Review of 2017: Matt Wesolowski

One of my standout books of this year was ‘Six Stories‘ by Matt Wesolowski. Now, having met Matt on several occasions this year, I can also say he’s one of the nicest people I have ever met! 

Matt read at Noir at the Bar Newcastle in February this year and his reading went down a storm. I went home and read ‘Six Stories‘ straight away! And I’m not the only one who loved it – but I’ll let Matt tell you all about that…

Vic x


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Seeing reviews of Six Stories in the national press was hugely astounding and humbling. When I got the email from Fox Searchlight about making it into a film, I thought someone was winding me up!

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I loved every single one of the literary festivals I was privileged enough to attend. Meeting fellow writers and readers alike was such a pleasure.

Favourite book in 2017?
So many to mention! But some real stand outs were Girls on Fire by Rabin Wasserman, Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant and These Darkening Days by Benjamin Myers.

Favourite film in 2017?
I really enjoyed Hounds of Love, a really gritty and brutal drama based on Australia’s most notorious serial killer couple David and Catherine Birnie. I like a film that can make you walk out of the cinema coated in a sheen of dirt.

Favourite song of the year?
I got really into a band called Batushka who combine Gregorian chanting and Eastern Orthodox imagery with the most amazing black metal.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My little boy broke his femur in September and is only just back on his feet now. That was so hard for him as he’s such an active kid. When he went under the anaesthetic, that was the only time I cried in 2017.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
No, resolutions only end up in disappointment when you don’t keep them. I’m disappointing enough without that!

That is absolutely not true! What are you hoping for from 2018?
More books and more time to read them.

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Review of 2017: Emma Whitehall

Today, we have another member of Elementary Writers on the blog to review her 2017. Emma Whitehall is not just a member of my writing group but a real friend.

If you get the opportunity to read her work, or see her perform it, I recommend you do so! I’ve had the privilege of working with her while she developed her collection ‘Clockwork Magpies’ which I am convinced will be insanely popular when it’s released. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
It’s a tie. I went to Ireland for a literary festival in July, and I started a 3-month volunteer position at Mslexia in September. One of my stories was shortlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction award this year, and I was invited to read at the launch in Bantry, just outside of Cork. I went alone, and it was such an amazing adventure! Not only did I get to spend some time in a phenomenally beautiful setting, I started every day by hiking up a huge hill to take a short story course with Alissa Nutting, who wrote Tampa. I’ll never forget it!

Working with the Mslexia team has been amazing, too. All the girls on the team are brilliant, and I’ve learned so much about working for a magazine. I’ve even written one or two pieces! 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My gym-nut brother bought me a Fitbit a few months ago, and it has literally changed my life. I try about walk about 5-6 miles a day (including moving about at work), and I’ve lost 10lb in about 2 months! It’s become a stress antidote; there are days when I really can’t wait to put my trainers on, find a good podcast (I’m nearing the end of The Adventure Zone right now), and go for a nice long walk…

Favourite book in 2017?
Oh, this is a tricky one! I’d probably have to say T.E. Grau’s They Don’t Come Home Anymore, which is a brilliant novella about toxic friendships, obsession, and vampires. Through reviewing for Unnerving magazine, I’ve read a lot of really amazing indie horror this year.

Favourite film in 2017?
Stranger Things. I know I’m being contrary with that answer, but it’s structured more like an 8-hour film than a TV show, and the characters have stayed with me much more than any that I’ve seen in the cinema this year. Winona Ryder is incredible, and Millie Bobby Brown should get any role she wants for the rest of her career. 

Favourite song of the year?
My Tyrant”, by Felix Hagan and the Family. On the one hand, it’s a song about a turbulent, possibly unhealthy relationship…but it’s also about being totally, joyfully in love (or lust) with someone. It’s a raucous song that’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to – much to my partner’s chagrin…

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Sadly, I lost my Leopard Gecko, Ace, just before I went to Ireland. It was old age, and he went as quietly as you can hope, but I was devastated. He was my constant companion – even if we were doing our own thing, on opposite sides of the room, we were always doing it together. I never knew reptiles could be so funny, so sweet, and so full of personality before we got him. I miss him a lot. He won’t be my last pet, but, for now, I’m still getting over the loss.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
To keep going! I feel like, with a lot of things, I’m on the precipice; I’m about 3lb off my weight goal, I’ve had a few promising interactions with writing jobs (though I am still looking at the moment), I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted for a few awards, and my collection of short stories is very nearly done. I think I just need to keep pushing forward and not lose my nerve!

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I hope that, this time next year, I can hold a published copy of my collection in my hands.

Review of 2017: Trevor Wood

Trevor Wood is yet another writer I’ve been lucky to get to know thanks to Noir at the Bar.

If you’d like to hear Trevor read, come along to Noir at the Bar in Newcastle on Wednesday 21st February.

2017 has been a great year for Trevor but I’ll let him tell you all about it.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
No question about this one.  I sent my first novel When A Fire Starts To Burn to Oli Munson at A M Heath at 4.30pm on October 3.  The next morning I got a very encouraging e-mail saying that he’d started reading it on the train home the previous evening and was greatly enjoying it. Watch this space. I stared at my e-mail in-basket for the rest of the day until at 4pm that day I got another message saying that he’d like to talk the following morning and at the end of that call he said that he’d like to sign me up. I know from bitter experience that this JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. Sometimes I still think I dreamt the whole thing. I know there’s still a long way to go but support and hope is a lovely thing.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
So many to choose from: reading from the above novel for the first time at Noir at the Bar (thanks Vic!), the astonishing turn-out at Jeremy Corbyn’s rally in Gateshead which convinced my that the General Election wasn’t going to be as bad as I’d feared, my wife’s 60th birthday party, held jointly with another friend, at the fabulous Alphabetti Theatre – probably the last event there before they moved across town; celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a large group of friends in a beautiful villa in Malaga; spending 3 weeks around Vancouver in the summer including a week on the idyllic Mayne Island. Any of those would do in a normal year.

Favourite book in 2017?
I’ve just completed the inaugural two-year, part-time Crime Fiction MA at UEA, which I’d hugely recommend – guest writers have included Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina and Mark Billingham and the course has been a real inspiration. Anyway, the upshot of that is that I’ve read a huge number of crime novels in the past two years and the best of them by some distance was Darktown by Thomas Mullen, which I only finished a couple of weeks ago.  Set in post-war Atlanta it examines the problems in establishing the first black police force at a time of huge corruption and overt racism. Beautifully written, evocative, hugely entertaining and enlightening.

Favourite film in 2017?
I love movies and generally go at least twice a month but not sure that this has been a great year. My favourite films have been Wind River – an atmospheric thriller set on an Indian Reservation with a great turn from Jeremy Renner and Get Out, a creepy but darkly comic satire on racism in the US.  However, hands down the best film I’ve seen this year was Nocturnal Animals.  Saw it in the cinema last year and was astonished that it didn’t get a best film Oscar nomination so watched it again this year on DVD and can confirm that the Academy members were wrong and I’m right. It’s a nigh-on perfect film beautifully shot by fashion designer turned director Tom Ford with amazing, visceral performances from Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal aren’t half bad either. It’s dark as treacle but utterly mesmerising.

Favourite song of the year?
I’m always seeking out new music and discovered several new artists that I’ve taken to my heart this year including young British up-and-comers Loyle Carner and Rex Orange County and the American band The National – I have no idea how I’d previously missed the latter as they’ve been around for years but I’m a bit of an addict now and enjoying catching up on their extensive back catalogue. Check out their terrific new album Sleep Well Beast. However, my favourite song of the year by a country mile is We Are Your Friends by the French band Justice.  I saw them at Glastonbury, last thing on the Sunday night. It’s the fifth year in a row I’ve managed to get tickets and I know that I’m not at my best by the last night so to win me over then is no mean achievement. My wife and daughter went to the Pyramid Stage to see Ed Sheeran but I didn’t fancy it so went to see Justice at the West Holts stage instead on our friends’ recommendation. They blew me away completely. The whole performance was fabulous, great music, amazing light show and I danced my socks off.  This song was the highlight though, an utterly joyous moment, the massive crowd was so exuberant and when they all chanted We Are Your Friends in unison, for a moment I actually believed they were. I understand that some of this exuberance may have been artificially stimulated – not mine though, obviously. This video captures those three minutes perfectly. Just look at those faces.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
One of the reasons I was so thrilled to sign with Oli Munson towards the end of the year was that I had chosen to part company with my previous agent about six months earlier. It was a difficult decision but it just didn’t feel like a good fit and after a year of representing me I still hadn’t been able to get a face-to-face meeting with him. Obviously it paid off in the end but there were many times during that agent-less period when I felt a little isolated and wondered if I’d made the right decision.
I also failed to retain my Fantasy Football Championship title and have to hand the magnificent trophy over to someone else at the end of the year. I don’t like to talk about that though.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I’m not big on resolutions but have lots of plans.  I’ve started on a sequel to When A Fire Starts To Burn, so I hope to have that finished next year though some of it will be written on the road as my wife has a sabbatical so we’re heading back to Canada for a couple of months in May.  As it’s a fallow year for Glastonbury, four of us are heading to the Sziget Festival in Budapest in August which should be a proper adventure – it’s set on an island in the middle of the Danube and always attracts a great line-up. And I have a very big birthday next year which coincides with my daughter’s 21st so we’re planning a major party somewhere in Newcastle.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A publishing deal.
The cancellation of Brexit.
The impeachment of Donald Trump.

Review of 2017: LJ Ross

Two years ago, I was invited a fabulous party to celebrate the release of a wonderful woman’s second book. That book was ‘Sycamore Gap‘ by LJ Ross.  

Today, the seventh book in the DCI Ryan series – ‘Dark Skies‘ – is released and I cannot wait to read it!  Louise is a prolific writer and she deserves every success, it is a pleasure to know her. 

For those of you who are based in the North East, I will be interviewing LJ Ross at Wallsend Library on Thursday, 22nd February. Tickets can be obtained from North Tyneside libraries. 

Vic x

 

Picture by Gareth Iwan Jones

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This has been an incredible year for DCI Ryan and I’m so grateful to all my readers. It’s hard to pick any one memory in particular, but it was an incredible feeling to have two of my books (Cragside and Dark Skies) reach UK #1 whilst still on pre-order and all seven books to be in the top 100 at the same time.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
We just got the keys for our new house in Northumberland, which is a special moment. It’s the first time in years I’ve been able to make a permanent move back to my home county, which I love, and it means I can be close to my family and my son can be near his grandparents.

Favourite book in 2017?
It isn’t a newly-released book, but I read The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson and thought it was excellent. The prose is crisp and manages to convey meaning without being unnecessarily wordy. It was also an excellent, claustrophobic study of how to write a book from the perspective of the killer.

Favourite film in 2017?
I’ve hardly found time to watch any films this year (which sounds very depressing!). However, I watched some goofy movies like Snatched with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. It wasn’t a great movie, but I’m a huge fan of Goldie so she can do no wrong in my eyes… I tend to watch old black and white movies like The 39 Steps, which I love.

Favourite song of the year?
I think my musical frame of reference stopped somewhere back in 2005 but, if we’re going by the song I’ve listened to most frequently this year, it would have to be anything from the Rocky IV soundtrack!

Any downsides for you in 2017?
I’m not sure if it is a true ‘downside’ but I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t read as many books as I’d like – which I intend to rectify in the near future!

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I always resolve to be the best person I can be, whether as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister or a friend. That’s always a good goal.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I’m hoping I won’t wake up and find it was all a wonderful dream! I want to write more stories and travel.

Review of 2017: L.V. Hay

Following in the footsteps of fellow Orenda author Thomas Enger, the lovely L.V. Hay reviews her 2017 today.

I’d like to thank Lucy and her stablemates at Orenda Books for taking the time to review their 2017 as well as their intrepid publisher Karen Sullivan for coordinating them so adroitly! 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Got to be not only publishing my crime debut The Other Twin with Orenda Books, but seeing my baby in WH Smith! I’ve always dreamed of seeing my novel on bookshelves, so to see it in a shop I go in all the time was amazing. I loved too that so many of my friends and people I know online took pictures of themselves with my book too. The support and goodwill has been wonderful and humbling.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I am blessed with a wonderful family and life generally, so it is hard to pick. I think this year though it was Halloween — it went on for what seems like ages because half term came early, so we ended up going to half a dozen Halloween events! I love seeing the kids dressed up and running about; this year it was especially clear nights all week too, we ended up in a haunted wood at one point.

Favourite book in 2017?
This is a really tough one, because I’ve read SO many great books this year! I think I can narrow it down to three: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (a brilliantly flawed, enigmatic female lead in a compelling scenario – my favourite);  The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker (been out a few years, but satisfied my dystopian leanings and an unusual male lead and story of redemption); plus The Mine by Antti Tuomainen – a fellow Orenda author – I’m a sucker for a hitman story, so to see one in an eco thriller too was just fab.

Favourite film in 2017?
I think Blade Runner 2049 was my favourite film this year. I loved the big ideas in it, plus the film noir-style mystery. Plus the way it revealed the seedy underbelly of the future, making commentary about the way things are now, was masterful. It’s a film with many layers, just like all Denis Villeneuve’s movies are. It requires repeat viewings to fully be appreciated. I like that blockbusters aren’t so shallow any more.

Favourite song of the year?
It’s a bit of an old one, but we love Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars in my house. This one never fails to get us dancing around the kitchen. We also like anything by The Weekend.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
The sexual harassment/abuse allegations coming out of Hollywood and Parliament have been really tough — my day job is working as a script editor for movies, so obviously I know some people who have been directly affected by all this. What’s been toughest for me though is the number of people, including women, lining up to minimise people’s experiences, saying they’re ‘overreacting’ or ‘mistaken’ and a ‘smokescreen’ for those affected by ‘real’ abuse. No wonder it’s taken until 2017 for this to hit the spotlight. That said, I think a sea of change is happening at last.

Are you making resolutions for 2018? 
I rarely make resolutions, but I do look at the year ahead and decide what I would like to achieve and  when by (something so many people forget). I always write at least one book a year, whilst editing up to two others. This year, I’d like to try and write something else in addition to my crime novels. A dystopian YA piece maybe, or perhaps a feel-good piece about relationships in the style of Jojo Moyes, Eva Woods or Rowan Coleman. I have lots of ideas so will have to pin something down in my brain first. We’ll see!

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A bestseller would be cool; or perhaps some translations of my existing books. But really, I’m living my dream – I wanted to be a novelist and I wanted to be a script editor and I’m doing both! I’m so lucky and realise that, so want to try and help other writers achieve their dreams in 2018.

Review of 2017: Thomas Enger

Today we have Thomas Enger, author of the Henning Juul series, with us to review his year. It sounds like Thomas has had a very busy year but I’ll let him tell you all about it! 

Thanks to Thomas’s publisher, Orenda Books, we’ve got a sneak peak of the cover for Thomas’s next Henning Juul book – ‘Killed‘ – which is due out in February 2018. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I’ve had plenty in 2017, as I’ve been travelling quite a bit and my seventh novel was published in Norway, but for me I think the highlight must have been this year’s Bloody Scotland, not only because of the festival itself, the football game (in which I played and had a blast) and the spectacular setting, but also because of the panel I did with Ragnar Jonasson and Lin Anderson. Completely packed house, I played the piano in front of everybody (probably about 300 people), and everybody laughed at all the right places. That weekend was really special. The Orenda Roadshow we did after Granite Noir in Aberdeen, travelling to Corbridge, Leeds, Liverpool and Canterbury, was also amazing.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My morning swims followed by a cup of coffee by the sea while the sun dried my body, on the beautiful island of Korcula, Croatia.

Favourite book in 2017?
The Man Who Died, by Antti Tuomainen.

Favourite film in 2017?
Blade Runner 2049
.

Favourite song of the year?
Sink The Lighthouse
, by Alex Vargas/Above & Beyond

Any downsides for you in 2017?
I didn’t manage to finish a novel I was writing, and I just twisted my head a lot trying to get over the finishing line. But that’s what writing is, you know. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you planned or hoped for, and there are lessons to be learned in that, too.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
To write more and better. Oh, and to be a better man, of course.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
That Manchester United win the Premier and the Champions League, and that my loved ones stay healthy. I might as well throw world domination in there while I’m at it. I also have two, maybe even three, collaborations with exceptional fiction writers in the works. Would be nice to get those going as well. Oh, and that Christopher Nolan finally calls about that movie he wants me to score.

Review of 2017: Jennifer C Wilson

Today’s 2017 reviewer is Jennifer C Wilson. A prolific member of Elementary Writers, Jen has had a very successful year professionally speaking so I’ll let her tell you all about it. 

My thanks to Jen for being not only a pleasure to work with this year but a great friend. 

Vic x

Vic x

Hi Victoria,

Thanks for inviting me onto the blog today – and thanks for all your support this year; it’s been invaluable.

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I think it has to be the launch of Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile in town. For Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, it was lovely to have the online launch, and see friends in the pub afterwards for a couple of celebratory drinks, but to have an actual ‘event’ this time around was incredible. I was amazed at how many people came along, and seeing the books piled up (and then see those piles reducing) was the best feeling. Actually, that’s wrong. Having a queue of people waiting for me to sign copies of those books was the best feeling. Truly unbeatable, and absolutely addictive!

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Daft as it might sound, it was arriving in Oban, in September. It’s been a bit of a crazy year from time to time, but looking out across the bay, and breathing in that sea air, was fabulous. I’ve loved Oban since I was little, visiting for so many holidays, and I’ll never get bored of sitting in the apartment, watching the ferries and other boats come and go. This year, as well, the peace and calm was perfect for getting some more words into the WIP, and coming up with an idea that’s been muddling around my brain for a while.

Favourite book in 2017? 
I’ve been really lucky this year, having signed up to take part in some blog tours, to read some great fiction, after being away from it for so long. My favourite has been Watch for me by Moonlight by Kirsty Ferry. This is a timeslip romance, and I signed up because I was keen to see how other people had tackled the genre, and I absolutely adored the story.

Favourite film in 2017? 
I’m no film-buff – I rarely go to the cinema. But, the film I have enjoyed most this year has been Paddington. I really have to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and watch a whole film in one go, especially one I don’t know well, but my parents had decided to watch it, and I thought ‘why not?’. Turns out it was a good decision – it was a cracking film, good fun, and even happened to feature one of my favourite actors in a random cameo! And, I saw it just in time to go and see the second one!

Favourite song of the year? 
I really wish I was cooler sometimes – if it doesn’t make the Radio 2 playlist, I won’t know it. Having said that, I’ve always been a sucker for a good earworm, and the one which really got to me this summer was Reggaetón Lento from Little Mix. It seemed to be everywhere I went this year.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Not enough time! I suspect all writers feel like that, but this year my brain seems to have gone into overdrive, and is swimming with ideas, but I have so little time to write them all down. But this last month seems to have turned a corner, and I’m managing things a little better.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Absolutely. Firstly, I intend to get as many ideas down on paper as possible. Not in full, but as ‘something’ at least, a synopsis or a sketch idea. At least this way, when I do have time to sit and write, I already have a plan of sorts, and I can work to that.

In terms of projects, I’ve really enjoyed self-publishing The Last Plantagenet? this year, and have a couple of ideas which have been nagging at me along a similar, timeslip line, so I think I will try and publish another one in 2018. I’ve been wanting to write about an abbey and a white stag for years, and have finally had the idea that brings them together, so fingers crossed! Speaking of abbeys, I’m really hoping that the next Kindred Spirits novel can make an appearance too… What are you hoping for from 2018?
More of the good stuff from 2017, and less of the worry. This may be asking too much!

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.

Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, with Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile following in June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website. Her timeslip historical romance, The Last Plantagenet? Is available for download from Amazon.