First Monday Crime – A Christmas Special

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Festive goody bags provided by No Exit Press

Christmas had come slightly early to First Monday Crime last night with not one, but two fabulous panels in the very festive Brown’s Courtroom. Kicking off was Mark Billingham, Paula Daly and debut author, Corrie Jackson talking to Barry Forshaw.

Barry asked the authors to describe their current books and give us some recommended reads.

Mark Billingham’s current book is Die of Shame. He described it as a locked room mystery within the close circle of an addiction therapy group. It’s difficult to solve because the group is bound by confidentiality and they’re all liars. Mark said that everything we think we know about addiction is wrong. It has nothing to do with chemical dependence but the trauma that triggered the need in the first place. Mark’s recommended reads are Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (a fantastic book, you can read my review here) and Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series.

Paula Daly’s book is The Mistake I Made. How do professional people get out of debt? If you were offered enough money to get yourself out of trouble in return for spending a night with your benefactor, would you do it? Her character, Roz, has a decision to make. Her next novel, The Trophy Child is out next year and focuses on pushy parents. Her recommended reads are This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell and Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant.

Corrie Jackson’s debut book is Breaking Dead, set in the fashion industry. Sophie Kent is a journalist who investigates the brutal murder of a young model. As a former fashion journalist herself, Corrie felt free to write in her book what she couldn’t write in magazines. Breaking Dead shows the darker side of the industry. Her recommended reads are Tall Oaks by Chris Whittaker and The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett.

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A question from the audience was, do you get stressed about details or do you let it go and then come back to it later?

For Corrie, she was obsessed about getting it right with book one but with her second book she just wanted to get the first draft down and then sort out any issues.

Paula has a different approach. She writes 700 words a day and makes sure that they’re right before moving on.

A question for Mark – do you like writing standalones?

Yes! It helps to not get too bored and sometimes your story doesn’t fit your usual main character.

 

The second panel had Alex Marwood, Daniel Pembrey and Yrsa Sigurdottir.

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Daniel’s debut novel, The Harbour Master, is set in Amsterdam (you can read my review here) and Barry’s first question – how many times have you been to the Red Light District? Daniel first went with the Dutch National Crime Squad on an investigation which helped to spark ideas for his Dutch police detective, Henk van der Pol. The sequel, Night Market, is out next year.

Alex Marwood’s latest book is The Darkest Secret, the dark tale of a missing 3 year old. Alex writes standalone novels and is currently writing a story about cults. She feels that this is a huge thing at the moment and that the internet is feeding into this. It’s now much easier to find large groups of people who agree with you and create echo chambers.

Yrsa Sigurdottir is known as the queen of Icelandic crime writers. Her latest book is Why Did You Lie?, a standalone novel. It’s a story with three interlocking plots but has one thing in common – lying. Her series protagonist is Thóra Guðmundsdóttir and although she didn’t set out to create a version of herself, there are some similarities. As well as a writer, Yrsa is also an engineer. She said it’s not uncommon for people to have two jobs in Iceland as they have such a small population but still have a country to run.

Final quick question – pet hates?

For Barry Forshaw – pictures of cats that are sent to him on social media.

Alex Marwood – people who don’t like pictures of cats.

Yrsa Sigurdottir – no women on the board of OPEC

Daniel Pembrey – 1* reviews (although Alex Marwood secretly enjoys them – hers not Daniel’s!)

So with the panels finished, the Christmas party continued over at the pub. And for me it really was my Christmas party! I’ll have been writing this blog for a year in January and I’ve loved every minute. But it is done in relative isolation so it’s always great to meet up with friends and have a chat over a drink and a cookie! First Monday Crime will be taking a well deserved break in January and will be back in February.

And I’ll be back with my final blog of the year next week, with my top ten crime reads of 2016!

 

If you’re still looking for presents to buy then maybe you’d like to buy some of the books by the authors

For Mark Billingham please click here

For Paula Daly please click here

For Corrie Jackson please click here

For Alex Marwood please click here

For Daniel Pembrey please click here

For Yrsa Sigurdottir please click here

 

 

 

 

First Monday Crime – Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Tonight is the final First Monday Crime of the year and it’s a Christmas special – not just one panel but two! Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Alex  Marwood, Paula Daly, Daniel Pembrey and Corrie Jackson will all be talking to Barry Forshaw. I will do my best to take as many notes as I can (I think I have a few pages left in my trusty notebook) and will report back!

But in the meantime, I’ve had the chance to read Die of Shame by Mark Billingham. I’d like to thank Little, Brown for a review copy.

 

The Review

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I know it’s said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but… this is a gorgeous one! Not just because of how it looks but how it feels. It’s very tactile and my daughter said it felt wet. But as we all know, a great cover is not enough. Thankfully, this novel is packed with great characters and a very intriguing plot line. It also has a giant killer cheese and a brief mention of my favourite band, Mumford and Sons. Really, what’s not to like?

Tony is a therapist. He has lots of different clients but his Monday night session is a recovery group for addicts with varying addictions – drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating etc. Although all appear to be doing ok on the surface, Tony wants to get to the real root of the problem – the shame that drove them to addiction in the first place. As the group begins to reveal their secrets, it becomes clear that someone’s shame will be the motive for their death.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner takes on the murder case. Faced with a group of people bound by confidentiality, she’s sure that the answer lies with them. If she can discover the secret shame of the victim, then maybe she can find the killer.

As I said earlier, this book is packed full of great characters, each with distinct voices. Billingham has written this in two time periods, cunningly known as Now and Then. This means we see the characters both before and after the murder. I was desperately searching for clues but as to be expected, Billingham is a master at hiding them. But the cleverest thing about the two time periods, is how they’ve been written. Now is written in the past tense but Then is written in the present tense. The latter creates tension as we, the readers, walk with the main characters towards the night in question.

Although Die of Shame is primarily a crime book, Billingham has written with great sensitivity about addictions and the problems that addicts face. He cites the professionals that have helped him and the depth of research is evident in the authenticity of the therapy sessions.

Obviously, Mark Billingham is known more for his Tom Thorne series but this is a standalone novel featuring DI Nicola Tanner who is considerably different to Thorne. Without wanting to give too much away, there is some resolution in Die of Shame but Billingham has left an opportunity for the story to continue. I really hope this happens, albeit in a different guise.

But wait, I hear you cry! You promised us a giant killer cheese! Indeed, I did. Sometimes, crime and thriller books are so full of tension that there is no room for a laugh. Not so with Mark Billingham. I could paraphrase but then you would lose the genius that made me laugh out loud.

‘She [Tanner] didn’t read much now, and certainly not crime. There was a time when she and Susan might have watched an occasional crime drama on TV, but Susan’s tastes were distinctly cosy and Tanner had finally called a halt to the nonsense after seeing a victim of Midsomer Murders dispatched by a giant cheese.’

 

If you want to find out more about Mark Billingham and buy Die of Shame then click here

 

First Monday Crime is a sell out for tonight. If you have bought tickets but are now unable to go, please get in touch with Goldsboro Books as there is a waiting list. Hope to see some of you there tonight at Browns – The Judges Court, 82-84 St Martins Lane, London, WC2n 4AG at 6.30.

 

 

The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill

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Recently promoted, DS Flick Crowley is feeling slightly nervous. Her immediate boss, DI Ray Drake, has promised that she’ll be in charge of the next murder investigation that comes in. And when it comes, it’s a big job – the murder of three family members. Not only does Flick have to prove herself to the team, she has to deal with DI Drake who seems intent on steering her in the wrong direction. Sifting through the lies and secrets, others are destined to die before Flick finally finds the answer.

 

Set in two time periods with multiple viewpoints, this is a devilishly good debut. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going on, Hill swings it round in another direction. In the end, you don’t know which way is up and, more importantly, who you can trust. His characterization of the two main police officers – DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley – is excellent, with their home life reflecting their unravelling. There are plenty of characters in this novel but they all have a part to play. In fact, it’s almost like an elaborate game of Guess Who? as people are eliminated until we have the key players left at the end. But of those who are still standing, who is the murderer? You’ll have to read it to find out.

 

The Two O’Clock Boy is out in e-book form on Kindle and can be bought here. It comes out in paperback in April next year. You can pre-order here. Rumour has it that Mark Hill is working on a second DI Ray Drake book so there’s more of Drake and Crowley to come. You can find out more about Mark Hill here.

Christmas shopping!

Are you the kind of person that likes to have all your Christmas shopping done before the end of November or do you go on a mad spree on Christmas Eve? I’m probably a bit in between as I have already bought some presents, wrapped them and sent them to their destination! But equally I’ll still be buying up until the 20th December when the kids break up from school.

 

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So, would you like a few ideas for books to buy? In terms of crime, you can look back over my reviews from the year. I’ll be compiling my top ten of 2016 very soon but a few that will be in there are Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (you need to be very selective about who you give this to – probably not Great Aunt Maud! You can read the review here ), The Constant Soldier by William Ryan (read the review here) and for a particularly creepy read, Willow Walk by SJI Holliday (read the review here ).

But I thought it would be fun to see what else there is and what I’m buying.

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Firstly, if there was ever a year that need a lighthearted ending, it’s 2016! So, some particularly funny spoof books are the Adult Ladybird series and Five Go series. I already have some of the Ladybird books from last year and I’m planning on getting some more. We bought The Grandparent for my mother-in-law’s birthday and I think it’s obvious who will be getting a copy of The People Next Door – a lovely present for our new neighbours!

 

 

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I have three of the Five Go – Five Go Parenting, Five Go Gluten Free and Five Go On A Strategy Away Day. I’m planning on getting Five Go To Brexit Island but as yet, I’m undecided as to who to give it to – a Remainer or a Brexiteer!

 

 

One shining event of 2016 was Tim Peake being up in space. He captured the imagination of the whole country and he’s released a book of his photos from his time at the Space Station. Hello, is this Planet Earth?: My View From The International Space Station has over 150 photographs taken by Tim Peake and offers considerably more than a bird’s eye view. Tim has become a source of inspiration for school kids all over Britain and I know how excited my youngest child was to see Tim Peake up in space. A book for the whole family.

If I say Phil Collins, what’s your reaction? Are you instantly humming and tapping your feet or do I need to duck? He’s a bit of a Marmite musician really. His autobiography, Not Dead Yet, is, as one reviewer (Stephen Aldous) on Amazon says, ‘Brutally honest, funny, sad and compelling’ (Aldous’ review is excellent). This may be more of a book for a man of a certain age but it’s a candid view on fame that can bring destruction as well as riches. [Confession time: I secretly, sort of like Phil Collins. My favourite track is Inside Out from No Jacket Required, which was the theme tune of a TV programme of the same name about probationers. Amazing how I can remember a TV theme tune from 1985 but can’t remember what I did last week! *sigh* ]

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Minecraft. I’m not sure I need to say any more really, especially if you have children. Whether you want the Official Annual or the Unofficial Annual or a How To manual or looking for something by Stampy or DanielTDM, there is a plethora of books out there to choose from. Of course, it’s not enough just to play the game these days, you also have to watch on YouTube other people playing and commentating. So if you’re reading this and are perplexed by the names Stampy and DanielTDM, just put those names into YouTube to find out more!

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And as the end of the year approaches, we all need a bit of glamour and sequins in our lives, Strictly style! I really have bought the annual for, believe it or not, my 7 year old son! He adores Strictly and for a child who’s really not into reading, he loved looking through last year’s annual so I hope he enjoys this one too. But ssh, don’t tell him!

 

 

Blog Tour for Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac

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I’m thrilled to be a part of this blog tour for Jane Isaac’s new book – Beneath The Ashes. This is the second book in the DI Will Jackman series with the third one, The Lies Within, due out next year.

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid. When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house had been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

But before I review the book, I had the chance to ask Jane a few questions about her writing.

Can you tell me a little bit about DI Will Jackman?

Jackman is the everyday guy with the wife, family and dog, but doing the extraordinary job of leading the Warwickshire homicide team. A former marine, he’s completely unaware of his striking appearance and is single minded in his pursuit, but also a thinker and a feeler and there are definite elements of grey in his peripheral vision.

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How did you come up with the concept of his wife in a locked-in syndrome?

Life has a habit of putting obstacles in our way, presenting challenges, some of them heart wrenching. Most of us don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of other peoples’ lives and the beauty of fiction is that we can explore these experiences through our character’s mind.

I read about a victim of locked-in syndrome in a newspaper article, many years ago. There are different levels, but victims of ‘total locked-in’ are fully aware of what is going on around them yet unable to move or communicate in any way. It’s such a cruel affliction, not only for the victims, but also for the family watching their loved ones suffer.

Jackman’s wife is left in this state as a result of a car accident a year before the series begins. I thought it would be interesting to see how having a wife with this condition would affect his own life, both at home and as a working detective.

With your first book, you created a completely fictional setting whereas the Jackman series is set in Warwickshire. Which has been easier to write in terms of setting?

I would like to say the fictional setting, it’s nice to be able to put things where you like, but all my fiction is based on some form of reality. I tend to visit the places I write about to smell, touch, feel, breathe the air in order to re-create them in my mind, and the fictional location for my first two books was loosely based on the county of Northamptonshire where I live. So much so, that local readers have identified landmarks in the book, even though they have been renamed and changed somewhat!

Setting the new series in the beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon has presented its own challenges. I’ve visited Stratford more times than I care to think about (I’d hate to tot up my petrol bill!) in order to sort out minor details and make the backdrop as accurate as possible. My family have become familiar with it too: my daughter loves the shops and my husband claims it houses his favourite Thai restaurant.

You write from multi viewpoints which I find hard to do. How do you keep track of all the different narrators & how do you know when to change viewpoint?

I’m fascinated by the effects of crime on everyday people which is why I follow the police investigation through the lead detective’s point of view, and the rest of the story through a victim or somebody else affected by the case, to see the impact from both sides.

Keeping track of them and weaving them together can be a challenge though.  I write a detailed four to five page outline before I start, and update this as the story progresses and new twists and turns present themselves, to ensure I don’t miss anything. This way, changing viewpoints falls into a natural rhythm as the story unfolds.

Is there anything you need when writing? (I claim I need chocolate but I’m trying to swap it to fruit!)

Tea! Lots of tea. Chocolate is my treat if I’ve had a good day at the keyboard, or my consolation if I’ve stared at a blank screen, unable to find the words.  And Haribo is a must when I’m editing!

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Joy. I really enjoyed answering your questions.

And thank you for taking the time to answer them and for the book!

The Review – Beneath The Ashes

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Having read Jane’s previous book ‘Before It’s Too Late’ (read the review here), I’m familiar with her style and her main character DI Will Jackman, which meant I settled into this book quickly. The pace is fast and the tension taut from the off-set. We start with a mysterious woman running into a graveyard, chased by the police before moving back a week to the start of the investigation. Using multiple viewpoints, the story is unwrapped layer by layer like pass the parcel. As well as dealing with the case, Jackman is also up for promotion and is due to face the board. Believing that he needs some help preparing, his boss, Superintendent Alison Janus, enlists DCI Carmella Hanson to bring Jackman up to speed on the finer details of policing.  Isaac balances well the attraction that Jackman is starting to feel for Carmella along with loyalty for his extremely ill wife. I hope this is a thread that is picked up in the next book.

Although this is a police procedural, it’s also very much a whodunnit with a bit of psychological thriller thrown into the mix. And just like a good episode of Morse when everything appears to be wrapped up but there’s still 10 minutes to go, in the last few chapters the plot is turned upside down and those seemingly unimportant details come to the fore. A first class book and I can’t wait for The Lies Within.

You can buy Beneath The Ashes and Jane’s other books here

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Jane Isaac lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. An Unfamiliar Murder, her first novel, marked the start of the DCI Helen Lavery series and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.

In June 2015, Jane released Before It’s Too Late, the first in the DI Will Jackman series set in Stratford upon Avon. Beneath the Ashes is the second in this series and May 2017 will see the release of the third, The Lies Within. Connect with Jane at www.janeisaac.co.uk .

 

 

 

First Monday Crime – November

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It was so packed that I couldn’t get any decent photos of the authors! But here’s the goodie bag from Headline with Wildfire chocolate – it really was! Chilli!

Well, it may have been cold outside but we were cosy inside as The Library was packed! The authors were Belinda Bauer, Adam Hamdy, Jenny Blackhurst and Cathi Unsworth, with Barry Forshaw facilitating the conversation.

So a little bit about the authors and their books.

Adam Hamdy previously had a career in finance before becoming a script writer and now novelist. When he decided to write a book, he set himself the task of writing a novel in 30 days and the result was Battalion, his first book. Pendulum, his current novel, starts with a man with a noose around his neck and explores the dark depths of the internet.

Belinda Bauer won the CWA Gold Dagger Award for her first novel, Blacklands. Her latest book, The Beautiful Dead, features Eve Singer, a TV crime journalist, and a killer who thinks he’s an artist.

Jenny Blackhurst’s new book is Before I Let You In. Her debut, How I Lost You dealt with the trauma of postnatal psychosis and her new story stays with a psychological theme. This time toxic relationships are explored and in particular, the relationship between a psychiatrist and her patient.

Cathi Unsworth’s latest book is Without The Moon. Set in 1942, it explores the people in the smokey underworld of the Blitz. A former music journalist, Cathi Unsworth loves nostalgia and sets her books during different periods of the 20th century.

The questions from Barry Forshaw were mainly informal but there was one question that stood out for me – Is crime writing a good prism to view society?

For Adam Hamdy – yes! Crime writing allows for the extreme edges or margins of society. As his book looks at the internet, he sees that more and more people are being fooled and conned into trusting people online.

As Cathi’s latest book is set during WW2, she’s being using crime to look at the hard left and the hard right of politics as well as antisemitism that occurred during that period. Worryingly, it seems as though society may not have learned any lessons.

Jenny likes to reflect the lives we live and society today. Her book isn’t about extremes; much more domestic and could happen to anyone!

Belinda likes to have a different agenda for each book and to make it count. If she could write a book as good as a David Bowie song then she’d be happy!

SJI Holliday was in the audience and asked the authors what was their favourite thing they’ve learned from researching for their novels.

Jenny loves psychology so she enjoys understanding people.

Adam loves researching and recently went to a visit a gunsmith in Shropshire to find out how guns are made.

Belinda learnt how to skin a calf!

Cathi found out that a friend of her grandfather’s caught a German spy.

Daniel Pembrey also asked a question about the authors’ current works in progress  (rumour has it that he might be taking part in next month’s First Monday Crime as he was spotted trying out the chairs!)

Jenny wasn’t allowed to tell us but apparently she may drip feed words into her tweets to give us a clue.

Adam is phenomenally busy writing the sequel to Pendulum and the screenplay for it, as well as an original TV series!

Belinda has started writing her next book but didn’t want to jinx it by saying anymore.

Cathi is writing a homage to Dennis Wheatley.

And so First Monday Crime ended for November. Make sure you book early for December as tickets were sold out this month. And on the plus side, the Christmas tree will be up in Trafalgar Square and the lights on in Regent St and Oxford St so you could make a real evening of it. We’ll just have to wait and see what presents First Monday Crime have lined up for us next month!

 

To find out more about the authors and buy their books:

For Cathi Unsworth click here

For Belinda Bauer click here

For Jenny Blackhurst click here

For Adam Hamdy click here

 

Halloween Crime and Horror Night at Waterstones Kings Road – 1st Nov

Ok, so officially it wasn’t actually Halloween anymore but some authors just like to have an excuse to dress up! The monstrous bunch consisted of Daniel (The Count) Pembrey, Sarah (Wicked Witch) Ward, SJI (Day of the Dead) Holliday, Amanda (Zombie) Jennings and Thomas (Frankenstein but looking more like Shrek) Mogford.

The first question to the panel – what horror/crime books first influenced you?

Sarah Ward was an avid fan of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven as she was growing up before moving onto Nancy Drew. In terms of horror or ghost stories, she loves short Victorian ghost stories, mentioning Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story in particular.

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Dressed as a more Regency version of Dracula, Daniel Pembrey pointed out that Bram Stoker used to live in Chelsea and cited him as an influence.

For Susi Holliday, Stephen King is her main influence and she especially likes his short story, The Moving Finger.

Amanda Jennings also had Stephen King in her early reading list, along with Agatha Christie, James Herbet and Virginia Andrews [I read a lot of Virginia Andrews too as a teenager!]

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Thomas Mogford confessed that he’s a bit of a scared’y-cat when it comes to horror. However, he likes the works of Paul Bowles who set his psychological thrillers in North Africa.

Next question – do you use any horror techniques in you crime writing?

Sarah likes to use cliff hangers at the end of chapters.

Daniel pointed out that horror can be found in the cities we live in. His new book The Harbour Master, which is published next week, starts off with the body of a prostitute found in Amsterdam Harbour. Pembrey had been invited by the Dutch police to witness an investigation they were doing into sex trafficking which gave him the idea for his book.

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Susi agreed with Daniel. Real life horrors, such as the current horrific case in Hong Kong, are far more awful than fiction. In some ways, a crime novel is safer and there’s normally a resolution.

Amanda likes to use atmosphere, similar to a Gothic novel, to create unease in her stories and introducing peril for her main character.

Thomas likes shock tactics to make the reader sit up straight.

We moved onto the locations for the authors’ books.

Sarah’s books are set in the Peak District in Derbyshire. She lives in one of the highest villages in England and often gets cut off by snow in the winter, feeling quite trapped. Although her town is fictional, she embodies that small town atmosphere where everybody knows about the secret but no one talks about it, along with the bleak and isolated landscape of the Peaks.

Daniel’s setting is completely different with the bustling city of Amsterdam. One of the things that he’s really had to think hard about is when your protagonist has a different mother tongue from your own. So he had to carefully research Amsterdam life which apparently involved spending a lot of time in bars!

Susi has a fictional small town called Banktoun in Scotland for her stories, based loosely on the small town she grew up in. She tries to convey her characters as mentally cut off from the surrounding cities – too scared to cross the town boundary.

 

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Amanda is extremely proud to be half Cornish so it’s not surprising that Cornwall featured heavily in her most recent book. The strong identity of the county is weaved throughout the storyline.

Thomas’ books are set in Gibraltar. Although it’s only a very small area, it’s full of lawyers!  So it’s not surprising that his protagonist, Spike Sanguinetti, is a lawyer. Thomas likes the colonial feel that is still in Gibraltar and its unique position of being between Britain, Spain and Africa, and the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Finally, quick top tips for aspiring authors.

Sarah Ward – do it your own way!

Daniel Pembrey – read good books in your genre to get the shape of a story.

Susi Holliday – finish it! She often used to abandon books at the 20k words mark but has learnt to press on through.

Amanda Jennings – ditto!

Thomas Mogford – write short stories first. It’s a good discipline to make each word count. And develop a thick skin for when the rejections come!

 

And when you have five fabulous authors in a bookstore, there’s only one thing you can ask them to do – sign books!

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To buy the authors books and find out more about them:

Sarah Ward – please click here

Daniel Pembrey – please click here

SJI Holliday – please click here

Amanda Jennings – please click here

Thomas Mogford – please click here