Another day, another north-east writer! Today I’m introducing Mari Hannah, her debut novel ‘The Murder Wall’ is set in Newcastle and is available to buy and download now.
Mari, tell us about ‘The Murder Wall’.
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Vic.
‘THE MURDER WALL’ is my debut novel and it’s out now. I don’t want to give the plot away but I can tell you it’s a gritty crime thriller, the strap-line of which is: Who knows when a killer will call?
And this is the blurb: Eleven months after discovering a brutal double murder in a sleepy Northumbrian village, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels is still haunted by her failure to solve the case. Then a brutal killing of a man on Newcastle’s Quayside gives Daniels her first case as Senior Investigating Officer and another chance to get it right.
When Daniels recognizes the corpse but fails to disclose the fact, her personal life suddenly swerves into her professional life. But, much worse, she is now being watched.
As Daniels steps closer to finding a killer, a killer is only a breath away from claiming his next victim . . .
‘The Murder Wall’ was published by Goldmann in Germany last August under the title ‘ZEIN ZORN KOMME ÜBER UNS’.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always scribbled for my own pleasure but in 1994 I sustained a rather complicated wrist injury whilst on duty. I was off work for two years with my right arm in and out of plaster. An MRI found serious tissue damage and – to cut a long story short – I ended up having a complete wrist reconstruction which ended my career as a Probation Officer. Because it was difficult to write with a pen I began typing on a computer and never stopped. I now write full-time.
What are your plans now? Anything else in the pipeline?
Just to keep writing, as simple as that. I’m having a lot of fun and I’ve no plans to stop anytime soon.
I have a three book deal with Pan Macmillan and I’ve delivered all three. Lovers of crime fiction who liked ‘THE MURDER WALL’ don’t have long to wait for the follow-up in the Kate Daniels series. ‘SETTLED BLOOD’ will be published in November 2012. ‘THE LAST DECEPTION’ is a working title for book three but this will almost certainly change. It will be published next year.
Although it’s not yet under contract, I’ve already pressed send on book four – ‘MONUMENT TO MURDER’. My agent is busy with the London Book Fair 2012 just now and hasn’t read it yet. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of it.
What do you like most about writing?
I love the challenge of weaving a story together. I do a lot of preparation beforehand writing character biographies and such. Once the idea is a goer, I write a two sentence premise, a two page synopsis, and an outline of the book – a lengthy document of between ten to twenty pages long – that includes all the story beats. When I was scriptwriting, I used to use cards. I also pin-up visual influences: photos taken on location or just interesting faces I’ve cut out of the newspaper and built a character on.
I’ve heard people say they begin on page one and just go for it. That wouldn’t work for me. I need to convince myself that the story hangs together before one key is tapped. The outline is always there as a reference and gives me confidence that I’m heading in the right direction. That might sound prescriptive but it isn’t at all. I love it when something occurs during the writing process that I hadn’t envisaged before I began. It’s a good place to be.
What do you dislike (if anything)?
I’m not so different from my protagonist Kate Daniels. I can be obsessive at times and forget all else. I could do with getting the work/life balance on a more even keel. Writing is often a sacrifice of someone else’s time, not just your own. I need dragging away from the computer at times.
What inspires you to write?
In the beginning it was other people’s books. It’s wonderful to be immersed in a world someone has created. I’m a daydreamer by nature with a hell of an imagination. I also like puzzles. Writing crime combines the two.
Do you find time to read, if so what are you reading at the moment?
I read every night and through the day if I can manage it. Because I’m always reading my own stuff, I get less time than I used to. At present, I’m reading Val McDermid’s ‘The Retribution’.
Which author(s) has/have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Michael Connolly, Patricia Cornwell and Ian Rankin. Their debuts came out in the late eighties/early nineties which coincided with my discovery of crime fiction. I wasn’t a big reader as a child. When you come from an army family as I did – moving frequently and changing schools – you spend most of your free time trying to make new friends. That said, I’m glad I wasn’t shipped off to boarding schools like so many kids were. Maybe that’s where my imaginary friends came from. Who knows?
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine not being a writer. If you’d asked me if I wasn’t a crime writer what would I have been doing I would have said I’d like to have written for children. I love reading to kids, watching their faces as you tell them a story. I love buying books for kids too. When I was signing the other day, I couldn’t resist these two: ‘The Pirate Cruncher’ by Jonny Duddle and ‘Hugless Douglas’ by David Melling. Brilliant reads, brilliantly illustrated.
What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?
I’m very patient. You have to be. There are no short cuts in writing. You have to be prepared to do the hard yards and that takes a massive investment in time and effort. Then you find yourself an agent and you keep working while they do their job.
Not knowing when to down tools and walk away from my desk is my weakness.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just received my editor’s notes on book three. He loves it. Tackling this is next on my To Do list. Then when the copy-editor gets to work, I’ll plan for book five.
Where can we find you online?
My website is marihannah.com. People can contact me at info@marihannah. I am also on Twitter: @mariwriter
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
For those trying to break into publishing, it’s a hard road. I sent my manuscript out numerous times and was rejected over and over. Get used to it. Rejections (my agent prefers to call them passes) happen, even to agented writers. They might be nicer ones, but they still hurt. Looking back, I now know that in the very early years I was sending work out that wasn’t ready to be seen. Editors and agents were right to turn me down, even though at the time I thought it was the very best that I could do. It wasn’t. There was room for improvement. Still is.
That said, have the confidence to show your work to others: I know that’s easier said than done but it’s a necessary hurdle. Do enter competitions. You may not win but it will improve your writing. If you live in the north, look out for the Northern Writers’ Awards. They do make a difference to your CV if you win as I did. There are similar competitions all over the country.
It’s hard getting over the initial embarrassment of sending your work out with a little voice inside your head telling you it’s not good enough. But it has to stand up to independent scrutiny. Network your head off: Take every opportunity to meet agents, publishers and/or producers if it’s screenwriting you’re into. You may be nervous – in fact you WILL be nervous – but remember you only have five minutes to impress: so practice your pitch.
Always, always make sure that your material is presented beautifully, in the right format and addressed correctly. It’s been said before but it’s a waste of money sending manuscripts to agents who aren’t interested in your chosen genre. Since I won a writing award, people have occasionally asked me to critique their work. I’m astonished by the lack of care taken. It’s a sure fire way that it will hit the bin.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you have an interesting background put it in your submission letter. Always read the submission guidelines and do read around the subject of publication. For example, Carole Blake’s ‘FROM PITCH TO PUBLICATION’ is advice from a top literary agent. Stephen King’s ‘ON WRITING’ is a book about how he became a writer – his story. There are sections in it that contain such good advice. For example: It’s okay to write in your own vocabulary, however limited that might be.
What’s been your proudest moment?
In life? That would have to be plural: the birth of my two kids.
In my writing life? Also plural: being offered a contract by Oli Munson at Blake Friedmann. Winning the Northern Writers’ Award 2010. Getting a three book deal with Pan Macmillan. Walking into Waterstones in Newcastle last Friday for my first signing. Being invited to speak at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2012. I could go on . . .
I’d like to give my thanks to Mari for spending time talking with me today. Best of luck with the books Mari!
You can download ‘The Murder Wall’ here: http://amzn.to/I2NSWl
Order your paperback copy of ‘The Murder Wall’ here: http://amzn.to/I2NXsY