Monday 28th July
This week’s special edition blog comes to you from the departure lounge of Barcelona airport. I’ve spent the last few days in the city with Lisa to celebrate her 40th birthday. It’s a fantastic place packed with the architectural wonders of that ‘modernista’ genius Antoni Gaudi, the tapas is varied and tasty, and the sangria slips down nicely on a hot sunny day. But enough of my European adventures, instead, let me turn my attention to the week before last, when I attended not one but two events to help publicise Justice For All ahead of its release in August.
First, a trip to London to attend a lunch thrown by my publisher, MIRA, at which two other authors were also present: the Scots born, Athens loving Paul Johnston, writer of ten critically acclaimed novels, and E.V. Seymour, a fellow MIRA debutant, whose excellent first book ‘The Last Exile’ has just hit the shelves. The three of us were gathered together to meet and greet some very influential media types, including book reviewers for The Guardian, The Mirror, The Times and the Express, as well as representatives from Crimesquad.Com (one of the best crime fiction websites around), and Waterstones. The lunch was held at Smiths of Smithfields – the food was great, the company better, and invaluable contacts were made that will hopefully aid the publicity push that’s now gathering pace behind myself, E.V. and Paul. Once everything had wound down, I was lucky enough to spend a further hour or so with Paul at the bar. With ten novels behind him, Paul is something of an old hand at being an author, so the chance to quiz him on the perks and pitfalls of the industry was one I grabbed with both hands, and I thank him for being so gracious with his time.
After the hor d’oeuvres that was the MIRA authors’ lunch, it was on to the main event – the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. Harrogate (as it shall henceforth be known) is now billed as the biggest festival of its type in the world. Authors, agents, publishers, the media, and the most important people of all – fans of the crime genre – descend upon the Crown Hotel over a July weekend and do their best to drink it dry (well that’s mainly the authors – lets just say we’re a sociable bunch!).
I’d went to Harrogate in 2007 as a punter so I knew what to expect, but this year I was invited to attend the festival as one of the ‘named attractions’. As a first time author whose book hasn’t even hit the high streets yet, this was a huge honour. Every crime author in the country (and several other countries come to that – this year there were authors from the U.S.A. and Norway to name but two) is eager to get an invite so the competition for places is fierce – so hats off to MIRA for managing to blag me a spot.
The vibe of Harrogate is best described as friendly and buzzing. It’s great to be able to talk to people with the same interests – or indeed the same job – as yourself. For the most part, the life of an author is a fairly solitary one, so to suddenly feel part of a big, supportive family gives you an incredibly warm feeling. Here’s just a few of the people I spoke to this year to give you a flavour of the attendees. Firstly, the two ladies (whose names unfortunately escape me) that I first met at Harrogate 2007, who on hearing that I was now a published author rushed straight to the festival bookstore (run by Waterstones and only stocking books by authors appearing at Harrogate, including mine – MIRA ensured that some advance copies were made available ahead of the official August launch) to buy JFA, then rushed back and asked me to sign it. Thanks ladies, see you next year! I’d also like to mention Daryl Nilbett, a fun-loving Aussie who’s an aspiring author. He’d come to Harrogate to meet people in the publishing industry, and the last beer I shared with him was at 4 a.m. on the Saturday night in the hotel bar. Top man - I wish him the best of luck.
And finally Chelsea Cain, the New York Times best-selling author whose first words to me were ‘Can I touch your hair?’ Being a gentleman I could hardly refuse, and once the quiff stroking preliminaries were out of the way I had a great chat with her about Harrogate and writing in general. We then went our separate ways, but after ten minutes or so Chelsea tracked me down again to introduce me to Kelley Ragland, her editor at the US publishing house St. Martin’s Minotaur, as she knew that I’d yet to get a book deal on the other side of the pond. This act of kindness on Chelsea’s part encapsulates what Harrogate, and crime authors in general, are all about – they’re incredibly supportive people. The manuscript for JFA is now with Kelley in New York, and I’m hoping that she’ll be sufficiently impressed to sign me up (the omens are good – the books 15th August release date in the UK coincides with Kelley’s birthday!), but whatever happens I’m grateful to both Chelsea and Kelley for taking the time to show an interest in my work.
As for my role at the festival, I was appearing at the author’s dinner on the Saturday night. This event enables crime fans to have dinner with an author while quizzing them about their latest novel (each attendee is sent an advance copy of the author’s book) and writing in general. It was a bit nerve wracking approaching a table of strangers who were hoping that I’d entertain them, but the first person I spoke to was a gentleman by the name of Mark, who greeted me with the following:
“I got your book on Tuesday, I’d read it by Thursday, and I loved it.”
What a great start! Mark’s kind words really helped me to settle down and from then on the dinner went great. We swapped seats a few times so I could speak to everyone present, and I’d like to thank them all for making my evening a really enjoyable one.
And finally, remember I mentioned the festival Waterstones bookstore? When I first arrived there were quite a few copies of JFA on the shelves (and I can’t tell you how good it was to finally see my book on sale), but by the Sunday only three of them remained. If this is a sign of how future sales are likely to go, then things are definitely looking up!
Monday 21st July
Due to technical difficulties (i.e. no time to write as I've been busy propping up the bar at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival), there will be no blog this week.
Monday 14th July
I spent most of last week working on the third novel in the Zac Hunter series, provisionally entitled ‘The Beholder.’ On Monday, the planets moved into alignment and the writing came easy, and by the end of the day I’d added almost 2,000 words to the novel. Sadly, this was not how the rest of the week panned out. Trying to be creative on Tuesday through Friday was like wading through thick mud. When this sort of thing happens (and believe me it does, usually for no apparent reason) all you can do is chain yourself to the P.C. and keep slogging away. The one thing you shouldn’t do is quit and tell yourself that you’ll get back to it once inspiration returns – nothing gets written while you’re on a break.
When inspiration does strike, you need to be ready to take advantage of it. I’ve had some days where I’ve spent ages re-writing the same paragraph over and over, and then all of a sudden something’s clicked and I’ve written two pages in half an hour – had I not still been at the P.C. those two pages would never have seen the light of day. Perseverance is the name of the game.
Next week, my publisher, MIRA, has asked me to work on the Art Fact Sheet (AFS) for ‘Blood Law’, the follow up to my soon to be released debut novel ‘Justice For All.’ The AFS is a questionnaire that the publisher uses to help plan the cover art for the novel. Questions cover such topics as themes of the novel, major characters, major locations, etc. I’m also going to lunch in one of John Torode’s (one of the hosts on BBC’s Masterchef) restaurants in London on Tuesday. Two other MIRA crime authors will be present, Paul Johnson and E.V. Seymour, along with a select bunch of journalists. The lunch has been arranged to help the three of us garner some publicity ahead of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, at which we will all be appearing. Harrogate runs from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th July, and there’ll be a full report on how things go at the Festival in nest week’s blog.
Monday 7th July
Last week was an exciting one, as it heralded my first photo shoot for a national magazine as part of the pre-launch publicity for the release of my debut novel ‘Justice For All.’ The magazine in question was Arena, and the photos and forthcoming interview will form part of a feature they’re running on young thriller writers. Six writers were covered in total, and I’ve been told that each of us will get a full page to ourselves in the magazine, so that’s pretty cool! The feature will be included in Arena’s September issue, which will be released towards the end of July / start of August.
The photo shoot took around two and half hours to complete. Initially, I reported to an address in East London, which turned out to be the photo editor’s flat, at which point I had my hair and make-up done (note to self: next time a stylist says she wants to ‘soften’ your quiff, run like the wind in the opposite direction). I was then kitted out in designer gear – shoes, shirt, suit, flashy watch. God knows how much it was all worth, but I don’t think there was much chance of me being allowed to keep any of it!
The shoot itself was at a location close to Brick Lane, and it was here that I met the freelance photographer, his two glamorous assistants, and a chap with a camcorder who was filming a documentary. I was then photographed loitering in a shadowy back street, the location specifically chosen for the sumptuous burgundy coloured building that was used as a backdrop. As expected, it all felt a little surreal. At one stage, the photographer was taking shots of me as his two female assistants angled lights in my direction (one of them from the top of a stepladder), while the documentary filmmaker weighed in by throwing bruised rose petals at my feet (I kid you not!). Some passers-by even stopped to take a few snaps of their own, presumably as they thought I was someone famous! All in all, it was quite an experience. Not something I’d want to do everyday of the week, but good fun nevertheless, and it should provide some excellent publicity for ‘Justice For All’ ahead of its release on the 15th August.
Away from the glamour of London photo shoots, I finally got the news I’d been waiting for from my publishers, namely that the follow up to JFA, ‘Blood Law’ is done, dusted, and good to go. In this book, Hunter receives a plea for help from a damsel in distress, and finds himself sucked into the dangerous world of L.A. gangs. With no more editorial work to do on Blood Law, I was able to get back to writing my third book, provisionally entitled ‘The Beholder.’ Progress on this novel has been somewhat stop-start to date, but overall I’m happy with how it’s coming along.
On the social front, there were no gigs to report on, although I have picked up tickets for three great bands that will be playing in Norwich later this year: The Subways, Dirty Pretty Things, and Funeral For A Friend. I also discovered that the first band I ever saw live, Scottish rockers Gun, have reformed and will be playing at the T in the Park Festival in Scotland next weekend. Their 1989 debut album, Taking on the World, is a cracker, full of heavy guitar riffs and anthemic power ballads, and I’ll be eagerly tuned to the BBC’s coverage of the festival to see if they get any airtime (my sister Karen, a fellow fan, even fancied making the trip north of the border to see them!)
In addition, my thoughts are also turning to the forthcoming football season, as my beloved Norwich City F.C. are currently in the process of reshaping their playing squad, and everyday brings a new clutch of internet rumours as to who we’re about to sign. For those in the know – OTBC!