September 20, 20114:06 am
June 17, 20139:14 am
Madeleine Reiss is the winner of The People’s Novelist competition, which was judged live on ITV’s Alan Titchmarsh Show, and she was praised by the judges for her ‘ability to make you turn the page’.
Her debut novel, Someone to Watch Over Me, is both haunting and compelling, and left us desperate for more. Luckily, we had the chance to interview her, so she could tell us a little more about herself.
How did you start writing?
I started writing stories when I was a child. I used to give my parents exercise books full of tales in which weeping heroines and twisted baddies figured large. It seems that even at a young age I was attracted to the darker side of life, which is strange because I am told I was a fairly cheery child.
Was The People’s Novelist competition the first writing competition that you entered? What inspired you to enter? How did you feel when you found out that you’d won?
My writing career has been dominated by chance. The first competition I entered was when I was thirteen and I had to write a short account about how a piece of music made me feel. My entry was selected and read on Radio 4. I can still remember how proud I felt to hear the words I had written said out loud and I suppose that made me think that writing might be something I could do when I grew up.
The second time I entered a competition was many years later when I was at home with my son who was still a baby. It was the one that Cosmopolitan used to run every year looking for potential new journalists. I came second in the competition and that was the start of fifteen years of writing for women’s magazines and newspapers on subjects as diverse as bereavement and hair removal and how to jazz up your sex life (a subject on which I never really became an expert).
I entered the People’s Novelist competition when I had just turned fifty. I was feeling a bit glum about the fact that life seemed to be narrowing in on me. It was my mother who suggested I had a go and I sent in three chapters of a book more to keep her quiet than anything else. I had never even tried to write a book before and I was really, really surprised to win. My friends who watched it on TV said that I stood under the shower of gold rain looking completely dazed.
Someone to Watch Over Me deals with every parent’s nightmare, when a child goes missing on their watch. Was there a particular event that inspired you?
There was a case some years ago now of a child going missing on a beach that stayed with me. I think the contrast between the happy associations of the location and the sadness of what happened there really stuck in my mind. I wanted to write about how people can possibly live through such an awful thing and whether they ever really come to terms with it.
Did you have to do any specific research in order to write the book?
I read quite a lot about domestic violence because I was anxious that I shouldn’t do a disservice to women who have been in this situation. I was struck by the fact that despite coming from different backgrounds and having different life experiences the testimonies of women who have suffered in this way contain so many similarities. Even the words they use are the same…. powerlessness, the sense of being worn down or diminished and above all, the feelings of shame.
Someone to Watch Over Me has been described as having the emotional power of Rosamund Lupton’s Sister and the nail-biting tension of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. Do you read many thrillers? Which authors are you most influenced by? What do you think are the key ingredients for a good page-turner?
I have read and very much admire both of those books and am thrilled to even be mentioned in the same sentence! I love thrillers. When things are tricky or stressful in your own life, books that solve mysteries and expose evil are a great comfort. My favourite writers in this genre are really diverse….Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Val Mc Dermid and Harlan Coben are the first that spring to mind but there are many others. The key ingredient of a good page-turner is a feeling that things are not quite right…there should be a kind of dislocation. I also have to care about what happens to the protagonists. If you don’t care then you don’t feel scared for them.
What do you think makes a good novel?
Characters that you care about going through experiences that have meaning and are truthful.
Which writers do you admire?
Anne Tyler, William Trevor, Marian Keyes, Daphne du Maurier, Dickens, George Eliot, Kate Atkinson, Sophie Hannah, Jiily Cooper, Sally Beaumont.
If you could give one piece of advice to budding authors, what would it be?
I’ve got four bits of advice….
1. Don’t think too much about what you think will appeal or what might be popular, write the book that YOU would like to read.
2. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike or you will wait forever.
3. Have a time table and stick to it, even if it’s just half an hour a day.
4. Always have a go at competitions……you never know what might happen.
I’m writing a love story….two love stories actually. I want the book to be romantic but at the same time have a strong sense of place and believable characters. Knowing me, I won’t be able to resist a touch of darkness too.
June 13, 201310:41 am
We have something a bit different to share with you today. Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall isn’t a crime novel, but is still a very tense and suspenseful read.
As SJ Watson (author of Before I Go to Sleep) said, it’s: ‘A stunning novel. Ambitious and exquisitely realised, it’s by turns shocking, harrowing and heartrending. The writing is so accomplished it’s hard to believe it’s a debut – it’s clearly the work of a major new talent’.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? So, without further ado, here’s a Q&A with Nathan!
What inspired you to write The Shock of the Fall?
Only published authors get asked what inspired them. If you had peered into my bedroom / office /entire world three years ago, I reckon you’d have gone with possessed.
This was such a challenging story to write, and for the most part unsatisfying – a search in the dark, when I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for. Then on page 248 Mum and Dad cough in their sleep and ‘…we both froze. Simon made a show of it, making his whole body rigid, only his eyes moving from side to side, grinning at me.’
And I think: That’s it. That’s real.
It’s not a sentence anyone will stop to re-read, or copy out into their notebook. But it was the right sentence. I got to see him there.
I’m inspired by those moments; by the process.
Of course I also got to spend time in the company of Matthew Homes, who I grew to like enormously. Perhaps compelled is the right word. I felt compelled to tell his story.
What was it like to inhabit Matthew’s character when writing The Shock of the Fall, especially when he is experiencing such mental turmoil?
Inhabit is a good word. Though I’m not sure who inhabited who. I spent long hours in Matthew’s company, and many of them were those crepuscular hours when all edges seem blurred, not least our own. I definitely felt Matt’s emotional journey (and at times his sleep deprivation) but I also know that I’m lucky. Mental health is such a fragile thing, and – comparatively, at least – mine is robust. Matt was always having a harder time than me; my task was to be sensitive towards him, to be kind.
There is an incredible build-up in the reader’s realisation of what has happened to Matthew and to Simon, how did you create that suspense?
Ah, thank you. It was a challenge writing suspense into the novel, especially since I decided that the main ‘event’ of the story would be signposted so early on. But of course this is a trick of suspense: give some, hold some back. I was always aiming for a page-turner and that demands an underlying suspense to be maintained throughout. I took this task seriously, enrolling on a Creative Writing MA and taking a module in Suspense Fiction. I don’t think there are rules to writing as such, but there are certainly maps to help guide us. The challenge is to then hide these maps from the reader; to let them experience the territory.
Did you read whilst writing The Shock of the Fall? If so, what?
I did read, though had to be careful what. I tried Vernon God Little when I was about half way through, then wrote two chapters with Matt sounding distinctly Texan. They had to go. So I mostly read non-fiction, and a good few psychiatric manuals to boot.
Do you like to read Crime and/or Thriller books? If so, who are your favourite writers?
I read a stack of crime novels for my MA, and it was here that I stumbled upon Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. This remains one of my all time favourite books. Bruno and Guy seem totally real, compellingly flawed, drawn ineluctably together and to eventual self-destruction. And at no point do we sense the hand of Highsmith nudging the plot along. Everything that occurs comes entirely from the characters. I think that’s brilliant.
Throughout the novel, you interweave images, letters, chapter headings and different fonts. What is the significance of this? Do you think these elements help in the understanding of the book?
It is central to the novel that Matthew is physically writing out his story, that this process takes time, happens in different locations, and that his life is continuing to move forwards as he writes about it. In the final chapter he sits at the computer for the last time, with all of his printouts and artwork beside him.
This is how I see the piece in my mind: The crumpled stack of Matt’s writing and drawings; the typewriter pages with their smudged ink; the letters from Denise; the words that Patricia cut up and stuck down with Pritt Stick. All left behind in Hope Road Day Centre, on a table in the dark – waiting to be found.
The problem, as my publisher explained, is that this can’t be stocked in Waterstones. The book in your hands is our best effort at a compromise.
This novel explores mental health but it also sensitively looks at the subject of grief and how it impacts one family. Was this something you had intended to explore in the novel, as well as the way we, as a society, handle the subject of grief?
I knew that I was going to kill Simon, so I suppose it should have been obvious. But no. I never expected grief to be such a big part of the story. I think this is a good example of how characters must lead the way.
I kill Simon Homes in chapter one, so of course there will be grieving in chapter two, perhaps a few more paragraphs of grief in three, then a meaningful flashback in chapter seven. It isn’t unreasonable to plan in this way. The cast are entirely fictional; someone has to call the shots. But it doesn’t work because it isn’t believable.
Susan Homes loses her son and her life is shattered by it. Not ruined for a couple of chapters. Shattered. There was never a time when it felt feasible to draw a line under her grief. So the grief stayed.
What would you like the reader to take away from your novel?
A desire to share it.
Thank you Nathan! You can read a free sample of The Shock of the Fall right now!
June 10, 20134:40 am
Hannah: Which book would I save from a burning building? Easy, The Fire Witness by Lars Kepler, and no, that isn’t just me trying to be clever. This is a book I eagerly anticipated a year in advance of it even being written, let alone translated, so when I finally had it in my hands, I savoured every page. I started it on a night bus in Thailand, and finished it the next day on a cockroach infested train – having read for a solid 8 hours. It was only the second that I lifted my head and a cockroach scuttled over my toe, that I realised how absorbed I’d been. My fingers ached from gripping the pages, my neck creaked from the tension – and all I wanted to do was read it again.
Sarah: Right now, the book I would save if HC Towers suddenly caught fire is the manuscript copy of Stuart MacBride’s latest novel (due for publication in January 2013)which is currently sitting on my desk. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s (unsurprisingly) a fantastically page-turning read so far. It’s a sequel to Birthdays for the Dead, and it’s great to catch up with those brilliant characters again and find out what’s become of them since the shocking denouement to the previous novel. Of course I could ask Stuart to resend the file even if my computer also perished in the flames, but the ms copy has my notes scribbled all over it, and I might never get those thoughts back if they went up in smoke!
Helen: So many books to choose from and only one to save, eh? Well if push came to shove, the book that I’d save would have to be Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. An incredible book if ever there was one, with all the excitement you’d expect from the best of thrillers. Except this isn’t one. This is real life. If you haven’t read it already, you must, but let me whet your appetite in the meantime.
Gregory David Roberts, former armed robber and heroin addict escaped from a high security Australian prison in broad daylight. Pretty good so far. From there, he travelled to India, living in the Bombay slums where he set up a free health clinic. Not being content to stop there, he joined the Indian mafia, worked as a money launderer and street soldier, did a stint in an Indian jail, acted in Bollywood, fought with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, and in between all that, found time to fall in love.
The book is huge (to say this guy has done a lot is something of an understatement), and at almost 1000 pages long, it’s incredible to think that he wrote it from scratch three times after prison guards destroyed the manuscript. That, if nothing else, would make me flee a burning building with this book in hand – Shantaram is a book that deserves to be saved.
Katie: About three years ago, I moved house five times in 18 months. I’m afraid by the final move, I don’t think any of my fiction survived the cut. So, this is controversial but I don’t think I would save any of the books I’ve accumulated since then if my building was burning down. My rationale at the time was mostly that books are heavy and if there was something I particularly loved, I would just buy it again. There are only a couple of books I have read multiple times, I’ve never bought first edition hardbacks (you might sense a theme here: they’re too heavy to carry about!), I don’t own any special editions, and although I have a LONG list of books I absolutely love (Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez are a few that I love or are meaningful to me), I don’t feel the need to have them physically around me anymore. I LOVE reading. But does not keeping books make me a bad book lover?
Kate: Mine is a 1967 edition of Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers.
No editor’s desk should be without a copy of Hart’s Rules – it’s our style bible. I have the latest edition too, but this one is particularly special because it was given to me by someone who inspired me to pursue a career in publishing. Ray Richards is one of the most influential and successful figures in the history of NZ publishing. I met him by chance through a family friend, at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. He talked frankly about the difficulties of making a career in the industry, and gave me invaluable advice. A few days later I received a package in the post with a selection of books from his personal library about publishing, writing and editing – each with a note inside. Hart’s Rules, he said, is essential. I have kept it with me since (all the way to London), and would be distraught to see it go up in flames, so this is the book I would save from the burning HC towers!
Which book would you save?
June 7, 20138:18 am
She closed her eyes and he was gone – who is watching him now?
When Carrie’s five-year old son, Charlie, disappeared on a Norfolk beach, her world was destroyed. Now, three years on, her marriage crushed by grief and the uncertainty around Charlie’s fate, Carrie keeps herself distracted by running a local gift shop. Persuaded by her mother to visit a medium, Carrie is initially sceptical, but is blown away when he appears to reveal something about Charlie’s disappearance; something that nobody could ever have known except herself.
Single mum, Molly, is worried about her young son, Max. Naturally a sensitive child, Max has been having more of his little ‘accidents’ at school and has recently starting talking again to his imaginary friend. Reluctant to tell his teachers, Molly knows that Max’s problems stem from his very real anxieties about his father – a violent and unstable man – who they are now in hiding from.
Carrie is desperate to learn the truth about Charlie’s disappearance and Molly is will do
anything to protect Max from danger. Little do the women know that their worlds are about to converge – and both of them will have to face the thing they fear the most. But will the truth destroy them or will love be their saviour?
This month we’re giving you the chance to review Someone to Watch Over Me. Written by the winner of The People’s Novelist competition, this is an unforgettable debut novel with the emotional power of Rosamund Lupton’s Sister and the nail-biting tension of Before I Go to Sleep. For your chance to review this beautifully written thriller, please contact us at email@example.com
Sadly for us, this month we are losing Killer Reads member Hannah. But luckily for you, we’re celebrating with a competition!
To enter, simply tell us who your favourite crime author is and why, and you could win five books to add to your collection!
You can post on here, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at us @KillerReads.
Competition closes at midnight on 21st June. Good luck!
May 24, 20139:24 am
We loved Anya’s book, Where the Devil Can’t Go, and from the Amazon reviews – so did you! We caught up with her to find out a little more about it…
Why did you decide to set the book within the Polish community of London?
I’d wanted to write a crime novel for years but was struggling for a way to make it leap out of crime shelves already crowded with London-based police procedurals and thrillers. The light bulb moment came when my (Polish) husband suggested creating a Polish private eye working among London’s Polish community – many of whom live in my part of London, the East End. Setting my PI on collision course with a female police detective over the murder of a Polish girl she’s investigating gave me potential for conflict and a chance to gain an insight through her into the Poles’ mindset, rich culture, and turbulent recent history.
Have any members of the Polish community read the book, and if so what did they think?
Lots of them! And not just friends and family. As I’m English that was a bit scary. They’ve been kind enough to say that I’ve captured something of the Polish spirit: an intriguing combination of small ‘c’ conservative values with an anti-authoritarian streak which I think comes from a constant struggle against invaders and foreign occupation. One Polish reader review cited a ‘brilliant insight into the Polish mentality and the subtle differences between the generations of immigrants’ – which I was absolutely thrilled by.
May 20, 201311:10 am
I’m often asked where I get my inspiration from, and the truth is that I honestly don’t know.
When it comes to thrillers, it can only stem from my own experiences as a copper, but also my fascination with the modern urban jungle – especially when viewed through rain, dirt and dereliction (the way I always perceive it) – as one of the most perilous backdrops against which to imagine high octane adventures.
But I’m well aware that I live in a curious place when it comes to writing. In addition to thrillers, I’ve also written horror, occasionally even diverting into sci-fi, fantasy and historical adventure.
So where does all that fit into the picture? Well, it’s a question I can’t answer easily.
May 14, 20135:00 am
We’re giving you the chance to meet Charles Cumming, author of A Foreign Country, the thriller of the year.
To win one of two pairs of tickets to his latest event in which he discusses the myths and realities surrounding the secret service, simply answer the following question by commenting on this post:
Which fictional spy would you most want to come to your rescue and why?
The best two answers will win a pair of tickets and the 3 runners up will get a copy of A Foreign Country, so get writing now! You have until midnight on Wednesday 15th May to enter…
May 7, 20135:01 am
Breaking news from the Killer Reads team!
Cold Killing has been optioned for a multi-part TV drama by none other than Carnival Film and Television, the award-winning production company behind Downton Abbey, Whitechapel and Any Human Heart.
Want to know what all the fuss is about? You can read an extract of Cold Killing below.
April 30, 201311:35 am
Madeleine Reiss is the winner of The People’s Novelist competition which was judged live on ITV’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show. The resounding winner, Madeleine was praised by the judges for her ‘ability to make you turn the page’. Her unforgettable debut novel is out in June, but we’re so excited about it that we’ve decided to give you the opportunity to win a copy before it’s even hit the shops!
April 11, 20138:48 am
“These people have plotted and schemed, lived and died, loved and lost, and suddenly they have gone, out into the wide world, leaving me alone with a silence I’ve not experienced since I began writing my thriller trilogy…”
As The Tower is released, Simon Toyne says goodbye to his much loved characters.
Fans, you know what to do: http://bit.ly/BuyTheTower
Fans-to-be, you can read the first part of the first book for free!http://bit.ly/SanctusPt1forFree
April 5, 20139:53 am
‘So,’ you ask, ‘where did you get the idea for Harry from? I mean, some of those things he gets up to…’ You scrunch your eyes closed for a second as if trying to rid yourself of the memories. ‘Awful, just awful.’
Harry. He’s the killer in my book, Touch. He’s not particularly pleasant, I’ll give you that, but awful? I’m offended. I shake my head. ‘If you think Harry’s bad then you should meet some of my other friends,’ I say.
An uneasy look passes across your face, but I ignore it and begin tell you about Ted, a kind, charming and charismatic young man; Jeffrey, who likes to spend time arranging things in his flat; Dennis, who once had a bit of a problem with his drains; Harold, the odd one out; Fred, who’s got something missing in the IQ department, sure, but a salt-of-the-earth type nevertheless.
Shorn of their surnames my little coterie might appear innocent enough. They could be a bunch of guys who turn out down the park to play cricket on a Sunday afternoon or more likely that group of men who shuffle dominos in the corner of your local on Thursday evenings. There’s something about the decent, old-fashioned names – none of this Joshua, Ethan, Jake nonsense – which suggests dependability. As Fred packs away the dominos you’d go over, ask him what he’s drinking, get one in for him. Pint on the table in front of his big, rough, craftsmen’s hands, you’d ask how’s he placed to come round and sort out that dripping tap for you. Spare key’s under the flowerpot to the side of the back door, you’d say. Let yourself in any time.
Fred’s a builder, see? Surname of West.
On second thoughts maybe you should fix the tap yourself.