Tag Archives: story

Guest Post: Jennifer C Wilson on the living dead.

cover on devicesHave you ever thought about what the dead get up when you’re not looking? Not in a terrifying, trying to drive you out of your house sort of way, just in a ‘getting on with their own lives’ sort of way? That’s what got me thinking, and what led to me writing Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, my debut novel, published in October 2015 (international Amazon link here, to take you to the country of your choice), and currently just 99p/c in the Crooked Cat Easter Sale.

Come and find out what Richard III, Anne Boleyn, Queen Jane Grey and a host of others talk about whilst we’re not listening, and what they get up to when the staff of the Tower of London are busy elsewhere. With family feuds having had centuries to build up, star-crossed couples trying to find each other, and a certain King of England looking for a certain pair of princes, there’s always plenty going on, and especially in the greatest historical prison England has ever seen!

If you do dip a toe and take a chance of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London this Easter, and you like what you read, then my second novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming in June 2017, and I’d love you to attend the online launch party – click here for more information. We’ll be having virtual food and drink, there’ll be music and, of course, a couple of book-related competitions.

Hope to see you there!

JenniferCWilson-HolyroodPalace

 

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; she (and it) can be found online at her blog, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s blog.

Getting to Know You: Tana Collins

tana-flyer

It’s my pleasure today to welcome Tana Collins on the penultimate stop of her blog tour. I met Tana at the first Edinburgh Noir at the Bar and I’m thrilled that she’s appearing at the Newcastle NatB tonight. 

Tana’s novel ‘Robbing the Dead‘ was released by Bloodhound Books earlier this month and is available to buy now. 

Thanks to Tana for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re near the Town Wall tonight, pop in – it’s free entry – and promises to be a criminally good night. 

Vic x

Tana

Welcome to the blog, Tana. Tell us about your debut novel.
Robbing the Dead‘ is the first novel in the Inspector Jim Carruthers series set in the picturesque East Neuk of Fife.

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What inspired it?
Although it’s a work of fiction the inspiration for the novel comes from a true event that occurred in the early 1970s. I don’t want to say too much and give away any spoilers but it’s a tragic event that impacted on many people’s lives and still to this day continues to do so. I felt that whilst most of us have heard about the event very few know some of the details that make this story so human. I felt there was still a story to be told. 

Where do you get your ideas from?
Like most writers I have an inquisitive nature and am fascinated by people. I observe, listen and ask lots of questions. I decided my main cop, Inspector Jim Carruthers, should live in Anstruther in Fife. Early on into writing ‘Robbing the Dead‘ my partner and I went there for a long weekend so I could do some research. We walked in to the Dreel Tavern which I had reckoned might be Carruthers’ watering hole. I decided I needed to engage with the locals so I went up to the bar on my own with my drink and slapped a notebook and pen down. Within minutes a local had sidled up and asked me in a suspicious voice what I was doing. He had decided I was a tax inspector! That could end up a story in itself! I told him I was a writer and that the Dreel was going to be my main character’s favourite pub. I then asked him rather cheekily what he had to hide thinking I was a tax inspector! Within minutes half a dozen folk had come over telling me their stories of Anstruther, including the story of the resident pub ghost!

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
My main character is a male police inspector, DCI Jim Carruthers. One of my female friends indignantly asked me why my inspector wasn’t a woman. I replied that I wanted Carruthers to be a man. He was always going to be a man and he’s still my favourite character, although DS Andrea Fletcher, as his assistant, is definitely starting to come in to her own. Interestingly, now I’ve written three books, I’ve noticed that more of my personality has gone in to Jim Carruthers but more of my life experiences in to Andrea Fletcher.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?The best piece of advice came from crime writer Peter Robinson. He was talking about writer’s block. He said that often writer’s block occurs because you are in the head of the wrong character in that particular scene. This piece of advice has served me well.

What can readers expect from your books?
Fast paced action and plenty of it! ‘Robbing the Dead‘ has been described as an ‘edge of your seat’ crime thriller. All three books start with a murder, if not in the first scene, definitely very early on and the death count just continues to rise. I like to write interesting stories often based on historical or contemporary events with political overtones. But I also like to have strong and believable characters that my readers will be able to engage with!

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! I can’t tell you how close ‘Robbing the Dead‘ came to ending up in the knicker drawer. And the truth of it is that early on it just wasn’t good enough to be published. It had two massive rewrites and I’m delighted I persevered. Ten years later with three books under my belt I started to approach publishing companies and landed a three book deal with Bloodhound Books. It was officially published on 14th February and I have been thrilled by the reviews! Read everything you can get your hands on in your genre. Hang out with other writers. Critique each other’s work. Go to book festivals. Last bit of advice would be get yourself a good editor before approaching publishers.

How do you feel about appearing at Noir at the Bar?
This will be my second Noir at the Bar event and I’m very excited. Like most writers I love to talk about my book and I love to meet readers and other writers. I feel honoured to be invited to speak and share a excerpt from my debut novel. I’m also looking forward to hearing other writers, new and well established, speak.

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What do you like and dislike about writing?
There is nothing that makes me happier than being given a blank piece of paper at the start of writing a novel. I love crafting a story and developing the characters. I also enjoy the research. I don’t do much drafting as I like to watch the novel evolve organically which can be dangerous. The worst? The crippling bouts of self- doubt during the writing process! 

Are you writing anything at the moment?
I’m just about to start an edit on the second novel, ‘Care to Die’, which is being published on 25th April 2017. The third novel, ‘Mark of the Devil’, is currently with my first reader. I’m contemplating a fourth book in the series so there’s a few ideas swirling around in my head.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
I think it has to be meeting my all time hero, Peter Robinson, on a writing course given by him in Tallinn. It was thrilling receiving tuition from someone who was also writing his latest Inspector Banks story which needed to be set in a European city! When ‘Watching the Dark‘ was finally published we found out that, as his students, we were all named in the acknowledgements! A wonderful moment.

Review of 2016: Ever Dundas

That very well-connected Shelley Day not only introduced us to Catherine Simpson t’other day, but she’s also encouraged the fab Ever Dundas to be a part of our 2016 review.

Thanks for being a part of it, Ever! 

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
It has to be my agent calling me to say Freight Books had put in an offer for my novel ‘Goblin‘. Weirdly, the first person I told about it was Terry Gilliam. I’d received the call just as I was rushing out to see him unveil the Don Quixote quote for Edinburgh City of Literature’s Words on the Street. By the time I got there it was all over, but I knew he was heading back to London so I impulsively jumped on his train and possibly maybe babbled at the poor man. It just felt like a strange kind of serendipity, as his film ‘Tideland‘ was an influence on ‘Goblin‘ and it felt amazing to be able to tell him that. ‘Time Bandits‘ also played a part in my love of storytelling when I was a kid.

I was also thrilled when it was confirmed that my husband would be designing the cover for ‘Goblin‘ (which will be revealed in the new year).

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
A holiday to Oxford and London with my husband. In Oxford we visited locations where the film ‘Accident‘ was filmed. I’m a big Dirk Bogarde fan, so walking in his footsteps felt amazing and a little melancholy.

Another highlight was visiting Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Part of my novel is set in WWII London when my protagonist, Goblin, is a kid. She spends a lot of time in Kensal Green Cemetery and I’d researched it online – reading about it, looking at photographs and maps. I was worried it would disappoint, but it was perfect. I actually got goosebumps – I could clearly see Goblin and her dog Devil running round the cemetery.

Making it down to Oxford and London felt like a real achievement too. I have fibromyalgia (chronic pain and exhaustion) and my world had shrunk because of it. I was quite anxious about travelling, but I implemented some coping strategies (pacing, using a wheelchair off and on) I learned on a Pain Course and it worked. It was a struggle, but it was manageable. It’s still not easy for me to get around, but my world has opened up again.

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Favourite book in 2016?
I re-read ‘Annihilation‘ by Jeff VanderMeer for book group and loved it all over again – it’s unnerving, disturbing and beautiful. Definitely one I’ll keep returning to.

If ‘Annihilation‘ is one of the best novels I’ve read, ‘The Lonely City‘ by Olivia Laing is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve had the pleasure to immerse myself in; a brilliant incisive book that faces the taboo of loneliness head-on.

I was going to mention Naomi Alderman’s novel ‘The Power‘, but I’ve written about that elsewhere, so instead I’ll highlight my favourite short story of 2016 – Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life‘ (the Denis Villenueve film ‘Arrival‘ was based on it). I stumbled across this truly stunning, well-crafted story in a sci-fi omnibus. It’s a fascinating slow-burner that’s both a cerebral and an emotional journey and it blew me away.

Favourite film in 2016?
Without a doubt, it has to be ‘High Rise‘. I’m a JG Ballard fan and this felt like the perfect adaptation of his novel. Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley really brought the novel to life, injecting it with wry humour. The acting was all superb (if I was to cast my fantasy movie version of ‘Goblin‘ it would include most of the cast from ‘High Rise‘) and the design was delicious. It’s a very relevant film, and Portishead’s melancholy SOS sums up how many people feel about 2016.

I also adore Karyn Kusama’s ‘The Invitation‘, which seriously creeped me out. The less you know about it the better – just get your hands on it.

Favourite song of the year?
I’ve had Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart‘ on repeat. The video with Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf is very powerful.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
The world is on fire.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Use social media differently. I find it sucks up too much of my headspace – I need more time to think.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
My first novel, ‘Goblin‘, comes out in 2017 and I’m hoping it will do well enough for me to continue in my career as a writer.

I hope I can help put out the 2016 fire in any small way I can. I will raise awareness of disability and chronic illness and how broken and needlessly punitive the benefits system is. I will work to eradicate speciesism and I will be a voice that celebrates difference, multiplicity and complexity. As Joanna Bourke said, here’s to “being more than human.”

Review of 2016: Catherine Simpson

Friend of the blog, Shelley Day recommended the lovely Catherine Simpson to review her 2016. It’s always fun to find new authors and, from what I’ve been told, Catherine is definitely one to watch! You can find Catherine on Twitter and at her website.

Thanks for being involved in the 2016 review, Catherine – hope to host you again soon! 

Vic x

Catherine Simpson

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My novel Truestory came out late 2015 with Sandstone Press so the first half of 2016 was largely spent promoting it and there were some great moments, including appearing at Aye Write in Glasgow, having my own event at the National Library of Scotland and sharing an event at Edinburgh Central Library with my daughter, Nina, for Autism Awareness Week (Nina is autistic and it was raising her that inspired my novel).

This year I also mentored two young writers for the Scottish Book Trust’s fantastic ‘What’s Your Story’ project and I was honoured to work with Artlink Edinburgh to write about the experiences of autistic people for the Midlothian autism strategy.

Central Library event

These are all happy professional memories but probably the most surreal memory was in February arriving at Hawthornden Castle in Midlothian for a writing fellowship and standing in my tiny castle bedroom overlooking the old keep, which was glittering with frost, knowing I was to share this amazing place with five strangers for a month.

Aye Write

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
This year my husband and I pulled off a long-standing plan – to get our younger daughter settled at university and then move back into Edinburgh city centre from out of town. It went like clockwork. Lara moved to Glasgow to begin her degree in Education on the Monday and we moved to a flat right in the heart of the city on the Thursday.

Favourite book in 2016?
I’ve been getting more and more interested in poetry this year and have been rather pre-occupied with the subject of death so I have particularly appreciated Undying, by Michel Faber and The Drift by Hannah Lavery. 

the-drift

Favourite film in 2016?
I tend to watch films years after they come out – I recently watched Capote (2005) about the selfish, obsessive Truman Capote and how he came to write In Cold Blood. I also saw Little Voice (1998, for goodness sake!) about a young girl obsessed with 1950s/60s singers – a character that my daughter pointed out was autistic.

Favourite song of the year?
Not new either but Wanted on Voyage by George Ezra was stuck in my car CD for the first six months of the year.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
The never-ending terrorist attacks have been shocking.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I love nothing more than to set a goal or two at this time of year.

During 2016 I completed the first draft of what I hope will be my next book – a memoir about the suicide of my sister. In 2017 I plan to rework it into a final version.

I will also write a series of smaller pieces inspired by Dunbar to perform at Coastword Festival.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I am looking forward to seeing my novel Truestory translated into Danish and published in Denmark.

I am Creative Writing Fellow for Tyne & Esk Writers until March 2017 – and I look forward to supporting the very talented and dedicated writers in the groups.

I am also delighted to be a Writer in Residence at Coastword Festival – a small but perfectly formed festival of music and word – to be held in Dunbar in May 2017. I hope for a sunny weekend shared with lots of super-talented artists of all kinds.

Review of 2016: Angela Readman

I’ve been so spoiled this December and the advent treats continue: today award-winning writer Angela Readman is here to review her year.

As always, it’s a pleasure to host Angela. Thanks for being involved, Angela!

Vic x

Angela Readman

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
The beginning of the year was wonderful professionally. I won The Mslexia Short Story Prize, and on the same day I found out my short story collection ‘Don’t Try This at Home (And other Stories)’ had been shortlisted in The Edgehill Prize. I didn’t win, but it was an honour to get so far. It’s a lot more than I imagined. I also won the Fish Short Memoir Competition which was something new for me, I’ve never tried memoir before. I sent it out as an experiment to see if just writing about me was OK.

This was also the year I published poetry again, my collection ‘The Book of Tides’ came out with Nine Arches in November. It has been so long since my last one it meant more to me than I can say.

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I really want to have one, but I’m struggling. 2016 seems like the year the world got meaner I don’t want to think it’s just the way we are as a species, so I suppose my favourite thing has been little articles about kindness that pop us sometimes. Someone walking into a school and paying all the unpaid balances on school meals, pay it forward, communities coming together to support people, groups that yarn bomb places to try and make someone smile- that sort of stuff. It’s small, but it gives me hope for us.

Favourite book in 2016?
I don’t get a lot of books during the year, I have to wait until Christmas, but I loved Shelley Day’s novel ‘The Confession of Stella Moon‘. Alice Oswald’s ‘Falling Awake‘ was a poetry collection that impressed me. Every year I try to read some books I’ve never got around to before. I was blown away by Shirley Jackson and read Carson Mccullers for the the first time this year. ‘The Ballad of the Sad Cafe‘ is something I know I’ll be reading every year or so for the rest of my life.

Favourite film in 2016?
I loved ‘Dark Horse‘. It’s a documentary about a bunch of ordinary people who come together to buy a racehorse. I loved seeing people live out a dream, however unlikely it is. I also loved ‘The Lobster‘, so strange, sad and unsettling. It’s such a powerful story of conformity and its costs.

Favourite song of the year?
I was stunned by Lorde’s cover of ‘Life on Mars‘. She did it her own way,  it was a remarkable, respectful and fitting tribute.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Politics, hatred, a lack of tolerance and failure to accept other people seems to be wherever I turn. It feels like this is on the increase, it’s been a sad and worrying year. On a career level, I’m in a curious place of working hard, but so much of it seems to be dealing with admin. It’s one of the things no one tells you I think, that once you’re published there can be less chance to write sometimes. It’s just part of the job, it’s part of life these days I suppose. I haven’t found a way to do it without working longer hours.  I dream of retreats and walks by the sea while I work at weekends to catch up with mail.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I start each year hoping to keep writing. I also like to form a reading resolution, sometimes it will be read a poem a day, sometimes it’s read a short story a day, or make an effort to read more work by small presses, it depends. I haven’t decided exactly yet, but there’s always a book resolution. Last year’s was to finally read Roald Dahl’s short stories.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I really hope people are going to like my poetry collection. I hope to keep my publisher happy. I hope we can all be kinder. I hope we can be happier. I hope to be better.

Review of 2016: Dawn Tindle

Today the lovely Dawn Tindle joins us to review her year. Dawn is a familiar face on the literary scene not only in the North East but beyond. Her blog – Book and Brew – has been nominated for a UK Blog Award. This is no mean feat considering Dawn only set her blog up in April this year.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Dawn on several occasions this year and I’m really happy to host her as part of the 2016 reviews.

Vic x

dawn-tindle-book-and-brew

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
I set up my blog, Book and Brew, in April this year and have spent the rest of 2016 developing it. The memory of firsts – blog post, comment, retweet – are pretty vivid and it still gives me a real buzz to see my words published online or shared by other readers.

My book club was also selected by The Reading Agency as an official shadow judge for both the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and Man Booker Prize. It was a huge coup for us and a very exciting experience for all members. It’s the defining moment that turned me from an enthusiastic reader to a book blogger.


And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
Seeing my boyfriend, Stephen, graduate in July was really special. He took five years out to retrain as a social worker and I was very proud, and slightly teary, to see him collect his degree. Getting his results via phone as we sat in a beach bar in Croatia the month before is also a memory I’ll treasure.

Favourite book in 2016?
Oh, this is always such a difficult question to answer. It wasn’t published this year but we read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life at book club in March and I loved it. Atkinson’s writing completely absorbs me and this story is a particularly poignant and gripping tale.

Favourite film in 2016?
There are two films that I watched recently that really impressed me. I, Daniel Blake is a stunning film, providing a stark look at the reality of austerity in the UK. It’s hard to watch, harrowing and heartbreaking but the humanity of the characters shines through. I highly recommend it.

The other was Allied. It’s a World War II drama about spies who meet on the job, marry and then one of them is suspected of working undercover for the Nazis. It’s full of twists and keeps you guessing throughout. And, the costumes are utterly fabulous – there’s nothing quite like 40s glamour to make you hate everything in your contemporary wardrobe!


Favourite song of the year?
Given the number of great musicians who’ve passed away this year, I’ve been listening to a lot of vintage tracks rather than new music in 2016.

However, I did discover Michael Kiwanuka and his album Love and Hate. It’s a beautiful collection of bluesy guitar and soulful vocals that I can listen to again and again.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Probably being too busy. I have a tendency to take on too much and that was certainly the case in the first few months of setting up my blog. I assumed I needed to read every book and be at every event in order to write relevant, topical content. I soon burned out and had to find a way to juggle my ‘proper’ job (a full-time, busy office gig), friends, family and blogging. I think I’ve finally cracked it and developed a schedule that works for me.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I usually say “to read more” but I don’t think I need that one anymore! I want to try my hand at creative writing so 2017 will be the year I give it a go.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
More of the same, I think. I had no idea where my blog would go in 2016 and I’m really pleased with how much I’ve achieved and how far it’s developed since my first few posts. If I can maintain the same attitude – of always seeking out new opportunities and trying new things – I hope I can grow Book and Brew even further in 2017. Where that growth will take me is anyone’s guess – that’s what makes a new year so exciting!

Review of 2016: David McCaffrey

It was a pleasure meeting David McCaffrey when he travelled all the way from Teeside to North Shields to see Elementary Writers perform at Old Low Light. David will be performing at Noir at the Bar NE on 22nd February, 2017. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to review your 2016, David! 

Vic x

David McCaffrey

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
I think the moment I realised the project I was working on with Stephen Sayers was really coming together was perhaps my favourite professional moment. It was a project very special to him and I wanted to do it right for him, so at the moment when you read something back and think ‘that’s not bad!’ was pretty special. That said, being added to the guest list for Noir at the Bar 2017 in Newcastle was pretty special too!

bamn

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
Sitting in a cinema watching ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice‘! Waited my whole life to see those two together on the big screen! Although seeing the ‘Wonder Woman’ trailer for the first time was pretty cool too!

Favourite book in 2016?
The Cleaner‘ – Mark Dawson.

Favourite film in 2016?
As above!

Favourite song of the year?
Hmm, possibly Calvin Harris/Rihanna ‘This Is What You Came For’.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Realising that I had mental health issues which was also an upside as I was able to seek help.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Write more, hopefully start a publishing business with Kelly.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
To have success with the project with Stephen and hopefully write a story that really captivates readers. By Britain’s Next Bestseller…yeah, that’ll do!

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