Stories from Paris – Guest Post by Alex Christofi

Today I am delighted to welcome Alex Christofi to my blog. Alex’s first novel, Glass (which I review here), was longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and won the Betty Trask Prize. His follow up, Let Us Be True, was published this week (my review is here). In this guest post he shares his thoughts on five real places from the book, and the stories from them that he had to include.

 

While researching my new novel, Let Us Be True, I became fascinated by the history of Paris. Wherever I looked, there were incredible stories to be found, of pioneering gardeners, hidden wine cellars, put-upon architects and bloody clashes in the streets. A few of these stories I couldn’t let go, and they made it into the novel: here are my five favourites.

1 – The Tour d’Argent

Overhead, the clouds bruised and cracked. There was a brief flash of lightning, the thunder inaudible behind the glass. He was in the world’s oldest restaurant, eating duck with a stranger who had just punched him in the head.

This Michelin-starred restaurant lays claim to being the oldest restaurant in the world, purportedly founded in 1582. Their speciality is the pressed duck, which was traditionally eight weeks old, fattened for fifteen days and then strangled, to retain the blood. The wine list is also 400 pages long. It has a great literary heritage, having been referenced not only by Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway, but also the 2007 Pixar animated adventure Ratatouille.

2 – Nanterre

Ralf followed the road, hoping to ask someone for directions. Next to the cleared land of the building site was an improvised town, laid out in rows to give the impression of planning, of order – a place where great pride and care presided over mud and scrap metal.

Nanterre is a fascinating place, though a little off the tourist beat. Once an improvised slum (a bidonville or ‘jerrycan town’) housing poor Algerian immigrants, who sometimes found it difficult to rent in the city either because of the cost or because of the prejudices of
landlords, the University of Paris bought a site there and built a huge brutalist campus, a little like the Barbican, but uglier and easier to navigate. The Nanterre campus would be one of the epicentres of the 1968 student protests, which spread and developed over the course of the spring into full blown riots and a general strike, bringing the whole country to a halt.

3 – The Tuileries

‘You know what they do to silk moths?’ said Elsa. ‘They boil them alive and unravel the whole cocoon using tiny looms.’
‘I didn’t know that.’
‘No. All sorts of things have happened here. I think it’s untoward for a garden to have so much history.’

The Tuileries in the centre of the city might look like an oasis of calm, but they are probably the most eventful gardens in the world. Named after the roof tilers that used to work there before Catherine de Medici bought the land, the garden was the site of the one of the first hot air balloon flights. At one point, they were vast royal gardens, and the head gardener decided to grow mulberry trees to foster a domestic silk industry there. Robespierre had a weird secular festival there, burning mannequins that represented an idiosyncratic group of sins (one of them was ‘False Simplicity’). It was a Russian garrison after the fall of Napoleon, and was also, at one point, used to store artwork looted by the Nazis – a Monet was seriously damaged in a shootout during the liberation.

4 – the Pont Saint-Michel

A police van pulled up at the far end of the bridge, and another on their side, at the entrance to Saint-Michel Métro.

An innocuous bridge metres from some of Paris’s tourist hotspots, the Pont Saint-Michel was the site of a terrible massacre of peaceful protesters by the police. On 17 October 1961, men, women and children were peacefully protesting against the curfew that had been set for all Muslim citizens. The Algerian War had been going on for years, with atrocious violence on both sides, and trust between communities was at a nadir. Unfortunately, a sub-section of the police were right-wing nationalists – in fact, the head of police at the time was Maurice Papon, who had collaborated with the Nazis during the war to deport Jews. The police violently suppressed the protest, beating people with long white batons and throwing them off the bridge into the Seine. There is no official death toll, but estimates are in the dozens.

5 – the Tour Eiffel

He looked out at the city. The sun backlit the dark clouds in chiaroscuro and for a moment broke through, catching each drop of rain so that the sunlight fell not just on surfaces but everywhere at once, manifested endlessly through the air.

The Eiffel Tower had to turn up at some point, didn’t it? You can’t visit the city without the tower peeking through the gaps between buildings, especially now that it’s equipped with that bizarre light which seems to have been inspired by the Eye of Sauron. Paris is unimaginable without it, but when it was built, poor Gustave Eiffel was the most hated architect in France. In 1887, a group of writers and artists clubbed together to petition against it, competing to see who could hurl the best insult (my personal favourites are ‘tragic street lamp’ and ‘barbarous mass overwhelming and humiliating all our monuments and belittling our works of architecture’). How times change.

 

This post is a stop on the Let Us Be True Blog Tour. Do check out the other blogs taking part, detailed below.

Let Us Be True is published by Serpent’s Tail and is available to buy now.

Where to begin – Guest Post by Anthony Cartwright

Today I am delighted to welcome Anthony Cartwright, author of The Cut, to my blog. In this guest post he talks of the Black Country where he grew up and where The Cut is set (you may read my review of the book here).

“I have lived half my life here, half in London, felt the chasm between the places widen further and further.”

The Cut was commissioned by Peirene Press 

“to build a fictional bridge between the Britains that opposed each other on referendum day.”

It is a fabulous read.

 

The EU funded some of the work you look out on now, just by the house where my uncle used to live, here on a terrace elevated above the Birmingham Road traffic. You used to be able to look into the old football ground from the upstairs bedrooms. Beyond that was the County Ground, where in summers gone my great-grandad would sit in his deckchair behind the bowler’s arm, out of the wind, with a pint of mild. He could look at the castle on the hill, listen to the clang of metal being bashed. The people loved Tom Graveney, Basil D’Oliveira, the Headleys; sons of England and Cape Town and Jamaica and Dudley. The town is an enclave of Worcestershire within Staffordshire; hence the cricket. The earth opened one morning in the eighties and the sports grounds fell into a hole. With a shift in the old limestone workings below, the place was swallowed, went the same way as the jobs. When the hole was filled years later they built a cinema, hotel, gym, bars, called the place Castle Gate. It looks like the rest of England. Or England looks like Dudley.

The newspaper says that Brexit threatens the new light railway set to run up the hill from the mainline, says the new Aldi will bring over thirty jobs. The town, like every place you look out on from this view, voted for Brexit, two to one for Leave across the West Midlands. Map the regions that made the difference and it follows the pattern of the death of industry, of coal, iron and steel.

The ground is always unsteady here. Take a step and an abyss can open up, a foot in one half of the country, a foot in the other half, the chasm widening below you. The cut, the canals, more relics of an old industrial order, were the things that linked the land-locked midlands to the sea, to far-flung London. There used to be a pub called The Sailor’s Return on the crest of the wave of Kates Hill, as if a ship might sail from the distant Indies right into Dudley Port, and the sailor swagger homeward up Bunn’s Lane.

That we lived on an old sea-bed in the middle of England was one of the many wonders of growing up here. At the Wren’s Nest there are trilobites buried in the rocks, creatures from that prehistoric ocean, a symbol of Dudley, hard and strange. The trilobite is there on the coat of arms, just above the salamander, who basks in flames below. We are a country of symbols, with our new Black Country flag – red, white and black – a link of chain emblazoned across it. Black Country Day is 14 July, the day the Cobb’s engine house started pumping water from the mines at Windmill End. The industrial revolution will be permanent.

Except just not here, any more. I remember the day I first thought I might become a novelist. Sitting on the 120 bus somewhere between the Langley Maltings and the Albright & Wilson chemical works, waiting to climb the hill, I thought I might write about this postage stamp of land, like Faulkner said, about defeat, about what it’s like to come down on the far side of something, about the past never really being past.

There is a whole shadow country beneath our feet. The canal tunnels pierce the hill and there are great caverns under the castle. There was a plan, early in the Second World War, to move the whole of the BSA munitions works here, to make an underground city of twelve thousand people and a few hundred thousand guns. It didn’t happen, but this is a country of outlandish plans. Lubetkin built the zoo in the thirties, white modernist pavilions set in old quarries. See the flamingos now from the top deck of the bus to West Bromwich. There is a hole in the hill where they used to dump the dead animals, a well of strange bones. The Richardson brothers, local Thatcherite property men, once planned the world’s tallest building at Merry Hill, the shopping centre they built by the old Round Oak steelworks, unstable ground indeed, where thousands of jobs fell into a hole and disappeared.

Wind down the lanes through Gornal, where the trees bend to each other above the road, to The Crooked House, another pub, a place made crazy with subsidence, where you can watch a marble roll uphill. This is a country of signs and wonders. And it is perhaps so unlike the country that is portrayed – if it is portrayed at all – in newspapers and on television screens and on radio stations that speak with an accent you do not hear on these hills, that you might struggle to picture it at all.

Which is where I should begin. This novel will be a story about magical thinking, a story about loss. The vote was a piece of magical thinking, a vote about loss. And it was many other things as well. Cast the zoo bones, read the runes on tunnel walls. If I must fall into this void then you will come too. There are countries where you have never been, though you have lived in them all your life.

‘It doesn’t matter what the question was, the answer was no,’ a friend says to me when we talk about the vote. And he goes on to tell me about someone he knows who killed himself not long ago, a couple of kids and no one saw it coming, and we talk about the people we know who have done similar. But try not to draw conclusions. There are people doing just fine. And it’s not like the place has a monopoly on the sense that the future lies somewhere in the past.

Watch the traffic flow along Birmingham Road past European roadside flowers. It was my uncle’s funeral a few weeks ago. Our family, living and dead, form a web across these hills. My brother, though he usually drinks Guinness, likes a cocktail at Frankie and Benny’s on Castle Gate, not far from where our great-grandad sat. They raise their glasses across the gulf of years. I have lived half my life here, half in London, felt the chasm between the places widen further and further. Out of the tunnel and into the light, down the hill and into the stream, along the river and into the sea.

And back again. We are all connected.

This is where to begin.

Anthony Cartwright is a novelist from Dudley. He is the author of four previous novels, most recently Iron Towns (2016). The Cut is the second novel in the Peirene Now! series, and was published on 23 June 2017.

 

The Impress Prize 2017, plus Q&A with past winner, James Calum Campbell

The Impress Prize for new writers was created to discover and publish new writing talent in fiction and non-fiction. The winner of the prize is offered a publishing contract with Impress Books, with the aim of releasing the book in the following year. Entries to the prize are assessed by the Impress team and a shortlist is produced from which a panel chooses the winner. The panel is comprised of representatives from the publishing industry. In the past the winners and shortlisted candidates have gone on to be represented by agents and received subsequent publishing contracts.

James Calum Campbell, author of The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange, won the Impress Prize in 2014. Today I am delighted to welcome him to my blog to tell us about his transition from doctor to author, and the inspiration behind his protagonist, Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange.

Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling

 

Tell us about your career as a doctor

I’m what the American MDs call “double-boarded”; I’m a GP and an emergency physician.  I’ve had the best possible time.  My career has taken me all over the world.  I guess its apogee has been the senior lectureship in emergency medicine at Auckland.  Wonderful – but a roller-coaster ride.  Medicine is very demanding.

How did you make the jump from doctor to author?

I was always a scribbler.  I used to write articles for various medical rags.  The profession likes to flaunt its literary credentials – Chekhov and Maugham and Conan Doyle and so on.  Actually we’re a bit smug.  There’s a style of writing on the back pages of medical journals that I call “medical baroque”, full of pus and sex.  I don’t care for it.  The worlds of medicine and letters do overlap – after all it’s all history-taking.  But most doctors who have seriously wanted to write have realised that they needed to quit practice.  Medicine is just too all-consuming.  When in Auckland I was asked to prepare the groundwork for the creation of a Chair in Emergency Medicine, I realised I might do that, and medicine would have me for ever.  I resigned and moved to a croft in Camustianavaig, Isle of Skye, and wrote a first draft of a book about Dr Alastair Cameron-Strange.  I was 47.  My colleagues thought I’d gone crazy.  Maybe they were right!

But medicine was not done with me.  My mother’s cousin was in a car crash on Skye, and I visited her in Broadford Hospital.  The Medical Director said, “You’re the doc holed up in Camustianavaig writing a book.  Do you want a job?”  Sometimes you do something simply because you are importuned.

What made you want to write?

I’ve been devoted to words, and stories, for as long as I can remember.  Then with adolescence I hit writer’s block and realised I needed to go out into the world and be something else, if only to acquire copy.  Every writer knows this fundamental truth, that you can be interested in anything and everything, but you can only be devoted to one thing.  I knew that sooner or later I’d be seduced back, to wrestle the best of three falls with words.

Was it always important to you for your novels to have a medical element?

Not initially, but, with fiction, eventually yes.  Medicine changes you.  I’ve been a doctor for such a long time now that I cannot but think as a doctor.  In emergency medicine, the most potent question you can ask your patient is, “What happened?”  Then you go into a trance, listen, don’t interrupt, and nine times out of ten, the patient will hand you the diagnosis on a plate.  It seems a passive activity, but it is not.  It comes at a cost, because what you are actually doing is stepping into the patient’s shoes.  For a moment, you become the patient.  Writing a book is a similar experience.  It requires a receptivity and a willingness to allow the book to proceed as it will.  It’s a diagnostic process.  It takes its toll.

Where did the inspiration for Cameron-Strange come from?

I wanted to write about a doctor who, though he doesn’t know it, has the full house of “knowledge, skills, and attitudes”.  There’s an old cliché that if you have knowledge, become a physician, if you have skill, become a surgeon, if you have tender loving kindness, become a GP.  (It’s nonsense.)    Most of us strive for competency on one level.  You sometimes meet doctors who combine such virtues.  For example you might meet an intensivist who combines encyclopaedic knowledge of pathophysiology with extraordinary motor abilities and nerves of steel.  But he’s also liable to lack people skills, he will have a monstrous ego, and he might even be psychopathic.  A doctor who excels in not one or two, but all three of these fields, is a very rare bird indeed.  I think Alastair Cameron-Strange might become such a doctor, but he still needs to work on his attitude.  If he survives, and isn’t struck off, I suspect when he’s a little older he might become very eminent in his field.

So believe me, ACS definitely isn’t me!  But I once received a backhanded compliment from an Edinburgh Professor of Medicine that would have befitted ACS:  “You’ll go far, Campbell, so long as you don’t go too far.”

 

Are you an unpublished writer? The ImpressPrize is now open for submissions. Deadline 30 June 2017. Follow @ImpressPrize on Twitter for updates.

Interview with Sanjida Kay #TheStolenChild

Today I am delighted to welcome back to my blog, Sanjida Kay, who is celebrating the publication of her second psychological thriller, The Stolen Child. You may read my review of this deliciously chilling story here. Sanjida kindly agreed to answer some questions which I put together as I read the book. I hope you find her answers as interesting as I did.

1. Publicity for books these days takes many forms. I enjoyed watching the book trailer (see below) and the interview you posted on YouTube about the inspirations for the book (also included below). I know that, amongst your many roles, you have worked in broadcasting. Was it your choice to use these media to promote your book?

Thank you so much for having me back to your blog, Jackie! I’m glad you liked them! I’ve spent years working as a TV director and presenter, so it’s fun to be able to use those skills, particularly in something as creative as a book trailer. Cameraman, Rob Franklin, shot one of my BBC documentaries, and contacted me recently to ask if we could work on a book-related project. Not only did he do an amazing job filming the trailer and the Q&A, he enlisted the help of a drone pilot, Jack Stevenson, who shot some incredible footage of Evie when she’s lost on the moor, wearing only her Frozen dress.

2. I love the jacket design for The Stolen Child and this is brought to life in your book trailer. Did you have any say in the picture used?

It was a shock when I had my first novel published at the age of 25, to discover that authors have NO say in their book covers. I’m so fortunate to be published by Corvus Books, though, as I’ve loved both the book jacket for Bone by Bone, my first thriller, as well as the second one for The Stolen Child. I think their design has perfectly captured the colour, the wildness and the desolation of the West Yorkshire moors.

3. The undercurrent of unease that pervades the story had me suspecting just about every character introduced. Did you know how each their roles would play out when you started writing them?

I had a brilliant brainstorming session with crime writer, Sarah Hilary, when I first came up with the idea for The Stolen Child. She suggested I make a number of characters sound suspicious and I’m glad I did. When I began writing, I knew who would be a suspect, and how, to a certain extent, but I hope I’ve managed to push that sense of distrust all the way through.

4. One of the themes in the book is trust and how fragile it is under pressure. With your imagination, do you ever catch yourself pondering the secrets your acquaintances may hold?

I suppose it’s no great surprise that my PhD was on Theory of Mind, which is essentially how we know what other people are thinking. Apparently, most of us can cope with up to six levels of ‘intentionality’, which could go something like this:

Does she know that I know that I think she’s wondering who else knows what she knows about what her sister believes is her half- sister’s secret?!

So, yes! Bone by Bone and The Stolen Child tap the commonly perceived threat in dark, lonely locations.

5. Has writing such disturbing stories affected the way you react to, for example, looking outside when alone in your house at night with your daughter, or walking in isolated locations?

Like many women, I will often choose not to walk home at night or to go for a run in isolated places because of the potential danger. I feel a lot safer in the countryside than I do in the city, though. But I don’t suppose watching seven seasons of The Walking Dead has helped my anxiety levels!

6. Your protagonist in The Stolen Child is an artist. Have you ever tried your hand at painting?

I took an A level in art, but I didn’t carry on painting for long after that. I’d love to have the time to return to it at some point. Luckily, I’m friends with a brilliant artist, Elaine Jones, and I grilled her on how she paints, as well as how she manages to juggle being an artist, with bringing up two small children.

7. And finally, you mentioned you brainstorming session with Sarah Hilary and thank her in the book’s acknowledgements. Does hanging out with other authors of dark, twisty thrillers affect the way you think?

Bristol is a brilliant place to live if you’re a novelist: it’s full of talented thriller writers, such as CL Taylor, Jane Shemilt and Gilly Macmillan – and Sarah is nearby, in Bath. It’s certainly refreshing to be able to meet up now and again and have an in-depth chat about writing with people who understand what you’re going through and can cheer you along the way. We’re all quite normal on the surface.

Thank you so much Sanjida, I love the hint of suspicion you have left us with there!

Now, doesn’t the book look fabulous?

The Stolen Child is published by Corvus Books and is available to buy now.

 

Mothers’ Day – Guest Post by Emma Curtis

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Today I am delighted to welcome Emma Curtis, author of suspense thriller One Little Mistake (which I review here), to my blog. Emma’s book explores the tricky balancing act that so many women live juggling friendship, marriage and motherhood – and the catastrophic consequences of a seemingly small mistake. She has written this guest post for Mothers’ Day.

On Mothers’ Day, we reflect on everything our mothers did for us and we give them a call, or take them a bunch of flowers, and thank them. This is the time to forget the fact that as teenagers, we said to ourselves, if I ever have children I will never do that! It’s the time to forget the parties we weren’t allowed to go to, to forgive the unreasonable bedtimes and irrational decisions that were never satisfactorily explained. When you have your own children you quickly realize that even if you do have a mental check list of the dreadful things your own mother did, there is a one hundred percent chance your kids will be able to come up with some humdingers of your doing. Mothers’ Day is a time to remember that mothers are human beings, and if they make mistakes it’s because they love us and worry for us and sometimes overreact.

One Little Mistake is a novel about an ordinary wife and mother who doesn’t always get it right. But none of this would have mattered and she would have muddled on, just like the rest of us, had it not been for one major lapse in judgement. When I wrote Vicky Seagrave, I drew on my own experiences of falling into motherhood four years before I had planned or wanted to. It caught me and my husband by surprise and we were unprepared for every aspect of it: the love, the fatigue, the mess, the restrictions, the adjustment in our own relationship.

Vicky’s ‘Mistake’ has a catastrophic effect on her life, the reverberations rippling through her marriage, her closest friendship, her job and her position in the community, putting at risk everything she holds dear. One Little Mistake is a psychological suspense novel, so what happens to Vicky and the danger she puts herself and her family in, is of course extreme. However, at the heart of it I wanted to show the confusing side of motherhood: feeling out of control; discovering that it’s not all perfect baby skin, talcum powder and fluffy white towels like in the ads, that it’s mess and tears, it’s unwashed hair and eyes bruised and baggy from lack of sleep. It’s dirty dishes piling up and piling on the pounds. It’s being two hours into a six-hour train journey to Edinburgh and realising you forgot the spare nappies – yes, that was me! It’s keeping things going on the surface and trying to ignore the muddle churning underneath.

But above all, it’s a mountain that we climb not so much because we have no choice, but through animal instinct and unconditional love. And in the end, you kiss your children as they leave the house on their own for the first time and you know that it’s OK. You can forgive yourself the mistakes you’ve made, because they make you proud. And then one day, you tell your twenty-five- year-old daughter, sitting on the sofa glued to her laptop, that you love her and she answers distractedly that she loves you too.

onelittlemistake

One Little Mistake is published by Black Swan, an imprint of Transworld Books.

 

How to be an author – Guest post by Brad Parks

bradparks_credit_saraharris

Today I am delighted to welcome Brad Parks, author of Say Nothing, to my blog. In this guest post Brad shares his thoughts on what it takes to write a book. 

 

Having lurked around this blog, I’m aware that Jackie, my gracious host at Never Imitate, Jackie, is a woman interested in all things writing.

And given that I’m the new guy here – Say Nothing is my first book to release in the UK – I probably ought to just shove my hands deep in my pockets, mumble something nice about how you should write what you know, and call it a guest blog post.

Yeah, to hell with that.

I’m here. I’m going to rant. Because while I may be new around here, I’m not new to the writing community. I’ve hung around the bars, the conferences – and, most importantly, the bars at the conferences – long enough. I hear people talk about “talent” (such a misleading word), or “genius” (oh, please) or, worse, “inspiration” (I’ve got your muse right here in my pocket, pal).

And I feel like there’s one thing writers never talk about enough:

Stubbornness.

By stubbornness, I mean gamely bashing your head against the laptop screen – repeatedly and without letting up – until the words come out right; and then keeping at it, day after tormenting/boring/seemingly pointless day, until the whole manuscript comes out right.

And that has nothing to do with talent; or some kind of God-given genius; or, most of all, some blasted muse that will fly down on gossamer wings and alight on your shoulder.

It has to do with grit. And tenacity. And deciding you are simply going to be tougher than everyone else alive.

And you don’t have to be smart to do that. You just have to be breathing.

A small anecdote to illustrate what I’m talking about:

When my wife was in grad school, she had to learn how to administer intelligence tests and I served as her test dummy. Literally. There was one test – I think it was for seven-year- olds – where you had to rearrange blocks.

The scoring was a sliding scale based on how quickly you could complete the task. You didn’t get any points if it took longer than two minutes, but the catch was the test administrator couldn’t tell you to stop.

I kept fumbling with those stupid blocks for twenty-six minutes before I finally solved a problem that slightly-above- average seven-year- olds could do in a fraction of that time.

But that’s the great thing about writing. There’s no stopwatch on you. And you don’t have to be the brightest seven-year- old – or even a dumb forty-two- year-old. You just have to be willing to do the work.

So, yes, my UK debut, Say Nothing, released last week. And maybe the publisher would like you to believe I am just some supremely talented – God, I hate that word – scribbler who was gifted this amazing story one day. But I know better.

And now so do you.

 

Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero, and Lefty Awards, three of American crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. Say Nothing is his UK debut.

say-nothing

Say Nothing is published by Faber and Faber and is available to buy now.

say-nothing_blog-tour-graphic

This post is a stop on the Say Nothing Blog Tour. Do check out the other posts, detailed above.

Author Interview: Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien

lizcowley   donough

Today I am delighted to welcome Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien to my blog. Liz and Donough are the authors of ‘Serial Damage’, which I review here.

1. You have done what so many writers dream of and had your novel published. How have you found this experience?

Liz:

Very rewarding, and also very interesting, writing jointly with my husband Donough. And the publisher, Urbane, is a joy to work with – far easier than some I’ve known. I never thought I’d write a novel – or more accurately half of one – or dovetail so smoothly with a co-author without any disagreements. He does action, I do reaction – and it’s a recipe that seems to work.

Donough:

To tackle something completely new, a crime novel instead of the illustrated history books that I normally write, I realised that to get the detail right we needed outside expertise. Luckily we knew, or got to know, top detectives, judges, psychologists, gun makers and surgeons, and they gave us the accuracy we needed. Most of the places round the world we featured we have actually visited, which was another help.

2. Urbane require collaboration with authors in marketing their books. Has this worked out as you expected?

Liz:

Yes, very well. While Urbane promoted us, we do our bit with a series of launch parties round the country in aid of charity. We also helped to promote the book in both the UK and Ireland using our own media contacts. It helps that we were both from marketing and advertising backgrounds.

Donough:

We contacted the media in places where our ‘murders’ take place, like Cornwall, Kent and Ireland and the local press and radio stations were happy to feature us. Most media are intrigued by a husband and wife writing team, but it also helped that Liz’s latest book of amusing poetry, Pass the Prosecco, Darling! was coming out at the same time. A woman who can write light poetry and heavy murder is surely very unusual.

3. Have you done many live author events and, if so, do you enjoy them?

Liz:

Yes, quite a few. National radio like Saturday Live and lots of local radio. I’ve also given speeches at the Hampton Court Flower Show. My poetry books were made into a live stage show in Dublin and London, and the show was the finale of the West Cork Literary Festival at which I appeared.

Donough:

In addition to the charity events, we have been on the radio a lot and in my case television (BBC Breakfast, etc). I enjoy such events and also meeting all sorts of people.

4. What is your approach to the on line reviews of your book?

Liz:

They are very important – it thrills me if they’ve enjoyed my books, and if you get criticism, you learn from it. In many ways, it reminds of my many years as an advertising copywriter – starting with picturing the audience and then learning from the feedback if you’ve got it right.

Donough:

Yes, very important and one should never worry about criticism. You can’t please everyone!

5. When asked what you do, do you describe yourself as a writer?

Liz:

A writer (never a poet) although I’ve had seven poetry books published so far. I’m afraid the word ‘poet’ tends to make people freeze!

Donough:

Having drifted into this, I call myself an author – I don’t know why!

6. Are you going to do this again – is there another novel in the pipeline?

Liz:

We already have. Urbane are publishing From One Hell to Another next year. Our heroine is a Spanish girl in the French resistance. Once again Donough pulls the triggers and I do the emotional bits.

Donough:

And in February I’ve got a thriller about the IRA coming out with Urbane called Peace Breaks Out. I wrote it with my friend Robin Hardy, famous for The Wicker Man film, who has sadly just passed away. And Liz and I have just finished a sci-fi novel called Testosterone. So collaborative writing seems to work for us.

 

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Liz has had a long career as an advertising copywriter and Creative Director, working in several of the world’s leading agencies. A long-time fan of poetry, she enjoyed success with her first collection, A Red Dress, published in 2008 and her second, What am I Doing Here? (2010), which were then made into a theatrical show – first staged in Dublin, then chosen as the finale of the West Cork Literary Festival and later touring the UK. Her next book ‘And guess who he was with?’ was out in February 2013. Two poetry books for gardeners, Outside in my Dressing Gown, and Gardening in Slippers are selling very well, not only in the book trade but also in garden centres.

Before turning to writing, Donough enjoyed a successful marketing career in the US and Europe. His previous books include Fame by Chance, looking at places that became famous by a twist of fate; Banana Skins, covering the slips and screw-ups that brought the famous down to earth; Numeroids, a book of numerical nuggets, and In the Heat of Battle; a study of those who rose to the occasion in warfare and those who didn’t. His latest historical book was WHO? The most remarkable people you’ve never heard of.

 

9781911129455

Serial Damage is published by Urbane Publications and is available to buy now.

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