Author Introductions #18: Nicky Black

Morning!

Today, I’m writing to you from my office in Bath which will soon be replaced with an office in Northumberland, now that we’re making the Big Move North. I’m so excited about returning to the countryside where I grew up and looking forward to introducing my son to all the best beaches (there are so many to choose from) in time for Christmas. But, if there’s one person I don’t have to convince when it comes to the beauty of the North-East, it’s lovely fellow author and friend Nicky Doherty, one half of the bestselling writing duo that comprises Nicky Black.

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Nicky Doherty, one half of bestselling writing duo Nicky Black.

Nicky Black is a collaboration between two friends, Nicky and Julie, who have known each other for around twenty years. They both had careers in urban regeneration back in the 90s, working at the heart of disadvantaged communities in the North East of England. During that time, they experienced the real grit and struggle of peoples’ everyday lives, as well as their humour and determination to lead a happy existence, whatever that meant to them.

Julie has had a career as a script writer, and Nicky has transformed two of Julie’s early scripts into novels. The first is called ‘The Prodigal,’ and the second is a work in progress called ‘Tommy Collins,’ which will be released in the Spring of 2018. To find out a little more about this dynamic duo, I asked Nicky to answer a few short questions which she kindly agreed to do. Here goes…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I’ve been enjoying reading these interviews with some fabulous authors, so delighted to be here.

I was born and brought up in Alnwick, Northumberland, a very beautiful place that I didn’t appreciate at the time. When I’d finished my degree, I moved back to Newcastle and worked in urban regeneration for twelve years. Then I thought I’d give London a go for six months when my contract was up and ended up staying fourteen years. The last couple of years there weren’t very happy ones for me, so I ditched it all last summer and moved back up north. I also turn fifty this year which I can hardly believe. I’m officially middle-aged and the healthiest and happiest I’ve been in years!

[Blogger’s Note: I don’t think any of us can believe that you turn fifty this year, Nicky. What’s your secret?!]

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

Well, my latest book is a couple of years old now – I’ve been working on the second one since August last year. In the first book, The Prodigal, readers can expect quite a moving story, although it’s set amidst a fairly gritty backdrop of urban decay. Whilst it’s a crime novel, at its heart is a love story between a detective, Lee Jamieson, and Nicola Kelly, who is questioning her loyalty to her violent, drug-dealing husband now she has small children. Needless to say, it’s not an easy ride for either of them. I’ll leave it there as I don’t want to give away the plot…

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The next one, Tommy Collins, is set on the same fictional council estate ten years earlier in 1989, and is about a young man who organises raves. It’s his escape, and he gets the chance to organise a massive party, make some serious cash and leave his life of poverty behind. Only, he borrows money from the wrong man. The Detective Chief Inspector, Peach, is a dream to write.

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

Annie Lennox. I’ve always been fascinated by her: her voice, song-writing, her effortless androgyny, her dedication to making the world a better place. She’s fierce yet gentle. I can’t explain it, but that voice stops me in my tracks every time I hear it even after all these years. It may sound weirdo stalkerish, but I can’t imagine my life without her music. She also delivers the best “huh!” in pop, in my opinion.

Fiction – I had to look at my bookshelves to answer this one, but it didn’t take long. I’m going to say Heathcliff. He’s just so tortured. I know he’s a cruel character and doesn’t behave in any way heroically, but man, he breaks my heart. And he comes good in the end like all the best heroes.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Roddy Doyle. Funny, moving, gritty – three of my favourite things in any drama. He has this ability to capture mood, emotion and place without describing it in any great detail. It’s all in the dialogue. The Woman Who Walked into Doors is my favourite book of all time, A Star called Henry a close second. I met him recently and he signed my dog-eared copy of The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I’m well chuffed.

Donna Tartt – in contrast to Roddy Doyle, she describes places and people in such detail and with such elegance, I’m in awe. Perfect dialogue, too, and the stories are gripping as hell. The Goldfinch blew me away.

Hmmm. This is hard. I think I’ll say Pat Barker, though I haven’t read anything by her for a while (must rectify that). The Regeneration trilogy is so evocative and sad, but there’s always a message of hope in her books. And she’s a Geordie which is always a winner J. Oh, Catherine Cookson – what a storyteller. (There’s too many, I’ll stop now…).

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I’d like to say something cultural or healthy, but I binge watch TV I’m afraid. Once I’m into a programme, I’m addicted and have to get through it as quickly as possible. At the moment, it’s Suits for entertainment value, and Mindhunter for pure drama and a banging 70s sound track. When I’m not working, writing or binge watching, I love a good night out on the town.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Deciding to change my life and following through (that bit’s important), despite how difficult it all was. I left my job, a relationship that made me unhappy and my life in London to start afresh and give myself space to write. Happiness and a life not bogged down in stress and mistrust can’t be bought. I’m lucky that I have a great family, no mortgage, no kids, so it was achievable. I haven’t achieved what I ultimately want yet, but I’m working on it. I have a plan, and I like that.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Easy. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love a rebel, especially one who goes on such a journey of self-discovery. I can’t remember how many times I finished it and went right back to the beginning again.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. It’s not easy to pull of time-travel and make it plausible. That takes some imagination; I loved it.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Anything by Michael Morpurgo or Joyce Stranger, since she seems to think animals can’t feel pain or emotion. Even if they didn’t, we feel pain and emotion for them, and that should be enough.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Louise, from Thelma and Louise! Not that I want to shoot anyone or drive off a cliff, but I admire her loyalty, her badass independence and her bravery. And I love Susan Sarandon.  She can do no wrong in my eyes.

Thank you for having me, Louise, and best of luck with Dark Skies – looking forward to another fix of Ryan!

…Thanks, Nicky! Love your answers and, as a big fan of The Prodigal, I am already looking forward to reading your next book when it comes out. I admire your decision to change the things that weren’t working in your life and strive for a better happiness – that’s a decision I also took a few years ago. You only get the one life, so we might as well use it wisely! For now, I’m off to listen to some Annie Lennox and plot the next DCI Ryan book…

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!

LJ x

Author Introductions #17: K A Richardson

Hello!

Once again, it’s the start of another working week and I don’t know about anybody else but I’m quite enjoying the crisp, frosty air and clear sunny skies…it can’t last, of course, but let’s enjoy it while it does! Speaking of enjoying ourselves, it’s time to make another Author Introduction and this week it’s my pleasure to introduce another lovely Northern lass, Kerry Richardson, who writes under the pen name K.A. Richardson.

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K.A. Richardson, author of crime thrillers

Kerry is the author of the North East Police series, all based in our beloved north-east of England. Forensics features heavily in her books as well as an authentic police perspective not often captured in crime novels. So far, she has published With Deadly Intent, I’ve Been Watching You, Time to Play and Watch You Burn. The next in the series, Under the Woods, is due for release in early 2018.

Let’s find out a little more about the woman behind the writer…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I was raised in a single parent family on a council estate in Darlington. I grew up with my mum, Jeannet and my brother, Michael, who is disabled. I’ve loved writing and reading for as long as I can remember – my mum taught me to read before I started primary school and I dived straight into junior books. I had a huge preference for the library as a youngster and a teen – my teenage years were spent with my best friend of the time practically living in the library. I used to go at least 3 times a week and would always withdraw the maximum number! I progressed to crime novels at around 13 years old and have loved them ever since. I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and own a 1928 edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which I absolutely adore.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

The most recent release is Watch You Burn – this is the fourth in the North East Police series – book 5 in the series, Under The Woods, is hopefully going to be out early 2018 and readers can look forward to getting to know a little more about TJ Tulley – she’s the sister of Jacob Tulley who works in digital forensics and featured as a main character in book 2, I’ve Been Watching You. TJ is still coming to terms with being injured badly during an assault – she has given up her work at a solicitors’ firm and now owns and runs a disabled horse riding centre, which happens to sit on land that a killer is using to store his ‘angels’. It’s basically a story of good and evil (as are most crime novels) and I’m loving writing TJ’s character. She’s the perfect best friend material (which is what she is to me currently since I can’t leave the laptop until I’m done now haha).

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

My hero is real life is my mum, Jeannet Hooks. My mum has not had it easy, bless her – she put her life on hold to raise me and my brother alone due to personal circumstances that were outside of her control. She struggled to make ends meet and would often go without things herself to make sure we were fed and clothed. She was back and forth to hospital a lot due to my brother’s disabilities but still managed to be there for me too. She’s my best friend – we are very close now I’m an adult and I completely respect her and love her to pieces. I’m so proud to call her my mum – she’s one of those women who’d do anything for someone else. She raised me to be strong, independent and nurtured my imagination from day one. She’s always encouraged me to be who I am and do what I want. She’s my mum.

Fiction can’t really compare to my mum – but I always loved Hannibal from the A-Team, because he always had a plan. I like to be prepared for anything and generally attribute this to that philosophy.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Ooooo, tricksy question! So many fab authors that it’s hard to pin point just 3! I’ll try though.

  1. Karen Rose – I love how all her books interweave with characters – I love her strong writing style – and I love how she features normal people that are special, whether that be due to disabilities, or due to circumstances and things happening.
  2. Mo Hayder – I love the darkness of her writing, and being drawn into a story so strongly that it makes me check doors and windows in case fiction becomes reality.
  3. Roald Dahl – he first drew me into his writing not through The Witches or the BFG, but by Boy and Going Solo – I loved reading about his life when he was young and the trials and tribulations he faced. Those two books I must’ve read about 50 times when I was a teenager. I still love them now, as well as all his other writing.

5. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I love to snuggle on the sofa, light the candles, and watch TV with my hubby, Peter. There’s something insanely relaxing about being able to switch off with the one you love.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

You know, I’ve had quite a few. From being a child to now there would be many achievements that I could mention, but perhaps my greatest one (or the one I’m most proud of so far anyway), is writing. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved to write – from little hand-stapled books that I gave to my teachers at school, to today when I have 4 books published and am contracted for another three currently. It blows my mind that I’ve managed to write something that people other than me enjoy. Every time I meet someone new, or see my books in shops, I’m reminded that I actually did that. I wrote the words, formed the story and held other people’s attention. It’s not something that will ever get old, even if I do often still feel it’s surreal and actually happening to someone else!

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Oooo another tricksy question! I pretty much read the whole children’s library and still own over 220 Enid Blyton books now. I devoured everything! To pin point just one book is just too hard. Especially since my favourites would change week to week! If you put a gun to my head though, I’d have to say The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. It’s the first in the faraway tree series and I absolutely love Moonface – I really wanted him to be my best friend! He loves toffee and has a slide in his house – when you’re a kid that’s all you’d ever need in a best friend, right?

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

The Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive – this is one of my go-to books. When I feel a bit down (I suffer from depression and quite often things can get on top of me without me realising), I reach for this one. I’ve read it a couple of times in recent months though have owned it for a very long time (along with all the other’s in the same series). This book has a way of connecting me with nature whilst allowing the words to pick me up a little and make me realise that it’s not as bad as it first seems. It helps clear my head a little so that I can think and focus on the positive stuff – this in turn helps the bad stuff fade a little, or at least be pushed back for another day. It’s really quite an inspiring book and never fails to raise a smile.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

How to run an effective government by Wotar U Doo-wing – just joking haha.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Lotty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) in the fast and furious movies – she’s totally kick ass.

…Thanks, Kerry! I think we have a lot in common since my hero is also undoubtedly my mum and we also happen to own a 1928 copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – snap! Looking forward to seeing your next book hit the stores in 2018 and, until then, wishing you the best with all your edits… #writersolidarity

Now, it’s time for me to dive back to the world of DCI Ryan, who is currently preparing to roll back into town on the proverbial sin wagon in Dark Skies .  Other than that, I’ll be consigned to the wonderful world of packing and removals as we prepare to hitch a ride on the Ross Family Wagon back up to Northumberland – for good!

Hope you all have a wonderful week,

LJ x

Author Introductions #16: Rachel Amphlett

Hello there!

How was your weekend? Mine was spent visiting some very lovely friends who are expecting their first baby in London. In time-honoured tradition, we kicked off our shoes, stuck an old nineties classic on the telly (I say ‘classic’, it was I Know What You Did Last Summer, which is up for debate) and gathered around with plates of Chinese food to natter about anything and everything. Another good friend of ours came along too and, since she and I are both mothers already, we cackled heartily at the sleep deprivation that is about to hit our friends squarely in the face whilst quaffing champagne (that’s what I call true friendship).

Now, it’s the start of another working week and time to make my next Author Introduction! Today, I’m delighted to welcome the fabulous Rachel Amphlett to the blog.

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Rachel Amphlett, bestselling author of crime and espionage novels

Rachel is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers. Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers’ Association, and the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, were sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014 whilst the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series were contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag in 2017.

Let’s find out a little bit more about this lovely lady…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

Well, I was born in the UK and emigrated to Australia in 2005. I currently live on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, right near to the bush, and I’m a full-time crime fiction writer.

Prior to taking up a pen, I played lead guitar in bands in Oxfordshire, worked in radio in Kent, and also helped to run a busy pub.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

Hell to Pay is the fourth book in the Detective Kay Hunter series, and it closes out the sub-plot that’s been running through the series to date. This time, Kay uncovers the corruption behind the professional and personal upheaval she’s endured, but her quest for justice puts her own life in danger…

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I should probably warn people not to start reading the last part of the book late at night if they have to be up early for work the next day!

  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

My real-life hero is my Granddad, who lives back in the UK. In fiction, my hero is Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, particularly for his motto “everybody counts, or nobody counts”.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

In no particular order:

Michael Connelly, for being so open in his interviews with regard to his writing habits and craft – I always learn something when reading his books, and anyone who’s had the lengthy career he has deserves an enormous amount of respect.

Peter James, for being so generous with his time to up and coming authors and his readers.

Dick Francis – I was introduced to his books by my Granddad and my Mum, and that’s what helped set me off down the path of writing crime fiction.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

Travelling! I love it – even the airports, and it’s brilliant having two passports (EU and Australian) because I can pick the shortest arrivals queue 😉 And did I mention airport bookshops?!

I think I love travelling so much because I’m naturally a people-watcher – whenever we travel we manage to find a little bar tucked out of the way somewhere, and we’ll just watch the world go by after a day’s exploration.

I love discovering the history and culture of other countries, too – wandering around and soaking up all the sights and sounds.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Crumbs, that’s a tough one as I think I’m still learning things and aspiring to do stuff. I am proud of the fact I’ve managed to become a full-time writer – I’ve loved writing stories since I was about eight years old, so to be actually doing it for a living is pretty cool.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton – yeah, I know I cheated 😉

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

Two standouts for me over 2017 have been Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson and Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine – both highly recommended.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Yours or ours? 🙂  Honestly, I’d better keep quiet – I could get into all sorts of trouble with this question, haha…

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. She was quite feisty, and I wouldn’t want to be a character who couldn’t stand up for herself!

…Thanks Rachel! I can certainly relate to your love of travel and quest for adventure – the Indiana Jones theme tune is the ring tone on my phone, which helps to spice up the school run! I haven’t read a good espionage thriller in a long time, so I am very much looking forward to exploring your Dan Taylor novels and the Kay Hunter crime series.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

LJ x

Author Introductions #15: Angela Marsons

Happy Monday!

For those not in the know, it was the half term holidays last week and, I must confess, it’s all still a bit new to me. My son is in his first term of Reception class and I’m trying to get used to all this ‘term time’ malarkey / planning around a set timetable / not being able to piss off to Vegas anymore. However, we dived into the spirit of the occasion and drove the Rossmobile (yes, I really did just refer to my car as the ‘Rossmobile’) up to Northumberland, where we are the middle of trying to buy a house. Cue various appointments with builders, plumbers…you name it, we met them. Thank God Ethan’s grandparents are kindly souls who helped us out!

Now, we’re back in Somerset and, as it’s the start of a brand new week, that means it’s time for our next Author Introduction. This week, it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Angela Marsons to the blog.

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Angela Marsons, bestselling author of crime fiction

 Angela is the author of the Amazon Bestselling DI Kim Stone seriesSilent Scream, Evil Games, Lost Girls, Play Dead, Blood Lines and Dead Souls and her books have sold more than 2 million copies in 2 years. She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their cheeky Golden Retriever and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.

After years of writing relationship based stories (The Forgotten Woman and Dear Mother) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away. She is signed to Bookouture for a total of 16 books in the Kim Stone series and her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Her last two books – Blood Lines and Dead Souls – reached the #1 spot on Amazon on pre-orders alone.

Now that is seriously impressive! Let’s find out a little more about this lovely lady…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I am a crime writer from the Black Country in the West Midlands.  The seventh instalment of the DI Kim Stone crime series is due to be published on 3rd November. I divide my time between the Black Country and Welshpool with my partner, Julie, our devilish Golden Labrador named Roxy and our swearing parrot called Nelson.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

My latest book, Broken Bones, covers the subjects of grooming, prostitution and the modern slave trade.  That people ownership still exists in the 21st century is unbelievable to me and begged to be explored.

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  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

My hero in real life is without doubt my partner, Julie.  She has faced severe physical challenges since her late teens and still endures horrific pain on a daily basis.  Her limitations have prevented her doing many things but she refuses to even consider having a half empty cup and only finds the positive in any given situation.  She inspires me every day.

My fictional hero is Kathy Mallory from the Carol O’Connell novels.  She suffered a horrific childhood and is borderline sociopathic but still manages to fight for the underdog and do the right thing.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

I love anything by Val McDermid but especially the Tony Hill series. He is a character that sucked me in from the very first book. I find that I am drawn to characters who are a little bit off and not quite normal.

Although not a novelist I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin who penned amongst other things the film A Few Good Men and The West Wing.  His skill in combining drama, lifelike characters, emotion and humour is just awe-inspiring.

Karin Slaughter is another favourite of mine.  She is not afraid to make brave decisions and combining the Grant County series with the Will Trent series of books was a stroke of pure genius.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I enjoy nothing more than curling up on the sofa with a book from one of my favourite authors.  With reading time now at a premium this always feels like a real luxury being able to switch off and just enjoy the craft of someone else.  Away from words I enjoy exploring the countryside and finding breath taking new views.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I would say that realising my lifelong dream of writing for a living is by far my greatest achievement.  Such aspirations were not encouraged at my school, where we were instructed to learn to type.  I left school at sixteen and wrote around full time employment for more than 25 years until Bookouture published my first crime novel, Silent Scream, in February 2015

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

As a child, I always enjoyed Enid Blyton but I would say my favourite book back then was Three into Two Won’t Go by Andrea Newman which I discovered probably earlier than I should have due to my English teacher encouraging me to read above my age.  It was the book that inspired me to want to write the stories and not just read them.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

I recently read A Daughter’s Courage by Renita D’Silva. I adore her books and they always transport me effortlessly into the world of her excellently drawn characters and compelling storylines that span Britain and India. I learn something every time I read her books but the subject of a Devadasi’s life in 1920’s India captivated me and stayed with me for a very long time.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

I would recommend Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson.  I adore this lady’s writing and wicked sense of humour and this book was filled with laugh out loud moments throughout the book and, quite honestly, I think the Prime Minister could do with a bit of a laugh.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Oooh, love this question.  I think I would like to be Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs.  The idea of having to pit my wits against the formidable Hannibal Lecter both terrifies and intrigues me.

…Thanks, Angela! Some great answers and I would love to meet that swearing parrot, one day! The Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favourite movies, so I definitely agree with your choice there. Wishing you every success with your latest book and thanks for joining us!

For now, it’s back to motivational Monday music (in my case, Ludacris peppered with the Guns ‘n’ Roses) while I polish and buff my next release.

Have a wonderful week!

LJ x

Bookish reflections

Hello!

Some of you may recall my previous blog post where I mentioned I was due to attend the Althorp Literary Festival this year, as a panellist on independent publishing as well as crime fiction writing. I am always very happy to participate in events like these because it is an opportunity to share my experience and hopefully inspire others to grasp at the opportunities now available in the world of publishing, following what we might call the ‘Digital Revolution.’ Althorp is a lovely place, very serene and beautiful, and I was blessed with some very fine company in the form of the Amazon KDP team in the UK and some other authors who have published independently through their platform (including Mark Dawson, Mel Sherratt and Dave Leadbeater), as well as catching up with Louise Jensen, who was a fellow panellist in a discussion about crime fiction writing and the road to becoming a bestselling author. It was lovely to be invited to an author’s dinner and an overnight stay at Althorp as a guest of the Spencer family, and it was kind of them to open their home and extend their hospitality.

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L – R: Mel Sherratt, Dave Leadbeater and LJ Ross 

There were plenty of interesting questions during the festival and it was great to meet some readers who had travelled to meet us, which was very kind! It’s lovely to hear from people who have enjoyed my books and it spurs me to complete my current ‘Work in Progress’ – thanks to all of you! It was also really helpful to share our different writing journeys to convey the fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and everybody has a chance to make their mark.

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With lovely Louise Jensen, chatting about crime

That’s what makes it such an exciting time to be an author nowadays. There are so many different options about how to publish your work and have your stories discovered by readers. Similarly, from the reader’s perspective, there has never been more breadth of choice available or mediums through which to read. For example, my mother suffers from glaucoma and, though she enjoys thumbing through her favourite copies of Daphne du Maurier, she also enjoys the convenience and accessibility of an e-reader. Whether an author chooses to go independent or to rely on a publisher to help them, the fundamentals are the same: we share a love of reading and of books. It is really that simple.

One of the themes that often comes up when I am giving a talk or participating in a panel discussion is what advice I would offer to aspiring authors. What have I learned in my (almost) three years in the business?

Well, here are a few general thoughts…

  1. Have a bit of self-belief

Working in creative industries can entail no small degree of self-consciousness. The very act of creating something brand new and then releasing it into the wider world for people to read and dissect is very nerve-wracking. I am a jibbering stress-ball of worry whenever I release a new book and it makes no difference that I’ve released six best-sellers previously. In fact, it creates an even greater sense of responsibility not to disappoint my readers and the fear of letting people down can be crippling.

That said, I try to remember that we can only be ourselves and that is the best any of us can be. As an author, I’ve been very fortunate to have a kind readership and thousands of lovely reviews, e-mails and positive feedback. However, it is impossible to please everyone and therefore it’s essential to adopt a realistic approach and try not to take it personally when people do not enjoy your work or, worse still, when they cross the street to send an unkind message informing you of the fact. Not everyone was taught rudimentary good manners, after all.

  1. Be your own boss

The publishing world is vast and sometimes a bit opaque to the layperson who is considering dipping their toe into its murky depths. My advice to counteract this would be not to find yourself being put off by the hoards of opinionated people who enjoy telling you what is best for you to do with YOUR career – be your own boss and do your own research. There are countless blogs, websites, books and people who offer their tuppence on how to write, when to write, how to publish, how to market…the list goes on. It is up to you to cut the wheat from the chaff, as it were. If you’re thinking of self-publishing, like me, then the Amazon Author Insights website is a good starting point, as is Hugh Howey’s blog, both of which provide ample insight and should save you a lot of time and effort.

  1. Be brave

There will come a time when you have to decide on the best course of action, whether that be pressing the ‘publish’ button on Amazon KDP, choosing the right editor for your work, deciding on a pricing strategy or marketing campaign or on the title of your book. Any of these decisions requires a degree of bravery and you might make mistakes. It is equally brave to accept when something isn’t working and make changes but the ultimate bravery comes in showing your work to others and accepting helpful critique to make your work stronger. Pride gets you nowhere in the long-run.

  1. Stay motivated

Sometimes, we all suffer from information overload and the prospect of continuing to reach for your dream can seem insurmountable or littered with obstacles. At times like these, my advice would be simple: reach for your favourite book, the one you read again and again, to remind yourself of why you want to be a writer in the first place. Then, cut out all the unnecessary bumf and negativity that is causing you to feel dejected and start afresh. If all that fails, whip out the Rocky IV soundtrack and think like Stallone!

  1. Be kind

Remember, however unmotivated or scared you feel, there is somebody feeling even worse than you. Therefore, be kind. Try to forgive when people express themselves badly or when other writers put you down to bolster their own ego. It will happen, as it happens in any walk of life, and the trick is to take it on the chin and run your own race. None of us knows what difficulties may lurk behind another person’s eyes and it costs nothing to take the higher road.

This is a distilled version of the message I try to convey when people ask me what attitude I take towards my career as an author. I focus on my stories and try to listen to the voice of my reader, whose opinion matters the most. Creativity comes first, business comes second, and courtesy above all else.

That’s all for now, folks! A big ‘thank you’ again for the invitation to Althorp, I had a lovely time.

LJ x

Author Introductions #11: Barbara Copperthwaite

Good morning!

How was your weekend? A disproportionately large part of mine was spent trawling through bathroom brochures in anticipation of our forthcoming house move and it led me to realise two very important things:

  1. There are a lot of bathroom styles to choose from, in every shape, style, finish and price your heart could desire.
  2. I don’t care half as much about bathrooms as I thought I did…

Following this revelation, I was able to focus again on the world of DCI Ryan – phew! But now, a brand new working week stretches ahead of us and it is time to introduce our next author, the lovely Barbara Copperthwaite.

Me

Barbara Copperthwaite

Barbara is the author of best-selling psychological thrillers Invisible, Flowers for the Dead, and The Darkest Lies. Her new book, Her Last Secret, will be published on Friday 13th October, but you can pre-order it right now!

Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-plus years’ experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She’s interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That’s why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.

Now, to find out a little bit more about this talented lady, I asked her a few short questions which she has kindly agreed to answer…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I always find this question the hardest to answer because I never know what to say! But here goes… I’m a cake-obsessed, nature-loving, bestselling author of psychological thrillers.

I love trying to get under the skin of unlikeable characters, or working out how someone can be pushed to the edge (and often over) in my books.

In my spare time, when not being press-ganged into throwing tennis balls by my dog, Scamp, I can generally be found hiding behind a camera taking wildlife pictures. I love sketching, too.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

Her Last Secret is the taut tale of the Thomas family, who appear to have it all, until one day Benjamin Thomas’s mistress confronts his wife. It’s told from the perspective of each family member, and is set in the run-up to Christmas. Spiralling secrets and festering vulnerabilities are revealed as the family unit unravels to an explosive showdown.

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  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

As a journalist, I interviewed countless people who suffered all kinds of terrible traumas. Their resilience, strength, and humour in the face of adversity was incredible. Each and every one of them is a real-life hero, and they inspire me to write my fiction.

My favourite fictional hero? I wouldn’t mind being rescued by Luther, from the TV series, or Jamie Fraser, from the Outlander series. Take a look at them and you’ll understand why!

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Too tough a question, so I’ve narrowed it down to crime only – and even then, it’s impossible, as I keep changing my mind every minute. But I’ve gone for:

Peter Swanson – I have a writer crush on Peter Swanson for creating The Kind Worth Killing. It’s a book I never tire of recommending to people.

Patricia Highsmith – a trailblazer in the crime genre, Patricia Highsmith was ahead of her time. In Tom Ripley, she created a killer who readers actually root for despite themselves. That takes some doing.

Stuart MacBride – He balances grit and gore with laugh-out-loud humour. It shouldn’t work,  but it absolutely does.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

As soon as I finish writing for the day, I grab my camera and take Scamp for a long walk. Photographing nature forces me to live in the moment, rather than worry about the past or the future, or how I’m going to get away with fictional murder. I can lose hours taking pictures of butterflies, dragonflies, birds… Conservation is a real passion of mine, and I used to have a wildlife blog. I have dreams of one day resurrecting it. No matter what the weather, the great outdoors always calls, and I think this reflects in a lot of my writing.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement is still to come, hopefully.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Ooh, another tough one! As a child, I re-read all of my books countless times, as I was such a voracious reader. I’m torn between two books. The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, by Enid Blyton, kick-started my reading habit. Before then I wasn’t bothered, but something clicked as the tale unfolded of children relocating to the countryside and learning about nature. As well as giving me a love of reading, I think it also ignited my passion for wildlife, so I owe it an awful lot.

The other possibility is The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goodge. I so wanted to be the heroine, Maria. The dog in my novel The Darkest Lies is named Wiggins, after Maria’s pet.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

For sheer breath-taking twist, it has to be Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough. It’s a Marmite book, but I loved the way it started out appearing to be one thing and turned everything on its head. Another great recent read was Sweetpea, by CJ Skuse. It made me laugh, gasp, wince, and feel horrified, all in equal measure.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

I don’t lend books to people unless I know them very well! And even then, they have to promise not to turn the corners of pages down, crack the spine, spill tea or coffee on it…the list is endless! So, I’m afraid the Prime Minister would leave empty-handed, lol.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

I’d be Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday, the 1940 Howard Hawks screwball comedy. She’s a hard-bitten New York newspaper journalist trying to save a man from death row. She’s funny, clever, determined, successful, and knocks out wise-crack after wise-crack. And she (re)marries Cary Grant at the end of it. What more could I ask for?

…Thanks, Barbara! Some great answers there, and definitely a shared love of old Cary Grant movies, too. Many thanks for taking part and sharing your experiences!

For now, it’s time to get back to work, I’m afraid (*collective boo*). I need to squeeze in a week’s worth of work into two or three days, as I’m going to be away from home  towards the end of this week to attend the Althorp Literary Festival from 5th-8th October. I’ll be a panellist alongside some fantastic authors (Mel Sherratt, Dave Leadbeater, Mark Dawson and Louise Jensen, to name a few) and we’ll be chatting about our experiences, our characters and what makes our writing tick. Hope to see some of you there!

LJ x

Author Introductions #9: Mel Sherratt

Good morning!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! In the Ross household, our time was spent pottering around the park, where my son enjoyed scaling every dangerous-looking slope he could find and challenging the squirrels to a game of “Who Can Climb Higher?” (the squirrel conceded defeat).

It seems the days are flying by at the moment – only last week, I was visiting Ashington Library (North Tyneside Libraries) to have an informal chat about my books. The event was sold out after a couple of days, so my apologies to those of you who have written to me to express disappointment that you couldn’t come; there will be other events coming up soon! Over the next couple of months I will be attending the following:-

– Althorp Literary Festival (5th-8th October), at Althorp House and Grounds.

– Forum Books, Corbridge (Wednesday 29th November).

– Books on the Tyne Festival (1st December), at Newcastle Library.

More details will follow on my Facebook author page, so don’t forget to check in for details over the coming weeks.

For now, I am excited to offer you my next weekly Author Introduction in the form of Mel Sherratt. I’m lucky enough to know Mel personally and can attest to the fact that, aside from being a real superstar when it comes to writing and publishing (having sold over a million books and racking up a string of best sellers), she’s also a lovely person. So, without further ado, let’s find out a little more…

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Mel Sherratt, best-selling author of crime fiction and psychological suspense

Mel has told me that, ever since she could remember, she’s been a meddler of words and now she writes police procedurals, psychological suspense and crime dramas – fiction with a ‘punch’. Mel was shortlisted for the prestigious Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library Award 2014 and her inspiration is drawn from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her husband and terrier (called Dexter, named after the TV serial killer) and she makes liberal use of her home town as a backdrop for some of her books.

To give us an insight into what makes her tick, I sent Mel some questions which she has kindly agreed to answer. Here goes:

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I’m a Northerner, still living in my hometown of Stoke-on-Trent. It might not be very glamorous but it is a city with a heart and it’s where I get my gritty realism. My writing takes you to the heart of the crime, whether that is in one of my psychological thrillers, a police procedural or a crime drama.

I had twelve years of rejection before publishing my first novel, Taunting the Dead, on Kindle. Since then, I’ve written and published fourteen – eleven crime novels and three women’s fiction novels using the pen name of Marcie Steele.

Although I was always writing every evening, I used to be a housing officer for the local authority. My favourite program at the time was Shameless, so I wrote a book set on a similar estate with a housing officer as one of the main characters. Now, there are four novels in that series and a spin-off police procedural series with a detective sergeant working in a Community Intelligence Team (a bit like Happy Valley.)

I just love writing about underdogs – people who, with a little help, can get back on their feet; or, downright nasty villains who would never accept assistance. My books cover a range of social issues, as well as the odd murder and serial killer. I also like to add lots of emotion and to dive into the psyche, so some of my books could be classed as ‘whydunnits.’

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

My latest, She Did It, will be published tomorrow (September 19th). It revolves around two women – one is a murderer and the other one knows. I’ve read a lot of books lately with unreliable narrators so I wanted to write a character that was nice to everyone with one persona but out for revenge with another side to her that she tries to keep hidden away. The reader knows exactly what she is up to – but not the reason why.

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  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

In real life, it would have to be my fella. Living with a writer isn’t fun at times. I can be elated one minute when I have good news and low the next when I have a terrible review or something isn’t working right. I work long hours and it’s hard for him when I’m busy and he is on his own. But he is a massive support to me. He often twists my plots just that little bit further too. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

My hero in fiction would have to be Bridget Jones. Bridget’s heart is in the right place, she’s a trier – sometimes trying too hard – but she has friends and a great support network to give her the longed for happy ever after.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Martina Cole – I love her dark, gritty voice and she is someone I looked up to for years when I was trying to get published. I’ve since met her and she is an amazing support for aspiring writers and authors. She is such an inspiration.

C L Taylor – I’ve known Cally for over ten years, we share the same agent now and she has changed genre from women’s fiction to psychological suspense. I love her darker stuff.  Her book, The Lie, will stay with me forever. She literally transported me into the world of the cult she had created.

Luca Veste – He has a series set in his native Liverpool, with two lead characters DI Murphy and DS Rossi that I absolutely adore. His writing is deliciously dark too. However, he has a standalone novel coming out next year. I have an early review copy on my kindle which I will be reading soon. It’s called The Bone Keeper.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

I just love to chill and go for long walks. Sometimes on social media, there is a sense of being on call 24/7, only because I don’t like to keep anyone waiting if they contact me. So, I take myself off for some peace and quiet. It calms my mind. It’s also great for solving plot problems. I binge watch box sets when I have time too.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

It was pressing the publish button on Kindle way back at the end of 2012. I am astounded to say that I have sold over one million books since. It’s a dream come true.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton. Can you imagine climbing a tree and entering another world?

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

I honestly haven’t had time to read for enjoyment over the past few months as I have been working on two books back to back. I find I can’t read when I am writing or editing. Having both of them finished for now, I can get back to my huge ‘to-be-read’ pile.

One book I did manage to read while I was on holiday was Lies, by TM Hogan. It was a very cleverly written book, quite fresh and from a male point of view. Nothing wrong with that – I just tend to find I read a lot of books with female leads. But I loved it for the story, its realness, its likeable characters and, for me, a twist that I didn’t see coming. Everything I like in a book.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

As she shares my love of shoes, I would have to say The Second Chance Shoe Shop by my alter ego, Marcie Steele.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

It would have to be Bridget Jones. I saw so much of myself in her and I think that’s her charm. So many readers empathised with her, and it came across so well on screen. And big pants. What’s not to love!

…Thanks Mel! For all the aspiring writers who may be reading this, it is inspiring to know that a little determination can go a long way if you really want to achieve your dreams. Another thing I have always admired about Mel’s approach is her warmth towards other authors; she goes out of her way to welcome new writers and to offer help and advice wherever she can. In a creative industry like ours, it’s a rare gift!

For now, I’m heading back to work on my next offering – ‘Dark Skies’ – which I hope to have ready for you in time for Christmas.

Wishing you all a lovely week ahead!

LJ x

Author Introductions #5: Jan Brigden

Good morning, folks!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I spent part of mine visiting some old haunts in London, where I lived for over a decade in my younger days. This time, I was there to raise a toast to a very good friend of mine who is moving back to his home town of Manchester after living and working in the capital for a long time. Coincidentally, we are also planning a move back to my home county of Northumberland and so it feels a little bit like the start of a new chapter, with many of my friends reaching a stage in life where they have grown tired of City living and want to move somewhere a little less frenetic, while others are expecting babies or getting married. It’s all happening!

For now, Monday has rolled around once again and that can mean only one thing – our next Author Introduction! This week, I’m delighted to introduce you to Jan Brigden, who signed with Choc Lit after winning their ‘Search for a Star’ competition in 2014-15 with her debut, As Weekends Go, an uplifting contemporary fiction novel. She had been writing for pleasure from a very young age; short stories for classmates at school, odes for workmates and fun quizzes for family and friends before progressing to write her novel, the idea for which came from a script she composed as part of a creative writing course assignment set by The Writers Bureau. Following a lot of secret plotting, research and feigning passion for customer accounts she was supposed to be reconciling during the day job, the chance finally came for her to put pen to paper.

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Jan Brigden, who writes contemporary fiction

 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jan briefly at a blogger / author meet-up last year in London and, after a spate of crime and thriller authors, it’s great to hear from somebody who writes a completely different genre. To find out a little more about this impressive lady, I asked Jan a few short questions which she has kindly answered…

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!

I live in South East London with my husband Dave and a motley crew of cuddly toys. I’m a home bird really and come from a close family. I enjoy long walks and Pilates (now I’ve mastered the breathing routine!). I’m quite a spiritual person and have a keen interest in Mindfulness and Meditation.  I love reading – anything from JK Rowling to John Grisham. I also love days out/weekends away with my husband, holidays when we’re lucky. In my twenties I worked a season in southern Spain, an area I’m very familiar with and adore, and witnessed enough eye-popping shenanigans to fill another book. I blog about bookish things, news roundups, lifestyle/fun stuff and I’m also one eighth of group blog The Romaniacs . We all met via the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ scheme and two years ago proudly received the RNA Industry Media Award and even got a mention in The Bookseller.

  1. How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?

As Weekends Go, my debut novel, follows two couples and their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a girls’ only trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do. The story mainly follows undervalued wife Rebecca (in York with her best friend Abi) whose embarrassing yet poignant encounter with gorgeous, non-stereotypical footballer, Alex Heath, highlights the respect that’s leached out of her marriage, leaving her facing some harsh home truths. The inspiration for Alex Heath came from having met a few players over the years, a couple of them so far removed from the flash bad boy stereotype we often read about in the press, (often justified, I hasten to add!) that it made me wonder how they cope with being pre-judged. This sparked the challenge to create a footballer who could hopefully buck the preconceived assumptions about him and endear himself to the reader. I enjoy reading multi viewpoint stories so it seemed natural to write one. I loved the idea of dipping in and out of each destination and set of shenanigans as the weekend progressed and then dealing with the fallout. It’s a book about respect, self-worth, denial and the power and unpredictability of our emotions. Dramatic, uplifting escapism with a few laughs along the way.

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  1. Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?

In real life, my husband Dave for his unwavering love, support, encouragement and laughs galore. When I was writing As Weekends Go he embraced a myriad of roles; sounding-board, tantrum-dodger and Chief Cuddler, all without complaint. A top hero in every way. In fiction, George Bailey in It’s A wonderful Life. An honest, generous, caring sweetheart of a man.

  1. Who are your three favourite writers – and why?

Hard to choose only three but if pressed I’d say Lisa Jewell – her modern day observations are fantastic.  Maggie O’Farrell for her ability to portray such raw emotion through her characters. Maeve Binchy for the warmth and spirit of her larger than life characters.

  1. When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?

Primarily with my husband and my family or good friends. Reading, walking, Pilates for my dodgy shoulder.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Other than my strong, loving marriage, it would be writing As Weekends Go and seeing it published.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree – I read it every night and thought of Silky & Moonface as firm friends.

  1. Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which explores how in dwelling on the past or worrying too much about the future, we miss out on the benefits of appreciating the here and now. It really made me think.

  1. If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?

Probably one of my Bill Bryson Travelogues.  Guaranteed belly-laughs as some of those politicians look as if they could do with cheering up. More seriously though, it would also give a healthy reminder through Bryson’s genius observations of ‘real life’ and all its trials and tribulations from the trivial to the frustrating to the hilarious, the hurdles people face in life that some of our politicians appear to have no appreciation of.

  1. Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?

Oh, that’s easy – Sandy from Grease. My favourite film. To dance with John Travolta, plus the great setting and era and the songs, a feel good fest throughout. I love the way Sandy transforms and grows in confidence. Not sure I’d suit a pair of leathers like she does, but hey ho! Love it!

…Thanks Jan! Who doesn’t love a bit of Grease? I was always more of a fan of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever but, either way, his hips don’t lie!

And on that uplifting thought, I’ll wish you all a happy and healthy week!

LJ x

 

A note of thanks…

They say, ‘lightning never strikes twice’ but sometimes, in the world of books, it does.

Let me explain…

As some of you will be aware, back in May 2015, my debut novel Holy Island nearly gave me a cardiac arrest when it managed to top the UK Kindle chart at #1 (knocking The Girl on the Train off the top spot, although I don’t imagine that gave Paula too many sleepless nights considering the rollicking and well-deserved success of her own book!) Nonetheless, when that happened, I was in a state of mild shock for quite some time afterward and probably, on some subliminal level, I still am. You see, I had no expectations. I hadn’t read every tome on ‘How to be a Writer’ and hadn’t taken endless courses on creative writing, although I was well trained in drafting as a lawyer. I didn’t have an established author platform or a degree in marketing, nor an agent, for that matter. Added to which, I had recently turned down an offer of traditional publication in favour of independent publishing through Amazon KDP and some people probably thought I’d taken leave of my senses. I didn’t have a big publishing house to support me, to pay for advertising space on tables in chain book stores or in magazines, to plaster it across bill boards or distribute my book on supermarket shelves, to guarantee membership rights to all the ‘right’ associations and don’t even get me started on things like television and foreign rights. (N.B. It is a fallacy to think that a traditional deal will equate to investment of this kind – the publisher is a business and they must prioritise resources like any other commercial venture, which usually means investing in established, ‘big hitting’ authors rather than unknowns).

No pressure, then. 

What I did have was complete freedom to produce a body of work on my own terms, without anybody telling me ‘you can’t do that’, or ‘you should write like this.’ I had access to professional editing and proofreading, which I sourced myself, to ensure quality standards. I started out making my own covers but could easily hire a professional cover designer, as many of them work freelance nowadays. I was responsible for making the book visible, as far as I could. Let’s not forget that none of this would have been possible without the revolutionary publishing platform Amazon created, which allows thousands of people to realise their dreams rather than relying on the decision of a minority few. Not every indie book will become a bestseller but at least the readers are the ultimate arbiters and every writer is given the chance to try.

Louise Call to Bar

The day I was called to the bar, quite a few years ago!

 

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This little bumble bee gifted me the time and impetus to change career

The fact is, I just wanted to write my story and retain creative control. I had resigned a well-paid job as a regulatory lawyer and decided to take a short career break to figure out what I’d prefer to do with my life. As an avid reader, writing seemed to beckon. However, the process was – let’s say interrupted by the arrival of our son, Ethan. Having spent a lifetime being told that I might never be able to have children, this news came as a huge, momentous, wonderful surprise and seemed like a kind of miracle. I felt extremely protective of the little bundle I carried and felt less inclined to scurry around the streets of London looking for another stressful job. It was therefore thanks to Ethan that I decided to open my laptop and start writing the story I’d first imagined on a train journey between Newcastle and Edinburgh, looking out across the North Sea to Holy Island.

The success of its sequels (Sycamore Gap, Heavenfield, Angel and High Force) has been very much like a series of aftershocks. With each new release, I am consumed with nerves and very anxious to know how it will be received. There is never any sense of complacency or an assumption that readers will enjoy a book because they have enjoyed the others. The same effort, sweat and tears goes into every manuscript. I certainly never thought another book of mine would reach the same top spot as Holy Island because…well, lightning doesn’t strike twice. I’m not a greedy person and I remember very clearly saying to my husband, “That’s it, for me. If I never sell another book, I’ll always be able to cherish this moment.” Turns out, I have an even kinder readership than I thought, because on 1st June my forthcoming book Cragside managed to claw its way to the #1 UK Kindle spot – and it hasn’t been released yet!

 

I don’t think a simple ‘thank you’ can really convey the deep gratitude I feel for all those people who have supported my writing and enjoyed the DCI Ryan series. It’s great to be able to say a book was a bestseller but, more importantly, to be able to say it came into being because a million people have read my books and deemed them worthy. The readers are the true gatekeepers and it is their opinion that matters to me the most.

Thanks to all of you!

LJ x

 

Hump Day Banter

Morning!

Here in Bath, the weather is wet and windy, serving to remind me that Spring in the United Kingdom is a moody bitch and should never be relied upon. Thus, I donned my ‘Inspector Gadget’ trench coat and set out of the house – laptop case and umbrella precariously balanced in one hand, small child clutched in the other – and dodged puddles and splash back on the way to his school (which is, mercifully, only a five-minute walk away. Even I’m not lazy enough to use the car for that kind of commute). I want to tell you it was heart-warming to see us frolicking in the rain but, in reality, I had badly miscalculated the trench coat and was sweating like a P-I-G as I hop-scotched my way across the playground. Mini-Ross was incensed by the fact his beloved stash of sparkles (fake jewelled things he found in the sand pit and has now claimed as his pirate booty) were not at hand to bring in for ‘show and tell’ and bemoaned the fact throughout our fraught journey.

Having deposited Mini-Ross amongst his comrades/pirate crew, I settled myself with a *strong* coffee and, just before I get back to the main business of writing books, I thought I’d share a few musings on life. This is, after all, ‘Hump Day’ and we need all the help we can get.

Before I go on, let me confess that I had no idea what the hell ‘Hump Day’ was until recently. Logic told me it was a reference to the middle of the week, but I need to be clear about the fact that I am neither cool enough, nor informed enough about current trends in social parlance, to know for sure. Eventually, curiosity led me to google it…obvs. There are many other examples I could name, but let’s suffice to say that my bants is pure 1990s. I still say things like ‘dude’ (non-gender-specific) and reference lines from Wayne’s World, which tells you all you need to know.

Now we’ve cleared that up, I was reflecting on what a funny old world we live in today. I mean, it’s always been funny; human nature seems to lead us in cycles of behaviour, both small and large-scale. Within our own busy little lives, it’s hard to step outside and see the bigger picture, especially when that ‘bigger picture’ will always be so opaque due to the natural constraints of time, access to information and the world being in constant flux. It’s like books: when I was younger, I used to feel an odd sort of depression about the fact I would never be able to read every book ever written. It would take many lifetimes to do that, especially given the fantastic scope of literature available out there, so it was always an unrealistic goal. Age and maturity have taught me a lesson that was obvious from the start: ignorance is unavoidable, for we are all ignorant if your bench mark is knowing ‘everything there is to know’. The important thing is striving to learn, to understand new things and, perhaps most importantly, to understand your fellow man.

Easier said than done, isn’t it? Almost every day, I read something in a certain broadsheet, or online, or speak to someone with wildly opposing views and silently face-palm. But I remind myself a person is the sum total of their life experience and views are conjured as a direct product of that experience.

Politics, religion, money, sex…it can divide opinion. But, is this such a bad thing? I see people from time-to-time on social media up in arms about political discourse. Hush, they say, stop talking about it. I’m feeling uncomfortable. Why? The day you tell people they cannot speak freely is a sad day for humankind. Freedom of expression should not come with limitations, even when the content is unpalatable to you. An opposing view can bring you to a closer understanding and re-affirmation of your own principles, or it can lead you to re-evaluate. On that point, it amazes me how many people are affronted by the prospect of changing their standpoint: I presume they think it would be a sign of weakness or something of that kind. But it isn’t weakness to think or to question – is it?

When I was growing up, I remember an elderly member of the family would tell me “little girls should be seen and not heard.”

What utter nonsense. 

Setting aside gender issues for a moment, ‘expression’ and ‘manners’ are two vastly different things. Surely, it is possible to express your views politely? The problem comes when people like my relative conflate the two. Shutting someone up is not a question of manners, it is an effort to undermine their contribution to a discourse. That’s a dangerous road because, by doing that, you raise a generation of bleating sheep, quick to follow the herd. It makes me smile, sometimes, when my son pipes up in a restaurant to order his own food (aged 3), or disagrees with a parental edict, or seeks to negotiate how many minutes longer before it’s time for a bath. I believe it’s important for him to respect his parents, who know best what will protect him at his vulnerable age, but I will never seek to quieten his enquiring mind. I hope he never loses the confidence to speak out and I certainly won’t be the one to shut him up.

This gets me to thinking about how often we are, frankly, wrong about people. It’s a sad statement on society that we so often assume the worst, rather than assuming the best. It is, of course, a product of our own individual paradigm. If I’m feeling sad or dejected, it’s harder to view the world with optimism on that given day. Conversely, if I’m feeling elated, it’s harder to view a situation with the objectivity it deserves. Over the last couple of years, it’s been eye-opening to hear some of those instant assumptions people have made about me, like, “I thought you’d be a Tory-voter” (well, there’s no need to insult me). But hey, I’m guilty of my own fair share of value judgments. I was dining recently at a restaurant where there was a man in his fifties (perm-tanned, face-lifted and wearing very tight clothing) having dinner with a woman young enough to be his youngest daughter who *quite clearly* wasn’t his daughter. Oh yeah, I was Judgy McJudgerson, you betcha.

So, what can we take from all this on Hump Day? Let me summarise in my native Geordie:

  1. Divn’t stop the bairns chattin’ aboot life and the universe.
  2. Divn’t be scared about asking questions. Gan’ canny, though, you divn’t want to insult people.
  3. Just ’cause a bloke is romancing a younger lass, doesn’t mean he’s an old perv’. It might be true love.

 On that note, I’m off to write about DS Phillips’ enduring love for DI MacKenzie, who has been having a tough time after her ordeal with ‘The Hacker’… tune in soon for updates!

Love,

LJ x