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Guest posts for the release of Her Deadly Secret 

Three things I’ve learned after publishing three books Swirl and Thread

Where my ideas come from Cleopatra Loves Books

Some of my favourite crime related things! Best of Crime

To mark the publication of Her Turn To Cry

I’ve been busy contributing to other sites – here are the links.

I talked to one of my favourite writers about some of my favourite non-writerly things. So do join me and Sheena Lambert for the best night out in my home town and learn about the bars I like to go to and other important facts such as the kind of face cream I use! Definitely the most fun I’ve had in an interview.

I shared ten things most people don’t know about me with haphazardous hippo

Words With Jam magazine  asked me about my journey to publication

Her Turn To Cry is set in the 1950s and swinging 60s and I shared some thoughts on using the recent past in fiction over at Killer Reads

Lucy V Hay interviewed me about how I write and what I read for Criminally Good

Memory is an important aspect in both my novels and I wrote a guest post for damppebbles about fractured or damaged memory in crime fiction here

My two first novels are standalones, but as a reader I also love a good series. Here’s  my blog comparing these two types of crime fiction.

I shared some thoughts on writing crime in the 21st century with fellow writer JJ Marsh

The Killer Women Crime Writing Festival

Wow that was what I call a crime festival. I’m a fan of so many of the Killer Women that when my editor mentioned they were organising a one day event in London there was no question that I had to go. And did it live up to my expectations? I’ll say it did.

When I saw the programme I couldn’t believe the choices on offer. Interviews with (really) big name crime writers, documentary makers, workshops, panel discussions, TV detectives, real-life homicide police and a consultant psychiatrist from the famed Bethlam Hospital.

The venue could not have been better. Shoreditch Town Hall is supremely atmospheric and the first panel I attended was held in the room where the inquest of Maimg_20161015_123104607ry Jane Kelly – the last victim of Jack the Ripper – took place. Even to get a cup of tea we had to brave the incredibly creepy basement area. I love a bit of gothic noir, but I have to admit that when I found myself alone in the corridor down there I scurried along very fast.

So what events did I go for? After I’d boggled for several long minutes at the roster of incredible crime writers appearing (Martina Cole, Val McDermid, Paula Hawkins, Anne Cleeves, S.J. Watson etc. etc.) I got down to the almost impossible task of making a choice. My programme was soon covered in circles, ticks and asterisks. I had some difficult decisions to make and judging by the furrowed brows and busy pens I saw around me most people were facing the same predicament.

For me it came down to deciding what would benefit me most as a published crime writer. Forfeiting the chance to see some of the megastars was agony and I still don’t know how I was able to force myself to step away from the queue for Val McDermid, interviewed by another of my favourite writers, Laura Wilson.

But what I did see was pure gold. I loved the panel on writing historical crime with its perfect balance of fiction and non-fiction writers. One of my favourite reads of recent yearimg_20161015_112858959_burst000_cover_tops was Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and I’m a big fan of Andrew Taylor’s fiction. Ripper Street is something special in TV crime and Fern Riddell, the historical consultant, hinted that we can expect something really satisfying in the final series. I can’t wait.

In the end I spent a good deal of time in that atmospheric (scary!) basement because it was where the screenings took place. I attended a discussion led by Barry Forshaw with film maker Brian Hill featuring clips from Hill’s documentary about an alleged Swedish serial killer. Later there was a Jake Kerridge interview with Jonathan Levi, producer of a moving film about Broadmoor, and  consultant psychiatrist Shubulade Smith – fascinating stuff.

The event that forced me to ignore the siren call of the divine Val McDermid was Inside the Killer’s Head and as a writer of psychological crime I had to be there. The panel was Jane Casey, Tammy Cohen, Kate Medina, Emma Kavanagh and Kate Rhodes: all brilliant writers. I came away with so many valuable insights I’m still processing them a week later. And, my word, these women have had the most fascinating lives too.

During the Broadmoor interview session Dr Smith talked with compassionate professionalism about the mental health issues that surround so much criminal behaviour. Later Louise Millar interviewed two senior homicide detectives in an event called How To Solve A Murder. DCS Jackie Serbire – a Gillian Anderson lookalike, img_20161015_152118102but with added humour – talked us through the process of a murder investigation. And, channelling Taggart, was David Swindle whose hunch led to the conviction of serial killer Peter Tobin. One relief for me was that Jackie Serbire admitted to an addiction to crime fiction and they both thought most crime authors make a decent job of the police procedural stuff.

The day finished with a hilarious murder mystery, fronted by Mark Billingham, with a script by Erin Kelly. My team guessed the killer, but not the reasons for the murder and, as I always call my books whydunits rather than whodunits, I was mortified! img_20161015_180540217

Finally a welcome cocktail where I caught up with a few of the friends I’d been too enthralled to look out for earlier. I also managed to thank one of my favourite killer women writers, Jane Casey. I told her I had enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t think of any way it could be improved and on reflection I haven’t changed my mind.

Of course my experience would have been different if I’d chosen another set of events. One of the delights of the day was that there was so much on offer for anyone and everyone interested in crime writing. And I conducted a very unscientific survey at odd moments that suggested the organisers got the balance absolutely right.

As a published writer of psychological crime I wanted to learn from the best in my own field and to add to my background knowledge. A couple of other published writers said they had also found the perfect mix of events. A successful book blogger and a soon to be published writer agreed. I also talked to one or two people just beginning to write crime for whom the workshops were a godsend. And those who described themselves as crime readers thought the day completely satisfying too.

What we all agreed was that we loved every minute and are really looking forward to next time. My only concern is that, although it was the perfect venue, the event is likely to be so popular that it might not be big enough!

 A Newbie at Bristol Crimefest

Before I decided to attend last week’s Bristol Crimefest I checked out a few blogs about previous years and found them very useful in encouraging me to take the plunge. However I didn’t manage to track down anything by someone who had never been before. So this post aims to give just a flavour of how it felt for one newbie.

As my first experience of this kind of event it will certainly take some beating so please excuse me if I gush and scatter the adjectives and clichés far too enthusiastically.

Because I am a new crime novelist the organisers offered me the chance to appear on two panels and when I heard about this several months ago I was thrilled. Fast forward to Thursday of last week on the train to Bristol and my excitement had changed to something very close to terror. However I needn’t have worried. The crime writing and reading community is a generous one and I felt at ease as soon as I walked into the Marriot Royal Hotel on Thursday afternoon.

Here are my standout impressions:

Crime writers, readers, editors and publicists are the most affable people you could meet.

The organisers are great at planning the panels and suiting panellists to the theme and to each other.

All the moderators I saw in action were charming and highly skilled at bringing out the best in their panels, guiding conversations in the most entertaining directions and unobtrusively heading off any tendency to ramble!

If you’re anything like me you will be star struck when you see your favourite authors wandering around like ordinary folk, but do not be afraid to approach them. I found each and every one to be friendly and very happy to chat.

My personal highlights:

Emerging not only unscathed, but energised, from my two panels having made some wonderful new friends.

Meeting three of my own favourite novelists:  CJ (Caroline) Carver, Sarah Hilary and Antonia Hodgson.

Listening to Jake Kerridge interview the legend that is Ian Rankin and hearing a snippet from the yet to be published new Rebus.

Seeing Rankin wandering around wearing his crimefest badge as if he needed it!

Swooning over my Dr Who, Peter Davison, at the awards announcements on Friday.

My only regret is how much I missed because the programme is packed so full of delights that it’s impossible to take in all the events and meet all the people you want to. But there’s always next year.

I certainly plan to go again. So if this has encouraged you do remember to come and say hello in 2017.

 ***

Location, Location

 Where to set your story is one of the first decisions a writer has to make. I am so lucky that I happen to live in the perfect location for my novel Mindsight.

We’d reached the Old Town, huddled between two hills, and the gulls were DSCF0819circling over the boats drawn up on the shingle and the tall, black net huts where the fishermen stored their gear.

Mindsight is about memory, guilt, loss and above all about a search for the truth and I didn’t have to think too hard about where to set the story. I live in Hastings, on the south coast of England, and it seemed the ideal retreat for Clare when she’s released from prison. She wants to be in a place where no one knows her, where she can walk up and down hills until she’s exhausted and where the sight and sound of the sea may help to ease her pain.

I love the sea and as I was writing I realised it was becoming almost an extra character. Like memory and human relationships, the sea is unpredictable. On a warm summer’s day it can be wild, with white peaks of foam racing and churning, and yet there are times in midwinter when it’s a tranquil sheet of brilliant blue. At night it becomes a mysterious void: a dark emptiness that can still be heard as it whispers or roars, tumbling to the shore. It’s invisible but impossible to ignore, just like Clare’s buried memories.

A single light shone in the black absence of the sea: a boat moving slowly through the nothingness, night fishing.

The town of Hastings plays an important part in Clare’s story too. It’s often portrayed as a down-at-heel seaside resort, but long before the pier, the amusement arcades and the fair were built it was a working fishing port. And so it remains. The Old Town is a huddle of crooked houses where gulls shriek as they circle above the fishing boats drawn up on the shingle and the black weather-boarded huts that sell the catch straight from the sea. The streets nestle between two hills, each with its Victorian funicular railway clanking up to a wide grassy space with spectacular views of the town, the ruined castle and the English Channel.

Although Clare was hoping to remain anonymous, she discovers that the natives are very friendly, which was something that struck me too when I moved here. Idiosyncratic, bohemian and with an incredible zest for life, many of the locals are artists, musicians and writers. Hardly a month goes by without some kind of festival or celebration, whether it’s for the herring harvest, for May Day or to defend the world record for the largest number of people dressed as pirates. So it’s a place that feels positive about life, which is what Clare needs.

But of course Mindsight is a crime novel and when gales blow up or the sea mist descends Hastings can take on a darker mood. Stories are told about gruesome murders committed by smugglers and about fishermen lost at sea. In last year’s storms huge rocks crashed from the cliffs onto the beach where people had walked not long before and walls and roofs were ripped from houses. The narrow lanes, that the locals call twittens, are picturesque during the day, but they take on a Dickensian gloom when night falls.
The perfect setting for a crime novel in other words.

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