Author Interview: Anna Mazzola

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Anna Mazzola join me for a Q&A about her new novel The Unseeing.

Welcome to the CKT blog Anna.

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Anna Mazzola (photo credit Lou Abercrombie)

To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel The Unseeing?

Happy to. The Unseeing is a historical crime novel based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted in 1837 of aiding and abetting her lover, James Greenacre, in the murder of another woman. Sarah was sentenced to death and petitioned the King for mercy. The Unseeing begins with the appointment of the lawyer who is to investigate her petition, and he – and the reader – has to determine whether Sarah Gale is indeed innocent or whether she is far more involved than she would have us believe.

You have mentioned before that your novel is based on the real-life case of Sarah Gale who was sentenced to hang for the murder of Hannah Brown in the Victorian era. How did you find out about her case and what sparked your interest as a writer to write about this?

I first read about James Greenacre in the Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale. I was originally interested in the crime because it took place in Camberwell, not far from where I live. However, when I read through the Old Bailey transcript of the trial, it was Sarah who most interested me. Very little was said in her defence – she gave only a short statement denying being in Camberwell at the time of the murder. As she was facing the death sentence for her part in the horrific murder of another woman, I thought that was very strange. What was preventing Sarah from speaking out to defend herself? Was she guilty? Afraid of James Greenacre? Or something else?

Your novel is set in Victorian London, how did you research about this period and did you find anything new and fascinating which you had to include in your novel?

The research part was great fun. I loved visiting the British Library but, as I was mainly researching in the evening after work, I did a lot of my research online, for example on the  Harvard University website (which has many of the original pamphlets relating to Greenacre and Gale), in the British Newspaper Archives, and through a variety of other brilliant sites, including Lee Jasper’s Victorian London. Lots of nineteenth century texts are available via Gutenburg, Forgotten Books and Google books.

I discovered many astonishing and terrible things, particularly about child labour in Victorian London, the lives of the poor, the injustices of the justice system. A tiny fraction of my research became part of the story, but most of it is just stored way in the recesses of my mind and on my computer hard-drive. People go to fiction – even historical fiction – for the story. The facts can’t stand out or you’ll lose the reader.

Did you find it difficult to write about real people and weave them into a fictional story?

In short, yes. Although it was initially useful to have a ‘template’ – an idea of who the characters were, I then felt hampered by what they might have been and what they might have done. In a way, it was fortunate that I didn’t know more about Sarah. She remained an enigma.

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, do you plot the story out first or dive right in and see where it takes you? Or a mixture of the two?

For The Unseeing, I created a synopsis and worked from that, but I now know that I should have plotted it out in a far more detailed way. Every writer is different, but I think I work best when I know where I’m headed (even if the plot later changes). For my next novel, I’m working from a far more detailed plot structure. I’ll have to see how that works out!

Who was your favourite character to write about in the Unseeing and why?

It was Sarah. It took me a long time to get to know her, but – probably because of that – she’s stayed with me. I want to know what happens to her next.

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it without giving too much away?

I’m currently writing my second historical crime novel, which is set on the Isle of Skye in 1857. It’s about a young woman who goes to work for a collector of folklore and discovers that a young girl has gone missing, supposedly taken by spirits of the unforgiven dead, although of course that’s not what she believes. Again, the idea was sparked by a real case, but I haven’t tried to base it on the facts in the same way that I did with The Unseeing.

Who would you say is the biggest influence on your writing?

Margaret Atwood. She’s been a huge inspiration since I was quite young. I made the mistake of telling her this when I met her a signing. She didn’t seem impressed: presumably I was the ninth person in the queue to have told her the very same thing.

And finally, just for fun, if you could have a dinner party for three select guests, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Nina Simone, Aung San Suu Kyi and Madonna. All terrifyingly powerful and talented women with fascinating stories. They would almost certainly have a fight.

A big thank you to Anna for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Don’t forget you can catch Anna Mazzola at the next First Monday Crime in July to grab a signed copy of The Unseeing.

To find out more about Anna Mazzola follow her on Twitter @Anna_Mazz. You can preorder your copy of The Unseeing from Amazon here.

Follow First Monday Crime at @1stMondayCrime for updates on their upcoming events.

 

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Blog Tour: Where Roses Never Die

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the next stop on Gunnar Staalesen’s Where Roses Never Die blog tour. I thought what better way to demonstrate Gunnar’s brilliant writing than to share an extract of the beginning of this fab book!

Firstly the Blurb:

September 1977. Mette Misvaer, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.Where Roses Never Die cover Vis copy 4.jpg

Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge …

 

Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen

Chapter 1

There are days in your life when you are barely present, and today was one of those. I was sitting behind my desk, half-cut and half-asleep, when I heard a shot from the other side of Vagen, the bay in Bergen. Not long afterwards I heard the police sirens, although there was no reason to assume this would ever be a case that might involve me. By the time I had eventually staggered to my feet and made it to the window, it was all over.

Reading the newspapers the following day, I found out most of what had gone on, the rest I learned in dribs and drabs. Afterwards they were universally referred to as the Shell Suit Robbers. There were just two customers in the exclusive jewellery shop in Bryggen when, at 15.23 on Friday, 7th December 2001, the door swung open and three heavily armed individuals, waering balaclavas and dressed in what are informally known as BBQ suits, burst into the premises.

The two customers, an older woman and a younger one, cowered in the corner. In addition to the customers there were two female assistants in the shop. The owner was in the back room.He’d hardly had time to look up before on robber was standing in the doorway and pointing a sawn-off shotgun at him. He said in what was supposed to be English: ‘Don’t move yourself! The first person who presses an alarm button are shot!’

One of the robbers took up position by the front door with an automatic weapon hanging down at thigh-height and kept lookout. The third opened a big bag, gave it to the assistant in front of the display cabinets and pointed a gun at her. He spoke in English too: ‘Fill up!’

The assistant objected: ‘They’re locked!’

‘Unlock!’

‘But I’ll have to get…’ She motioned to the counter.

‘Move, move, move!’

She cast a glance at the other assistant, who nodded resigned agreement. Then she opened a drawer behind the counter, took out a bunch of keys and went back to the display cabinets.

The robber in front of her directed a glance at the door: ‘Everything OK?’

The robber posted there nodded mutely.

The robber by the office door intoned the same message: ‘Move!’

The jewellery-shop owner shouted: ‘You have no idea what you’re doing! All our items are registered internationally. No one will buy the most expensive pieces.’

‘Shut up!’ The robber pointed to the safe in the wall. ‘Open.’

‘I haven’t got…’

The robber rushed forward and held the rifle to his head. ‘Open. If you…’

GunnarOne of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947 and is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. The next instalments in the Varg Veum series – Where Roses Never Die and No One Is So Safe in Danger – will be published by Orenda Books in 2016 and 2017.

Where Roses Never Die is published by Orenda Books and is out to buy now.

To buy this book on Amazon click here.

To buy this book on Waterstones click here.

Don’t forget to check out all the other fab stops on the Where Roses Never Die Blog Tour

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Killer Review: Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton

First Line: ‘Leaves, mud and grass deaden sound. Even screams. The girl knows this.’

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Blurb: She can’t stop shivering. But this isn’t cold. This is terror.

A savage murder on London’s streets, 120 years to the day since Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim. A crime with all the hallmarks of a copycat killer.

Detective Constable Lacey Flint has never worked a murder case, until now. When another mutilated victim is found she agrees to be the bait to lure out the monster.

But this killer is one step ahead, and already fixated on Lacey . . .

This is the first in the Lacey Flint series and introduces the character of DC Lacey Flint tackling her first murder case. One evening when Lacey finds a woman propped against her car bleeding to death, she is launched head-first into an investigation where a killer is reenacting the canonical five Jack the Ripper murders; something which Lacey is something of an expert in. As the body count rises and the killer seems to be one step ahead at every turn, Lacey realises the killer has set its sights on her…

This novel starts off with a bang and refused to let up which gripped me from the very start. The story is set across North London which the author brings to life through her vivid descriptions and Lacey’s point of view of the world.

One of the things I loved about this novel is Lacey who is a complex character with many hidden layers which are slowly revealed as the novel progresses. All I will say is that Lacey is not your typical police officer with a shady past and is hiding a killer secret, a secret which the killer also knows!

The chemistry between DC Lacey Flint and DS Mark Joesbury was also another highlight for me as they seemed to detest one another but as the novel progresses it was interesting to see how their relationship twisted and changed and grew in intensity as do the murders.

The author, Sharon Bolton, manages to weave Victorian history with the victims and the murders of Jack the Ripper into its narrative but still keeping it fresh and contemporary with the majority of the story set in the present making it a very compelling read.

For me it was one of those thrilling reads which kept you hooked, guessing who the killer was, what secrets were lurking beneath the surface – and when you think nothing else could possibly happen it does.

This book is not for the feint-hearted but the plot twists and complex but interesting characters make this a must read.

This is a disturbing yet thrilling read which will keep you guessing until the very end and I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

To buy this book on Amazon click here

To buy this book on Waterstones click here

To find out more about Sharon Bolton follow her on Twitter @AuthorSJBolton.

Chiller Review: My Husband’s Wife By Jane Corry

First Line: ‘Flash of metal. Thunder in my ears.’

Blurb: FIRST COMES LOVE. THEN COMES MARRIAGE. THEN COMES MURDER.

When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the past behind. Even if it means a little white lie or two…

But then she meets a convicted murderer, who reminds her of someone she used to know. But there’s no way she can tell her husband why…

Where does the lying end…and murder begin?

 

Lily, a defence lawyer, and Ed, an artist, are newly weds who have just come back from their honeymoon. They should be enjoying the bliss of married life with the all the excitement of being at the beginning of their chosen careers – but all is not well between them. Lily then meets convicted murderer, Joe Thomas, a man with an addictive personality who reminds her of someone from her past whose case launches are career. But when Lily and Ed start babysitting for Francesca’s daughter Carla their next door neighbour Lily makes a dreadful mistake which has repercussions for all.

As the story progresses and their lives are intrinsically interlinked yet more secrets are unearthed which will change them forever.

Amazing!

I really enjoyed this story from the start and literally couldn’t put it down. I loved everything about it; the characters, the plot, the twists and turns which made it into an exciting but believable story. The novel starts off with a bang which reveals the crime at the beginning of the novel but then jumps back in the past to chronicle the lies and events which led up to it.

This book is told in two halves. The first part is set 15 years ago and is told from the point of view of Lily chronicling the early years of her marriage and nine-year old Carla who tells the story of her childhood. The second part is set 12 years later again from Lily and Carla who is now a mature adult in charge of her own destiny.

I loved the characters of Lily and Carla and felt so sympathetic to both their plights as they fight their very different battles. Even though I didn’t wholly agree with the decisions they make, I still enjoyed being in both their worlds and could really understand their motivations throughout.

Carla is a strong, wilful but determined young woman who will fit in at all costs. She is bullied at a very young age for a number of reasons when all she wants to do is to fit in and aspires for something better for her mother – and ultimately herself.

Lily is a friendly, helpful and trusting person who spends her life seeking justice for those who cannot do it for themselves as a way to amend for the wrong she did in her past. She also has to deal with the pressures of a successful career, a resentful husband and the mounting tensions within her marriage.

I also absolutely adored the character of Joe Thomas, a very charismatic, shady individual with an addictive personality who really came to life and kept me reading on. He had so much complexity and charisma it was hard not to like him even with all of his faults and actions.

This was a novel which really packed a punch for me and took me on an emotional roller coaster of emotions. I know as I was reading this novel I thought I had it all figured it out but then the author turned everything on its head with yet another twist which I didn’t see coming. It is hard to believe this is a debut author but Jane Corry is definitely an author to watch.

This is an amazing page-turner, full of twists and turns which you will not see coming. I would recommend this to any fans of Liane Moriarty, Clare Mackintosh and C. L. Taylor.

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin Books UK for my copy of My Husband’s Wife.

To buy this book on Amazon click here

To buy this book on Waterstones click here

To find out more about Jane Corry follow her on Twitter @JaneCorryAuthor.

June First Monday Crime

So the beginning of this week was the return of the First Monday Crime evening event which pulled out all the stops with a panel made up of crime writers Mark Hardie, debut author, Sharon Bolton, Chris Morgan Jones, Peter James and chaired by James Kidd.

This was another fantastic, lively evening full of fascinating stories about snakes, creepy-crawlies, bears, sheepdogs, serial killers and burnt bodies – and that was just the tip of the iceberg!

During the panel event the authors discussed each of their books in turn, the themes in their novels, the difficulties of writing, research, characters, the dreaded plotting conundrum, what scares them, the pressures of writing a novel better than their previous one and top tips for aspiring writers like myself!

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So now for the books:

Mark Hardie,@Markhardiecrime, is the debut author of the gritty crime novel Burned and Broken which features DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team who are called in to investigate their colleague, the subject of an internal investigation, who is found burned to death in his car. Mark lost his sight 14 years ago but doesn’t let this get in the way of his passion for writing and is currently writing his second novel.

Sharon Bolton,@AuthorSJBolton, is the author of the Lacy Flint series and has written five standalone novels including her recently published novel Daisy in Chains. This novel features Hamish Wolfe who is a serial killer serving time in prison with his own fan club but he has set sights on Maggie Rose, a successful lawyer and true-crime writer who believes she’s immune to the charms of a man like this – but maybe not this time . . .

Chris Morgan Jones, @ChrisMJAuthor, is the author of the Ben Webster spy series. His new novel The Searcher features Isaac Hammer, Webster’s boss, who is under arrest for tapping phones, hacking emails and bribing police.But this isn’t Hammer’s work – this was Ben Webster who has gone missing and last seen in Tbilisi. Hammer has no choice but to break bail to bring back the wanted man but someone is ready to kill him and everyone dear to him to stop him stumbling towards the truth . . .

Peter James,@peterjamesuk, is the author of the Roy Grace detective series set in Brighton. His newest novel, Love You Dead is the twelfth book in the series which sees DS Roy Grace feeling the pressure over his previous case and struggling over the developments in the case of his missing wife. But Grace must face his toughest case yet because a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind . . . and venomous skills.

I’m going to finish this post with a quote from Sharon Bolton from the evening; ‘We are only as good as our last book.’ I’m confident that none of these authors have anything to worry about – fit there blurbs are anything to go by they’ll be as fab as ever!

Books June

Don’t forget to follow all the authors on Twitter to discover more about their novels and make sure to follow First Monday at @1stMondayCrime for updates on their upcoming events.

The next First Monday Crime is in July and will feature authors; Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth, Anna Mazzola, Beth Lewis and chaired by the fab Claire McGowan which I’m really looking forward to!

 

Highlights: Greenwich Book Festival

On the bank holiday weekend I headed down to Greenwich and attended a few panels which was part of the fantastic Greenwich Book Festival.

The festival is now in its second year which takes place in the historic buildings and grounds of the Old Royal Naval College and is a two-day event which features a host of local authors, an array of children events and has a creative strand for emerging writers.

I was fortunate enough to attend a panel on Inside Stories with YA author Melinda Salisbury, Little Brown editor Karen Ball, Journalist Anna James, Literary agent Lucy Luck and chaired by festival co-founder and Hodder & Stoughton creative director Auriol Bishop.

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This was an engaging panel which featured each panelist’s insights into publishing, their individual backgrounds, how they got into their chosen careers, top tips for aspiring authors and even gave the audience the chance to ask their own questions about the publishing industry.

On the Saturday I attended a panel on How to Get your Book Published. This was a fab whistle-stop discussion with Fanny Blake ex-publisher and author of six novels including House of Dreams and Lucy Atkins author of The Missing One and The Other Child. The panel focused on what an agent is, how to find and submit to one, the role of the editor and some top tips for aspiring writers.

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One of the top panels of the day was Inside Grip-Lit with crime/thriller authors; Gillian Slovo, author of Ten Days, Sam Baker, author of The Woman Who Ran, Fiona Barton, author of The Widow and chaired by Lucy Atkins.

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This was a jam-packed novel where the authors discussed each of their novels, their characters, the themes in their books, the publishing industry, ‘planning versus plundering,’ gender versus power and book covers.

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This was my second year of attending the festival which was ever bit as great as last year. This is a unique festival which caters to fellow book lovers of all ages, including the little ones, with a friendly atmosphere and a diverse range of events to go to. I would definitely recommend going if you get the chance next year!

 

 

Killer Review: Jonathan Dark or the Evidence of Ghosts by AK Benedict

First Line: ‘The prostitutes on the flyers stir as he enters the phone box, whispering like a naked jury.’

Blurb: Maria King knows a secret London. Born blind, she knows the city by sound and touch and smell. But surgery has restored her sight – only for her to find she doesn’t want it.

Jonathan Dark sees the shadowy side of the city. A DI with the Metropolitan Police, he is haunted by his failure to save a woman from the hands of a stalker. Now it seems the killer has set his sights on Maria, and is leaving her messages in the most gruesome of ways.

Tracing the source of these messages leads Maria and Jonathan to a London they never knew. Finding the truth will mean seeing a side to the city where life and death is a game played by the powerful, where everyone is lost but nothing is missing, and where all the answers are hiding, if only they listen to the whispers on the streets.

Maria King, born blind, is a mudlark who spends her days on the edge of the River Thames discovering its many secrets. But when she discovers a gruesome gift she realises she has a stalker –  a killer who has now set her sights on her.

DI Jonathan Dark is not your stereotypical detective; heartbroken and haunted by his failings with a gift he doesn’t yet know and a deep secret which enables him to see the shadowy side of London. As their two worlds collide with more disturbing gifts arriving for Maria from her stalker , Jonathan must act quickly and push his failings to one side in order to save her from a twisted killer. But can he find her stalker before its too late?

There’s only one word I would like to say: Creepy!

I absolutely loved the creepy and dark world A.K.Benedict’s paints in this novel. All the characters who featured in this novel were all unique in some way and who never failed to surprise me. The story is told from the point of view of Maria, Jonathan, Frank (a creepy undertaker who helps ghosts) two ghosts and the stalker/killer which I loved – giving voice to both the living and the dead which is one of the major themes which runs throughout. The novel is set within the heart of London focusing on the nooks and crannies of the city which provided a very eerie atmosphere for the story.

I especially liked the writing style; the author really draws the reader in and I found myself empathising with many of the characters including Maria and Jonathan.

This book did a fantastic job of crossing genres drawing on both crime as well as the supernatural as a way to create an original plot packed full of pace and suspense. I loved this novel with the author’s beautiful descriptions and dark humour which really brought the story to life for me.

This is a very refreshing, original and engaging read which I would recommend to anyone who likes a supernatural twist.

To buy this book on Amazon click here

To buy this book on Waterstones click here

To find out more about A.K.Benedict follow her on Twitter @ak_benedict.