Welcome To My Blog

Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Interview With Shirley Wells

I'm really thrilled to have Shirley Wells visiting my blog this weekend as part of her blog tour to launch 'Dead Silent'. This is what Shirley had to say ...

Thank you, Helen, for inviting me to your lovely blog. It’s great to be here!

What first inspired you to write?

I was taught to read at the age of 3 and have rarely been seen without a book in my hand since, but it wasn’t until I was 28 and living in Cyprus that I considered writing. Books and magazines were in short supply on the island and after reading one short story in a women’s magazine, I thought “Hey, I could do better than that.” I typed (remember that?) my story, sent it to the editor with a letter that said something along the lines of “I’m not a proper writer but I wondered if you’d like to read this…” and received a lovely reply saying it would be published in the March issue of their magazine and that a cheque would follow. I’d caught the writing bug and haven’t lost it since.

And what particularly appeals about crime writing?

I’ve always been a fan of mysteries, both books and TV programmes. I think it’s the puzzle. I love pitting my wits against police detectives or amateur sleuths and figuring out whodunnit before they do. Also, the darker side of the human psyche fascinates me. I love to play with ‘normal’, respectable characters and see what it takes to push them over the edge.

Tell us about your latest book ‘Dead Silent’.

Dead Silent is the second book to feature reluctant private investigator Dylan Scott. I’m so pleased that my publisher wanted more about Dylan because I love him. My editor said of his first appearance: Dylan is a chauvinist and a terrible husband, but I’ve never rooted harder for a character. He is a chauvinist, and his wife despairs of him, but his heart’s in the right place.

For anyone curious, this is from the back cover:
Ten months ago, Samantha Hunt set off for work… and was never seen again.
Despite the statistics of cold cases, Dylan Scott wants to believe the young woman’s alive – and not just because her father, his client, is desperate to find his missing daughter before he dies of cancer. By all accounts Sam was a lovely girl, devoted to her younger stepsisters, well-liked at her work, in love with her boyfriend.
But as usual not everything is as it seems in sleepy Dawson’s Clough. Sam’s boyfriend has a violent past. She may have been having an affair with her boss. And Dylan can’t shake the feeling that her stepfather is hiding something. Meanwhile, someone is trying to scare Dylan off the case.
Who wanted to silence Sam, and why? The truth turns out to be worse than anyone expected…

What opportunities do you see for authors in the increasing popularity of the e-book format?

As I see it, one of the biggest advantages is that, because production and distribution costs are lower, publishers will take chance on new authors. With traditional publishing suffering the backlash from library cutbacks, debut authors are struggling to find an outlet for their work and published authors need a proven sales record. Also, an e-book is simply a file so it’s always available. One of my books has been out of print for over a year and, although there are plans to republish it soon as an e-book, there are no plans for a reprint unless the publisher receives “significant orders”. I can’t imagine who would order an out-of-print book in significant numbers!

Added to this is the ease with which authors can publish their own work. I know of several well-known authors who are publishing their backlists - long out-of-print books - themselves.

I suppose the downside is that, as it’s so easy - and free - to publish a book, many people are bypassing a good editor and publishing work that is substandard and which gives digital publishing a bad name. I’m lucky in that my e-books are published by Carina Press, the digital-first arm of Harlequin and there’s little Harlequin doesn’t know about the publishing industry. All books at Carina go through three lots of edits - developmental edits, line edits and then a final proof edit - before a marketing strategy is planned. Small e-book presses, however, are opening up with a view to earning a quick buck and putting out books that are poorly presented and need editing. That could be a problem.

What sort of characters do you like to create most – goodies or baddies?

I think the baddies can be more challenging. When a terrible crime is committed we often hear friends and neighbours declaring the perpetrator to be one of the nicest people one could wish to meet. How can such a person be driven to take a life? Is there a dark side to us all? Could we, if pushed, be driven to kill?

What’s the biggest challenge of producing consistently good books over a number of years?

I write books in a series and, while it’s wonderful to meet my characters again and take them on another adventure, my biggest worry is repetition. In the first book, it’s easy to create strong, well-drawn characters and show their relationships with family and friends. I find it difficult in subsequent books to give the reader glimpses of past relationships without repeating myself.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the fourth Dylan Scott mystery. The second, DEAD SILENT, has just released, and the third, SILENT WITNESS, is due for release in March.
What are your writing plans for the future?

I’ll keep writing crime and mystery so long as someone publishes me but, other than that, I don’t think past the next deadline.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

Read it aloud, show it to people whose opinions you value, and pay to have it professionally edited if necessary. In short, make it as good as it can be. Never give up. Ever. Take no notice of prophets of doom who claim it’s impossible to get anything published unless you’re sleeping with the commissioning editor, are built along super-model lines or run your own PR company. I parted company with my agent a few years ago and went it alone. My first ‘Jill and Max’ crime novel was taken off the slush pile by Constable & Robinson and my first Dylan Scott mystery was taken from the slush pile by Carina Press. There will always be a market for good stories. (Wearing a rabbit’s foot and rubbing a four-leaf clover might not go amiss, either.)

Thank you for having me, Helen! It’s been fun.

Having had several hundred short stories, ten serials and ten novels published, Shirley Wells is finally getting the hang of this writing lark. She’s lived in Orkney, Cyprus and the Cotswolds, and now lives in Lancashire, UK, where the Pennines, with their abundance of great places to hide bodies, provide the inspiration for her popular mystery novels. She shares her home with her husband, two dogs, two cats and any other stray animals that fancy being pampered.

For more information, visit her website, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Her latest Dylan Scott mystery, DEAD SILENT, is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book retailers.

You can read a review of 'Dead Silent' on Bookersatz now.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Guest Review By Sophie Hannah

I'm delighted to announce that, to tie in with the paperback release of her latest book 'Lasting Damage', Sophie Hannah is my special guest on Bookersatz this weekend. She's reviewing 'Facing Codependence' by Pia Mellody and the review is fantastic. Well worth reading for all sorts of reasons.

You can also read my review of 'Lasting Damage' here. It's a fabulous book and I highly recommend it.

If you're looking for more weekend reading, don't miss my two interviews below:

Lisa Jackson, US crime writer, talks about the ins and outs of writing in different genres.

Nicola Morgan talks aboout the launch of her indispensable guide to Twitter, 'Tweet Right'.

Happy weekend everyone.

Friday, 19 August 2011

An Interview With Lisa Jackson

I'm very pleased to have Lisa Jackson here during publication week for 'Without Mercy'.

Tell us about your most recent book ‘Without Mercy’. It sounds like a fascinating premise.

The idea for WITHOUT MERCY came to me at a traffic light. I was waiting for the light to turn from red to green and was listening to my favourite radio station when an advertisement for a school for troubled teens was broadcast. In the ad, the mother was worried sick about a child with declining grades, escalating bad attitude and friends who were running with the wrong crowd. She told the announcer that she’d found the answer to her daughter’s problems in a school for troubled kids. She’d shipped her daughter off to a school with little contact with the outside world and when the daughter returned, she’d once again become her “normal” loving self. “Huh,” I thought. I’d raised boys who were far from angels, but what would it have taken me to send the kid off for someone else to raise and turn around? The idea kept growing and I was so caught in it, that the driver behind me had to lay on his horn to snap me out of it as the light had, indeed, turned green.

After nearly jumping out of my skin, I did a quick U turn and called my editor, then mapped out the story. I quit the book I was writing and WITHOUT MERCY was started as my editor loved the idea.

What first attracted you to the idea of writing crime/thrillers?

I’ve always loved puzzles and the human psyche. I grew up reading mysteries—from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie and I loved moody books like Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I started writing romance novels thirty years ago, but always had a bend toward mysteries and crime, so my writing kind of evolved, as did the popularity of the romantic suspense thriller. So here I am today. It all worked out.

Your writing is in more than one genre, was that down to a deliberate decision to explore different types of writing?

I write what I like. I don’t like following rules or prescribed plots. That was difficult for me as I started out in category romance and was told over and over again to tone down the suspense. But over the years, suspense became more popular and so I am lucky enough to write the kind of stories I love to read!

When you sit down to write a new book, do you find inspiration in particular ways or from particular sources?

Inspiration comes from all kinds of sources: an article I’ve read, or an overheard conversation, or a bit on the news, whatever. In the case of WITHOUT MERCY it was a radio ad. (That’s never happened before!) Though I can’t type very well and am a horrible speller, I’m lucky enough to be blessed with a pretty vivid imagination, so story ideas aren’t difficult. It’s the execution, the actual sitting and writing that’s a little more troublesome.

What are you working on now and what do you see yourself writing in the future?

I’m working on a book called YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW and it’s kind of a moody, I like to think Hitchcockian type of book, told primarily from the heroine’s point of view. It’s very psychological and I’m having a lot of fun writing it!

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

I encourage a first-time novelist to write the whole book. It’s easy to start a book and often times a writer has a great ending in mind, but it’s the pages in between that are the “proof in the pudding.” An idea is not a book. Write it from page one until “the end.”

Many thanks to Lisa for those inspiring answers.

'Without Mercy' by Lisa Jackson is out in paperback now. You can buy it here.

Please also pop over to Bookersatz for my review of 'Lasting Damage' by Sophie Hannah which is one of the best books I've read recently.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Nicola Morgan Is Here!

I am absolutely thrilled to have the multi-talented Nicola Morgan here today to talk about 'Tweet Right', her new book which is aimed at helping everyone get to grips with Twitter and use it properly.

I asked Nicola some questions ...

For those who don’t ‘get’ Twitter, how would you convince them of its worth in one sentence?

It combines all the benefits of a mahoosive party in which you can talk to many people at once and avoid anyone you dislike, an office without the office bore, an encyclopedia written by people you trust, an up-to-date news source for the things that interest you, a bank of people who can help with any task, a job agency, a fantastic marketing tool and a way of making friends from all around the world – free.

What moved you to write a whole book about Twitter?

I guess it’s a case of “once a teacher, always a teacher”. I kept hearing people say they didn’t understand Twitter – some being hostile and others really wanting to start but not feeling they knew how to, or else people who had tried but found it bewildering or difficult. So I wrote a series of blog posts to help people and those posts were very popular. (I even had a publisher asking to use them to train staff and authors.) But later there was more I wanted to say and it’s also not easy reading a whole series of blog posts hidden in the depths of my blog. So, I wrote Tweet Right, which is much more comprehensive and much clearer. It covers everything you need to get into Twitter, right from the very beginning. It assumes no knowledge other than the ability to switch on a computer and connect to the internet.

What was behind the decision to publish it yourself as Crabbit Publishing?

Because I can! I’ve got a load of ideas for non-fiction that I don’t need a publisher for. They are all books which will work as ebooks only and they are also shorter than suits a standard printed book. (They’ll be around 20-25 thousand words. The next one is probably going to be Dear Agent – the Worried Writer’s Guide to Submissions.) Later, I will be commissioning books from other writers and soon I will publish my early novels as ebooks – Mondays are Red is first up. You will be hearing a lot more about Crabbit Publishing when we launch properly in 2012 – at which point I will be able to tell you the interesting secret behind it!

You’ve already changed the face of twitter forever with your trending topic #lessinteresting books. How did that come about?

You exaggerate! But this is what happened: on Twitter one day, I saw that someone had tweeted that they were reading Lord of the Flies. I momentarily misread that as Lord of the Files, and thought how much less interesting that would have been as a book. So I tweeted “Lord of the Files #lessinterestingbooks” and followed with another one – I can’t remember but perhaps, “Love in the Time of the Common Cold #lessinterestingbooks”. It went viral and within a couple of hours was trending at No 1 worldwide. Totally mad! But fun and interesting. I think my favourite was Love in the Time of Man-Flu. My husband’s was Mein Campsite. (Mainly because he came up with that idea.) Mind you, I did laugh at the ones which missed the point: “textbooks”, “I can’t think of any”, “No books are less interesting – they are all wonderful and u should not diss them.”

So, Twitter … more or less important for a writer than stocks of wine and chocolate and good shoes?


You’ve subtitled the book ‘The Sensible Person’s Guide To Twitter’. What’s the least sensible thing people can do on Twitter?

Probably to tweet while drunk or angry. There should be an offence of being drunk in charge of a Twitter account.

What’s the main thing you hope people will get out of reading Tweet Right?

The knowledge they need in order to attain the lightbulb moment: “AH! So that’s what everyone’s going on about.” Also, to make new friends and learn more than they ever thought they didn’t know.

Exactly how crabbit are you?

You only dare ask that because you live hundreds of miles away…

Thanks very much to Nicola for sharing those thoughts with us.

You can find out more about Nicola on her blog, and for those who haven't met her, I can confirm that she is not crabbit at all, but is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.

You can buy 'Tweet Right' here.

(It is currently in Kindle format, but you don't need a Kindle to read it as you can download free Kindle software from Amazon to your computer.)

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Kate Lord Brown Is My Weekend Guest

Please pop over to Bookersatz to find out what book my special weekend guest, Kate Lord Brown, would take to a desert island with her.

You can read my review of Kate's own book, 'The Beauty Chorus', which I found a fantastic read here.

If you're interested in my workshops or email critiques you can now find full details here. Please get in touch at helen-hunt1(at)sky(dot)com if you have any questions.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend planned. I'll be writing today and tomorrow I'll be investgating why the buddleia bush in my back garden has collapsed. I suspect cat sabotage.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Insight Into The Women's Magazine Short Story Market

On Saturday I held my first short story workshop. This is a new venture for me, so it was a bit of a 'feel the fear and do it anyway moment'.

I'm pleased to say that it went really well. Five lovely writers attended and all participated with enthusiasm and commitment.

The same workshop will be running again on 17 September if anyone is interested in coming along. I'll also be running a follow up workshop called 'Moving On' (probably in October - date to be announced) and will be offering email critiques in the near future for those who are unable to come along to a course.

If you're interested in any of these things, please feel free to contact me via my profile for more information.

Edited to say, details are now here.