Tag Archives: writer

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Lucy Cameron

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today, my friend Lucy Cameron is sharing her thoughts with us. Her experiences may not be what you might expect…

Vic x

When I shouted ‘Pick me, Pick me’ to be included in this blog series I hadn’t really thought it through. I am a crime/horror writer, but my day job in no way connects to what I write, or ever has.

I am not a solicitor or barrister, I have only ever been in a police station to ask if they rent out uniforms to film makers (they don’t) and I have never been in a court house, if that’s even what they are called outside of films. As for ever committing a crime…? Okay, I once had a parking ticket. In short, I have never worked within, or outside of, the law.

What about medicine? Were I ever to see heavy blood flow I have little doubt I would faint, my uncle works in the local funeral parlour, but I’m not sure that counts.

Other avenues into the field of crime writing? I have never been a journalist, or an editor, or even written for a student magazine. I have never taught creative writing, nor have any qualifications in the above.

For a long time I believed you had to have done one of the aforementioned to even consider writing a crime novel. I was wrong.

What did I do to while away the hours before becoming a writer, and by this I mean pay the bills and mortgage, was work as a Convenience Store Manager for a food retailer. For anyone that’s ever worked in a public-facing job, if that doesn’t put you in situations where you want to kill people, or indeed meet people on a daily basis that could easily commit a crime, I don’t know what will.

I loved every minute. Okay I loved half of the minutes I worked in food retail, it was fast, it was busy, it was a minimum of sixty hours a week. The teams I worked with over the years were like family and we shared plenty of laughs and tears, and it’s this people experience I draw on when writing.

Writing I can do now that I have left my glittering career in food retail far behind me. Days were full of little interactions with customers, throwaway comments overheard. Once you have the characters in a story, once you have the idea, you can go and find out about the procedures and any and every job allows you to do this.

Now I am a writer, what do I do to while away the hours that I should be writing, and by this still I mean pay the bills and mortgage? I work as a Business Administrator for a local theatre, this time a job I do love every minute of, and that allows me the time to write. If you want to be a writer, you can be, whatever your background and this sounds like great news to me, and a future full of varied and interesting books.

Write because you love it, not for the money, and don’t worry if your job doesn’t seem to fit with ‘write what you know’, fiction is after all, exactly that.

You can catch up with Lucy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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*Deep Blue Trouble Blog Tour* Guest Post and Review.

Steph Broadribb, AKA Crime Thriller Girl, is not only a blogger extraordinaire, she is also a Slice Girl as well as the author of the Lori Anderson series – ‘Deep Down Dead‘ and ‘Deep Blue Trouble‘ – and ‘My Little Eye‘ (writing as Stephanie Marland). Identity crisis much, Steph?!

In all seriousness, though, Steph is an absolute star in the making and I wish her every success with her various endeavours. I’m delighted to host her today as part of the ‘Deep Blue Trouble‘ blog tour.  

Steph’s here today to talk about how music inspires her writing. My thanks to Steph for taking the time to share her process with us. 

USING SONGS TO CREATE CHARACTER:
MUSIC TO WRITE LORI BY
By Steph Broadribb

I can’t actually write while listening to music, but I do like to listen to songs to get into the mood of the character before I write. I tend to start writing first thing in the morning, so while I’m drinking my first coffee of the day and eating breakfast I head over to YouTube and listen and watch the songs that get me in the mood.

I find that most of the songs for each book or short story are different (even when it’s the same character) although there might be one or two songs that I use for a specific character.

For Lori Anderson, my single mom Florida bounty hunter, the song I use to get in character for writing her is Fighter by Christina Aguilera. For me, the song is about using the things that try to break you to make you stronger – and that’s something that Lori has had to do her whole life, no matter what obstacles she faces, she doesn’t give up, she learns from her mistakes and fights harder.

In Deep Blue Trouble, to set the mood for writing Lori’s scenes with JT (her ex-mentor and lover) I listened to Elastic Heart by Sia. There’s a lot of tension between Lori and JT. Neither are really able to express their feelings for each other, and they have a complicated and emotion-charged past that often gets in the way of the present. Yet even though they might not say it, they care deeply for each other and are drawn back together time and again. You can listen to the song and watch Julianne and Derek Hough do an incredible dance to it on Dancing With The Stars here.

When Lori is thinking about her nine-year-old daughter Dakota – who she’s apart from for much of the book – I always imagine Angel From Montgomery by Bonnie Raitt playing in the background. I love that song.

And when things aren’t going Lori’s way, when she can’t catch a break tracking the fugitive she needs to find, and she’s feeling low, I listen to Dream On by Aerosmith to get me into her head space.

For the ass kicking action scenes I listen to Pink. While writing Deep Blue Trouble because Lori is constantly coming up against one barrier after another, even from those who should be helping her, I listened to Try. I love Pink’s music – even when her lyrics are vulnerable the way she sings them shows her strength.

Review: ‘Deep Blue Trouble’ by Steph Broadribb.

Deep Blue Trouble‘ is the sequel to Steph Broadribb’s acclaimed ‘Deep Down Dead‘, picking up a few days after the end of the last book. 

Lori Anderson is a single mother. She is also a bounty hunter. Although her daughter Dakota is safe and healthy, for now, Lori needs Dakota’s father JT  – who also happens to be Lori’s former mentor – alive. Her problem, though, is that JT is in prison and on his way to death row. 

In order to save JT, Lori makes a deal with dubious FBI agent Alex Monroe: bring back a criminal who’s on the run and keep it off the radar – achieve that and JT walks free. Can Lori manage it or will her whole world implode? 

I’m not the first person to say it, nor will I be the last, but Steph Broadribb has created a unique, intriguing central character in Lori Anderson. In a profession that remains male-dominated, Lori has to fight tooth and nail to prove herself even though it appears she’s more than capable of holding her own.

What I really love about Lori is that she is both fearless and vulnerable, which is a really tough balance to strike but Steph Broadribb has managed it. 

Deep Blue Trouble‘ sets off at a pace and doesn’t let up until the final page – it’s like a Tarantino movie. Broadribb’s descriptions of both the characters and the settings ensure that the reader can clearly visualise the high-octane action.

Like Lori, ‘Deep Blue Trouble‘ really packs a punch!

Vic x

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Rachel Amphlett

Welcome to the first Don’t Quit the Day Job of 2018! It seems like a long time since Paul Gitsham’s post, doesn’t it? 

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Kicking us off for 2018 we have Rachel Amphlett, the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers. Rachel’s novels have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.

You can follow Rachel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as her website.

Vic x

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, I spent many a year working as a project and contracts administrator supporting engineers in delivering major projects in the gas, infrastructure, and railway industries.

It doesn’t sound as sexy as crime thriller author by a long way, but those years behind the scenes have served me well in my current career as a writer.

For example, I was surrounded by people who had held different roles prior to turning to project management, and often within the armed forces. As an author of espionage fiction for a number of years, it meant that if I kept my ears open while ferreting around making sure sub-contractors were paid on time and monthly reports were delivered to management without a hitch, I could bribe someone with a coffee in return for hearing about their military experiences.

From an ex-Lynx helicopter pilot to a weapons guidance systems engineer who helped me blow up a submarine in Under Fire, I had all sorts of combat and non-combat experience at my fingertips – and I made full use of it.

On top of that, chatting with colleagues in the break-out area, I soon had an offer of being taken pistol shooting so I could find out what it was really like to fire a weapon.

When my writing took off in 2016, I’d already been implementing a lot of project management techniques within my writing business and these enabled me to really focus on what was important.

The best tool in my business is that of a project schedule – I use a simple Excel spreadsheet format for this, which gives me a 12-month look-ahead for the books I want to write and publish (typically a minimum of three), broken down into the steps that need to be taken to publish each book.  These include finishing the first draft, getting the final draft to beta readers, drafting again before handing over to an editor, working with my cover designer, and setting up everything else that is needed to publish a book successfully (and on time).

I can then highlight the really important milestones that I need to hit for those books – this is known as being on the “critical path” in project-speak. That is, if I don’t hit those milestones, there is no book!

Having this project schedule keeps me focused – and, if something changes during the year that means I have to switch a project with another to take advantage of an opportunity, I can. All I have to do is adjust the dates, and off I go again.

Now that I’m a full-time writer, I can use this scheduling tool to make the most of my time – it’s likely going into 2018 that I’ll double my output, but at least using my project background, I’ll be able to keep track of where I am and mitigate any hiccups along the way.

Could I be this productive without a project management background?

I doubt it very much.

Review of 2017: Alison Bruce

I first “met” Alison Bruce on Twitter several years ago but this year was the first time we’ve ever met in real life. It was an absolute pleasure to spend time in Alison’s company and I hope it won’t be six more years until I see her again.

As you’ll see from her review of 2017, Alison has been very busy this year so I’m very grateful for her taking the time to share her year with us.

Vic x

I think my favourite memory from 2017, is the day I handed in the manuscript for I Did It for Us. I was at Goldsboro Books’ Crime in the Court event a couple of years ago when, in an instant, I had the idea for the book. By pure coincidence, the day I finished the final edits was also the day of Crime in the Court and it felt like the perfect way to celebrate delivering a book.

My most memorable moments always involve my children, Lana, and Dean and my husband Jacen, but 2017 is also going to be remembered as the year I (belatedly) started at university. I’m taking Crime and Investigative Studies. I’m excited by the prospect of adding a new angle to my writing.

For my favourite book of 2017 I have to pick Deadlier which is an anthology of 100 crime stories written by women. This may seem like an unusual choice when there are so many great novels out there but it’s ideal for me when my reading time is in short blocks. The book contains stories from many of the more famous ladies of crime but also gives the opportunity to discover new voices too.

Thanks to my son I’m more of an expert on comic books then I should be and, because of this, my film of the year has to be Wonderwoman.  When I was a child I loved the television series and I was slightly sceptical about any version of this superhero who didn’t spin round and change clothes in a puff of smoke however, it was a well-crafted combination of action-adventure and comic book styled heroics.  If The Sinner has been a film rather than a TV show then I think I would’ve voted for that; it had an interesting premise and kept me hooked right until the end. If you missed it, it’s on Netflix.

My choice of favourite song of the year is split between my daughter’s latest, Hibiscus Heat, which she released for her sixth-form project, and Bad Seed Sown by the Bellfuries; any song which includes the lyrics “the kind of people hip to my kind of evil are few and far between, it lurks, it lies, it feeds on cries, it’s sophisticated and mean” is bound to appeal to a crime writer.

2017 has been pretty good year but I best but I guess the biggest downside has been feeling totally exhausted. It’s been an exciting but I would love to have a few days of doing nothing without feeling guilty about it.

I don’t think I’ll make any new year’s resolutions but I’m looking forward to the year ahead which will begin with the release of my first standalone novel, I Did It for Us on 4th January and its launch at Heffers in Cambridge a week later.

Review of 2017: Josie Moon

It’s another hat-trick today! Boxing Day bonus! Earlier today, Tana Collins reviewed her year, now it’s Josie Moon‘s turn. 

My thanks to Josie for her introspective, honest account of her year. Check back later for our final guest today. 

Vic x

This year has been particularly exciting and memorable because of the Fish Tales Tour with the Alan Barnes Octet. We’ve performed the work nationally at a number of jazz venues and events and it has been a wonderful experience.

Having set up La Luna early in 2017 I am thrilled that we have produced three quality publications this year and that the fourth is scheduled for release in January 2018. Fish Tales, Fish Tales for Juniors and In Case of an Emergency are books that I am personally proud of and which reflect the work I have done this year as a writer, performer and editor. The website will have a shop window by early 2018 and all of the La Luna publications will be available to purchase directly from there.

This year my reading has been focused on psychology, recovery and trauma for personal and research reasons. One little book that I keep dipping into and which has been a great source of comfort and inspiration is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.  It has been my go-to book on those days of feeling overwhelmed.

I’ve stopped bothering with cinema because I love the depth of storytelling in quality TV productions. This year it has been all about Twin Peaks, the Return. The combination of uncompromising aesthetics and storytelling made it a peerless piece of televisual art.  I’ve also enjoyed The Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things.

I run a community choir which has a membership of 70 delightful and enthusiastic adult singers.  We’ve given concerts and performances throughout the year and have developed our repertoire over the course of our weekly rehearsals. I have to say, my favourite song of the year is the choir performing Cold Winds Blow, a song I co-wrote with Pat McCarthy, a fabulous jazz musician who I work with a lot. Jo Townell, the choir’s accompanist and arranger wrote a glorious choral arrangement of the song and we just love performing it.

Every year has its downsides. I have had many personal struggles this year. Everyone has them, everyone has trouble. My troubles have been heavy and hard going at times but all things pass and without challenge, change and darkness we don’t appreciate the light.

In 2018 I will be writing new material for a jazz and poetry collaboration plus new music for the choir. I am working on a huge piece of new work which is under wraps for now and I am excited about forthcoming La Luna publications and projects.  My resolution for 2018 is to live authentically in the clearing of being with my best human and to always look for the light

Review of 2017: Tana Collins

Today on the blog, my friend Tana Collins is sharing her year with us. 

One of the highlights of my year has been meeting new people associated with writing and Tana is one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Spending time with this wonderful lady is always a joy so I hope you enjoy Tana’s review as much as I have enjoyed her company this year.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This is so hard to answer, Vic. This year has been truly phenomenal for me. I’ve had two books published following the thrill of getting a 3 book publishing deal with Bloodhound Books in October 2016.

Publication day of 14th February 2017 of my debut novel, Robbing the Dead was one of the best days of my life topped only by it reaching No 1 in Amazon kindle sales for Scottish Crime Fiction. I also appeared on my first ever panel in 2017 at Newcastle Noir with the lovely Shelley Day and Michael Wood. Honestly, there have been so many it’s hard to choose one. In September I was fortunate enough to be picked as one of the Spotlighters opening for Lynda La Plante no less. Now you’ll think I’m bragging so I’m going to move on to answering the next question. 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
On a personal front there are a couple of favourite moments. My best friend, Bettina, turned 50 and I flew out to Germany to be with her. And if that’s not enough excitement my friend, Terry, got married. I had known Terry for nearly 30 years but we’d lost touch so being back in contact and seeing him get married to a lovely girl called Jacqui was very emotional.  And I’ve also loved meeting and spending time with bloggers and authors such as Ian Skewis, Jackie McLean and Kelly Lacey at writing events and festivals.

Favourite book in 2017?
I’ve read a few wonderful books in 2017 but the two that stand out are Ian Skewis’s A Murder of Crows and Jackie McLean’s Toxic. 

Favourite film in 2017?
Do you know I don’t think I saw a single film in 2017. Isn’t that terrible?! Too busy focusing on the books! However I have enjoyed Detectorists and Poldark on TV. 

Favourite song of the year? 
I was lucky to see several bands in 2017 including Chuck Prophet and Nick Cave. I think my favourite song would have to be Nick Cave’s Girl in Amber. It’s raw and hugely emotional. I cried my eyes out at the gig when I heard it for the first time.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Politically it’s been another tumultuous year. The world has gone to a very dark place but, do you know, I refuse to be a pessimist. We’ll turn a corner and things will get brighter but we all have to work together to do it and to stand up for what we feel’s right in our hearts. On a personal note we lost my partner’s dad which was incredibly sad and still very raw.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
2017 was such a busy year I think if I’ve got a New Year’s resolution for 2018 it would be to try to claw some time back for me. I would like to get involved in some environmental projects. I would love to be able to find the time to become a recorder for Butterfly Conservation but I say that every year. I will do it. I’ve just needed to put it on the back-burner. Perhaps 2018 will be the year! Oh, and I need to get fit! 

What are you hoping for from 2018?
My third Jim Carruthers novel, Mark of the Devil, is being released on 24th April 2018. My big hope for 2018 is that it is received as well as the first two books. I had great fun in the writing of it. As it’s part set in Estonia I had to travel to Tallinn for it and I’ve done a lot of research on international art crime which was fascinating. To be honest I’m already excited about 2018 from a writing point of view. I’m just not sure it can live up to 2017!

Can I just say a personal thank you for letting me be part of your blog and wish you all the best for 2018, Vic.

Review of 2017: Nick Quantrill

Another of our Saint Nicks is Nick Quantrill. Nick has kindly been contributing to the annual reviews on this very blog since they started in 2012. 

Nick has been a friend of mine for many years and he’s an absolute star. Thankfully Nick’s talent and hard work is being recognised but I’ll let him explain more. 

Merry Christmas, Nick, here’s to a brilliant 2018!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
It has to be Hull Noir, a crime writing festival I worked on alongside Nick Triplow and Nikki East as part of the UK City of Culture celebrations. It was something that was on the radar from the moment Hull was shortlisted for the award in 2013, but it took up a huge amount of time and effort as the year progressed. Looking back, to entice the likes of Martina Cole, Mark Billingham, John Connolly and many others to take part was incredible. The turnout and reception the festival received was also incredible, so we’ve got some serious thinking to do about what might come next. 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
The whole 2017 UK City of Culture programme in Hull has been amazing. Plenty people either mocked or scratched their heads when my city was announced as the host, and maybe with good cause, but it feels like perceptions are changing. The city has had a real buzz about it this year and I know Hull Noir visitors enjoyed their stay. 

Favourite book in 2017?
I’ve been lucky to have so much great reading pushed my way via chairing and interviewing at various events and festivals. The year started strongly with The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott, took in brilliant debuts like, Sirens by Joseph Knox and featured some reading for pleasure from the likes of Stav Sherez and Michael Connelly. I’ve also received some proofs of exciting 2018 titles. Keep your eyes peeled for This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan and Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh. 

Favourite film in 2017?
It’s bad, but I’m not even sure I saw a new film at the cinema this year. Box set wise, The Deuce from David Simon and George Pelecanos tackled a tough subject admirably. Peaky Blinders seems to have rediscovered its mojo and Bosch continues to impress. 

Favourite song of the year?
I’m old-school enough to think in terms of albums and even buy them on vinyl. The Navigator by Hurray For The Riff Raff blew me away. Alynda Segarra is the business. It’s an album that mixes up folk, country, doo wop, post-punk and everything in between, but has a fire and anger to it about the state of the world.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
On a personal level, Hull Noir and various other writing projects saw my own novel writing grind to a bit of a halt. There were a couple of false starts, which were totally my fault, but generally, it hasn’t been a good year in terms of producing new material. On the plus side, I’ve developed new skills and I’m proud of the feature pieces I produced for the 2017 UK City of Culture website, but I know what I need to do in 2018.

Words can’t describe the loss of Helen Cadbury to the writing world, but as readers and writers we’ve lost a friend and colleague. Writers are lucky to live on through their words, and there’s some comfort to be found in Helen’s final novel and poetry collection, but it’s not enough.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Nope. I know what I need to do, but I think formalising them as resolutions adds a layer of pressure that isn’t necessarily healthy.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
The priority is to get a new novel finished. I’ve broken ground on it and maybe a sort-of enforced break hasn’t hurt, but I’m ready to be a writer again. I enjoy the chairing opportunities that come my way, so hope to receive a few more invites. I also want to play my part in Hull building on such a positive year.