Mason Cross – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Mason Cross to the blog. Mason is the author of The Killing Season and The Samaritan and his latest novel to feature Carter Blake, The Time to Kill, was published by Orion on 30 June 2016.

Mason kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Time to Kill

In the first two books (The Killing Season and The Samaritan), we found out that Carter Blake is a skilled freelance manhunter with a murky past in a classified special operations unit. In The Time to Kill, that past catches up with him. 

Blake receives an email attachment of an Interpol black notice showing an unidentified man found dead in the Siberian wilderness. He used to work with the man, and he realizes his former colleagues are sending him a message: he’s next. 

From there, it’s a race against time as Blake has to make his way across America with an elite team of trained killers hot on his heels.

2.  What inspired the story?

This one was inspired by my love of chase thrillers, like The Bourne Identity, 3 Days of the Condor and North by Northwest. I’ve always enjoyed thrillers focusing on a lone man on the run facing impossible odds, and wanted to make my own contribution to the genre. 

It also grew naturally out of the character of Blake. I was interested to see what would happen when the tables were turned and the hunted became the hunter.

  3. The Time to Kill features Carter Blake, who featured in your previous novels. What do you find are the benefits and downsides to writing a recurring character? 

The major benefit is you’re never starting from a completely blank slate: you have the protagonist and a rough idea of what the setup is going to involve. That said, I was careful to make Blake’s occupation flexible enough that I can drop him into different locations and different kinds of story. That way it doesn’t become formulaic. 

The downside is related – you don’t get to throw everything out of the window and do something completely different from what’s gone before. But there’s always standalones for that. Overall, I think the advantages really outweigh the disadvantages.

From a commercial point of view, it’s good because readers invest in series characters, and are more likely to pick up your latest book if they like the character.

4. You recently attended Bloody Scotland, an annual literary festival in Stirling that celebrates all things crime fiction. Can you tell us some of the highlights of the festival? How important do you think literary events are and what makes them so enjoyable?

I think it was the best Bloody Scotland yet this year. There were a lot of highlights, from catching up with other writers and readers to see Mark Billingham perform with the country band My Darling Clementine. 

My panel was a blast – I was appearing with Steve Cavanagh and GJ Brown. We were chaired by Catriona Macpherson and the theme was (Not) Born in the USA, because the three of us write very American thrillers despite not being Americans. It was a really interesting discussion with a lot of laughs, some intentional…

So far I’ve attended several lit fests in the UK, including Edinburgh, Crimefest and Harrogate, and I’m looking forward to venturing further afield in the near future. I think literary events are hugely important as it’s the only time writers really get to interact face to face with readers. It’s also fun to catch up with other writers and compare notes.

5. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

I’m a little of both. I write a fairly detailed outline before I get started, usually 3-4 pages. That’s really so I have a reasonable idea of where the story is going and that there’s some sort of ending. As I write, I change lots of things as I come up with new ideas. The ending is usually completely different by the time I get there. 

It usually takes me four to five months to get to a decent first draft, and then I’ll usually go through another couple of rounds of edits with my publisher. By the time it’s actually printed, I’m usually sick of the sight of it!

6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I have a full-time job and kids as well as writing a book a year, so at times it feels like I don’t have time to do anything else. Right now I’m on a break between editing book four and starting book five, which is nice. I’m trying to catch up on all of the television I haven’t watched and books I haven’t read while writing! When I have free time, I like to go for long walks, exploring different cities. I love going to the cinema and concerts too.

7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

Argh, that’s a tough one. Actually, it’s an impossible one… I’m tempted to say Stephen King’s On Writing, as it’s such an inspiration. But I kind of think I should choose a novel, so let’s say Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. It’s an absolute classic and the book that made me want to be a crime writer.

8. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you have done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?  

Good question! 

Something I don’t think I’ve been asked is, “What else would you like to write, other than books?”

And the answer is: My books are very much influenced by my love of the visual storytelling in both movies and comics, and would love to write them someday. In comics, I’d love to do a Batman or Punisher story, and I have a few ideas I think would work best on the big screen. 

About the book:


It’s been five years since Carter Blake parted ways with top-secret government operation Winterlong. They brokered a deal at the time: he’d keep quiet about what they were doing, and in return he’d be left alone.

But news that one of Blake’s old allies, a man who agreed the same deal, is dead means only one thing – something has changed and Winterlong is coming for him.

Emma Faraday, newly appointed head of the secret unit, is determined to tie up loose ends. And Blake is a very loose end. He’s been evading them for years, but finally they’ve picked up his trace. Blake may be the best there is at tracking down people who don’t want to be found, but Winterlong taught him everything he knows. If there’s anyone who can find him – and kill him – it’s them.

It’s time for Carter Blake to up his game.

High-stakes action, blistering tension and a deadly game of cat and mouse, THE TIME TO KILL is the must-read new thriller from Mason Cross.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kate Frost – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Kate Frost to the blog. Kate is the author of The Butterfly Storm and Beneath the Apple Blossom which was published on 1 August 2016 by Lemon Tree Press. Her latest novel aimed at children aged 9-12 is Time Shifters: Into the Past which was also published by Lemon Tree Press on 20 October 2016.

Kate kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Beneath the Apple Blossom

It’s a story about four women – two longing for a baby and two desperate to not be pregnant. While each of them struggle with what life throws at them, their lives entwine in a way none of them could have predicted through infertility, friendship, infidelity, betrayal and loss.

2. What inspired the book? 

The four cycles of fertility treatment I went through before being lucky enough to have my son in February 2014 was the direct inspiration for the novel. Infertility and fertility treatment are rife with a range of emotions which are perfect fodder for a novel, as well as being subjects that aren’t openly discussed enough. 

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

I’m a bit of both! I plan a book in as much as I know how it’s going to start, who the main characters are and what the major themes will be. Beyond that I’ll have a rough idea of certain scenes and sometimes I’ll know the ending, but often I don’t. It’s exciting to see where characters will take the story. 

As for how long the process takes, it has varied wildly with my first three books. I wrote the first line of my debut novel, The Butterfly Storm, in 2004 while doing my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, but I didn’t finish the final draft until late 2012 before finally publishing it in the summer of 2013. With Beneath the Apple Blossom I started writing it in February 2015 and finished the first draft in November of that year. The edited and completed novel was ready by May 2016 and published three months later, so I’m getting a lot quicker! 

4. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

How emotional it can be. Really that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s the mix of so many emotions that has surprised me. As a writer you invest so much time with the characters you create, it’s perfectly reasonable to suffer with them and feel joy when they do. There’s also the doubt that creeps in along the way, of the novel not being good enough. Then once published there’s the emotional rollercoaster of finding out what readers actually think – sheer joy when someone loves what you’ve written and the inevitable despair after receiving a bad review. Creating a novel and putting it out there for the world to see is not for the faint-hearted. 

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all? 

When I’m not writing I’m looking after my two and a half year-old son, which is equally wonderful and exhausting at the same time. At the moment a bit of me time is rare and even reading is a luxury as I’m usually too tired by bedtime to read more than a couple of paragraphs before nodding off. We have a dog, a gorgeously cute and friendly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, so a walk through woods (particularly at this time of year with crunchy leaves carpeting the ground) is a wonderful way to forget about everything, even with a noisy toddler in tow. Cooking a tasty meal and watching a good film with a glass of wine is a pretty perfect and relaxing evening in for me these days. 

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

One of my favourite books is The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – it would be a shame to only be able to read one book for the rest of my life but if that was the case I think I’d pick this one. I’m fascinated by the Restoration period and being set in 1665-66 this novel is perfect and also hauntingly beautiful despite being about the plague. 

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

Which published book do you wish you’d written? 

The Hunger Games, not just because it’s been such a success, but because it’s a page turner, it has a fabulously strong female character in Katniss Everdeen, there’s action, adventure, it’s original and the story and characters stayed with me long after I finished reading the last page. I often feel like I’ve fallen into writing women’s fiction by mistake because deep down I would love to write a dystopian novel filled with drama, risk and adventure.  

About the books:


“Four women, linked by blood ties, friendship, betrayal, loss and hope, struggle with the choices they’ve made and the hand that life’s dealt them.

All Pippa’s ever wanted is marriage and kids, but at thirty-four and about to embark on IVF, her dream of having a family is far from certain. Her younger sister Georgie has the opposite problem, juggling her career, her lover, a young daughter and a husband who wants baby number two.

Pippa’s best friend Sienna has a successful career in the film world, and despite her boyfriend pressurising her to settle down, a baby is the last thing she wants. Happily married Connie shares the trauma of fertility treatment with Pippa, but underestimates the impact being unable to conceive will have on her and her marriage.

As their lives collide in a way they could never have predicted, will any of them get to see their hopes realised?”



“Time-shifted to the past, three twenty-first century children fight to survive or risk being lost in time forever. When Maisie Brown is time-shifted to 1471 during a school trip to Warwick Castle, it’s the beginning of an adventure bigger than she could ever have dreamed of. The only problem is she has to share it with Lizzie Andrews, the class bully, instead of her best friend Danny Romano, who has managed to get caught up amongst the Earl of Warwick’s army marching towards the Battle of Barnet. Determined to save Danny, Maisie and Lizzie leave the safety of the castle and follow after the army. Battling against everything that Medieval England throws at them, the girls find unexpected help from a Lord with a surprising secret, and discover that two mysterious hooded riders are trying to hunt them down. With time fast running out to find Danny they begin to realise that they have the unlikeliest of allies looking out for them. The chase is on to find a way home before being time-shifted again.”

(images and synopsis from Amazon)



Filed under Spotlight on Authors

2017 releases – a glimpse into the future

It’s getting to that time of year. The nights are drawing in, the heating is getting switched on and the brochures are being perused. Yes, it’s time to decide how much of our Christmas and sales money to save and which 2017 titles we must get our hands on. I’ve been lucky to have already received a few review copies for 2017 titles and what I’ve read so far have been fantastic. There will of course be hundreds of great books for us to devour over the course of next year but these are just a few of the ones that have caught my eye.

So in January save a little of your sales money for a couple of these fabulous sounding titles.

Sirens by Joseph Knox will be published by Doubleday on 12 January. I’ll let the blurb do the talking:

The runaway daughter of a dirty politician.
The unsolved disappearance of a young mother.
The crime lord who knows the city’s secrets.
The disgraced detective on the edge of it all.

Many questions. Not many answers. Not yet.
SIRENS (Read more on the publisher’s site.)

Defender by G X Todd is also out on 12 January and is published by Headline. Pilgrim lives in a world where it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice and those that do keep quiet about it. But he listens to the voice that tells him to buy a drink from Lacey. There is a reason for them to meet. Pilgrim just doesn’t know what that reason is yet.

It would seem that 12 January is a bumper day for books as Good Me Bad Me by Ali Lands is also published by Michael Joseph then. Annie’s mother is a serial killer. Handing her into the police isn’t the end. As her mother’s trial approaches Annie can’t sleep. She has a new name and a new family, but is she her mother’s daughter after all?

Also out on 12 January is The Dry by Jane Harper, published by Little, Brown. Already a huge hit in Australia, The Dry sees Federal Agent Aaron Falk return to his home town of Kiewarra for the funeral of childhood friend Luke Hadler, his wife and son. Luke is believed to have shot his wife and son before turning the gun on himself. Aaron begins to have doubts as to the circumstances of the Hadler’s deaths. As he investigates secrets from his own past, secrets he shared with Luke, threaten to rise to the surface. Deftly told, with a gripping storyline and claustrophobic feel The Dry is a highly entertaining read.

You can read my review of The Dry here.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint will be published by Picador on 12 January. Set in 1965 Queens, New York, Ruth Malone wakes one morning to find her two children missing. Judging Ruth’s made up face, provocative clothes and signs of a less than salubrious life outside motherhood, the police leap to conclusions. So does journalist Pete Wonicke. At first. But as he watches Ruth he discovers the darker side to the press and police. Is Ruth really guilty of murder?

Another 12 January release is The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin, published by Simon and Schuster. Marcus Twentyman and his sister Hester live in White Windows, sitting on top of the Yorkshire Moors. Annaleigh, a foundling, enters service at White Windows and discovers all is not as it seems. As she grows closer to Marcus she finds herself drawn into a world of intrigue and darkness.

12 January also sees the publication of The River at Night by Erica Ferencik, published by Bloomsbury. Win Allen is recovering from the death of her brother and emerging from a bitter divorce. All she wants is to spend some time with friends. One of those friends, Pia organises a white water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Just nature and themselves. No other people. No phones. No help.

Also out this month is Rattle by Fiona Cummins, published by Pan Macmillan on 26 January. Rattle tells the tale of  a psychopath who curates a sinister museum. A museum which needs a new addition to the collection. Both Jakey Frith and Detective Clara Foyle have what he needs and must battle to stop him.

Another 26 January publication, this time by Quercus, is The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney. Jane can’t believe her luck when she finds the rental home of her dreams. Living by her landlord’s long list of exacting rules is a small price to pay. Then she discovers that the previous tenant, Emma, died mysteriously and she begins to wonder if she will share the same fate. Written under a pseudonym The Girl Before has been sold in 35 countries and a film version directed by Ron Howard is due on the silver screen soon.

Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan is published by Harvill Secker on 26 January. The fourth book to feature detectives Zigic and Ferreira from the Hate Crimes team, Watch Her Disappear sees the pair investigate a serial rapist, who’s latest victim is transgender. Records are found to showing a series of violent attacks on trans women and Zigic and Ferriera must find out who is to blame for the heinous crimes.

Another book out on 26 January is Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan, published by Doubleday. Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left to breathe. Adrift in space they hold onto each other looking back to earth and the world with rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves with. What happens when you find love in a world where it is banned?

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is another 26 January publication, this time from Harper Collins. David and Adele seem the perfect couple. But why does she hide things and why is he so controlling? When David’s new secretary, Louise gets drawn into their world she realises there is something wrong with the marriage. And someone will go to any length to protect it’s secrets. The fact that the book has the hastag #WTFthatending, gives a clue as to what could lay inside the covers.

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch is published by Headline on 26 January. Louisa Williams is trying to make a fresh start after a horrific incident. Her husband, Sam is dead, killed in a car crash along with their two children. Sam had said Louisa would never get away from him, that he would hound her if she tried to leave. Sam also betrayed her with another woman, Sophie. Now Sophie wants what Louisa has left, she wants the life she thinks she deserves and want to take away Louisa’s reputation in the process.

2 February sees Michael Joseph publish Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolas Obregon. Set in Tokyo, Inspector Iwata, newly transferred to Homicide has a new partner and an old case. A family of four murdered, the killer then eating ice cream and surfing the web before painting a black sun on the bedroom ceiling, it is a case that caused the original investigator to kill himself. Fearing police corruption Iwata knows he has a short amount of time to stop the killer, before he strike again, or before Iwata is taken off the case.

Out in February is My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood, published by Penguin on 9 February. Kate Rafter is a war reporter. She was the one that managed to escape her father, unlike her sister Sally. When her mother dies Kate returns to the family home. On her first night she hears a scream. When she hears it again she realises she can’t put it down to a simple nightmare. She must discover the secret hidden in the family home. Even if it might kill her.

Honeymoon in Paris and Other Stories by Jo Jo Moyes is published by Michael Joseph on 9 February. A collection of short stories, Jo Jo Moyes writes tales of love, loss, liberation and laughter.

Also out on 9 February is Find Me by J.S. Monroe, published by Head of Zeus. Five years ago Rosa walked off Cromer pier at night. Grieving for her father the coroner held her death was a tragic case of suicide. Her boyfriend, Jar, never agreed. He sees her everywhere, hallucinating visions of her. Then he receives an email ‘Find me Jar. Find me, before they do…’ Is Rosa dead? If so, who’s playing mind games with Jar? I’ve received a proof of this which is cleverly split into two halves, one where the reader must guess where they think Rosa is with the second part flipped over is see if Jar (and the reader) were correct.

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer is published by Faber and Faber on 16 February. Ruby lives with Barbara and Mick. They aren’t her real parents. She’s been told to say that the bruises on her arm and the black eye she sports are from falling down the stairs. She won’t say that she’s going to find her real parents. Or speak of Shadow who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady she sees. She did tell Mick about the lady in the forest and that she saw death crawl out of her. Mick may say she was lying but she wasn’t. Ruby hunts lost souls. She’s going to find her real family and won’t let Mick stop her.

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole, published on 23 February by Trapeze, the new imprint from Orion. Ragdoll sees protagonist Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes recently returned from a lengthy suspension after a highly emotive incident faced with a corpse made up of six bodies. The killer, dubbed by the press as the Ragdoll Killer, has released a list of his next six victims. Wolf must find the murderer before the six people on the list are murdered.

Ragdoll was pre-emptively bought by Trapeze for a six-figure sum, has had rights sold in 32 countries and TV rights have already been sold. Having read Ragdoll I can predict big things for it. Daniel Cole has written an absorbing, highly entertaining tale, that would be perfect for adaptation and will be an author to look out for in the future.

You can read my review of Ragdoll here.

Also published on 23 February by Borough Press is The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan. Chilbury Village, Kent. It’s 1940 and the village women have taken against the decision of the vicar to close the choir given the male singers are at war. When music professor Primrose Trent arrives the female inhabitants take it upon themselves to form an all woman singing group. For members of the group, being able to sing will help them copy with life during the war in different ways.

Another book out on 23 February is The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott, published by Sceptre. Edgeworth Bess, notorious prostitute and pick pocket tells her tale from her Newgate cell. Speaking to hack Billy Archer she tells the story of how she and Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, formed their criminal partnership. But Archer has his own secrets and as the gallows draw closer, the question is who will escape them?

On to March which sees the publication of The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel from Hodder and Stoughton on the 9th of the month. The Roanoke girls are rich and beautiful. Lane Roanoke goes to live with her grandparents after her mother’s suicide. Lane enjoys the benefits of being a Roanoke but she discovers that Roanoke girls either run or die. Lane has to decide which option she will choose.

Also out on 9 March is Between Strike and Flame by Stephanie Butland, published by Zaffre. Loveday Cardew’s job in a York bookshop is her refuge. A poet, a lover, a friend and three mysterious packages enter the bookshop and recall unsettling memories for Loveday. Will she be able to right a wrong from the past and re-write her own story in the process?

The 15 March sees Orenda Books publish Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski. In 1997 the death of Tom Jefferies is ruled as misadventure. Not everyone is convinced. The tale of what really happened is held by a close group of friends. 2017 and famed journalist Scott King attempts to take the six testimonies. As each interview is revealed you will have to decide who is telling the truth, and work out how Tom really died.

March also sees another new title from Trapeze, Tattletale by Sarah Naughton, published on 23 March. One day Jody’s life is changed forever. Unable to trust anyone, she shuts herself off. But then she meets Abe. One day Mags’ life is changed forever. She receives a call, her brother, Abe, is in hospital and no one knows what has happened. Then she meets his fiancé, Jody. She begins to piece together the life that she had left behind years earlier. But then notices that those pieces don’t seem to fit…

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys will be published by Doubleday on 6 April. Inspired by a diary found in the home of the author’s mother, A Dangerous Crossing sees Lily Shepherd leave England in 1939 on an ocean liner heading to Australia. Seduced by the on board atmosphere Lily finds herself mixing with people who would normally ignore her. However she soon realises her fellow passengers aren’t as they seem. When the ship arrives, two passengers will have died, war will have been declared and life will have changed forever.

Also out on 6 April is The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, published by Tinder Press. Described by Ann Patchett as ‘One part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade’ this tells the story of Samuel Hawley, who having spent years on the run settles in Olympus, Massachusetts with his daughter Loo. Samuel finds work and Loo struggles to fit in. Plaguing them both are the twelve bullet wound scars that Samuel bears, gained in a past that is threatening Loo’s present.

April also sees the publication of My Sister by Michelle Adams, which will be published by Headline on 20 April. Again, I’ll let the blurb speak for itself:

You don’t get to choose your family.

She thought she’d never go back home.

But there’s something in her sister’s voice she just can’t refuse.

And hasn’t it always been that way?

What her sister asks, she does . .

Oola by Brittany Newell is published by Borough Press on 20 April. Oola and Leif meet at a party and fall for each other. They find themselves mansion sitting across the US. However, their decision to stay in a Big Sur cabin could lead to them falling out of love, and could possibly destroy them.

‘Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty wacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one…’ The school ground ditty is well known and the fascination with Lizzie Borden inspired Sarah Schmidt to write See What I Have Done, which will be published by Headline on 4 May. When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered, Lizzie Borden, 32 and still at home, becomes chief suspect. Found innocent at trial, no one else is ever convicted. But the other members of the Borden house have their own stories to tell, from Lizzie’s older sister, to the house maid, to the boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to solve a problem.

2 May 2017 sees the latest novel from Graeme Simsion to be published by Michael Joseph. The Best of Adam Sharp tells the tale of Adam, who though content with life, can’t help wonder what life would have been like if he hadn’t split from Angelina Brown, a strong-willed actress he knew 20 years ago. Then Angelina gets in touch and Adam may have the chance to find out what could have been.

Also published on 4 May, this time by Picador is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor Oliphant wears the same clothes everyday, eats the same meal for lunch and always has the same two bottles of vodka at the weekend. Nothing is missing from her life, except sometimes everything. She’s never been told that life should be better than just fine. But an act of kindness is going to show her just how much better life can be when things aren’t just fine.

Out in June is You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood, published by Michael Joseph. An unnamed defendant stands trial for murder. Just before closing speeches he sacks his barrister and gives his own defence speech. He reveals he was told to leave some things out. But he thinks that if he is going to prison for life then the truth must be told. He talks through eight pieces of evidence against him. The reader, the member of the jury, must keep an open mind. After his speech is finished only one question needs to be answered. Did he do it?

Calling Major Tom by David M Barnett is published by Trapeze on 29 June. Everyone knows someone like Tom. He’s the cantankerous neighbour who complains about your garden, the one who tuts when you don’t have the correct change. Tom is happy on his own. But underneath that miserly exterior there is a lonely, sad man. And he’s about to meet a family who will change his view of the world.

In July Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown will be published by Trapeze, on 27 July. Sixteen years ago a child goes missing, a sister remembering nothing of what happened. Now they are reunited and Jess moves in with Emily. But then a baby goes missing and Emily’s life begins to fall apart. Was she right to trust Jess?

We’ll have to wait until 16 November for Trapeze to publish The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman. Introducing new recurring characters Jennifer Dorey and Michael Gilbert we see journalist Jennifer return to her home in Guernsey to work for the local paper. When she looks into a local drowning she finds a pattern of deaths occurring over the last fifty years. Together with DCI Michael Gilbert their investigation will take them into the island’s Nazi past.

Also out next year will be The Gallows Pool by Ben Myers published by Bluemoose Books. There will also be loads of paperback editions of great 2016 books which will follow in another post.

So are there any books that tempt you? Will your 2017 to read pile spill over. I know I had better get reading to make space for some fantastic sounding titles.




Filed under Uncategorized

Choosing a career for a character by Sue Moorcroft – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Sue Moorcroft to the blog. Sue is the author of Starting Over, Dream a Little Dream, Is This Love? and All That Mullarkey and her latest novel, The Christmas Promise, is published by Avon on 6 October for ebooks and 1 December in paperback.

Today Sue talks about choosing a career for a character.

Choosing a career … for a character

I choose a career for a character with far more attention to the consequences than I did for myself when leaving school. (Once I set my feet on the path towards being able to write ‘author’ as my occupation I began to pay a lot more attention!)

A character needs to have a career that fits his or her personality traits and the situation I’ve created for them. Or, if I’ve given them the ‘wrong’ job then there needs to be a good reason for it – like a young mum who’s doing an evening job she hates because finances dictate.

Just as important as the career fitting the characterisation, it has to fit my plot. I find it irksome if I can’t make happen what I want to make happen on a Tuesday afternoon because my character will be chained to her desk in an office, so I’m always on the look out for nice flexible jobs.

A couple of years ago a fellow guest on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire was Abigail Crampton, a milliner (maker of hats). Hers seemed exactly the right kind of occupation for one of my heroines. She’d be her own boss, giving me the flexibility I’d need, and I was pretty certain that my readers would love to know more about the artistry and innovation of millinery, of working with gorgeous materials in three dimensions. I had the forethought to ask Abigail if I’d be able to contact her in the future when the right heroine came along. She kindly agreed.

When I began to plan The Christmas Promise I realised that Ava was exactly right for the role. I emailed Abigail to ask if she’d mind helping me and I spent a lot of time learning about why something as commonplace as steam should play such a vital role in taking a flat, lifeless piece of fabric and transforming it into a graceful three-dimensional shape. I learned how to conduct a hat fitting, how to wear a hat and when, even how to transport a hat.

In the process, I also learned what kind of attention to detail and patience millinery takes, as well as creativity and skill. Choosing Ava’s career brought her to life in my imagination.

#MyPromise to myself during this learning curve was that if the book was contracted I would have a couture hat made. It’s in a promise I’m in the process of keeping as Abigail’s making one of her creations just for me. I will wear it at my launch!

About the book:


For Ava Bliss, it’s going to be a Christmas to remember …

On a snowy December evening, Sam Jermyn steps into the life of bespoke hat maker Ava. Sparks fly, and not necessarily the good ones.Times are tough for Ava – she’s struggling to make ends meet, her ex-boyfriend is a bully, and worst of all, it’s nearly Christmas.So when Sam commissions Ava to make a hat for someone special, she makes a promise that will change her life. She just doesn’t know it yet…

Curl up with this gorgeous, festive read – the perfect treat for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlight on Authors

Christina Philippou – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Christina Philippou to the blog. Christina’s debut novel, Lost in Static, was published by Urbane Publications on 15 September 2016.

Christina kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Lost in Static.

Lost in Static tells the same events of betrayal, lust, and violence from four (sometimes very) different students’ perspectives. It is about how easy it is to misunderstand someone when you are not in their head, nor them in yours…

2. What inspired the book? 

I had a disagreement with the hubby over the events on the night we got together, closely followed by a discussion with a friend about a mutual event that also didn’t seem to tie in with my recollections. And that got me thinking about how multi-point-of-view narratives usually ‘pass the baton’, leaving a lot of the causes of the misunderstandings depicted in the dark. I decided to shine a rather bright torch into those causes, to look into the centre of a prism from four different sides.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

I am definitely a plan, plan, plan writer, although the words did take me to some unexpected places on the journey from A to B! The process itself took about a year from start to finished draft… And then the real work began.

4. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

I’m a rather impatient person, so writing a whole novel was a feat I never thought I’d … Yes, that!

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all? 

Attempt to survive? I have a job and three little ones that require a lot of attention so relaxing is very rare for me. But when I do (very rarely) have both time and energy, I’ll do something active. I love sport and nature appreciation, and something that involves both is a bonus!

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

There’s a wonderful Greek book called Στα ψέματα παίζαμε (loosely, ‘We Played at Lies’) by Dimitris Miggas which charts (backwards) the lives of some childhood friends that meet up to watch the world cup every four years. It has everything: great structure, brilliant plot, highs and lows, and a killer ending. The only problem is that it hasn’t been translated into English. Maybe my next project…

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

Interesting! It would probably be ‘who is your favourite literary villain?’ to which the answer would be Moriarty.

Thanks very much for answering my questions and for appearing on my blog. 

It is my absolute pleasure!

About the Author:


Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

You can connect with Christina on Twitter, Facebook,InstagramandGoogle+.

About the Book:


“Sometimes growing up is seeing someone else’s side of the story.

Four stories. One truth. Whom do you believe?  Callum has a family secret. Yasmine wants to know it. Juliette thinks nobody knows hers. All Ruby wants is to reinvent herself.  They are brought together by circumstance, torn apart by misunderstanding. As new relationships are forged and confidences are broken, each person’s version of events is coloured by their background, beliefs and prejudices. And so the ingredients are in place for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence…  Lost in Static is the gripping debut from author Christina Philippou. Whom will you trust?”

Lost in Static is available from, amongst others, Amazon UK, Amazon US, and direct from the publisher, Urbane Publications.


Filed under Spotlight on Authors

The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer – review

Published by Bantam Press

Publication date – 17 November 2016

Source – review copy


“There’s no safety in numbers . . .

Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging, she’ll do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience.

The killer needs death too. He even advertises his macabre public performances, where he hopes to show the whole world the beauty of dying.

When he contacts Eve, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realizes that the killer has two obsessions.

One is public murder.

And the other one is her . . .”
Read more at the Penguin website.

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book.

Eve Singer is desperate for the story to save her career. A presenter on the crime beat, she spends her days attending murder scenes. Aware of the competition, from other news channels and from younger presenters, she knows she may soon have to fight to keep her job. Spending her working days at crime scenes and evenings looking after a father hit with early dementia, Eve is running on empty. Little does she realise that a late night encounter will lead her to her biggest story, but one which may also see her loose something even more costly than her job. She may just loose her life.

I’ll admit it took me a little while to get into the story. This partly was due to me not being in the mood for reading, so was not a reflection on the book. Part of the reason was also because I wasn’t particularly taken with Eve. She seemed too selfish and distant, one of the macabre press who inappropriately stalk victims of crimes and their families. Slowly though I got used to her. She still had flashes of that selfishness that first appeared, but other facets of her character emerged to counteract this initial impression.

The killer plays an integral role in the novel. This may sound obvious but what I mean is that he is present from the opening pages. Belinda Bauer makes him a main character. He has his own chapters, narrating to provide an glimpse into the tormented psyche that has created the monster he has become. Driven by a desire to create true art, art that is only expressed through death, he sees himself as an artist, desperate for an audience. It is this which attracts him to Eve. Eve is his curator, framing his art perfectly through her camera lens, commentating to provide the true interpretation of his vision.

The other characters that emerge from the pages are all vivid and fit perfectly into the story. From Guy, the slimy journalist, to Duncan, Eve’s ill father, each add a dimension to the storyline and make the story what it is. The police in the case are not the driving force of the story, but Huw and Emily who appear later in the story are great characters, adding the necessary presence and skill that makes the story more realistic.

There are parts of the story that can be read as commentary on the nature of people’s engagement with each other and the social media age. There are scenes where people film and share gruesome images on social media, where they would rather take images than take steps to help another person and it’s unclear if that failure is due to fear, or the fear of missing out on a story to dine out on.

If you like your psychological thrillers with gruesome murders and a chilling psychopath then this story is for you. The mania that drives the killer is interesting and makes the story seem more real, for whilst not justifying the deaths, it makes them easier to understand. The story is well written, action packed and engaging, particularly the last hundred pages which I found myself racing through.

This is the story of a deadly artist and his muse. It is fast paced, inventive and highly entertaining. It may have been the first book of Belinda Bauer’s I have read, but it won’t be the last. Recommended.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

A is for Author by Carol Lovekin – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Carol Lovekin to the blog. Carol’s novel, Ghostbird, was published by Honno on 17 March 2016 and was recently longlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.

Today Carol talks about what has happened since her novel was published.

A is for Author

As part of Tenby Arts Festival week, the book fair hosted and organised by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press is becoming a hugely successful annual event. Last year I had recently been contracted to Honno; my book, Ghostbird, was going through the various processes involved in bringing it to publication. Copy editors and proof readers were scrutinising every word, the cover was being designed. Blurbs were being prepared. (A blog tour was mooted – I had to look that up.) Outwardly calm, if bemused and idiotically smiley, inside I was fizzing with excitement. Along with two friends I went to the book fair, largely to support the Honno authors I’d already met, and to see what it was all about.

To be honest, I loitered round the edges, delighted to be there but with no book, feeling very much like the new girl. (I was a writer and not yet thinking of myself as an author.) To my delight, I was made to feel anything other than an outsider. Encouraged to join in the group photo, at every turn I was reminded that next year, it would be my turn.

This September, I went back to Tenby. With my book. Seven months on from being published I can honestly say it was a massive thrill. Looking back over the year, the time has flown. Amazing things have happened and my life is not in any way how I imagined it the day prior to being told Honno was making me an offer for Ghostbird.

A launch in the Aberystwyth branch of Waterstones passed in a happy blur. A blog tour meant people I barely knew reviewed the book – said amazing, breathtakingly generous things about my writing. (Joanne Harris endorsed it!) Ghostbird was chosen by the Welsh Books Council and Waterstones Wales as their book of the month. It was discussed on a BBC regional radio programme. And when the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize longlist nominations were announced, to my authentic astonishment, I found myself in the company of, amongst others, Edna O’Brien. Edna O’Goddess O’Actual O’Brien! (I’m mostly Irish – in my view, she is Ireland’s greatest living novelist.)  It’s relative of course – I only needed a single nomination and thanks to the wonderfully supportive book blogger Anne Williams, I got it. (There were lots more nominations after that – it was a jolly week!) I was never going to make the shortlist, it didn’t matter. I was in the game; my book considered good enough to be counted. (Fifteen votes with reviews for the shortlist, people!)

I’m never going to be famous and it wasn’t the plan. Past the age of pursuing a career, I write because I genuinely love to. I show up each morning because it matters and I’m writing to catch up. (And I’m still much more a writer than I am an author. Authors have badges with their name on and sell books at book fairs, writers write.)

When I decided to take my writing seriously and submitted those first fifty pages of Ghostbird to Honno, what I hoped for was a chance to prove I was good enough. Being traditionally published defers a level of validation. Being published by a prestigious women’s press, one that doesn’t consider age and whose only criterion is the quality of the writing plus a strong Welsh connection, is a privilege. The continued support of my sister authors and the team at Honno is a delight.

I’m currently editing my second novel. Who knows where I’m going with that. It’s a process – I’m working hard and maybe one day I shall be its author and accompany it to book fairs. Whatever else happens in my life however, for a few days at least I can say, I was on a list with Edna O’Brien.

About the author:


Picture by Janey Stephens

Carol has lived in Wales since 1979. She writes contemporary fiction in which the everyday is threaded with elements of magic. Ghostbird is her first traditionally published novel. It was released in March 2016 by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press.

About the book:


Someone needs to be forgiven. Someone needs to forgive

Nothing hurts like not knowing who you are. Nobody will tell Cadi anything about her father and her sister. Her mother Violet believes she can only cope with the past by never talking about it. Lili, Cadi’s aunt, is stuck in the middle, bound by a promise she shouldn’t have made. But this summer, Cadi is determined to find out the truth.

In a world of hauntings and magic, in a village where it rains throughout August, as Cadi starts on her search the secrets and the ghosts begin to wake up. None of the Hopkins women will be able to escape them.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlight on Authors

Aimee Alexander – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Aimee Alexander to the blog. Aimee is the author of All We have Lost, Pause to Rewind and Checkout Girl and her latest novel, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar was published by Lake Union Publishing on 26 April 2016.

Aimee kindly answered a few of my questions

1. Tell us a little about The Accidental Life of Greg Millar.

The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is a contemporary novel that asks the question: ‘How far would you go for the person you love?’ It follows the story of Lucy Arigho who falls hard and fast for novelist Greg Millar. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy agrees to marry Greg and become stepmother to his two children, Rachel and Toby. On holiday in the South of France, Greg begins to behave increasingly out of character, so much so that Lucy has to ask herself how well she really knows him. As the situation reaches a head, Lucy must decide how far she will go for Greg – and Rachel and Toby.

2. What inspired the book?

On a night out, a friend began to act outrageously, going way beyond what would normally be considered socially acceptable. And yet people, total strangers included, not only accepted his behaviour but got swept up by his enthusiasm. It made me question the boundaries that exist in society. Where are they exactly and are we way too conservative in our judgement of them? I began to imagine a character who would test those boundaries and in what circumstance. Greg Millar was born.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

I began as a ‘see where the words take me’ writer. I tend to plan a little more now. Having said that, one of my favourite experiences is when my characters come alive, take over and ignore my plans. Because then I’m as surprised as the reader. 

4. What did you discover about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

Perseverance pays. This was the most difficult novel I have written. It took the longest and there were moments of doubt. It has become the most successful. As I write this it is #1 in Women’s Popular Fiction on 

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all? 

I actually find writing relaxing and an escape. I love getting lost in another world. When not writing, I love to walk in nature with my golden retriever, Homer. Dining out with people I love is a treat. I’m a big movie nut. I also love to read, meditate, dance and party! I love art, travel and…weddings! 

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

Either the world’s biggest dictionary to feed my love of words. Or the bible which never gets boring. 

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

No one has ever asked me if there’s a book I wish I’d written. It’s the ultimate compliment of another writer. For me it would be The Book Thief. 

About the Book:


“Lucy Arigho’s first encounter with Greg Millar is far from promising, but she soon realises he possesses a charm that is impossible to resist. Just eight whirlwind weeks after their first meeting, level-headed career girl Lucy is seriously considering his pleas to marry him and asking herself if she could really be stepmother material.

But before Lucy can make a final decision about becoming part of Greg’s world, events plunge her right into it. On holiday in the South of France, things start to unravel. Her future stepchildren won’t accept her, the interfering nanny resents her, and they’re stuck in a heat wave that won’t let up. And then there’s Greg. His behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and Lucy begins to wonder whether his larger-than-life personality hides something darker—and whether she knows him at all.”

(image and synopsis from Amazon)



Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlight on Authors

Research by Michael J Malone – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Michael J Malone to the blog. Michael is the author of Blood Tears, A Taste for Malice and Bad Samaritan and his latest novel, A Suitable Lie was published by Orenda Books on 30 July 2016 in ebook and on 15 September 2016 in paperback.

Here Michael talks about research.

It’s that moment at the end of a book talk and you ask for questions. 

Cue the sound of wind and the sight of tumbleweed. (I can never think of a question either, to be honest.) 

Then a tentative hand goes up. Then another. And another. And one of the most asked questions concerns research. How much do I do? The flip answer is, as little as possible.

Of course, I’m selling myself short when I say that. I’m a go for the cheap laugh kinda guy, because the truth is a good deal more complicated than that.

The first time I learned the importance of getting the research right was in a review for my debut novel, Blood Tears. Someone complained in their review that I’d referred to the after death medical exam as an autopsy, when in Scotland we call it a Post-Mortem. (Or is it the other way round?)

My initial reaction was: wow, get the pedant. They even reduced my review from a 5 star to a 4 star on the back of this mistake.

However, on reflection I had to admit they were right. When you write a novel you are asking your readers to suspend their disbelief and to go with you in your fictive dream. You’re writing about made up people, doing made up stuff, so the least you can do is ground them in the story by getting the details right. Right? And you crime readers are an intelligent bunch. You guys really know what’s what, so the risk of getting called out is fairly high.

For me getting the detail right is never more important than when I am writing about emotional subjects. A Suitable Lie centres on the experiences of an abused husband and in researching this book I encountered (surprisingly easily) a number of people who bravely told me about their experience or recounted the experiences of friends, brothers, fathers, and in a couple of instances, grandad was the aggrieved individual.

When I take a topic like this that gets little airspace, and weave real life accounts of it into the narrative of a novel I have a responsibility to these people to tell it honestly, accurately, and with respect, or it becomes hollow; an exercise in exploitation. And more to the point, you the reader will sit back in judgement and be unconvinced. Surely, the worst sin a writer can commit?

About the book:


“Some secrets should never be kept…

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own.  When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…”



Filed under Spotlight on Authors

From short stories to novels – how my writing has evolved by Anne Coates – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Anne Coates to the blog. Anne’s novel, Dancers in the Wind is published on 13 October 2016 by Urbane Publications.

Anne has written this piece talking about how her writing has evolved from short stories to novels.

From short stories to novels – how my writing has evolved

I love the short story format and recently have been won over to flash fiction, having two winning entries on and one commendation. In between I have written two crime thrillers (I’m not sure an earlier novel will ever see the light of day) both for Urbane Publications: Death’s Silent Judgement is to be published next spring.

My first published short story was a confession of a crime – using (or rather stealing) information to blackmail someone and then I progressed to 1000 word tales with a twist to longer betrayals. Although I worked on romantic fiction I only ever wrote one love story and that took me a long time to place! Family and other sorts of relationships fascinate me – just not the loved up kind!

Some of the most fun I had was creating a neighbour to Sherlock Holmes who solved the case while the master detective was indisposed. I reread as much Conan Doyle as I could to regain the flavour of his narrative style and language ending up with the Mysterious case of …

Writing short fiction – especially to a specific word count  – means there’s no room for waffle and each word has to count. Being succinct is paramount and in some ways I have actually had to counteract this in my novels. There is a need as well as room for explanation – red herrings as well as clues – and digressions can lead to some interesting places.

When I was first writing Dancers in the Wind all those years ago I had to learn to go beyond the “what if” I would have used in a short story, to include a more complex scenario with a number of characters and subplots. With the novel I allowed the characters to lead me – I rarely knew what was going to happen next. It was an incredibly exciting journey for me and I found the process intriguing.

However when I came to rewrite the book last year, I found the plot holes and inconsistencies in the timeline, which had never been a problem for me in short fiction. When I write short stories, I usually think about the subject for a long time so that when I actually come to write it, the words flow and I already know the beginning, middle and the end.

This was not so with Dancers. In fact, it was when I thought I had finished the book and was reading it through for the umpteenth time that I realised the ending was a bit weak and completely rewrote the penultimate chapter for a far more dramatic conclusion.

Writing short fiction demands a different set of skills to producing novels but ultimately it is the story that is paramount. Having just finished writing the sequel to Dancers in the Wind, I am contemplating a short story about one of the characters but I’m not telling which one that is!

About the book:



Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Webridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan.

When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognizable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat.

As she comes to realize that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her pwoer to expose the truth …. and stay alive.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlight on Authors