from one world and set of characters to another and then back again, however! It’s my pleasure to be kept on my toes in this way.

Thinking about it, writing about Manchester and Amsterdam makes perfect sense. Both are rainy, cold cities, roughly on a par geographically. The Dutch are very forthright. Mancunians are very forthright. Both cities have a big club and drug scene. I guess many readers of the George series will find something to love in the new Manchester series, if only it’s the bad weather and trafficking theme.

 

The Girl Who Had No Fear is available on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Fear-George-McKenzie-Book-ebook/dp/B01GNSR5M8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1481494069&sr=1-1&keywords=the+girl+who+had+no+fear

You can read my review here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=2223

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December 7

Leigh Russell – THE APPEAL OF THE SERIAL KILLER

deadly-alibi-cover-picture

Today I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to Grab This Book.

This is publication week for Leigh’s new DI Geraldine Steel novel: Deadly Alibi. As we enter the last 24 hours before Deadly Alibi finds its way into the hands of the readers Leigh has shared her thoughts on my favourite question: “Why Do We Love A Serial Killer Story?” 

The Appeal of the Serial Killer

After my debut novel featuring a serial killer, I introduced a different kind of murderer in my second novel, Road Closed. ‘I can’t have a serial killer in every book,’ I explained to my agent. ‘Oh yes, you can,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Readers love serial killers.’ Of course that wasn’t meant to be taken literally, although it’s an interest that crosses over from fiction into real life, with many women wanting to marry killers on death row in America.

So how can we explain this fascination we have with serial killers?

I have to confess that serial killers are good news for crime writers. They offer the perfect means to ramp up tension. Anyone who has seen the film Jaws will remember the first shark attack, all the more shocking because it was unexpected. After that first attack, the director can intensify the suspense any time he chooses. All he needs to do is put a woman in the water on her own, or have a child splashing happily in the sea, and the audience are on the edge of their seats, wondering whether this will be the next victim of a shark attack.

Crime writers have been exploiting this technique for a long time. First the writer establishes that a serial killer is prowling the streets. Then a potential victim – stereotypically a young woman – is placed out alone on the street after dark, and the reader is immediately afraid that another murder is about to take place. This expectation can be fulfilled or confounded. The reader never knows when the killer will strike again.

leigh-russell-photo           As well as the tension introduced by a serial killer, there is psychological interest in the character. What is it that causes someone to kill multiple victims? Perhaps if we are honest we can all understand how someone could be driven to kill once. Take the case of a wife who has been persistently abused only to see her husband start to abuse their child. While no one would condone or excuse killing an abuser, we could understand how a victim might lose control and lash out. But repeated deliberate killing is a different matter, and one that is intriguing.

Of course, there are many patterns of behaviour with which I can’t naturally identify. Recently I was invited to appear at a literary festival where I chatted to another speaker who has written a book based on his experience climbing Everest. That is something I could no more imagine doing than I could envisage committing a murder. So it becomes an intriguing challenge to explore what might motivate a serial killer.

 

Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell is published by No Exit Press and is available to buy as an ebook: bit.ly/deadlyalibiebook

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November 17

Book Chains – SJI Holliday (Fifth Link)

the-damselflyHaving placed the future of my Book Chains feature entirely into the hands of my guests, I am very grateful to Daniel Pembrey for nominating Susi Holliday to join me and keep my chain of Q&A’s going.

Susi, writing as SJI Holliday, is the author of the Banktoun series which began with Black Wood and Willow Walk and will continue in the forthcoming The Damselfly – which releases on 2nd February 2017.  Each book can be ordered by clicking on the title.  I will have a LOT more to say about The Damselfly in the near future, however, trust me when I say you *need* to read this book!

By sheer chance (before I discovered that Daniel had nominated her) Susi and I had been discussing a Q&A around ghost stories so there is a bit of a supernatural theme to my questions.

 

G – Will I start with the easy one… what, for you, makes a good horror story?

SH – It’s not any one specific thing. It’s something that scares you, but not just on the surface. Not just someone jumping out of your wardrobe in the dark and shouting BOO! in your face (although that works, obviously – did I give you a fright?) It’s something that stays with you afterwards. Something you can’t get out of your mind. Something that slithers under your skin and stays there, hiding in your subconscious, ready to reappear whenever you let your guard down.

G – What do you enjoy? Is it a ghost story or perhaps a haunted house?  Monsters? Psychopaths?

SH – Enjoy is an interesting word, isn’t it? Can you really enjoy horror? I don’t really know how to describe it. I do enjoy being scared, but only when I know that ultimately, I am safe. If the horror is behind a screen, or in the pages of a book, then it’s ok to enjoy it, I think. The Ring, though … when she climbs out of the TV? That’s too much. That’s breaking the fourth wall. Or those people who get paid to jump out at you on horror attractions. Sickos. I love ghost stories. Haunted houses. Psychopaths too. Monsters, not so much. Many a good psychological horror has been ruined by the appearance of a less than convincing monster.

G – Which stories have stood out for you? My personal favourites are Phantoms (Dean Koontz), The Magic Cottage (James Herbert) and always Stephen King’s IT.

SH – Excellent choices there, for multiple reasons. IT is a perfect example of my monster-hate. I loved that book (and the film) until the big reveal. Keep it in the shadows! That clown was good though. Creepy as hell. I took a photo of a storm drain when I was in the US last year. I half expected to see Pennywise’s face poking out when I downloaded it from my camera… They all float… The Woman in Black is a standout horror for me. It’s quite a short book, but written with such an air of menace that you can’t help but feel tense throughout. The Exorcist, too. They made a bit of a cheese-fest out of the film, but the book was genuinely terrifying. Religion is a great influence in horror. All that symbolism. Myths and legends. I also love Misery. Isolation. A deranged captor. A modern classic.

G – Could you recommend any stories/authors which you think more people should be reading?

SH – I don’t read enough contemporary horror. I get scared more easily these days. Alison Littlewood is brilliant. As is Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box, in particular). And Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is a terrific dystopian horror. That book should’ve had a lot more fanfare. Everyone should read it. EVERYONE.

Willow WalkG – I can remember scenes in both Black Wood and Willow Walk which were chilling and hinted the potential of a supernatural element (particularly in Black Wood). Could we see a ghostly tale from you one day?

SH – Absolutely! I scared myself quite a bit when writing certain parts of Black Wood (more about that later!) I have several horror ideas up my sleeve. Ghost stories, creepy critters… and more! I’ll get to them eventually.

G – Can you remember any of the early stories you read that made you think that you wanted to read more creepy tales? My local library had a collection of short stories: The Armada Book of Ghost Stories which I tried (and freaked my young self out) but I ordered in more books in the series.

SH – I remember that book! I read a lot of scary stuff when I was young – my mum had loads of really trashy 70s/80s horror. The ones with the scary covers! I don’t think I could read one of those now though. I seem to scare far too easily these days!

G – What scares you?

SH – I was going to go deep here, and say things like ‘something bad happening to someone I love’ and ‘the state of the world’ but I’m going to go more surface-level and say rollercoasters. I have no idea why anyone would want to put themselves through that. For fun! Madness. Pure madness. I’m also scared of seeing someone standing at the end of my bed in the middle of the night, hence why I will NEVER watch Paranormal Activity.

black-wood-72G – Have you had any supernatural experiences?

SH – When we lived in our old house (a VERY old house, c1900), we were getting loads of work done and one day when I was in there alone, writing scary bits in Black Wood, one of the workmen came round to tell me about what he was planning to do next, and he asked after my daughter. I laughed, in a slightly confused way, as I don’t have any children. I asked if he had maybe heard the neighbour’s grandchildren. Nope. He went quite pale then. Pointed into the dining room. ‘She was playing down there on the floor.’ He literally backed out of the house. I was then, of course, terrified. Attempting to dispel the unease, I jokily mentioned it on Facebook, without mentioning that it was a girl or that it was in the dining room. A friend who had visited a few months before sent me a message: ‘Was she in the dining room? Don’t worry, she’s happy.’

Reader, we moved out.

 

G – And I am now too freaked out to continue with that…let’s do some quickfire questions.

Greatest Album Ever? Can I have two? Nirvana’s Nevermind & Pearl Jam’s Ten.

Which is best: sushi or chilli? Chilli. Sushi gives me the boak.

What advice do you give your 15 yo self? ‘They’ll all stop talking about it eventually.’

What was the last book you read? Watch Her Disappear by the incredible Eva Dolan (out in Jan 2017)

Is Trainspotting correct to say “It’s Shite Being Scottish”? Only when people ask you about politics.

SJI HollidayWhich one concert would you have liked to attend (any place and time). I need two again. Queen with Freddie & Nirvana with Kurt. Both legends. Actually I need another one. Wham! Before I found out that George Michael didn’t like girls (a sad day).

Are you a cat or a dog person? I think cat. Theoretically. But I like some of those little terriers too. I’m not really a pet person.

Which one reality TV show would you like to appear on? I really hate it, but I’d quite like to be on The X-Factor, with the rest of The Slice Girls. I think Simon would love us.

 

Now the Book Chain question. Daniel asked you:

Maverick, Ice or Goose? The definitive, character-led answer, please. (I have no idea but I always liked Meg Ryan’s character – I’ve seen it once)

SH – SIGH. It’s Maverick, obviously. Brooding, arrogant but damaged and in need of the love of a good woman. Ultimately he would have loved to be Goose, but Goose was too nice and that’s why he had to die. I still cry at that scene. Funny story, actually. Craig Robertson flatly refused to believe that Meg Ryan played Goose’s wife. Not even sure he believed photographic evidence. This isn’t why Daniel asked me this though. He asked, because, well… there was talk of a new Top Gun with crime writers cast in the lead roles. It was possibly going to be X-rated. Daniel is obviously Maverick, so clearly this is the answer he wanted. I feel the need… the need for speed!

 

I’d like to nominate Mark Hill to go next. His debut The Two O’Clock Boy is fantastic. I’d like to ask him…<<REDACTED>>   

Susi – thank you!  Though I suspect I am going to have weird dreams about dining rooms…

 

The Damselfly is published in February 2017 by Black & White Publishing and you can pre-order your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M7RBU7W

 

 

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November 9

Talking Books with Steve Worsley

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to chat with AK Benedict about audiobooks. She had just released her fantastic new novel Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts and had also written a Torchwood audio play for Big Finish productions – she was telling Captain Jack Harkness what to say!  Our chat covered what it was like for an author to pass their work to a team to turn it into an audiobook. You can read that interview here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1419

Now I am delighted to be able to bring you the other side of the story. Today’s guest, Steve Worsley, is a narrator of audiobooks and has spent hours in a studio to give a voice to the books we listen to. Down the years I have listened to many, many audiobooks so I was keen to learn a little more about how the audiobooks come together.

My first question is never actually a question, this is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a few plugs in!

I am Steve Worsley. I’m a Scottish actor/singer. Originally from Aberdeen but now living in Falkirk with my wife and step children. I sing with a rat pack vocal trio called Ocean’s 3. I also perform improvised comedy with an Edinburgh improv  troupe called Men With Coconuts. We perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, Prague Fringe and currently have a residency at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

 

shatter-the-bonesHow do you become the voice of an audiobook?

For me it kind of happened by accident. I was working with another actor who specialises in voice over work. He mentioned that he had been asked to narrate an audiobook. It was Shatter the Bones by Stuart MacBride. He said he didn’t really fancy it as he was from Glasgow and the Stuart MacBride books were set in Aberdeen (my home town). I jokingly said I’d do it if he didn’t fancy it. He took me up on the offer and helped me record a short demo to be approved by the publisher (HarperCollins). To my surprise they did and before I knew it I was off to a studio in Manchester to record my first unabridged audiobook. On the back of that I approached another publisher, who as luck would have it had just listened to Shatter the Bones. I was immediately offered another audiobook. The rather wonderful crime thriller The Blackhouse by Peter May. Due to reader popularity I have now become the voice of all the Logan MacRae series of books by Stuart MacBride. Since then I have gathered together all the equipment needed to make a wee home studio, and now produce my own audiobooks through an online company called ACX where writers submit their novels, and narrators can then audition for the roles.

 

I know all books will vary in length but if you have narrated a story with a 10-hour running time how long may you have spent in a studio to get that recorded?

I usually spend about 3-4 days in a studio, reading from 9-5 with regular breaks. My longest book so far is The Missing and the Dead by Stuart MacBride which came in at just over 17 hours. That took about 4 days in a studio in London. That was a real challenge to complete as the studio had booked me for 4 days but then found out that the book was about 150 pages longer than estimated! Luckily I’ve been told by several sound engineers that my sight reading rate is unusually high. I can comfortably read about 150 pages in a single day. Of course home recording is a different matter as I not only have to read but edit the whole book myself. And I can only record when the kids are at school! It can take me up to 2 months to produce a home recording.

 

the-blackhouseDo you need to be able to voice different accents?

 Oh yes! The Stuart MacBride books were great for me as they are all set in my home town. Until I took over on book 7 his books had never been narrated by a native Aberdonian (except the two he did himself). But even in his books there are loads of different accents. Some of them particularly specific. One character spoke with a mix of Aberdonian and Brummie!!. I’ve also had to do American, regional English accents and few others from around the world. In The Blackhouse by Peter May the whole book was set in Stornoway and was littered with Gaelic phrases and names. That was a real challenge! Not to mention reading different gendered characters as well.

Is a book recorded sequentially? 

Yes. You start at chapter 1 and keep going to the end.

 

(I think I know the answer to this but…) Can you just show up at a recording session and start reading or would you expect to have read the book beforehand?

I always read the book at least once (twice if possible) and allow time to makes notes. Unfortunately that it not always possible. Particularly with the big publishers. In the past I’ve received a manuscript on a Friday or Saturday and been in the studio on the Monday!

 

Dsteve-worsleyo you ever meet any of the authors or get feedback from them?

I’m good friends on Facebook with Peter May. He lives in France. My wife and his daughter are also now best friends as they are both artists. Most of the authors I home record for live in the States but again we stay in touch through Facebook. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some lovely things said about my work from the authors. Which is not only an honour but a huge relief!! It can be pretty nerve-wracking being entrusted with someone’s baby!!!

 

Are you a reader? If so then what types of books do you enjoy?

I love to read when I can find the time. I like a bit of everything but have been a lifelong Stephen King fan. He truly is one of the great writers of the last century. I also love Clive Barker (I do love a bit of horror). And of course The Lord of the Rings gets an outing every few years. And if I am in the mood then you can’t beat Matthew Reilly for just pure entertainment and non-stop action.

 

Have you have to narrate books which you really didn’t enjoy (and I am not asking you to name them) but would that make the experience seem longer?

All I will say is yes and YES! However so far I have been very lucky to have read some wonderful books by extremely talented authors.

 

Steve – thank you! I have spent hours/weeks/days of my life listening to audiobooks have not given much consideration to all the work that goes into making that possible. As a skim reader (who doesn’t like to say much) I am in awe of how much work you have to do to bring us these audio delights.  

 

You can find Steve’s audiobooks on the Audible website here: http://www.audible.co.uk/search/ref=a_pd_Crime-_tseft?advsearchKeywords=steve+worsley&filterby=field-keywords&sprefixRefmarker=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8&sprefix=steve+wo

More information about Men With Coconuts on this link: http://www.menwithcoconuts.com/

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October 30

Book Chains – Daniel Pembrey (Fourth Link)

Book chains is my author Q&A with a twist.

I am placing this feature entirely into the hands of my guests and asking them to nominate the author I should interview next (and they need to supply a question I ask on their behalf).  Last time around Steph Broadribb nominated Daniel Pembrey.  Before I get to Steph’s question for Daniel I had a few questions of my own…

 

the-harbour-masterFirst Question is never actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to get a couple of plugs in early.

Hello, Gordon. I was born in England but have lived much of my life abroad. My character is a Dutch copper called Henk van der Pol, who works a harbour beat in Amsterdam. The debut novel launches in print on 10th November but is available at a special introductory price on Kindle right now, till 8th November, here: http://amzn.to/2dxMIZN Also my publisher has created a snappy & atmospheric website for me, www.danielpembrey.co.uk, where you can see some of the feedback and more about my background. I guess I’ve used up my two plugs!

I wanted to ask about The Harbour Master, a story which you set in Amsterdam. Is this a city you know well or did the plot necessitate the location?

I started visiting the Dutch capital when my sister and her husband moved there. My visits became more frequent after they had a daughter. My niece is growing up speaking Dutch! I actually moved there for a while too, but couldn’t find the kind of crime fiction I love reading. It struck my as odd given Holland’s proximity to Scandinavia (and the prodigious output of those less populous countries), plus how well Holland lends itself to the genre – those incredible port cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the rest.

In fact there was Nicolas Freeling’s Van der Valk series, written in the ‘60s, which is perhaps better known here for the mass audience TV show. Freeling was very interesting to me as a Brit living most of his life in the Benelux region, writing characters native to languages different from his mother tongue. Without getting too academic about it, he’s an example of a ‘born translated writer ’, and if that intrigues, I’m doing a couple of events on that subject at UCL with a professor of Dutch studies on 30th November and 11th January: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dutch-detectives-book-club-tickets-28552161283 Oh dear, that was another plug!

Can you introduce us to Henk van der Pol?

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to explain that I’d specifically been looking for a John Rebus, Harry Bosch or a Kurt Wallander-type character set in Amsterdam – the maverick, flawed yet highly effective copper – and when I couldn’t find him, I strove to create him in Henk van der Pol. I’ve actually interviewed both Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly (Henning Mankell being dead of course), and pointed out the similarities in their characters, but they all evolved separately to one another apparently. My realisation is that this is an archetypal character that we keep wanting to return to, and which I certainly wanted to write.

daniel-pembreyI am not fishing for spoilers so I need to phrase this carefully.  The description of Harbour Master suggests that Henk is approaching retirement – is he a character you will revisit? And will his forthcoming retirement limit how many future titles he may feature in?

Yes, this point has been brought to my attention by my publisher! (series longevity). I can only write what fascinates me and what I myself want to read, and for me, the interest of the older police character (John Rebus, Harry Bosch or my own) is that they are carrying ever more history and operating within ever greater constraints. They are increasingly complicated and challenged. For example, John Rebus – an imposing man, once in the SAS – can no longer use his physical strength to overpower an adversary. He has to use his wits, his guile. But gangster “Big Ger” Cafferty will talk to him and not some upstart copper because of their shared history, and so the complications and intrigue build in Rankin’s books. That’s was what I was after, early on in my books, with Henk van der Pol.

It is something of a rarity for me to meet one of my guests, however, we did actually get to meet last month at Bloody Scotland. You were there in a rather special capacity, can you explain a bit about your weekend?

It was my first Bloody Scotland and I loved it. And it was great to meet you in person! I was also a spotlit author – one of a number of debut authors invited to speak for three minutes ahead of a main panel. One of last year’s spotlit authors was Graeme Macrae Burnet! We all formed a little gang this year. Let me just mention them briefly now if I may, because they’re all amazing creators and wonderful people: Eva Holland, Amanda Fleet, Shelley Day, Liz Mistry, Stephen Watt, Sandra Ireland, Lesley Kelly, Michael Grothaus, Les Wood, Jackie Baldwin and Tom O’Keenan.

 

Did you get to attend any of the panels at Bloody Scotland?  Can you share any highlights?

The highlight was Val McDermid’s panel, because I was interviewing her the following morning. (Also Eva Holland’s reading at the start was amazing!). It’s always risky to arrange such an interview after a Saturday night at one of these events! But Val McDermid was so generous with her time and advice. It’s so striking because, someone like her – she’s sold 11 million books now and won innumerable awards – she doesn’t have to do this. But she told me that she got help of this kind early on in her career, and she strongly believes in giving back, and this is the other reason why Bloody Scotland 2016 was so special for me. You can read the interview here by the way: https://medium.com/@CrimeTimeUK/you-997c62056d71#.g7aaqmpl7

Can I ask what you are working on next?

The Harbour Master was conceived as a six part story saga; the first book (just out) comprises the first three parts, and the concluding parts will be out in e-book edition in January under the title Night Market, so I am furiously doing final edits for that!

Now Some Quick Fire Questions:

o   What is the greatest song ever written?

Happy Birthday. So simple yet effective

o   You hit the pub after a book launch, who is most likely to beat you to the bar?

I pride myself on being fast, but watch out for that Susi (SJI) Holliday, she’s quick on the draw when peach schnapps are in the offing

o   Can you play a musical instrument?

I can: piano. I played keyboard in a garage-psychedelic band in my late teens … the less said about that the better, in case there are photos/recordings floating about!

o   Do you have a favourite book that you re-read over and over again?

Actually I don’t. There are so many books I want to read, I’d rather turn to something new than go back to a book I’ve already read.

o   Halloween is coming, do you turn out the lights and pretend you are out or do you go overboard on pumpkins and candy?

In fact this year we’re doing a Halloween special event at Waterstones King’s Road on Tuesday (1st November at 6:30pm). Please come along if you’re in London and you read this in time! –

https://www.waterstones.com/events/compass-points-in-crime-panel-event/london-kings-road. It’s free if you know the authors, so if you come, please say Hello. And there’s free wine!

o   What book(s) are you currently reading?

30141176I just finished Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead, which is a great read and highly recommended. I’m now turning to His Bloody Project.

o   Steph (who nominated you) puts pineapple onto pizza – are these the actions of a sane woman?

Ha, sweet and savoury works for me too. Bacon with maple syrup when hungover? No?

o   City Breaks, The Great Outdoors or Sunny Beaches?

Definitely city. I can’t help recommending Amsterdam, but Berlin, Luxembourg , Oslo, … these are the places I love  to visit. That said, I did recently write a novella about a yoga retreat gone bad, set at a Mexican beachside resort. It’s called Vanishing Point. Now where’s that gone? *looks around in vain*

 

Finally, the Book Chain question – As you know, Steph Broadribb nominated you to keep my chain going and I asked her which question I should ask on her behalf: Steph wants to know – Whose drink would you most like to hold?

Well of course Steph’s, first and foremost. But perhaps then Tom Cruise’s, because my guess is that he’d want a selfie with Steph on his phone as well. Here to help!

 

Finally – to keep my chain going I asked Daniel to nominate an author that I should approach next…Susi Holliday, I may need a little of your time – Daniel has a very important question for you to answer!

 

The Harbour Master is published by No Exit Press and is currently available in digital format with the paperback arriving on 10 November.

Daniel’s Amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Pembrey/e/B00D1WC6IS/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

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September 25

In Conversation – Alan Jones and Brian Stewart: Self-Publishing

I am delighted to be able to be able to welcome two new guests to Grab This Book.  Alan Jones and Brian Stewart are both self-published authors who have written books that I have loved. Brian’s debut Digital Circumstances was included in my top reads of 2014.  Alan Jones has guested here in the past, I reviewed his novels Blue Wicked and Bloq and each received a 5/5 score.

 

Brian, can I start by asking you for a quick introduction and give you the chance for a shameless plug for your books?

Brian – I’m Brian Stewart. I was brought up in Grangemouth, worked in Edinburgh as a teacher for a couple of years, and moved to Nairn and I’ve been here for over forty years now.

Digital Circumstances is a classic rags-to-riches story, though I didn’t know that when I wrote it. The book follows the life of Martin McGregor and also tracks technology development from the late 80s till the present day. I was really pleased with some great reviews! Digital Investigations is more of a straight crime thriller with a technological dimension and a cybercrime theme running alongside it. It involves credit-card skimming and sex trafficking, both very relevant issues.

digital-circumstancesThroughout my books I try to be very accurate about the technology: there’s no facile guessing of passwords, no simple ‘hacking into’ computers. As my main character keeps telling the detective, ‘it’s not like the movies’. Enough from me. Alan, I know you are a vet – what else?

Alan – Thanks for the intro. Our self-publishing routes have been sort of similar – I tried to get my first book traditionally published, and I think I got rejections from most of the agents and publishers in the Writers and Artists yearbook. An agent with quite a large agency said he gave my book serious consideration but declined it in the end. He advised me to put It on the kindle store, and I’ve stayed with the self publishing route since, not really wanting to put myself through that process again.

My first book, The Cabinetmaker, took me 10 years to write on and off, and was a gritty crime story. A Cabinetmaker’s only son is brutally murdered, and the gang of thugs who killed him walk free after a bungled prosecution.

Blue wicked 2I wrote and published my second book, Blue Wicked in just over a year, and it was even more gritty, and much shorter and punchier.  The tortured corpses of young alcoholics and drug addicts are turning up in Glasgow and only unlikely investigator Eddie Henderson seems to know why.

A combination of my first blog tour, and a Street Cabinetmaking stunt at Bloody Scotland to launch The Cabinetmaker paperback raised my profile as a writer and made it much easier to do a proper launch of my third book shortly after. I had a bigger blog tour and distribution of ARC’s to various Facebook book club members, so that Bloq got off to a flying start, collecting 70 reviews in the first three months.

 How have you found the self-publishing experience?

Brian: My first – Digital Circumstances – was a long and complex book, so much so that I found it very hard to summarise it to anyone! ‘Investigations’ is, like yours, shorter and more focused. The self-publication process is, of course, easy. I’ve stuck to Amazon, and set up print on demand through Lulu.com (who also manage to get those onto my Amazon page). As every self-published writer finds, the process is much, much faster than the traditional route. Like many others, I had a six month wait for an agent to go from summary to asking for the full text, then another six months for them to finally say no. If they’d said yes, it would have been at least another year to publication. After my first experience, I decided to stick with self-publication for the ‘Digital’ series.

The hard bit is letting people know about the book. Circumstances didn’t sell much, but it got good reviews: for a long time it was well up there in Scottish (and even British) Crime if you searched by average review, but I suspect people search by best-selling.

I think Digital Investigations is a better, more accessible book, but I’m having to work hard to try to get it out there. Recently Amazon has been emailing me, suggesting I might like them. I hope they’re emailing other people too! I’ve sent copies to newspapers who might be interested, and I’m trying to reach online reviewers and bloggers Now, what are your writing habits, Alan? Regular slots or snatched opportunities?

Alan – I write when I can. At the moment, that’s not at all, as work and life have taken over. When I’m writing hard, I can write anywhere, and often write in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep. I’ve never done any research on writing – I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, taking constructive criticism on board when and where it’s been offered. I don’t think good reviews are enough for a self-published book. I think you need a bit of luck and a whole lot of perseverance, both in writing and in promoting.

Brian – It was only when I did a short OU course on creative writing that I started to learn the craft properly. That included sharing my work, and giving and receiving criticism. But nothing beats writing – and writing and editing and writing more. I look back at short stories I wrote in the past, which I thought were really good at the time, and they’re not great at all! When you’re working on a novel, Alan, do you work out the plot beforehand or do you construct the characters and let them run?

Alan – I usually have a good outline of a plot in my head before I ever start writing, but often I’m not quite sure of the detail of how to get there. That usually comes while I’m writing and so far it has always come together. I come up with the characters when I do the plot outline, but many of them don’t fully develop until the book is well underway.

What about you – do you wing it or are you a planner?

digital-investigationsBrian – In everyday life I’m a planner but not when I’m writing, strangely enough. Maybe it’s therapy. When I started ‘Circumstances’, I began with my hero in Orkney, on the run, and I had a good idea that the book would be about his whole back story and the events that had led him to where he was now. But I had no idea how he was going to get out of the situation he was in. I edited and re-wrote, and then did more research into cybercrime and found that the FBI fight cybercrime worldwide. That gave me the idea for the resolution. Writing ‘Investigations’ was different. I had my two main characters from the first book, and I wanted a straight crime and a cybercrime, and I wanted them linked, somehow. Other than that, I had nothing, so I started writing. The book I’m working on now grew out of an idea I had a year or so ago, and again I’m letting the plot grow as I write, then back through it. I’m more experienced now, so I recognise pitfalls more easily – and hopefully avoid some of them. Who do you rely on, apart from yourself?

Alan – One of the reviews of my first book was by an author/ blogger who gave it 3 stars but it could have been much better if it had been professionally edited. I contacted him for advice and he was incredibly helpful, putting me in touch with a freelance editor. By that time I had more or less finished my second book, and with the income generated from sales of my first book, I had the second one professionally edited. It was an eye opener!

BloqI also have a number of beta readers who are very helpful, especially with Bloq. I had moved from the familiar locations in Glasgow of the first two books, and set this one in London. I managed to find two Londoners to proof read it to make certain I’d got it right, and they both made great suggestions to add ‘London’ flavour to the book.

Do you rely on help from friends when writing?

Brian – My wife is my first and best critic. I complete a draft, edit, and then leave it for a while before re-editing. When I have a good draft, I let her read it and make comments. I then re-edit. At that stage I send to two beta readers, one of whom was on a writing course with me. I take their comments and re-work, and then my wife has another read through. Finally, in Word, I pick up grammar errors, spelling mistakes, inconsistencies in people’s names. Gordon – I would like to thank Brian and Alan for giving up their time to share their experiences of getting their books to readers. It is clear that for self-published authors reviews are a vital element in their challenge to spread the word about their books. I cannot recommend Alan and Brian’s books highly enough and I would encourage other readers (and especially the bloggers) to seek out their books and leave them a review.

Alan Jones can be found on Twitter as @alanjonesbooks

Brian Stewart is @BRMStewart

Give them a follow, they post some fascinating stuff!

 

Brian’s Amazon page can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=BRM+Stewart&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=BRM+Stewart&sort=relevancerank

 

Alan’s Amazon page is on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alan-Jones/e/B00ONBKHLE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1474804171&sr=8-1

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