Category Archives: Crime fiction Q&A

Dead of Night by Michael Stanley – BLOG TOUR Q & A

I am lucky enough to have a hobby that brings me into contact with loads of fantastic books and authors. It is always an absolute pleasure to be contacted by authors and publishers and invited to read their books. However every now and again I get emails that truly send my excitement levels rocketing, and one recently inviting me onto the blog tour for the latest by crime writing duo Michael Stanley was just such an email.

I am a huge fan of their Detective Kubu series having read my first one as part of my TOPCWFC a couple of years ago (after the challenge finished unfortunately) and absolutely love them. Their latest however is a departure from Detective Kubu, still set in South Africa, it introduces us to journalist Crystal Nguyen. When her friend goes missing whilst investigating a rhino poaching ring she is determined to find out what has happened.

I am absolutely delighted therefore to welcome Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip to acrimereadersblog. Thanks so much for joining me.

Firstly I have to ask, what inspired Dead of Night and why the move away from Detective Kubu?

We haven’t moved away from Detective Kubu. We really enjoy writing about him and his cases in Botswana, each set against a different backstory arising from the realities of southern Africa. There are certainly more Kubu books ahead! However, when you write a series, there are some inevitable constraints. Although every story stands alone, the focus always needs to be the series protagonist. And the very features that make the series appealing – the history of the main characters and their development – also constrain where one can go. Finally, a police procedural has an internal structure that must be respected.

Writers always need to be challenged to avoid their work becoming stale and boring, both to them and to their readers. We wanted to write a novel with a backstory of the South African rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling, but we wanted it to have the structure of a thriller – quite different from the police procedural. In a thriller, the action and the protagonist have to be believable, but they don’t have to follow the laws and evidence as police procedurals do. The rhino issues are really complex, and we wanted to get right into the action rather than pick up the pieces afterwards, as one does in a mystery.

So we imagined Crystal Nguyen. A strong female protagonist, born in Vietnam, she has a passion for conservation and a strong commitment to the American Gray Wolf. And she is someone who is willing to go beyond the rules when she feels it’s necessary. She is commissioned by National Geographic to visit South Africa to complete an article exploring the rhino-horn trade at the same time as trying to find the National Geographic reporter who disappeared while working on it. It turns out to be a much more dangerous and challenging assignment than she could ever have imagined. 

I’m glad there will be more Kubo, although I have to say I loved the character of Crystal, as someone who on the whole prefers animals to people I certainly warmed to her passion and commitment to conservation!  Have you both always been writers?

Well, Michael tried his hand at science fiction when he was at university, but we came late to mystery fiction. We started working on our debut book, A Carrion Death, in 2003. In another sense, however, we both have always been writers – in the academic non-fiction space. Both of us have written many research papers, and Stanley has written four text books on topics ranging from the use of computers in education to human factors in aviation. And most of our work has been done in collaboration with other people, so it seemed very natural to us to work on a novel as a collaborative project.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

Michael: I’m involved in a lot of things, including image processing research and graduate students at the university, and being a director of a start-up company in the geophysics area. Then, there are many communication activities around the books, including blogs and reviewing for ITW and the New York Journal of Books. Eventually – usually in the evenings – the dust settles enough to write. I feel very fortunate that I can do all these things for the pleasure of doing them rather than to earn a living.

Stanley: I am not disciplined at all when it comes to daily writing. I, too, have many interests including travel, various sporting activities and attending classical-music concerts. So, I write in between all of these and have developed the ability to write anywhere, even when sitting next to a screaming baby on a plane. I can block out almost anything.

It certainly sounds like you are both busy. How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Michael: Doing what I’m doing right now – sitting by the Olifants River at my place in the African bush near the Kruger National Park, relaxing and appreciating the complete wildness of the area and the beauty of its animal and bird life. The more afternoons like that you put together, the better it gets.

Stanley: Being in the bush would be my first choice too. I think too few people take the time to completely relax for extended periods of time.

That sounds absolutely amazing. South Africa is definitely on my list for places I’d like to visit. One of the things I love about your books are the real sense of the beauty and wildness of the country that comes across in the writing. Are you an avid readers yourselves? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Michael: Yes I read a lot; most of the fiction is mysteries or thrillers of one sort or another. I write a monthly piece called Africa Scene for the International Thriller Writers in which I feature a book set in Africa and its author. My favourite South African crime fiction author is Deon Meyer. I think his latest book Fever (which is a near future post-apocalypse novel set in the South African karoo) is one of his most powerful books. I’m also a great John Le Carré fan. I think he is one of the best writers in the genre – or in any genre. (Henning Mankel reputedly said that Le Carré is the best author who will never win a Nobel prize.) His semiautobiographical A Perfect Spy is brilliant – I’ve read it several times and keep learning about writing from it.

Stanley: I mainly read mysteries, but also some historical non-fiction. I’m attracted to stories that are in translation, giving me an insight into different cultures. I enjoy Sunshine Noir because I prefer being warm to being cold!

Sunshine Noir is a great term! Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?

We’re writing a prequel in the Detective Kubu series. In the book, Kubu is a new detective joining the Criminal Investigation Department. He has a tough time; because he hasn’t followed the usual route to being a detective, and the current detectives don’t like it. Then the CID is thrown into turmoil by a daring heist of diamonds from the world’s richest diamond mine at Jwaneng. Kubu has to prove himself in short order. Our working title is Facets of Death.

I can’t wait to read that one either. Thank you so much for joining me Michael and Stanley and taking the time to answer my questions, and thanks to the lovely Anne Cater of Random Things for inviting me onto this.

If you haven’t yet read Michael Stanley then you are in for a real treat and I’d highly recommend them.

Dead of Night is available now.

To find our more about Dead of Night and Michael Stanley make sure you visit some of the other stop on the blog tour:

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

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Just by Jenny Morton Potts – Q&A BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to welcome Jenny Morton Potts to acrimereadersblog. Jenny is the author of Just, an intriguing story of ‘love and loss, terror and triumph’ Thanks for joining me Jenny. firstly what inspired Just?

It feels like the major problems of the complex modern world are very present among us. We’re filmed wherever we go and we watch everyone closely, for weapons at school, for bombs on the underground. Our threats walk alongside us daily. It’s inescapable. I wanted innocent characters to get caught up in all that, to be pawns in today’s global greed and prejudice.

 Have you always been a writer?

 Pretty much, since about nine years old, writing plays. Quite gory as I recall. Half the cast would be dead by the end of Act I. I loved every minute of it.

 Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

My day is very 9 to 5. I don’t take a lunch break though. And I don’t take days off during a draft of a book. I have a cabin where I work. Animals wander in and out. Just domestic pets, nothing too hefty or predatory.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Probably at the theatre. I’ve got Wimbledon tickets this year, so that will be a favourite afternoon off

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I have blasts of reading a lot and then not reading at all. It’s of course useful to see what other authors are up to, in a technical sense, but I’m quite instinctive and don’t like to be influenced during the draft of a book. I’m always receptive to new authors but there are certainly a few whose books are numerous on my shelves, E Annie Proulx, Paul Auster, Jane Smiley, Sheen Mackay, Lesley Glaister, Zadie Smith, Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Solzhenitsyn, Nabokov, Woolf

 Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on

I’m working on a triptych novel with three intertwining stories set in different times but they all have a cello link. It’s not necessary to know anything about the cello to enjoy the book. It’s structure is like The Hours, a book and film I loved.

I’m also working on a memoir for a ballet star from the golden era. This will ruffle a few feathers at The Royal Ballet

Then in the autumn, I’m back to thrillers!

 That all sounds like you are going be rather busy! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions today.

Just is out now and is available here.

 

 

 

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The Old You by Louise Voss – Q and A BLOG TOUR

The Old You by Louise Voss is about Lynn and her husband Ed. Ed is diagnosed with dementia and then strange things start happening. Alongside the fact that there was suspicious around the death of Ed’s first wife Lynn starts to wonder who she can trust. This was an interesting read that I really enjoyed therefore I’m delighted to be able to welcome Louise Voss to acrimereadersblog.

Thanks for joining me Louise. The Old You is a great story, what inspired it?

The basis of the inspiration was dementia-related (although I hasten to add, this is not a book about dementia). I had to watch my beloved mother endure it for years, and the potential for a crime novel really struck me at the time – life with someone who has that illness is never straightforward; it’s never a case of lie versus truth. The sufferer is always convinced of the veracity of their statements, and these are often incorrect. But because he/she truly believes them, they can’t be accused of lying – they aren’t lying. This can be very confusing to them as well as the people around them as they attempt to extrapolate what’s true and what isn’t. And then there’s the potential for exploitation which, sadly, is also huge…

Have you always been a writer?

In some ways, yes, in so far as I have always loved it, and used to write lots of stories as a kid.  I kept diaries for many years too. I’ve been a professional writer for eighteen years now – I put my writing ‘anniversary’ at the point of signing my first publishing deal, for To Be Someone, which was in April 2000.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

I don’t really have a typical working day.  I aim to do a minimum of 1300 words a day if I’m working on a novel, and if I’m in the zone I’ll keep going. It’s the admin – life and work – that takes up the most time!  I don’t know how writers sit down at their desks at 9am and stay there till 4 or 5pm or whatever.  I can only assume that they have people to do everything else for them – grocery shopping, paying bills, childcare (although I don’t have this anymore now mine’s all grown up), etc!

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

A long game of tennis in the sun followed by an even longer lunch with friends and wine…

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I’m a huge reader. I don’t think you can be a good writer unless you read as well. The writers whose books I always automatically seek out are all women (although obviously I do enjoy books by men too!): Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Tammy Cohen, Erin Kelly, Kate Rhodes, Fiona Cummins, Susie Steiner, Robert Galbraith aka JKR… I could go on.

There are some great names there that I’m a big fan off too. Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?

I’m halfway through a new whodunnit, about the manager of a gift shop of a small stately home in the Surrey Hills.  She lives a secluded existence these days, nobody knows that she used to be in a chart-topping band. She quit the limelight suddenly after a brutal kidnap and assault almost cost her life. Now, twenty years later, word of her identity and whereabouts gets out, and people close to her start dying under mysterious circumstances… Someone’s after her again – but who and why?

That sounds fascinating. Thanks very much for joining me Louise.

To find out more about The Old You visit the other stops on the blog tour. Click below to buy The Old You which is out on the 15th May.

THE OLD YOU new cover_preview

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The Penance List by S.C Cunningham

The Penance List is the story of 3 friends and a stalker. Tara, Helen and Josie meet every week for a catch up. However they are unaware that they are being watched. David is obsessed with Tara and his obsession soon turns creepy and dangerous. This was an interesting story that flits between the current day of the three friends, David and his background. Gruesome in parts and with a lot of sex scenes it is pretty fast paced and is an easy read that will keep you hooked until the end.

Therefore I’m delighted to welcome S.C Cunningham to my blog to find out more about the author behind The Penance List.    

Hi Siobhan, thanks for joining me. Firstly I like to know what was the inspiration behind The Penance List?     

I tend to write what I know; my storylines are founded on real life experiences.

From a very young age I’ve always known that my job in life was to entertain. To drag folk kicking and screaming into a world of escapism, to situations they’ve never experienced before and have them championing characters, willing them on and punching the air with a “Yesss!”

When building a character I draw on observations of people I know or have closely watched, it’s easier to write from truth.  Luckily, I’ve had a hectic life path, worked in a few fascinating industries, and been able to study a wide range of characters.

In a nutshell my path has been – am British born of Irish parents, was plonked from the age of 8yrs into an Irish Catholic Nuns Boarding School. After a short spell of studying law (realising there is too much injustice in our systems) I went on to work as a fashion model, married a rock musician and worked in the music to film industry. Got divorced and then as a single mum worked within football, sports celebrity management, horseracing, children’s charities, and more recently for the Police as a Crime Investigator – Intel Analyst, Major Crime Team, Wanted and Absconder Units. Am proud mum to a wonderful daughter (Contemporary Artist) and owned by three dogs.

For the past ten years I’ve been drawing on these experiences as inspiration to write steamy Psychological Thrillers ‘The David Trilogy’ and gritty Paranormal Crime Romance ‘The Fallen Angel Series’.

The Penance List was kick-started by an incident that happened to me in my twenties when I was living in London. Quite frighteningly and out of the blue, I crossed paths with a prolific serial attacker who targeted single girls living alone in basement flats in Notting Hill and Olympia. It was then that I realised evil can sit around any corner, learn to trust you gut.

This male haunted London for a long period of time; he was astute, studied his victims for days and avoided capture. I believe he attacked 14 or so women, luckily I got away unscathed (must have an Angel looking out for me) and managed to help Police ID him with a photo fit. He was a nice looking, well dressed, calm, cold, precise and unhurried. He didn’t say a word, just stared, seeming to revel in the fear he instilled.

 I remember looking into his face and asking why? I needed to understand how a human could be that cruel to another. He had the look of a spoilt mother’s boy; I guessed his mother must have loved him at some stage, but what life changing event or who had turned him from a sweet little boy into an evil adult? The seed for complex protagonist David Howard was sown.

 Using a mix of my own experiences (nuns, boarding school, modelling, the press, celebrity management and fun loving career girlfriends) I created a fantasy world of manipulation, shining a light on the ripple effect carnage that the misuse of power, religion and passion can cause.

 I enjoy complex characters that slowly reveal themselves, are not who they seem and engage with the reader, pulling at heartstrings and worst fears. I try to create a person who the reader would either like to hang out with or see as their worst enemy. Someone they feel empathy for and understand their choices, right or wrong. Someone they champion and punch the air with a resounding “Yessss!”

 And because I’m an old romantic who loves a bit of drama, my books also have to have a few oh-so-sexy personalities with complicated love lives, evil exes, edge of seat fear, twists, turns, steamy romances and cheeky laugh out loud banter.

Working on a series allows you to build characters that hopefully people will fall in love with and get excited about. David is a very bad person, but fans often write saying they’re hooked; they love his charismatic charm warts and all, and can’t wait to see what he does next. They understand and champion the boy, but fear the man he has become. The book has been adapted to film script, so we may see David on our screens one day. I love working on this character so much that I have dragged him into ‘The Fallen Angel Series’ where he causes a bit of more chaos in the skies Pleased be warned, The Penance List is a sexy thriller, think Psycho meets 50 Shades. It can be a little naughty at times and may not be for everyone. But if you’re brave enough, grab a glass of vino, close the bedroom door and read alone.

I’d definitely recommend reading this with wine in hand! Have you always been a writer?

For nearly twenty years I have been compiling storylines. My Crime Investigation works keeps me busy writing also, there are a lot of reports to complete for CPS and Court.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

My crime investigation work consists of arriving at a Police Station, attending a briefing, being given a prisoner and dealing with his or her case; sourcing evidence, speaking to witnesses and victims, conducting safeguarding, disclosing to Legal Advisors, interviewing the prisoner, and depending on the offence and if charged, liaising with CPS and preparing files for Court.

My writing work involves somehow cutting out the rest of the world and becoming mushroom-like reclusive. I tend to try and back out of the world and everything that’s going on around me for days before, emptying my over-zealous mind, to fill it again with another complex fictional world.

On a writing day, I take the dogs for a beach walk, traveling via the back roads to avoid conversations. Am easily drawn into chatting with folk – dog walkers are a lovely friendly bunch. 

On the beach I start the process of thinking about scenes for the day’s writing. My work tends to have complicated spaghetti storylines which I need to be on top of – tough on an old bird like me

I get home and set the scene of my writing room; smelly candles, music, good lighting, warmth, quiet, nibbley easy-to-eat food and plenty of drinks. The dogs, exhausted from their walk, sleep at my feet. It’s nice to have another heart beat in the room, writing can be lonely.

I sit at the computer for between 5 to 10 hours, depending how well it’s going, and then log off with a celebratory glass of vino or cheeky gin and tonic.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

I love the beach, in all kinds of weather. The sea seems to calm my soul and is great for rinsing out storylines and the clutter of crime. I also love catching up with a good friend, putting the world to rights over a cup of coffee or a cheeky glass of Prosecco.

Movies are another passion of mine, I could quite happily sit in a cinema all afternoon watching 2/3 movies back to back. I write with film in mind.

I agree on the beach front. Some of my best walks have been on the beach in freezing conditions! Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

My reading tastes reveal a pretty primitive narrow spectrum of thriller romance and action – Martina Cole, James Patterson, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Colin Dexter, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell,  John Le Carre, Ian Fleming and my uber favourite  is Lee Child, although I’ve not forgiven him for selling the rights to Tom Cruise. Tom is wonderful I’m sure, but he is no Jack Reacher… (sigh).

Very true. I must say although I like a Lee Child book I have avoided the film! Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on?

I am currently at the edit stage of book two of The Fallen Angel Series ‘Karma’, and have started the final book in The David Trilogy ‘For My Sins’. Thank you for talking with me.

Thanks so much for answering my questions today.

To find out more about The Penance List make sure you visit the other stops on the blog tour.

The Penance List Full Tour Banner

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A Gallery of the Dead by Chris Carter – Q & A BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to welcome Chris Carter to acrimereadersblog today. Although I had of course heard of Chris, for some reason I hadn’t actually read any of his books. Therefore when I was invited onto his blog tour I jumped at the chance to discover someone new to me, and I can’t believe it has taken me so long. Gallery of the Dead is a chilling read about a serial killer who seemingly kills people at random. Each scene is played out in all it’s gruesome glory with some truly disturbing images. Yet there are also elements of humour and social interaction between the FBI and the local police that provide some welcome distraction from the murders. This is an excellent read that I would thoroughly recommend to those of you who like your crime fiction definitely hard boiled.

Welcome Chris and thank you for joining me. Gallery of the Dead is your 9th novel I believe all featuring Robert Hunter. Where did you get the inspiration for Robert?

Well, since I was writing a crime thriller, it was obvious that I needed a detective, so I just created one out of the blue.  At first, there wasn’t much thought put into his character.  I just created a detective that I thought would work.

Most people don’t know this, but my first novel – The Crucifix Killer – was supposed to be a stand-alone.  The original story didn’t end very well for Hunter and Garcia.  It was my agent who suggested that I made Hunter into a series character.  In our first meeting he told that he loved my story, but my ending didn’t work.  We discussed a whole spectrum of possibilities and I ended up re-writing the last twelve chapters of the book to move Hunter from a one-off character to a series one.

Do you still like your main character or ever think about killing him off so you can write about someone else?

I actually really enjoy writing Hunter stories, so much so that I actually miss the character when I an in between books.

Did you always want to be a writer?

No, not ever.  The truth is that I had never planned on writing a book.  I never thought about a career in writing and I never spent any time thinking up stories or developing characters in my head that I would one day want to write about.  My submersion into the world of books – writing books that is – came out of a dream I had back in 2007.  I didn’t exactly leave music to become a writer.  I had stopped being a professional musician many years before I had the dream that led me to write my first book.

I believe you have had a few varied jobs in your time, other than being a writer obviously, what was your favourite?

Hands down I would have to say being a musician.  I absolutely loved being on stage with a band

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

My typical working day is quite boring, I would say.  I always start my days by reading what I wrote the day before and editing as much as I can.  I will then work all day until I reach my desired target (usually a certain number of words).  Some days I will get there quite quickly, others I will write all the way into the evening before reaching that target.  Some days I spend the entire day just researching something that I would like to include in the novel.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Easy – partying.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so what are some of your favourite authors?

I know that this will sound quite sad, but for an Author, I read very, very little – around two books a year, if that.  I also don’t have a favourite writer.  Not now.  Way before I decided to write my first novel, I used to love reading Frederick Forsyth.  I guess I still do, he just doesn’t release as many books anymore.

Finally what are you working on next?

I am already working on my next novel.  I usually only take around one month off between books

Well I shall look forward to that, in the meantime I will definitely try and catch up on the previous adventures of Robert Hunter. Thanks very much for joining me Chris.

Pre-order Gallery of the Dead from amazon

 

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Veronica’s Bird – Guest post BLOG TOUR

 Today I am delighted to welcome Richard Newman to acrimereadersblog. He is a ‘ghost’ writer and among others he has written Veronica’s Bird, the true life story of Veronica Bird who became the Governor of Armley Prison. 

Veronica’s Bird is a fascinating tale of a woman’s rise from a tiny house in Barnsley. Abused by her brother in law, she ran away and joined the prison service. Showing her determination she turned around her first posting within a year, she then went on to be honoured by the Queen and even got asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons. This is a remarkable story that is told with a warmth and humour that belies the struggles that Veronica had to go through.

So Richard when did you know you were going to be a writer?

The first smidgen of an idea that I thought writing might be for me, other than filling in a tax form, was when I was living in the Middle East, some forty years ago. No television worthy of being labelled a programme, the radio in fast Arabic, no bars or theatre…. you get the picture, so I began to explore the idea of writing a faction based upon the love letters found in Ludwig van Beethoven’s desk after he died, a story which fascinated me. It took me twelve and a half years of research (there were 28,000 books and two million articles to consider) so, quite popular then, and, at the end of it all, ‘Crown of Martyrdom’ was born. Born also was a love of writing which caused ‘The Potato Eaters’ and ‘The Horse that screamed’ to follow. I jumped from novels to writing about fascinating, living, people which brought forth ‘A Nun’s Story’ which became a Sunday Times best-seller, and now Veronica’s Bird is to be launched 23rd January 2018. In January I will revert to novels again to finish off ‘Stepping down’ a story of retirement and the traumas which can flow from the decision to retire. After that, well on the stocks, is the story of my life in the Middle East. Life was very funny out there in the Seventies, yet fascinating. This is to be titled ‘Cockroach on my shoulder’.

Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you? 

My typical day always lies within a well-formed groove, though not groovy if you get what I mean. We (Julia my wife, and I) are usually up by seven a.m.: well, the dog, Crumble, is already letting us know the day has been approved by her. I make breakfast, a serious affair for a serious meal. By 9 a.m. my eyes are straying towards my computer (though I hand-write my novels first) and by two minutes past the hour I’m on the keyboard in my library, surrounded by books and the smell of frying bacon still attached to my hair. At 10.10 I stop to go to a local gym and am back in harness again, if glowing slightly, in an hour. I work until 12.30 when lunch beckons (a light affair) preceded by an Amontillado followed by my turn at the dog walk along the banks of the River Wharfe.

By 2 p.m. I usually take, paragraph by paragraph, that which I have typed up previously and begin to re-write, again by hand, numbering each so they slot in easily later. I may do this 3-4 times, each time refining the words, still marvelling at the English language. By 6p.m. the sun has sneaked behind a rogue sycamore tree; time for a Campari with lots of ice and soda before supper. Television alternates with reading and so to bed at 10 p.m. There’s not the scrap of a night owl about me – I leave such things to my three sons, who are, I believe, experts.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon? 
A perfect afternoon is a summer Sunday afternoon, with, perhaps, eight friends sitting around a lunch table, the beef ribs bare, like oak trees in winter, the crumbs of an apple strudel being removed from the floor by a pink tongue (no, not mine, it belongs to Crumble) and just listening to my farmer friends discussing the amount of barley they have harvested or hear the pride as they talk about a new bull ‘….down in ‘ter field.’ Beef is very rare; Cliquot very cold, conversation crackling like a log fire in January.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

For all my reading, I alternate each time between fiction and biography. Morris West has been read to death with such masters as The Devil’s Disciple. Running my eyes down the shelving in front of me I see a good old-timer – I have 17 books by him – Nevil Shute (being of that age I am still disturbed by ‘On the beach’), Kazuo Ishiguro, of course and then a whole series of stories of Carol Drinkwater’s Olive Farm. Alan Bennet: anything he writes is a natural if you live in Yorkshire and Boris Johnson to raise a smile. Michael Connelly’s plots are extraordinary and to contrast this, I will top up from time to time with any of the Russian classics. I had such a good translation of War and Peace in a two-volume paperback, I had it bound in leather!

Veronica Bird does not write at all; she issues the stories to me, I take them down and she approves. A typical day for her is to give a talk somewhere in the north of England. So much in demand is she, for her stories of life in Russian prisons, that she is already fully booked for June next year. She talks for an hour, exactly, without notes and has the ability to change the subject of her talks if required on a re-booking. No, one day though can be called typical for she is so busy with so many differing diary commitments, retaining her life-long interest in the prison service. She has a love of gardening and a large garden to maintain, friends to entertain and a commitment to see that as many people as possible read her story.

Thanks so much for joining me Richard. Veronica’s Bird is available now:

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Veronicas-Bird-Thirty-five-inside-officer-ebook/dp/B077NXT42X

 

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The CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Judith Culter Q and A BLOG TOUR

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for the latest collection of short stories by Orenda Books, The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour. For those who don’t know the CWA stands for Crime Writers Association and membership includes some of my favourite authors whose short stories appear in this fantastic collection. The book is a complete mystery tour that takes you from Glasgow to South Africa to the Ukraine. Each of the stories as you suspect has a rather murderous intention behind them, or do they? One intriguing story with a rather clever twist was from Judith Cutler and I’m delighted to welcome her to acrimereadersblog to talk about short stories.

Welcome Judith. I loved your story in A Mystery Tour. What was the inspiration behind it?

I just hope life doesn’t decide to imitate art, in this case. My husband, Edward Marston, and I are privileged to be invited to take on a lot of speaking engagements. We almost always do these together – we call ourselves Murder Ancient and Modern. Some call us the Morecambe and Wise of writing… However many events we do, and however well we’re prepared, there’s always a frisson of anxiety: is this the right day? Will we have an audience? Once I was ready to speak – to find an audience of zero. Last time I was in the USA I shared a signing session with C J Box and Jeffrey Deaver – an exercise in humiliation since none of my books had reached the conference and their fans formed queues pretty well round the block… So far, however, I’ve not turned up to find the event cancelled at the last minute.

It must be very nerve wracking doing events like that, fingers crossed your story stays as a fiction one rather than influencing real life! Do you prefer short story writing or full length novels?

Predictably, since I had success with the short form at the start of my career but didn’t feel I’d “arrived” as a writer till I saw my first novel on bookshop shelves, I’m going to say I like writing both. A novel is a Test Match of an endeavour: you’re going to live with characters who grow and develop over many chapters – and sometimes several novels. There is time to slow down, time to accelerate. I might be tempted to continue the image: a short story is more like T20 cricket –swashbuckling and speedy, with a rapid outcome. But I’d say a short story requires, in proportion, more concentration and effort than a novel. Each and every word must carry its weight – not a punctuation mark must be wrong. A story demands to be put away for a while to mature, so you come back with fresh eyes and can prune even more.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

It used to be very much the standard 9.00 to 5.00 working day that thirty years of college work had got me used to. Sadly about three years ago I injured my right hand so badly (at a church fete – don’t ask!!!) that I’ve had to reduce my time at the computer. Now I limit myself to about a thousand words a day, and spend the non-writing time doing things to keep the rest of my body fit: Pilates, ballroom dance, gardening and tennis (I’ve taught myself to play left handed though thank goodness the right hand is beginning to work again).

An injury at a church fete sounds like an ideal short story plot, although glad to hear you are on the mend. How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Having played tennis in the morning, I’d go on to a cricket match. I love the game so much I dedicated my latest book, Head Count, to the cricket charity for young people called Chance to Shine (www.chancetoshine.org). I’d round it all off with a concert given by the wonderful City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (with luck conducted by their brilliant young musical director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla) in Symphony Hall.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Like many writers, I want to read a lot more than I do. One problem is that many writers are better than I am, so I end up feeling downhearted about my own work. One or two aren’t as good as me, so why read them? This applies at least as much to so-called literary novels as to so-called genre-writers. But for consistent pleasure, can you beat the dear late Reg Hill for his amazing use of language in entirely the appropriate setting? I also love Kate Ellis, Amy Myers, Martin Edwards, Priscilla Masters – and many others whom I’m honoured to call friends. Oh, and there’s Edward Marston, of course – and I get to read his before anyone else does! As for old favourites, Jane Austen and George Eliot take a lot of beating, and when I’m feeling down who better to cheer me up than Georgette Heyer?

I think that applies to us readers too, there are always too many books and not enough time. That’s why short stories are so great as they can be dipped in and out of. Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m working on the third in the Jane Cowan series I’m writing for Allison and Busby. Jane’s a survivor of extreme domestic abuse. Finally she’s building a life away from her ex-husband who’s currently serving a prison sentence for what he did to her. She’s now a headmistress in Kent, running not one but two village primary schools. Times are tough in education, with staffing and finances under enormous pressure. In this novel it’s not pupil behaviour that’s an issue, however – it’s that of some of her new neighbours…

That sounds really intriguing Judith, I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks very much for joining me.

The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour is out now and is well worth a read.

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