What’s Your First Draft Like? – Amy Bird

Today I have a different type of First Draft post for you. It’s an amalgamation of a first draft post and blog tour of crime author Amy Bird. I was happy to be a part of Amy’s exciting tour and asked if she wanted to do the first draft Q&A which she quickly agreed to. So with both of those in place, it seemed like the perfect solution to do them both together.

Amy Bird (2)Amy is the author of the thrillers Three Steps Behind You and Yours Is Mine, and now Hide and Seek.

Having moved all over the UK as a child, she now lives in North London with her husband, dividing her time between working part-time as a lawyer and writing.

 

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

Usually an idea will strike me as a ‘What if?’ proposition. I’ll play with the idea in my head for a bit to see if it has novel-length scope. For Hide and Seek, I was struck by the idea of someone not knowing something about an aspect of their own past that was crucial to their identity. As soon as the character gets a hint of that, an obsessive search for the truth begins. It is in the lengths to which that obsession will drive them, and the attitudes of other characters to that search and the secret, that a novel was born.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

Once I’ve turned the idea round in my head for a while, I’ll take an old-fashioned bit of paper and pen, and plot out the key ideas, characters and turning points. I might not then actually start writing the novel for a few more weeks, but that piece of paper acts as the grounding for my thoughts.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

When I start writing the novel itself, I go straight to keyboard. I work as a lawyer as well as a writer, so I spend a lot of time at computers. It’s the medium I’m happy with – it’s so much easier to get a handle on a project and to go back and change things. For a thriller like Hide and Seek, it’s crucial to get the twists just right at sentence level, as well as at a plot level, so I need to be able to play with a sentence on screen. I used to believe that I only thought creatively when writing on paper. But now my creative processes are more aligned to a computer and I will get fresh ideas as I type. Plus how much time it must take to type up handwritten notes!

Amy Shareable_HideandSeek1a (2)How important is research to you?

It depends what sort of book you’re writing. Because my books are based on human psyche, rather than say historical episodes, I tend to find myself reading up on ideas and theories, not facts. For Hide and Seek, I read a lot about memory and trauma, and on brain injuries. I also chose to structure the novel as a concerto, because of the fictitious piano concerto at the heart of it, which drives forward the protagonist’s obsessive search for truth. I therefore did a lot of reading up on concerto structure, and listening to a wide variety of composers, so I could get the pace and rhythms of my work just right.

How do you go about researching?

I stockpile a lot of books on a particular topic. I’ll do a little bit of reading at the start of the novel, or use the internet to search for a particular point. Then I’ll get on with writing so I can develop the characters and plot progression. Eventually there’ll come a point when I really want to indulge in the research and the ideas it generates, so I’ll down writing tools for a short while. I find that if I’m already a little way into the novel, I’ll view the research through the prism of the novel and the characters, and the research will give me ideas for scenes, not just facts. I do get out from behind my desk occasionally, though – for my second novel, Three Steps Behind You, the protagonist takes up fencing so I attended a class to grasp the basics, feel what it was like to actually use the kit, and get a sense of the rhythms. You can’t learn that just from watching a YouTube video.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

Lots of different ways. I’ll set up a dedicated notebook for a novel, which usually stays at home. I’ll also make notes on my phone as they occur to me. Plus on lots of scraps of paper, which I try to keep – but often just writing down the idea secures it in my head. I also have a box-file labelled ‘Ideas’ where I keep newspaper cuttings or research articles that I’m either using or could be useful for later books.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I don’t start the first draft until I have a clear idea of the characters and the plot arc. I also wait until I have a forceful sense of the opening. That way I can just start from the beginning and work through in a linear way. I generate ideas and motifs as I write though, so it stays organic.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

I try to avoid ritual as it limits when and where you can write. I need either my laptop or my iPad, but only as tools. I usually try to go for a short walk before I begin, to keep my focus sharp.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

I work part-time as a solicitor so I have to inhabit the outside world for four-days a week! On my writing days, I do like to shut the rest of the world out. I’ll stick on some comfy clothes, keep away from emails, and focus on the writing. Then in the intervening days, I’ll be thinking about what I’ve written, and how to structure the next chapter. In the early stages of a first draft, or at the climax, I like to take a week or two from lawyering just to really get into the book. Hide and Seek and Three Steps Behind You have both been first person narratives from fairly weird characters, and I find spending a concentrated amount of time in their heads helps me to access their obsessive thought cycles.

Amy Desk (2)What does your work space look like?

Very green. I usually write in my study, which has one of those mock-antique desks green leather insets, in front of which there are green curtains, and I look out into the garden (which is… green). I find it a calming space. The rest of the study and my desk are less calm – I tend to surround myself in a clutter of papers and books. It doesn’t bother me, but I suspect it bothers my husband. I’ve also been known to write on our family boat in the middle of the Norfolk Broads, or curled up in a hotel room. Once you start writing, the key space is in your mind and on the page.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

It depends. Usually I’ll just keep getting the words out, but if I have a sudden structure or character revelation part-way through, I might need to back and edit. I don’t endlessly re-read my work while I’m mid-draft for the sake of it, though – I tend to push on unless I know there’s a problem.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

Both. The reality is that with a deadline, you do need to keep track of words. Otherwise, you could write a beautiful piece of 200 words, but you would be running behind. I have a target of around 8- 10,000 words a week for a first draft, but for an individual day’s work I think it terms of chapters and key plot developments.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

About two months for a first draft if I’m working full-pelt. That sounds quite intensive, but it’s just about making sure you sit down and get on with writing. Usually there are bits of my first draft that impress me, and other bits that depress me. You have to read very carefully to see whether what’s on your head is actually on the page.

In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I print out the full first draft and put it in a lever-arch file. I take it to a different room in the house, and read it at a calm pace. Using a paper copy, I can make notes on it easily, or physically move chapters around if I need to.

Amy Annotated first draft (2)

What happens now that first draft is done?

The polish! After I’ve read it through, I’ll make a list of all the major pick-up points: perhaps a character’s motivation isn’t quite right, or I need to add a new motif, or a plot twist is too melodramatic. It’s at this stage when all the detailed points and ideas spring into my mind late at night or on the Tube, and I need to write them all down. I’ll work away at it for a couple more weeks, then read the whole thing out loud to myself from my iPad. That gives me draft 1.5, which is basically a sound book. I then send it on to my editor – and also let my husband read it – so that the real process of honing begins. Each plot twist is scrutinised, each character interrogated, and every motif threaded through. We probably go through about two more drafts. Only then is it ready for my readers.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Amy on her Facebook, Twitter and on Goodreads.

 

Amy Postcard2_HideandSeek_P#3BB (2)

You can find Amy at Carina. And now for the exciting bit, there’s a competition!

Amy win

 

As usual, if you want to take part in the First Draft series, just let me know! You can find a list of the previous Q&A’s Here.

 

 

 

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September’s Crime Book Club Meeting and October’s Reading Choice

Last night we discussed Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night at the Crime Book Club online meeting. It was a great meeting as usual and extremely entertaining. I do love meeting up once a month to discuss these books because having that ability to meet in a face to face way with fans of the genre is just brilliant fun, especially if there is a slight difference of opinion. And with books you’ll get that because they’re subjective. We all like different things and the genre is so wide open, it gives us plenty to play with.

Anyway, enough of me fawning about the club itself, back to the book. As I said, there was a difference of opinion about the book last night, but if you’re watching the video below you’re going to have to wait until we get about half way through before you see it. Most of the members did really enjoy the book and the protagonist, 82-year-old, Sheldon Horowitz. A real different take on the genre. There was disagreement about whether the book mashed storylines together well. Watch the video below. It’s an interesting one.

 

Next month we are reading Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes

CrossbonesIntroducing Alice Quentin, a London psychologist with family baggage, who finds herself at the center of a grisly series of murders

Alice Quentin is a psychologist with some painful family secrets, but she has a good job, a good-looking boyfriend, and excellent coping skills, even when that job includes evaluating a convicted killer who’s about to be released from prison. One of the highlights of her day is going for a nice, long run around her beloved London—it’s impossible to fret or feel guilty about your mother or brother when you’re concentrating on your breathing—until she stumbles upon a dead body at a former graveyard for prostitutes, Crossbones Yard.

The dead woman’s wounds are alarmingly similar to the signature style of Ray and Marie Benson, who tortured and killed thirteen women before they were caught and sent to jail. Five of their victims were never found. That was six years ago, and the last thing Alice wants to do is to enter the sordid world of the Bensons or anyone like them. But when the police ask for her help in building a psychological profile of the new murderer, she finds that the killer—and the danger to her and the people she cares about—may already be closer than she ever imagined.

 

We are meeting on Wednesday 15th October at 8 p.m. GMT on Google+ Hangouts.

We would really love to see some new members. Don’t be shy. Please join us. You’d be warmly welcomed. The how-to post is at the top of the blog Here. I look forward to seeing you next month!

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How Do You Engage Children With Reading?

We all love reading right? I’m sure you’re not following this blog without being a fan of reading. But how did we get here? To be lovers of books? Was it something we picked up all by ourselves or did someone show us the way?

Were there several people in your life who helped you on the path to reading or was it one bright light of a person who struck that match and lit that spark of love?

Reading is so important. It can take us places. It can educate us. It can improve our lives and can energise us to stretch ourselves. It has endless possibilities. Yet with children it can be a fine line between showing them the way and pushing them over the edge where they feel bullied into reading and start to resent it. Show them, let them explore, find the love themselves and they’re on the path.

I have let my little man loose in Waterstones and he’s found his own love of books. He’s found his current niche so to speak. And his niche is fantasy. He will read for an hour at night with me in bed before he goes to sleep. He loves the Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson books. He’s read the whole series, so now he’s reading the Egyptian series Riordan has written.

We also wandered over to the YA stand as he’s running out of choice in the 9-12 section and he selected another book for our book-case now waiting to be read. He is way above his reading age and above most of his classmates. He loves reading. It’s often a fight to get him to close his book to get him to go to bed. And these aren’t small books, they are 500 pages long.

Yet, why is it when he finished one book and took in a similar book to school his teacher asked him if he had read Wonder. He said he had started it (I have it) but didn’t enjoy it. Her response? That’s not the point……

Can someone please tell me what exactly is the point? I get she may want him to explore other books, but to tell a child to read a book that they’re clearly not interested in? Aren’t you at risk of putting them off reading? I’ve told him to tell her when he’s finished this one he has a different type to read next.

I just want him to keep reading and to enjoy it. He will choose different books as he reads his way through the ones he has.

And on a side note, at his last parent teacher meeting last year with a different teacher, I was told his ‘big writes’ were exceptional and the teacher had not seen that standard before. I can see me butting heads at some point over this reading thing.

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Recently Read – The Hit by Allen Zadoff

The Recently Read posts will tend to be books I have enjoyed. For a full roundup of books I have read and their reviews you can find me on Goodreads Here.

The Hit by Allen Zadoff

Published 2014 by Orchard Books
original title; Boy Nobody
ISBN 9781408337769

hitBoy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die — of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target.

When his own parents died of not-so-natural causes at the age of eleven, Boy Nobody found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s next mission.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book and couldn’t read it fast enough.

The prose is clean, sharp and to the point. It conveys how the boy, known as Ben throughout this book, is supposed to be. After all, he is a trained killer and he’s only 16 years old. It’s told in first person narrative so you know exactly what Ben is thinking as he quickly assesses information, any threats around him and whether it’s the right moment to make his “hit”.

The problem comes for Ben when you see and feel that part of him that is still only a 16-year-old boy. No matter how much training and conditioning he has gone through he still has a past to deal with and a present assignment to do that is difficult and emotional and brings up memories he hadn’t thought about for some time. The book takes you through the assignment and its difficulties for Ben.

The difference between the assassin in Ben and the emotional side is dealt with wonderfully and believably. And the conversation he has with his handler known as Mother at the end where some difficult aspects of the assignment are pointed out to him are really clever and thought-provoking.

I really enjoyed this and will definitely be reading the next in the series.

Thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for my copy.

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Recently Read – The Sad Man & The Ugly Man by P. D. Viner

Unfortunately I don’t have a first draft Q&A for you this week, but don’t worry, it will be returning again next week and don’t forget, if you fancy doing, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Today’s Recently Read post is a little different as it comprises two books by the same author. The Sad Man and The Ugly Man by P. D. Viner. They are short stories that are a part of his Dani Lancing Trilogy of which two books are now out. The good news is that you can pick up these two short free on the Amazon store.

You can find P. D. Viner’s particularly interesting first draft Q&A, that he did a few weeks ago, Here.

The Sad Man by P. D. Viner

sadPolice officer Tom Bevans is nicknamed the Sad Man by his colleagues. As a Family Liaison Officer he is always the bearer of bad news – it is his job to tell the friends and family of victims the fate of their loved ones.

But Tom is weighted down by crimes both old and new – haunted by the death of his best friend Dani, whose murder has never been solved.

When a rare opportunity emerges for Tom to take the lead in a horrific murder investigation, he is determined to get justice for the victim. A young girl has been found in her own home, cut so badly – and so carefully – that she has bled to death, leaving a deliberate pool of blood in the shape of angel wings…

My Thoughts:

This is a prequel to The Last Winter of Dani Lancing but you don’t need to have read the novel to read this.

I loved this short story. It gives you a real insight into DS Tom Bevans and his past and bizarrely his current relationship with Dani Lancing. Through Tom the story explores grief and guilt and how it is dealt with.

The murders Tom investigates are serious but Viner manages to keep the integrity of a murder story within such a short space and the ending was heart racing stuff that left you wanting to read the next novel. A great short story.

The Ugly Man by P. D. Viner

uglyThe summer of 1976.

The whole country baking in a heatwave. And in a sleepy Derbyshire village a man, known locally as the Ugly Man, walks into his local with a claw hammer and in front of everyone brutally murders the young woman behind the bar.

For Patricia Lancing, juggling the demands of being a wife and mother alongside her desire to get recognition as an investigative journalist, this could be the case that makes her career.

If she survives it.

My Thoughts:

This, the second short story in the Dani Lancing series is very different to The Sad Man.

The Ugly Man is set in the 1970’s around Dani’s mum Patti and her time as a journalist. Viner captures the era well without overplaying the sexism that was clearly rife at that time in such career choices. Though it is there and is shown, you don’t feel as though it is being rammed down your throat.

The Ugly Man is a facially disfigured man and it is this that earned him the childish and nasty nickname that stuck.

I really enjoyed this. Lines were blurred. Knowing who was the victim and offender weren’t always clear cut and human nature was exposed for all its frailties.

The novella has an interesting voice and will keep you turning the pages. The story is cleverly woven with an interesting twist at the end that will likely leave you wanting to read more by Viner and with two books that link in with these, you have great opportunity.

A great series.

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October’s Choices for Crime Book Club

Next Wednesday 17th September is our crime book club meeting where we will be discussing Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. 

Below are the voting choices for October’s meeting. You can vote by leaving a comment, on Twitter using the hashtag #crimebookclub or on the Facebook page. Remember you can also nominate books for voting options. 

I look forward to seeing you next week! If you’re new to the book club, you can find the ‘how-to’ guide Here

Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes

CrossbonesIntroducing Alice Quentin, a London psychologist with family baggage, who finds herself at the center of a grisly series of murders 

Alice Quentin is a psychologist with some painful family secrets, but she has a good job, a good-looking boyfriend, and excellent coping skills, even when that job includes evaluating a convicted killer who’s about to be released from prison. One of the highlights of her day is going for a nice, long run around her beloved London—it’s impossible to fret or feel guilty about your mother or brother when you’re concentrating on your breathing—until she stumbles upon a dead body at a former graveyard for prostitutes, Crossbones Yard. 

The dead woman’s wounds are alarmingly similar to the signature style of Ray and Marie Benson, who tortured and killed thirteen women before they were caught and sent to jail. Five of their victims were never found. That was six years ago, and the last thing Alice wants to do is to enter the sordid world of the Bensons or anyone like them. But when the police ask for her help in building a psychological profile of the new murderer, she finds that the killer—and the danger to her and the people she cares about—may already be closer than she ever imagined.

Cold Grave by Craig Robertson

Cold GraveA murder investigation frozen in time is beginning to melt.
November 1993. Scotland is in the grip of an ice-cold winter and the Lake of Menteith is frozen over. A young man and woman walk across the ice to the historic island of Inchmahome which lies in the middle of the lake. Only the man returns.
In the spring, as staff prepare the abbey ruins for summer visitors, they discover the body of a girl, her skull violently crushed.
Present day. Retired detective Alan Narey is still haunted by the unsolved crime. Desperate to relieve her ailing father’s conscience, DS Rachel Narey risks her job and reputation by returning to the Lake of Menteith and unofficially reopening the cold case.
With the help of police photographer Tony Winter, Rachel prepares a dangerous gambit to uncover the killer’s identity – little knowing who that truly is. Despite the freezing temperatures the ice cold case begins to thaw, and with it a tide of secrets long frozen in time are suddenly and shockingly unleashed.

 

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

SnowOn a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

 

 

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Recently Read – Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R. L. Trask

Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R. L. Trask

Punctuation

 

 

Focusing on British and Commonwealth punctuation, but also explaining American usage, this text contains clear and up-to-date definitions of each type of punctuation. It includes the correct use of capital letters, contractions and abbreviations, italics, boldface and the special characters available on a word processor.

 

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts:

I can never remember specifically doing punctuation at school. Well, not to any real degree of intimacy. And if I did, I must have forgotten it all because if you asked my the rules on colons and semicolons and that blasted apostrophe, especially after words ending with an s, well I’d be doomed. So, as a writer I though I’d better take my craft a bit more seriously and look it up.

This book is absolutely wonderful. It’s small book. It’s concise, to the point and easy to understand. It goes through each piece of punctuation chapter by chapter and breaks it down, explaining the rules and giving examples. It starts easy with the second chapter (the first is on why the need to learn to punctuate) being about the full stop, question mark and exclamation mark. It then goes in for the kill with the comma. Seriously. The comma. No, the rule about using the comma when you need to breathe isn’t correct. Did you know there are actually four uses of the simple comma? Four!

Yes, I will be keeping this book by my laptop as I work.

It goes through abbreviations, quotation marks and quotes within quotation marks. It really is comprehensive for such a small book.

If you’re a writer and you maybe want to make sure you’re getting your punctuation right (and this book gives the UK and US versions) then I’d highly recommend this book. I know I will keep dipping into it every now and again just to remind myself about some of the rules. And yes, I’ve been very careful in the writing of this post!

 

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Stuck Inside Screaming ‘Let Me Out!’

I thought about this post all last night and was adamant I was going to write it but now it comes down to it I’m not so sure. My resolve is wavering. Do I bare my soul or do I continue to hide behind my keyboard just posting book reviews, the occasional YouTube video and something that passes as personal?

The reason I decided to write this post last night was because I wanted to talk about disability and in the talking, raise awareness. I wanted to raise awareness of a little known genetic disorder. I wanted to do my small part with my small platform to give it a small voice. I decided that it was OK for me to be open on my social networks now about how I live and how this really, genuinely effects me. That my readers would be OK with that.

But today my resolve is wavering. Will I be looked at differently through the screens of readers? Do people want light fluffy clouds in their streams or some honesty and reality from time to time?

My reality at this moment is far from light and fluffy. It’s probably what kept me away from my keyboard so long this morning, I didn’t want to bring this here, but here I am now. Typing.

Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome effects every person who has it differently. The connective tissue of every person is made faultily by the body and the effects of that vary widely. Many in the medical profession know little about it. My own GP said to me he would have to go and read up on it so he could care for me better. I was pleased with that.

Right now I’m really struggling. I’m deteriorating. I feel as though I’m getting locked down in a body I don’t want to be inside of. My brain still works. My mind is still the same one it was a few years ago. The one that wanted to learn to rock climb so I could go and climb some massive rocks in America. My mind still wants to jump out of a plane again. My mind wanted to do the skiing challenge in the pool on holiday this year. My mind wants to go out drinking in an evening with friends. My mind wants to walk the dog on some massive long walks. My mind wants to plug earphones in my ears, turn up the music and learn to run and steadily go further. My mind wants my body to have some energy.

My body just says no.

You read my posts on attending the crime writing festival at Harrogate this year. What those posts didn’t say was that I failed to attend any evening events. In fact I failed to attend anything past 6pm. They failed to say I had a postural orthostatic tachycardia attack in front of friends in the hotel lobby on the Saturday. That I was laid down on a hotel sofa in that lobby and a fan brought for me before I could be moved to my room. My friends were wonderful and I am grateful to them.

BUT, I did get up every morning and get dressed and enjoyed the daytime activities that weekend.

I’m struggling right now. My neck is highly hypermobile. On MRI it’s shown that its range in flexion and extension and turning left and right go way beyond what a person without hypermobility can. It is causing me a lot of pain and it’s constant. This is causing me the most problems right now. There are ongoing investigations but out of all the joints in the body, the neck/head joint is probably the least known and acknowledged in this country, particularly when it comes to its laxity due to EDS, so expensive specialists have to be sought out and even specialists in the US. It’s draining my energy and my ability for happiness. It’s like a life and soul sucking black hole at the base of my head.

Disability isn’t fun, but neither is it something I should be ashamed of and have it hidden away in a box. I’ve put it out there now. I’ll keep you updated randomly. I see a specialist in London in the middle of November. I’m hoping he will help and support me in getting further answers and help. But now, I’m stuck inside here screaming ‘Let me out!’

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What’s Your First Draft Like? – Louise Phillips

lou_p (2)Today’s First Draft Guest is crime writer Louise Phillips.

Red Ribbons, the bestselling debut novel by Dublin-born crime author Louise Phillips, was nominated for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year award at the BGE Irish Book Awards in 2012. Louise won the award in 2013 for her second novel The Doll’s House. Louise returned to writing in 2006, after raising her family. In addition to her three published novels, Louise’s work has been published as part of various anthologies and literary journals. She has won the Jonathan Swift Award, was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform, and her writing has been shortlisted for prizes such as the Molly Keane Memorial Award and Bridport UK.Last Kiss is her third novel and she is currently working on her fourth.

 

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

It’s usually mulling around in my mind for a while before I put pen to paper, and when I do, there is an intensity and energy as the words fill the page. More often than not it will start with the voice of one of the principle characters, but there is usually be an emotional undertone that sets the story off.

Do you have a set routine approaching it?

I try to take a break from any previous work, allow my imagination to wonder in all kinds of directions before working on the next novel. Once I’m in, I’m hooked and apart from writing associated events, I turn into a writing hermit.

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

It usually starts with pen and paper. The early stages can be delicate and I feel the work flows more freely without the use of a keyboard, but pretty soon I’m working on the laptop and once I’m using it, it will be the principle means of writing. I write little notes to myself all the time though, using a specific notebook for each story. It may be a sentence or two, or a list of questions or actions that I need to address, but the notebook is sort of like a safety net, and will be with me right through to copy edit stage.

How important is research to you?

I see it as very important, it not only adds authenticity to your story, but many times it will open up a new way of looking at it, an extra layer that you may not have perceived setting out. All my novels have been psychological thrillers, so I’ve had to do a lot of research on the workings of the human mind, and where necessary discuss various components of the storyline with psychologists working in this area. The police procedural aspects need to be right too, and again, I’ve been lucky to work with detectives involved in different roles within the police, including forensic data. Having said all that, once you’ve done your research, you need to remember that you’re not writing a ‘how-to’ manual or ‘a walker’s guide to the mountains’, you are writing a story.

How do you go about researching?

As mentioned above, I try to find out as much information as I can myself, and I always do this before I engage the help of professionals in the area. You should never waste someone else’s time with questions you can find the answers to yourself, or they may not be as willing to help you next time around. I will usually do preliminary research in the early stages, and whilst writing the novel, other questions will arise, and if necessary I’ll go on another information gathering exercise.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

The notebook is great, it catches a lot for me, but sometimes I make up storyboards of visual images that have caught my eye. If I’m out walking, I will make notes in my phone or at times record small snippets. The important thing is to have access to a means of capturing the information. It never works quite the same from memory.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

It starts with an emotional charge and is a wild thing at first, capable of going in any number of directions, but it will soon have a core that will drive it, and or a question that needs addressing. The ‘why’ of any story is hugely interesting to me, and with LAST KISS, the latest novel, one of those questions was how much nature versus nurture dictates our choices in life. As I said above, once I’m in, I’m committed and I will write every day, and somewhere around four-five months after I start, the first draft will be there, warts and all.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

I like to write early mornings, and preferably knowing I won’t be disturbed. I’ve been known to move to different places to writes different characters, but principally, I just need a place that I can escape into the fictional world. I also make a point of not going online until I’ve a sizeable amount of work done – social media is far too distracting.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

The outside world exists, but it doesn’t always get a lot of attention, especially if I’m getting down 2,000 words a day. Time disappears and you find yourself at dinner time with no food in the house or other such essentials. Thankfully I have a supportive husband, and he knows I’m there to help him when he’s working intensely. I guess you find your own balance, but there is no doubt that my fictional characters are more important to me than others in the real world when I’m writing, which is why taking a break from writing is important too.

LP desk (2)What does your work space look like?

I have a small attic bedroom that I work in. It has two small windows, a desk, a chair, shelves with reference books and other bits and bobs. I’ve worked in other places too, but mainly in the house. We live in a rural, mountain location, and I tend to start my novels in the autumn feeding through to winter, so there’s not a lot to disturb you most days other than a heck of a lot of snow and the warmth of an open fire.

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I usually start by editing the work I’ve done the previous day. This gets me back into the fictional world, and I take it from there. I’ll only do a major edit of the whole work at the end. There will be a few of those, and may well involve large structural changes. It very much depends on the story and what you have at the end of the first draft.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

I try to write a set word count every day. 2,000 is a good day, 800 is tricky, and around 1,300 isn’t so bad. I usually have a weekly or monthly word count, so the good days will balance out the not so good ones. At the end of the day, every story will have a word count that’s right for it, and you won’t know that until the end, but being disciplined and working to a set amount of words, although it might drive you bonkers sometimes, will also keep the writing muscles in check and will certainly help to shut out the doubting voices that most writers have.

LP EditingSo, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

It takes about 4 – 5months. Some elements will be great, some not so, but you have a beginning, a middle and an end, and that is a great place to start carving out what you hope will be a story worth reading. I’ve learnt to trust the process now. It won’t be perfect at the end of the 4-5 months but it will exist. In the last novel, I had to overwrite the voice of the killer because she was a really dark character, but once I had the first draft done, I took over 20,000 words out of her narrative, making it sharper, and closer to the voice I wanted to achieve.

In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I will do a first read through on screen, editing as I go along. When I think I’m near the end game, I’ll print out the manuscript and work on it as a hard copy. You will always pick up things using both mediums. That’s when you think you are near finished and you send it off to the publisher, only to start the process all over again.

What happens now that first draft is done?LP Large Print & Doll's House ms 005 (2)

Well you do your edits. For me it is usually about 2-3 good edits before sending it to the publisher. It reaches a point where you have to let the manuscript go and have a good editor read through it. They will invariably see things that you might not see because you’ve been so engrossed in it and they have a fresh pair of eyes. There will be editorial changes afterwards, sometimes structural, sometimes working on a particular character, but the script will improve again. Once that’s done, it is copy edit time, and then it will go to print before being sent out to the world!

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Louise on her website, Twitter and Amazon.

The Last Kiss.

Last Kiss final front cover full size (2)In a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home.

In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck.

But what connects them?

When criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.

Will Kate discover the identity of the killer before it’s too late to protect the innocent? But what separates the innocent from the guilty when the sins of the past can never be forgotten?

 

 

To read any of the previous First Draft Q&A’s you can check the list Here.

To be a part of the First Draft series, just get in touch and let me know. Along with the answers to the questions, I’ll need a profile photograph, a first draft photograph and three links that you feel are your most important.

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Recently Read – Falling by Emma Kavanagh

Falling by Emma KavanaghFalling 2A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide. 

Jim is a retired police officer, and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared and he knows something is wrong.

Tom has woken up to the news that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.

Cecilia had packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy, and sees no way out.

Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.

‘Before the plane crash, after the plane crash, such a short amount of time for the world to turn on its head. ‘

My Thoughts;

I loved this book! Ever since I’ve read the blurb for it I’ve wanted to read it and it finally made it up to the top of my TBR list. It actually shoved quite a few books out of the way to get to the top, but to be honest, I wasn’t disappointed in its violent tendency for supremacy in this aspect. It deserved to be read and to be enjoyed. It’s a book I could read again if I was the type of person to read books a second time – but with a teetering TBR pile, that is a difficult option. 

Kavanagh sets the scene so wonderfully as mental is crunching and Cecelia is falling. She takes you straight to the heart of the action. The scene itself is beautifully cast as there is heavy snow in the air and on the ground and hot metal and burning fires. I felt so completely drawn in. 

It’s this setting of the cold, thick snow that seeps through the entire book with you that holds your feet firmly in place. Maybe it’s just me and cold settings but I love them. 

As the blurb indicates the book envelopes four people and they between them tell the story of the crash, the murder, before and after. Each chapter with each person feels honest and raw and heartfelt. Kavanagh’s use of language and setting is evocative. The cold snow driven landscape is a wonderful backdrop to the emotions that are so startlingly drawn. You can feel yourself there in the cold and in the moment with each character quite clearly.  

It’s expertly plotted as the storyline interweaves the characters lives gently and smoothly, while all the time leaving you just that little out of breath for the next part.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages. This was the second book in a week to keep me up in the night until I’d finished it. It is unique and clever.

I loved this and would recommend it to crime fiction fans.

Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for my copy.

You can find Emma Kavanagh’s First Draft Q&A that she did on the blog in June, Here.

 

To keep up with all the books I read, you can catch me on Goodreads Here

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