Tag Archives: writers

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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Review of 2017: Vic Watson

The turn of the year comes around quick, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday I was telling you all how great 2016 had been! But, here we are, another year older with more experiences under our belts. I must thank everyone who has taken the time to review their year on the blog and to everyone who’s read, shared and commented posts from this blog throughout the last year. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2018! 

Professionally speaking, this year has been another cracker. Noir at the Bar has continued to grow, with factions popping up all over the UK. I’m delighted that the one in Newcastle continues to be popular and I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be in the Blues Bar in Harrogate on Thursday, 20th July. Presenting Noir at the Bar Harrogate to a packed audience was just incredible. Possibly one of the highlights of that day was a gentleman who asked me at the end of the event how often we ran it as he hadn’t known it was going to be on. I said “Sorry, have we hijacked your quiet afternoon pint?” He laughed and said he was thrilled to have stumbled upon the event and would definitely come to them on purpose in future! 


This year’s Newcastle Noir saw me do my first ever panel. I was on a panel with Susan Heads of the Book Trail, Quentin Bates, Sarah Wood and the powerhouse behind Orenda Books – Karen Sullivan. Our panel was moderated by the wonderful Miriam Owen and I enjoyed that hour immensely.


Another hour that was fun was appearing on the award-winning ArtyParti at Spark FM with Mandy Maxwell, Iain Rowan, Kirsten Luckins and Tony Gadd. We talked to Jay Sykes about writing and events, it was a lovely atmosphere and I felt completely relaxed thanks to the excellent host. 


My writing groups are still going strong and I arranged a stranding retreat on St Mary’s Island in August and the participants gave very positive feedback. I hope to run more retreats next year. 


I’ve had a lot of people asking if I’ve finished my novel yet and when they’ll be able to buy it so that’s very encouraging. I’ve also had a few people tell me they’d like to hear it on Audible which is a real compliment. Thanks to my friend Kay setting me an achievable weekly word target, I’ve almost completed my first draft. 

Hmm, favourite personal memory? Tough one, that. Well, I suppose I’d better say that getting married to the love of my life was the highlight of my year. Just kidding – of course it was! 

I walked down the aisle with my dad to ‘You’re So Cool‘ by Hans Zimmer (featured in ‘True Romance‘) in front of our closest friends and family. 


Instead of going for sugar almonds as wedding favours, we gave everyone a book. The Boy Wonder and I are both bookworms and we therefore wanted to give our guests a personalised gift. We didn’t have a lot of guests and we enjoyed thinking which book to choose for each of the guests – we were like a real life algorithm! 


The day we got married, I was emailed by the production team from ‘The Chase’ to say that my episode – recorded in July 2016 – would be aired on 30th March so watching that was a lot of fun too.


OK, I didn’t mention ‘The Chase’ in my 2016 Review but, contractually, I wasn’t allowed! Watching my episode, despite knowing the result, was nerve-wracking. I actually didn’t mind seeing myself on TV – I was nowhere near as critical of myself as I was expecting to be! I watched with my husband (I love saying that), my brother and three friends. I got lots of lovely messages from friends all over the country.  


I’d also like to say what a special day my hen do was. I never wanted a fuss and opted to go for afternoon tea with my friends and my mum. I cannot explain what a lovely occasion that was. Those wonderful women made me feel like a million bucks. 


My film of the year was ‘Get Out‘, second would be ‘Dunkirk‘. 

I have enjoyed many books this year including ‘Darktown‘ by Thomas Mullen, ‘The Prime of Miss Dolly Greene‘ by E.V Harte, ‘Lost for Words‘ by Stephanie Butland and ‘Small, Great Things‘ by Jodi Picoult. I also loved ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven‘ by Chris Cleave. And a late entry has to be ‘Good Me, Bad Me‘ by Ali Land. However, my top three – in no particular order – are ‘Six Stories‘ by Matt Wesolowski, ‘Yellow Room‘ by Shelan Rodger and ‘The Break‘ by Marian Keyes. 

Song of the year? Hm. Anything that was on our wedding playlist – we chose all the songs ourselves. We tried to have at least one track for each of the wedding guests so either a track that reminded us of them or one we knew they liked.
Other music I’ve listened to this year includes a lot of music from the Nashville OSTs, ‘…Ready For It?‘ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ by Taylor Swift. 

There has been illness and sadness but most of us are still here – and that is wonderful.

However, the death of Helen Cadbury in June was a tremendous loss to many of us in the writing community – and beyond. Helen was a friend to me. She was always kind, supportive and quick with a joke. She pulled out of Noir at the Bar in February because she was poorly but I didn’t know the extent of her illness. In July, we raised our glasses to toast Helen at Noir at the Bar in Newcastle and Harrogate. Helen made such a positive impact on so many that it felt right to dedicate the events to her.

The last time I saw Helen was at Harrogate Festival in July 2016 although I had spoken to her since. She, Lucy Cameron and I joked about having similar hair colours and styles. Helen said we should call ourselves the three northern blondes and take a selfie. For some reason, that photo didn’t get taken and I regret that missed opportunity.

I have yet to read ‘Race to the Kill‘, the final novel in the Sean Denton trilogy, or her collection of poetry, ‘Forever Now‘, because I don’t want to come to the end of Helen’s work. Of course, I won’t put it off forever. 

Resolutions? Just keep on keeping on, I think. I over commit and trying not to do that remains a work in progress. 

I hope that this world will sort itself out. There are so many things going wrong and I hope that things will be put right but in order for that to happen, we all need to engage. 

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: Paul Bassett Davies

As many of you know, I met Paul Bassett Davies at a party in London earlier this year and he was one of the most amusing, kind-hearted people I’ve met this year. I have noticed a running theme on these blogs – I’m so lucky to know such lovely people.

My thanks to the wonderful Paul for taking the time to share his highlights with us. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Pride and happiness at the launch party for my novel, Dead Writers in Rehab. 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My partner’s birthday party, when the mariachi band arrived.

Favourite book in 2017?
FICTION: I discovered Nell Zink this year, and loved her book The Wallcreeper. She has a very distinctive voice, and is mordantly funny.
NON-FICTION: Farewell Kabul by Christina Lamb made me feel I finally understood why the West’s problems with Afghanistan won’t be resolved without the kind of in-depth knowledge shared by this fine writer and courageous witness.

Favourite film in 2017?
It was going to be Get Out but I’ve just seen The Florida Project, so tough call…

Favourite song of the year?
A track called prisencolinensinainciusol by the Italian Adriano Celentano, with Mina, another Italian star, updated with a stunning dance video. In my teenage years my family lived next door to Celentano in Milan. 

Any downsides for you in 2017?
A lot of great artists died.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I believe you should never give up bad habits. If you do, you’ll find you feel just as lousy, and your life will be just as crap, but now you’ll have nothing to blame it on. I’m resolving to do more work in 2018. It’s ridiculous that I don’t write more, especially when I see what’s achieved by writers with far less time than me. My other resolution is to stop comparing myself to other people. 

What are you hoping for from 2018?
To complete my next novel. It’s a dystopian comedy. The novel, not the fact that I’m hoping to complete it.

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.

Review of 2017: Neil Broadfoot

Hold onto your (Santa) hats, we have a double bill to celebrate Christmas Eve. Today we have Ne-il [Broadfoot], Ne-il [White] – sorry, I’m a little giddy thanks to the magic of the season (or maybe the Baileys).

Anyway, our first Ne-il (sorry) is Mr Broadfoot – one of my many crime writing buddies. 

I’m raising a glass of Baileys to you, Mr B!

Vic x


Favourite memory professionally:
It’s been a great year professionally, from signing a new three-book deal with Constable to going to Harrogate for the first time (and reading at Noir at the Bar!) seeing the first translation of my first book, Falling Fast. I’m not sure how professional it is, but my standout moment of the year was the Four Blokes In Search of a Plot panel at Bloody Scotland. It was the first time Douglas (Skelton), Mark (Leggatt), Gordon (Brown) and I had tried out the new format for the panel, where the crowd give us a name and a murder weapon and we try to write a story in 100 word chunks while the other three discuss all things crime with the audience. I was cataclysmically hung over after the infamous Bloody Scotland night at the Curly Coo the night before, but somehow the panel, like the rest of Bloody Scotland, worked. We were the last panel of the weekend yet we still got an audience of more than 60 people, they were totally up for it and it was a great laugh. And sitting there, with a tea cosy on my head, I remember thinking how lucky I am to be part of this brilliant community of writers and readers.

Favourite book:
It’s been another incredibly strong year for crime fiction, with some brilliant work being produced. It’s almost impossible to choose a stand-out from the crowd, but there are a couple that stick in the memory. Craig Russell’s The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid, which was shortlisted for the McIllvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland, was a masterclass in immersive, compelling writing that transports you back to 50s Glasgow and all the dangers and moral ambiguity that lurk there.  Slow on the uptake, but I finally got round to reading Stuart Neville’s The Twelve and was blown away by Fegan and the demons that haunt him. Writing as Haylen Beck, Neville’s Here and Gone was a white-knuckle, read-it-in-one shot of pure adrenaline you can’t miss.

Looking ahead, I’ve been lucky enough to get sneak peeks of two of next year’s biggest books. Luca Veste’s The Bone Keeper is just brilliant – but maybe not one to read late at night. With a real sense of menace bleeding from the pages, this is a serial killer thriller that will linger long after the last page. Meanwhile, his partner in podcast crime, Steve Cavanagh, has produced a masterclass in tight, tense storytelling with Thirteen. With a (serial) killer hook and perfect delivery, his latest adventure with New York defence lawyer Eddie Flynn is the book that will send his career into the stratosphere.

Favourite song:
If I don’t say You’re Welcome from the film Moana, my three-year-old will kill me. She’s obsessed with that song and duets with me when she can. And yes, it is an ear worm and no; I don’t want to talk about it. *Hums what can I say except…*

Downsides:
Life is a series of ups and downs, but you have to keep looking up. One big downside of this year was losing my beagle, Sam. He’d been with me since he was a pup; saw me through marriage, two kids and seeing my lifelong dream of being published come true. Then one day he went off his food, went to the vet and was gone. It’s a cliché, but dogs really are man’s best friend, and I still miss the Old Man – and his snoring from the cushion next to me as I write.

Resolutions:
I need to get rid of my book belly! When I’m writing, I can’t train, my brain can’t cope with running the different mental soundtracks of being physically fit and thinking about plots, characters etc at the same time, so the physical activity and healthy eating gives way to sitting in my chair and endless biscuits when I’m on a book. But now that No-Man’s Land is done (save edits) it’s back to the gym for me!

Hopes for 2018:
The first book in my new Stirling-set series, No-Man’s Land, is due out in September, and I hope everyone enjoys reading about Connor Fraser as much as I enjoyed writing about him. I’m also looking forward to getting back onto the road with the other three blokes for more fun and mayhem, so I hope the crowds enjoy the shows as much as we do.

Away from books, I hope the world comes to its senses a little. There’s a growing feeling that everything is building to a crescendo, from the tweeter-in-chief to the cliff edge of Brexit, and I hope cooler heads can prevail over the megaphone diplomacy and bigotry-as-patriotism crap we’re seeing now.