Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ten facts about … Mel Sherratt

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’ve always had a love of words since I was a little girl - a long, long time ago.  

How long does it take you to write a book?
About four - six months. I do three, sometimes four drafts before I’m happy enough to show it to anyone for feedback.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
When I am drafting or rewriting a book, most days I start each morning by writing 2,000 words. I have to do it first thing or else the whole day can go by and then I just do anything like answer emails, set up an author interview on my blog, revamp my website etc. It all needs doing but not straight away. So I try to do as much as I can before breakfast. That way I’m more likely to continue - it’s like fooling the mind, I suppose, to get more done.  

But often, like yesterday, I couldn’t settle until I had done all the other jobs so I didn’t sit down to write until the afternoon. I think this is when my mind is busy working on a scene that isn’t ready to spill out - well, it works for me.

When I’m just starting a project, it can take ages for me to get going but I make up for it at the end when the words come so fast I can’t keep up. So if I’ve done 3000 a day by some means, I’m happy with that. And yes, it might sound like a lot but it is my day job and also I do very dirty first drafts so I just get the words down and edit like crazy after. 

How many crime novels have you written?
Five - Three in The Estate Series, one standalone police procedural and one psychological thriller.

Which is your favourite and why?
Without a doubt, the last one I wrote, Watching Over You is my favourite. I was able to explore a character breaking down through the traumas of her life catching up on her. I exercised her dark side - she’s a sex addict, craving the rejection it brings as well as the attention. I chose two women characters because I wanted to create a sense of one woman falling in love again after losing her husband in a tragic accident and the other falling apart because she fell in love with her too.

Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. It’s just a snippet I’ll hear, or a photo I’ll see; a news bulletin that sparks off a chain of thoughts. I have an idea for book four, The Estate series because I heard the title as a song lyric. I think I’m a born dreamer.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Again this would have to be a character from my new book, out in January next year, Watching Over You. Ella was the character that broke down - by doing this she enabled me to take her on a journey where she absolutely terrified my editor and agent but they felt such empathy for her too. Ella isn’t afraid to do anything - neither am I, in my writing. Recently, I did a talk at a local writers’ group and a lady said to me, ‘the thing I like about you is that you’re not afraid to write about anything.’ It was such a compliment. My books are shocking but realistic.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
For me, that would have to be Bridget Jones. For years before Helen Fielding created her, I had an idea (I bet a lot of writers out there did too) to do the same thing - a diary of a single woman trying to find love. I just loved her - and she swore too! I’m a bit of a potty mouth in my books.   

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
Hmm…does 1973 count? Because if so I’d like to be PC Annie Cartwright (Liz White) in Life on Mars - because she gets to kiss Sam Tyler (John Simms)…  

What are you working on now?
Because I’ve just got a traditional book deal which means that Taunting the Dead, my first novel, is going to be repackaged and published in UK, US and Germany in December this year, I’ve decided to write another book featuring the main character, Allie Shenton. It’s something I always intended on doing but as The Estate series took off, I didn’t think about it too much. Now I’m 25k into the first draft and absolutely loving it. Well, as much as you can love first drafts - I do find them quite painful to write!

Author bio:
Ever since she can remember, Mel Sherratt has been a meddler of words. Right from those early childhood scribbles, when she won her first and only writing competition at the age of 11, she was rarely without a pen in her hand, or her nose in a book. Born and raised in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, Mel used her own city as a backdrop for her first novel, Taunting the Dead, and it went on to be a Kindle #1 bestseller in three different categories and a top 10 bestselling Kindle KDP book 2012 on She has also self-published three books in The Estate series. Determined never to give up on her dream of a traditional deal, Mel has recently signed a two book deal with Thomas and Mercer.


Twitter @writermels


WATCHING OVER YOU (out Jan 2014)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Ten facts about … Barbara Scott-Emmett

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I can remember making little books out of folded paper for my stories when I was fairly young. I can also remember being told off at school for writing compositions so long and involved that the teacher gave up reading half way through. Yes, Mrs Edgecombe, I’ve never forgiven you for that! So, I suppose it’s always been in me though it took a long time for me to get started properly.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Years and years usually. I think the shortest time has been two years and the longest seven or eight years. I really do need to speed up though, as I’m no longer in what could be called the first flush of youth (or even the second).

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
If it’s going well I’ll probably start writing sometime in the morning and continue until I run out of ideas. This can be after 1,000 to 2,000 words when I’m really in the flow. Other times I mi
ght only manage 500 words before I concede defeat. Then I’ll usually turn to editing something completely different, or look over previously written chapters of whatever it is I’m working on. If I’ve had enough of sitting at my desk I’ll go for a swim or a walk or, if I can’t put it off any longer, get the dishes washed and the floor vacuumed.

How many crime novels have you written?
I’ve only completed one crime novel – Don’t Look Down – but I’ve started two others. One of these reinvented itself half way through and decided to become a non-crime novel. I rewrote this as Delirium, which I’ve recently finished. The other part-done one is hiding somewhere on my computer and I hope to track it down one day and finish it off. I also have an idea for a series featuring an elderly woman and her granddaughter as amateur sleuths.

Which is your favourite and why?
Since Don’t Look Down is the only one I’ve finished, I suppose I’ll have to nominate that. I am fond of it anyway because it’s set in Nuremberg, Germany, which is a wonderful mediaeval town that I’ve long considered as almost my second home.
Where do you get your ideas?
The idea for Don’t Look Down came to me after a visit to Nuremberg to see some friends. I’d been many times before but this was the first time I’d visited in winter and I fell in love with the town and the surrounding countryside all over again and had to use it as a setting.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
My favourite character in Don’t Look Down is a minor character called Axel. He’s mysterious and hypnotic and is actually loosely based on someone I once knew in Nuremberg. I expect if I met the real version again now, I’d be most disappointed.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Giles Brandreth writes crime novels starring Oscar Wilde as an amateur investigator. Initially, I thought this was a bizarre concept but I just wish I’d had the idea first as it’s right up my street. I expect poor Oscar is rolling about in his grave at having been used as a fictional detective though – as if the indignities of his life weren’t enough!
If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
I once played Dr Crippen’s wife, Belle Elmore, in an amdram theatre production and have been interested in the case ever since. After murdering her, Crippen and his lover, Ethel le Neve, fled to Canada by ship but were recognised by the captain. The recent invention of the radio telegraph meant he was able to inform Scotland Yard of their presence aboard. Inspector Dew of the Yard got a faster passage to Quebec and arrested the pair as they came ashore—the very first instance of a criminal being captured because of ship to shore communication. I’d like to have been Inspector Dew—that must have been a very satisfying moment.

What are you working on now?
I’m having a short break from new writing as I’ve recently finished Delirium which was a long haul project. I still have tweaks to make to that book, and am also lightly rewriting a previously published non-crime book The Man with the Horn, in order to bring it out as an ebook. I have an idea for a new book based on the discovery of a mysterious dead man on a beach in Australia that I might pursue, or I may start on that series with the grandmother and granddaughter I mentioned earlier. I’m eager to get started on something soon and hopefully this time it won’t take me several years to complete.

Barbara Scott-Emmett lives in Newcastle and writes in a room overlooking the Tyne – a greener view now than in the old industrial days. She shares this writing space with her husband, crime novelist Jimmy Bain, and their cat Gizzie—who has first pick of the available chairs. When not writing she edits the work of others and assists in ebook creation.

Published work:
Don’t Look Down
The Land Beyond Goodbye 
The Man with the Horn currently paperback only – ebook coming soon
Wasps & Scorpions: Luv Pomes & Other Lies

Twitter @BSE_Writer

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ten facts about … JJ Marsh

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to tell stories as soon as I was capable of sentient expression. Actually, even before sentient expression. My mum recalls me burbling on in my pram, talking to trees, cows and knitted rabbits. As a child, I used to direct performances starring my cousins; as a teenager, I wrote songs and poetry – thankfully all destroyed in the Great Abergavenny Earthquake. As an adult, I acted, directed and told lies (see previous sentence). Finally, I found an outlet for all those urges – writing.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I’m getting quicker. The first two (consigned to a drawer until the next earthquake) took about five years. Now I have learnt a bit about writing, created Beatrice Stubbs and understand (some of) my weaknesses. I can usually produce something halfway decent in eighteen months.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I would love a work schedule. In fact, a work schedule is on my Christmas list. My freelance, unpredictable, stumble-trip-hiccup, overloaded and frankly messy lifestyle tends to sabotage all attempts at organisation. I write in big fat emergency chunks when I can – on the train, in the dentist’s waiting room and in those precious moments when the pugs are asleep. And on Sunday mornings, when housework is forbidden in Switzerland.

How many crime novels have you written?
Three. And three more to come. But then I’m done.

Which is your favourite and why?
The next one, because I’m not yet bored of it.

Where do you get your ideas?
In no particular order: dreams, Grazia magazine, intangible atmosphere, three blokes in a Bristol Post Office, deepest fears, London Review of Books, reflections in a puddle, Brecon High School’s library, overheard conversations, Aphex Twin, the personality of a city, Eddie Izzard, past conditionals, John Knapp Fisher, long journeys, and Celtic gravestones.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Beatrice Stubbs. Her basic insecurity and accidental successes are balanced by a professional, dogged determination. And I love the way she interacts with her sidekicks. She’s a mixture of Columbo and Hong Kong Phooey in a Marks and Spencer twinset.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Of course Hannibal Lecter is one of the best bad guys ever written. But the intellect to challenge such a man? Clarice; the grafter, the grubber, the winner is an absolute classic.

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
Rather than an individual, I’m going to say Social Services. These people have a deeply traumatic, upsetting and stressful job; braving ugly and dangerous situations, trying to protect the most vulnerable, while hamstrung by bureaucracy and politics. They are real heroes, working at the unglamorous end of crime and catching the balls society drops. Sadly, the only publicity they ever get is for the few they miss.

What are you working on now? 
Book Four – Cold Pressed. Shocking murders, beautiful scenery, long-buried secrets and Beatrice Stubbs faces the toughest test of her life. Currently in research mode – Greek figs, feta and flaming Sambuca. Out in 2014, if I ever finish the research.

Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe.

Now based in Switzerland, Jill works as a language trainer, forms part of the Nuance Words project and is a regular columnist for Words with JAM magazine. She lives with her husband and three dogs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

Beatrice is on Facebook

Twitter: @JJMarsh1

Published Works

Monday, 10 June 2013

Review of To Kill a Stranger

To Kill a Stranger is Jack Devon’s debut. However, judging by the ending, this is intended to be the first in a series about Harry Sterling, former soldier and killer with a conscience.

Whilst at rock bottom and sleeping rough, a former comrade in arms offers Harry the chance to rebuild his life. Taken into the shadowy world of contract killing, Harry is given a number of targets to remove with no questions asked and massive rewards for jobs well done.

Harry is more than ready for the challenge, until he has to pull the trigger in cold blood and finds he can’t do it. This leads him into a world of deception that turns hunter into hunted.

The author’s bio states he is a former British intelligence agent and Reuters correspondent who has lived and worked in 40 countries and covered a dozen wars. This insider knowledge is evident in the settings and the ease with which he brings war scenes and casual violence to the page.

In places the plot stretches credulity, but in any book of this type it is necessary for readers to suspend disbelief. The storyline fairly raced along and kept me turning the pages. I hope there is a sequel as I’d like to see how Harry develops.