Monday, 14 April 2014

Creative Writing Blog Tour

The wonderful crime writer Penny Hancock ( facebook pennyhancockauthor ) has invited me to take part in a blog tour about the writing process. All writers involved answer 4 questions about the writing process then ask 3 writer friends to share their writing process, and so the tour goes on. Here goes!

What am I working on?
Right now I’m completing the fourth book in my crime series, River of Souls. The series is published by Mulholland and focuses on Alice Quentin, a forensic psychologist working in London. Alice works alongside DCI Don Burns, a Scottish detective now living in Southwark. The first novel Crossbones Yard featured a real London location, in Borough, which I stumbled on by accident. It’s London’s only prostitutes’ graveyard, atmospheric but so long neglected it’s easy to ignore. As soon as this one’s done, it’s on to number 5 in the series, Blood Symmetry, which is still in the planning/research phase.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t deliberately set out to make my work different from other novels in the crime genre. I think the responsibility of all thriller writers is quite literally and simply to ‘thrill’. My aim is to provide plenty of twists and turns and tell an exciting tale. For that reason, I choose to write in the first person, for its immediacy and urgency. I’d like to think that the fact I was a poet for 15 years before becoming a novelist shows in my writing, which is sometimes described as lyrical. I aim to write taut, finely honed sentences. It doesn’t always work, but I try my best!

Why do I write what I do?
I write first person narrative, from the perspective of a female psychologist. It feels like an extraordinarily comfortable fit, although I often write short stories from a male perspective, just for variety. I love the shape shifting aspect of writing. I can be whoever I want to be, but Alice Quentin’s mindset isn’t that far from my own. Like her, I’m fascinated by people and constantly second guessing what them. I know it would be more profitable to write James Patterson style action thrillers, or have characters hanging out of helicopters like Lee Childs, but it wouldn’t come over as authentic. I enjoy writing novels set in London, although I live in Cambridge now. I lived there for the first 25 years of my life and often miss it still. Writing this series allows me to be a vicarious Londoner again.

How does your writing process work?
I write one novel per year. At the moment I tend to spend 3 pr 4 months writing a first draft, then another 2 or 3 months redrafting before sending it to my editor. Then the editing and copyediting stage can take a further three months. I’m lucky to have a wonderful editor, Ruth Tross, at Mulholland. She’s a fabulously perceptive reader, able to cut the quick of a story. I enjoy being edited, and it’s a good way to keep your ego in check. There’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript, at least not in my world!

My writing days tend to be quite long. I start at around 10am and am often still working at 5 or 6pm. I look at writing as a job, and if I was doing office work it would be 9 till 5. The difference is that I adore writing. I’d be bereft if I had to stop, and I’m aware that it’s an addiction. Maybe it’s my way of holding the world at bay.

The writers I have chosen to carry on the blogging tour are:
Dave Pescod,
Miranda Landgraf
Melanie Taylor

Monday, 13 January 2014

Love at first sight

I'm not talking about romantic love here, although that can feel pretty good too. This week I received a surprise parcel from my German publisher, Ullstein, containing ten beautifully packaged copies of my new paperback. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I'm still so new to this game that a well-designed cover affects me like Cupid's arrow. The heady feeling was swiftly followed by frustration. I wanted to dive in and sample the first few paragraphs but my German leaves a lot to be desired. I will have to bribe my stepson's girlfriend to tell me how the translation flows. Until then the love will be unrequited. I can look at it adoringly, but it can't say much in reply.

The experience got me thinking about covers in general. I always loved the monochrome Penguins which lined the walls of the living room in the London house where I grew up in the Seventies. Book jackets were much less complex then. You knew the genre you were buying from the orange or green dust jackets, and my father would come home from the library, arms loaded with bright yellow Gollancz thrillers. Maybe it was the distinctive covers that always made me steal them when his back was turned. The love affair continues to this day.

And speaking of love affairs. My stepson Matt called today, to say that he's just been on a date for the first time in a while. Maybe there's something in the air!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Wide Open Sky

It's been an exciting start to 2014, here in Cambridge. It's rained incessantly, the fens full to bursting, and swans have been teaching their cygnets to land on the river Cam, a hundred metres behind my house. So I was particularly pleased that Martin Edwards has this week accepted one of my crime short stories, set in the fens, 'The Wide Open Sky' for the CWA 2014 anthology. The story's close to my heart because it's set in the flat and elemental landscape of Cambridgeshire, which I've grown so fond of. Martin's email of acceptance made me do a brief victory dance! I love writing short stories, but it's a relatively new form for me, so it's great to get an endorsement.

I started the new year with a resolution to become more media savvy, which will be quite a stretch, at first! My website has been redesigned, with links to my facebook and twitter pages, so if you're interested, I'd love it if you check out some of the pages.

By the way, if you're wondering about the photo, my husband Dave took it while out on a bike ride along the river Cam to the village of Waterbeach today.