First Drafts With… Graham Smith

Hi everyone, I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog, crime writer Graham Smith.

Having previously featured in my 10 Questions With series last year, I was very happy when he agreed to feature in the First Draft series too!

Over to you, Graham…

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it?

I generally start with an idea. I know the crime, the major characters and what the resolution should be. I also know where it is set, but other than that, I just sit down and start typing, letting the characters tell me the story as I go. I may also know one or two key points I have to hit along the way, but this isn’t always the case.

2) Do you follow the same process for the book as you did before?

I tend to repeat my process as it’s one I have honed over 11 novels, 3 novellas and numerous short stories. It works for me and that’s all I can ask of it.

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

I tend to do research sporadically as I go along with the story. I usually know where the next few chapters are going so I can pick up the information I need in advance of the scene where it features. If possible I’ll visit real locations that I use in my stories and when there, I’ll sit in a cafe and listen to how the locals speak and interact with each other.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?

I have a bank of ideas and when I’m looking to start a new project, I’ll discuss them with my editor and once we have agreed on which to write, I’ll get to work. Because my process doesn’t involve major planning or full outlines, I take notes of ideas to include during the time I’m writing the first draft.

5) How does the draft form on the screen?

The first draft pours out of me. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of being the first to hear a new story. At this stage the story is full of typos, bad grammar and repeated points along with plot holes and timeline errors. They all get fixed in subsequent drafts where I may also feed in more of the research I’ve done.

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?

I write everything in my living room with the TV or radio on in the background.

Thank you for visiting my blog Graham – finding out about your first draft process has been great!!

Bio:

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

 An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

 He is the internationally best-selling author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team and two novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

 

Graham can be found at:

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor

Twitter
https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972

Website
www.grahamsmithauthor.com

 

In Conversation With… Sharon Bairden

Hi everyone, and I’m delighted to welcome fellow blogger Sharon Bairden to my blog. Sharon is a huge lover, like yours truly, of the crime and thriller genre.

Here, Sharon kindly answers my questions on her favourite authors, life away from blogging and which authors she admires the most.

Over to you, Sharon…

1) Can you tell me a bit about your background into blogging and who are your favourite bloggers? 

I started off blogging very quietly as somewhere to keep my thoughts on books that I’d read. I didn’t ever want to share my thoughts with anyone as I thought they might laugh at my ramblings! As I became more involved in the blogging community I plucked up the courage to share my reviews and the rest is history! It’s honestly the best thing I’ve ever done! I’ve found my tribe!

It is impossible to pick favourite bloggers as they all do a wonderful job of sharing the book love. Four bloggers who have inspired and helped me on my journey have to be Noelle over at Crimebookjunkie; Mary at LiveandDeadly; Anne at Randomthingsthroughmyletterbox and Sarah over at Bytheletterbookreviews.  Emma Mitchell at CreatingPerfectionThese five women have given me the confidence and courage to pursue my dreams. But as I said the blogging community is full of the most supportive individuals you will ever meet and I could literally spend hours making a list of them all! (https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk/  https://liveanddeadly.net/  http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.com/  https://bytheletterbookreviews.com/  https://edmcreatingperfection.com/

2) Who are your top five authors in the genre and why?

Ha! I cannot choose favourite authors! That’s like choosing my favorurite children! I shall give you some names but please, authors, do not think you are not in my heart if you aren’t on this list! I have WAY more than five favourites!

In no particular order:

SE Lynes – the woman is genius, her psychological thrillers get me every single time and I am consumed by them!

Matt Wesolowski – writes gripping psychological thrillers with a touch of horror in a unique style! This man is a genius!

Michael J Malone – he writes crime fiction and psychological thrillers with a strong social commentary running through each of them; he delves right inside my head and his books stay with me for a long long time! Genius

Douglas Skelton – does not get the recognition he deserves; his writing is a work of art; it is intelligent; visual and thought-provoking. Genius!

Lin Anderson – my all time favourite female Scottish crime writer – her Rhona MacLeod series just gets better and better – she is absolute genius and is my queen of crime fiction

Alexandra Sokoloff – totally kick ass, powerful writer who takes no prisoners in her writing; the Huntress series is phenomenal and it is right up there in my top reads of all times! Genius!

I could literally go on and on and on and on!

3) What do you think makes the crime/thriller market so popular? On the other hand, do you think it is currently saturated? 

I think we all have a secret dark side; we all want to explore what it is like to do something we are not meant to do; we can do this safely via crime fiction; it allows us to address social issues, moral issues; it allows us to see justice, even if that justice is sometimes served out with the boundaries of the law! Definitely not saturated – I cannot get enough!

4) What did you grow up reading? Did you have a favourite childhood author? 

The staple diet for me was Enid Blyton and the Famous Five, I think most crime readers grew up on a diet of lashings and lashings of ginger beer and heaps of tomatoes! (will make sense to those of the same age as me!) I moved onto Agatha Christie about age 11 and that was me hooked on darkness!

5) Why particularly do you read crime and thriller? What attracts you to the genre? 

As Q3 above – I definitely have a very dark side! If I tell you any more then I may need to kill you!

6) Whats your view on how Scottish characters are written in predominantly set English novels?

 I think we have, thankfully, gone beyond the stereotype grumpy/tight-fisted/alcoholic Scot in fiction and Scottish Crime Fiction is in a league of its own, with some outstanding talent coming from here.

7) When you’re not blogging, do you have a day job? On the other side, what do you do to relax? 

By day I manage an Independent Advocacy Service which is about ensuring that people who are vulnerable due to their circumstances have their voices heard; I like to describe the role as a human rights activist and I spend my time looking for creative ways in which to make this happen. To relax I read but I have also been doing some of my own writing and hoping that #dreamsdocometrue

8) What’s your music taste like? Do you listen to bands or various artists? 

I’m not a huge music fan, I like a mix of artists but contemporary favourites have got to be Pink and Amy Winehouse

10 Questions With… Debbie McGowan

Hi everyone, and today’s post is me chatting to independent publisher and writer Debbie McGowan.

BIO:
Debbie McGowan is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction that celebrates life, love and relationships in all their diversity. Since the publication in 2004 of her debut novel, Champagne – based on a stage show co-written and co-produced with her husband – she has published a further thirty-five works (twenty novels, fifteen short stories and novellas). She is the author of two ongoing series: Hiding Behind The Couch (a literary ‘soap opera’ centring on the lives of nine long-term friends) and Checking Him Out (LGBTQ romance). Debbie has been a finalist in both the Rainbow Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, and in 2016, she won the Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) for her novel, When Skies Have Fallen: a British historical romance spanning twenty-three years, from the end of WWII to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Through her independent publishing company, Debbie gives voice to other authors whose work would be deemed unprofitable by mainstream publishing houses.

Debbie joined me for a quick chat about juggling her full time job with running her own independent publishing company. Over to you, Debbie.

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?

I loved Enid Blyton. I probably read all of the Famous Five books, most of the Secret Seven books, The Folk of the Faraway Tree and the other series, which is apparently called ‘The Five Find-Outers and Dog’ (thanks, Wikipedia). Looking back, I’d say what I loved about Blyton’s stories was the mix of mystery/problem-solving and friendship/relationships, and I’m a huge fan of book series. Once I get to know a group of characters, I want to keep going back to visit them, but I also appreciate each instalment having a definitive ending so there’s the option to pause/stop reading.

My favourite author now? That’s a trickier question to answer because I work with most of my favourite authors, assisting them in publishing their work. I read a lot of Josh Lanyon, which again is that mix of mystery and relationships (in this case gay romance), but I also enjoy the break it gives me from editing/proofreading as Lanyon’s books are always in excellent shape.

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school?

Interesting you should ask! I realised the answer to this only last week.

In fourth year of high school (Year Ten/9th Grade), I recall looking at essay questions set by our English teacher and thinking ‘How can I twist this into something else?’ That was really my first proper ‘creative’ writing, and it didn’t much impress my English teacher at the time, with whom I had a very antagonistic relationship that culminated in my dad coming into school and demanding I be allowed to sit the English Literature O’ Level. It was one of the two O’ Levels I passed!

I can’t say I enjoyed English at school. Most of the time, I didn’t really register I was studying it at all, but I remember in primary school always wanting to be ahead of where I was in reading as it used to take me forever to read a book. That was the only real challenge I faced with studying English; I understood the nuts and bolts without effort (I passed English Language O’ Level the year after I left school with virtually no teaching), but reading? I didn’t want to race through books just to reach the end; I wanted to savour every eyeful.

When I went to university (later, as a mature student), I started off studying for a BA (Hons) English Literature, but by the end of the first year I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to read a book again. I switched to Applied Social Sciences and have never looked back.

These days, I read much, much faster. 🙂

3) How would you describe your route to publication? Do you have an agent or are you self published?

I don’t have an agent, partly because I very quickly got tired of trying to find one (back in 2000-2001). More importantly, I value my self-sufficiency and I hate paying someone else to do something I can do as well or better myself. True, I don’t have the contacts in big publishing, but I also don’t have any ambition to be a bestseller or make a living from my writing. The changes in the world of publishing over the past ten years make it virtually impossible for anyone to make a living from their writing alone.

So my first novel, I touted directly to publishers myself and I had a few bites. In the end, I went with a small, new independent publisher (highblue, no longer in operation) whose ethos matched my values. However, I quickly discovered I don’t like having my work taken out of my hands.

From there, it’s a bit of a long, winding story, but in short: in 2009, I decided to publish my second novel independently, and over the next couple of years developed a skill set I could offer to other authors. However, most indie authors can’t afford to pay for editing, proofreading, cover design, ebook formatting, typesetting etc., so I offered my skills on a profit-share basis, which led to the launch of Beaten Track Publishing in 2011.

Now, in 2019, Beaten Track still runs on the same model, I don’t think I’d consider signing up with a big publisher. But I wouldn’t say no to a TV/movie option. My historical novel When Skies Have Fallen (Lambda Literary Award winner) really needs a BBC period-drama treatment, and my Hiding Behind The Couch series is perfect for Netflix. Just saying…

4) I read that you juggle being a writer with managing your own publishing house. I wondered how you find the differentiation between both occupations?

If you mean as regards finding time to both write and publish, it’s really hard. I work full-time-plus, and I also have a part-time salaried job with The Open University, which pays the mortgage. I don’t make enough from writing/publishing to do only that. The only way I can make time for writing is to take it in blocks when my publishing/teaching workload is a bit lighter, which doesn’t happen often.

In terms of differentiating the work itself, publishing for me combines both writing and reading, and these are what I love doing most. I wake up every morning looking forward to what the day has in store. I’m up front with the authors I work with about my role as their publisher (or publishing partner, really). I don’t want to do admin stuff, marketing or manage staff. I do what I do for the love of books and the buzz of helping other authors get their books out there. I’ll never be financially rich, and that is absolutely fine by me. Yes, cliché that it is, I’m rich in all the ways that matter.

5) When not writing or running your company, what do you do to relax?

I’m not great at relaxing, although I do it more now than I did even a year ago. I read, of course, and I watch TV with Nige. We semi-binge-watch series, grieve when they’re over, find more series, semi-binge-watch, and on it goes. Currently, we’re recovering from finishing Humans, waiting for the final season of Supernatural, and we’re up to season nine of The Big Bang Theory. Eek!

I have two dogs – no relaxation there – and a cat – enforced relaxation.

I’m also in a community choir, which is not relaxing, but it’s fun, and I go to the gym so I can listen to music because I can’t work and listen to music at the same time.

6) What’s your music taste like? Do you listen to bands or various artists?

I have a particular penchant for big music, by which I mean rich, full compositions with bone-rattling bass, ear-whistling treble and everything in between. I especially love symphonic arrangements of rock/pop (for instance, Metallica’s S&M album with the San Francisco Symphony orchestra, or the 2016 remaster of A-Ha’s ‘Hunting High and Low’) as well as rock covers of pop songs.

If I had to pin my music preferences to a single genre, it would be classic heavy rock, and I’ve been a huge fan of the band Queen since the age of nine. That’s my go-to safe place and default listening choice. Other favourite artists: Aerosmith, early Bon Jovi, Muse, Panic! at the Disco, Linkin Park, Metallica, Rainbow, the Scorpions. But I also like some pop and dance music – just a track here and there – and I’m quite partial to a cappella groups such as Pentatonix.

In 2013-14, I wrote a few chapters and then a novel inspired by A-Ha songs, and it’s left a permanent earworm that has afforded me a chance to appreciate their music anew. In fact, I’m taking my middle sister (always a big A-Ha fan) to see them play in Leeds this November. 🙂

7) Do you have any advice for the unpublished writer?

Just go for it. Writers are champions of finding reasons not to write, not to submit their manuscripts, not to publish or self-publish. It’s important to decide how you want to proceed: whether you want an agent and to pursue a big publishing deal…or not. But that decision isn’t entirely set in stone (though switching from self-publishing to traditional publishing might require a pen name).

If you’re going to self-publish, make sure your work is ready for the world. Edited, proofread, spell-checked, formatted. Even if you can’t afford to pay for these services, you can still run it through Grammarly (or similar).

Exchange beta-reading with other authors – this is a great way to give and receive free feedback, which can really enhance the quality of your work.

Ultimately, be confident that you know your own mind and its creations better than anyone else. There are many experts and industry ‘professionals’ out there, whose advice is sometimes what they want your book to be, not what you want it to be. If they’re promising you big returns (and I don’t mean vague promises of what ‘could’ be if you do as they say/give them money, I mean actual, signed-on-the-dotted-line guarantees), then maybe it’s worth compromising. Otherwise, stay true to yourself.

8) Can you tell me a bit about your latest work? What ideas are currently kicking around in your head?

My latest work is titled Meredith’s Dagger, and I wrote it back in 2011 (during my fourth year of taking part in National Novel Writing Month). I tried a few times to return to it and do the rewriting/self-editing that NaNoWriMo novels need, but honestly? I hated one of the characters, and he’s kind of the first one to appear on-page, so I kept shelving it to deal with later. Anyway, this year, I finally made it past the first few chapters and reworked the entire novel, tightened up the prose, removed passive voice (the wonders of being both an academic and creative writer) and generally developed the characters and plot.

Thank you for visiting my blog, Debbie. Good luck with the release of your novel.

Author links

Debbie McGowan Online:
Hiding Behind The Couch: http://www.hidingbehindthecouch.com
Twitter/LinkedIn/Tumblr/Instagram: writerdebmcg

Beaten Track Website: https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com

First Drafts With… Phil Price

Hi everyone, continuing the First Drafts series I am delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow author Phil Price.

Read on as Phil answers my questions on how he creates the all important first draft!

Over to you, Phil…

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it?

I start with a thread of an idea and gradually build it in my head. Once I know it’s a goer, I begin bringing characters into the mix and locations too. It’s always good to have locations in your head that can easily be transferred to the page.

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before?

I kind of change around the formula between books. The first three books, I kinda knew how they were going to play out, so I could just write. On the next book and my current WIP, I have plotted the storyline from start to finish, to give it more structure. The reason behind this, is because the first three books were horror / fantasy, where I had free reign. The other books have more Earth interaction, needing a proper timeline.

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

I do more research now than ever before. The current WIP is loosely based on a real crime, so I’ve had to read up about police procedures and the prison system. For my sci-fi book, I had a good idea of how things work and just went with it, with the occasional dip into the information super highway for guidance 😉

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?

Depends. I have three more books in my head, that are currently being formulated. I know, there is a lot in there! I have started making rough notes, just in case my old brain forgets what the story should be about. And with one of my books, I had an idea and started writing pretty much straight away.

5) How does the draft form on the screen?

Hopefully, very quickly. I know the beginning and the end (kinda), so I just start to build the chapters, throwing in twists and turns for good measure. There may be a few deviations, but I tend to stick to the plot, unless a character decides otherwise. This has happened a few times, with a character altering the course of their journey without prior consent from me. How Rude!

6) Where do you write the Majority of the draft?

At my dining table, looking out over my back garden. I occasionally write whilst I’m travelling, but only to do a few fillers and to change something I’m not happy about as it can be very distracting when you’re in an airport lounge…

Thank you for visiting my blog Phil. Finding out about your first draft process has been fascinating. All the best with the next novel.

io:

Phil Price was born in Sutton Coldfield in 1974. He lived in various places in the UK until his family settled in Rednal, a suburb on the outskirts of Birmingham in 1979. Growing up with an older brother and sister, he always flirted with reading, his home always littered with books. Then in 1997, Phil embarked on a travel expedition that took him from Greece to Thailand, via East and Southern Africa. Sitting in dusty bus stations in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi with Wilbur Smith and James Herbert accompanying him, his imagination was sparked into life. Since those far-off days, he has never been without a book to read.

Phil started toying with the idea of writing a book in 2009. After writing a few short stories, he caught a whiff of an idea in his head. It started to evolve in 2010 until he had enough to begin his writing journey. Marriage and two children came along, with the story being moved to the back burner for periods of time. However, during those periods of writing inactivity, the story continued to manifest until it just needed one thing. To be written down.

The story was littered with places that had influenced Phil’s life. From the Lickey Hills in Birmingham to the Amatola Mountains in South Africa, with other many other locations, in-between and far beyond.

The book was finished sometime in 2014, left on his computer until a chance conversation with an author friend made Phil take the bold step to publish his story, Unknown.

From there, Phil’s love for the first book spurred him on, creating The Forsaken Series. A vampire/paranormal/horror trilogy, set in our world, and others too. His love of horror and all things supernatural, inspired by authors such as King, Herbert and others, helped create the epic series.

Next on the horizon, is a science fiction novel, titled Zoo, which will boldly go where Phil has never been before…

Aside from his writing, Phil lives on the edge of a small town in Worcestershire, UK. A wife and two sons keep Phil happily occupied as he steers his way through life, playing the husband, dad, and world creator in equal measure.

10 Questions With… Kevin McManus

Hi everyone, and I’m delighted to welcome Crime writer Kevin McManus to the blog.

Kevin juggles being a writer with a full time teaching job, and is the author of the Detective Ray Logue novels, set in Northern Ireland. He is currently working on a new novel, and creating the character John Morrigan.

He was kind enough to join me for a quick chat and answer my curious questions.

Over to you, Kevin…

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?

As a child I read tonnes of comic books and I was always inventing my own comic book stories. My head was always stuck in Marvel comics and British comics like 2000 AD. I was obsessed with science fiction. I loved Star Wars and started to read short science fiction and fantasy novels as a result when I was about 12. Roger Zelazny, Harry Harrison, Philip K. Dick. Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard etc.

My favourite novel always has been and always will be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It has everything, incredible descriptions of the Yorkshire Moors, love, death and the supernatural. Heathcliff is probably the greatest literary character ever created. A close second is 1984 by George Orwell, it has so much to say about the world we live in today.

My books are crime novels but I read a lot of different genres. I like Charles Bukowski, Dermot Healy, Ken Bruen, Henning Mankell, Thomas Harris, James Ellroy, Franz Kafka, Dennis Lehane and Ian Rankin. I really admire Jo Nesbo. His stories, characters and settings are so well crafted.  I think he is a master of the crime genre.

 

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school?

I dabbled with poetry as a teenager and that turned into dabbling with writing song lyrics as a young adult when I got involved with bands. I always liked words and the sounds that they make. I had a brilliant English teacher at secondary school called Eamon Daly. He inspired a love for reading in me and for writing. He also inspired me to become a teacher.

I always loved the crime genre. Whether it was reading crime novels or watching crime movies. However, when I began writing my first novel. “The whole of the Moon” it was not a conscious decision to write a crime novel. It began as a story about growing up in rural Ireland and the study of the relationship between the three central characters, but as the plot developed I introduced a crime aspect into it and when it was published it was marketed by the book company as a crime novel. I then began thinking about writing a more straightforward crime novel and this led to the first in the Detective Ray Logue novels: “Death rains down.” Readers enjoyed it and I suppose I realised that perhaps I have a certain degree of talent in writing for that genre.

3) How would you describe your route to publication? Do you have an agent or are you self published

I have no agent, but I secured publishing deals with Sharpe Books and Bloodhound Books.

 

4) I read that you work full time as a secondary school teacher. I wondered how you find the differentiation between both occupations? 

There are extremely different activities, however we get good holidays so it gives me plenty of time to write. I enjoy teaching, it is a good respite from writing which can become too introspective and isolating at times. 

 

5) When not teaching or writing, what do you do to relax?

I read a lot and listen to music. I am fascinated by rural landscapes and so I read or rather look at a lot of photography books. A strong visual image can inspire so much writing.

6) What’s your music taste like? Do you listen to bands or various artists? 

I love music and I always have. Sometimes I enjoy listening to the soundtrack to a movie rather than the actual movie itself. I grew up listening to rock music. I was always buying records. I played bass guitar in rock bands for nearly 20 years. Some original material and some covers. As I said earlier I tried to write songs. Rory Gallagher read a lot of crime novels in his free time. It comes through in his lyrics. Listening to lyricists such as Mike Scott, Phil Lynott or Roger Waters helps to inspire the writing process

7) Do you have any advice for the unpublished writer? 

Just go for it. Have confidence in yourself, get it down on paper, you can always rewrite and edit your work afterwards. Read as much as you can, try to mirror great writers in your chosen genre but also bring in your own ideas. Don’t worry about all these so-called rules of writing. Just write in a style that you are comfortable in. Some of my critics say that my books read too much like a film script rather than a novel. Well maybe they do but that is the way I write. 

I think patience is very important, we all think that we are going to be the next big thing overnight. It takes years to build up a following. In reality most of us will never become literary super stars but if some people in Ireland and around the world enjoy reading my books that’s good enough for me.

8) Can you tell me a bit about your latest work? What ideas are currently kicking around in your head? 

My latest work is due to be published in October by Bloodhound books. It is book 1 in a series of books featuring a New York based Detective called John Morrigan, This is a change in setting for me because my previous five books were all set in rural Western Ireland.

 

Thank you for visiting my blog, Kevin. It has been great to read all about your route to publication and your current work.

First Drafts With… Amanda Brooke

Hi everyone, and I’m delighted to welcome to my First Draft series, another Liverpool writer, Amanda Brooke. Amanda is the author of nine psychological thrillers, one of them, The Bad Mother I have had the pleasure of reading. And I thoroughly enjoyed!

Although writing her tenth novel, Amanda was kind enough to join me for a quick chat about her process to cementing the all important first draft.

Over to you, Amanda…

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it? 

The starting point for a new book is the synopsis which will have been agreed with my editor. It’s usually around two pages long and although it won’t necessarily cover sub-plots or minor characters, it will capture the essence of the storyand have a distinct beginning, middle and end. Before I start writing, I divide the synopsis into about twelve sections and this forms the chapter outline, or at least the beginnings of one. It lets me visualise the story as a full length manuscriptso I can check the pace as I begin to write. I don’t like to be too specific outlining the plot as part of the fun of writing is getting to know my characters and seeing where their stories lead.

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 

I’m currently writing my tenth book and I’d say that my writing process has developed over time although I have always started with dividing the synopsis into manageable chunks. It’s since becoming a fulltime writer two years agothat I’ve been able to take a more organised and methodicalapproach to my writing simply because I have the time. One of the things I’ve found useful is to print out my chapter outline after the first draft in large type and pin it to the wall. I highlight changes with coloured marker pens and add post-it notes to keep track of new ideas or changes I want to make to particular scenes. It’s also useful when I need to take a step back and see the whole story, working out what scenes are working and which ones I need to cut.  

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

That very much depends on the story. All of my latest books have been psychological suspense so I’ve concentrated my research on the psychology of my protagonists and also the antagonists. While I was writing The Bad Mother and Don’t Turn Around, my daughter was studying psychology at university and she would send me all kinds of research papersto help me understand my characters. I also find the internetan extremely useful tool and I try to find blogs from people who may have experienced what I’m forcing my fictional characters to endure. It’s a good reminder that what I’m conjuring on the page has happened to real people and that I carry a certain responsibility to get the story right. The best complement I’ve had was when a victim of gaslighting who had read The Bad Mother told me she was convinced I’d gone through that form of mental abuse too because of the things I had described in my book.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write? 

I’m currently writing one book a year and although I gather ideas for future projects as I go along, I don’t tend to develop them fully until I’m at the later stages of my current work in progress. I’ll then chat through those ideas with my editor and my agent and that’s when we agree the synopsis for the next book. By that stage, I really need to start writing the first draft to meet the next deadline so I tend to have weeks rather than months to let the new story ferment in my head. I’ll write lots of ideas down in notebooks and on scraps of paper, some of which will form important pieces of the puzzle I’m trying to put together while others will be scrunched up and thrown in the bin. My best flashes of inspiration for adding twists and turns in my stories usually come as I start writing so I’m quite relaxed about not having too long to prepare.

5) How does the draft form on the screen? 

The first draft is always the hardest because you have to fill hundreds of empty pages but I don’t allow myself to get bogged down finding the perfect sentence or paragraph. Nor do I go back and make changes as I doubt I’d ever reach the end – I simply leave notes for myself to pick up the loose threads in the next draft. I tend to think of that first draft asmy way of getting to know my characters while I tell their story. The second draft is where I let the characters tell their own story because they’re fully formed by that stage. I’ve heard some writers say they don’t necessarily write their chapters in order and if there’s a scene they can’t wait to write, they write it. I couldn’t imagine doing that as I’m too methodical, and knowing there’s a scene I’m desperate to write pushes me on to write the earlier scenes so I can get to that point.

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?

I’ve been writing novels for nine years now and I used to write a lot of my work sitting on my bed, despite having a writing room all set up. The problem was my so-called writing room used to be my son Nathan’s bedroom. I converted it into a study back in 2006 when Nathan died following a two year battle with cancer when he was three years old. I didn’t want to leave his room empty and turning it into a study gave me a reason to keep going in there. Eventually I did start to use it and now it’s where I do the vast majority of my writing. My desk is in front of a large window and there are lots of bookshelves which hold a mixture of reference books and files, not to mention Buzz Lightyear in the corner to watch over me. It feels right because I turned to writing as a way to deal with my grief, and I would never have become a writer if it wasn’t for Nathan. My books are his legacy, and I love that despite his short life, he has been such an inspiration.

Thank you for visiting my blog Amanda. It was great to find out all about your first draft process. Good luck with the next novel!

First Drafts With… Eileen Wharton

Afternoon folks, and I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Eileen Wharton to the First Draft series.

Read on for her answers to my questions on her writing process, her writing place (very important to me as well!) and the all important first draft.

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it?

My books invariably begin with a voice in my head. From the voice comes the character and the character tells me their story.

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 

B) Unfortunately, I don’t really have a set process. I’m not a plotter, I’m a pantser. I try to spew and review: get the ides down on the page then go back and revise it. When I first started writing I would constantly be trying to edit and I failed to move forwards. The best piece of advice anyone gave me is to start with a blank page every time and just write. The first draft doesn’t have to be good. No one’s is. Just write and then you’ll at least have something to edit. Turds to polish, as it were.

3) What is your research process, if you have one?
C) I’m forever procrastinating by researching weird things on Google. If anyone could see my internet search history I’d probably be locked up! For my crime novels I have a friend who works for the police who advises me on procedure and protocol. I love taking research trips and I never end up in the pub drinking gin. Honest.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?
Writing comes first and then the thinking and planning for me. I’m not a good planner. I often end up with books which are far too complicated and have to split them into three different novels. 

5) How does the draft form on the screen? 
With blood, sweat, tears and profanity!

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?
I used to write in notebooks and transfer to laptop. I now write straight to laptop. My first novel was written in every spare moment in various places (at the park, the swimming pool, the beach, the garden, in the bath …) while bringing up four lively children. Now I have a writing room. I shut myself away from child number five and write in relative peace. I’m pretty slow and I usually get blocked at about 40to 50K words. I switch from WIPs as I write in various genres. I should probably concentrate on one thing at a time. I’d be much more productive. I’m looking forward to the day when I can give up the day job and write full time. I’ve been trying for twenty years to be an overnight success!

Thanks for your visit Eileen, finding out about your process has been fascinating.

First Drafts With… Joel Hames

Afternoon folks, and I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Joel Hames to the First Draft series.

Read on for Joel’s answers to my questions on plotting, research and the all important first draft.

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it? 

I begin by jotting down ideas – characters, plot, key developments and themes – onto my phone and then transferring them piecemeal onto a Microsoft OneNote file. I’ve messed with Scrivener and sadly, I didn’t get on with it at all, so it’s good old-fashioned MS Office for me.
Once I’ve got my key ingredients together, I’ll summarise the plot into a thousand words or so, barely intelligible to anyone but me. When this is in place, I’ll usually create an excruciatingly detailed, chapter by chapter outline, a good 10-15000 words long, so you can imagine how much is in there – snippets of conversations, phrases, absolutely everything I need to just sit down and write the thing.

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 

For every book so far – eight and counting – yes, but for my WIP I’ve skipped the detailed outline and am working straight from the brief plot summary. No idea how that’s going to work out for me.

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

Key point: never rely on the internet. For locations, I supplement maps, streetview and satellite images with visits if convenient, or conversations with people who know the place like the back of their hands.

For police procedural stuff, I speak to the police – there’s no substitute for the real thing there, and I’m fortunate enough to know half a dozen serving or former officers who’ve always been happy to help. As a former lawyer, I’ll read through cases and things like PACE to make sure everything works properly. For medical stuff, I have doctor friends; for tech stuff I’ve got people who can speak to computers the way I speak to my dog. And for anything literary, I like to think my own knowledge and experience will serve me well enough.

So what it comes down to, in the end, is people. Speak to the experts. Don’t be afraid to push them, but don’t back them into a corner: if your brilliant idea just won’t work in reality, come up with another one rather than dismissing the views of the people who actually know. I’ve had to change plots before when I found that what I’d hoped made sense just didn’t in reality, and it’s always been for the best.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write? 

Well, that whole planning process I mentioned above can take a good three months, sometimes longer. Which is annoying, but is mitigated by the answer I’m about to give below.

5) How does the draft form on the screen? 

From start to finish, in the right order, and fast. If I’m on form and happy with the detailed chapter by chapter outline I’m using, I can write a 100k novel in seven weeks. It’ll need some finessing after that, but I’m usually pretty happy with my first drafts.

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?

For the most part, on my laptop in the study I think I share with my wife but she thinks is her study which I’m allowed a small amount of space in. Over the years I’ve written on trains and planes, at the homes of friends and family, in soft play centres and bowling alleys, and sitting outside my kids various sporting and musical activities waiting for them to finish. But the study is my spiritual home.

Thanks for your visit Joel, finding out about your process has been fascinating.

First Drafts With… Mary Torjussen

Good evening everyone, and today in the First Draft series, I’m delighted to welcome fellow Liverpool writer Mary Torjussen.

Mary has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University, and has written two psychological thrillers to date!

She then joined me to have a quick chat about how her novel begins as that first draft.

Over to you, Mary.

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it?

For each of my novels the idea for the beginning and the end of the book have come at the same time. I always talk to one of my writer friends, Fiona Collins (her latest book is You, Me and the Movies) about the idea for a while and thrash out a possible plot. She and I met online a year before we got published, then we both received contracts within a couple of days of each other. We each swap outlines and drafts as we’re working.

Sometimes an idea can’t go any further, so I make a note of it in case something occurs to me later. So I always know the opening scenes and know the closing scenes (though the latter can change so that what I thought was the close is actually a couple of chapters before the end) and have to start to work out what would happen in the middle of the book. I like to throw every kind of obstacle at my heroine – psychological, financial, emotional and practical. If she’s isolated from friends, all the better! 

Once I have a broad idea of the story and the problems the heroine will face, then I started to map out the chapters. I went to a workshop with Sophie Hannah a few years ago and she said that she tends to write a page per chapter, outlining what will happen in that chapter. She said she showed this document to her sister and they’d talk it through to check there was enough tension and that the timeline worked. I thought that was great advice and I do this now. Anything can be written on that page as it’s just notes at that stage, so I write down what happens in the chapter, what we learn about the characters, whether there’s a cliff-hanger – if there is then I tend to play around with the wording at this point, the location, the date/time, the weather maybe. It means that when I come to write that chapter I’m less likely to freeze up at the thought of a blank page. I keep hold of that document and as I’m working on the book I tend to add notes to pages – in red ink if they are chapters I’ve already typed up.

 

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 

Yes, I’ve followed this process for every book. Of course the plot can change, though, but usually it’s what happens in the middle of the book that changes.

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

When I was writing The Girl I Used to Be I spoke to Graham Bartlett, who was the Chief Superintendent of Brighton and Hove police, who advises Peter James and other authors on their novels; he was a great help. 

The heroine of that novel, Gemma, worked as an estate agent, so when I had queries about what she’d do in her daily work, I asked for help from estate agents on an online forum. 

At another point I needed to find out something about probation officers so asked again on a forum; the woman who answered is now a great friend of mine – her name is Caz Finlay and her first book is out in June 2019.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write? 

Once I have got the story planned out, I write very quickly, but I have to admit if I can’t get it planned, it can take ages to get going. I think I should just start writing anyway – I always plan to do that but it doesn’t happen!

 

5) How does the draft form on the screen? 

 

I have a page-per-chapter of plans handwritten beforehand, then I create that document on Word. I’ll type up the chapter heading and then type up the notes I’ve made for each chapter. This gives me confidence as it means I have about eighty pages before I’ve actually started. Every writer seems to need a way of avoiding that blank page and that’s mine!

 

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?

 

I like to write the first draft in my local library. I like the quiet buzz of conversation and knowing people are around. It means there are no distractions and I can’t use my phone. Once I’m editing, I’m happy to work at home; it’s a different process as I’m trying to correct something, rather than create it, so I need to be able to concentrate in a different way. I also read the drafts out loud, so that has to be done when I’m on my own in the house. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to hear a sentence. I love audio books, so am always aware of how it will sound to the listener. When I’m proofreading I use my Kindle and find it much easier to see errors that way.

Thank you for visiting my blog, Mary. It has been a real pleasure to find out all about your first draft process.

First Drafts With… Katharine Johnson

Hi everyone, and next up in today’s First Drafts Process is Katharine Johnson.

Before we launch into the Q&A, below is a brief biog of how Katharine started writing…

Katharine Johnson is the author of four novels. She grew up in Bristol and now lives in Berkshire. After doing a History degree she trained as a journalist.  She’s worked on a variety of magazines, mostly about home and lifestyle, and has written a history book. When not writing you’ll find her with a book in one hand and a coffee in the other, exploring cities, restoring a house in Italy, walking her spaniel or playing netball (although not usually at the same time.)

Her latest novel, The Suspects, is out now…

About The Suspects 

Shallow Grave meets The Secret History in this quirky psychological thriller

Bristol, 1988. Five young graduates on the threshold of their careers buy a house together in order to get a foot on the property ladder before prices rocket out of their reach. But it soon becomes the house share from hell.

After their New Year’s Eve party, they discover a body – and it’s clear they’ll be the first suspects. As each of them has a good reason from their past not to trust the police, they come up with a solution – one which forces them into a life of secrets and lies. But can they trust each other? 

Purchase links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07PRCJ785

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/Suspects-Katharine-Johnson/dp/1091512426

Below… you can find the chat between Katharine and myself! Enjoy!!

1) When you begin the next book, how do you go about it? 

Funnily enough, I’m just starting a new novel now. I’m going to begin by going through my notebooks and box of newspaper cuttings and the Ideas files on my computer where I store  ideas that come to me when I’m working on something else. Then I’ll play about with some characters and storylines and see which one has the most potential.

2) Do you follow the same process you did for the book before? 

I probably will although I’ve promised myself I won’t edit as I go this time so that I can get to the end of the first draft more quickly. Not sure I’ll be able to break my habit of re-reading everything from the previous writing session though!

3) What is your research process, if you have one?

Initially I research online or from books so that I have enough information to write the story but once the first draft is completed I’ll highlight areas that need verification/more detail, do more research and consult an expert in that area. For example, with The Silence I went through a scene with a police firearms expert. There are very few Italian phrases in that book but I had them checked by a native-speaking Italian to make sure they sounded natural, and I’m lucky that my sister’s a speech therapist so I could check the selective mutism aspects with her. My other sister’s a GP which was also very helpful as Abby the main character is a doctor.

For The Secret I did a lot of historical research in books and online which I enjoyed (I did History for my degree). I also visited some exhibitions and villages in Italy whose wartime histories are similar to some of the experiences described in my fictional village. 

With The Suspects I sent scenes and a list of  legal questions to an author friend who is also a lawyer and scenes involving police matters to a police fact-checking service.

4) How quickly after thinking or planning do you sit down to write?

The gap’s getting longer with each book! I don’t have an agent and having a small publisher means having to do a lot of marketing yourself (although I think that’s often also the case with larger publishers these days). I’ve been throwing my energy into getting the word out about The Suspects which has just been released, as well as trying to maintain some presence for my other three books.

But now I’m ready to face that blank page – in fact, I can’t wait to get started!

5) How does the draft form on the screen?

I write in scenes rather than in a linear way so I usually have several files open at once and do a fair bit of moving scenes around – but that means having to check the timeline quite carefully. I’m going to be using Scrivener this time so it will be interesting to see how I get on.

6) Where do you write the majority of the draft?

I have an ideas gathering stage when I’m very alert for ideas and then a notebook stage when I start writing. Then I write the novel on my laptop which I take with me everywhere and hate to be parted from until I’ve finished! I wrote most of Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings  in a sports centre café where my daughters had their ballet lessons. My Villa Leonida ones were written mostly in Italy and The Suspects was a project I never really expected to be published – it was just a bit of light relief while I was working on The Secret and fancied a change.

Thank you very much for visiting my blog, Katharine. Finding out about your first draft process has been fascinating!!

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