books

5 Questions for Authors: Christopher Long

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First out of the starters gate to answer my 5 questions for authors  is a fellow writer from the KGHH stable: Mr Christopher Long. He writes horror, which if I’m honest is not my most favourite of genres – unless it’s by Hitchcock (ie more suspense than horror). But I have to say Chris is a good writer: a very good writer. His novel Something Needs Bleeding scared the living daylights out of me! However, enough of me…

  1. What is your favourite book from childhood?james-and-the-giant-peach-cover

My favourite book from childhood has to be James and the Giant Peach. There are some which made me laugh more or scared the living hell out of me, but James and the Giant Peach was the one that opened the door for the rest of them to get into my head. It tuned my brain into finding stories that interested me and devouring them as quickly as I could. It also got me into thinking about how I would tell a story myself. It still feels like a story that wasn’t trying to teach me right from wrong or lecture me about the mistakes kids make in adult society. It wasn’t too old fashioned either. It felt contemporary, accessible and, better than that, it felt wondrously so close to being possible. It was sheer delight as a kid and it’s still a brilliant story now.

      2. What is the first book that made you cry?

The book that first made me cry? That’s a pretty tough one. Very few books get to me that way. Which isn’t me trying to sound manly. I gave up on that a long time ago, back when people expected me to do woodwork at school.

A book can move me, but rarely pushes me over that emotional edge. Movies can do it. I think it’s something with the music and images. If they get under my skin, then I can’t separate myself from them. When I’m reading, my brain seems better at distracting me from the emotion. I know it sounds a little closed off, but I think it’s something to do with how I distance from myself feeling uncomfortable a lot of the time. One advantage is that the distance has taught me a few tricks when it comes to trying to keep my own readers from being able to disconnect. Pacing and imagery can, hopefully, keep them turning pages. That’s the plan, anyway.

billhicksscreamThat said, I do remember the first time I read the Bill Hicks biography, American Scream. I had watched all of Hicks’ stand-up videos by then and owned most of his albums as well. He was a hero of mine and I had always known he died young, but reading the chapter where he was told he had cancer just totally floored me. It put me in the room with him. I imagined seeing him hearing the news, absorbing it, trying to fit the diagnosis into his own understanding of his life. It still gets me now.

3. Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?

I was talked into reading The Da Vinci Code by someone I worked with. I really hadn’t been that interested in it, but they loved it. I couldn’t get into it at all but, one night, there was work being done to the train line next to our house for about six hours and there was just no way I was going to sleep. So, I sat up by the glare of the workers’ floodlights and read the whole thing in one sitting.

It was an interesting experience. I found myself only half engaged by the story at best and spent a lot of the novel trying to peer behind the curtain. You could see the influences to the pace and plot and you could see the research Dan Brown had carefully stitched into place. I started trying to work out how I would maybe attempt it myself.

Now, when I’m writing something I’m not entirely invested in or connected with, I will stop and look back over it. I’ll try and look for plot holes, for the ideas I’ve tried too hard to cram in where they don’t fit. It seems to work pretty well.

4. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

All my ghost stories do have linking motifs running through them. There are recurring characters, companies and villages that crop up across them. When I first tied a couple of them together, back when I was self-publishing, I felt so smug about it. I waited for ages, hoping someone would notice. It never happened. I’m still wondering if, one day, someone might start to pick up on it. For the time being, I think I’m just doing it for myself. A way to keep myself hooked into an early draft, probably. It is fun.

5. What did you edit out of your latest book?

I recently edited a whole married couple of my second novel. I had a subplot involving a woman who was trying to be haunted by her dead lover. That then became a married couple, where the woman had a job that involved her being possessed and her husband being jealous of the experiences she was having. Their storyline was designed to weave through the main plot, but they were just getting in the way of what I wanted to say in the new draft.

Maybe one day I’ll give them a story all of their own. I did like working with The Dawsons.


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5 Questions for Authors

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Ever notice when you read an interview from an author, they always ask the same questions: how did you get into writing? What inspires you? What inspired you to write this book? It gets samey after a bit.  So I had a trawl of the internet for different questions and came up with these 5 as my favourites of the moment.

  1. What is your favourite book from childhood?
  2. What is the first book that made you cry?
  3. Have you ever read an author whose books you didn’t like, and how has this impacted on your writing?
  4. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
  5. What did you edit out of this book?”

Here are my answers:

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My favourite book from childhood was bought for me by my mum and dad. Written by Julie Edwards – or so it said on the front cover – it was the tale of three siblings: Ben, Tom and Melinda Potter, who through their association with Professor Savant travel to meet the last of the Whangdoodles; a mythological creature capable of growing his own slippers. As a kid, I was enchanted. As an adult I need to find it  at my parents and read it again.

The first book that made me cry was Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa  Pearce. It’s towards the end when Hetty gets older, falls in love with Barty and ceases to see Tom.

As for the author whose books I didn’t like – I have a confession to make. It’s Tolkein. It’s probably not his fault. It’s probably the fault of my English teacher in first year senior (year 7) for making us read The Hobbit. Whatever possessed them? It’s a book you should curl up with not be forced to read in school. It scarred me for life. How has impacted on my writing? I get to the action as quickly as possible. Also, I don’t write books worthy of literary study. In my mind, it’s the kiss of death.

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My books do have connections, yes. The historical research binds the three books, obviously, but I have cameos. Melville from book 1 of Aldwych Strand – pops up in Cowardice, as does Mark (in passing) and of course Lucy gives a little girl some words of advice in Whitechapel, which shapes how she deals with the pawnbroker…

As for what did I edit out of Cowardice of Crows? There was a newspaper article about Symington at the Savoy Hotel.  I wanted it to show him as the centre of the media, and provide a link to the previous books. The editor really didn’t like it. She was right. It was awful. It went.

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My Cunning Plan.

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This year I haven’t read as many books as I would  like. My excuse? Not enough time. 

When I read as a child I devoured books. 1, 2, 3 a week.Agatha Christie, slushy romance, Doctor Who novelisation.  Didn’t matter. All that stopped me reading was an absence of pocket money. I was a bookworm. Out and Proud.

Now?  it takes forever. 

A twitterer asked me what  was I reading? The answer came easily enough: Europe in Winter. It’s brilliant. 

They then asked what’s next?  The honest answer? Buggered if I know. The book came out in November. I’m on page 99.

So, what has caused this malady? Because it’s not the book’s fault. It’s bloody brilliant!! 

My commute to work has got longer. What took  an hour and 10, now regularly takes an hour and a half. Whist the return journey.is up from an hour and 20 to … 2hours!!

Sheer volume of traffic is to blame. But it is leaving me too knackered to read. Unlike those halcyon days of childhood, when I could read a book all night; now I either drop off or I’m a zombie.the next day. It’s  hell! I feel a traitor to myself and to my fellow bookworms. I fear being black balled from the Worshipful Company of Bookworms.

Things needed to change. FAST!

Last night I had an email from Amazon. I had 8 audible credits. Salvation.

Within ten minutes I had selected.4 Lindsey Davis Falcos and 4 Sansom Shardlakes. The Falcos are old favourites. 2 of the Shardlakes are new.

It might not be reading in a traditional sense but that’s a book every couple of days. Surely that has to be better than the current famine?

I have another credit in January. I’m taking suggestions. 

Sampson’s occasional guide to the Gentleman’s Gentleman.

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Is up before his master, and goes to bed after him; even when told “not to wait up”.

Is fastidiously neat and tidy in his appearance and habits. He ensures his employer is immaculately turned out – at all times. Even if His Lordship desires to look like a sack of potatoes. He must be a sack of potatoes Fortnum and Masons would stock.

Never gets involved in an argument – however tempting. A raise eyebrow, a stare, even a cough should be  sufficient communication when His Lordship oversteps the mark.tumblr_m59fonwrnt1r3jmn6o1_1280

Is the soul of discretion. He never comments on any aspect of His Lordship’s personal life; even if the latest fancy piece is a lying, manipulative tart out to break hearts. It is not a gentleman’s gentlemn’s place to say: “I told you so.” Even if he is dying to stick his oar in.

To learn more about William Sampson and his Lordship click here

10 thing you NEED to know about Symington, Earl Byrd

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Tell us about Byrd,” my publisher said. Only having the one publisher I have often wondered whether they all talk in the third person, or this is something peculiar to mine. “And be snappy about it.” I was touting him an idea for a new detective on the block, and knew, by that tone of voice, I only had a few minutes. I took a deep breath and began…

  1. His parents died while he was a young child and he was brought up by his Grandfather, a welsh duke.
  2. He speaks eight languages – including hindi and arabic.
  3. He was bullied in school and became the school clown in order to survive
  4. He served in the Derbyshire Regiment in India, saw action in Sikkim; and left the army as a major.
  5. Something happened in Sikkim. Something life changing. He doesn’t talk about it. Ever.
  6. He has an eye for a pretty woman – or three. Or four.
  7. He lives in an appartment in Mayfair, presided over by Sampson with regimental precision.
  8. His best friend is the Prince of Wales. Rumour has it Byrd saved the Prince’s life. Rumour lied.
  9. His staff – valet (Sampson), driver (Watkins), and cook (Imran)- were under his command in India. They are very loyal and would do anything for him. Don’t ask them about Sikkim, they won’t tell you.
  10. He holds degrees in medicine and law, which he took on return from India.

Want to know more? Go to Amazon and buy his first adventure

Six things you should know about writing a murder mystery

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Having moved into the realm of crime fiction, I thought I’d put down a few things that made plotting A Cowardice of Crows easier than it could have been. Because – to be honest – murder is harder to keep an eye on than time travel…

 

  1. Work backwards.  I.E know how it was done, who did it,  where and  why and then seed the rest of the story from there. I  wrote the reveal before the last few chapters, as I needed to work out exactly who did what to whom.
  2. Let the audience work it out for themselves/ or give them the opportunity to realise who the murderer has to be. Even if they don’t get it  at the same time as the detective, they should be able to go AHH not omfg. I tried to make one of my murderers obvious, and the other less so… hopefully it’s worked.
  3. Ensure you have clues – subtly worked into the story. These clues can be red herrings. In Crows the red herrings went in before the real clues.
  4. Ensure you have a flawed detective. They have to be very intelligent, very eccentric and the murderer has to underestimate them. Byrd’s flaw is … ahh now, that would be telling; let’s just say he’s got an eye for a pretty face.
  5. Every good detective needs a side kick. Solid reliable, dependable and all the things our hero is not. In Sampson Byrd has loyalty and in his cousin he has solidity. Both the perfect foils to Byrd’s whimsical nature.
  6. Oh and of course! Suspects! You’ve got to have suspectgillards-bloody-dagger1

 

Not met  Byrd yet? click here to go to amazon and see if I’ve taken my own advice

The Unbearable Tension of Authordom

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My publisher got in touch towards the end of last week. The conversation went thus:

“It’s half term next week, isn’t it?”

“Yes”

“Good. Expect your book back from the editor.”

Gulp

Now, I am on tenterhooks.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my editor. She makes me a better writer: but how much has she changed? Does Mark still read like Mark? Has she noticed just how dyslexic I really am? Because you can’t hide SPG from your editor 🙂 What’s she done with the difficult chapter?

Oh the agony of waiting; the doubts that rage; the fears that bite

While I wait, I should be doing research… but hey I’m off to Leytonstone Catholic Church and the Strand Underground on Thursday. So I am working; and I’ve been investigating dressing gowns – and they are important – honest. So It’s not like I’m sitting here, enjoying half term and wandering around wordpress, catching up with my favourite blogs, bumming around.

I can assure you dear reader that I’m struggling for my art. Feet up, Glasses on, fingers poised to edit, coffee by my side.

As yet nothing. And so, of course, my mind goes wandering. You see, somewhere at the back of my mind: I have this ghastly feeling I’m not on tenterhooks; I’m on tenderhooks (even if it does have a wiggly red line under it).

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Oh thank heavens. The wiggly red line is correct. It is tenterhooks, and these are they.

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Used in the woollen industry, these evil looking nails were used to stretch the woollen cloth after it had been woven. You see, it was still dirty. It was washed in a fulling mill – of if you’re in Wales, a pandy. And in order to stop it shrinking during the process it was hung up on these nails – like so. These tenters (as the frames were called) were left out in the open for the cloth to dry naturally, and the weave to even.

 

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Its first appearance in literature? Well according to World Wide Words – the exact phrase seems to have been used by Tobias Smollett in Roderick Random in 1748 – the tales of a honest, trustworthy and likeable Scottish lad – which is based on Smollet’s own naval career as a ship’s surgeon.

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Smollet, of course, translated Don Quixote,

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Pablo Picasso

I wonder… were both these authors on tenterhooks as they waited to hear back from their editor?