Monday, 13 February 2017

The End. Again.

Today's a day of mixed emotions. I'm simultaneously relieved and nervous, excited and weary... because, late last night, I completed the first draft of another book. I've been working on this story (a historical thriller, set in Switzerland and America during the 40s and 50s) for almost a year now, and it's been a lot of fun to write... even if I didn't have the ending fully worked out until a few weeks ago!
So now I have a draft manuscript, littered with mistakes and notes about things I have to change. Normally, I'd take a few weeks off, then go back to it and start reworking the text. However, this time, I have a dilemma: there's another manuscript!
Some of you may know that I completed the first draft of a psychological thriller last year, a contemporary story set in London. As I said at the time, I found that book particularly difficult to write and, rather than continuing straight on into a cycle of edits and redrafts, I decided to take a break from it, and write something else. The idea was to give myself some distance, some perspective, so that I could return to it with fresh eyes...
So, now I'm faced with an unusual choice. Which book do I work on? Both stories are important to me, but I'm really not sure which one I should take forward first...
That was the thought that started nagging at me when I woke this morning. And then it occurred to me that maybe this isn't the moment to choose. Maybe I'll take a week or two away from both of them, and immerse myself in some different stories for a while. My pile of books-to-be-read is getting out of control and, after all those late nights and uncertain endings, I think I've earned some quality reading time!

Monday, 21 November 2016


It's like that moment in a suspense film. You know, the bit where the tone of the music subtly shifts to a minor key. The main character may still be oblivious to it, but we know that something's about to happen.
Anyway, that's the feeling - a first flicker of excitement or a dawning sense of dread, and no way to know which it's going to be. Yes, it's time to get some feedback on the book I'm writing.
This one's quite a departure for me - historical thriller, rather than contemporary crime - but still a very personal story with plenty of murder and intrigue. I should point out that it's not actually finished - not yet - but most of the story is now in place, and I want to understand how readers will relate to the characters and the structure of the narrative. Unfortunately, the only way to achieve this is to let people read it.
It may seem strange to spend months and months writing something, and then be reluctant for others to read it, but this always seems to be the way with new stories. It's like sending a tiny loved-one off to their first day of school, and hoping that they will make friends and do well for themselves.
Hence that strange mix of feelings - excitement and dread - and an agonising wait for feedback. Fingers crossed!

Monday, 23 May 2016


I've just come back from CrimeFest 2016 - the best CrimeFest ever, in my opinion - and, after a weekend of catching up with people in Bristol, I thought I should post a brief update here on my blog as well.
As I've probably mentioned before, I spent the last year or so writing a new standalone novel - a psychological thriller, set around Hampstead Heath and Highgate. I've now completed a couple of drafts, though it will still need some more time and thought before it's ready for editing. However, in the meantime, a couple of other projects have cropped up and distracted me. One in particular has been niggling at me for over a year now, and I've reached the point where I just need to get the new story on paper. Hopefully, once that's done, I can go back to the psychological thriller with a clearer head. Apologies for the delay!
Anyway, that's quite enough about me. How are you..?

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Bridge III

I resent the producers of The Bridge. Not because of what they did to one of my favourite characters at the end of season 2. No, I resent them because they've made me care. They've made me care so much, that I've violated my own sacred rule about not watching episodes of a crime series until all the episodes are available to stream online.
And now I'm regretting it. I have to wait a whole week for the next instalment, even though my head is buzzing with the story right now. I don't ev
en know if this series will be any good - I may have committed to something that will ultimately disappoint, and I won't know until it's too late...

...because for me, it's already too late. Last night's double bill dragged me straight back into The Bridge universe and rekindled all of the emotional investment I felt through the previous two series. So now I find myself resenting the producers, but there's a way they can make it up to me... if this series is anything like as good as the ones that came before it, all will be forgiven!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Best Seat In The House

People ask why fictional detectives are so often dysfunctional figures. Why can't we have nice, well-adjusted detectives, with happy families and settled lives?
And the answer? Because that would be… ordinary. And if something is too ordinary, it becomes boring. The strength of crime fiction is that it allows us to escape the mundane and go to extremes, seeing people at their worst and their best. So it shouldn't surprise us that fictional detectives are often broken, or haunted, or crippled by a tragic past… anything to make them more interesting.
But I like to go further.
Why should we spend all our time with the detective when we can spend some quality time with the villain? After all, "police procedural" stories have been done so well, and so often… why not focus more on a wildcard character? Why not focus on the murderer?
As soon as we take the killer's viewpoint, everything changes. The normal rules no longer apply – anything can happen when your character isn't bound by the law, or by rational thinking.
Anything can happen.
I like that as a starting point for a story.
But of course, writing from the villain's perspective has its own challenges. Most of us (I hope!) would find it difficult to empathise with a mindless thug or a sadistic monster; if the killer is entirely evil, we're unlikely to have anything in common with them. And without some common ground, it's difficult to empathise.
Perhaps that's why I prefer more complex characters – characters that you can't immediately gauge, who surprise you, who make you feel things you might not expect to feel. I want you to like my villains (well, some of them, some of the time) because that allows you to get closer to them. I want to let you get right inside their heads… because that’s the best seat in the house.
Yes, it’s dramatic when we read about a character doing something shocking. But I believe our experience is much more intense when we understand, when we’re so close to the action that we can see the world through the killer’s eyes.

So if you find yourself liking a villain, or feeling sympathy towards them, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, that’s the author’s intention. Because sometimes, that’s just where you need to be, to best experience the story.

Eye Contact for 99p

I was beginning to think it would never happen, but my first novel EYE CONTACT has finally had a price reduction. Part of the Amazon's Autumn Kindle Sale, the ebook is currently just 99p - a huge saving on the normal price.
And, because Kobo and iBooks seem to track and match Amazon discounts, it's just 99p on those formats too!
So if you haven't read the first book in the Harland series, this is your chance. Just click the link below...


Thursday, 27 August 2015

And breathe...

Well, that was quite a bit tougher than I thought it would be! If I've been a little quiet over the last year, it's partly because I've been finding it extremely hard to complete the first draft of my new book. I know quite a few authors who sail close to (or right past) their deadlines but, up until now, I've always been okay about hitting my dates. However, in this case I didn't have a particular deadline and, until the last few months when the words started to come more quickly, I wondered if the journey would ever end.
This book is something of a departure for me. Having previously written 3 full-length novels and a novella for my Detective Harland series, I was now being asked to do something different, ideally set in London rather than Bristol. I had an idea for a standalone psychological thriller, so I started typing.

That was just over a year ago.

This week, I finally completed the first draft. I’m not sure why it took so long, or why I found it so difficult. All the books have been an effort, but this one was so much harder, and I frequently found myself hating it. Perhaps it was because I missed spending time in Bristol, or perhaps because I missed my familiar series characters. Certainly, I realised early on that I was spending an awful lot of time getting into the head of a character who I didn’t really get on with.
I discussed all this with Anya Lipska at CrimeFest earlier in the year, and she pointed out that I probably enjoyed writing the charismatic serial killer in my first two books “because he enjoys what he does”. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’m convinced that Anya knows a thing or two.
So it's been a long and difficult road, but I’ve finally reached that exciting first milestone: a complete draft. The characters and their stories have all changed quite a lot along the way, and I know that the book will change a lot more before it sees the light of day. But at least I’ve made it this far – ninety thousand joined-up words, with a beginning, middle, and end. And, having made it this far, I can finally unload the story from my head for a while – it’s been evolving and replaying in a continuous loop for quite long enough! But as I reached the latter stages of the book, something strange happened.
As you may know, I try to write "on location" as much as possible. Last weekend, I spent the morning in Highgate, writing one of the final chapters, then moved across to South End Green, to type up some notes for another scene. At the end of the afternoon, I finally left the café where I’d been writing, and walked towards the bus stop. I actually found myself slowing, turning around and looking back towards the café, towards the path that leads up onto Hampstead Heath, towards the road where my main character lives…
…and I realised that I was really going to miss all this. It sounds silly and sentimental, particularly after all that grumbling about how difficult this book has been. And I know I'm very far from finished. I know I'll spend days and weeks on the manuscript, editing and polishing...
But the story has happened now. For me, all those events are essentially "in the past".
You know how, when you're reading a book that really involves you, and you come to the end, and it leaves a sort of gap? Well, this story has certainly involved me, and the gap it's left behind is a big one.
Of course, it’s barely been 24 hours since I finished. I know I'll feel better, especially when I can enjoy a whole weekend relaxing, without spending half of it in another city. I'll be glad it's over.
And yet, I can already glimpse the sparks of new ideas, jostling for my attention. Part of me always wants to be writing. But next time around, I'm going to remember Anya's advice. Whatever I write next, I’m going to try and spend more time with a character who really enjoys what they do!