*Blog Tour* Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Today, I’m thrilled to be hosting the next stop on the Sweet Little Lies blog tour, penned by Caz Frear and published by Bonnier Zaffre Books. As part of the tour I have a fab interview with the author. As always, don’t forget to check out all the other fab stops on this tour.

Welcome to the CKT blog, Caz. To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel, Sweet Little Lies?

Of course!  Sweet Little Lies tells the story of DC Cat Kinsella, a young detective with the Met, who starts to believe that her father may be involved in the murder she’s investigating to and the disappearance of an Irish teenager in 1998.  It’s very much a police procedural at heart, however it has strong domestic/family noir overtones as Cat struggles to balance her professional responsibilities and her personal allegiances.

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How did you get into writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Like most authors, I’ve been writing my whole life, on and off.  And yes, I always wanted to be a writer, even if I forgot for a few years in my mid-late-twenties when boys, boozing and going out kind of took over J  Things really started to come together though when I was selected to join the Curtis Brown Creative course a few years ago.  This was a huge personal challenge but also a privilege to work alongside other aspiring writers and learn from industry-leading experts.  I finished the course in 2015 with the seeds of Sweet Little Lies sown (although it has changed quite a bit since then) and in 2016, I became aware of the Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller competition.  The rest, as they say, is history….

 You have a killer premise, how did you come up with the idea for Sweet Little Lies and how long did it take you to write?

The honest answer is I don’t know, or can’t remember, how exactly I came up with the idea for Sweet Little Lies.  I always had an image of a young Irish woman travelling to the UK for an abortion and something happening to her, and I also knew I wanted to explore a toxic dad-and-daughter relationship as I think it’s a fascinating dynamic and not as represented in fiction as mothers-and-daughters.  Added to that, I’d always always wanted to write a police procedural (even though I wasn’t sure if I was qualified to!)  so the three things eventually collided, really, and after a lot of false starts, Sweet Little Lies just came to be!

All in all, Sweet Little Lies probably took just under two years to write but that’s taking it right from initial conception until that glorious moment when I tapped The End, and there were certainly periods during that time where life took over and I didn’t write as much. Having the deadline for the R&J competition was a godsend though, as I’d probably only written 30,000 good words by the end of 2015 (plenty of bad words!) but then in 2016 the remaining 80,000 were written in a 7 month deadline frenzy!

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

I secretly wish that I could just dive right in and see where I end up but I’m a really plotter.  Sweet Little Lies and Book 2 spent their early lives on an Excel spreadsheet rather than a Word document, and I refer back to it all the way through – it helps me track who’s in which scene, whether the red herrings are evenly paced, whether there’s too much ‘personal’ stuff and not enough procedural etc.  Having been through the Excel stage with Book 2, it now currently exists as a 12,000 word novella – basically I’ve written it in incredibly messy form, I’ve got the gist of everything down and now I need to go back and tell the story properly.  I should add, I don’t always stick to the plan, there were a few twists and turns in Sweet Little Lies that actually surprised me, but I need a detailed plan to work from, at least.  I find it hard to get going if I can’t see where I’ll end up.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everyone and everywhere!  Characters are usually an amalgamation of several people I’ve crossed paths with.  Just overhearing a conversation on a bus can inspire a whole new piece of dialogue.  I think ‘inspiration’ is a slightly mystical term as usually there isn’t one image or anecdote that literally inspires the writing of a 100,000 word novel.  You just start with a character and a dilemma and get writing (or in my case, get plotting!).  Just writing, even badly, fuels inspiration, rather than the other way around.  If you wait for the killer idea or the killer hook to hit, you could be waiting a very long time!

Your book is set in London and Ireland and features a detective. How much research did you do for Sweet Little Lies?

In terms of locations, I know London extremely well as I lived there for fourteen years and I know the west coast of Ireland as well as any regular tourist as my parents both hail from there.  Mulderrin is a fictional town though.  As Ireland only features in very short chapters, I was conscious that I wouldn’t do justice to the beauty of the real towns I know across County Galway and County Mayo and therefore I made a deliberate decision to keep the Irish location pretty vague.

I did a lot of research for the procedural element of the novel.  A hell of a lot!  While I don’t doubt there’s still a few holes and inaccuracies, it was really important for me to get this bit as right as I could.  I’m a huge Lynda La Plante fan and I’m in awe of how authentic her books feel and so I strive towards this, at least.  Luckily in the course of writing the novel, I met the most patient and generous police officer who didn’t mind me fact-checking and putting scenarios to him on a daily basis!  And obviously these days, Google can be your guide – there isn’t a lot you can’t find out online (although I still think you can’t beat actually speaking to someone in the know.)Caz Frear

What would you say are your top five books you would recommend? (I know this is a hard one)

Very hard!  I’ve written a few times about my favourite crime novels but personal favourites are obviously very subjective so instead I’ll try to think of the top five books that I recommend to literally everyone – the crowd-pleasers.

  • The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer’s novel about mental health tells the story of Matt and the guilt he feels over his younger brother’s death when they were younger.  Sounds depressing, right?  It isn’t.  It’s funny, sharp and made me laugh out loud and cry like a baby.  Such clean, unaffected writing too.  I force everyone to read it!
  • What Was Lost, Catherine O Flynn tells the story of Kate Meaney, a 10 year old girl who went missing from a shopping centre in 1984, and the people who try to find out what happened years later.  Again this is a bittersweet tale – a really sad story that still manages to make you laugh and feel warm inside.  In Kate Meaney, O Flynn nails a precocious but also desperately lonely 10 year old.  She’s one of the strongest child narrators I’ve read.
  • Rachel’s Holiday, Marian Keyes had well and truly hit her stride by this 1997 cracker!  Rachel’s holiday is actually a stay in a Betty Ford-style rehab centre and while she’s initially pleased, thinking it’ll be a hotbed of celebrities and relaxing massages, what she finds is something quite different.  This novel is peak Marian Keyes in terms of combining fierce wit and warmth with a serious subject matter – addiction.
  • The Burning Air, Erin Kelly crafts the perfect psychological thriller – atmospheric, taut, beautifully plotted and with a mid-point twist that makes your jaw drop.
  • Lying in Wait, Liz Nugent is a recent addition to the ‘authors I rave about’ list.  Her first novel, ‘Unravelling Oliver’ was good but Lying in Wait is something else.  And what an opening line –My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle but the lying tramp deserved it.’  So deliciously sinister – I absolutely love it.

Just for fun, if you could have a dinner party with three guests (dead or alive) who would they be?

Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac – I just think she’s the coolest woman that’s ever lived – I even named my novel after a Fleetwood Mac song!  Actually that’s a lie, my editor came up with the title but I like to think it’s serendipity…

Arsene Wenger – Because I’m a massive Arsenal fan and I’ve got several bones to pick with him.  At least around the dinner table, we could keep it civilised.

Victoria Wood – She was an absolute genius and makes me cry laughing every time.  I love how she always gave the best lines to other people and she could be known to spend days on one joke, trying to make sure it was as sharp as it could be.  I adore that level of perfectionism.  I actually have a quote from her as my screensaver, it reminds me that even writing geniuses struggle like the rest of us…

I used to find writing scary but now I’ve got used to it once it gets going. I used to find it hard to start. Fear of the blank page. The first thing you write down won’t bear any relation to what’s in your head and that’s always disappointing.”

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes – work has definitely started on Book 2!  Cat and MIT4 will be back for more fun and games and Cat’s family will still feature.  It’s a completely new story and one that Cat isn’t personally attached to this time (don’t want her becoming a Jessica Fletcher type, even though I’m a big fan J)  However the events of Sweet Little Lies will still cast a shadow over Cat’s life (and potentially her career *she added cryptically)

Finally, what is the rest of 2017 looking like for you?

Busy!  I’m doing lots of promotional stuff for Sweet Little Lies but then I need to roll my sleeves up and properly crack on with Book 2!  As I mentioned, I have the most detailed synopsis for Book 2, and I’ve started to have fun with key scenes and key characters, but what I really need to do is stop plotting and playing and just start getting the story in down in a linear way.  I’m sure my editor agrees J

Big thanks, Caz for answering my questions!

Thanks so much for asking them!

Sweet Little Lies is out now and can be purchased on Amazon here.

Or Waterstones here.

To find out more about Caz Frear follow her on Twitter at @CazziF.

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*Blog Tour The One by John Marrs*

Today I’m super thrilled to be a part of The One blog tour by John Marrs. I adored this book and cannot put into words how good it was, but will try along with a cheeky Q&A with the author. As always don’t forget to stop off at all the other stops on this blog tour – #MatchYourDNA

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The Blurb:

How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes. One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for. 

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

A psychological thriller with a difference, this is a truly unique novel which is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

My Review:

Oh My – This was such a superb read which had me on the edge of my seat most of the time with all it’s twists and surprises I just didn’t see coming. It is definitely a psychological thriller with a difference.

The One tells the story of five characters who have all taken the Match Your DNA test, but what turns out as a simple DNA swab which millions of other have done previously, quickly turns into something more sinister. Something more shocking than they could ever have imagined.

  • Nick is content with his fiance Sally, or so he thinks, right up until the point she begs him to take the test. But what could possibly go wrong  when he is matched with a straight man?
  • Ellie is a successful businesswoman, closed off from the world but then she is matched. Can she open her heart? And what could go wrong when she does?
  • Jade is matched with a man halfway across the world, but does she have the guts to leave everything behind to meet the love of her life?
  • Mandy is ecstatic when she discovers she has been matched to the man of her dreams, after her past relationships but then she starts looking him up online…
  • Christopher is a psychopath who is so wrapped up in his own project that when he meets his match he is unaware of the effect she will truly have on him.

I loved how the author superbly weaves each of the character’s story, giving equal weight to each one while ending each chapter with a smallish-cliffhanger, leaving me as the reader needing to read more. It was one of those books where because of the short chapters you could keep reading another and another, although because I did just that one morning it forced me to literally run to work.

It was a book which really built the tension up from the word go with the author trickling surprise after surprise until you thought you couldn’t take anymore, well until the author wacked me with yet another corker of a twist about halfway through – turning the story completely on it’s head.

I just loved every minute of this book which had me literally gasping out loud with the many surprises and twists I couldn’t keep up with! I’m still not sure whose story was the most disturbing which makes it all the better. This was a novel so full of high drama which made for a fantastic read! I would recommend for all lovers of psychological crime.

I wonder, would you take the test? I’m not quite sure if I would anymore…

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So now onto the fab Q&A with John Marrs:

Welcome John to the CKT blog.

Thank you! I’m actually big fan of your reviews. In fact it was your review on The Kind Worth Killing last year that encouraged me to buy it and it’s become one of my firm favourites.

Aww thank you, to start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your novel The One?

Of course. It’s set in the present, but ten years after a gene has been discovered in all of us that links us to one other person in the world. And that person is the one who you are pre-programmed to fall in love with. However, you have no say over who it is. It could be someone in a different age bracket, religion, skin colour or of the same sex. To find the person, you just do a mouth swab, send it to an agency and when you get a Match, you’ll be informed. My story follows five people who have taken the test and we watch how their relationships proceed. And some take much darker twists and turns than others!

The One has such an interesting concept which I love – how did you come up with the idea of having a DNA test leading to something more sinister?

In December 2015, my partner and I were planning our wedding in New York. I was heading down the escalator on the London Underground thinking about how lucky I was to have found ‘the one’ and how different the world of dating might be if we knew there was someone out there who was made for us. Not just a soul mate, but someone who physically was made for you. Obviously if these people met and they were all ‘happy ever afters,’ it’d be a short book. So I picked five characters and started playing God with their lives.

The One is told from five different characters point of views, who is your favourite character from the novel and why?

I have two. One is Christopher who, without giving too much away, has psychopathic tendencies. So many books choose a psychopath as a central character and blame something awful in their childhood for how they turned out. I didn’t want to do that, I wanted him to be from a normal background but who’s brain was wired differently and got his kicks in a way you or I wouldn’t. My other favourite is Nick, a straight guy who’s about to marry his girlfriend until he discovers his Match is with another man, who is also straight. I liked writing his story a lot because of the awkwardness of what could happen when two men who aren’t gay fall in love with each other.

With five different story lines, how did you keep track of everything? Did you plot the story out first or dive right in and see where it takes you? Or a mixture of the two?

It depended on what mood I was in as to which characters I would work on thath day. I can’t work methodically so I’d do a bit here, a bit there and hope it all came together when I edited it to become draft one. Also some of the characters were easier to write than others. There was one character I wasn’t so keen on and I almost cut her out of the final version. But Emily, my editor at Del Rey, helped me to transform her into someone a lot more interesting and now she’s one of my favourites. I very loosely plotted out which direction each character’s story was going to take but more often than not, I’d get a lightbulb moment and have an idea that would turn the story on its head.

 What books would you recommend for the devoted crime reader?

I am a terrible reader. Since I started writing books, I don’t have time to sit down and read any more. Trying to juggle a full time job as a journalist alongside writing books and spending time with my husband and our families means I don’t get the time to spend a few hours reading novels. I used to download a lot of podcasts, but my New Year’s resolution has been to download audio books as I keep missing out on great reads. However, I’ve just ordered Peter Swanson’s first and latest book in physical format, so I’m going to make some time for him.

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 have just finished re-editing my first novel, The Wronged Sons, which will be released in late Spring on the Thomas & Mercer book label, although it’ll have a different title and cover. I’ve also just completed my first draft of book four, a psychological thriller under the working title of The Good Samaritan. It’s about a volunteer at a helpline who has her own agenda. That probably won’t be released until 2018 though.

And most importantly, would you take the test?

No, I’m afraid I wouldn’t. My other half, also called John just to confuse matters, is perfect for me. So I’m more than happy to say no to the test!

Thank you John for letting me grill you, it’s been a lot of fun!

It’s been a pleasure. And thanks for letting me stop off on my first ever Blog tour and visit your murderous corner of the Internet!

Thanks to Stephenie Naulls and Ebury Publishing for my ARC.

The One isn’t quite out yet, but with the ebook out on 26th January 2017 and the Paperback out 4th May 2017, you can preorder it here.

To find out more about John Marrs follow him on Twitter at @johnmarrs1.

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*Blog Tour* Frozen Minds by Cheryl Rees-Price

Today I’m delighted to launch the beginning of the Frozen Minds Blog Tour and to kick off the tour, I would like to welcome Cheryl Rees-Price today to talk about her new novel Frozen Minds and fictional detectives.

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Welcome Cheryl to the CKT blog.

To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new novel Frozen Minds?

Frozen Minds is the second book in the DI Winter Meadows series. It centres on a murder in a residential home for adults with learning difficulties. The victim, a seemingly well-liked and respected man, was the supervisor and had worked at the home for many years. Suspicion falls on the residents and the investigation requires sensitivity and understanding to gain the residents trust. The team soon uncover some unscrupulous dealings among the staff as well as a culture of fear. Just when Meadows thinks the case is solved the killer strikes again, and the home, which should be a sanctuary, is no longer safe.

DI Winter Meadows, your main protagonist, is not your stereotypical detective. For anyone who hasn’t read your novels, how would you describe DI Meadows?

DI Meadows was born and raised in a commune. He was home schooled until he was fifteen, then was sent to main stream school when the family moved. He had a tough time with bullies, his name, Winter, and background singling him out from the other teenage boys. Despite this he grew up retaining his principles and treats everyone as equal, he doesn’t see social status, race, class or sex, just people. His need to always try to see the best in people which can sometimes be his downfall, however; he is highly intuitive and has an uncanny gift for finding the truth.

Frozen Minds is the second novel in the DI Winter Meadows series. When you were writing your first novel did you have the idea for a series character in mind?

Yes, although the series I had in mind was for another character. I initially started writing the first book with DI Lester as my protagonist. I created Winter Meadows as a side kick for Lester. As it turned out Meadows was so much more interesting than Lester so I instantly promoted him. Lester still plays small part in the series as Meadows’ boss.

In Frozen Minds the first murder takes place at a home for adults with learning difficulties. I found the portrayal of these characters authentic, how did you go about researching this theme and incorporating it into your characters?

I have a family member who is autistic so was very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with some of the carers as well as some other young adults who have autism and Asperger’s syndrome. It is a subject close to my heart. There has been reported cases of abuse in residential homes, yet no reports on the wonderful work some of the dedicated carers do. It’s not always an easy job. I wanted to try and portray this in the book.

Despite all the information we have at hand it surprises me that so few have an understanding of mental disabilities. One young man told me he gets called names and even has things thrown at him when he is out shopping. I was appalled listening to his story. The characters in the book are not based on one singular person but a mixture of the people I met. I hope I did them justice in the book and also hope that I managed to raise a little awareness.
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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?

I tend to do a lot of preparation before starting on the first draft. I start with creating the cast and backstories then work through the plot. Once the research is complete I put all this information into a file for easy reference. Usually when I start work on the first draft the story veers away from my plan, then I just have to go along with the characters and see where the story takes me.

Who are your favourite fictional detectives and why?

R.D Wingfield’s Inspector Jack Frost is one of my favourite detectives.  I’ve read all the books, more than once. Frost is down to earth, a little shabby, and useless with paperwork. He has a wicked sense of humour but can be sensitive and compassionate. Frost doesn’t always stick to the rules but getting results is more important to him than moving up the ranks. He’s certainly a memorable and realistic character.

Anne Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope is another of my favourites.  Vera doesn’t appear at first to be a likable character. A bit of a loner, she is short tempered and has little regard for her team’s family life. As the series progresses you get to know the character and witness her devotion to the job as well as some moments of compassion. Again I find this character to be realistic and memorable.

 What books would you recommend for the devoted crime reader?

So many books to choose from! I think Tania Carver’s The Creeper is a good one to keep you up half the night turning pages. It certainly plays on your fears.

 And finally, 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’ve just finished writing the third in the DI Meadows series.  It’s a little darker than the first two and sees Meadows pushed to the limits in a desperate search for a missing child.  That’s about all I can tell you at the moment.

This sounds really intriguing! I would like to say a huge thanks to Cheryl for answering my questions.

Now for the Frozen Minds Blurb:

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When a man is found murdered at Bethesda House, a home for adults with learning difficulties, local people start to accuse the home’s residents of being behind the killing. The victim was a manager at the home, and seemingly a respectable and well-liked family man. DI Winter Meadows knows there’s more to the case than meets the eye at first, though. As he and his team investigate, Meadows discovers a culture of fear at the home – and some very sinister dealings going on between the staff. Does the answer to the case lie in the relationships between the staff and the residents – or is there something even more sinister afoot?

 

Go grab a copy and don’t forget to check out all the other stops on this great blog tour!

To buy this book from Amazon click here.

To find out more about Cheryl Rees-Price check out her Facebook page or visit her website here.

 

Blog Tour For The Love Of Grace

Today I’m delighted to host the final stop on Andy Blackman’s For the Love of Grace blog tour and have Andy Blackman here to talk about his new novel and what inspires him.

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To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new novel For the Love of Grace?

For the Love of Grace, is about Family, and the lengths a mother will go to protect her child even if it meant breaking the law. The story begins with Tom Sharapova, a top assassin who is a wanted man, coming back to England after many years of absence. But with the intelligence services close on his tail, Tom is out for vengeance. But before he can be reunited with his mother Grace, who brought him up in the East End of London, he must face the danger head-on if he is to survive.

What inspired you, as a writer, to set some of your novel in Odessa?

The reason I picked Odessa was when I was growing up, Russia was behind the iron curtain and was always a far away mysterious place – somewhere where people struggled on a daily basis to survive. It was a place where we never knew much about apart from the odd news reports, which always looked cold and the people never smiled, so thought it must have been a harsh terrible place to live, which fascinated me. I did not want Tom to sail off in the sunset so thought Tom should at least have a form of sentence placed upon him. Although he had escaped the terrible fate that awaited him, Odessa was still a punishment as Russia was a strange uninviting country. I have never been to either Russia or Odessa but I used my imagination to capture the harsh world Tom is living in.

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

The biggest influence on my writing I would say would be my family; I was always brought up to believe in family, and how important it is to always look out for them, and as the saying goes “you can pick your friends but not your family.” My three daughters, who I have tried to impart the importance of family, are my harshest critics. I have always said I would try and write a book, but as we all know life gets in the way and it becomes a thing that is placed on the ‘bucket list.’.I remember reading a really bad book, which was predictable and basically very boring, after I had struggled to finish, I thought to myself I bet I could do better than that. After speaking to my daughters about it they told me to stop talking about it and just get on with it, so this time I decided to go for it and finally committed pen to paper or as you say in this modern era fingers to the keyboard.

I have two authors who inspire me. I find Dan Brown’s books compelling, and well written – what I find brilliant about his books is they are always well researched and very factual, and mostly always controversial.  It is the same with Jeffery Archer, perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find his diversity between books, most refreshing as he does not stick to one theme, his books are a nice light read but always have a twist.

And finally ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. This was the first book I read in school and the book kicked started my love of reading. I found the book so well written that even today I still remember the story. I think a good author or book should be one that years later you can still remember and recall, plus a good book should be one once you start reading you find it hard to put down.

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?

It is funny I cannot just sit at a keyboard with a blank page and start typing and the plot and characters come in a flurry of inspiration. I prefer to think and mull over the characters and plot in my mind which could take days or even weeks to formulate a plot. I especially do this at night lying in bed just before I fall asleep when it is dark and peaceful!

Once I have the basic idea for a plot or a character I then go to the keyboard and randomly type the outline. I will research as I go and like to use my own life’s experiences as research. For example, in the book I had Tom drive from New York to Washington, which I have done myself, so although the book is a work of fiction I think you still need to get some facts correct for continuity. Sometimes a thought will pop into my head in the strangest places, while at work under a desk fixing a computer, or standing in line getting a cup of coffee, so once the spark of an idea or a good character has taken root I will think about it and see where it leads.

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 am writing the next book called ‘The Second son’ and it is a continuation of the first book from Grenville’s perspective who features in the first novel. It does bring in Grenville’s childhood and how he becomes the Duke of Hampshire, his friendship with Tom, from the first book, and how he helps Tom in his quest.

And finally, what is the rest of 2016 looking like for you at the moment?

At present I am still in full time employment working in IT for a large company, so work is pretty busy and sometimes tiring. I must admit I do like my job but I am now 56 so perhaps deep down I needed a change and hopefully writing a book was going to give me that, so would love to write full time. I am, concentrating on the second book, ‘the second son’, which is going well. Also my middle daughter who was married last year is expecting her first child; this will be my third grandchild so I am very excited! I’m also very excited about my novel being published this year and hope my book is well received. It was easy when I was writing it as I was the only one reading it and of course, we all think what we create is good, the hardest part is when you put out your work for public scrutiny – it’s a game changer, and no longer just yours, and you have to put yourself up for criticism. I hope people enjoy the book, and want to read more of me in the future.

A big thanks to Andy for taking the time to answer my questions, much appreciated!

Now for the Blurb
Grace Backer had a life full of tragedy. But despite everything, she raised her son, Tom, with her secret intact.

Tom is a prodigal child, destined to escape the slums of the East End of London for a better life; circumstances will make him flee his loving mother and their home much sooner than expected.

Tom starts a new life in Odessa, Russia, and with the help of new-found friends starts a business. At last, he is finally accepted into a new and loving family, but one which holds its own dark secrets. A chance meeting with the son of a duke of the realm leads to close friendship and a new business partnership. When Tom decides to move his company to London and have his regal new friend run it, the firm thrives. However, not everything is as it seems, and Tom’s business soon conceals dangerous secrets of its own.

Years later, when Tom finally decides to return to London, he is a wanted man, one hunted by the intelligence agencies. If he is finally to be reunited with his beloved mother and his best friend, he must fight to put the past behind him. But keeping secrets is never easy.

About Andy Blackman
After serving in the British Army for over twenty-five years in the Parachute Regiment, Andy Blackman today lives in Bedworth, Warwickshire and works within in the IT sector. In his spare time he can be found visiting his three daughters and grandchildren.

To buy this book from Amazon click here.

To buy this book from Barnes and Nobles click here.

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Author Interview: David Mark

Today I’m thrilled to have David Mark, author of the DS McAvoy series, joining me for a quick chat all about his new novel Dead Pretty.

Welcome to the CKT blog David!

To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new book in the DS McAvoy series, Dead Pretty and what sparked your idea for the story?

I spend a lot of time wondering about in the woods and sitting in old churches, letting my mind drift and getting all existential. I was out at this gorgeous little church in East Yorkshire and was just having a bit of a daydream and because I’m the sort of person who plays the music of his life on the black keys, my thoughts turned dark. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I just had this notion that human beings see the sunshine as being full of hope and fairy-tales but nature is a different beast. I was thinking about how ladybirds look pretty until you see them chewing through an aphid. And I imagined a young girl, excited and happy and full of zeal for her clandestine meeting, and the peril she was putting herself in with her big heart and naiveté. It snowballed from there really. I found myself really interested in the sliding scale we use to qualify tragedy. Of course, that all sounds like a very Radio 4 kind of answer, so if you’re after a thrilling police procedural, I hope it ticks that box too. This is the story of a good policeman’s obsession with getting justice – even as a vicious killer exacts justice of their own. It involves armpit-scalping and a murder involving a toilet seat. I’m giving you no more than that.

I love the title of your novel, where did the inspiration for this come from?

That’s a hangover from my journalism days. Whenever there had been a murder it would be up to one of the journalists to acquire a picture of the dead. It was so strange that people thought it was somehow more tragic if the murdered girl was a look. You’d catch people saying ‘she’s dead pretty’ and then feeling awful for being callous.

I found the central investigation into the disappearance of Hannah Kelly and Ava Delaney’s murder compelling with a number of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Did you plot the story out first or did you dive right in and see where the story took you?

I never dive right in. I’m a careful plotter. Sometimes parts of the narrative take off under their own steam but I like to know how it will end before I begin. I always knew that I wanted to write a story about the character of Reuben Hollow, who may or may not have killed somebody who bullied his daughter. I identify with that character very closely. Don’t judge me.

Who is your favourite recurring character in the series and why?

I think that would have to be Trish Pharaoh, Aector’s boss. She makes me laugh and she writes her own lines, in a way. I think she’s the most believable character I’ve ever written. But I do love the giant, scarred gangland enforcer, Mahon, who disappeared over the clifftop at the end of TAKING PITY and reappeared in the e-book A BAD DEATH. There may one day be a book about his youth, if anybody would like to make me an offer …

There is always a lot of debate about where the best place is for an author to write, where is the best place that you have found to write? And do you have any rituals or writing quirks?

I’m very lucky in that regard. I have a lovely office in my house, full of all the essentials, like books and maps and wrestling figures, and I just get my head down and get on with it. It’s a big change from all the years when I was unpublished – scribbling in notebooks while waiting for juries to return from murder trials.

David Mark ©a r t E A S TJust for fun…if you could collaborate with one author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I always thought it would be an honour to work with Terry Pratchett, but everybody I’ve spoken to says he was an absolute terror, so I may spare myself that. I’m actually very energised by mixed media projects and have half an idea that would work as a graphic novel so perhaps somebody in that area. I’d go into a coma of excitement if I got to work with Alan Moore. But I’m a bit of a control freak so it would be hard to share the creative process, I fear. I suppose if I was brutally honest I would like to have collaborated on one of the so-called ‘classics’ like Pride and Prejudice or Mill on the Floss. Perhaps that way I would have made them vaguely engrossing.

Finally, 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 always working on something! I write constantly. If I don’t, the voices in my head start to scream. I have my first historical crime novel coming out next year and there is another McAvoy, CRUEL MERCY, out in January, taking Aector to New York.  I’ve got a few radio projects up my sleeve and hope to dip my toe in the true-crime market. There’s no rest when you write about the wicked.

I would like to say a huge thank you to David for answering my questions for the CKT blog!

Don’t forget to grab your copy of David’s fabulous novel Dead Pretty which is out now and can be purchased from Amazon here or from Hodder here.

To find out more about David Mark follow him on Twitter @davidmarkwriter.

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.

 

The Evolution of Fear Blog Tour – Paul E Hardisty

Today I’m delighted to be kicking off The Evolution of Fear tour and have Paul E Hardisty here to talk about his new novel and what inspires him.

Welcome Paul to the CKT blog for a stop on your awesome #EvoultionOfFear blog tour.

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To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about your new novel The Evolution of Fear?

The Evolution of Fear is the sequel to the CWA Creasy New Dagger award short-listed The Abrupt Physics of Dying. Claymore Straker is a fugitive, on the run from the authorities in the UK, and hunted by the Russian Mafia.  As the assassins close in, Clay learns that the people who want him dead are also after Rania, the woman he loves. Breaking cover, Clay flees his safe house in North Cornwall to find Rania, who has gone missing. The trail finally leads him to Cyprus, where his worst fears are eclipsed, and Clay learns that he has so much more to fight for and lose than he had ever imagined. The Evolution of Fear is first and foremost a thriller, but it also explores some fundamental questions about the nature of fear, and the evolution that we must all go through if we are to conquer those fears which can so easily lead us to betray ourselves, those we love, and the things we believe in.

This is the second novel which features the character of Claymore Straker, how did you create such a dynamic and interesting protagonist?

Claymore Straker, I suppose like so many characters, is a child of many parents: me, who I might have been, and perhaps who I would have liked to have been, if I could have chosen to be someone else. But that child has grown since conception, and as the Abrupt Physics of Dying developed, so did the character.  In The Evolution of Fear, Clay changes and grows as the kindness of strangers, the loyalty of friends, and the love of a good woman begin to erode the wall of hate and regret he has built around himself.  Just when he thinks he can trust no one but himself, events prove him wrong. And just when he thinks he can never be forgiven for the wrongs of his past, the people closest to him show him how.

Claymore Straker is a fantastic name for a leading hero, how did you come up with the name?

I always liked the name Claymore, and for this protagonist, it was ideal.  First because, as a soldier in the Border War in Angola in the early 1980’s fighting the communist insurgency, he on many occasions deployed and used the eponymous M18 directional anti-personnel mine (the Claymore), with its prophetic inscription “Front Towards The Enemy.”  It was Clay’s father, originally from Scotland, who named him after the famous Scottish two-handed broadsword.  Growing up as a boy, Clay loved his name, exactly for these combative characteristics. But after his harrowing experiences during the war (the subject of the prequel to the first two books, which I am now writing, titled Reconciliation for the Dead), he has come to hate it. Straker is actually the family name of some good friends in Perth, Western Australia, where we live. They said I could borrow their name!

There never seems to be any let up for Clay, which I loved. How did you come up with the idea for the story?

Clay is a character born of conflict. His life has been shaped by three little known regional wars, first in Angola during the border war in the 19880’s (the subject of Reconciliation for the Dead, out in 2017), the Yemen civil war of 1994 (the setting for The Abrupt Physics of Dying), and now in The Evolution of Fear, the Cyprus conflict, which began with the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by the Turkish Army, and remains unresolved to this day.  I know all of these places well, and have studied these conflicts extensively, and in the cases of Cyprus and Yemen, first-hand. Because the Abrupt Physics of Dying left a number of questions unanswered, the Evolution of Fear was a natural extension of the story, taking Clay back to an island he already knew well, to face his and Rania’s destiny.

There are a number of locations which feature in the novel including; Cornwall, Turkey and Cyprus. What made you choose to set the story in all of these very beautiful, but very different locations?

I love writing about places I know – making them come alive for the reader. I lived in the West Country of the UK for several years, and always loved the rugged and isolated Cornish coast. Also, after the sun-scorched adventures in Yemen in the first book, I wanted contrast that suited Clay’s situation – dark, stormy, cold, with sheets of gusting rain.  The first half of the book takes place in rain and darkness.  Fighting through a storm, he slowly comes out into the hazy ozone-choked sunlight of Istanbul , one of my favourite cities in the world. I stayed at the Pera Palas hotel several times while I was living and working in Turkey during the 1980s, and wanted to re-create its atmosphere of faded end-of-century glory. Cyprus, where I lived for almost a decade, is a beautiful beguiling island which has been embroiled in conflict for over 40 years. In many ways, the island’s problems reflect Clay’s own battle with himself.

Paul Hardisty.JPGCan you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you plot out all of the action first or do you just start writing and see where it takes you?

I am an engineer, and still work full time. My training has influenced how I write. It is very systematic. I start with an essential theme I want to explore through the character’s experience. Then I develop a core structure and plot line in advance, sketching out the action from beginning to end. I break up each day’s writing into a specific block or outcome, with a specific goal. Once the first draft is complete, and the structure can stand and bear weight, I start to allow myself more creative license, and start to weave in things that I think will add beauty, thematic relevance, or plot twists and turns. I love writing.  Absolutely love it. I have to find a way soon to stop working full time at science and engineering, so I can write more.

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

I guess like most writers, there are a whole number of authors that I admire, and who have in one way or another influenced me. Hemingway, McCarthy, Kim Stanley Robinson, Balzac, Maupassant, Houllebecq.  But I would have to say the person who has most influenced what I write about, and how, is my father. From a young age he bred in me a love and fascination for travel and other cultures, and a spirit of risk taking and discovery.  Those are the things I try to put into my writing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author, like myself?

There is all the usual stuff, which is good and true. Writers write. So write. As much and as well as you can. It’s a career like any other – you only get good by working at it over many years. Don’t give up. For me the most important thing is to back yourself – find your own voice, and your own way of telling a story and trust in yourself that if it is good enough, eventually, someone else will want to read it and will enjoy it. There is no point just copying what others have done.

What are you reading at the moment?

Right now I am reading Musashi, the quintessential Japanese novel about the life of the famous 16th Century samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, written by Eiji Yoshikawa before the Second World War, and translated by Charles Terry. I am also reading Jihadi: A Love Story, by fellow Orenda author Yusuf Toporov, and ploughing my way through A La recherché Du Temps Perdu by Proust, in French (my first language).

And finally, what is the rest of 2016 looking like for you?

Busy. I will be attending the UN Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in Rotterdam in May for work, and the Boucheron writing festival in New Orleans in September.  Before the end of the year I am also planning to go back to Yemen to see and report first-hand on the effects of the current civil war there (if I can get into the country).

I would like to say a HUGE thanks to Paul E Hardisty for chatting to me today as part of his blog tour. Don’t forget to check out all of the other fab stops on The Evolution Of Fear blog tour!

To buy this book on Amazon click here or to buy on Waterstones click here

To find out more about Paul E Hardisty follow him on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul or check out his website here.

Now for the Evolution of Fear Blurb:

Claymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down. As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit.

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