Spotlight On Crime
Well I promised another guest (we have a few of these lined up) so without further ado I would like to welcome to the spotlight a talented writer I met through Bridge House when we published one of her stories, and on the day of her book launch party! Please join me in welcoming Jane Isaac …
Introduce yourself: Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, although I’ve never thought of it as a career. This changed almost fourteen years ago when my husband and took a year out to travel the world and kept a daily diary recording our experiences. On our return I found that the photos we took drew on memories, but it was reading the diary that transported me back to the sweet smell of Kuala Lumpur, to hear the of street music of Bangkok, feel the thick heat that pervades the wonderfully clean Singapore, see the red earth of Australia. Realising the power of words, it was this diary that prompted me to study creative writing, first at The Writers Bureau and later with the London School of Journalism.
I wrote a few short stories and in 2008 I decided to embark on my first novel.
Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?
Hmm. The road has been a little rocky. When I finished An Unfamiliar Murder I was still studying creative writing and it was my tutor who encouraged me to submit it to agents. I didn’t expect a positive response (you get so used to receiving rejections in this industry) so you can imagine my surprise when two agents expressed an interest!
I signed with a London agent and we worked on the novel to edit it before he submitted it to the major publishing houses and, although the feedback was very positive, nobody signed the book. The rights reverted to me and I decided to try my luck with the independent publishers and quickly signed with Rainstorm Press.
For my second book I decided to pursue a UK publisher to help with the distribution over here which meant I had to plunge myself back into the submissions process once again. Luckily it was picked up by the lovely Legend Press team in London.
Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?
I am a sort of honorary member of Creative Minds Writing Group in nearby Corby. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t attend their meetings because it clashes with my yoga class, but I do get invited to their social events which are always fun and inspiring.
My husband is my harshest critic and reads all my work before I send it anywhere. With my second book, The Truth Will Out, I also enlisted four beta readers to critique it before I submitted it to publishers: two writers and two readers, and I was very grateful for their feedback. The book is certainly richer for their input.
Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?
My husband. I phoned him at work and ‘whooped’ down the phone! I think I almost deafened him!
What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?
Having worked with an agent and then two different publishing houses on my novels, my editing experiences have been quite varied. I think books benefit tremendously from input from an experienced editor, both structurally and within the copy.
Before I signed with Legend Press they suggested a couple of structural changes which were great ideas and really improved the flow of the story. Afterwards, changes were restricted to copy edits to tighten up the text.
Tell us something about your writing day, routine.
With a day job and a family, I don’t really have an established writing routine. I pen my words whenever I find a gap: before work when the house is quiet; beside the pool when my daughter is in swim class. I’ve even been spotted jotting ideas down while standing in a supermarket queue. For me it is a labour of love.
What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?
I’m still a huge Jane Austen, J D Salinger and Louisa May Alcott fan, yet I also love the murder and mayhem of Jeffery Deaver and Peter James, and the psychological suspense of Elizabeth Haynes and Alison Bruce.
One of my favourite books is The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – I love the way she depicts the character of a serial killer amidst a beautiful American and Mediterranean backdrop.
Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?
I love escaping into another world when I read. I set out to write a page turning, rollercoaster ride of a book with characters that feel real, and twists and turns aplenty. Basically, a book that I would like to read myself. I figured if I enjoyed the story, then perhaps others would too.
How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?
Both my books are lodged with small independent publishers, although with Legend Press I have been supported by a lovely publicity team who are so helpful and work tirelessly for their authors. That said, writing the book is only a part of the process for any author. A presence on social media seems essential these days, as are running a regular blog and attending real events. We may have written the best book in the world but unless people know about it, nobody is going to read it.
I’m a quite a shy person, so self-promotion doesn’t come naturally. It’s certainly a learning curve!
Tell us about the latest published book …
The Truth Will Out is the second book in the DCI Helen Lavery series, although it can be read as a standalone novel in its own right, and sees the detective face her toughest case yet. There’s plenty to keep her busy as she clashes with superiors in pursuance of the truth and she has a love interest too.
I am fascinated by what happens when extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. Most of us live our lives in a bubble and never cross paths with law enforcement. I like to explore what happens when we are taken out of our comfort zone and alternate the police perspective in the book with the story of another person affected the by the investigation – in this case Eva Carradine.
Let me share the blurb with you:
“Everything’s going to be okay.”
“What if it’s not?”
Suddenly, she turned. For a split second she halted, her head inclined.
“Naomi, what is it?”
She whisked back to face Eva.
“There’s somebody in the house…”
Eva is horrified when she witnesses an attack on her best friend. She calls an ambulance and forces herself to flee Hampton, fearing for her own safety. DCI Helen Lavery leads the investigation into the murder. With no leads, no further witnesses and no sign of forced entry, the murder enquiry begins.
Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. But as Helen inches towards solving the case, her past becomes caught up in her present.
Someone is after them both. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And as the net starts to close around them, can Helen escape her own demons as well as helping Eva to escape hers?
The Truth Will Out is available here:
What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
My latest work in progress is a crime thriller based in nearby Stratford upon Avon. I’m presently undertaking lots of research field visits which I am enjoying immensely! I’ve also started the third in the DCI Helen Lavery series which I hope to finish by the end of the year.
I don’t have a fixed plan for my work. I just want to write books with characters that people can relate to and enjoy.
Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?
Write, write, write. Share with others and invite critiques, rework your script until it is the best you can do, then submit and start a new project. Never give up.
Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it
I’ve had my hair highlighted since I was about sixteen years old. I have absolutely no idea what the natural colour is these days.
Thank you so much for inviting me onto your lovely blog, Debz. It’s been great fun!
Thank you Jane for being a guest and I hope some of my lovely followers will get their copy! I will be!
Have a great weekend everyone! After being away and then a touch of flu my blogging has gone a little awry but I hope to resume next week and I have some more lovely guests coming up too!