20 Questions For…..C L Taylor.

Today I’m very happy to welcome Cally Taylor to Liz  Loves Books – she was brave enough to do my 20 questions a while ago which I’ve saved for now and a lot of fun it was too. The Escape, her latest psychological thriller comes out tomorrow – don’t miss it! Details follow after the interview.

So we’ve just had a brilliant cover reveal for your next book – now I KNOW how you love to twist the tale on ye olde psychological thrillers, tell us a little about this one…

THE ESCAPE is about a woman called Jo, an agoraphobic and part-time student support officer, who lives in Bristol with her husband Max and their two year old daughter Elise. One day after work a stranger asks her for a lift. Against her better judgement Jo says yes. It’s the worst decision she could have made. Jo’s life swiftly unravels as the stranger becomes more and more involved in her life. Jo believes that her daughter Elise is in danger but when the police, social services and even Max accuse her of lying the only way she can keep her daughter safe is to RUN.

Favourite cheese (we’ll get the cheese question out early)

I love a bit of Stilton. Ideally with bacon and brie on a panini. Or in a pasty with steak.

Are you a Christmas person or bah humbug?

Definitely a Christmas person. I love the build-up, the films, the sparkly decorations, the food, the look on my son’s face on Christmas morning, seeing family, playing stupid games. I could go on and on…

A movie you watch when you just can’t cope with reality..

I don’t have a favourite that I watch and re-watch but I do love a sci-fi film when I can’t cope with reality. Gattica is probably the one I’ve watched the most times.

Desert Island – 5 other writer types you’d like to hang out with if you were stuck for a while and why…

Oh this is too tough as I know and love so many brilliant writers. There are five writers that I always go on writing retreats with as they’re great company. They also happen to be my best friends so I’m going to go with them – Rowan Coleman, Julie Cohen, Kate Harrison, Miranda Dickinson and Tamsyn Murray. Brilliantly funny, highly entertaining, good listeners and they can neck prosecco and gin like no one else I know!

Drink too much wine or everything in moderation?

Ha! (see answer to my last question). I definitely drink too much wine.

Do you have a favourite character that you’ve written?

I am itching to write about the main character in my fifth psychological thriller because she’s so different from anyone else I’ve written before. That said I hugely enjoyed writing Max in THE ESCAPE and Drew, the sixteen year old protagonist in my YA debut THE TREATMENT. Oh, oh, and Isaac in THE LIE was a lot of fun. I can’t chose just one, the others will get upset.

How about a favourite character that someone else has written?

Now this is easier! Ruth, from The Lives and Loves of a She Devil by Fay Weldon has stayed with me for over twenty years. Also, Olive Martin from The Sculptress by Minette Walters is a big favourite. I do love a weird, strong, larger than life female character. Actually those two women are part of the inspiration behind my next book but I can’t say more than that…

If you are invited to a dinner party what would you hate to see on the menu? (And if it was on the menu would you eat it anyway to be polite or hide it in a plant pot or something)

Octopus tentacles. I shudder at the thought. It’s the suckers. I would definitely find a way to hide them.

One thing that irritates you beyond all reason.

People who walk slowly and seem to sway to whichever side I’m trying to overtake them on!

Last book you read that made you cry.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. What I thought was a book about a grumpy old man turned out to be profoundly moving.

When writing are you totally organised or flapping around in chaos?

I’m pretty organised. I do a lot of thinking and plotting before I write a word but there are definitely moments of flapping and/or smacking the desk with my forehead while I write.

One book that you would pretend you had written if only you could get away with it.

I want to say the Harry Potter book or the Bible but they’re obvious answers. Maybe a book that’s really stood the test of time because I think all writers would like their work to live on long after they’ve died and become a classic. Probably Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Not a crime book but definitely dark and memorable.

Biggest fear.

Something happening to my son.

Favourite flavour of crisps.

It’s changed over the years. I was an out and out salt and vinegar fan as a child and teenager, briefly flirted with cheese and onion in my thirties but now it’s ready salted all the way (am I becoming more bland in my old age?)

3 top songs that you can’t help but sing along to.

Um, right now the main one is the Chris Evan’s jingle ‘How D’Ya Like Your Eggs in the Morning…’ I listen to the radio with my son when we have breakfast and, if that song doesn’t get stuck in my head, it gets stuck in his and then it accompanies us on the fifteen minute walk to school (which is fun). I love The Cure and my favourite songs are the darker ones but when ‘Friday I’m in Love’ is played I can’t help but sing along. Also, ‘Every Day is Like Sunday’ by Morrissey which is a truly miserable song but with a bit of a jaunty tune.

Chasing Rainbows – something magical or unlikely that you absolutely believe in.

Real rainbows? With pots of gold at the end? Um…nope. But chasing your dreams. Hell yes.

How soon can I read The Escape? Tomorrow? Excellent…

You’ve already read it. How did you do that? Some kind of weird time turning thing? Clever.

Last thing that made you laugh out loud…

Lisa Hall sent me a tweet telling me that her email to my editor about The Escape was ‘WELL SCREECHY’. If you’ve met Lisa you can imagine a ‘well screechy’ email from her. It made me laugh out loud.

I know Lisa well. I can indeed imagine her “well screechy” email having had a few of those from her myself…

How much do you hate me right now?

I don’t hate you at all. Although the question about my favourite character was a bit evil.

I have to throw at least one evil question into all of these…

Thanks Cally!

About the book:

 

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

My review:

I banged through this one. I started it then I growled at it some because it wouldn’t let me go then I finished it just like that. Definitively addictive.

SO the main character, Jo, annoyed the mother loving heck out of me. Yes yes she’s unwell, horrible experiences but it didn’t stop me wanting to slap her. I say this with 100% positivity – I COULD NOT stop reading this until I found out what was what, whether she was fragile or fruit loop and what the blinking heck had her husband been up to anyway?

See? Twisty. Twisty goodness. I’m a fan of irritating characters (and that obviously is subjective) that irritate you in a way that just keeps you turning those pages especially when they can turn around on you. Something that Cally Taylor does INDOMITABLY well is write the divisive, occasionally unsympathetic, layered characters that you engage with, whether by wanting to slap them (seriously can I slap her?) or by loving them or hating them or somewhere in between. Tis a thin line but the main thing is it’s a bloody good story and love or loathe those you find within you will be entertained and find yourself lost in their world.

I hovered between emotions while reading it – there are some stand out thrill moments and some contemplative insights, this is what the psychological thriller is supposed to do, make you crazy, whilst thoroughly embracing that crazy. Top notch really.

I like them when they are like this

Excellent stuff here from Ms Taylor.

Find out More

Follow Cally on Twitter

Purchase The Escape

Happy Reading!

Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski – Anyu Kekkonen

Today we have part 4 of Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski, today he is talking about Anyu Kekkonen  – another character in the mix – and we are heading towards the end of this little feature which has been the best fun, with part 5 later this week and then a Q/A with Matt to finish things off before I FINALLY get to review the book as part of the blog tour. This is an excellent novel by the way. As I have said many times and will probably say a fair few more times!

Anyu Kekkonen

Matt Wesolowski

There’s something intriguing about Anyu – the way she holds herself, perhaps? She has this ethereal quality to her – an other-worldly serenity.

When writing characters, they often come to me, they emerge, unformed, taking shape the more I write. I have little control over who they become.

Six Stories was slightly different; before I started, I had an idea of who these characters were – but I didn’t want to touch them yet. I find if I plan or plot anything, especially characters it kills them and their story stone dead. I had to just write and see what happened, see who turned up.

With Anyu Kekkonen, I wanted to capture a character who is somewhat inscrutable; instead of making her mysterious as such, I wanted to make this inscrutability accidental, something she carried almost as a burden. I wanted the others to make her into a mystery, through no fault of her own.

The inspiration for this was fairly easy; I reached into my own experiences of being a teenager, for lots of boys, probably more than we’d like to admit, we put the objects of our affections up on a pedestal, weave mystery around them where is usually none. I wrote Anyu as the sort of girl my early affections would be bequeathed to, despite being aeons out of my league. I would have followed Anyu around when I was 15 like a lost puppy, forever wondering why she had no interest in me whatsoever!

What I also wanted to do was show that someone like Anyu, despite being perceived as exotic and mysterious, quite simply wasn’t; that she was an awkward teenager like the rest of them. Anyu Kekkonen has her own insecurities and her own unrequited feelings.

She also has stories…but I’m not going to spoil that for you here….

About the Book:

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Follow Matt on TWITTER

To purchase the paperback clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

The Dark Room. Interview with Jonathan Moore.

Today I’m very happy to be talking to  Jonathan Moore all about his second novel in his loose San Francisco trilogy –  The Dark Room. I loved this one. You can find a link to my review at the end.

Firstly, can we talk a little about the inspiration or original spark that started you writing not only The Dark Room but the first and last in this beautifully atmospheric loose trilogy – The Poison Artist and the forthcoming The Night Market?

Nearly twenty years ago, when I was a college student living in San Francisco, I had an idea one night for the story that would eventually become The Poison Artist. At the time, I had no idea that it would ultimately become three books—or that it would take me so long to finish the first one. But when I was 22 or 23, I wasn’t prepared to write these books. I was only thirty pages in before I realized that I was out of my depth. I came back to the story in 2013, after I’d sold my first two novels. I was more confident, and more prepared to get out and research things like police procedure and post mortem examinations. The second time around, I had an easy time writing The Poison Artist and I finished the earliest draft in just a few months. I thought that was the end of it, but when I started writing my next book, I chose San Francisco as the setting and the atmosphere took over from there. Now I have three books set in San Francisco, and I think I’m done. But you never know.

The Dark Room has a very hard hitting and utterly gripping central premise around which you have built some remarkably engaging yet often quite damaged characters – is the darker side of human nature something that completely fascinates you?

I doubt I’ll start writing romantic comedies anytime soon. And that’s not to say that I look down on anything that isn’t dark, because I don’t. I never know where my stories are going until I get there, and I’m as surprised as anyone else when I look up and discover where I’ve wound up. So yes, I guess I must have a fascination with the darker side of people. But it’s never something that I’m consciously thinking about when I sit down to write.

If I could talk about Cain for a moment – the central character at the heart of The Dark Room – whilst he comes into focus as the novel progresses, at the end we are still (or I was as a reader at least) fairly in the dark (pun unintended but there!) as to a lot of his inner soul – how do you view him now, with some distance.

One thing I’m very conscious of when I’m writing is narrative focus. The Dark Room is written in the third person, but the point of view is tightly limited to Cain. I’m a visual thinker, so most of what I write is something that you could depict on a screen. (This is all part of my plan to lure filmmakers to my books so that I can quit my day job and live on a yacht in the Mediterranean). On the other hand, that means that you’re not going to find many inner monologues and backstories in the pages I write. But the trade-off being what it is, I think it’s a more realistic way of telling a fast-paced mystery—Cain is out there trying to solve a murder, so he’s going to be thinking about ballistic reports and whether he’s being lied to, and not where he went to kindergarten or how he got along with his parents, or how he’d spend his free time (if he had any). Still, I think you’ll find plenty of clues about what kind of man he is by looking at the things he says and does on the page—how he treats his partners and his colleagues, how he interacts with authorities, how he responds to deaths of people close to him, how much sleep he gets compared to how much time he spends on the street, working. I view Cain as a good man, who’s trying to do the right thing—and who’s too busy to preach much about it.

The Poison Artist and The Dark Room both have very different yet deeply noir undertones – who would you say your biggest influences have been in the writing world?

There are so many writers whose work I love. Cormac McCarthy, for his language—if they had a prize for making existential nihilism sound good, McCarthy would win it with every book. Hemingway, for his knife-like sentences that cut right to point. Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, who had opposite ideas of what a mystery novel should strive to be, but who shared the same fascination: their protagonists grapple to make sense of their world, navigating cities that are mazes of secrets and complex relationships. In contemporary mysteries, I adore Michael Connelly. He’s never written a disappointing book, and you can feel the layers of research and care that go into his stories.

Are you able to tell us a little about The Night Market?

The Night Market is the final piece of my San Francisco project. It is a murder mystery set fifty years after the events in The Poison Artist and The Dark Room, but it pulls in elements from both of those stories. Each one of these books stands alone, and each one has a slightly different tone. If The Poison Artist is an erotic psychological drama, and The Dark Room is a fast police procedural, then the The Night Market is a near-future, dystopian noir. Of the three, it’s my favourite.

Finally, a question I always ask, is there anything that you have read recently that you would personally like to recommend to others?

Perfidia, by James Ellroy. But if you haven’t already read his L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, White Jazz and L.A. Confidential), start there.

Thank you!

About the Book:

Gavin Cain, an SFPD homicide inspector, is in the middle of an exhumation when his phone rings. San Francisco’s mayor is being blackmailed and has ordered Cain back to the city; a helicopter is on its way. The casket, and Cain’s cold-case investigation, must wait.  At City Hall, the mayor shows Cain four photographs he’s received: the first, an unforgettable blonde; the second, pills and handcuffs on a nightstand; the third, the woman drinking from a flask; and last, the woman naked, unconscious, and shackled to a bed. The accompanying letter is straightforward: worse revelations are on the way unless the mayor takes his own life first.  An intricately plotted, deeply affecting thriller that keeps readers guessing until the final pages, The Dark Room tracks Cain as he hunts for the blackmailer, pitching him into the web of destruction and devotion the mayor casts in his shadow.

Read My Review

Find out MORE

Follow the author on TWITTER

To Purchase The Dark Room clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

The Sixth Window – Quickfire Q and A with Rachel Abbott.

Today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Sixth Window, I have a bit of an interview with the lovely Rachel Abbott.

If I had to go back in time and choose another career…

I’d be a psychiatrist. Writing psychological thrillers has made me think a lot about how people’s minds work, and to be able to understand that even better would be wonderful.

My guilty pleasure…

Chocolate gingers. I can eat a whole packet in one sitting!

The book (by another author) that I wish I had written…

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. A whole book without knowing the protagonist’s name! And somehow thinking that a murderer had done a good thing!

The one piece of advice I would give my teenage self…

Never go on a stupid diet when you absolutely don’t need to.

If I had to choose between appearing on Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor…

It would have to be X Factor – I love to sing and I’m a rubbish dancer. I’d be stretching the Overs group on X Factor somewhat, though!

My favourite city in the world…

Venice. An easy answer. I love everything about it.

If I could only have one meal for the rest of my life it would be….

Curry. A real, authentic, Indian curry – probably a chicken one with the special lemons they have there. Hot, but not burn your throat hot.

Favourite book to read again and again and again….

Gone with the Wind – the characters are all so amazing and so vivid. It may not technically be up there with the greats, but I love it.

What would be your specialist subject be on Mastermind?

Food and drink, I suspect. I love to cook (and eat) – hence the remark about diets above!

Who would play you in a movie of your life?

I would love it to be Julie Walters. I think she’s capable of laughing at herself as much as making other people laugh. It would be great to say Helen Mirren, but sadly I’m not that glamourous.

Favourite current TV show?

I’m cheating a bit here, because it’s not on right now – but Masterchef Australia. Not any of the other Masterchefs – just this one. You can probably see a bit of a theme here! I look forward to it each year – far more so than most TV dramas (although I can’t wait for more Happy Valley).

My most memorable meal…

There are SO many to choose from. Probably a meal at a restaurant called Uliassi in Senigallia, Italy. The chef is unbelievably talented, and on a terrace overlooking the beach we were served the Menu Degustazione – about eleven tiny courses of sublime food.

The best thing about being a writer…

Being able to invent characters, each of whom I understand completely (probably more than most people I know) and allowing them to do their best, or their worst.

About the book: 

THE TRUTH HURTS – BUT LIES ARE DEADLY

After eighteen months of grieving for her husband Bernie, killed in a horrific hit and run accident, Natalie Gray has found love with her husband’s best friend – Ed Cooper – and has moved herself and fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, into his home. But Natalie begins to suspect Ed has a dark side – and even darker intentions.

Desperate to get her daughter to a place of safety, she and Scarlett move to a new home that holds secrets of its own. But has removing Scarlett from one potential threat placed her in far greater danger?

DCI Tom Douglas is also chasing the truth, as his investigation into the suicide of a teenage girl draws him ever closer to Natalie and Scarlett. But will he be too late to protect them from the peril they face, or from the truths that will tear their lives apart.

Find out More

Follow Rachel on Twitter

Purchase The Sixth Window

Happy Reading!

Fear The Silence with D. Nolan Clark and Forsaken Skies.

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Today I am very happy to welcome D Nolan Clark to the site, talking about his writing process and creating aliens. Love this!

THE WRITER’S PROCESS: DESIGNING ALIEN SPECIES

by D. Nolan Clark

The writer who wants to invent an alien species faces a number of obstacles that require creative solutions. Aliens are by definition unlike anything found on Earth, and the writer needs to get that across. You can only get so far with blue cat aliens or Martians who look just like us except for a latex prosthetic on their foreheads. Aliens that satisfy readers and viewers, aliens that mean something, need to surprise or shock us with their differences from what we know. It can be a daunting task to create an alien species from scratch, but like all world-building it can also be fun and it can even open up your story, give it new dimensions you would never otherwise have considered.

I’d like to share my process for creating aliens. Obviously every writer has their own technique and this is hardly a definitive guide, but at the very least I hope it’ll spark some creativity.

My alien designs go through five main steps, each as important as the last. I tend to go through them in this order:

1) Concept: What role will the aliens play in your story? Are they violent aggressors or wise teachers? Are they a metaphor for people on Earth, or are they intended to evoke the strange and exotic? The concept of your aliens will shape the story in many ways. It may even become the crux of your tale. Do your aliens have three sexes, or seven, or none at all? Humans interacting with an asexual species could be the start of lots of interesting tales, and let a writer examine human sexuality from an outsider’s perspective—as an example. Your aliens don’t have to drive your story, but you still need to know why they’re there and how they’ll relate to your human characters.

2) Evolution: Assuming your aliens came from a planet of their own, what did that planet look like? How hot was it, how strong was the gravity? Every element you can imagine of the alien homeworld will have a massive effect on what your aliens look like now. If they evolved on a water world, they’re likely to have fins and maybe gills. If they come from a dry place they might have scales or nictitating membranes. Studying Earthly animals can be a great font of inspiration here, but make sure you don’t just lean on biology as we know it. Aliens that just look like bipedal buffalos aren’t nearly as interesting as creatures that evolved on a dark world and therefore have no eyes, but find their way around by echolocation. Knowing what senses your aliens possess will greatly shape how they perceive us. Details of their physiology will utterly define how we see them. How big are they? If they come from a high-gravity planet, they’re likely to be low to the ground and very strong by our standards, while aliens from a low-gravity environment will be frail and delicate when they come to Earth. Are they horrifyingly ugly, by human standards, or ethereally beautiful—or both?

3) Culture: Your aliens will have a rich history, a story of their own—a story that could include mistakes and brilliant successes, charismatic leaders and popular movements. History, art, the games they play—these are the things that define how your aliens live now. This is absolutely crucial to know. What aliens look like is almost less important than how their society works. This is also one of the great pitfalls of science fiction. It’s an old cliché that all aliens from a given planet dress alike, have the same form of government, enjoy a single form of art, etc. It’s a cliché because it works, to a degree—homogeneous aliens are a kind of shorthand, a way for a writer to get big ideas across without muddying the waters, but in the end they feel more like a force of nature than like people. Consider creating multiple religious sects, or simply having one of your aliens stand out because they’re famous among their people for being a terrible dresser, or for their unpopular political opinions. You can spend way too much time on designing alien art movements and changing tastes in music—stuff that may not make it into the final story at all, or that makes your aliens so chaotic that they might as well belong to multiple species (which could be an interesting story in itself, of course). But a little cultural differentiation can really make individual aliens pop. Think how few things all humans agree on—other species are likely to be the same, right? If they’re not, that’s a Concept in itself.

4) Psychology: Beyond what your aliens believe, how do they think? How is their thinking different from that of humans? Most humans value individual experience and freedom. Maybe your aliens have a hive mind. Conversely, humans are social animals, who like to live in close proximity to each other. Maybe your aliens evolved from solitary predators, and they live reclusive lives where they only get together to mate or to wage war. If you want to get really trippy with it, maybe your aliens experience time differently than we do, and can spend an entire week making breakfast, or they don’t recognize individual consciousness at all, and are so confused when they meet humans that they act like we’re invisible. Make it weird—but make sure it’s not so weird that your readers feel lost. Be able to think like your aliens, and to express their ideas as clearly as you express the thoughts and emotions of your human characters.

5) Technology: The previous four steps will likely determine the kind of machines and technologies your aliens use. Alternatively, this could be part of your high concept. How do your aliens relate to humans in terms of their overall development? Are their spaceships faster than ours, or invulnerable to attack, or are they incredibly slow, designed for creatures who think a hundred year journey is a quick joyride? Are your aliens still working on discovering fire, so that first contact with humans is likely to blow their minds? Or have they been tooling around the galaxy so long, and met so many other species, that they’ve seen our like before and aren’t terribly impressed? Technology is not the only factor that defines species, but it is the primary sphere where two species are likely to first interact. Imagine aliens showing up on the White House lawn tomorrow with force fields and the ability to teleport. Even if they claim to come in peace, we’re likely to be terrified of their destructive potential. We could also want very much to trade with them, to get fusion power or the cure for cancer—but what would we have to offer in exchange? On the other hand—maybe we’re at exactly the same level. Maybe our first starship meets their first starship halfway between here and Tau Ceti—what happens next? Do we compete for habitable worlds, or do we join forces to explore the unknown?

As you can probably see, if you want to create aliens you’ve got your work cut out for you. None of these steps is easy, and none of them should be done too quickly. Think of as many cool ideas as you can, right off the top of your head—but then give them time to marinate, to let the puzzle pieces interconnect, a process which can create whole new ideas. If you take some time and let yourself meditate on these factors, you may be astounded at how many story ideas just magically appear. A fascinating, well thought-out alien species is one of the great joys of science fiction. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when it’s done right, it can be the start of something amazing.

About the Book:

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From the dark, cold void came an unknown force. Their target a remote planet, the home for a group of people distancing themselves from mankind and pursuing a path of piety and peace. If they have any chance at survival a disparate group of pilots must come together to fight back any way they can. But the best these aces can do might not be good enough.

Read my Review

You can purchase Forsaken Skies HERE

Find Out More

Follow the author on Twitter.

Happy Reading!

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20 Questions for….David Mark.

Today I am very happy to ask David Mark 20 perfectly sensible questions about really sensible stuff.

So for Cruel Mercy you sent Aector to the great US of A…what made you do that then?

I’m still not sure if it was my idea or Aector’s or simply a response to the fact I was reading a lot of great American fiction. It just suddenly felt important to broaden Aector’s horizons and mine too. I think I’ve shown that I can write convincing, compelling noir set in Hull and I was rather keen to see if I could do the same in a different location. As it turns out, it’s rather terrifying to plunge your lead character into a whole new world that neither of you are very familiar with. It left us both a little scarred but satisfied.

At the time of writing these it is coming up to Christmas. Which will thankfully be a distant memory by publication date as I’m not a Christmas person. Are you a Christmas person?

I try to be. I have happy, wacky kids and as such it’s impossible not to get caught up in all the carols and mulled wine and egg-nog (my second favourite nog, behind Noggin) but there will forever be a Scrooge element to me that scowls about all the hassle and expense and the people pretending they like each other. It would probably work better if we moved it to the summer holidays.

If you could suck the creative genius out of any other crime writer and use it as your own who would it be and why?

I think I would rather suck the marketing genius out of certain writers so I could work out how to become a juggernaut bestseller. But if you’re really asking, and you think she counts as ‘crime’, then Margaret Atwood all day and every day, as she is simply sublime in both character, story and delivery.

Favourite flavour of crisp.

Smoky bacon, unless it’s Seabrook crisps, in which case prawn cocktail.

Which of the McAvoy novels has been your favourite to write to date and what was it about that one that stays with you?

The fourth book (and least read) was Taking Pity and I very much enjoyed that one as it had more of a split narrative and allowed me to write about crimes and personalities from the 1960s, which is an era that fascinates and inspires me. I’ve enjoyed writing all of them, to be honest. Editing, on the other hand …

Do you think you could pull off the perfect murder?

It’s very easy to pull off the perfect murder. Just kill somebody you don’t know. The trouble is, the only people I have ever wanted to kill are the people to whom I have quite an obvious connection so it hasn’t been worth the risk, as yet.

Who would you trust as your partner in crime?

I don’t trust anybody. Probably my daughter, Elora, as she has a dark soul and can lie very convincingly. But even she would blab in exchange for cake.

Favourite type of cheese. Everyone gets the cheese question…

Shropshire blue.

We were (fairly) recently together at the launch for Susi Holliday’s Willow Walk which is a brilliant crime novel. How much do we love Susi?

She’s great. Ace writer, lovely person, quite the stunner and generally a fabulous girl. I’m quite fond.

I apparently have terrible taste in music (when in doubt I put on Taylor Swift) – what is your taste in music like, when in doubt what do you listen to?

I like most things and have always had a fondness for jazz, but I guess my era is mid-nineties, so it’s a lot of Britpop and banging Indie tunes. Anything that makes me feel 17 again. I don’t listen to music when I write as it turns everything into an overly dramatic scene with soaring strings and panning shots.

Name a book you’ve read in the last year that you put down and went “Wow”

Probably The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor, though I’m not one for ‘wow’. Expletives, possibly, or extraordinary jealousy at somebody’s literary superiority.

On a desert island that you’ve randomly crashed on for no likely reason whatsoever, which 5 people would you like for company and why? Assume you’ll be there for a while before rescue…

For a long time, my answer would have been that I wouldn’t any company at all. But I’m lucky to have found somebody who makes everything seem more tolerable, so my fiancée would be there. Elora, too, though she would be getting booted into the lagoon if she moaned about being hungry. After that, I’d take Monica Bellucci, Ray Mears and Nigel Farage. Monica to look at, Ray to keep me alive, and Nigel because it would bring me pleasure to see him deal with the existential crisis of being a foreigner on uninhabited shores.

Ok you can talk about the book a bit more now. Cruel Mercy indeed. You get 5 sentences to sell it. Go!

Three Irishmen went to America. One’s dead. One’s as good as. One is missing. The missing man is Valentine Teague. Petty criminal, bare-knuckle fighter – and DS Aector McAvoy’s brother in law. Back home, Val’s being held responsible for the blood spilt in the snowy woods of upstate New York. If McAvoy doesn’t find out the truth, all hell will break loose, putting his own family in the crossfire. Investigating proves harder than he could have imagined. New York City is a different world, with different rules. Soon, he finds himself up against squabbling cops, mafias old and new, and the culmination of a brutal crime forty years in the making. All McAvoy can do is the right thing. Even if it kills him…

Dinner menu of choice…

Scallops and black pudding, followed by fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, then sticky toffee pudding, a cheese course, a coffee, a brandy, more brandy, an after Eight, maybe a Bailey’s, then onto the whisky. Actually, can I see a wine list …?

Are you a daytime person or more of a vampire?

I write during the day and think during the night so it’s hard to say. I’m not a great sleeper and I don’t have to go to an actual job so I’ve never really had to make that distinction. I’m certainly never going to be the last person to leave the bar and still be up drinking at 5am. I prefer to be in bed by 11 with a book – preparing for eight hours of gnashing my teeth and dealing with heartburn.

Talking of which if someone sat you down and made you watch ALL the Twilight movies do you think you could cope?

I can go into a happy place in my head and tune out reality so I can probably get through it. Twilight is the one about a teenage girl’s choice between necrophilia and bestiality, yes?

Yep that’s the one.

And moving on from that name a film you’ve watched multiple times and probably will watch again…

Grosse Point Blank, over and over. Rocky, The Untouchables, Amelie, The Godfather, Dances With Wolves, The Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace, His Girl Friday … I could go on.

One piece of technology you would find it difficult to live without…

Does the kettle qualify as technology? I hate technology, to be honest. I have to use the damn stuff but I’d be delighted to go back 20 years and steer the world away from its obsession with phones and tablets and websites. I do think we’ve taken a wrong turn as a people.

Your personal favourite crime series….tv or book. Or both.

The Charlie Parker books by John Connolly are perfect. On a TV front, anything by HBO, though the BBC’s Waking the Dead was brilliant and should have continued. I think it should be given new life in novel form but nobody has made me an offer for the idea. I’m all ears.

How much do you hate me right now?

I remain largely fond of you, though I do find myself yearning for all the foodstuffs I just listed and I’m aware my movie list will not get The Culture Show ‘Originality Prize’ people knocking on my door any time soon.

Thanks David!

About the Book:

Three Irishmen went to America.

One’s dead. One’s as good as. One is missing…

The missing man is Valentine Teague. Petty criminal, bare-knuckle fighter – and DS Aector McAvoy’s brother in law.

Back home, Val’s being held responsible for the blood spilt in the snowy woods of upstate New York. If McAvoy doesn’t find out the truth, all hell will break loose, putting his own family in the crossfire.

Investigating proves harder than he could have imagined. New York City is a different world, with different rules. Soon, he finds himself up against squabbling cops, mafias old and new, and the culmination of a crime forty years in the making.

All McAvoy can do is the right thing. Even if it kills him...

Find out MORE

Follow David on TWITTER

To Purchase Cruel Mercy clickety click right HERE

Happy Reading!

 

Aye Write – Getting to Know the Authors. With Rod Reynolds.

Today I’m getting to know Rod Reynolds (Yes everybody can have a good laugh at that one) but he’s appearing at Aye Write and so he has to do this interview. Because I said so. And sometimes he lies! (Nothing is my fault)

Thanks Rod!

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

Black Night Falling is the second book in the Charlie Yates series, sequel to The Dark Inside. Charlie is a disgraced reporter from New York City who gets a call from an old acquaintance begging him for his help in investigating the murders of two young women. The kicker is that Charlie it means going back to the south, to Arkansas, a place he barely escaped with his life just months earlier. Reluctant as he is, his conscience gets the better of him and he accepts the call.

On arrival in Hot Springs, Charlie finds his contact has disappeared and that the town is a den of crime and corruption, run by mobbed-up politicians and racketeers. More than that, there is no record of the murders his friend talked about. Sensing the place is rotten to the core, Charlie investigates anyway, but the closer he gets to the truth, the closer it takes him to danger – and to the past he thought he’d outrun…

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

I grew up in Camden, in north London, with my mum and two sisters. Family life was really normal – I was a pretty typical boy, in that all I wanted to do was play football or computer games. No one in my family wrote books or anything like that – it was never something I thought about as a kid. I was always a big reader, though, and my mum always encouraged that. The first books I really remember being obsessed with were The Famous Five.

Academic or creative at school?

Academic, definitely. I was a decent student but never really had much interest in creative subjects. At university I studied history, which was my favourite subject.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

Professional wrestler.

**Pauses a moment to laugh quite a lot**

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

When I read my first James Ellroy book, The Cold Six Thousand. I’d never read anything like it and it completely blew my mind. I remember thinking if I could ever write something a fraction as powerful as that, I’d be thrilled.

Who are your real life heroes?

James Ellroy, David Peace, Hunter S Thompson, Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland, David Simon, Michael Mann…and on and on and on. Although in truth I’m not much of a hero-worshiper. A lot of my family work in the public sector and, I know it’s a cliche to say it, but people who do jobs like doctors or nurses or teachers – people who literally change other people’s lives every day – are the people I admire most. Not least because I don’t think I could ever do what they do.

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

Well there was that time at CrimeFest…no, wait, you were involved in that. So what about that time at Crime In The Court…er, no, wait, you again. How about First Monday when…nope, still you.

Let’s go with when my ‘friends’ took me to a Spanish water park in a ginger Morph suit on my stag do. That was pretty embarrassing.

I refer you all to the “not my fault” comment in the introduction…

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Phone a friend. I detest DIY and am terrible at it.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

I could get a sunburn from a reading lamp, so let’s say night owl.

A book that had you in tears.

I don’t think a book has ever made me cry. Which is odd because since I became a dad, I cry at the drop of a hat.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Tall Oaks by Chris Whittaker and Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

You’ve met me – do you seriously think anyone would listen to advice offered by me?!

Well no not anyone with the sense they were born with anyway…

About the Book:

And now I stood here, on a desolate airfield in the Arkansas wilderness, a stone’s throw from Texarkana. Darkness drawing in on me. Cross country to see a man I never imagined seeing again. On the strength of one desperate telephone call…’

Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

Read my review HERE

Follow Rod on Twitter here:

You can purchase Black Night Falling by clickety clicking right HERE

Purchase Tickets to Rod’s event at Aye Write HERE

See the full Aye Write Programme HERE

Happy Reading!

 

Aye Write -Getting to Know the Authors. With Daniel Cole.

Ragdoll is out this week – more on that tomorrow – YAY but the lovely author Daniel Cole is also appearing at Aye Write – ticket info and book info to follow. Gordon of Grab This Book and I are getting to know a few of the appearing authors  so keep an eye out on his site too. Today it’s Daniel’s turn. Having received his answers I kind of love him. So if you can, get along to Aye Write in Glasgow and see his event. By the way the book is blinking brilliant!

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

It’s called Ragdoll and in the category of books about serial killers and dismembered body parts stitched together, I’d say it definitely falls into the more light-hearted and entertaining end of the spectrum. It certainly isn’t a straight police procedural. It’s larger than life escapism, it’s got a whole cast of great characters, a very cinematic feel, and lots and lots of dark humour.

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

I grew up in Bournemouth and it was fine – thank you for asking.

Academic or creative at school?

Definitely not academic, so I’ll say creative… although I’m not entirely sure that fits either. I did manage to get through A-Level Music Technology without being able to read a note of music though, which is quite impressive in an incompetent sort of way, I suppose.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

I remember being so happy when I got accepted onto the Paramedic training course. I’d been working on and off in an investment bank (it took several attempts to escape). The whole shirt and tie office thing just wasn’t right for me so getting onto that course was my way out.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I started off writing screenplays. I think that was due to becoming a little frustrated with my favourite television shows and believing that I could do a better job. The US series especially, tended to have a lot of ‘filler’ episodes when there are 22 or more in a season. …Still do.

The first screenplay I ever wrote faded in to reveal the imposing hallway of an investment bank. The main character watched his boss enter through the unnecessarily Hagrid-sized doors below before throwing himself down the main staircase – a painful and bloody; albeit well worth doing way of getting a day off (an only slightly embellished version of real life).

Who are your real life heroes?

My heroes are the frontmen of my two favourite bands: Max Bemis of Say Anything and Ace Enders of The Early November. I’d also add to the list a few of my very favourite screenwriter/directors such as Joss Whedon, Shane Black, Alex Garland and Martin McDonagh.

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

So many… Too many. Stand next to me for five minutes – ten at a push – and I guarantee I’ll say or do something stupid.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I’m not sure my friends are any less useless than I am so… phone a stepdad.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Both. And I live in Bournemouth next to the beach to make the most of the sun when/if it ever comes out.

A book that had you in tears.

I am far too tough and manly (some would say intimidatingly so) to cry at a book. If you were really determined – you could put one of the old episodes of Scrubs on where Dr Cox has a proper meltdown and smashes up a hospital room – that should do it.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Both of the Alan Partridge books made me laugh a lot.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Don’t listen to me.

Ok. I won’t. Thanks Daniel! 

Purchase tickets to Daniel’s event HERE

See the full Aye Write Programme HERE

Come back tomorrow when I’m one of the victims on the Ragdoll Blog Tour and you can read my review.

About the book.

Six victims: one body

Controversial detective, Nathan Wolfe, has just been reinstated to the force after months of psychological assessment following accusations of assault. A veteran to the job, Wolfe thinks he’s seen it all, until his friend and former partner, Detective Emily Baxter, calls him to a crime scene and gleefully leads him to a career-defining cadaver: the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet – a corpse that will become known in the press as the ‘ragdoll’. With six victims to identify, the stakes are raised when Wolfe’s ex-wife, reporter Andrea Hall, is anonymously sent photographs from the crime scene along with a list of six names… and the dates on which the ‘Ragdoll Killer’ intends to murder them.

The final name on the list is Wolfe’s.

Follow Daniel on Twitter HERE

Order Ragdoll by clickety clicking right HERE

#Ragdollbook

2017

Happy Reading!

Getting to Know You with Gwen Parrott

Today I am very happy to welcome Gwen Parrott telling us a little bit about herself and her 1940’s Murder Mystery “Dead White”

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

‘Dead White’ is set in rural Pembrokeshire, South Wales, during the terrible winter of 1947. Della Arthur has just arrived off the train to take up a job as the Headteacher of the local school when she becomes disorientated in a snowstorm and is forced to take shelter in what she thinks is an empty farmhouse. The terrible discovery she makes there, and the bewildering lack of concern of the locals, drive her to seek the truth. As if the weather didn’t make life hard enough during that particular winter, Britain was still recovering from WW2, and everything was rationed. Life in the remote village of Nant-yr-Eithin is tough – no electricity, no transport apart from bicycles or a horse and cart, and every luxury nothing but a distant memory. It’s a world that is only 70 years ago in time, but it might as well be 200. However, Della is feisty, determined and self-sufficient, and despite only having the help of an Italian prisoner of war, and having to cope with a disturbed pupil and a very unwelcome guest, nothing is going to stop her finding out what happened.

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

I grew up in a very similar village to the location of the book, and although we had electricity, it used to fail regularly. I lived through two episodes of deep snow, when the village was cut off for six weeks at a time and my dad was the Headteacher of the local two-roomed school. As an only child I was adept at making my own fun. I don’t remember being lonely, because there was a real sense of community, and you were free to wander almost anywhere. My parents also included me in every decision and discussion, and my obsessive interest in people was sparked and encouraged by them.

Academic or creative at school?

Both. I can remember being quite sad when I had to give up Needlework in order to do Latin. Oddly enough, although Latin has been hugely useful right through life, crafting of all kinds has been my main means of relaxation. I suppose it was worth it – you can make a lot of progress in crafting by teaching yourself. Latin, not so much.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

Good question, because for many years I never really considered the possibility that writing could be anything more than a secret pleasure. Then, by a series of lucky events, I was offered the chance to help storyline and script a Welsh language radio soap for the BBC. I finally felt I’d come home, and it was a very valuable experience – and an incredibly steep learning curve.

Do you remember the first moment you wanted to write?

No, because I’ve done it ever since I could print my name. When I got pocket money, it was a really hard choice between a bar of chocolate and a shiny red exercise book to write down my latest epic. The exercise book won out very often. The sight of a fresh, unsullied page still fills me with joy – all those possibilities.

Who are your real life heroes?

People who sacrifice their own lives and comfort in order to devote themselves wholly to a sick or disabled loved one. I simply don’t know how they get out of bed in the morning. It’s humbling to consider their selflessness and disgraceful that they don’t get more help and recognition.

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

Some years ago, my mother and I went down to the south coast to Sidmouth for a few days’ shopping before Christmas. The hotel held a quiz night and guests formed themselves into teams – some made up of whole families or people on a group holiday. Mum and I didn’t know anyone else so we just did the quiz for a laugh although it didn’t help that she’d left her spectacles in our room. When we’d handed in the answers, the quizmaster told us that two teams had drawn – a team of eight and guess who – us. The tie-breaker was ‘What bodily process goes at 150 miles an hour?’ – and I happened to know that the answer is a sneeze. We won a box of chocolates and a bottle of sherry, but quite frankly, I wish we’d stayed in our room that evening, because the team who lost took massive umbrage and were mortally offended at having lost to a team of two, one of whom had had to have the questions read out to her. They ignored us pointedly from then on. You could feel them glaring from the other end of the dining room. I actually heard one of them mutter ‘I bet she’s having an affair with the quizmaster!’ I laugh now when I think of it, but at the time it was quite disturbing – good copy, though.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

If it’s within my field of capability then I do it myself – otherwise I just shout for my husband.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Night owl, definitely. It is beyond me why people get up at the crack of dawn – there’s nothing happening! I also like being up late at night, with the sense of the world winding down, lives being lived behind lit windows, strange noises and lonely pedestrians passing by. It’s no coincidence that my favourite painter is Edward Hopper – he captures that mood so well.

A book that had you in tears.

‘We need to talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver. She has famously said that it’s a book that polarizes readers – you’re either on the mother’s side or the son’s side. And despite recognising the mother’s shortcomings, I’m with her and I feel for her.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

‘Lake Wobegon Days’ by Garrison Keillor. He could copy out pages from the phone book and I’d still find them funny. One of the reasons he resonates with me is that parts of his experience of childhood and community are familiar. It’s a mistake to think he’s a ‘cuddly’ writer and I so admire his turn of phrase and his cold, clear eye.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Leggings are not trousers – anyone who tells you they are is lying.

Thank you!

About the Book:

During the harsh winter of 1947, Della Arthur arrives at a remote Pembrokeshire village in the middle of a snowstorm to take up her new job as headteacher of the local primary school. Losing her way from the train station, she comes across a farmhouse and takes shelter there. After finding two dead bodies inside, Della struggles to discover the truth behind their deaths. She soon realises that in this close-knit community, secrets and lies lurk beneath the surface of respectability.

Della must choose who to trust among the inhabitants of this remote village – should she reveal what she knows to the sardonic minister of the local chapel, Huw Richards, or the Italian prisoner of war, Enzo Mazzati? Della finds herself under siege on all sides, and encumbered by an unwelcome lodger, a missing colleague and a disturbed pupil. It is only when her own life is threatened that she understands how dangerous her discoveries in the farmhouse really were.

You can purchase Dead White HERE

Happy Reading!

Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski – Harry Saint-Clement-Ramsay.

So the third part of Six Stories with Matt Wesolowski today for you – this time he is talking about one of the characters in the novel, Harry Saint-Clement-Ramsay, whose story forms one of the many moving parts to this incredibly atmospheric and brilliant book. Which I shall be reviewing at the end of all this. But really if you don’t want to wait you can see below for ordering details..

Part 3: Harry Saint-Clement-Ramsay

Matt Wesolowski

The idea of hunting animals for pleasure is as indecipherable to me as it is abhorrent. Even more so the construction of special land in which to do so.

Britain, however had the highest density of ‘Hunting Parks’ in the entire world and it is for this reason that we have more ancient trees than the rest of Europe1.

‘To the medieval mind the park was a closed space quite separate from the other wilderness outside. Within that park everything was the dominion of the noble who had created it. Inside the park courtiers and would-be aristocrats could ride and hunt, overlooked by a castle from which perhaps they might be watched by the objects of their courtly love. Parks, then, were places of recreation for the privileged.2

The untamed land around Chillingham, Castle in Northumberland was the primary influence for Scarclaw Fell and it surprised me that much of that land was a medieval ‘Hunting Park’, with deer brought by the Normans from Sicily alongside native boar and, of course, the famous Chillingham Wild Cattle.

It’s a lazy and unpleasant generalisation to make that all rich people enjoy hunting. There are a fair few that do and a fair few that don’t. I don’t actually know anyone particularly rich, personally, so creating the character of Harry Saint-Clement Ramsay wasn’t easy.

I liked the idea that whoever it was who found the body of Tom Jeffries and was therefore bound to to Scarclaw Fell, was ignorant to the power of the ancient land. It would, again, have been easy and lazy to construct a selfie-obsessed urbanite who didn’t want to get their brogues muddy but what I felt was that, like the rest of the cast of Six Stories, Harry should be an outsider in his own right. To me, it felt like as Harry’s character emerged, he showed no desire to hunt and even his friends – taking lamps and dogs into the ancient woods of Scarclaw felt like they were playing a role rather than acting of their own accord.

With Harry’s character, I was not making some sort of statement about animal rights (although I do have fantasies about terrible things happening to people who hunt animals for fun), I guess I wanted to reflect the insecurity of the other teenage protagonists, showing that awkwardness and the desire for acceptance straddles class.

Harry fights his own battle on Scarclaw Fell and unfortunately does so alone…

1 Dr. John Fletcher’s Chillingham as a Deer Park. ‘Chillingham’ (Fonthill Media Limited, 2016). P.117 2 IBID p.112

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Follow Matt on TWITTER

To purchase the paperback clickety click right HERE

Watch out for more from Matt coming soon….

Happy Reading!