Thursday, 29 April 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

Although, as of today, I'm at the halfway point of book 2 I've already been at the halfway point of book 2 twice before. It's the same story but I'm still exploring different ways of telling it. My editor, Lara, is excited about the story and is encouraging me to maximise the stronger elements of the plot.

A lot of writers say that they'd rather start something new than have to rewrite. I can certainly appreciate this but it's less applicable for me, however, because rewriting in my world usually constitutes writing the whole thing anew. I find that by the time I've trawled through a draft and tried to lift out which components work it's actually quicker for me to knuckle down and see what arises from a fresh attack. At least I can do it armed with the knowledge of what's working so far.

People ask - 'doesn't it make you want to break your keyboard over your knee - having to start all over again?' It's not the same as starting again, however, because I'm rewriting with an informed approach. That's not to say I haven't broken plenty of keyboards over my knee though.

I suppose it depends on what your definition of rewriting is. Rewriting and editing often overlap.
Editing - that's a different kettle of fish for me. It's a pleasurable world of muse, chin stroke, cut and paste. It's my favourite part.

Rewriting is a filthy, tooth grinding, time gobbling but necessary process but hopefully book 2 will be worth every piece of shattered plastic and every inch of ground enamel.

Happy weekend

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Why Do Readers Read....

by Matt Lynn

One of the interesting questions for any writer is why do readers read? There have been a couple of interesting articles recently about 'neuro- lit crit' (such as this one in the New York Times, or this one in The Guardian).

I won't try and get into the science of it too much, because clearly I'm not qualified to. And I'd probably get the wrong end of the stick anyway. But from the perspective of a writer, it's obviously helpful to understand why people like stories, and what triggers they pull in their brains.

Of the different theories, I was most impressed by the approach of the evolutionary biologists. They suggest we like certain types of stories because they help us think through survival strategies. So for example, the bulk of women's fiction is about finding a suitable mate (except with a few jokes thrown in).

And what about crime and thrillers? I'd suggest it's about identifying danger, and how you'd cope with it.

It's certainly a different way of thinking about story construction.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Is it a dream?

I don't think I'll ever become blase about being interviewed. It's always a thrill, not least because so far all the people who have interviewed me have been absolutely lovely. There are far too many interviews to post all the links here, but here's a link to the most recent one: pages 14-15

I've posted before on my own blog about this sneaking feeling I have that this can't really be happening to me... What am I doing here, a suddenly-successful author with two reprints of my first book, a second out in proof copies, a third almost written and a fourth in the pipeline... and more after that... Bookstores contact my publisher offering to host signings, I've received emails from literary festivals asking if I'd like to speak... When did all this happen to me of all people? It's not as if it was even my lifelong ambition to become an author. I simply had an idea, wrote obsessively for six weeks, and... here I am, as startled as Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. Will I wake up one day and discover this was all a strange (and very wonderful) dream?

Weird and wonderful things are happening to me almost daily at the moment. I'm appearing at Crimefest 2010 as a member of the CURZON PANEL and now I've been invited to join a debut author panel as well. It's called... wait for it... All the Young Punks. I wasn't even so very young when punks first hit the scene. What have I let myself in for now? For someone who writes crime fiction I'm inappropriately squeamish in real life. I haven't even had my ears pierced. I hope safety pins won't be compulsory...

Just today I heard from a blogger new to me. I visited her blog and found these pictures: THAT'S MY BOOK! Yes, my life is strange and very wonderful these days.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Twitter Oscars

By Richard Jay Parker

If you were one of the people who voted for my Twitter commentary in this week's AUTHOR BLOG AWARDS then thanks for the prolapse I got on Tuesday night when I was informed that I was runner up. The insuperable Neil Gaiman was, of course, the winner. With a plump back catalogue of buxomly funny books and a justifiably vast Twitter following worldwide there really was no other candidate.

But to have walked on that virtual red carpet, to have felt the virtual bubbles of champagne in my nostrils was quite a bizarre experience so thanks again for anyone who went to COMPLETELY NOVEL and registered a vote for my sporadic and often bewildered Tweets about trying to write.

When people ask me about the amount of time I spend on Twitter and if it's a viable way to get the world and it's aunt interested in your work I can now say resoundingly 'I don't know.' It's fun though and I've met a lot of decent people through it - some in the industry and a lot who have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Has it driven more people to buy STOP ME? Again, I just don't know. Twitter isn't something that can be easily measured. It's as capable of laying eggs for you as it is of pecking a hole in your brain. In the nicest possible way, of course.

But it looks like the industry is recognising it as a legitimate publicity aid (hence Liz Thomson's article about the awards in Book Brunch) so, if you're a new writer looking for a readership, it seems like a good place to start making contact(s).

Congrats to Emily Benet, Neil Gaiman and Sam Starbuck. All the winner details are HERE

Have a good weekend.

Read the Twitter? Now read the book...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

You'd think it would be easy - Help needed! - see interview pages 14-15

After a while, book promotion takes on a momentum of its own. I just received an invitation to organise a CURZON PANEL for Havant Festival in October 2010 - more of this later. It's lovely to receive invitations, but I don't want to be like the "gal who can't say no" and have reluctantly turned down a couple of requests for talks during National Crime Fiction Week (14th-19th June). I'm already giving two talks after work that week, at Ruislip Manor Library on Tuesday 15th and Ickenham Library on Wednesday 16th, as well as my normal weekend bookshop events.
My second book, ROAD CLOSED, hits the shelves in a couple of months and I've just received a proof copy in the post! I'm so excited! (I think my publisher rushed it out for London International Book Fair, before the International part disappeared in a puff of ash.) There's something surreal about opening a book and reading your own story on the pages. ROAD CLOSED has already been selling well with preorders on amazon, which I'm absolutely thrilled about as I'm assuming these can only be readers who enjoyed CUT SHORT so much they're looking forward to ROAD CLOSED. So far so good.
I'm now busy writing (of course!) and am around 3/4 of the way through the first draft of DEAD END, the third in my series. I want check it, and research the fourth book in the series, over the summer.
When it comes to writing, creating a ficitious reality in words comes easily to me - I absolutely love doing it. The words just roll off the keyboard. Sometimes when I'm trying to get to sleep, an entire chapter unfolds in my head and I have to jump up and jot it down. Where I struggle is with the organisation (shudder). When I wrote CUT SHORT, it's no secret that I didn't plan. I just sat and wrote, for fun, for myself, with no idea anyone else would ever read my MS, let alone publish it. When I had to knock it into shape as a coherent book I got into a terrible muddle.
With ROAD CLOSED I was determined to make the process flow more smoothly and devised a detailed plan on a sheet of A3, writing down what each character was doing on each day through the investigation. Couldn't go wrong? Well, everything was going fine until I had to move a few chapters around. Muddle and mayhem, some tearing of hair and a few choice expletives, but I sorted it out in the end.
So, twice bitten... I wrote a 9 page detailed synopsis for DEAD END before I even started writing the MS...
... and here I am, 3/4 of the way through, and I've just shifted a chapter. This means about ten other chapters have to be moved around, and others reworked. Muddle and panic again.
Why not leave well alone, you might ask. My books (as I hope you know...) create authentic realism shot through with drama. If the day to day realism goes on for too long, it becomes dull. Who wants to read about boring the daily life of a police investigation? On the other hand, too much drama and terror in one section loses its impact. I'm very keen to make my books terrifying without becoming implausible. If my readers can really believe in the world I create, I think that's more frightening than if I pile on the horrors. There's no right or wrong about this. It's just my opinion. So the balance between realism and drama is crucial.
I was happily writing DEAD END and my agent suggested there was too long a patch of investigation, and then two hugely tense scenes built up at once. Of course I saw the sense in what he said. I would have reached the same conclusion myself when I come to review the whole shape of the book once the first draft is completed.
So I'm shifting chapters around again... with all the consequent changes. I can't have a character reminiscing about a scene before it's happened... or a Saturday night party taking place between Wednesday and Thursday... oh heck! I wish I was more organised!
The MS isn't due to be delivered until after the summer for publication in 2011, so there's no rush, but there are so many demands on my time. I don't have the luxury of being able to devote myself full-time to writing, and will be back at school tomorrow. And then there's the book promotion to fit in ...
Do other authors plan their books successfully before writing? And if so, HOW?

Friday, 16 April 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

Bizarrely my life revolves around one thing at the moment – writing. This unusual state of affairs has sneaked up on me and caught me completely unawares. So, although my calendar is steadily filling up with fun promotional outings and appearances and I’m looking forward to debating on two panels at the forthcoming Crimefest I’m having to focus on the filthy business of filling pages.

It’s the rewrite for book 2 and it’s steadily shaping up but it’s a time vacuum that swallows daylight and free time. You won’t find me bemoaning my lot though because that’s what I signed on the dotted for. However, my writing routines don’t leave room for much else. Some writers are chippers – gradually hewing their words across many months. I’ve always been an exploder. I think about a project for a good while, make copious notes and then knuckle down to the writing in a concerted and concentrated couple of months of writing.

It’s the reason I was never very good at co-writing TV scripts. Other writers like to perfect every line before moving on whereas I want to get everything down even if it’s rough around the edges. Once it’s on the page the fun for me then is the intense refine and edit. Getting the rough clay is the hardest part.

So that’s where I am at the moment - mid-explosion and looking at the summer promo months as a reward for getting through it - conscientious writer autopilot on in the meantime. I don’t really like to slow down though so chances are that as soon as this project has been completed to everyone’s satisfaction I’ll be onto the next. I was already a third of the way into another project when I started reworking 2.

Glutton for punishment? Please miss, can I have some more?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


There's so much to tell you, it's hard to know where to begin! This is going to have to be a two part post as I have lots of news but also a serious topic to air. I'll start with the news.
Clem Chambers second book, THE TWAIN MAXIM, hits the shelves this month so watch out for it! I can't wait to get my hands on it and will be posting a review of it here in due course. Matt Lynn has posted about his recent publication, FIRE FORCE, which is a must for anyone who enjoys a fast paced action packed yarn. It's easy to see why DEATH FORCE hit the best seller charts.
Following a successful event at Derby Library in May with Matt Lynn, Richard Jay Parker and Zoe Sharp, we have a CURZON PANEL of Matt Lynn, Tom Cain, Leigh Russell, Richard Jay Parker and Zoe Sharp (I hope I've got that right guys?) at Crimefest in May. On 2nd June we are visiting WESTFIELD LIBRARY in London. The panel for that will be Matt Lynn, Tom Cain, Leigh Russell and Richard Jay Parker. The next library event will probably be in Harrow, with Matt Lynn, Cyrus Moore, Leigh Russell and one other tbc.
As for me, as usual I've been out and about meeting readers. CUT SHORT continues to sell out at book signings and I've had great fun with more BBC radio interviews, and meetings with journalists, as well as meeting the lovely Helen Hunt of Bookersatz. You can see details of all my recent events, with photos, on my author blog
CUT SHORT continues to gather great reviews. You can find links to many of them on my publisher's website but here's a link to the most recent one:
Call me greedy, but I just can't get enough of those good reviews! The icing on my little cake this week was to receive an email from JEFFERY DEAVER himself, telling me he "loved" CUT SHORT! Here's the quote he kindly sent me: "Cut Short is a stylish, top-of-the-line crime tale, a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel." - JEFFERY DEAVER
So there's lots going on, and plenty to look forward to, for the Curzon Group.

On a more serious note, I heard this week that yet another independent bookstore is under threat. Nineveh in Havant is facing closure. I visited it in 2009 when I was invited to talk at Havant Literary Festival. Nineveh was a thriving, busy place. My talk was well attended by many local people passionate about books and reading. So please, if you live in Havant, get down to Nineveh and give them your support in any way you can. We cannot sit back idly as more and more bookshops disappear. And wherever you are, please visit a bookshop soon.

Friday, 9 April 2010


By Richard Jay Parker

The Twitterscape can be a strange terrain for a writer. On Wednesday I was told by Chiara Priorelli, publicity ace at my publisher Allison & Busby, that I was on the shortlist for the Author Blog Awards being run by Completely Novel. There are 28 writers nominated including nice people that I've been in touch with via Twitter like romance author Liz Fielding as well as the monumental likes of Paulo Coelho and Neil Gaiman. I remarked to a friend that the words 'snowball' and 'hell' seem terribly relevant re my chances of winning.

It's great to have made it onto the list though so I have to thank anyone out there who nominated me and those of you who have been in touch to say they've voted for me. I guess the accumulating flocks of random meanderings I've been tweeting when I should have been writing have landed somewhere.

It seems like a great idea for an award that Completely Novel have come up with. There's a lot of passionate people out there, besides writers, who put a lot of energy into their blogs and it's something that seems largely without recognition. There's journalistic awards for work that is as ephemeral as it is vital so maybe this new platform is due a bit more recognition. It certainly is an unquantifiable aid for writers but one that seems to be becoming a recognised cog of the industry. See Katie Allen's article in The Bookseller

As well as my own publisher, Quartet Books, Bloomsbury, Faber, Mills & Boon and Headline are also supporting the prize by donating books as prizes to those who vote. Voting closes on April 16th and the winners will be announced at the London Book Fair official tweetup on 20th April. Looks like fun.

Vote for your fave 'Tweeters Who Probably Should Be Spending More Time Writing' HERE

Happy weekend.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The 100 Best Thrillers...

by Matt Lynn

David Morrell, who wrote Rambo, has put together a book called 'Thriller: 100 Must-Reads'. It's a great idea - essays by 100 different writers on the 100 best thrillers of all time. The list is pretty eclectic. It starts with Lee Child on Theseus and the Minotaur ('Jack thought the guy looked kind of strange. Bull-like. But it made no difference. He still bled when you shot him'), on to Beowulf, Macbeth and Robinson Crusoe before getting stuck into the 20th-century.

The thought is a good one. We think of the thriller as a fairly modern genre. Most people probably think it started with Ian Fleming. But really, it is just action-adventure storytelling, and that has been around since the beginning of time.

I've done an essay for the book on Hammond Innes's 'The Wreck of the Mary Deare'. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the esssays - and I hope someone decides to distribute the book here in the UK.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Leigh Russell's Visit to Kent

I had an email from JEFFERY DEAVER who "loved" CUT SHORT!
He was even kind enough to send a quote:
"Cut Short is a stylish, top-of-the-line crime tale, a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel. - JEFFERY DEAVER"

This is BBC Radio Kent where I chatted to Pat Marsh and Linsey on the Saturday Breakfast Show. Their enthusiasm was infectious! You can see how much wider awake I look after meeting them. You can hear my live interview on 1.16.35 - 1.22.22

I really enjoyed meeting Pat and Linsey. After the interview, I went round the corner and found Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells where I was due to sign CUT SHORT. It sold out by 3 o'clock, so I had time to buy another pair of purple shoes before I left...
A big THANK YOU to all the readers in Tunbridge Wells who stopped for a chat. It was lovely to meet you, especially those of you who bought CUT SHORT! Look out for ROAD CLOSED, published in June. I've just seen the final proofs, ready in time for the London Book Fair.
Finally - before you go, watch the tear on the book cover below!
Cut Short by Leigh Russell