Saturday 26 June 2010

This Weekend

ROAD CLOSED reviewed in The Times
"well-written, soundly plotted, psychologically acute"
Marcel Berlins

Bestseller Chart at Waterstones in Harrow
Not a bad weekend....

Thursday 24 June 2010

National Crime Fiction Week

Is it really over 10 days since I posted here? Life has been busy - I know, I always say that, but it's always true!
National Crime Fiction Week started 14th June so I was kept busy promoting CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED in libraries and bookshops:

On Wednesday 15th I visited Ruislip Manor Library where I met some friendly readers and signed a few books. I'll be returning on 26th July and 20th September to talk to the book groups there.

On Thursday 16th I was invited to give a talk at Ickenham Library to around 20 people. The audience asked so many interesting questions, we barely had time for the refreshments the librarian had provided. My event was part of Ickenham Festival which happened to coincide with National Crime Fiction Week. Appropriately for a visit from an author of murder stories, the librarian managed to kill two birds with one stone...

On Saturday I had a commitment in the morning so couldn't go out book signing. Fortunately I received an invitation to go along for an interview at Harrow Community Radio station which was great fun. The staff there made me very welcome. I'll post the link when I receive it... (Keith - are you reading this?) Harrow Community Radio is a new venture and I was thrilled to be interviewed for one of their pilot programmes.

Sunday saw me back in my usual haunt - signing in a bookshop. I am grateful to Waterstones in Harrow for hosting a signing on Fathers' Day. Needless to say, we sold a lot of books as gifts that day! I was thrilled to find a card (yes, bought at the last minute...) for my father which had a picture of Superman on the front with the message 'Dad of Steel'. A perfect card from the creator of Geraldine Steel!

Two of my events were featured on the CWA website

Like I said... it was a busy week...

Sunday 13 June 2010

What Makes a Book Popular?

Left - Display in Waterstones Watford
I've been posting a lot about my recent activities. Life has been hectic with visits to stimulating writers groups and a host of searching interview questions both online and on various radio stations. I still have quite a few events to blog about. I haven't told you how much I enjoyed talking to Thames Valley Writers, or how I felt being interviewed live on Radio 91.8 FM - link below (another live radio interview coming up next Saturday), or being approached by Woman and Home Magazine (where we talked about blogging!), or spending time signing airside at Heathrow Terminal 5 (where I saw ROAD CLOSED displayed at No. 7 on the WH Smith's Travel Bestseller Charts), hearing that my books are displayed at No. 4 and No. 6 on the Bestseller Chart at Waterstones in Bedford, or the thrill of receiving an email from award winning author Sam Millar who's just read ROAD CLOSED "and really loved it" (Sam won the prestigious Aisling Award for Art and Culture, the Martin Healy Short Story Award, the Brian Moore Award for Short Stories and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition. His best-selling memoir, ON THE BRINKS, has recently been acquired by Warner Brothers... and that's just a taster)

But I thought it was time to return to some serious discussion about writing. Even I can see that there's only so much personal news I can blog about without becoming... how shall I put this?... repetitive... (OK, boring...)

One of the questions I was recently asked (Hayes FM) was:
"CUT SHORT launched in the summer and sold so fast your publisher had to reprint after two months. What elements in the book do you think made it so popular?"

That's a tricky one. What is it that makes some books grab our attention while others leave us unengaged?
For those of you who missed the radio broadcast my answer at the time went something like this.
"My books are plot driven so readers read on to find out what happens. But it is character that interests me. People fascinate me. Perhaps the popularity of my books is due to a combination of exciting plots and convincing characters." I went on to say that of course many authors achieve that, so I can't account for my success with CUT SHORT reprinted 3 times in its first year and ROAD CLOSED already off the starting posts, with its first few reviews pretty positive. So far it's been given a 5 star review from a Top 50 Reviewer on amazon: "The characters are believable and I really like Geraldine... I also liked the way everything dovetailed together so that while you're reading you get those light bulb moments when a piece of the jigsaw slots into place..." Another reviewer says "tense and gripping... with an exhilarating climax that you don’t see coming until it is too late... Geraldine is a gifted, strong and likeable character." Sam Millar wrote of ROAD CLOSED that it is "a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative...Geraldine Steel is a complex and highly driven character, with multifaceted feelings of contradiction and nuance." Jeffery Deaver also mentioned plot and character, now I come to think of it, when he described CUT SHORT as "a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel." In fact most of my reviewers cover both plot and character, so perhaps it is a combination of strong plot and convincing characters that is winning fans for my Geraldine Steel series.

What elements in any book do you think make it popular?
It's an important question for an author - but is it an impossible one to answer?

Link to 91.8 FM - last 20 minutes of where you can listen to an interview plus a reading from ROAD CLOSED

Friday 11 June 2010

Leigh Russell Talks

Live interview on Radio 91.8 FM at 6.30-7 pm today.

Sunday 6 June 2010

The Fun of Being Insignificant

ROAD CLOSED came out two weeks ago and has already started to sell. Of course, I’m a very small scale operator in a world where the big players expect to sell tens of thousands of books every week. Still, there are only 5 copies of ROAD CLOSED left on where it’s had its first amazon review – 5 stars from a Top 50 Reviewer and Vine Voice who concludes the review: “Give Leigh Russell a try - I'm sure you will not be disappointed.”

It’s no secret that I completed the first draft of CUT SHORT in six weeks, and two weeks after I’d sent out the manuscript I received a phone call from a publisher who offered me a three book deal. After editing, rewriting and research, my first book hit the shelves and sold out so fast that it was reprinted three times in under a year. Following that success, ROAD CLOSED has just been published ahead of schedule as WH Smith’s Travel selected it for a promotion. I just received an email from the books manager of one branch where ROAD CLOSED has sold 115 copies in 2 days (OK, I was there signing, but still…)

I wonder if book sales are so exciting for the big names? I suspect not, because they must expect their books to sell in huge numbers. I’m still excited when one person buys one of my books. This has been a thrilling rollercoaster but my publishing deal turned up so suddenly and unexpectedly that I still can’t believe this wildly exciting experience is really happening to me. I only discovered my passion for writing three years ago when an idea for a story popped into my head and I began to write it down. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop writing. As Eugene Ionesco said, “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”

I’ve heard it said that finding a publisher is like climbing a high mountain. Once you reach the summit, you see an even higher mountain ahead – book sales. This week is half term so I’m doing four book signings, giving a talk, appearing on a panel of bestselling crime writers, and completing the first draft of my third book. I enjoy giving talks and going to book signings, getting out and about meeting readers, but all this promotion is another demand on my time.

Sometimes I think I must be slightly insane… but I love writing and everything associated with it, and the pressure of limited time seems to help my creativity almost as much as a deadline from my publisher! Another benefit of being so busy is that I have no time to stress about how my second book will be received, and no time to worry about “writer’s block”. If I have a free hour or two, that’s it – I’m writing!

So my really exciting news is that I’ve just sent the COMPLETED first draft of DEAD END to my agent. Watch out for it in 2011 and, in the meantime, here are the links for CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED in case you want to take a look.