Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists: Best Crime Novel.

 

 

Today I’m very happy to welcome the five finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, announced last month, to talk a little more about their finalist books.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards are New Zealand’s literary prizes for crime, mystery, and thriller writing. Last year’s winner, Trust No One by Paul Cleave, was released in the UK this summer. This year’s winners will be revealed next month in Christchurch, New Zealand.

PANCAKE MONEY BY FINN BELL

Detectives Bobby Ress and Pollo Latu are put to the test when someone starts martyring Dunedin priests in the most medieval of ways. The international judging panel called this book “a brutal page-turner with compelling characters that takes a deep-dive into the psychological and a captivating examination of urban and countryside settings”.

Purchase Pancake Money:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pancake-Money-Finn-Bell-ebook/dp/B01IED3FWO 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

In my day job (prior to writing) I’ve worked in night shelters, charities, hospitals and prisons. Over the years people have told me absolutely amazing things, spanning the human condition from wondrous to grotesque. After a while some of those things started following me home – writing became a way of making sense of it. Eventually that writing coalesced into my first two books (Dead Lemons and Pancake Money) which I originally wrote as one too big, overly complex story but then separated out into two much more sane looking books. When I started I didn’t have a clear intention or plan to publish. So I couldn’t say the books had a clear inspiration or goal. I just wrote. Because I liked doing it, the process helped me. I didn’t really think much about the end result or what to do with it. The books as they are really just sort of came out. It happened without thinking (and knowing the quality of most of my thinking that’s probably a good thing).

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

Not real at all. The day it was announced I must have checked and rechecked the list five times. I even went back later in the evening and checked again, just to be sure nothing changed. There are some good, good books on the short list. I keep thinking at some point someone is going come tap me on the shoulder and explain that there’s been some kind of mistake.

SPARE ME THE TRUTH BY CJ CARVER

A man suffering memory loss, a grieving daughter, and disgraced cop all have their lives upturned as they’re plunged into a global conspiracy. “Intriguing characters, twists that keep you guessing, and at heart a complex tale of betrayal and deception – a brilliant page-turner,” said the judges.

Purchase Spare Me The Truth: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spare-Me-Truth-explosive-Forrester/dp/1785760335

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

The inspiration behind Spare Me The Truth was reading an article by the Telegraph’s science correspondent Richard Gray, who stated, “Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact”. I wanted to explore the ramifications of such an amnesia drug, the downsides being that it could be taken on a whim, say, after a relationship breakup, but the upside could potentially help a severely traumatised victim of crime or war to return to a relatively normal life. All this got my creative synapses firing. What if someone had been administered the drug and couldn’t remember? Why was it done? What if everyone knew about it except the protagonist? I love, “what ifs”. They’re my staple diet.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

I keep pinching myself. Being explicitly recognised for what I do feels fantastic. I also feel very moved, because it was my Wellington-born father who introduced me to Ngaio Marsh’s writing when I was a teen. We read all of her books, and if Dad knew I’d been finalised for this award, he would just about burst with pride.

RED HERRING BY JONOTHAN CULLINANE

Private eye Johnny Molloy and reporter Caitlin O’Carolan get entangled in deadly agendas and union politics as the 1951 waterfront dispute rages. Said the judges: “Cullinane’s characters fizz and sparkle in this historical thriller whose cracking dialogue and ceaseless pace make it feel utterly current.”

Purchase Red Herring  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Herring-Jonothan-Cullinane/dp/1775540987 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

I wanted to write a crime novel because: (a) they’re the novels I most enjoy reading; and (b) because like any genre fiction they follow certain rules about plot and atmosphere and characterisation which the better novelists can afford to break but for the first-timer provide a reassuring template. I set Red Herring in 1951 because that was the heyday of hard-boiled fiction so it seemed appropriate – plus the industrial dispute (or lockout or strike, depending on your point-of-view) that closed New Zealand’s ports for 151 days in that year provided such a rich source of material.

There is a photograph in Never a White Flag: The Memoirs of Jock Barnes, Waterfront Leader that shows Barnes, president of the TUC, and a small group of watersiders on the footpath outside the Auckland Town Hall after a stopwork meeting during this period. The men have broad backs and lined faces. They are wearing tweed jackets or coats. A few have ties. Most are wearing hats. Barnes is leaning back, lost in thought. In the middle of the group, George Samways, the top of his short-back-and-sides just visible, is listening intently to the man on his right. Alec Drennan, head cropped on the right of frame, a smoke stuck to his bottom lip, has cauliflower ears and a nose so gloriously broken you could use it for a step-ladder. The men look to be around 40 for the most part (Barnes was 43). All of them would have been through the Depression and at least one world war and they’re still fighting. What would they make of New Zealand now? These were the sort of people I had in mind when I wrote Red Herring.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

Thrillers, crime novels, tangled conspiracies, pulp fiction of any kind – Elmore Leonard, Paul Cleave, John Godey, James M. Cain, Eric Ambler etc etc etc – those are the novels I love to read. The Ngaio Marsh Awards were established to recognise the sort of writing, by New Zealanders, that I most enjoy reading, so it is a great feeling to have made the finalists this year and to be part of the wider group.

MARSHALL’S LAW BY BEN SANDERS

After his witness protection handler is kidnapped, ex-NYPD undercover cop Marshall Grade decides that offense is the best form of defense, infiltrating his old haunts for answers: “Some of the tautest writing and nastiest characters around, an adrenalin-charged tale where no-one emerges unscathed,” said the judging panel.

Purchase Marshall’s Law:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marshalls-Law-Marshall-Grade-Sanders/dp/1250058805 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

Marshall’s Law had to be a sequel to my previous novel, American Blood, so I knew my anti-hero Marshall would take centre stage. In terms of the setting however, I wanted a complete change: American Blood took place in New Mexico during summer, so I decided Marshall’s Law would be a city novel, playing out in New York during winter. The inspiration for the plot came during a trip to the US in 2014, when my friends and I stopped at a restaurant in Connecticut called the Galaxy Diner. There happened to a big SUV parked outside, and for some reason that image of the car stayed with me—I decided it belonged to a heroin dealer named Henry Lee, and that Marshall was meeting him there to talk about something. But I had to start writing to find out what they needed to discuss.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

The Ngaios serve as a great profile-booster for crime writers in New Zealand. I’m thrilled and grateful to be on the shortlist alongside such talented spinners of criminal yarn.

THE LAST TIME WE SPOKE BY FIONA SUSSMAN

A survivor and a perpetrator of a brutal home invasion seek to come to terms with their altered lives after the news cycle moves on. “Lyrically and sensitively written, a harrowing yet touching story that stays with you; this is brave and sophisticated storytelling,” said the judges.

Purchase The Last Time We Spoke:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Time-We-Spoke/dp/0749020644

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

There were a series of high-profile crimes in New Zealand in the 1990s, which captured my attention both for their senseless brutality and the youth of the perpetrators. Long after the news cycles had ended and the stories disappeared from our national consciousness, I found myself still pondering them. One in particular – a brutal home invasion – would leave its imprint. I had questions. How could the victim of an awful crime ever go on to negotiate some sort of meaningful life again? And what had happened in a youngster’s life to set him/her on a path to murder? From the outset I had two voices in my head – that of a victim and a perpetrator. I realised then that I wanted to bear witness to the fuller story of a crime.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Award finalist?

Special indeed! It is endorsement for a story I was anxious but compelled to write. I’m thrilled The Last Time We Spoke has found its way into the light.

You can follow the Ngaio Marsh Awards on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NgaioMarshAward

And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ngaiomarshaward

Find out LOTS more as my fellow book reviewers take a little virtual tour around the awards.

Happy Reading!

Getting to Know You with Amanda McKinney

Today I am very  happy to welcome Amanda McKinney, author of The Woods, to talk a bit about herself and her latest book.

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

Readers can expect a suspenseful, page-turner! The Woods is a fast-paced read about murder, mystery, sex and seduction and offers the entanglement of Crime Fiction, Romance and Mystery. It’s a story about two strangers—Archaeologist Katie Somers and FBI trainee Jake Thomas—who find themselves thrown into a serial killers path, which unleashes a series of unexpected events, including a sizzling attraction to each other.

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

I was born and raised in the small, southern town of Berryville, Arkansas. I grew up playing in the woods, shooting BB Guns and reading, of course. My family life was the best a gal could ask for—a wonderful dad, a brother who I still look up to, and an unbreakable bond with my mom, who is also my best friend.

Academic or creative at school?

Definitely creative. Math, Chemistry? Forget about it.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

A marine biologist or a veterinarian. I love dogs more than people. Seriously.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

My life had recently taken a pivot; I’d quit work to become a stay-at-home mom and didn’t realize what a personal and mental transition it was going to be. I knew pretty quickly that I needed to find something for myself, that I considered a job at least, or I was going to go nuts. I’d just finished a Nora Roberts book (during kids naptime), set it down, and said out loud, “I’m going to write a book.” And, thank God I did because I truly found my passion. I absolutely love crafting stories and creating characters. I go to sleep thinking about the current story that I’m working on, and wake up thinking about it. It’s the only thing where I can truly escape from everything around me . . . which every mommy needs! Hell, every woman needs!

Who are your real life heroes?

My mom. Hands down. Strongest human I’ll ever know.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

Phone my husband. He can fix anything.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

No night owl here, I love getting up before the sun. I’ve always been an early riser.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

Believe in yourself. Always.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Laura Griffin, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson, just to name a few.

About the Book:

A year after her sister’s death, Archeologist and part-time neurotic, Dr. Katie Somers returns to the sleepy, southern town of Berry Springs to sell her childhood home. She’d planned to be in and out in less than a week, but a chance meeting with a handsome stranger turns her perfectly crafted world upside down. 

Army Ranger Jake Thomas only has one shot at a position with the FBI, even if that means concealing his true identity from those closest to him. As he tries to focus on the mission at hand, Berry Springs is rocked by two gruesome murders and it isn’t long before he and Katie become entangled in the killer’s web, while becoming suspects themselves by the prickly Chief of Police, David McCord. 

As their attraction begins to sizzle, so does the danger when Katie stumbles onto new details about her sister’s death, leading her down a dangerous path. 

A path she should’ve never stepped onto… 

Find Out More

Follow the author on Facebook

Purchase The Woods

Happy Reading!

Spoonbenders – An Interview with Daryl Gregory

Today I am very happy to have a chat to Daryl Gregory, author of the amazing Spoonbenders – one of the best books I’ve read this year. When asking the questions I was only partway through but I was already immersed into the world of the Telemachus family. You should go meet them too. Short sharp review after the short sharp interview…

Incidentally I also recommend you try “We Are All Completely Fine” which was one of my stand out reads of 2014…

So at the point I’m writing these questions I’m about half way through the book and I’m loving every single minute of it – definitely going to be one of my books of the year – so perhaps you could tell me just a little about the family you created here and where the inspiration for them came from. I always love to hear about the inspirations!

Thanks for the kind words! I hope you dig the rest.

As you know from the opening chapters, the book is about the “Amazing Telemachus Family”—at least, that was their showbiz name when they travelled the country in the 1970s performing psychic feats. Teddy Telemachus, the patriarch of the family, is just a conman and a cardsharp, but his wife Maureen is a genuine clairvoyant. The kids have their own powers. The eldest, Irene, is the human lie detector; Frankie can move objects with his mind (except when he’s nervous); and Buddy can see the future.

But in 1995, twenty years after Maureen’s death, the family is in disarray. Frankie’s in debt to the mob, old CIA agents are sniffing around, and all of them are struggling to find love. The book opens when fourteen-year-old Matty, Irene’s son, accidentally has an out-of-body experience, which raises the possibility that the Telemachus family might be amazing again.

My inspiration came from, as always, books and life. I love the sprawling family stories of John Irving, such as The Hotel New Hampshire, and John Crowley’s magical family in Little, Big. But I was also thinking of my friends’ families in Chicago. My family was quiet and boring, but I’d have sleepovers at my friends’ houses, and there would be yelling and loud laughter and slamming of doors—so much drama! I was jealous. This book was my way of getting into one of those families.

I am currently especially taken with Matty – who is undergoing something of a revelatory experience about his relatives whilst dealing with his own sudden awakening – despite the more fantastical elements of Spoonbenders, it is also a realistically portrayed family drama. How hard was it to walk that line?

I love psychological realism in the face of surrealism. When far-fetched things are happening—Matty moving outside his body, say, or his Uncle Buddy glimpsing a doom-filled future—it’s doubly important for the characters to behave as real people would. The heart of the story has to be true, and there can be no genre shortcuts—characters acting a certain way because they somehow know what kind of story they’re in. If readers don’t believe in your characters, they won’t follow them when the going gets weird.

Who is YOUR favourite Telemachus and which character caused you grief during the writing (I know there is always one!)

You’re not supposed to love one of your children more than the others! My job was to fall in love with each member of the family, and to write each of them as if they were the hero of the story (because of course they are the heroes of their own stories). I love Teddy’s charm and nostalgia for the past, Irene’s yearning for love, Matty’s anxiety, and Buddy’s fortitude despite his broken heart. Each family member gets to tell their story—the point of view rotates through them—and I had to find each of their voices.

Buddy’s voice was the most difficult to find, until I realized that because he’s a bit lost in time—he remembers the future as well as the past, and every day it’s a struggle to locate the “now” in the timestream—then of course he would speak always in present tense. It’s always now. Once I realized that, I could hear him clearly.

I do have to admit that Frankie was my favorite to write, because he’s the most desperate member of the family, yearning for the big score, and wildly compensating with a grandiose presentation. In short, he’s the funniest. His rambling, self-justifying monologues (with Matty as his captive audience) were some of my favorite passages to write. He loves his family, and is desperate to win their approval, but he keeps getting in his own way.

Finally, a question I ask everyone – do you have a book you have read this year that you’d like to recommend to everyone?

The most enjoyable book I read this year was Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. It’s another multigenerational family story (I’m a sucker for those, obviously), about a Black family in 1950s America. They’re smart, talented, and magically gifted, but the supernatural horrors they fight are not as scary as the racist cops and oppressive culture of Jim Crow America. It’s thrilling, fun, and moving.

Thanks so much! 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is out now and published by Riverrun

About the Book: 

The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before. But will it be enough to bring The Amazing Telemachus Family back to its amazing life?

Spoonbenders is a miraculously readable speculative family drama featuring the Amazing Telemachus family – who are all actually amazing but not for the obvious reasons – this is a novel you sink into. It is strongly character lead with some beautiful plotting and a huge addictive quality as we go from one family member to the next, discovering their story and that of those around them.

Entirely entertaining and eccentrically intricate, this is a quirky, non conformist, rush of a literary read that as a reader you engage with entirely – using flashbacks to flesh out the history and their current status to show you where that history took them, putting a beautifully placed little twist on the end, this is storytelling at its best. Covering generations, a sprawling joy of a read first page to last, I am in love with this book and with this family.

Highly Recommended.

Find out More

Follow the author on Twitter

Purchase Spoonbenders

Happy Reading!

 

 

Killer Women Killer Weekend – October 2017

Today I have all the information you could possibly need if you want to join the Killer Women Killer Weekend 10am-6pm, 28 & 29 October 2017 and gain huge insight into the craft of crime fiction.

The event will be held at Browns Courtrooms, Covent Garden, London WC2

Will you write the next crime bestseller?

***

Learn the art & craft of crime fiction from bestselling authors incl: Rachel Abbott, Mark Billingham, Erin Kelly, Mick Herron, Stuart MacBride, Sarah Pinborough, Cally Taylor

Pitch your idea to senior commissioning editors and agents incl: HarperCollins, Orion, Penguin Random House, Headline

· Masterclasses on thrillers, procedurals, author as brand, self publishing and more

· Insider tips from top writers, editors and agents

· Craft workshops on suspense, character, plotting and more

· One-to-one research sessions with experts

Information on the full programme can be found HERE

Get in early! Book your weekend ticket at the special early bird price of £260* by joining the Killer Women Club (for free) here. (You will receive  an exclusive secret link to the early bird ticketing page.)

*Tickets go on general release 1 September. Weekend tickets will be £275

Don’t miss it!

Latest Reads: A Twist of the Knife Becky Masterman

Publication Date: Available Now from W&N

Source: Review Copy

It takes a strong woman to be able to watch someone die.

Brigid Quinn is tough, determined, steely and sharper than sharp. As an ex-agent of the FBI she has seen it all, and survived. But nothing can cut her closer to the bone than family…

When Brigid gets a call from her mother saying her father is in hospital with pneumonia, she decides to check on her former colleague Laura Coleman who is living nearby. Having saved Brigid’s life, Laura is now working on an ‘innocence project’, investigating cold cases. And one in particular seems to have caught her attention. Fifteen years before, Marcus Creighton was accused of killing his wife and three children. Now the state governor has signed the warrant for his execution.

Worried that her friend is getting in too deep, Brigid promises to help. But what if her instincts are betraying her? If she can’t even trust her memories of her own childhood, how can she make a call on some stranger’s story that took place over fifteen years before?

A Twist of the Knife is the third novel featuring Brigid Quinn and honestly for me this series just gets better and better – Brigid is probably the most diverse female lead in crime fiction right now – older, wiser in some things yet none the wiser in others, driven and often haunted but determined and following her own moral guidelines. She is entirely engaging, her thoughts and actions leap off the page pulling you along with her through some difficult and often thought provoking cases.

In this story she is  worried about an ex colleague and friend of hers – they had faced previously a dangerous and life threatening situation together – now Laura is caught up in the case of a man on death row and may be way too involved for her own good. Brigid wades in and what follows is a highly addictive and intriguing read that asks a lot of questions of the reader and of Brigid. Often edge of the seat, with many emotional layers, you get sucked into this battle to save a possibly innocent man.

I love how Becky Masterman changes things up with each of her stories featuring Brigid – drip feeding us pieces of her personality and previous history – showing you all her sides and edges – at the same time always providing taut plotting and invariably twisted mystery elements. There are brilliantly placed psychological insights within each story and at the end of each one I always want more. Brigid’s relationships with family, friends, close loved ones are cleverly described and endlessly fascinating, the cases she investigates are dark and twisted, overall this series provides everything you might want from a crime novel and therefore they come highly recommended by me.

Find Out More

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Purchase A Twist of the Knife

Happy Reading!

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. Sssh I’ll tell you a secret….

Publication Date: January 2018 from Bantam Press.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Things you Need to Know about Need to Know

  • It is inadvisable to start reading this case report late at night. You won’t get any sleep. Then you may inadvertently give away classified information to the wrong party. This would be bad for your health.
  • It IS advisable to channel Fox Mulder as you read – Trust No-One
  • You may be in the hands of a master manipulator.
  • The truth is within the pages if you grasp the subtle nuances
  • Challenge everything
  • Believe nothing
  • Keep a soft pillow handy. You may need to rest your head when you realise you can’t HANDLE the truth
  • Chances of becoming addicted HIGH  – take steps to protect yourself
  • Domestic Noir just went to the next level
  • When the ending comes and all is revealed – remember to take that next breath. Lack of breathing kills.

Things I can tell you about Need to Know

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States.

She discovers (——————————————————————Redacted———————————-) and nothing will be the same again.

Is he your Husband?

There are twists in every chapter, sometimes nuanced, sometimes right out loud, but my heart genuinely stopped when (———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————Redacted—————————————————————————————————————————————————–)I thought I might not recover enough to continue to the end.

The storytelling is taut and audacious with a touch of class, but when you get to somewhere near (———————————–Redacted——————————————————–) you’ll realise just how much you’ve been caught in (———————Redacted——————) and may need to reassess everything you’ve read so far.

 

Is he a spy? 

Then that ending. Where all is finally clear. The truth is

Wait, hang on. There’s someone at the door. I’ll tell you in a minute………

 

#NeedToKnowBook 

When Chris Whitaker interviewed Neil White…From the Shadows….

So after Chris and Matt last week I rather stupidly asked Chris to have a chat to Neil, whose new novel, From the Shadows, comes out this week (and you probably shouldn’t miss it)

I’d apologise for what follows but seriously it wasn’t my fault…

(Handy links to the books after this – which are both brilliant and worth having despite it meaning that these two are loose in the world…)

Over to them then. And I’ll be hiding over there when Emily, Katherine, Rod and Steph come after me..

 

 

Chris: Okay, so I know you have a book to promote (the highly acclaimed From The Shadows) and we could talk about that. I could tell you that I’m a huge fan, from Cold Kill to the Parker brothers to the incredible Lost in Nashville. But instead I thought we’d give the people what they really want. A glimpse at the man behind the myth. The tough northerner with a heart of gold. The ‘sexiest man in crime writing’ (though Rod Reynolds has a lot to say on this subject). Let’s do this…

If you could sleep with any fictional character, who would it be? Personally, I’d find it easier to list characters I wouldn’t sleep with, but topping my list is Lori Anderson from Deep Down Dead. (I’m aware I’ve now given Steph Broadribb a wonderful mental image to use when writing the next in the series. You’re welcome, Steph).

Neil: Could talk? Could? No, do tell. I expect a certain degree of fawning here.

Any fictional character? I’m tempted to say Eve, because pulling an apple seemed to get them both straight down to it and saves all that messing around wooing, going to restaurants and stuff, but I don’t want to get into the whole “fictional” thing, creation or evolution.

But no, I’m going to choose Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery. I just like that danger. Will she break my legs? Won’t she break my legs? Now, that is what you call a frisson.

Chris: Good choice, I love a bit of S&M too.

It was great catching up at Harrogate. I used my time there to pitch book 3 ideas to Katherine Armstrong (editor) and then watch as she willed the ground to open up and swallow her. I’m not good at pitching. I can never get my ideas across in the way I’d like. I once pitched a love story to Joel (former editor) about an adult film actress that falls in love with a washed-up children’s entertainer. Joel just swallowed nervously and said ‘I have some concerns’. What’s the worst story idea you’ve ever had/pitched?

Neil: Whoah, S&M? Steady lad, we don’t any of that stuff and nonsense up here –adjusts flat cap – although you can probably get a good sting from a well-swung black pudding.

I hate pitches etc, because a great idea can be ruined in the telling, and an ordinary idea can be made thrilling in the telling. Thinking back, nothing particularly comes to mind because I don’t think I’m an ideas man. I speak to writers who are buzzing with ideas, who could (and do) write a short story a week. I’m a ‘one idea a year’  man. I don’t think I’m particularly creative like that.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to go through the pitch routine. I sent a completed manuscript to my first publisher and they liked it. If I had to go through a “pitch an idea” process, I’d still be a full-time lawyer with unpublished manuscripts on my floor.

Chris: Bonnier like to keep a close eye on me for some reason. Possibly because I tend to deliver a completely different manuscript to the one I originally planned. And yeah, totally agree on the ruined-in-telling view, I think if I’d have pitched All The Wicked Girls first they might have laughed at me.

I’ve written two standalones now, and book 3 will likely be another. As you’re beginning a new series I wondered which you prefer writing, and if you find it easier returning to characters you know well. On the flipside have you ever tired of a character but felt compelled to keep writing the series?

I can’t remember who said it but apparently the way to earn money as a writer is to write a crime series. If so, can you lend me money? I did ask Katherine for more but she kept shaking her head and mumbling something about Wilbur Smith.

Neil: No money in a standalone? Tell that to Harper Lee. Or John Grisham.

I’m torn, to be honest. When I first started out, my intention was to write a series of standalones but where the same characters popped in and out, like a community of characters. Once I started the second, however, and the main characters in the first were mentioned, I found myself wanting to import them more, so the series developed.

I do think a series has a finite end, and the trick is to spot it. I’ve written one crime standalone, Beyond Evil, but ironically I wanted that to be a series but a change of publisher brought an end to that. For the moment, I’m writing a series. If later on, I decide that the series has run its course, or needs a break, I’ll do something different.

The advantage of writing a series is that you get rid of all of that planning the characters in the first book, where you iron out their background, and it helps with crafting a story as you end up fitting the idea into a pre-existing template.

What I would say is that you should never write with money in mind. If you write for the bandwagon, it will have rolled out of town by the time you finish it. Just write something you’re proud to put your name to, as you’ve done. Both your books are fabulous, beautifully-written, and winning the acclaim they deserve.

And if I lent you the money, you’d just blow it on some wild stock market gamble. I’m sticking it under my mattress.

Chris: I was so pleased you enjoyed All The Wicked Girls. I had a tricky time with it, and looking back now I think it was partly down to feeling like I was out of my depth. Writing in the first person, as a teenage girl from Alabama, and setting it during the Satanic Panic of the mid 90s, maybe it was a bit mad. But I could see it all so clearly, those characters and that town, it became a story I had to tell, regardless of my background.

I’m a big fan of Mike Thomas, and with him being a former policeman I find there’s a level of authenticity to his novels that goes beyond research. And I find the same to be true when reading your books.

From The Shadows follows defence lawyer, Dan Grant, as he looks into a murder case. How much does being a lawyer help when writing crime? And not just technically, do you feel your job enables you to better understand the (criminal) characters you write about?

Neil: I don’t know about understanding the criminal character, because the sort of criminals who end up in the pages of a murder novel, and I don’t mean mine but generally, are unique and complex. No one sets out to write the great shoplifting novel. As a day to day thing, being a criminal lawyer can be as mundane as the next job, although there is often a lot of comedy in the most mundane, but the sort of murderer who makes us want to read crime novels are once in a career people for most criminal lawyers.

What being a criminal lawyer does do is make you realise that there are no depths to human cruelty. If you want to see the sick and twisted, read the papers, visit a courtroom. Don’t tell me something is far-fetched. I’ll find something worse in real life.

It helps in other ways too, perhaps ways that are hard to measure. For instance, I was a prosecutor for most of my legal career, and that involves assessing often quite emotional cases in a cold, dispassionate manner, looking for whether there is enough evidence to prosecute, often weighing a number of different strands together. To be able to look at things objectively is a great help when reading through my own stuff when I’ve done the first draft, as well as juggle the strands in my head, and that is something the day-job might have helped with.

It gives me a headstart too when it comes to legal and police procedures, in that my research doesn’t have to start at base camp.

The downside is that it can me mentally-draining, which is why I took a step back from it a couple of years ago and don’t appear in court as often as I used to.

Chris: I feel like there’s been a run of serious questions (who’d have thought that?) so I shall end with something a little more lighthearted.

If you had to kill one person, and pin the blame on another, who would you choose?*

I would kill my Amazon 1-star reviewers, and pin the blame on my Goodreads 1-star reviewers.

*You can’t kill people that say ‘can I get a…’ in coffee shops. We just wish them ill.

Neil: I don’t want to kill people who say, “can I get …..” in coffee shops. I just want to stamp on their feet really hard, just to jolt them from their oh so coolness.

Queue-jumpers are getting it though. The same as those people who tut behind me in the supermarket queue because all they’ve got is a bit of cheese and some milk and I’ve got a full basket, and I’m expected to step aside to let them go first. I’m sorry, but don’t they realise that if they didn’t tut and edge forward, maybe, just maybe, I’d volunteer my space. But no. Every tut and attempt to catch my eye makes me empty my basket a little more slowly. I might even puncture a hole in a packet, or rip off a barcode, so that someone has to go fetch another one. And yes, I will have a bag, and I’ll struggle to open it, so clumsy with my hands, tut tut, and laugh and roll my eyes at you as you slam the Next Customer Please divider on the belt.

Yeah, even if I don’t kill you, I hope your milk turns as you’re waiting….

Thanks you two – I think. Anyway onto the important stuff…

About the Books:

 

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .

Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.

When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.

But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.

Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost . . .

Read my review.

Find out More

Follow Neil on Twitter

Purchase From The Shadows.

 

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing.

Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

Read My Review

 Follow Chris on Twitter

Purchase All The Wicked Girls

Happy Reading!

 

Ones to Watch in 2018 – The Perfect Girlfriend Karen Hamilton

Publication Date: March 2018 from Wildfire

Source: Review Copy

Juliette loves Nate.
She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.
The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing.
Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.

She is the perfect girlfriend.
And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

There’s a new spate of psychological thrillers in town – where things are mixed up a bit and the main protagonists are not all sympathetic characters stuck in an untenable situation – sometimes the main protagonists ARE the untenable situation as is true with Juliette, the star of “The Perfect Girlfriend” and what a star she is.

Obsessive – Yes. Brilliantly engaging – Yes. Really quite scary? Yes absolutely, also occasionally witty, always focused, also actually has a real beef, Nate isn’t exactly the most reliable or the nicest of men. Still, you know, she wants him back and boy will she do absolutely anything to achieve that goal.

I loved it – Juliet not withstanding, the book flows outwards in a fascinating, page turning fashion, the underlying titbits about  life in the air are endlessly enthralling brought to beautiful life by Juliette – who whilst using them as a means to an end also gets somewhat caught up in it. I loved how she related to other people, both those she was using and those that just came into her line of sight – her inner thought processes are often hilarious but bang on the money so even though she’s obviously nuts its that kind of nuts that you really relate to.

I won’t give away anything about how she gets on or whether her obsessive and perfectly formed plan works out – but you’ll have a hell of a reading time getting to that answer, a lot of fun and a lot of insightful probing of human foibles and how we are formed – The Perfect Girlfriend resonates on more than one level.

But mostly it is all Juliet – Passionate and determined she will pull you along with her, in fact I spent most of the read wishing for her success – I can’t think of anything more appropriate for Nate than to be forever locked into her sphere of gravity – but whether or not my wish was granted you’ll have to read to find out.

Yes I know you shouldn’t root for the stalker. But in this case I simply couldn’t help myself.

Incredibly addictive, should come with a “Do Not Disturb” sign even though you’ll end up disturbed in quite another sense – The Perfect Girlfriend is the perfect lazy reading day experience.

Recommended.

Follow Karen on Twitter

Purchase The Perfect Girlfriend

Happy Reading!

Getting to Know You with Robert Eggleton – Rarity From the Hollow.

Kicking off another round of my “Getting to Know You” features, today with Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity from the Hollow.

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

Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. In a nutshell, it’s a story of victimization to empowerment. The protagonist, Lacy Dawn, begins the adventure as an eleven year old most unlikely savoir of the universe. She lives in an impoverished hollow in West Virginia with a war-damage father and a worn out mom. However, her genetics have been manipulated for millennia. When a threat to the survival of the economic structure of the universe becomes imminent, an android is sent to Earth to recruit and train her to fulfil her destiny.

Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first. Based loosely on Donald Trump’s rise to political power, she negotiates the best deal by insisting that her parents be cured of their mental health disorders. Once her team has been assembled, it travels to planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop) a giant shopping mall and the center of universal governance where she meets Mr Prump (Donald Trump) and Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders).

The adventure is filled with tragedy, comedy, and satire. The original © on the story was 2006 by a press that went defunct a month after its release. Dog Horn Publishing in Leeds, a traditional small press, picked up the project in 2012 and produced an Advance Review Copy (ARC) that circulated for several years before the final version was published in December 2016. The ARC was awarded Gold Medals by two major review organizations and was named one of the five best books of 2015 along side of Revival by Stephen King and The Martian by Andy Weir. Its political allegory is much more obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. Without political advocacy except to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of world-wide child maltreatment, the story addresses many issues that are being debated today, such as immigration, the refugee crisis, exploitation of underdeveloped territories for minerals, extreme capitalism vs. democratic socialism…. The backdrop of the story is adult literary science fiction, but there are elements of horror, paranormal, and romance.

Author proceeds support the prevention of child abuse.

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

I grew up in an impoverished family in West Virginia, similar to the Earth setting for the novel. Also similar to the story, my father had war-related PTSD with night terrors and temper outbursts when intoxicated. I’m the oldest of four children. My loving mother did the best that she could to protect and feed us. I began working odd jobs, cutting grass, shoveling snow…as a child and began paying into the U.S. Social Security fund at age twelve after getting a job cleaning an stocking shelves at a drug store. At the time, pharmacies were the paperback marts of many small towns. That’s when I started reading fiction by borrowing novels off of the store’s shelves and returning them in same-as new condition. My father caught our rented house on fire by smoking while laying on the couch a year later and was killed. I was at work at a gas station, a second job, at the time and the rest of the family had gone to visit my grandmother – nobody else was hurt in the fire. Afterward, we moved into a housing project where I lived until I graduated from high school.

Academic or creative at school?

Frankly, looking back, I think that I was mostly dissociative during my public school years. I was there physically, but missed out on a lot of basic education because I was not there mentally – “spaced out.” In the eighth grade I won our school’s short story competition. That’s when my aspiration to become a rich and famous author began. In college, one of my poems was published by the West Virginia Student Anthology. A couple more were published in alternative zines, and I’ve written stories and poems for as long as I can remember, but I rarely shared them with others, especially not with peers at school. Academically, I barely got through high school but snapped out of my funk in college where I graduated above a 3.0 g.p.a., and began to perform in graduate school where I graduated with a perfect 4.0.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

During childhood, before food stamps were available, I was the primary bread winner for my family. I “really” wanted to do each and every job for which I would get paid. I’ve worked all the way through school and really wanted to do well at every job even after my family became eligible for food stamps and public housing. As the oldest, I would buy new clothing, not Goodwill, and presents for my siblings and mother. After college, I accepted a job as a drug counselor for adolescents who had been court-committed to treatment. That was the first job that I really wanted to do for reasons beyond fiscal.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

Growing up, my family didn’t have the money to buy toys for us kids, for a television, telephone, or to go to the movies. For entertainment, I began writing short stories, sometimes on flattened paper grocery bags. In grade school, I can’t remember which grade, I shared one of my stories with a gas station attendant who worked across the highway. With a big smile after he had read my story, he said that he loved it. From that point forward, I really wanted to write.

Who are your real life heroes?

Not counting those great people who I admire, like Rosa Parks and M.L.K., Abby Hoffman, J.F.K, Georgia O’Keefe, John Lennon, Mark Twain…, my biggest real life hero would be my grandmother. I’ll tell you why. It was her integrity and strength in sticking to convictions. Mattie was a fundamentalist Christian (I’m not) who read the Bible every day. She went to church every time that its doors were open. The way she read the Bible, it was a sin for a woman to cut her hair. Mattie’s hair was never cut. She wore it in a bun on top of her head. When we kids would beg her to, she would release it – all the way to the floor and two feet beyond. After television became available, she wasn’t sure about them. She considered whether or not to watch television would be a sin for nine years before she permitted my uncle to buy her one, and then mostly watched religious shows. Her son, another uncle of mine, was put in our state penitentiary when he was fourteen years old for being a back-seat passenger in a car owned by the father of one of his friends and which had been taken without permission — joyriding. My grandmother wrote him a letter every day for those nine years. Since the mail didn’t run on Sundays, that meant that my uncle got two letters from her on Monday. From the day that I remember meeting her until Mattie’s death, I never heard or curse, or express any bigotry, anger, or even an unkind word to or about another human being. She raised her children with the same values. That’s why I ended up with the most wonderful mother anybody could hope for despite the adversities that she faced. Mattie is my real life hero.

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

In 1990, I was placed on the agenda to make a speech to a joint committee of our State Legislature about the status of juvenile services. West Virginia has a beautiful Capitol building with old trees in the surrounding lawns – the home for lots of squirrels and pigeons. It was one of my first of several similar speeches, so I was a little nervous. At the time, finding a parking spot was a challenge, so I’d left home early. By the time that I’d parked my car, time was getting a little tight. I rushed to the East Wing. On the way, a pigeon pooped on the right shoulder of my suit jacket. I glanced into the meeting room on my way to the restroom to clean it off – it was packed, at least a couple hundred people in the audience. I made the speech with a huge and very obvious wet spot.

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I’m definitely a phone a friend type of person. My wife is highly active when I’m writing, for example. We’ve been married for forty-five years. Rita is the most knowledgeable person that I’ve ever met. As I mentioned before, I missed out on a lot of basic education, so I bug her all the time despite spell check.

Before YouTube, I would usually ask more that one friend if I was uncertain about something, including how to fix an engine, washer…. Today, I always search the internet for instructions and information before initiating an action about which I’m unsure. For example, our dishwasher just broke down. It looks like the water inlet valve went out. I’ve never worked on a dishwasher before, so I’m still searching for info before I spend $45 on a replacement valve.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

I used to love the sun. The beach was my favorite vacation spot and the only time that I totally relaxed. Ten years ago, a small spot on the side of my nose was diagnosed as basal cell skin cancer. I figure it was from working construction on the weekends off from my in-the-office jobs, but, today, I’m less fond of the sun.

When I’m writing, since I’ve retired – I was a children’s psychotherapist most recently – I will sometimes stay up all night working on something. But, between projects I keep regular hours.

A book that had you in tears.

Push is the 1996 debut novel by American author Sapphire. It was a real life story about an illiterate sixteen year old girl living in Harlem who was pregnant with her second child after having been raped by her father. Twelve years after its release, Push was turned into a movie, Precious, that won two Academy Awards. I knew that I shouldn’t, but I read the book after seeing the movie. While there were moments of kindness and positives as a special teacher and others helped Precious, overall this was a depressing story, especially when she was diagnosed with HIV. Worse, while the book never reaches closure, in real-life, Precious died of the disease.

Precious was inspiring for me. While I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment, I also didn’t want to write anything nearly as depressing as Push. While I appreciated this masterpiece, it pushed me in the opposite direction. I decided to write something that addressed this social problem, but through a comical and satiric adventure — something that was fun to read. Something that people would remember to help needful kids because the enjoy reading the novel.

On this topic, the ARC of Rarity from the Hollow was awarded two Gold Medals, the first of which gave me a special sense of pride in achieving my goal: “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Every book written by Kurt Vonnegut made me laugh out loud. He’s another one of my heroes like we talked about before. I was flattered when a book critic of the Rarity from the Hollow ARC found: “…In the spirit of Vonnegut, Eggleton (a psychotherapist focused on the adolescent patient) takes the genre and gives it another quarter turn….” http://electricrev.net/2014/08/12/a-universe-on-the-edge/

One piece of life advice you give everyone.

Maybe you’ve heard this before. This advice was given to me by my aunt after I had been picked on at grade school one day: “Bobby, don’t let the butt holes get you down.” This advice has served me well ever since.

About the book:

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. A Children’s Story. For Adults.

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.”

—Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”

— Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” –Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

Find out More

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Purchase Rarity in the Hollow

Happy Reading!

All the Wicked Lucky Ghost’s (or something) with Chris Whitaker and Matthew Blakstad

So in another of my author match making modes I recently put the brilliant Matt Blakstad together with the equally brilliant Chris Whitaker and asked them to have a chat about their respective novels – Yes I’m sorry about that I should have known better – so to offset that which you are about to read you could also read my review of All The Wicked Girls and Lucky Ghost which, frankly, are a lot more likely to sell the books to you. Be afraid, be very afraid…

Over to them then. It’s their title by the way…

TWO AUTHORS TALKING A BAG OF SHITE FEATURING CHRIS WHITAKER AND MATTHEW BLAKSTAD

Chris: I recently read the brilliant Sockpuppet and thought it was one of the most accomplished debuts I’ve come across in a long time. Now, I know that you have a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from Oxford, which has had me worrying I may come off as a bit of a simpleton during this discussion, so with that in mind I’ve worked hard on coming up with a number of intelligent, thought provoking questions…

Have you always been interested in puppetry? If you could slip your hand inside any puppet, living or dead, who would it be?

Matthew: Bless you for your kind words. You know that I am – like every other vertebrate on the planet – and a number of the more literate invertebrates – a huge fan of Tall Oaks.

Anyway, thank you very much for your perspicacious and well-thought through questions. My interest in puppetry began at an early age when I realised that, by simply sticking a hand inside my sock and attaching two buttons, I could have a friend who’d actually talk to me and never pants me in the boys’ toilets. Even if he couldn’t say his ‘G’s very clearly. Sadly, even my sockbuddy turned against me when he began a dalliance with a pair of orange boxers, but we’ll draw a veil over that episode. Let’s just say, there’s a reason why I have gone sockless since the age of 12.

If I could slip my hand inside any puppet today, it would be Donald Trump who is a puppet of Vladimir Putin ha ha did you see what I did with my sharp political satire – oh hang on I just imagined what it would be like sticking my hand in Donald Trump excuse me while I apply wire wool to my entire right forearm.

While I’m doing that, tell me: why this obsession with tall oaks particularly? Why not Oak Saplings? Or even Medium Sized Oaks? Why do you continue to put out this heightist propaganda?

Chris: Ah thanks, pet. Actually there was one particular guy that hated Tall Oaks so much he gave it a good old savaging. That was the first really bad review I got and I remember feeling quite down about it. Generally I’m thick skinned, and always tell my editor to be brutal as I can take it, so I really hated the fact that I was bothered by this. But looking back now I suppose it’s because writing a book, no matter the subject, is intensely personal, just you and a page and a million hours of agony. So an attack on the book felt a bit like an attack on me, which I can now see is totally ridiculous. It’s not possible to write a book that appeals to everyone, and I’m certain I wouldn’t want to. Tall Oaks mixes crime and humour, which I always knew was a bit of a risk. Rough with the smooth and all that.

I also turn to my Twitter group (made up of fellow Bonnier debutants) for support and we’ve since started a 1-star club, each 1-star is a badge of honour. I’d invite you to join but I’ve checked your reviews and you don’t have the necessary credentials. Congrats (I suppose).

I know as a writer failure/criticism is par for the course, but have you found it tough? How do you cope with it?

I think my heightist propaganda is actually more a general sizeist propaganda, and I guess it stems from my own insecurities. I wanted to call it Giant Cock Oaks but the sales department weren’t keen.

Matthew: I guess one-star reviews are a fact of life. Even Shakespeare and Jane Austin have them. And if you think I don’t have any, you haven’t looked at my GoodReads. My favourite? ‘Couldn’t finish it. I hated all the characters. Bleurgh.’ Which is at least clear and to the point.

And I have an UNPOPULAR OPINION about this. I think it’s good to read all your reviews, good and bad. Yes, of course it’s hurtful when people slam the book you’ve sweated over for years, but they’re entitled to negative feelings about a book they paid good money for. Reading the stinkers gives you a thicker skin, and sometimes an unexpected insight about your work. We write for an audience, and it helps to know what people think – even if they sometimes express it in the rudest way you can imagine. And of course NO WAY should we change the way we write, on the say-so of some random on the internet.

It’s not easy, though, facing the slings and arrows. Writing’s an insanely lonely pursuit. Even the amazing things – like getting published – bring a dose of the terrors. I guess it’s fear of being exposed as a fraud. NOBODY tells you about all this angsty stuff in advance. Maybe published writers don’t like to complain about their good fortune in case everyone who wishes they were them all decide to punch them in the nuts. Which would be fair enough.

As you say, other writers are life-line. I’ve met some amazing people since I was published. You and Liz, of course (phew: very glad I remembered to say that before I got in trouble). I’m also part of a fantastic collective called the Prime Writers. Mainly, the group of people I studied with at Faber

Academy have been a constant source of support. We still meet up once a month, 4 years after the course ended – to bitch and gripe and comment on each others’ work. Several of us have publishing deals, including the excellent Molly Flatt, who you know because we all share an agent. Her The Charmed Life of Alex Moore is coming out next year from Pan Mac and it’s going to be MASSIVE.

Which leads me to an actual question: what book are you most eagerly anticipating in the coming months, and why?

Chris: Bleurgh! Welcome to the club, Matt. I totally get what you mean about being exposed as a fraud. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like a ‘real’ writer, whatever that means. Whenever I’m amongst a group of authors I always feel like the least qualified there, so I do lots of nodding and smiling and drinking. I lie about having read the classics, and by classics I mean any book over five years old, and I know it’s only a matter of time before someone calls me a charlatan and burns one of my books.

I’m about to begin thinking about book 3, which leads me to thinking about the writing process. I still don’t plan at all, which I’m going to try and work on. I tend to just sit down and start writing. I’ll know the end, where I’m heading, but how I get there is the part I most enjoy, fleshing out characters and feeling like I know them a little better each time I sit down to write. I find the process difficult though, especially so with book 2. I find it hard to switch off, I don’t sleep well and will often lie in bed running over the story, which can be exhausting. I also find the balance tricky, having a day job and a family and trying to prioritise my time. It’s something I aim to get better at, I’m just not sure how.

How do you do it? There’s some masterful plotting in Sockpuppet and Lucky Ghost, so I’m guessing there’s some detailed planning involved. How do you balance work and writing and relaxing? (I’m really hoping you have a magic formula, and that it involves recreational drugs.)

As for a book I’m really looking forward to, The Confession by Jo Spain, which I believe is out in January. I’ve heard very good things and am a huge fan of hers. I also wait patiently for John Hart to write another. It takes him a while (lazy/rich) but I love him so much I’d happily rummage through his recycling box, I imagine even his shopping list is a thing of beauty.

Matthew: Ooh, I’ll check that one out, thanks.

You’re very kind to complement my plotting. I wish I could say I had a magic formula but I really don’t. I usually start with a rough outline – 2-3 pages covering what I think the main beats of the story will be, plus some character notes – but this always turns out to be wrong. I seem to need this kind of starting point, but for me (and it sounds like for you, too) the true magic of writing fiction comes when you start to improvise and surprise yourself. I love throwing characters into situations even I don’t know the way out of, or pitting them against one another, and simply seeing what they’ll do. They invariably end up taking the story in a far more interesting direction than I could have plotted out in advance, and I have MUCH more fun along the way.

Of course this means my first drafts are alway a steaming, toxic mess, but that’s the point of a first draft. And it’s why novelists really, really need to enjoy editing. Because that’s at least 50% of the process.

Speaking of writing a draft, what stage are you at on the next book? Any teasers you can share about the book?

Chris: Yes on the dog shit first draft, mine are so bad that I usually get the urge to start something new when I’m nearing the end.

As for book 3 I’m not sure. I have a couple of ideas and they’re both quite big in scope, I just need to psyche myself up to get started as I know it’s going to be tough again. There’s something terrifying about staring at a blank page, but equally it’s the part I find most enjoyable. Sometimes I still can’t believe I get paid to write stories, it’s genuinely my dream job and if it wasn’t hard I’d worry I was doing something wrong.

How about you? Next up?

Matthew: You know what, Chris, I reckon the fact that you agonise so much is a big part of why your writing has so much rawness and fizz. It’s a shame the gestation has to be so painful, but take it from me, they’re beautiful babies. I hope you get to feel like a proud Dad once they’re out in the world.

For myself, I have a few irons in the fire at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to figure out which of them to work on next. There’s more to come in the series that started with Sockpuppet, and I thought that one of those would come next – but instead I’ve found myself compelled to write a standalone book about the fake news phenomenon, and the way we’re being slyly targeted with information designed to mould our feelings and beliefs. It’s shaping up to be a very different kind of book, though I’m still not 100% sure which direction it’s taking me in. Still, I’m excited to be here for the ride.

In the meanwhile, very best of luck with the launch of All The Wicked Girls. I know it’s going to be YUGE, as The Donald would say.

Follow Matt on Twitter HERE and Chris on Twitter HERE

Purchase Sockpuppet and/or Lucky Ghost

Purchase Tall Oaks and/or All The Wicked Girls

Happy Reading!

Early one morning, blogger Alex Kubelick walks up to a total stranger and slaps him across the face. Hard.

He smiles.

They’ve both just earned Emoticoin, in a new, all-consuming game that trades real-life emotions for digital currency. Emoticoin is changing the face of the economy – but someone or something is controlling it for their own, dangerous ends.

As Alex picks apart the tangled threads that hold the virtual game together she finds herself on the run from very real enemies. It seems only one person has the answers she seeks. Someone who hides behind the name ‘Lucky Ghost’.

But Lucky Ghost will only talk to a young hacker called Thimblerig – the online troll who’s been harassing Alex for months.

Will Lucky Ghost lead Alex and Thimblerig to the answers they seek – or to their deaths?

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer goes missing.

Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .