Thursday 21 May 2015

It's a tough life as an author

Research for the first book in my new Lucy Hall series for Thomas and Mercer starts in a room with a view...

Saturday 16 May 2015

No Exit Press out for lunch

With No Exit authors Anthony Quinn, Robert  Olen Butler, Luke McCallin, and Howard Linskey

Catching up with friends at CrimeFest

More about the panels in tomorrow's post.
With Linda Regan, Lee Child, Alex Shaw, Lizzie Hayes.

Thursday 14 May 2015

CrimeFest 2015 Friday begins...

Bristol is waking up, and we are in a room with a view of the river...
It's going to be a very busy day.
9am panel with Melanie McGrath. (This is going to be a challenge... as I'm used to getting up at 11 - after being brought tea in bed at 9 and then working in bed for a couple of hours, I hasten to add!) 
10.30 coffee with some regulars from my creative writing courses on Skyros.
12.30 interview with a journalist.
4pm my talk about Gender Issues in Crime Fiction. 
6.30-7.30 CWA Dagger shortlists are announced at a drinks reception (I have to attend a raise a glass as one of the Debut Dagger judges)
8pm out for dinner with friends. 
I'll try to find time to post some photos... 

On the way to CrimeFest 2015 in Bristol, the journey begins...

Saturday 9 May 2015

Why We Love Crime Fiction

The appeal of crime fiction

You might be surprised to hear what many strangers tell me. From intellectual young men to kindly middle-aged grannies, professional young women to retired policemen, their eyes light up as they mention it. Even the wording they use is often the same. They are all keen to confide that they "love a good murder!" Bookshops and libraries, bastions of culture and civilisation, join in with posters announcing, "We love crime."
You might be forgiven for thinking that I live in some Orwellian society where words signify the opposite of their original meanings, or that I live in a penal colony inhabited by criminals. Neither is true. These ordinary members of the reading population are referring to crime fiction, or murder mysteries. Of course you knew that. So widespread is the appeal of the genre that no one can fail to be aware of it. In books and on television, mysteries remain one of the most popular genres of fiction.
How do we account for this? It's a strange phenomenon. I don't like reading about true crimes. It's too upsetting. Any real crime is one human being causing another human being to suffer, for their own selfish purposes. There is nothing redeeming about it. Yet somehow, in fiction, crime stories become transformed into a form of entertainment, usually focusing on "a good murder".
There could be several reasons why the genre is so popular. Firstly, crime fiction deals with the timeless conflict between good and evil. While detectives may not be without their flaws, they are fighting on the side of justice. The killers may not be totally evil characters, but they commit acts which are wholly evil. Crime fiction is, at heart, goodies and baddies.
Secondly, crime fiction is packed with suspense. Most of my reviewers describe my books a "page turners". The genre offers the excitement of the chase. Finally, the genre allows us to play out our own fears in a safe environment. A book may be scary, but it is just a book. We can look away, skim read, or close the book. We rarely have such control over the things that frighten us in real life.
But it is impossible to really pin down why some kinds of books appeal to a mass market, while others don't. I am just thankful that the genre in which I write is so popular. Long may it last!

Tuesday 5 May 2015


We read a lot of posts by books lovers criticising Amazon. Is it disingenuous of me to write a post in their defence, just when my agent has negotiated a three book deal with them for a new series I am writing? Well, perhaps you might like to read to the end of my post and then draw your own conclusions. After all, that is one of the glories of reading, that we are free to do just that, read and make up our own minds.
    We read a lot about Amazon decimating our bookshop chain, Waterstones, just as Waterstones was previously accused of destroying independent bookshops. Part of the perceived problem with Amazon was the rise of ebooks. But let's examine this. Waterstones rushed to take a share in the market for kindles. That appeared short term at the time, but turned out to be a sound business decision. 
    It may be ironic that selling kindles helped the bookshop chain to survive, but to some extent 'supping with the devil,' as some characterised it, meant that Amazon played its part in helping to save the bookshops. I am not suggesting that Amazon's motivation was anything other than commercial, but it created a virtuous circle. And that, surely, is what we are witnessing in the book world today. The truth is that the advent of ebooks and ease of purchase online have resulted in more people reading more books. That can only benefit all book sellers, and that is largely thanks to Amazon. 
    I value bookshops and libraries. It is well known that I have campaigned vigorously to support both. But I cannot see why there should be a conflict between print book and ebooks, or physical stores and online book providers. I appreciate the fact that I can buy books online wherever I am, at any time of the day or night. That does not prevent me from going into bookshops, which I frequently do, and buying books there. Amazon has not put up barricades outside bookshops. On the contrary, with more people reading, if bookshops are canny and make their spaces reader friendly, they could be selling more books than ever before, as the community of book readers and book lovers grows. 
    There has never been a better time to be a reader, or a writer or, I think, a bookseller.