Bloody Scotland Part One – Whats Happening in Stirling…

 

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So this year’s Bloody Scotland festival is fast approaching – running from 9-11th September, I shall be there and if you are a lover of all things Crime Fiction I can promise that its definitely worth a visit. Great authors, great events, the fastest friendliest festival you could hope to attend and a banging good time from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave.

The entire programme can be found HERE but today Im starting a series of posts that will look at just a few of the great authors and the things going on, I’ve asked them the same set of questions to give you a taster, I’ll talk about a few of the events and lets see if we can’t tempt you to hop onto a train, plane or automobile and come along and join in the madness. In fact look you could win tickets to the opening reception HERE – go on give it a go.

The festival is relaxed so I am too and in that spirit I stuck a pin in the list of authors I’ve got for you and came up with Matt Bendoris and Neil Broadfoot – in a twist of fate they will both be answering the question How Tartan is your Noir on Sunday 11th at 10am (10am guys really? Best not stay TOO late at Crime in the Coo then) alongside Bill Daly and Aline Templeton – I’m definitely not missing THAT.

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Matt’s latest novel is Wicked Leaks  – which I havent gotten around to yet having only just, because I’m so inefficient, read DM For Murder (review spotlight coming soon on that one) but its fast coming up on my reading list and having read the answers I got back to my little lead in interview I’ll be getting onto it very soon..

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Could you tell us a little bit about your latest novel Wicked Leaks and what readers can expect from it, maybe about what originally sparked the idea?

It features a terminal patient with a terrible secret – he claims to have been involved in the ‘assassination’ of Princess Diana. He soon ropes his nurse into his web of conspiracies who ends up running for her life. The original idea came from my wife, a nurse, who used to sit with her dying patients overnight in their homes. It got me thinking ‘what if….’

In the wonderful world of Crime writing which Crime authors inspire you? Who writes your “go to” books when you look to read for pleasure. Or indeed do you read outside of Crime?

I have always been a big Ben Elton fan…from his stand-up comedy days to his crime writing (although I doubt he’d call himself a crime author). I thoroughly enjoyed his last book Time and Time Again.

Will this be your first time at Bloody Scotland? If so are you excited? If you’ve been before what would you say to encourage readers to attend?

It’s my second time…I have written two books since the last time I attended so have plenty to gab about. Also, I’m not an author who takes himself too seriously, so hopefully we can have a bit of a giggle too.

Tell us one random fact about you that is unlikely to come up at the festival?

David Cameron once threw me off a bus in East Kilbride. I kid you not!

HA! The mind boggles…

You can purchase Wicked Leaks HERE

So Neil’s latest novel is “All the Devils” – which incidentally I’m reading right now and it is pretty damn good it has to be said, so here is what he told me about it and about some other stuff….

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Could you tell us a little bit about your latest novel and what readers can expect from it, maybe about what originally sparked the idea?

All The Devils is the third novel featuring Doug McGregor and Susie Drummond. When the book opens, Doug is struggling to come to terms with the events of my previous book, The Storm, and he’s not doing well. In pain, struggling to cope with a relationship he’s not sure he wants and a job he’s not sure he needs any more, he’s escaping into the bottle. But he has to put aside his own demons when Susie needs his help to investigate the brutal murder of her ex-lover. As a gangland power struggle erupts into violence on the streets of Edinburgh – and much closer to home – Doug and Susie’s already tense relationship is sorely tested. Together they confront a conspiracy that reaches deeper than either of them can image. They’re about to face All The Devils, the question is, can they survive?

This is a story that’s always been at the back of my mind since my debut. Falling Fast. Susie’s mistake with her ex was the event that, inadvertently, brought her and Doug together. I always knew there was a bigger story there, so this was a chance to go back and explore that. And, without giving the plot away, there are issues surrounding the use of sex as a weapon, sexism and the power of the past that I wanted to explore.

In the wonderful world of Crime writing which Crime authors inspire you? Who writes your “go to” books when you look to read for pleasure. Or indeed do you read outside of Crime?

One book that had a profound effect on my work was The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell, which won the Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year award last year. I read it as we were doing an event together and I was hooked. It’s so much more than a crime novel, and it’s so brilliantly written, that it made me up my game for All The Devils, and hopefully that shows.

One of the best things about crime writing, especially Scottish crime writing, at the moment is that there is so much talent out there – and so much to pick from. Just look at the McIlvanney longlist this year, you can’t go wrong with any of them (except Douglas Skelton, the man is a menace and the bane of my life!).

I’ve always been a voracious reader, so almost anything goes. If I’m looking to relax, I love a bit of Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson. Away from crime, I cut my teeth on Stephen King so he’s always on my to be read pile.

Will this be your first time at Bloody Scotland? If so are you excited? If you’ve been before what would you say to encourage readers to attend?

It’s hard to believe that this will be my third year at Bloody Scotland – and the excitement shows no sign of waning. One of the best things about crime writers is the strong sense of community – apart from all the murder and mayhem on the page, crime writers are the nicest, most supportive people you can meet. And it shows at Bloody Scotland. Everyone is milling around, talking with other writers and readers. This year’s programme is utterly brilliant, and Stirling is just such a beautiful venue. To anyone sitting on the fence I’d say dip your toe in and you’ll be hooked – there’s something for everyone and everyone involved goes out of their way to make you feel included and welcome.

Tell us one random fact about you that is unlikely to come up at the festival?

I ended up at the wedding of Gordon Brown (the former PM, not the writer) by accident.

Seriously, what is it with you guys and Politicians??

You can purchase All the Devils HERE

Thanks to both the guys for taking the time to have a quick chat. Tempted yet? Not sure? Well you know, more to come in a few days including Rachel Abbott, Tim Weaver, Doug Johnstone and many more. In the meantime do pop over to the Bloody Scotland website for more detail and follow them on the Bloody Scotland Twitter feed for updates and more information. Here are some pictures from last years event just to finish off nicely.

Happy Reading (and hopefully travelling)

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Football, books and Hull. Nick Quantrill and David Young talk….

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The seemingly endless weeks of football’s Euro 2016 tournament are finally over. English crime writers Nick Quantrill and David Young were following it avidly – despite the fact that England went out with a whimper. But they still had players to cheer on because both are Hull City fans: and former Hull favourites Robbie Brady and James Chester starred for the Republic of Ireland and Wales respectively.

So, football and crime writing. Do they go together? And what’s this we hear about a resurgence of the city of Hull’s fortunes, casting off its ‘crap town’ past to become the 2017 City of Culture – with a Premier League football club to boot. Nick and David take up the story.

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NQ – I love Hull, me. I love the fact we’re at the end of the line and it’s an out of the way place that people need a reason to visit. I love it because when people do visit, they always without fail are surprised by what we have to offer. To me, it’s a city that does its own thing, mainly because it has to. It also has all the ingredients you require when telling stories – it has a rich history, it’s loved and lost, it finds ways to forge new futures and adapt. Like you, I’m also a big football fan and Hull is a tough, working class city which has always expressed itself through sport. But David, you’re not even from Hull really, are you?

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DY – No, but I sort of am. I was born in Cottingham, which is really a suburb of Hull, in a nursing home at the end of the road where my parents lived for most of their lives. However, when I came into the world the family was living in Hull proper, and my father and grandfather owned a builders’ merchants in the centre of the city. So I do have a bit of pedigree. I was farmed out to a boarding school less than forty miles away in York aged just nine – a miserable time, and it pretty much cut my roots. But my link has always been supporting Hull City. From memory I started supporting them in 1967 as a nine-year-old, and one very early Christmas opened my Hull City kit early and slept in it all night, and always dreamed of them playing in an FA Cup Final, a dream which came true in 2014. Nick, are you Hull through and through? All your novels are set there, correct?

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NQ – They are, but let’s talk about Hull City! I was also a nine years old when I first taken to a match, but it was in 1984. It was a 0-0 draw with Reading, which until recent years has seemed symbolic of the dross regularly served up by the club. Did you cry at Wembley when we first won promotion to the Premier League? I might have shed a manly tear. I am Hull through and through, as you say. Writing wasn’t something I’d always wanted to do, but when I did make the decision to start, exploring my home city felt like a no-brainer. Although I don’t write police characters, the inspiration was Ian Rankin’s DI Rebus series set in Edinburgh. To coin a cliché, the city becomes a character and I wanted the same. I live in Hull, so I wanted to make sense of it, understand what makes it tick. I’m also lucky the city has undergone such huge change over the last ten or so years. It feels like a gift. David, you ignored Hull as a possible location for your series, and opted instead for somewhere further afield …

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DY  Yes. I guess I was interested in the communist bloc from my university days. Or rather polytechnic days as I flunked out of a Geology degree at Bristol Uni and ended up at the poly – but managed to specialise in history, which I didn’t even have an O-level in (I think the entrance requirements for polys in those days was 2 ‘E’s in anything at A-level). My dissertation was on British attitudes to Stalin’s 1930s purges, and then I became interested in East Germany when I was playing guitar and writing songs for a little indiepop band nearly thirty years later, and blagged a tour of German venues. In between gigs I read Anna Funder’s Stasiland which sparked the idea for a detective series set in the former GDR, starting with Stasi Child. At that time, I don’t think there was one – at least not in English as the original language. But in doing so, I set myself some problems – particularly in terms of research. Nick, do you enjoy the research part of your books? And your protagonist Joe Geraghty is a rugby league player, isn’t he? Isn’t that heresy for a Hull City fan?

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NQ – Research?! No, I’m not a huge fan. I can see that it’s very important to your work, though. I also keep away from writing police characters, so maybe there’s a theme developing there. More seriously, the police sub-genre is so overcrowded, you need a really strong hook to make your work stand out. Setting your work in East Germany certainly ticks that box and Karin Muller is a great character. I figured a Private Investigator was the answer for me, mainly because they have a lot more freedom than a regular cop. You’re right, though. Joe Geraghty is an ex-rugby league player, and the sport doesn’t always peacefully co-exist with football in the city. It was a pragmatic decision in truth. Rugby league is such a defining aspect of the city, one that literally divides it in two via the River Hull. I knew I could draw more of the city’s character out by using that mechanism. So what did you do for research, David? And are you going to try to shoehorn Hull City into one of your novels – couldn’t they go on a friendly tour in 1970s East Germany?

DY Ha ha! I did consider that actually for the third book in the series, which I’m writing at the moment. An Australian-based Manchester City-supporting journalist has insisted I get his team in, along with a character based on him. So I thought about having Man City, Hull City, and the team where the novel is set – BSG Stahl Eisenhüttenstadt (which loosely translates as Steel Ironworks City) – in a three-way ‘City’ tournament. Football does feature in the story, as Stahl were relegated several divisions because of illegal payments to players – which I’ve used in the plot. So a lot of my research is just visiting weird and wonderful places like Eisenhüttenstadt, which is expensive but huge fun. It used to be Stalinstadt, and was the first East German socialist new town. My second novel (as yet untitled but due Feb 2017) is in another new town, Halle-Neustadt. My research also involves meeting and interviewing former East German detectives, and the country’s most famous real-life murder case – the Crossword Puzzle Murder – happened in ‘Ha-Neu’ in the early 1980s. It was a real privilege to meet and talk to the detective who led the team that solved that one, thanks to a partially-completed crossword puzzle found with the body. It’s still the largest-ever handwriting sample collection exercise ever undertaken – more than half-a-million samples. I’m very lucky to have got that level of cooperation for my stories and long may it continue! I hope to continue the series for many books, but you’ve started a new series? Is it another Hull novel?

NQ – I have and it is. “The Dead Can’t Talk” features new characters, Luke Carver and Anna Stone. He’s ex-Army and recently out of prison, she’s a disillusioned cop on the brink of leaving her job (see, I’m totally dodging the research thing again!). Stone’s sister is missing and it transpires the only person she can turn to for help is Carver, the man she put in prison. It’s full of conspiracy, murder, blackmail and all the good crime stuff. The derelict and crumbling Lord Line building, one of the last remaining symbols of the city’s fishing industry, also features. Hull feels like a city with plenty of stories still to tell. When I started writing about a decade ago, I didn’t know of any contemporary writers in the city, but it feels like the place has exploded recently – Russ Litten, Louise Beech, Brian Lavery, Cassandra Parkin, Lee Harrison and of course yourself – the list goes, and I think that’s great, and goes a long way towards making Hull a proper and deserving City of Culture.

Thanks guys!

You can find Nick on Twitter HERE

You can find David on Twitter HERE

If you like you could purchase Stasi Child right HERE

And you could purchase The Dead Don’t Talk HERE

Happy Reading!

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2016 Spotlight: Poison City by Paul Crilley

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Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Netgalley

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except… the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.

It’s not looking good for the world.

Poison City is adorable…

Oh who am I kidding? Poison City is fricking nuts, completely utterly beautifully crazy. With dog.

I loved every minute of it. Urban fantasy at its brilliant best with a banging addictive story, characters to die for and thought provoking, intensely insightful glances at human nature in all its terrible glory. With vampires.

This is like Urban Fantasy Noir – its kind of like one of those old school detective stories, where the bars are smoky, the conversation is peppered with underlying feeling, the investigator is enigmatic and focused and there is always some kind of huge blow up fight at the end. Only with added Angels. And other things. And the fight is really on from first page to last…

It rocks along, the dialogue is sharp and funny, the world building is incredibly imaginative with a truly authentic feel  considering theres a fae market down the road – the setting is pure joy, the whole thing comes alive around you while you read. Those are the best books right? Also whenever dog is around he steals the limelight and frankly he should have his own sidekick comic or something. Really. I do feel like I should send Paul Crilley ALL the sherry.

If this was just a tale of adventure that would have been pure class but the thing about Poison City is it is EMOTIONAL seriously seriously heart wrenchingly emotional at times. I won’t give anything away but there are moments in Poison City that I felt right down in my soul. My engagement with London and his search for his daughters killer was a complete one. Bonded now we are.

As for Armitage well. Amazing you know she’s…actually I’ll let you find out for yourself….

Brilliant characters, utterly clever plotting, a world you both want to live in and run screaming away from, Poison City is my new favourite thing. Bring on the next book…I’ll start queuing now if necessary get ye behind me people!

The war is coming…

Highly Recommended.

With Dog.

Find out more HERE

Follow the author on Twitter HERE

To Purchase Poison City clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

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The Summer that Melted Everything – Interview with Tiffany McDaniel

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Today I am VERY happy to welcome Tiffany McDaniel to the blog talking about her brilliantly evocative novel “The Summer that Melted Everything”. Details on the book and my review to follow.. Thanks so much to her for taking the time.

 

First of all I want you to know that I LOVED this story – like nothing I’ve read before with such depth of language to describe the people and the places and well, lots of things – so whilst I do try and stay away from the terribly generic “Where did the idea come from” I think in this case I MUST ask it. What inspired the devil to go to Breathed, Ohio?

First off, thank you for the wonderful things you’ve said about the novel. I am so happy to hear you’ve enjoyed your time spent with the story. That’s all I hope for as an author, to write something readers are not disappointed at having spent their time reading. So thank you.

To answer your question, I always say my ideas come from the elements that make me. That in the crossing wires and flickering lights of my soul, there exists the source of ideas. As it exists for all authors. That point of origin that fills our bucket when we visit the well. Call that source imagination, infinity, or chaos. Whatever it is, the ideas are born there. I can’t get down to all the details of how this comes about writing a certain story, because creativity can’t be brought down to a science. I will say for me, my characters are always the ones who inspire a story forward. I owe it to them to write the best beginning, middle, and end of a story that I can.

I don’t want to give anything away because this is one of those books where actually the less you know the better absorbed into that world you will become – but one of the themes running throughout was that of family and small town ties – Autopsy was a particularly inspiring character I found – can you talk a little about how you made the connections, built the characters? And did you have a favourite to write?

I never outline or pre-plan the story. When I have an idea for a novel, it’s an unshapen ball. The story evolves with each new word I type and each new page written. I always say that I’m even surprised where the story goes and who the characters become. I’d like to say all these connections are planned but the thing about writing, or about creation at all, is that it’s best created without a plan, at least for me.

To answer your second question, one of my favorite characters to write was Sal. He’s the one come to answer the invitation inviting the devil to town. He was a character that was a contradiction. An old soul in a young body. He has a particular type of poetry and wisdom about him that is always fun to write. Furthermore, because he’s presenting himself as the devil, I got to write that “fallen angel” dialogue. And that’s a very unique conversation to undertake.

I’m going to leave it there on plot although I’m certainly going to be encouraging people to pick this up and discover Fielding and that long hot summer he inhabited – so perhaps tell us a little about your writing inspirations, heroes of the literary world. If you pick up a book to read for pure pleasure whose book would it likely be?

Ray Bradbury is pure magic. Infinity isn’t complete without him. I love all of his work. I say I haven’t been to Mars and back, but Bradbury has taken me pretty close. I want to be buried with his Dandelion Wine. I wish I could open the book, jump into the pages, and go running the fields with the rest of wildflowers he’s written.

Shirley Jackson. She walks on water that one. I haven’t read a Shirley Jackson book or short story I don’t like. I especially love We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s the first Jackson novel I read and it’s like moonshine caught in honey.

I was a kid of the 90s so I was very much in love with R.L. Stine’s Fear Street and Goosebumps series. I read them to this day. I also love Agatha Christie. Opening one of her books is like meeting an old friend. The gang isn’t complete without Harper Lee, Donna Tartt, and Kazuo Ishiguro. I love the poetry of James Wright. Line after line is so lovely I want to hoard it in my soul.

What do you hope people take away from reading “The Summer that Melted Everything” – or to put you on the spot slightly if you only had 5 words to describe it what would those words be?

A message in five words? Tricky. I’d say:

Be who you are. Always.

Five exactly.

And what is next? Do you have another novel brewing and if so can you give us any hints?

I have eight completed novels and am currently working on my ninth. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic Ocean and end up in my land of Ohio. While here the siblings create their own camp of judgement, where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners, punishing themselves for surviving. This is a story about guilt. What it does to us. How we live with it. Ultimately whether or not we can survive it.

Thanks so much!

About the book:

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Fielding Bliss has never never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil. When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expects that he will turn up. They especially don’t expect him to turn up as a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy. Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courthouse and brings him home, and he is welcomed into the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal – and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out – there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be.

“Don’tcha wanta live forever?”
“I’m the devil. I am already forever.”

The Summer that Melted Everything is an incredible novel – I absolutely devoured this one and it is one of those books where the sheer beauty of the prose digs deep into you, the story unfolding in your minds eye, hauntingly evocative and intensely addictive.

It is a difficult one to talk about when it  comes to plot, you really do not want to give anything away, in its simplest form we follow Fielding Bliss as he remembers one summer from his youth – the summer that the devil came to the small town of Breathed, Ohio and changed everything forever.

This is a unique and incredibly insightful novel, I have not read anything like it before and I do not expect to read anything like it again – a sprawling, deeply haunting and alluring tale that just sucks you into its vortex.  You feel every moment of it and the characters you will meet within the pages will stay with you forever. Fielding, his father Autopsy, the inhabitants of Breathed Ohio all come to stunning life – and oh Autopsy (what a name and what a character) – forget Atticus Finch, Autopsy is a quiet but magical force of nature.

I say no more on story you have to discover for yourself – The Summer that Melted Everything is a novel that demands to be read, whatever your taste in books this is an immediate classic – setting, atmosphere, genuinely absorbing, so so beautiful in its complexity I will need to read it again to capture more of the essence of it.

People talk about talented writers. I’ve read a lot of books this year that could speak to that – but Tiffany McDaniel has that something “other” – that indefinable X Factor in the use of language that just changes conceptually the way you see things. I loved it. Very much.

Highly Recommended.

You can  purchase The Summer that Melted Everything HERE

Find some more great posts on the Blog Tour

blog tour summer that melted everything

Happy Reading!

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Infernal – Interview with Mark de Jager.

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Today I am VERY happy to have a chat to Mark De Jager all about the brilliant Infernal – details on the book and a link to my original review follow but here is what he had to tell me and I’m hoping he’ll pop over to the blog again soon and chat some more about it. Infernal is one of those novels you could talk about a lot. Hmm. (Excellent in other words and you should not miss it)

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RIGHT well Infernal was ok I suppose. OH WHO AM I KIDDING it was fantastic. So you know that VERY annoying question where do your ideas come from? – I’m not going to ask it. OK I am but really specifically. Stratus. The major reason Infernal is so annoyingly addictive so what set that off then? Are you slightly insane?

That depends on who you ask. Stratus is a character who’s been a passenger in my mind for a long time. His roots go back to a long running series of RPG campaigns a group of friends and myself played in high school. He was lost for a number of years when the reality of having to pay my own bills set in, but re-emerged a few years ago when I was helping my wife Liz brainstorm her first YA. We needed a name for a character, and his name just popped out. He didn’t make the cut for Banished, but he was back in my mind. When the idea for Infernal hit, I knew he was a perfect fit.

I’m always a little in awe of writers of Fantasy. My imaginative spider sense only really tingles when there is chocolate in the vicinity – so how do you go about building a world? One that is as vivid as it is in Infernal must take quite some planning yes? Not only the geographical sense of it but the inhabitants and their hierarchy and communities. A little insight please Mr De Jager – how many post it notes does it take to create the fantastical?

Again, this is where I owe my nerdy teenage self a massive debt of gratitude. I didn’t get anything resembling pocket money when I was growing up, so I could never afford those beautiful, shiny RPG accesories that I used to spend hours pawing in the local shop.

 

Neccesity is ever the mother of invention though, so I decided to make my own supplements. It started with maps of dungeons, which then became maps of the local area, and then of course I had to add notes about who lived in this town or that city, and it just became bigger and bigger. I remember more of that than I do anything I ever learned in school.

 

When it comes to plotting, I’m a firm believer in doing it by hand. I have at least a dozen moleskine journals full of notes for Infernal alone, some of them tabbed, and some of them so cryptic I can no longer remember what past me meant. There are post it notes everywhere too; sometimes I get an idea for something, lines of dialogue or descriptions and so on at work and need to jot it down. If I don’t, I never remember them.

 

Infernal also has somewhat of a road trip vibe about it and of course is a personal journey of discovery for Stratus as he attempts to find out his origins –  at the heart of all of that, the relationships he develops along the way. How did you want the group dynamic to work and did it end up exactly as you envisioned it or did things change? I have to say I’m particularly interested in the Lucien/Stratus friendship. Erm is friendship the right word?

The relationship between Stratus and Tatyana has been an important element of the story from the first draft all the way through, so I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to see it evolve. It hasn’t always been easy; they’re both strong personalities, which inevitably sent some writing sessions off on a wholly unexpected tangent. Days like those were actually good though, because even though its all ‘off screen’, it made them that much more real for me.

 

The friendship between Lucien and Stratus was the curveball. It’s a fragile thing. Lucien’s been thrust into a role he’s never wanted, and Stratus is still trying to understand the rules of interacting with men in ways that doesn’t involve teeth or swords, so there was plenty of scope for things to go awry. They’re both coming at it with honest intentions though, and it’s that mutual, if occasionally grudging, respect that’s the glue keeping them together.

 

Now there are some pretty stunning and beautifully placed revelations as you head through the story (yes I’m thinking of one in particular, the one that had me swearing on a bus) so the question on that is – HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF leaving me with book trauma – and can you, without giving anything away, give us a small tiny hint about what might be next for our gang? I’m sure you can you know. She says. Sternly.

Well, elephant in the room notwithstanding, the war has caught up with them and, despite his mostly noble intentions, Stratus’ actions are going to have consequences he can’t run from. They’ll be getting up close and personal with the reality of the Worm Lord’s hidden agenda, and it’s not going to be pretty. 

 

Tell us a little about the journey to get here – you wrote the book (how long did that take?) and then – how was the submission process? It can be challenging, were you one of the lucky ones or did you suffer rejection too? And what advice would you give to the next author in waiting.

The first draft took me about a year, and even though I was pretty happy with it, I didn’t look at it again for at least a month so could catch up on my reading. After that, when I went back to read it I had some perspective and could read it more objectively, without my brain whitewashing the typos and glaring omissions. I read it, had some friends read it again, made notes, read their notes, fixed things and generally worked on getting it into the best shape I could. Perhaps two months later I had the first draft in the best shape I could get it and began to think about levelling up and submitting it to a selection of agents.

 

About a month after sending it out I received an email from DHH requesting the full manuscript, which I sent on.  A nervewracking fortnight thereafter I sat down with them over a coffee and accepted their offer of representation. Talking to Real People about my characters was surreal!

 

A re-write and a few more edits ensued before it was ready to be submitted to publishers, so from the beginning to where we are now is well over two years.

 

Advice wise, the most important thing is to write. Don’t wait. Develop a routine, and stick to it. Even if you stare at the screen for an hour and barely write a single sentence, do it. Form the habit. And read!

 

Tell us about you in 6 easy soundbites

  • Tea, Coffee, Other

Coffee! Tea has its place and time, but coffee is nectar.

  • If you could be anyone in the world just for a day who would you be and why? (Living or dead)

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’d say Francis Drake, for the opportunity to live in a world of limitless possibilities and to stand on a ship’s prow and cross the line where the maps end.

  • Manic Friday nights or Lazy Sunday afternoons?

Lazy Sundays! Sunday lunch is an institution.

  • One movie you watch repeatedly

Highlander. And, more recently, Dredd.

  • A book you’ve read that was a BOOM book for you

Legend by David Gemmell. I re-read it every year and still get chills.

  • One person in your real life who inspires you

My wife, Liz. She’s a writing machine and absolutely passionate about the whole indsutry. Of course, she’ll probably kill me when she sees this.

Thanks so much!

About the Book:

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Infernal by Mark De Jager. (Ebury Press, £16.99)

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.

You can read my review of Infernal HERE

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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Crimefest: Meet the authors with Paul Hardisty.

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So recently at Crimefest my very good friend Christine and I interviewed a plethora of gorgeous authors – over at Christine’s place today you can see what happened when we met Michael Grothaus – but right here today I have Paul Hardisty, awesome author of the Straker series and all round lovely person.

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Look, here I am with Paul (at the end of the festival) just after the interview.

So we started off asking about his background, the writing and well lots of things….

Paul always wanted to write. He took a year out of uni but it was hard with nothing to write about. He had to go out and live. Paul studied to MA/PhD level in Environmental Engineering and Science and worked in the oil industry. He worked all over the world and owned his own company.

He eloped and married, which was the best thing that ever happened to him (cue Christine and I melting into full on author love mode) when in Australia he saw a lot of life.

By 2009, he was still writing secretly. He eventually wrote his book, got an agent and met Karen. Karen believed in him and bought the rights to his book. (Karen can always pick the good ones!)

Is there any of Straker (his protagonist) in him?

Paul says he is a loyal person and he tries to be honorable. There is a lot of Straker in him. Straker ran away to fight in South Africa at nineteen. He was violent. An intense person.

Christine then put him on the spot about Straker and his women in the novels where he is not always the best behaved…

He tells us that Straker is totally screwed up. But people do make mistakes. Straker is damaged and human. He went through a harrowing time in South Africa – He was taught to kill and was rewarded for it. It is very realistic. He is honest with Rania. He is not sure he can love her, because he recognises he is damaged.

Christine said  to him about Straker being in love with one woman and sleeping with another….

Paul replied: Once its out there, he no longer owns it. He accepts that.

Feedback from readers- do you get told you get things wrong?

Yes little things. He uses dramatic license (has to be done)

The turtles…..

Paul talked about the turtles being a metaphor for the plight of the oceans. The oceans are in a bad way. In two generations, the turtles will be wiped out. In the scientific community, it is taboo to talk about emotions. It is all about greed and short-sightedness.

Can one person make a difference? Yes if everyone does a little bit. He tries to make the science in his books as truthful as possible.

We talked about Abrupt Physics (as in the title of his first novel) which  = the chaos theory (that went a bit over both my and Christine’s  GCSE Science head but if you get to meet Paul get him onto the subject, he is beautifully fascinating and passionate)

Finally our usual suspect questions…

A book you would recommend?

Atomised by Michel Houlebeq

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence

Chaos – James Lake

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

Flawed Endeavour

LOVE that answer! And that was that – although it has to be said that both Christine and I were more than a little in love by the end of that interview and it is very unlikely that I have captured the essence of the man – Mr Hardisty is a genuinely and unequivocably good guy (no matter what he might say)

Thanks so much!

You can find out more about Paul over at Orenda Books

And follow him on Twitter HERE

And if you have not yet read the books you are missing out – so clickety click HERE

Happy Reading!

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Ones to Watch in 2017: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough.

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Available January 2017 from Harper Collins

Yep you are expecting a synopsis now right? Nope. No. Just no. Anyway, to  be clear although I’m sure there are random descriptions of “Behind her Eyes” around do yourselves a favour and avoid them all. Be careful if you read reviews. You can read this one because its not really a review.

This book will change the way you approach reading things.

And its a banging story to boot.

But the question I have been asked more times than I’ve had cups of tea lately (and I’ve had lots of cups of tea) from those around me who know I’m lucky enough to have read it already is “That hashtag. #WTFthatending is it justified?”

Yes

And I’ll just repeat myself….Yes.

BUT here’s the thing. The entire novel is beautifully brilliant even without THAT ending. Also I should  say that yes you will probably spend the entire time trying to outwit  Sarah Pinborough. Don’t bother. Y’all ain’t got a chance in hell.

Don’t trust this book….

But trust ME when I tell you that you want to read it….

Don’t trust this story……

If there was a gold medal for ingenuity Ms Pinborough would be a shoe in for the win.

Don’t Trust yourself…

Prepare to walk the house dazed and muttering…

because

#WTFthatending

Its coming for you…..

You can pre-order Behind her Eyes HERE

Do it. If you dare.

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Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

The Last Day I Saw Her Lucy Lawrie. Blog Tour.

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Today I am very happy to welcome Lucy Lawrie to the blog talking about the origins of the book and writing – this is one I’m looking forward to reading having loved her first novel, Tiny Acts of Love, very much. Thanks Lucy!

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The Last Day I Saw Her came from a little seed of an idea that dates back to when I was 7 years old.

The story centres around two childhood friends, Janey and Hattie, and much of the activity happens at Hattie’s house, a dark and imposing Georgian town house in New Town Edinburgh.

And I had a school friend who lived in just such a house. One day she told me that sometimes, when she was down in the basement kitchen, she’d heard the piano on the top floor playing by itself. We decided that I would go for a sleepover to help her investigate – ghost-hunting style. We didn’t hear any piano playing, but I was so terrified that I stayed awake all night. At 4.30am when the sky was just starting to lighten, I looked out of the window and saw that the clouds had formed themselves into the shape of a skull. I decided then that I wanted to write a story about a house like that, and that idea surfaced again nearly thirty years later and came to life in The Last Day I Saw Her (phantom piano playing and all!).

When you’re writing, characters can be a bit like ghosts themselves. At first they’re shadowy figures, hovering at the edge of your vision, disappearing when you try to look at them directly. They need to be coaxed out of their hiding places.

When I wrote The Last Day I Saw Her, the first character who felt real to me was Hattie. I wanted to set part of the story in the 1980s when Hattie and Janey were twelve years old and I mentioned this to my sister, who very kindly let me read her diaries from when she’d been that age herself. I immersed myself in them over a few days, while playing 80s music on repeat!

I let my sister’s pre-teen and early-teen voice go round and round in my head until somehow, Hattie’s emerged quite easily and naturally when I went to try and write her. She was quite different from my sister in personality – I have no idea where she actually came from! But something about that process – the immersion in that era, perhaps, or just getting out of my own memories of being a 12 year old girl – had really helped.

Janey came about in another way entirely. My mum was training to be a counsellor at the time and she had become interested in a therapeutic technique where the client is asked to try writing or drawing with her non-dominant hand. The theory is that this accesses the right hemisphere of the brain, the areas that deal with feeling, intuition and creativity, and that are associated with the idea of the ‘inner child’ as a therapeutic concept.

I read some of the literature on this and I found the case studies fascinating and sometimes unnerving – it seemed that different aspects of a person could come through during the process, to the extent that they could often behave (in their writing or drawing) like another person entirely. It was as though they contained different versions of themselves, ‘inner children’ who were sad, or angry, or playful, and who were often calling the shots, despite their adult selves ‘keeping a lid on them’. I kept thinking of the Emily Dickinson poem, ‘One need not be a Chamber – to be Haunted.’

By way of experiment I tried non-dominant handwriting for myself. It didn’t happen naturally for me – my mind went blank and I couldn’t think of any words to write. But I drew a figure.

I’ll use my words from Chapter One of the book to describe what happened: ‘I drew a figure with stick arms and legs, a lollipop head, curly hair…. three dark moles… I added a big smile. But somehow, I couldn’t get the curve right – it remained crooked and tight, however much I went over it. The eyes looked startled, black holes in that sea of white, so I added eyebrows, which only made the curly-headed figure look anxious.’

I stared at the page, at this figure looking back at me. She looked like she had a story to tell. And just like that, Janey was born – and the idea for the first scene in the book.

Writers often talk about characters as though they’re real – the way they appear from nowhere and develop, the way they ‘do their own thing’, and talk back to you, saying things you didn’t expect them to. It can sound a bit uncanny, and in some ways it is.

Rather like in a séance, or a vigil, you need to stand in the doorway between two worlds, the ‘real’ world, and the world of your story.

So much of writing is about crossing thresholds; thresholds inside yourself, from not-knowing to knowing, from keeping back to letting go, from silence into words. You need to take a deep breath, step off the blank page, and into the unknown.

About the book:

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When lonely single mum Janey stumbles into an art workshop, she can’t believe her eyes when her left hand mysteriously scribbles a picture of two little girls and a strange message from someone called ‘Hattie’: Janey’s childhood best friend. But they lost touch after Hattie’s family suddenly moved away in mysterious circumstances.

Janey’s instincts tell her that she must finally find out what happened to Hattie, but life is already complicated enough: she’s struggling with motherhood, a custody battle over her toddler son Pip is looming, and she finds herself falling for intense art tutor Steve. And when writing appears on the walls of her flat and Pip starts playing with an invisible friend, Janey fears she’s losing her mind. Is it really a good idea to go digging up the past? As dark secrets come to light, she can’t be sure what’s real any more – or who to trust…

Find out more HERE

Follow Lucy on Twitter HERE

To Purchase The Last Day I Saw Her clickety click right HERE

Follow the tour!

Blog-Tour

Happy Reading!

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Dark Matter – Blake Crouch. Author interview and review.

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Recently I was very excited (as I’m just a bit of a fan) to get to ask Blake Crouch a few little questions about his latest release – Dark Matter – an absolutely addictive thriller that will mess with your head. Review and book details follow also. Thanks so much to the author for taking the time.

First, thanks so much for taking the time – I’ll attempt to keep it short and sweet much as I’d like to ask you endless questions about everything you’ve written (Abandon and Snowbound being two of my favourites) we’ll stick with Dark Matter which, frankly, has kept me up at night since finishing it thinking of all the endless possibilities. Which I guess is the true intent of speculative fiction – so from your end having written it do you still think about it? Or does writing it, plotting it, kind of get the idea out of your system? I guess you could apply that question to a lot of your novels…

Interesting question. I feel like once I’ve finished writing and editing a book, it is officially out of my system and I rarely think about it again. Part of the reason I write a book is because a certain idea takes hold, and it’s the process of writing it and trying to realize the idea that ultimately gets it out of my head.

In Dark Matter the other strong narrative theme apart from the speculative element is one of identity and what makes us who we are. Experience, decisions, all the little things adding up to a whole personality – Jason has time to consider the path he chose in life – indeed must. I’m interested in how you made such a complex plot so easy to follow – and extraordinarily addictive I COULD not put that book down. There is no disconnect between character drama and thriller so do you start with character or start with theme? How do you build the blocks?

As with Wayward Pines, I started Dark Matter because of a subject I was interested in: quantum mechanics. I spent a long time (a decade actually), researching a thinking about this very complex, convoluted field of physics before I ever started thinking about character or plot. Next came a handful of story idea, and then the character of Jason himself. I didn’t really set out to write a book about the road not taken (in fact, I think writing a novel with a theme in mind is dangerous), but it became readily apparent that my subconscious was fixated with this idea about halfway through.

The Wayward Pines novels have been adapted into an (excellent and popular) television show and Dark Matter looks set for the big screen – as a novelist and screenwriter what is it like seeing your stories in a visual medium? And just as a little bit of fun who would you cast in the roles of Jason and Daniela?

It is surreal and humbling and thrilling to see amazing filmmakers and actors bring my characters to life. One of the coolest moments of my life was the first time I walked on set in Wayward Pines in Vancouver, British Columbia. The first set I saw was the sheriff’s office, and it’s amazing how they brought it to life, right down to the detail of the snow globe that sits on Sheriff Pope’s desk.

It’s difficult to speculate publicly about who I’d like to see play Jason and Daniela, since I’m so closely involved in the film production.

Finally tell us a little about you in 4 easy soundbites

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

Right now… a quaint, isolated village in Scotland sounds perfect.

* Sun worshipper or Night owl?

Night owl.

* If not a writer your dream job would be….

Astrophysicist!

* One person in your real life who inspires you..

My writing partner, Chad Hodge

Thank you so much

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is published 11th August by Macmillan, price £12.99 in hardback

About the book:

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Source: Review Copy

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is an incredibly addictive thriller – one I was up all night with and then spent the next several days pondering. What if? In fact its several weeks later now and still I think about it every now and then. Its possible I’ll still be doing that in a decade…

Jason has a reasonably quiet but very happy life, shattered by the actions of a stranger, he finds himself in a place he does not recognise but that seems to recognise him – so begins both a fight to find his way “home” and a very personal journey of discovery.

The thing about Blake Crouch is, he not only writes beautifully, plots superbly and creates brilliant characters but the man is forever driving you crazy. In a good way. Dark Matter does that tenfold because the further Jason descends into his nightmare the more you are going “what the all heck?” and trust me don’t start this one until you have a good few hours because putting it down becomes pretty impossible pretty quickly.

In the aftermath you’ll rethink every life decision you made ever.  I’m just saying.

Reading Dark Matter is like playing that game where you are blindfolded, spun around madly then have to try and walk straight. Hmm. If you like your novels to be thought provoking, mad good page turning awesomeness then Dark Matter is definitely for you.

Find out more HERE

Follow the author on Twitter HERE

To Purchase Dark Matter clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

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Ones to watch in 2017: Good Me Bad Me – Ali Land.

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Available January 2017 from Penguin (Michael Joseph)

Source: Netgalley

‘NEW N A M E . NEW F A M I LY. S H I N Y. NEW. ME . ‘ Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water. Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

I’ve been reading a few of next years books the last few weeks so I’m starting a little series here on the blog over the next little while with some of my recommendations for ones to watch next year.

Good Me Bad Me is definitely one to watch out for – a beautifully written and intense psychological character study, a haunting and exceptional read that digs deep into the psyche of a damaged girl – damaged by her own mother during an unspeakable upbringing. Having run she finds that she can’t hide…but does she even want to?

Milly’s voice is extraordinary, she will sink into your consciousness without you even realising, she is both scary and sympathetic. Fighting both nature and nurture it seems in her bid for a normal life, her inner turmoil is quietly compelling and utterly absorbing.  Ali Land allows Milly to live right in the narrative, when reading you are lulled into a false sense of security then with a sentence or two she makes your blood run cold. It is clever, fasinating, brilliantly plotted and completely engaging from the very first sentence through to the bitter beautiful end.

I’ll talk about it more nearer the time of publication. For now though I would Highly Recommend that if you have a bookish watchlist you put this one on it. You will want to be part of the conversation. Its quite safe…I promise….

Follow Ali on Twitter HERE

You can pre-order Good Me Bad Me by clickety clicking right HERE

Happy Reading!

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