Cut to the Bone blog tour – Alex Caan takes over…

Cut to the Bone

Under the Spotlight – Alex Caan interrogates Liz Barnsley

I met Liz at a party. (Not surprising as she’s ALWAYS at a party.) And it took me about two seconds to decide we were going to be friends. It’s all that book energy you see, we can feel it. So when it came to the blog tour I could imagine Liz rolling her eyes and thinking ANOTHER writer wants to talk about THEIR book…so I thought, I will instead use my creative powers (which are ace and helped me write the brilliant Cut to the Bone) and I will interview Liz…That’s right, the spotlight has turned. The hunter has become the hunted, and the reviewer has become the…erm…reviewed? Or something…so anyway, I give you the Cut to the Bone blog tour…featuring Liz Loves Books!

So Liz I’ve been stalking, erm following your Twitter, and there are two writers you seem to love/ be a big fan of. Now I’m going to make you choose. You’re on a plane with Neil White and Paul Hardisty (all of you reading the amazing Cut to the Bone obviously) when the engines fail and it’s about to crash. There are only two parachutes. Who survives? (You decide!)

Aaargh. Dammit Alex! Oh dear. Well I love Neil obviously as a huge fan of his novels for well, ever. We definitely need more of THAT top crime fiction. I’m thinking maybe I should die for the cause and let them both live. Because Paul, he’s extraordinarily attractive, erm a really good writer (both in fact) – could I deprive the world? And they seem to both be REALLY nice guys. Polite and stuff. BUT WAIT. Dammit. If I sacrifice myself I’ll miss all the rest of the books forever. Unless heaven is a thing and a thing with books. Not sure I’m risking that. YOU JUST NEVER KNOW. Ok in that case sorry Neil you’ll have to crash and burn. If I’m about to be stuck in the middle of nowhere having been in a plane crash I don’t think I’ll need a lawyer. Paul has the survival skills. I’ll go with that. Plus we can hold a nice memorial when we get back to civilisation where we can all go and cry over Neil and stuff and everyone in the world will buy his books. Shame he won’t be around to enjoy it…

Unless Paul’s survival skills are Bear Grylls like and he eats you when you run out of food…just saying…(Neil #TeamZaffre White I got your back)

You’ve been described as one of the most influential people in book-world. Which writer would you like to influence and what would you make them do? (It’s ok I’m already writing the sequel to Cut to the Bone you don’t have to say that…)

Well firstly I think whoever described me as such to you was having you on a bit – was it BEFORE we became friends? Were you befriending me in a secret evil plan to have me hypnotise people into reading Cut to the Bone but then you discovered I’m actually just pretty normal (if often gin fuelled) and had to put up with me anyway? Because you know I haven’t read it yet right? I KNOW. But we are buddies so I can get away with it. I am going to read it. I mean I read the prologue and that was really brilliant. Anyway I digress. I’d like to influence John Connolly who writes my favourite series in the history of anything ever and make him write another Louis and Angel spin off novel. I want one. **stamps foot like a child** Also if I hadn’t randomly killed Neil White off earlier in this interview I’d like more Jack and Laura stories. Even a short one. Does that stamping of the foot thing ever actually work?

Yes people just remember that the prologue is brilliant…it’s all I’m going to get for now…sob…Lol don’t worry someone described you as that when I said we were already friends…darn it I should have done it the other way round I could have been an evil genius crime writer then…oh well…love John Connolly though! Stamp away but you just left him on that plane…

Desert Island Discs. Forget the discs, music is pants. Which five books would you take with you? (Cut to the Bone along with the Bible and Complete Works of Shakespeare is already there…) Actually you’ll never do this. So instead, pick five writers you would take with you and why. (P.S. I can do amazing things with a coconut!)

HA! Well erm not sure. OH well Steph Broadribb (also known as crime thriller girl) obviously would HAVE to come. Why? Well because she just would. I really don’t like going places without her and if I’m grumpy we are all grumpy. So we’d need Helen Giltrow too because when its the 3 of us what could POSSIBLY go wrong? Yeah don’t answer that you two if you are reading this. Stephen King so he can write us stories. I can’t go without new King stories are you mad??? Lee Child probably to keep Steph happy (we get even MORE grumpy when she is grumpy) then I’m just bringing Paul Hardisty along because heck I saved him from that blinking plane least he can do is come along to the Desert Island and make sure no bears attack. Or something. You obviously would be already there reading Shakespeare and awaiting company.

I was about to say where am I…hurrah! Steph is ace and you two always look like you’re about to do something really naughty but funny! Good choices all around.

You’re having a dinner party. Fine I’ll serve the water. Someone else can do the wine (because I know that person won’t be sitting down all night.) So tell me whose coming (anyone from fiction) and what dish are they bringing you?

OOH from fiction? Cool. I’ll have – hang on you didn’t give me a limit. Are we going to be here all night while I answer this one? I’ll need more wine. Tell you what lets make it 6 for dinner. I like the number 6 it takes no prisoners. So me and 5 fictional characters.

DEFINITELY Manny from Chris Whitaker’s Tall Oaks. He is my favourite one off (although I’m hoping he’s not entirely one off) character in fiction EVER. I would LOVE to see him in action in real life. Elizabeth Bennett because I’d like to see if she really was sassy when in a modern environment – she’s a favourite fictional character of mine. Also apparently could probably help if there is a zombie attack. Then ooh I don’t know. YES I do – John Connolly’s Charlie Parker (he’d definitely bring Louis and Angel with him even though I’ve not officially invited them so that’s a bit of a loophole that allows me to meet all 3) I think that would be quite scary but also very cool. I just hope none of the dark forces these guys attract try to steal the bread rolls.

I’d also like to have Tony Hill from Val McDermid’s books. And Carol Jordan. Would love to see those two interact also perhaps Tony could tell me whether hanging out with you crime types is actually the best thing for me. I’ll have Marnie Rome from Sarah Hilary’s series to make sure everyone stays in line. AND to be on the spot in case there is a murder. We’d better be prepared and she could solve it properly and with intelligence, not missing random really good clues for no good reason whatsoever to keep us wondering – which can happen in these situations…

I don’t really care what they bring. I don’t eat much. Wine though..

Oh yeah sorry…six will do! Brilliant choices I have to say…not sure about that Manny though, that Chris Whitaker already has too many mentions on my blog tour…And please tag Val/Sarah they are writing heroes of mine and I stalk, erm follow them on Twitter too…

Your crime writers gang invite you out for a weekend of wildness. What’s in your emergency supplies kit?

Gin. Bandages. A phone with a lawyer on speed dial. Packets of cheese and onion crisps. 9 books. At least 9. Probably more like 243453. WHAT IF WE GET STRANDED SOMEWHERE. You are coming along to carry all this for me I assume???

Oh yeah sure (quick think of an excuse…erm…erm…ok I have nothing…) I’ll carry it all…(I believe I’ve already carried a bag of books around for you on a couple of occasions though…)

David (of Stasi Child) and Chris (of Tall Oaks) invite you to join a séance. Who will the three of you conjure up?

Well you know? We’d probably have a plan, work out who we would like to contact, make a date to get it done. Then all go off and do other things and not do that thing that we said we were going to do for AGES. And in the meantime we’d do other things but not THAT thing. And we’d sometimes say on Twitter “HEY YOU WHAT ABOUT THAT THING” and then get the reply “you haven’t done that other thing yet”. This could go on for quite a while. I imagine the spirits will be drumming their ghostly fingers waiting for months to find out who it is we want to speak to. Which would be different people for all of us so we’d probably end up summoning a demon that would eat the world. I think this whole séance thing is a bad idea…

Totally agree…séances NEVER end well…so we’re doing one at Bloody Scotland right?

You’ve met so many writers over the years. Who’s the worst? (Name and shame!) (Alex Caan isn’t an option…)

Nooo I would never do such a thing. I WILL say that writers are people and I’ve met all kinds. Mostly they are completely lovely. I’ve made such good friends in the community. Are there writers out there that I haven’t found to be that much fun or to be a bit self important? Yep. Of course. But you’ll just have to keep guessing on that one I’m afraid….although in case you were wondering its not you. Or any of YOU that are likely to be reading this. Human beings eh? Takes all kinds.

I will ask you again when there is lots of gin involved in the equation…although VERY relieved it’s not me…

Have you ever written a brilliant review for someone, met the author and realised they were a right bleep ‘difficult’ individual, and changed your review to reflect them? (Yes I’m going to keep pushing till you name and shame!) (Again not me!!)

No I haven’t. Their personality wouldn’t impact on my feelings about a book I’ve already read. If I met a writer PRIOR to reading their book and they were completely horrible? I might not read it then mostly though because I’d be afraid that this experience would colour my emotional responses to that book and therefore I would not be able to give an appropriate review or response. But for that to happen they really would have to be COMPLETELY horrible. Don’t think I’ve ever found that.

Who will play you in the movie of your life? (Brad Pitt said he looks just like me so will do a cameo…)

Well I’d like it to be Helen Mirren . She is insanely talented and also very funny and seems great in real life too. Mind you if they are making a movie of MY life they are seriously scraping the barrel for new things to do. My life is actually VERY boring. Apart from the books. Can I not just have them make a whole load of my favourite books into films instead?

It’s your movie anything can happen…in mine I am Agatha Christie…only male and contemporary…erm…

Liz Loves Books. But what do you love more? (Alex Caan/Cut to the Bone/Your family are not viable answers…)

Apart from the answers I’m not allowed such as family and you which would OBVIOUSLY be my answer otherwise, nothing probably. Well maybe if you tried to take away my coffee there would be blood. And fiery death. Also I’ve got a secret (maybe not so secret) passion for all things Vin Diesel. So leave me my books, my coffee and my Vin Diesel movies and probably you’d be safe.

Vin Diesel? Oh sorry for a moment I thought you meant Van Damme! Ha ha!

NOOOO Not Van Damme.

Actually darn it I’m going to ask…name five books you can’t live without…ok fine five books you’ve read in 2016 you can’t live without…oh alright, five books you’ve read in 2016 you recommend. (Aw thanks but I think people already realise Cut to the Bone is amazeballs so pick something else…)

5 I recommend from 2016?

Girls on Fire Robin Wasserman. The Maker of Swans Paraic O’Donnell. The Constant Soldier William Ryan. Tall Oaks Chris Whitaker Black Night Falling Rod Reynolds.

Those off the top of my head. All are likely to have a place (not sure which place) in my Top Ten of 2016 which will be posted on Dec 1st as usual. And 2016 has been INCREDIBLE for books. Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus is possibly the maddest book I’ve read this year and is simply stunning. Then I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid has a lot of us talking at the moment – its one of THOSE books. Yes I snuck a couple of extras in there under the radar. I’m sure Cut to the Bone will be on there as soon as Ive read it and stopped being a TERRIBLE friend.

That’s ok I have put my novel in italics throughout so it will be the only novel people remember…quick use that hypnosis thing…

Which novel would you actually like to live in? (Probably not a crime thriller one…)

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. WHAT a world that would be to live in! Would be like a dream come true. Check it out people! A book for book lovers and a banging banging addictive story. If it WAS a crime thriller then it would have to be one of Ragnar’s Icelandic set novels. Just because. Who WOULDN’T want to live there. Well apart from the random death and destruction. I’ll just hide from that bit.

And Cut to the Bone when you read it…have I mentioned my novel enough yet?

Is there such a thing as mentioning it *too* much? I will read it I promise. No really. Just ask David Young I ALWAYS keep my promises. Eventually. At some point. On that date over there somewhere…

Well that was A LOT of fun thank you Liz for letting me into your mind! And for letting me use friend privileges to ask the questions!

You are welcome. Now gimme my blog back…..

Ok its me again now….so I’ll tell you…

ABOUT THE BOOK!

Cut to the Bone

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Superintendent Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself?

Ruby’s millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares.

And the videos keep coming . .

You can purchase CUT TO THE BONE by clickety clicking right HERE

And if you are brave you could follow Alex on Twitter HERE

And follow the tour. This is one fun tour!

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Happy Reading!

Cut to the Bone

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The Traitor’s Story – Kevin Wignall. Interview and Review.

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I was lucky enough to meet Kevin Wignall earlier this year at Crimefest. Brilliant company and a very nice man, of course me being me that led into me reading something. Specifically Mr Wignall’s latest novel The Traitors Story. Turned out I kind of loved it. Also turns out that Mr Wignall is a pretty incredible writer as well as being utterly able to put up with randomly inane idiots into the early hours. You may think I’m referring to me but not so much…..you probably  had to be there…..

Anyway I gently persuaded Kevin to answer some bookish related questions for me. Here are the results followed by a little review and some handy links.

First of all where have you BEEN all my life (in the reading sense, lets not get carried away) because The Traitors Story is an absolutely banging thriller – hang on there’s a more appropriate question in there somewhere – what inspired this particular story. Or what generally starts you off on things…

Thank you, Liz. I suppose my books nearly always deal with the same themes, the fault lines between good and bad, moral and amoral, usually with background themes of regret and lost opportunity. Beyond that, I will often have lots of little ideas that slowly coalesce around a central plot. I think in this case I had two combined thoughts to begin with, one of a person who could help his neighbours find their missing daughter but who can’t admit to his own past, and the other of someone whose life has become so cauterised that he has more empathy with his historical subject matter than he does with his own girlfriend.

Talk to me about characters – especially Jonas who was my favourite (maybe it was supposed to be Finn but we’ll just have to live with my obscure tastes) but Finn too obviously. How do you bring life to them. Real life people you’ve met? A bit of yourself in there somewhere?

Hmm. Well, I think all my central characters are autobiographical to some extent. It’s quite hard for me to imagine how you could invest so much in a character who isn’t a projection of your own personality. I’ve said in the past that my protagonists tend to be slightly shorter but rather more charming versions of me. As for Jonas, you’re not obscure at all, because he is in many ways the beating heart of the book. I originally got the idea for him reading a book called “The Ice Palace” by Tarjei Vesaas, a character who appears briefly and who isn’t central, but who’s been engaged in a sad and lonely vigil “off-camera”. I thought originally of including a similar character, peripheral, but Jonas grew and grew and took on a life of his own. He also, of course, is very much like Finn, so it’s instructive that Jonas, in many different ways, is the person who reminds Finn of his own humanity.

I do like a bit of treacherous plotting. Are you a post it note kind of writer? Whiteboard? How exactly do you hold it all together?

Almost entirely in my head. I’ll occasionally write down a scrap of dialogue, I write down names. But it’s why I take so long planning a book. I plan it all in my head until it fits together perfectly, until I can “walk through” it in real time.

The question I always ask as it fascinates me – which writers are you inspired by? And name a book you’ve read that immediately made you go “Dammit I wish I’d written that”

Well, I make no secret that as a teenager I was hugely inspired by Graham Greene, although I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately – are we drawn to the writers who reflect our own interests and our own writing styles, or do they influence us? I suspect it’s more the former. Stephen Crane, Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen (“The Hunter’s Prayer” is partly inspired by “Persuasion”), they all spoke to something that was already inside me, maybe just an aim to tell a story in the simplest and most concise form possible (apologies, that probably sounds precious!). As for “Dammit I wish I’d written that”, many, many books, but let’s mention some recent ones – “Bereft” by Chris Womersley, “The End of Everything” by Megan Abbott, “The Dispatcher” by Ryan David Jahn, “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell, “I Remember You” by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, everything by Magnus Mills…

Do you have any future novel plans you can share with us?

I’m just starting work on a new novel. It’s called “A Fragile Thing” (that’s a working title, but the working title usually becomes the title) and it deals with money-laundering, but also with the complex tensions within families. It’s set mainly in Italy and Switzerland, which I fear is becoming a bit predictable for me, but it’s where it had to be. Should be out next spring.

Tell us about you in 5 easy soundbites –

*Tea, Coffee, other?

Both, but also a lot of the other.

* Strangest situation you’ve ever found yourself in

Seriously, I would have to think long and hard, because my normal seems to be most people’s strange. I woke up inside my own fridge once – I suppose that would count as a strange situation…

* One gadget you simply couldn’t live without

I feel like I want to say phone/internet, but I’m old enough to know that I was quite capable of living without either.

* Worst habit

I’m not sure that it’s a habit, but I have a terrible tendency to say what everyone else is thinking but too considerate/afraid to say. It’s a habit I try to break but it’s deeply ingrained. At a party recently, someone started to cry and Tom Wood looked at me and said, “It’s your fault.” I gave him a questioning stare and he said, “It’s always your fault”. And in that, alas, he has a pretty good point.

* Your Real life hero/inspirational person

Oh there are too many. I like reading Telegraph obituaries, what I call “multi-part lives”, these people for whom the headline will read, “Won an instant MC at the battle of Monte Cassino, and went on to save the Patagonian Mongoose from extinction”. That’s the kind of life I want, where there’s always something else to do. It’s not just war heroes and there are still people who keep pushing forward (Robert Plant’s a good example). That’s what I’d like – “Kevin Wignall, author of reasonably well-received thrillers, who later became a world authority on Memorial architecture and helped discover the wreck of the Tartarus in deep waters off the coast of Zanzibar”… that would be a real life, wouldn’t it?

Thanks so much!

About the book:

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When fifteen-year-old American Hailey Portman goes missing in Switzerland, her desperate parents seek the help of their neighbor, Finn Harrington, a seemingly quiet historian rumored to be a former spy.

Sensing the story runs deeper than anyone yet knows, Finn reluctantly agrees to make some enquiries. He has little to go on other than his instincts, and his instincts have been wrong in the past—sometimes spectacularly wrong.

But he gets involved anyway, never imagining that Hailey’s disappearance might be linked to the tragic events that ended his career six years earlier, drawing him back into a deadly world that has neither forgiven nor forgotten.

I loved The Traitors story. It was just perfect read at perfect time for me – I’d had a few disappointing starts with some novels so when I looked up having read half of this in one sitting, with a sudden jolting realisation that I was late for things I was supposed to be turning up to (sorry Hayley – you know what I’m like) it was like YAY. Book love kicking in.

This is a quietly absorbing thriller with some hugely fascinating characters and, as you can see from the above, a highly addictive quality, you just don’t want to stop reading. A complex plot that is still entirely and intensely readable, as we follow Finn both in his past and present, one of the best things about it is the sheer depth the author  brings to the characters and the world they inhabit. In Finns case a rather shadowy world – I do love a good spy story especially one this good- but also bringing a rich context to the more mundane.  The entire novel is beautifully written, absolutely engaging and never falters. An utterly banging read from the first sentence to the last sentence and all of the bits in between.

Its not like its just a straight up thriller either. Atmospheric, thought provoking in parts,  multi layered and completely believable, its a fictional world you can sink into and lose your own reality for a while. Plus it had Jonas. Really – I adored that character with a passion. I think perhaps I’d like an entire novel following him around – if I ruled the world…

Finn himself is entirely perfect as a main protagonist, deeply intriguing and going on somewhat of a personal journey, flawed yet engaging, whilst Jonas might be the heart here Finn is the soul. Plus you know, its a blinking good telling of a blinking good story. Kevin  Wignall it turns out is a true storyteller.

Definitely highly recommended by me – no prevarication. Don’t miss it!

The Traitors Story is available now from Thomas and Mercer by clickety clicking right HERE

Visit Kevin at his website HERE

Happy Reading!

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Nomad by James Swallow – Author interview and Review.

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Today I am very happy to get to ask James Swallow a few questions about his thriller “Nomad” – a book I loved and you can find my review after the interview. James Swallow is a British author and scriptwriter, a New York Times Bestseller and BAFTA nominee. He is the author of over forty original books and tie-in novels, as well as numerous short stories, audio dramas and videogames.

His writing includes Nomad, the Sundowners series of Western fiction steampunk novels, Jade Dragon, The Butterfly Effect and fiction from the worlds of Star Trek, Warhammer, 40,000, Doctor Who, 24, Deus Ex, Stargate, Tannhauser and 2000AD.

First of all thank you because Nomad was one HECK of a read, I didn’t think I’d ever find a thriller I loved as much as I Am Pilgrim but here it is – I’d like to open by asking about scene setting – Nomad opens explosively and surprisingly, you don’t give a reader any settle in time – how do you go about plotting the “set scenes” if you like…and is that what works for you as a reader? Just being thrown in at the deep end?

Thanks for the kind words, I’m pleased you enjoyed Nomad!

I have a very visual writing style – I think that comes from my background as a scriptwriter – and so I like to go for the epic moments in a narrative. With any story, I think it is important to hook the reader early on, and more so in a thriller where the currency of the tale is action. I like to read stories that draw me in from the start, and I tend to write the kind of thing that I’d enjoy as a reader! I like fictional worlds that are rich in detail but not bogged down by it. High speed and low drag.

Is it a very different mindset that you have to use to write a novel as opposed to when you are writing a script? I’m always fascinated by the positioning of both – presumably script writing has very different challenges at work than novel writing, could you talk a little about that? And putting you on the spot, do you have a preference?

At the end of the day, it’s all just writing. Characters and drama are the bedrock of stories no matter what medium you express them through. But it is true that prose and scripts have very different ways of letting you express those things. I think of it as having two different toolkits, each with specific strengths and weaknesses, each tailored to the medium you’re using. The challenges of scripts versus books are very different, but I like that about them. It allows you to exercise different writerly muscles.

I don’t really have a preference; scripts can be faster to write but books give you more control over the narrative.

In “Nomad” Marc Dane is very much a man in isolation, trying to get to the bottom of some nefarious goings on and hopefully saving himself in the process – I loved how he used skills he even surprised himself by having, despite his intriguing background. What was your original inspiration for the character? Was he first in line so to speak and you built the other characters and story around him?

Marc Dane grew out of a desire I had to mess around with a trope that we often see in action thrillers – the “bloke in the van”, who is always on the side-lines while the door-kickers and trigger-pullers are in the thick of the action. I wondered what would happen if a tech-savvy character who wasn’t immediately the tough guy got dragged out of his comfort zone and into the middle of the danger. I wanted to write about a hero who isn’t an elite black-ops badass, but instead someone who has to rely on wits, adaptability and resourcefulness in order to win through.

I worked on Nomad’s characters and plotline in tandem, and in the end I think I got a story that meshes well with Marc and the rest of the cast of heroes and villains.

You have been at this writing lark for a while, can you name a career highlight for you? And perhaps a low as well in case we get too over excitable…

I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve got to work on a lot of cool things in my career to date. I’ve had the opportunity to tell tales about favourite characters in fictional worlds that have given me a lot of enjoyment, but I think the thing than always lifts me is seeing a book on the shelf with my name on it. Being able to hold it in my hand and think “I made this” just never gets old.

As for a low point? For every success I’ve had, there have been the cancelled projects and the gigs that turned out to be a nightmare, but I’ve learned to be sanguine about those. As engineers and scientists say, “there’s no such thing as failure, just more data”…

Nomad works on so many levels – a banging thriller that does not compromise on character development and depth – how easy is it to walk that line? After all you need a reader to care about the people in the story but you also want them to get that adrenalin rush expected from a novel labelled “thriller”

I’m an instinctive writer, for the most part. I try to just get in there and write what feels right for the story and the characters. But I also work hard at plotting in detail, and with Nomad I think I did that more than I had with any other book to this point. I tend to revise as I go, so as I’m working on the next chapter, I’m analysing what has come before and what will come after. Being able to keep the whole shape of the story in your head helps to make things consistent.

I don’t suppose you can give a little bit away about what might be next? Or would you then have to kill me….

Marc Dane will be back in the summer of 2017; I’m deep in the work on that next novel right now, and it will be set a year on from the events of Nomad. Set adrift after what took place in the previous novel, Marc finds himself drawn back into a dangerous pursuit to track down a weapon of mass destruction…

Research research – Nomad had a huge level of authenticity in the feeling of it, tell me what does your speed dial look like? Perhaps I should ask who you might call if there was a body needing burying…

I’ve got a good list of people with plenty of, shall we say, esoteric knowledge! Thanks to them and my intent from the start to try and ground my stories in the real world, I’ve taken a deep dive into many different areas of research in an attempt to keep that authentic tone.

Nomad is absolutely fiction, and I’m not trying to write gritty realism here. I always err on the side of drama, but I hope I can earn the trust of the reader by making the amazing moments feel possible.

Finally, just for fun, tell us one thing about you that maybe not many people know…

I have a lot of hats. Way more than I ever wear.

Thank you so much!

My pleasure, thanks for your questions!

About the book:

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Available Now from Bonnier Zaffre

Marc Dane is a MI6 field agent at home behind a computer screen, one step away from the action. But when a brutal attack on his team leaves Marc as the only survivor – and with the shocking knowledge that there are traitors inside MI6 – he’s forced into the front line.

However the evidence seems to point towards Marc as the perpetrator of the attack. Accused of betraying his country, he must race against time to clear his name.

With nowhere to turn to for help and no one left to trust, Marc is forced to rely on the elusive Rubicon group and their operative Lucy Keyes. Ex US Army, Lucy also knows what it’s like to be an outsider, and she’s got the skills that Marc is sorely lacking.

A terrorist attack is coming, one bigger and more deadly than has ever been seen before. With the eyes of the security establishment elsewhere, only Lucy and Marc can stop the attack before it’s too late.

I loved Nomad. A totally banging thriller, a modern day spy story with a great main protagonist in Marc  – forced out of his comfort zone and onto the front line in the fight against terrorism, you are with him all the way.

Nomad starts explosively and does not really let up – it is a beautifully written thrill ride of a novel that ticks all the boxes, has an underlying intelligence that allows contemplation as well as adrenalin rush and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. A book where you turn the last page and immediately want more – so its a good thing that this is only the start.

Its scary stuff too – there is a new weapon out there, horribly believable, standing between it and the wider world is one man who is not really best placed to save us – another thing that I really thought was great and brought a lot of realism to the wider story. Marc has skills but often gets through things with more luck than judgment – enter Lucy Keyes, another fasinating character and a great “sidekick” to have along for the ride.

It is a twisty journey for sure, trust no-one, seriously Marc could probably have done with a little help from Fox Muldur on that score – James Swallow has a fantastically gripping writing style, the story works on many levels all of them good ones. There is enough technical wizardry to keep the geek in us happy, some terrifically well drawn and fascinating characters quite apart from Marc himself and some beautifully immersive action scenes that will have you hanging off every word…

Nomad is utterly gripping, cleverly plotted and one hell of a thriller. Highly Recommended.

Find out more HERE

Follow James on Twitter HERE

To Purchase Nomad clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

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The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – Blog tour Author Interview.

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VERY  happy to welcome Anna Mazzola back to the blog today to talk a little more about her novel – The Unseeing – which I loved and will be reviewing in full soon when I’ve found enough superlatives. The Unseeing is based on a real life murder case and is atmospheric and fascinating, I was absolutely riveted by this one from first page to last so I was very pleased to get to delve just a little deeper. You can also read a little more about it HERE   if you missed Anna when she was last visiting the blog, dropping in on her way to First Monday.

 

One of the things I was very taken by – the very realistic setting and the way you brought Victorian London to life, weaving it almost seamlessly into the narrative. Most especially prison life for our main protagonist Sarah Gale. How did you achieve that – and do you think Historical settings are something you would stay within for future novels?

That’s very kind of you to say so. I did lots of research, of course, including reading accounts of Victorian convicts and prison reformers, to try and understand how life in Newgate might have been. From that I constructed my own picture of the prison and Sarah’s daily existence, and hopefully that comes across to the reader. I love reading about the past and envisaging how people’s lives might have been, so I’ll be writing historical fiction for a while yet, although I’m going to venture into the twentieth century soon!

The political machinations of the day play a strong role in the story – especially as that is how Sarah gets to tell her story – as a lawyer yourself how much does position and power influence the law do you think? Is Justice really blind?

Although things aren’t as stark as in Sarah Gale’s day (when people were sent to the gallows without proper trials), serious injustices still occur, and the vulnerable continue to be ill-served by our justice system. Sadly, I think status and financial power still matter, particularly given the cuts to legal aid. Justice is supposed to be ‘blind’ (i.e. neutral) when dispensing justice, but that isn’t the case for Sarah and it ain’t always the case now.

Can you tell us anything about what you are writing next?

Sure. I’m currently writing my second historical crime novel, set on the Isle of Skye in 1857, a few years after the Highland Clearances. It’s about a young woman called Audrey who goes to work for a collector of folklore and discovers that a young girl has gone missing, supposedly taken by spirits. Of course that’s not what she believes is going on.

About you in 5 easy soundbites –

Tea, coffee or other.

COFFEE. I can’t write without coffee. In fact, I can’t do most things without coffee.

If you could live anywhere in the world you would live…

At the moment? In Scotland, I think. With another house in Antigua.

No 1 on the bucket list

The Northern Lights. I know it’s cliché, but I have to see them.

If not writing and not law then you would like to be…

A doctor. Surely the most fascinating and useful job there is. Unfortunately, I was rubbish at science so have ended up making stuff up all day (that’s the writing part, by the way, not the lawyer bit).

One book you recommend to everyone.

Gillespie & I, Jane Harris. It should have won more prizes.

 Thank you so much!

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Liz! 

About the book:

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Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

You can visit Anna at her website HERE

Or follow her on Twitter HERE

To Purchase The Unseeing clickety click right HERE

Or if you’d like a special signed copy from the gorgeous Goldsboro clickety click HERE

Follow the Tour!

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Happy Reading!

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2016 Spotlight: Infernal by Mark de Jager.

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Publication Date: 11th August 2016 from Del Ray

Source: Review Copy

Stratus wakes in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but the knowledge that he is not human, with no memories of his past but possessing great strength, a powerful sorcery and the burning instinct to survive at any cost.

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by the ten year war between the Kingdoms of Krandin and Penullin, now reaching new levels of savagery as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.

As his personality grows with each step he slowly uncovers the truth of what he has become and the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that has led him there.

Infernal is a BOOM book. Yes. In that you finish it and go BOOM thats what real fantasy looks like.

So I’m reviewing it a month ahead of its publication – there is method in my madness (ok we’ll pretend there is) because fans of really banging fantasy books might like to clear the reading decks a little (I’m not silly enough to imagine you could all read your entire pile in waiting but just a bit) because when Infernal hits the shelves you definitely want to be diving right in there…

Sometimes these things can fall a little flat. You either have a highly imaginative world and characters that don’t quite hit the mark or vice versa. Not so with Infernal where the world building is imaginative, immersive and has a sharp authentic edge – then you get Stratus. Who really just keeps you reading even if its 3am and you have matchsticks keeping your eyes open. With his dry tone, ironic  humour and truly engaging journey of discovery not only is Infernal utterly brilliant fantasy but also an honest to god page turner.  And its a very shouty book. Mark de Jager has a habit of dropping in moments that make you go DAMN. Or similar. My mother might read this review…

Now of course thats not necessarily enough to make it go BOOM. The underneath of it all has to be gripping and Infernal is utterly gripping. You also need all the supporting cast to have a voice not just be the back up and Infernal is chock full of brilliantly drawn characters full of heart. I adored Lucien just as a thing – but its not just the group dynamic of the main portions of the narrative that works so well but even those you meet in passing are vibrant and engaging.

As for the story well, SO originally vivid, the author managing to give you all the standards you need and expect from great fantasy but throwing in a few extras just for good measure –  at turns surprising and delightful and OOH magic. Did I say there was magic? Lots of wicked magic, sorcery and evil shenanigans. And things. Just beautiful.

When I got to the end I swore out loud on the bus. Which would be ok except it was a local bus full of people who know me. (Sorry Mum) – because well, I can’t tell you why obviously. Just don’t read the last few chapters on a bus. Or a train. This is one of those times I just wanted to read more dammit.  Thats how it gets you.

Big big YAY and stuff. When August arrive put down your spell books and pick this one up. Highly Recommended

Follow the author on Twitter HERE

If you are quick you might be able to get one of THESE from the gorgeous Goldsboro.

Or you could purchase Infernal by clickety clicking right HERE

Happy Reading!

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From the Purchased Pile: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid.

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Publication Date: Available Now from Text Publishing

Source: Purchased Copy (Waterstones Piccadilly)

You will be scared. But you won’t know why…

I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.

In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

I finished “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” then I went back to the beginning and read it again.
You will want to read this book more than once. Or you’ll want to hide it in the depths of the earth never to be seen again. Probably won’t be that much inbetween those two things and the range of reviews would seem to back me on this.

Me? I’m going to tell everyone I know to read this book then read it again.

It scared the living crap out of me but no, don’t ask. Iain Reid has written, in my humble opinion, a masterclass in unsettling the reader without them being able to put their finger on why exactly. It has a surreal, emotional and deeply disturbing vibe that starts on the first page then builds to a crescendo of turmoil at the end followed by a “Wait. No just wait a minute. What the all heck did I just read? Wait what now?” Then a sudden dawning of realisation as it settles and a desperate urge to go back to the start and see it with new eyes. I did that. I was just as haunted the second time round but for utterly different reasons.

Brilliantly constructed, absolutely gorgeous use of language, those little things that make you shiver, glance behind you, wonder what that noise was coming from the other room and when the blurb says “you will be afraid but you won’t know why” that is exactly it. That right there.

It is incredibly difficult to review. Its a road trip for sure, one hell of a ride. Its like Stephen King dropped acid then wrote a story about a girl who is not sure whether she wants to break up with her boyfriend or not. And very much like King when he’s bang on the money, you won’t know what you are getting until you get there and when you DO get there everything you thought you knew will be turned on its head. That might get over some of the sense of it. Maybe. You should just read it.

Iain Reid has his own unique writing style to be sure that feeds into the story being told perfectly, there is an intensity of prose, an intuitive sense of things, it shines through and then sucks you into a vortex of impossible to describe, erm, things. Life is in here, a twist of life, some insightful commentary on how we all see things, how human interaction works. Or does not. Or could. Or something.

Oh yes I’m not making sense – but at the very heart of this one is one thing that I can’t talk about without spoiling where this possibly ill fated couple end up. So really you probably just need to decide to read it. Or not. I would. I’m probably going to again because I’m sure I’ve missed nuances. I’m sure actually that I missed a lot of things. Only lets just see if I can sleep first. I doubt it. I’m still a little afraid to be honest…

I’m Thinking of Ending Things will quite definitively not be for everyone. But it was absolutely for me. And therefore I can’t do anything other than highly recommend it.

I’ll be here if you need to talk once you are done…..

You can follow the author on Twitter HERE

You can purchase “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” if you clickety click right HERE

(Or visit your local bookshop!)

Happy Reading!

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Out of the Comfort Zone reading – David Young reviews Wicked Game.

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So after Rod Reynolds reviewed Red Rising the next author I bribed, erm asked politely, to read something out of their comfort zone was the brilliant David Young  – author of Stasi Child. Turns out he was already reading something that he would not normally pick up – Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game – so this was the novel we went with and it seems that once again this whole experiment worked out well. So over to David to talk about the experience….

Reading Outside my comfort zone:  Wicked Game – David Young.

One of the great thrills of being a newly-published author is when a rival publisher asks you to read one of their books with a view to giving an endorsement quote for the cover or back of the book.

It’s quite humbling that they value your opinion, and slightly embarrassing to think that your name is even worth putting on their book.

That said, I’m not world’s biggest reader, by any means. I find it hard to break out of my six novels a year average – most of those read lying on a beach when on holiday.

So, reading only a few books a year, I stick to what I know I like. Usually fiction set in Europe or the former Soviet Union, probably historical but not too historical, with perhaps a dash of crime. What I tend to steer clear of are stories that are in any way linked – if you like – to ‘The News’, the sort you might see on the BBC or ITV’s main bulletin. When I was working in the BBC international TV and radio newsrooms, it was because – in reading a novel – I wanted to escape from the day job. Now, having given up the day job thanks in part to the success of my debut novel, Stasi Child, I don’t desperately want to be reminded about it!

That means I tend to avoid SAS-thrillers, modern war thrillers, terrorism thrillers. So it was with some trepidation that I started to read Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game, sent to me by the Orenda Publisher (and one of The Bookseller’s 2016 Rising Stars), Karen Sullivan.

Karen insisted I’d love it, wanted a potential cover quote, and if I did enjoy the book – in fact she said only if I ‘really loved it’ — she wanted me to host a Q&A with Matt at his launch at Waterstones in Piccadilly.

What worried me were some of the words in the blurb: ‘SAS regiment’, ‘bomb blast’, ‘Royalty Protection Squad’. It seemed like exactly the sort of book I’d usually shy away from.

However, the circumstances in which Matt came to write it – as therapy for PTSD diagnosed as a result of his exposure to deaths and bombings when a police officer in London (including the killing of his friend, WPC Yvonne Fletcher) – did intrigue me, so I thought I ought to give it a fighting chance.

And I’m very glad I did, because it’s excellent – and that’s not just my opinion, it’s recently been longlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger for debut crime novels.

What shines through in Wicked Game is its authenticity – something perhaps only a former member of the armed forces and police (and Matt ticks both of those boxes) could achieve.

That’s most evident in the first third of the novel. It’s quite a weighty, slowish start, with oodles of background information – but I rather liked that, and read it much as I would a non-fiction book. I could imagine some readers being tempted to give up at this stage, but if they did they’d miss a treat, as the story really kicks in from about a third of the way in – and then it’s a thrill-a-minute ride to the end.

I was worried that in Matt being ex-police and ex-army, the story might be too pro-establishment for my liking. But what I liked about Wicked Game is that Matt does try to get inside the head of his terrorist characters, to see what makes them tick.

Overally, I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel – even though I was reading outside my usual genre.

This is my quote that appears on the book, and I stand by every word: ‘Out of terrible personal circumstances, Matt Johnson has written a barnstormer of a thriller. Nothing is clear-cut in a gripping labyrinthine plot, which – despite thrills and spills aplenty – never fall short of believable’.

It was relegated to the back cover, but then you can’t win them all. And the quote that was used on the front was from Peter James, and if he loves your novel (which he did) then you know you’ve written something special.

Thanks David!

Find out more about David  here

Follow David on Twitter here.

You can purchase Stasi Child by clickety clicking right HERE

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East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the national police, but the case has Stasi written all over it. Karin is tasked with uncovering the identity of the girl, but her Stasi handlers assure her that the perpetrators are from the West ­- and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Muller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Muller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

Read my review of Stasi Child HERE

Find out more about Matt  here:

Follow Matt on Twitter here:

To purchase Wicked Game clickety click HERE

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2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royalty Protection team based in London. He’s looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans. A policeman is killed by a bomb blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both of the murdered men were former Army colleagues from Finlay’s SAS regiment, and a series of explosive events makes it clear that he is not the ordinary man that his colleagues and new family think he is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse in which Finlay is forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined, unidentified enemy.

Read my review of Wicked Game HERE

Happy Reading!

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Try not to Breathe – Interview with Holly Seddon

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Today I am REALLY happy to welcome Holly Seddon to the blog answering some questions about her brilliant debut novel – you can see what I thought about it HERE and more details about it follow after the questions. Thanks SO much Holly and to her publisher Corvus books.

 

A pretty standard question to open but trust me, this is endlessly fascinating for readers even if writers must get sick of answering it – but tell us a little about the original inspiration behind “Try not to Breathe” – what started it for you?

It started with Amy, my character in a long-term coma. I was cooking a roast dinner and listening to a health programme on the radio where they were discussing persistent vegetative states. They interviewed some of the relatives of patients in that condition, some of whom had been trapped like that for years, and someone described it as a “living death”. That phrase stuck with me and I started to imagine a murder victim who didn’t quite die but wasn’t really alive… And what would happen to her loved ones as the years passed.

Giving Amy, locked inside her own mind, a “voice” in the narrative worked so beautifully – I kept finding myself anticipating what she might be thinking next – I wondered how much of that is realistic? In the sense of any research you did into patients in coma/vegetative state after trauma, who might perhaps have recovered and remembered the experience?

Thank you, I’m glad it felt realistic and respectful. That was my main concern, that anyone whose loved one had been affected by something so harrowing wouldn’t find my imagined approach offensive. It’s such a rare condition with a poor prognosis that there’s very little source material but I did draw on accounts and autobiographies from people who had undergone similar traumas or related conditions. There’s an amazing memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffered with locked-in syndrome following a huge stroke. He dictated the whole book by blinking, which I can’t even begin to imagine. Mostly though, and I think it’s important to say this, I used masses of artistic licence.

Amy is stuck, but in a lot of ways Alex is too – she may be conscious in the real world but her personal demons haunt her. For me the two characters had an underlying connection in that way – talk a little about constructing that character, what did you hope readers would take from her? (And will she return? She feels like she has more to say!)

Ah, Alex. My girl. I actually started writing Alex for pretty self-serving reasons. I needed someone to stumble upon Amy and then have the skills and desire to solve her cold case. So – coming from a journalism background myself – it made sense that she’d be a writer, and she needed to be living in a small town despite her glittering background, so I gave her some ‘challenges’ but then she took on a life of her own and her own story started to emerge and, I know this sounds pretentious, but she kind of tugged me down some dark alleys with her. She wasn’t all planned out from the get-go, far from it.

I always said Try Not to Breathe was a standalone novel with no plans for a follow-up, but… A lot of people have asked if Alex could come back and I’ve really started to miss her in recent months. I like the idea of her tackling some other cold cases so we’ll see!

Of course the other important person in this story is Jacob who has never truly moved on from Amy or let her go – this felt very real – did you speak to anyone that had a loved one in this situation (although perhaps not due to violent circumstances) or do you have any personal experiences that fed into Jacob’s character?

I didn’t speak to anyone who’d been through similar as such but I have spent a little time in hospitals with loved ones. I found that I drew on my teenage experiences and those of my friends for young Jacob though.

The storytelling for me was atmospheric and beautiful – you juggle a lot of layers especially with an eye to the personal relationships, as a writer how do you plot? Is it all laid out in your mind, do you always know where things are going to end up? Or is some impulsive?

Thank you so much. I plot loosely but if I did a chapter-by-chapter outline I’d hate the novel and myself before I’d even started writing. I find that a basic framework is important so I don’t just flim flam around but I need to see how the characters emerge and what ideas pop up along the way.

Try Not To Breathe for me was a novel that evoked a strong emotional response. Do you have any books you have read that have particularly affected you? Made you laugh, cry, think? Really I’m looking for some recommendations…

I’m a very emotional reader! I can’t even discuss Life After Life or A God In Ruins (Kate Atkinson) without choking up. I also loved Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us. That kept me awake and weepy a few times.

Tell us a little about you in 5 easy soundbites:

* Tea, coffee or other?

Tea – I live in The Netherlands where no-one has milk in their tea and the teabags aren’t ‘the same’ so I buy bumper packs of British teabags from the M&S in Amsterdam. I need my tea.

* Real book or e-book?

My husband bought me a Kindle about five Christmases ago and I read a lot more as a result and became braver with my choices too. It’s so much easier to download a book on a whim or in the middle of the night and I’m a big fan of e-books BUT I do love the smell and feel of a real book. We’ve just bought a house and the first – and only, so far – renovation we’ve made is to have a proper bookcase built in so we can finally get all our books on the shelves. I expect to be buying a lot more ‘real’ books as a result.

* An author that gives you writers envy

Kate Atkinson.

* Healthy eating or chocolate?

Eating healthy… in theory. But if you’d said cheese instead of chocolate, different answer!

* One thing you would desperately want to have if stuck on a desert island.

A notepad and pack of pencils. Can that count as one? Maybe if they were purchased as some kind of set? Please?!

Thanks so much!

My pleasure!

About the book:

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You won’t be able to put it down.
Just remember to breathe.

Alex is sinking. Slowly but surely, she’s cut herself off from everything but her one true love – drink. Until she’s forced to write a piece about a coma ward, where she meets Amy.

Amy is lost. When she was fifteen, she was attacked and left for dead in a park. Her attacker was never found. Since then, she has drifted in a lonely, timeless place. She’s as good as dead, but not even her doctors are sure how much she understands.

Alex and Amy grew up in the same suburbs, played the same music, flirted with the same boys. And as Alex begins to investigate the attack, she opens the door to the same danger that has left Amy in a coma..

Try not to Breathe is available NOW from Corvus  and you can purchase it HERE

Follow Holly on Twitter

Visit her Website

Happy Reading!

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All is not Forgotton – Neil White talks to Wendy Walker.

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All is not Forgotton is a haunting and provocative story looking at some very dark themes – and is probably one of the most quietly gripping novels I have read this year. In her non writing  life Wendy is an attorney, her novel falls within the Crime Fiction genre so I could not think of anyone better to interview her than Neil White, British criminal lawyer and crime writer. I’m more than happy to host their fascinating discussion, whilst this is all about Wendy if you havent checked out Neils books yet then you are missing out. I highly recommend his latest trilogy featuring The Parker Brothers but really pick any of them up for great reading. Thanks so much to both of them for coming onto the blog.

 

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Neil: One of the best things about being a writer is getting the opportunity to meet talented and interesting people from around the world, and today my fun continues. Recently, I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker, a debut novel from a Connecticut lawyer that has already garnered high praise and rave reviews, with Reese Witherspoon snapping up the film rights even before the novel had its worldwide release. As I swallow hard on my envy, I can say that I loved the book, different and shocking and thrilling, and I’m feel privileged to have this chat with Wendy.

As a writer from the wilds of northern England, who had a long journey to publication, with years of attempts and rejections before landing my first deal with HarperCollins in 2007, I’m always interested in hearing the stories of other writers.

Wendy, before we get to the real nub of your book and your thoughts on all things writing, what is your story?

 

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Wendy: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to interview me! It is really great to be out of my writing “cave” and conversing with other authors.

This is my story. I live in Connecticut, which is just northeast of New York City. I went to college at Brown University and law school at Georgetown University. I spent one year at the London School of Economics and I got to travel all around Europe. I have had many jobs from waitressing to investment banking at Goldman Sachs, to commercial litigation and now family law. I have three teenage sons and a large extended family.

After I had my first son eighteen years ago, I decided to stay home to raise my children until they were all in school. I felt lucky to be able to do that and so I took the job very seriously! But after about a year, I started to feel unfulfilled so I started to write whenever I had free time (which was not very often!). I had two more children in five years and all the while I kept writing. I even wrote in the back of my minivan while waiting for them at pre-school! I felt like a time scavenger, especially after I found an agent who thought she could sell my novel. Of course, life is never that straight forward. My first novel, a legal thriller, did not sell. My next two novels, which were women’s fiction, did get published, but they did not result in a lucrative career. By then, I was divorced and my

children were all in school, so I went back to work as a lawyer (after 14 years away from the field). The work I found was in the area of family law and it was a wonderful fit for my life experience. I practiced for five years, eventually opening up my own practice, which focuses on consulting.

After I started practicing law again, I never gave up the dream of making a career as a writer. I used to tell my boys that it was important to always have a dream, but to also be responsible. I did not stop working as a lawyer. But I also managed to keep writing! I signed with a new agent and she loved my concept of a psychological thriller based on memory science. I was a bit nervous about switching genres, but I had always enjoyed suspense and thrillers and I was very interested in this story concept, so I dusted it off and wrote All Is Not Forgotten. It was great advice and I am so glad that my children may get to see my dream come true (fingers crossed) so that they will believe what I told them about having dreams and never giving up – even if you have to keep your day job!

So, after seventeen years of working towards this dream, I am currently writing almost full time- but my legal doors are still open and I still have a few clients.

Neil: Oh, I love that history. Inspiring and interesting, especially the image of you typing away in the minivan, pursuing your dream. Most of all, great to hear that what stands out for you is your desire to tell stories, which you do very well.

I’m a criminal lawyer, and have been for twenty years, but in the early part of my writing career I avoided writing legal thrillers because I was worried about getting obsessed with realism. Although I would never want to write a book with legal inaccuracies, I was worried that I would forget to focus on the interesting parts, the highlights. I’ve got over that worry, and I see that you have written a couple of legal thrillers, but when you came back to crime fiction you didn’t opt for a legal thriller. As a lawyer, what was behind that decision?

Wendy: I had never thought about it that way, but you are exactly right that when you practice law it is hard to get away from the realism. The truth is, most of what happens in court is extremely boring! Interesting cases take years to wind their way through the system and involve countless motions and small, technical rulings that are not central to the main “story” of the case. I did consider writing All Is Not Forgotten as a legal thriller at first because I was very drawn to the legal implications of “memory” altering treatments for victims of crime and criminal prosecutions. Having to choose between justice and forgetting is an extremely compelling set-up for a novel! But in the end, I wanted to focus more on the emotional elements of this dilemma and the impact on individuals and families, rather than how it would play out in court.

Neil: You did the emotional side of it very well. It was very compelling. How was it for you writing it? For instance, the rape of the central character was explicit, but yet it’s real horror was in the matter-of-factness. Was it hard approaching something like that, and how did you avoid crossing the line into it being gratuitous.

Wendy: I was very focussed throughout the novel on my narrator’s voice. The words he chose, the length of his sentences, the cadence and pacing of his thoughts – all of those devices were put to use to convey to the reader (sometimes subliminally) his emotions. When describing the rape, in particular, I kept on task, thinking very carefully about the words that were used. It was not just about describing the facts of the rape to the reader, but making sure the internal conflict of my narrator came through. He is a professional, but this case pushes against that. I honestly never thought about whether I was being too graphic, and I fought very hard to remain detached from the act the words were describing. I know the result was a very disturbing opening to the book because I am asked this question all the time. There are other parts of the book that provoked emotion when I was writing them, but never the parts written in my narrator’s voice. But I was able to maintain a steadier hand when writing Dr. Forrester.

Neil: You pulled it off, I can assure you. In relation to the subject matter, the memory-altering, what interested you in it? It’s such a unique angle. Was it something you came across in your professional life?

Wendy: Actually, I read an article in 2010 in the New York Times about these emerging theories in memory science and the treatment of PTSD with drugs that can lessen the emotional impact of a trauma memory. I had just gone back to work as a lawyer and I was not able to write much at the time. I remember thinking that this would make an incredible set up for a thriller because of the moral, ethical and legal questions that would arise if these treatments were offered to victims of crime. When I was encouraged by my agent to try my hand at a psychological thriller in 2015, I knew immediately that this would be the start. I researched the issue and discovered that this area of memory science had just exploded and that drugs were now being developed with the hope of mitigating, reconsolidating and even erasing trauma memories. I developed the characters and plot in a way that I hoped would explore this fascinating topic.

Neil: It was fascinating, which brings me to the next point: where next? What can we expect for the next Wendy Walker novel?

Wendy:

Yes! I am working on my next psychological thriller. I stayed true to form by focussing on dark, family dynamics that readers will relate to, and the structure is again something different from what we’ve seen before. The suspense comes in many forms as our narrator tells us stories of past and present in a fast-paced, conversational way that builds to a series of reveals. Here is a little bit about it:

Five years ago, two sisters disappeared into the night. Now, one has returned to tell the dark story of years spent on an Island off the coast of Maine. As the FBI searches for the Island and the sister who did not make it out, we learn about the twisted past the girls endured in their own home before they left – and the truth about where they have been comes under scrutiny. Through the voice of our narrator, the sister who has returned, and the testimony of the Bureau’s forensic psychologist, the stories of past and present converge in an explosive and unexpected ending.

Neil: That sounds great! The first thing that stands out to me is the change of location. All Is Not Forgotten is set in a small Connecticut town, which I know is your own part of the USA, and I loved the feel of it. What made you go to Maine?

Wendy: I have spent some time there in the summer and was struck by the remoteness of the islands off shore. Some have houses, some are uninhabited, and even the people who have lived onshore for years don’t really know much about who owns what and who lives where. I needed a location where people could get lost, live off the grid and disappear. Maine fit perfectly! It is also a wonderful contrast to the central location of the plot where everything and everyone is meticulously scrutinized. All of that makes for some really substantive content.

Neil: It’s been great chatting to you, Wendy, and I hope All Is Not Forgotten has the success it deserves. A great book.

Thanks so much!

About the book:

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In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

You can purchase All is Not Forgotton HERE

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Happy Reading!

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Wilde Lake – Laura Lippman. Blog tour review.

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Publication Date: 7th July from Faber

Source: Review Copy

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

Laura Lippman has been described as one of the best crime novelists writing today – and I have to say from a purely readers point of view that I would absolutely agree with that.

Wilde Lake is perhaps my favourite of hers so far – multi layered, intensely engaging, a story about family secrets, community, perception and reality, with some intriguing and brilliantly drawn characters and an atmospheric and authentic setting.

The story uses the past/present narrative in a slightly different way, as Lu enters the fray on a murder case that may have deep rooted and hidden links back to her own family. As she prepares to make her case, the past starts to intrude on the present and things Lu thought she knew suddenly look very different from her now adult perspective.

She is in some ways a divisive character which makes things all the more interesting -this author knows how to drag you deep into the story, I loved the relationships drawn between Lu, her father and her brother.  A family pulling together through all things, the normal and sometimes not so normal life events, the picture painted is a fascinating one. Throw into that a death from the past and one from the now, start moving one towards the other and you will be unable to put this one down.

Laura Lippman shows us how Lu came to be, her influences and experiences growing up which all feed into her behaviour and reactions in the now -there is a mystery element that has many nuances, this is not a black and white whodunnit but a tale of many levels. Moral lines blur, Lives are changed. The whole thing is extraordinarily gripping.

I loved it. I loved the use of language to convey and invoke emotion, loved the dark and genuinely clever plot and the ending made me cry. Brilliant.

Highly Recommended.

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To Purchase Wilde Lake clickety click right HERE

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Happy Reading!

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