Category Archives: Crime Writer

When you get ‘possessed’ and it’s only 5.30 am

I am close to 9000 words into the sequel novel and I am coming up for air. It’s odd when a chapter writes itself in two hours. Oh sure it will be edited and tweaked probably a million more times, but it’s flowing, good and fast like the Hudson River.  If that flows fast?! Just popped into my head. I think it, I write it. Where does it even come from?

Starting a new novel usually takes longer, finding the character’s voice, and his or her quirks. I have talked many times on here about how you need to create flaws and mannerisms and tics that make your character feel real. And while some you plan, most appear — by magic. What I had never thought about before was how nice it is to write characters that are already fully formed. The thing about a sequel is you already know your ‘people’, well the key ones at least, so their voice comes so much easier. And that is what I am finding now.

In addition, picking up the story threads six weeks on means I also know what happened to my people, and by way of a quick but not overdone recap for those who have not read book one (even though you hope they will have read book one) means you can process what happened. And the plan I have drafted means I also know where this is heading. I know the function of each chapter. Only now come the surprises.

It’s interesting how many things happen as if by magic and certainly there has been some of that since I started to work on this sequel. This morning is a case in point when my favourite flawed character with the most distinctive voice ends Chapter 4 in a way I have never actually planned. Oh, the thing it relates to was going to happen in this chapter, but not quite this way. And this is what I was talking about last week: when it surprises you but feels right, then it should surprise your reader.

So I thought I would share before I go back in to tweak.

Writing is a powerful way to lose yourself to find yourself.

And I am now possessed.

And that, for now, is all.

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In The Spotlight: Guest Post Charlie Flowers

We have not had a guest for a while, so it gives me great pleasure to welcome to the spotlight an author who’s local to me and who I met online; he was recently interviewed by Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex about his latest novel and I think some of you might be interested in his work and his journey. Please welcome to the stage… Charlie Flowers.

spotlightoj-md

 

Charlie Flowers Author Pic

Charlie Flowers, Author of the Rizwan Sabir Thrillers

 

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

Hi everyone! I’ve always *written*, as I used to be a frontman for two bands, and I wrote most of the lyrics. But I could never seem to write vast screeds of words. So imagine my surprise in April 2012 when I found myself writing the first Riz book. It poured out of me and I had it finished in about four months.

 

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

Nope, all done on my lonesome. The few agents I contacted weren’t interested, although one of the people who represents Lee Child told me that personally, she loved the first book but she couldn’t pitch it to publishers as it was “too real” in its depiction of modern British Asians. Apparently they all still want that Far Pavilions stuff…

 

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 have a small “constant readers circle”, each of whom has a specific task — one for grammar, one for continuity, one for the French, one for the Urdu…

 

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

 My Facebook group. Sign of the times!

 

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?

The editor(s) are everything, as of course, they can see the things you can’t. Also, some of my readers know my two main characters very well, and will pull me up on things. Would he/she say that? And so on.

 

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

I write for an hour a night, normally around 11pm. Loud music helps. During the day, I’m often writing the first drafts out by hand, into notebooks.

 

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

My friends inspire me, as that is where I drew inspiration for the characters from. Author-wise, I’d say Fleming, Deighton, and most of all, Ralph Peters’ classic novel Red Army, which is basically a retelling of War and Peace but set in 1990!

 

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

 Because I hate it and I love it and I have to! I aim to make my books, and characters, live on in the reader.

 

How much marketing have you had to do? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

Very comfortable — nowadays you have to be. You’ve got to be willing to doorstep, sell yourself, and tweet those tweets.

 

Tell us about the latest published book…

My latest book is Murder Most Rural, a classic cosy crime novel set in East Anglia.

And you can get it at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Rural-Rizwan-Sabir-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00RQNVTJU/

Here’s the Facebook fan page for the series:

https://www.facebook.com/TheRizwanSabirMysteries?ref=bookmarks

Here’s the Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/rizthrillers

 

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. 

Next up this year are FOUR new books, hopefully —  a historical SAS thriller called The Siege; two spinoffs from the Riz series, one of which is a cookbook and the other a Young Adult novella about the childhood of Riz’s wife; and finally, a sixth Riz thriller!

Where do I see myself in ten years’ time?

Writing Riz 25 I’d imagine!

 

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 Self-publish to begin with, and never, ever, ever give in.

 

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I can ride a camel.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

They’re actually loosely based on my friends, so…

 

 Finally: can we post an extract of your latest published book? 

 

Extract from Murder Most Rural…

My boss had once described my other half as “Essex Girl, from Mars”. He was mostly right, I’d give him that. Our families were from Mirpur in Pakistan. Our mothers had lived on the same village street back in the old country. And they’d married us off.

Holly ‘Bang-Bang’ Kirpachi was a short, birdlike girl, with raven hair and non-committal hazel eyes. Her arms were adorned with several tattoos, and there was a gaudy golden ring in her nose. Every now and then she’d pop some bubblegum or her face would light up with a cheeky grin. Very little phased Bang-Bang. She was always happily singing to herself. And with good reason.

Bang-Bang was twenty-one. She’d shot her first man when she was fourteen, and she’d probably killed more than forty people in her career as faction leader of the Blackeyes, and then section leader in our Army unit.

I say “probably” because in our line of work, you stopped counting after the first few. All in all, she was a better person to have on your side than against it.

Something else that should be known about Bang-Bang. When it came to things mechanical or electric she was a sorceress. Her hacking skills were at an insane level and had saved my, and the country’s, collective bacon on several occasions. She’d been the star of her school’s science department, and had a bursary lined up at BAe Systems, before she’d just jacked it all in and got into burlesque.

In short, stuff WORKED for her. The downside was that you couldn’t leave her near equipment without her tinkering with it.

Shredded paper fell like confetti. I looked down at her. ‘Continuous improvement, I see?’

‘Always! Got the briefing then?’

I nodded.

‘We going anywhere nice?’

‘Yep. Essex.’

She jumped in the air and clapped her hands. And then stopped. ‘Oh no. Not that place your cousins live.’

I looked at her. ‘Yes that place our cousins live. What’s the problem?’

She looked up at me. ‘You know. I go that far north of the A414, I get a nosebleed.’

I resigned myself to griping and banter. Darkest Essex, here we came.

 

© Charlie Flowers RIZ 5 MURDER MOST RURAL. Published with permission of the author and can not be reproduced without his permission.

 

Thankyou for having me Debz!

Charlie

You are most welcome Charlie and I wish you the very best with this, I saw it climbing the charts and from the radio interview folks you don’t have to read all the others to read this one… but you might as well?

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In The Spotlight Guest Post R J Ellory [Spotlight On Crime Series]

I have a very special guest in the spotlight this morning — a very special guest. R J Ellory is the author of many books, perhaps shot into the public eye when A Quiet Belief In Angels made the Richard and Judy list. I love his writing style, writing sometimes on the darker side — crime/psychological thrillers — just my bag. Well worth looking at his extensive list — not that he needs me to sing his praises, the books speak for themselves.

I met Roger (in the virtual sense) through a writing friend and we have stayed in contact. He signed his novel Bad Signs to me and I loved it. So I asked, even though I know he is SO busy, if he would share some of his journey with fellow writers (and readers.) As Roger will tell you himself, it has been a long journey and he is testament to the fight, if you want it enough and you’re prepared to work at it, you can get there. So without further ado I would like to welcome to the spotlight, author R J Ellory (pause for RAUCOUS applause) …

 

Spotlight

 

Welcome R J Ellory

 

RJ Ellory Image

“I started writing my first book, and over the next six years I wrote a total of twenty-three novels.  Once I started I couldn’t stop…”

 

Introduce yourself: Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book published.

 

Okay…well, my name is RJ (Roger Jon) Ellory, and I was first published here in the UK in 2003.  That was the end of a fifteen year-long ‘battle’ to find a publisher.  The first published book was the twenty-third I wrote, and the gap between when I first put pen to paper and first secured a publishing contract was fifteen years, taking into account that I wrote nothing for eight of those years due to accumulated ‘disappointments’ and mental exhaustion!  Of course, my own experiences are unique, and I am sure that there are great many more published authors out there who secured publication with their first or second novel, but this was just my journey and this was what it took for me.

 

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

 

I tried to work through an agent, and secured the services of three or four, but nothing came of it.  I think they just didn’t have the persistence that I had, and they each gave up after two or three attempts to find me a publisher.  I ultimately secured a contract with a publisher (Orion UK) directly, and my editor advised me to get an agent, recommended three or four, and even then – knowing that I already had a publishing contract with one of the most prestigious publishing companies in the UK – only one agent contacted me and met with me.  That agent is still my agent twelve books later.

 

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group?

 

No, I never belonged to a writing group.  I never had anyone read my work before I sent it off.  My wife used to read my work, and she was never anything but convinced that I would one day be published.

 

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book/story had been accepted?

 

My wife, of course.  She said, ‘About bloody time!’

 

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?

 

Working with a good editor is the same as learning any new subject.  I have studied music, graphic design, photography, all sorts of things, and working with an editor starts with the same premise.  There is a great deal of difference between writing a novel and writing a novel for public consumption.  Your editor, usually, is the first person to read your novel as an ‘audience’.  He will see holes that you didn’t see.  He will see plot weaknesses that remain unknown to you, even when you have dragged your way through two rewrites.  There is an old expression: A wise man is a man who knows he knows nothing.  I approach my working relationship with my editor on this footing, that he does know better, that he can teach me a great deal from his own experience, that he is working towards making the book as good as it can be, and I am very fortunate to have one of the finest editors working in the UK book industry.  There is no book I have written that is not better as a result of his working on it.  He advises, we discuss, I then amend, rewrite and/or edit as applicable.  After working on twelve books together, we have a system that could not be better.  Not that I have any criticism of self-publishing, but that basic and fundamental relationship between writer and editor is missing, and I do not see how a book could be as good as it could be without that external and objective critique and input, especially from someone who is vastly experienced and knows exactly what they are doing.

 

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

For years I wrote longhand, almost three million words, but now I use a computer.  Sometimes when I’m away from home I’ll write longhand, and then transcribe when I return.  I tend to write a whole book, furiously ploughing through it, and then I go back through from start to finish and handle all the snags, anomalies, mistakes, cut back on the over-writing as best I can.  It’s kind of organic in a way, like it’s something that takes on certain character aspects of its own.  It’s like living with a bunch of people for a few weeks, and you watch them grow, watch them take control of certain elements of the story, and then when you’re done it’s like losing something.  Capote once said that finishing a story was like taking a child out into the yard and shooting them.  Perhaps a little melodramatic, but I know what he means!  When a book is finished it kind of leaves a hole in you, and then you have to start another one right away!  I am disciplined.  I start early in the day.  I try and produce three or four thousand words a day, and work on the basis of getting a first draft done in about twelve weeks.  Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes shorter.  For me a book always begins with the emotion I want to evoke in the reader.  That’s the most important thing for me.  How does a book make you feel, and does that memory stay with you?  So that’s my first consideration: the emotional effect I am trying to create.  The second thing is the location.  Location is vital for me as the location informs and influences the language, the dialect, the characters – everything.  I choose to start a book in Louisiana or New York or Washington simply because that ‘canvas’ is the best for to paint the particular picture I want to paint.  I buy a new notebook, a good quality one, because I know I’m going to be carrying it around for two or three months, and in the notebook I will write down ideas I have as I go.  Little bits of dialogue, things like that.  Sometimes I have a title, sometimes not.  I used to feel very strongly about having a good title before I started, but now – because at least half the books I’ve published have ended up with a different title – I am not so obsessive about it!  And as far as little idiosyncratic routines and superstitions are concerned, I don’t know that I actually have any that relate to starting a book.  I do have a routine when I finish a book.  I make a really good Manhattan, and then I take my family out to dinner!

 

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

 

Other writers inspire me.  I spend my time finding books by writers that make me feel like a clumsy and awkward writer.  I love film, too.  Music, of course.  Artists in all areas inspire me, especially those who have had to really work hard at creating recognition for something special or unusual.  I am inspired by the achievements of people in all fields, to be honest.  The basic truth that kept me going for yeas despite many hundreds of rejection letters was a quote from Benjamin Disraeli: Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose.  I also love the following words from Eleanor Roosevelt: It is never too late to become what you might have been.

 

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

 

I was always creatively minded, right from an early age.  My primary interests were in the field of art, photography, music, such things as this.  Not until I was twenty-two did I consider the possibility of writing.  I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about a book he was reading, and he was so enthusiastic!  I thought ‘It would be great to create that kind of an effect’.  That evening – back in November of 1987 – I started writing my first book, and over the next six years I wrote a total of twenty-three novels.  Once I started I couldn’t stop, and now I think it just took me those first twenty-two years of my life to really discover what I wanted to do.  Now it seems like such a natural part of me and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  As for what I am trying to achieve as a writer, for me the most important thing about any novel is the emotion it evokes.  The reason for writing about the subjects I do is simply that such subjects give me the greatest opportunity to write about real people and how they deal with real situations.  There is nothing in life more interesting than people, and one of the most interesting aspects of people is their ability to overcome difficulty and survive.  I think I write ‘human dramas’, and in those dramas I feel I have sufficient canvas to paint the whole spectrum of human emotions, and this is what captures my attention.  I once heard that non-fiction possesses, as its primary purpose, the conveying of information, whereas fiction possessed the primary purpose of evoking an emotion in the reader.  I love writers that make me feel something – an emotion, whatever it might be – but I want to feel something as I read the book.  There are millions of great books out there, all of them written very well, but they are mechanical in their plotting and style.  Three weeks after reading them you might not recall anything about them.  The books that really get me are the ones I remember months later.  I might not recall the names of the characters or the intricacies of the plot, but I remember how it made me feel.  For me, that’s all important.  The emotional connection.  Those are the books I love to read, and those are the books I am trying to write.

 

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

 

I did over one hundred and fifty library events in the first year of being published, all of them without charge.  I set up Facebook pages, Twitter pages, a website, whatever else I felt would help get my name out there.  I went to festivals, book-signings, seminars, and did anything and everything I was asked to do.  I think publishing has changed so very dramatically over the last twenty years, and the nature of how books are read (or not, as the case may be), has meant that we have had to adapt quite markedly.  It is an audio-visual age, and reading as a leisure activity seems to have declined so very much over the last decade or so.  While everyone is running around scratching their heads and trying to figure out why book sales have deteriorated so much in the UK, we seem to be ignoring the fundamental fact that literacy levels have collapsed, educational standards are at a record low, and reading for pleasure is rapidly disappearing.  It has been suggested that e-books and other digital formats have contributed to this decline, but that makes no sense as the shortfall in book sales is not being compensated for by downloads.  Also, changing the way in which books are being read does not make a non-reader into a reader.  Readers are readers, and they will read regardless of the format.  If the combined might, influence and financial power of the key publishing companies in this country devoted their energies and resources to a huge literacy and reading campaign, then they would secure their own future, both organizationally and financially.  However, it may be too late to reverse the dwindling spiral.  I hope not, for losing the book as a mainstay of entertainment, pleasure and education would be a huge tragedy.  Even though it may not sound so, I am an optimist at heart and I hope we can revive the book in the country.  We still publish more books per capita than any country in the world, and I think we carry a responsibility to maintain what we have created with our language.

 

Tell us about the latest published work …

 

The latest book (released on May 22 this year) is called Carnival of Shadows.  The blurb is as follows:

 

Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michal Travis is sent to investigate. Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence. As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality – one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust? In his powerful, atmospheric new thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart.

 

 

On facebook I can be found under both Roger Jon Ellory and R J Ellory

On twitter, it’s just @rjellory

My website is www.rjellory.com

 

The book can be obtained anywhere on-line and in bookstores.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

 

The work I progress is a slow-burn mystery set in West Texas in the early 1970s, but there are two stories that run parallel.  The backstory, for want of a better term, is in the same town but twenty or thirty years earlier.  Very little violence, very little bad language, and the crimes perpetrated are deception, falsity, greed and jealousy.  Currently there is no title, but I am close to competing the book and we shall see what transpires!  As for where I will be in ten years’ time, I am sure that there will be another ten novels published, but I am also branching out into music, and I don’t doubt that I will have a good few albums and a few national and international tours under my belt.  That’s what I hope, for music is something I very much want to pursue as vigorously as writing.

 

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 

Very simply the tenet from Disraeli above, and also something else that I feel is very valid, in that the worst book you could write is the one you think others might enjoy, whereas the best book you could write is the one that you feel you yourself would enjoy.  There is no formula for a good book.  You cannot predict what will be successful.  If you try to jump on a bandwagon and catch the current genres of interest, you will inevitably finish your book right about the time that the interest has waned and the public are following another thread.  True commercial success has come about as a result of writers creating their own genres and sub-genres, but writing for commercial reasons is always the very worst reason to write.  I think it was Hemingway that said, ‘Compared to writing novels, horse-racing and poker are good solid business ventures’.

 

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

 

I am a guitarist and vocalist in a band called Zero Navigator.  We have just completed our first album, produced by Martin Smith of ELO, and featuring percussion by Hossam Ramzy, he of Page & Plant, Peter Gabriel, Shakira fame.  We are currently filming a video for the first single, and will be on tour soon.  I think this is a good example of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, ‘It’s never too late to become what you might have been’!  Our website is at http://www.zeronavigator.com

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

 

I think that’s a really tough question!  There are characters who I see I would like to know, those I’d like to find out more about, those I feel sympathetic or paternal towards, those I feel could teach me a few useful lessons about life.  Actually, I think it would be interesting to raise the issue of autobiographical writing here.  How much of an author’s work is autobiographical?  I think we absorb so much from life – some of it good, some of it bad.  We take in events and circumstances, we deal with them (or not), we recover, we carry on, we try our best with everything we do.  Sometimes we get it right, other times we get it wrong.  That is life, and that is living.  As with any field of the arts – whether it be painting, sculpture, choreography, musical composition – the creator must draw on personal experience and personal perception in everything he or she creates.  I think that what we paint and what we write and what we sing are merely extensions of ourselves, and that extension grows from personal experience.  I think there are very few writers who write their own lives into novels, but I think there are a great deal who write their perceptions and conclusions and feelings about their own lives and the lives of others into the characters they create.  From that standpoint, every character I have ever created must have some small aspect of me within them…and that, in itself, could be quite a scary proposition!

 

Thank you so much Roger for being so honest and generous in your answers. You truly are testament to the journey and that if you have the talent and the belief you can make it. I am thrilled to have you in the spotlight on my blog and I am sure your story will inspire the readers of this blog. Thank you so much.

Have a great day everyone!

 

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