Q&A with Kate Medina

Category: Interview

1. Summarise Scared to Death in once sentence:

Everyone is afraid, but some fears can kill you.

 

2. How long did it take you to write?

Scared to Death took me a year to write.  I begin by spending a lot of time just thinking: developing the idea, the story and the characters that are going to inhabit that story.  I then spend two or three months fleshing out a very detailed plot and won’t start writing until I know how the whole book will play out.  Different novelists write in different ways, but a good crime novel has a very complex plot with multiple set-ups and pay-offs, many false leads and lots of intertwined sub-plots, and I couldn’t imagine writing something so complex without plotting it out first. An intricately carved, twisty-turny story that keeps me guessing until the end is, for me, a critical feature of a great crime novel.

 

3. What’s your favourite thing about the writing process?

I love virtually everything about the writing process.  I love doing a job that gives me the opportunity to be creative, but I also find the plotting process hugely mentally challenging, like trying to fit and enormous, amorphous jigsaw puzzle together.  I also really enjoy getting to know my characters and spending time with them.  It sounds strange, but often, despite my detailed plot, my characters do or say something that I don’t expect and I then have to run with them.  Scared to Death is the second in a crime series featuring twenty-nine year old clinical psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn, and I have grown to love Jessie and her fellow key protagonists, DI Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons and Captain Ben Callan, as have, I hope, my readers.

 

4. …And your least?

My least favourite part of the writing process is editing my novel based on feedback from my Harper Collins Editor.  She is hugely experienced and her wisdom invariably makes the finished novel incomparably better, but I experience a mini-period of mourning each time her feedback arrives.  The plots of my novels are complex and if one bit changes, it has repercussions throughout the novel so a simple change, rarely turns out to be simple.  When I send my novel off to my publisher, I mentally put it to bed and having it come back again for changes is like one of my children climbing out of bed and disturbing me when I’ve signed off for the day and am having a glass of wine and watching a good TV drama!

 

5. What’s the last book you read?

The last book I read was ‘Behind her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough and I loved it.  Its social media hastag is a very appropriate #wtfthatending.  Occasionally I read a book that I wish I had written and ‘Behind her Eyes’ is one of those books.

 

6. What are your desert island reads?

I am an avid crime and thriller reader, which is why I chose to write in that genre.  I love well established crime writers such as Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Martina Cole, Peter James and Mo Hayder and newer writers such as Simon Toyne, SK Tremayne and CL Taylor.

I have a degree in Psychology and am very interested in the ‘whys’ of human behaviour, so I also enjoy books that delve into the dark side of people’s psychology, such as the classic ‘Lord of the Flies’, which, although it is set on its own desert island, would definitely have to accompany me to mine.

 

 7. What’s the least likely thing you’d be found doing?

Relaxing! I am a very restless person and never really ‘do nothing’ unless I’m asleep, and even then, my husband tells me that I constantly wriggle.

 

8. Favourite word?

Discombobulated.  It’s a great word and very onomatopoeic, although I am yet to fit it into one of my novels without its inclusion sounding contrived.  One day…

 

9. Do you listen to music when writing?

One of the reasons I became an author was because I’m quite introverted and love silence, so I never listen to music when I’m writing.  I write in an attic room at the top of the house, with the door shut and my two dogs for company.  One of them is getting old now and snores when she’s asleep, so I have to resist poking her to wake her up, as her snoring disturbs my writing.  I only listen to music when I’m driving on my own and I can sing very loudly without anyone telling me that I sound dreadful – which I do.

 

10. Dead or alive, who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I enjoy a good argument, so I’d invite people who had very different views on life to create as much conflict and as many interesting, challenging discussions as possible.  I’d invite Maggie Thatcher, because, although she was Marmite in terms of politics, she was fantastically clever, driven, opinionated and successful woman.  I’d invite Boris Johnson, because I’d like to know if he is as ludicrous in person as he appears to be on the television.  I’d invite Hillary Mantel, as she is such an incredibly clever writer, J K Rowling because her creativity knows no bounds, Peter James because he is a great writer and an incredibly nice person – so he could keep the peace – and Steig Larsson because his crime writing has always inspired me.

I also love to laugh, so I’d have to include at least one comedian.  David Walliams is a fellow Harper Collins author and I’ve seen him at Harper events, but never actually talked to him in person, so I would definitely invite him.

 

I spent five years in the Territorial Army as a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers, a role that I loved, and I am fascinated and not a little disturbed by the level of conflict the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, so I’d invite General Sir Nicholas Carter, who is Chief of the General Staff (head of the British Army).

Lastly I’d invite Tom Hanks as he is one of the finest actors of his generation, seems like a lovely man and would, I’m sure, have some great stories to tell.

 

Extract from Camilla Way’s Watching Edie

Category: Extract

We are really excited about the upcoming paperback of Camilla Way’s creepy psychological thriller, Watching Edie, a tense story of a friendship gone wrong! Here’s a sneak peek for you:

 

PART ONE

After

 

 

Outside my kitchen window the long afternoon empties of light. I look at London stretched out far below, my dripping hands held poised above the sink. The doorbell rings, one long high peal; the broken intercom vibrates. The view from up here, it’s incredible, like you’re flying. Deptford and Greenwich, New Cross and Erith, then the river, and beyond that there’s the Gherkin, over there’s the Shard. From my top-floor flat here on Telegraph Hill you can see forever and as usual it calms me, soothes me: how big it is, how small I am, how far from where I used to be.

The doorbell rings more urgently – whoever it is putting their finger on the buzzer and holding it there. The night hovers.

At first I used to see Heather everywhere. Connor too, of course. From the corner of my eye I’d catch a glimpse of one or the other of them, and there’d be that sharp, cold lurch that would leave me sick and shaken long after I’d realized that it had been an illusion; just a stranger with similar hair or the same way of walking. Whenever it happened I’d go somewhere busy and lose myself amongst the crowds, roaming the south-east London streets until I’d reassured myself that all that was very far away and long ago. A small West Midlands town a million miles from here. And the doorbell rings and rings as I’d always known it would one day.

I live on the top floor of a large, ugly Victorian building, and there are lots of us squashed in here side by side, in our small, draughty little flats. Housing Association, most of us. And when I wedge my door open with a shoe and go down to answer the bell, past four floors of white doors marked with brass letters, the early evening sounds seep from beneath each one: a baby crying, a telly’s laughter, a couple arguing; the lives of strangers.

I’m entirely unprepared for what’s waiting for me beyond the heavy wide front door and when I open it the world seems to tilt and I have to grip the door frame to stop myself from falling. Because there she is, standing on my doorstep staring back at me. There, after all this time, is Heather.

And I have imagined this, dreamed of this, dreaded this, so many hundreds of times for so many years that the reality is both entirely surreal and anticlimactic. I see and hear life continuing on this ordinary London street on this ordinary afternoon – cars and people passing, children playing down the street, a dog barking – as if from far away, and as I stare into her face the sour taste of fear creeps around the back of my tongue. I open my mouth but no words come and we stand in silence for a while, two thirty-three-year-old versions of the girls we’d once been.

It’s she who speaks first. ‘Hello, Edie,’ she says.

And then she does the unthinkable. She steps across the threshold (my heart jumping as she looms so close), wraps me in her arms and hugs me. I stand there rigid, enclosed, as memories slam into me: the wiry feel of her hair as it brushes against my cheek, that weird fried onions smell her clothes always had, her tall, heavy presence. My mind is empty, I am only my heart knocking in my throat and now she’s following me into the hallway no no no this is just one of your dreams and up the stairs, past all the other doors with their brass letters and their chipped paint and we’re at the top and I’m watching my hand as it pushes open my door and we’re here inside my kitchen no no no no no, and we’re sitting down at my table, and I’m staring into the face I’d once hoped never to see again for the rest of my life.

Neither of us speak at first and I’m filled with longing for my quiet, solitary life within these three cramped rooms of moments before. The tap drips, the seconds pass, the browning tendrils of my spider plant shiver on the windowsill. I get up so I don’t have to look at her, and I turn away and grip the work surface. With my back to her like this, I manage to speak. ‘How’d you find me then?’ I ask and when she doesn’t answer I turn and see that she’s gazing around the room, peering across the hallway to the narrow lounge with its fold-down bed.

‘Hmm?’ she says vaguely. ‘Oh.’ She looks at me. ‘Your mum. Still lives in your old place, doesn’t she.’

And I nod, although I hadn’t known, because Mum and I haven’t spoken in years and in that instant I’m back there, in the old Fremton house. We’re in the kitchen, the strip light flickering, the blackness outside making mirrors of the windows. I’m crying and telling Mum everything, every single thing about what happened that night, as if telling her might stop the screaming in my head, clear the pictures from my mind. I tell her about Heather and Connor and what they did but it’s like I’m telling her about some horror film or a nightmare I’ve had. I listen to myself say the words and I can’t believe that what I’m saying is true. I don’t stop talking until I’ve told her every last detail, and when I’ve finished, I reach for her, but Mum’s body is rigid and her face grey with shock. She backs away from me, and never, never again in my life do I want someone to look at me the way she does then.

When she speaks she spits out her words like stones. ‘Go to bed, Edith,’ she says. ‘And don’t ever talk to me about this again. Do you hear me? I never want to hear about this again.’ She turns her back then, staring at the window and I see her pinched, awful face reflected in the glass. The next morning I get up before dawn, take some money from her purse and catch the train to my Uncle Geoff’s in Erith, and I never go back there again.

I’m stunned by what Heather has told me: that my mother had my address to give her amazes me. My uncle never knew what caused the rift between us and always hoped that we would one day reconcile, so the fact he passed it on to her is no surprise. But that Mum had actually written it down and kept it safe somewhere is a revelation.

I suddenly feel exhaustion roll over me in waves, but I force myself to ask, ‘What do you want, Heather? Why have you come here now?’ Because I always knew, really, that this moment would come. Hadn’t I dreamt about it night after night, woken in the small hours sick with the fear of it, looked over my shoulder certain it was approaching, out there somewhere, getting steadily closer?

She doesn’t answer at first. On the table in front of her she’s put her bag: a black woollen knitted thing with a chipped plastic button. Clinging to the wool are bits of fluff, crumbs, and lots of little ginger hairs – cat hairs, maybe. Her small hazel eyes peer at me beneath sparse pale lashes; she wears no make-up except for an incon­gruous smear of bright-pink lipstick that looks like it should be on someone else’s face. In the silence a woman’s voice drifts up to us from the street, Terry . . . Terry . . . Terrrrrrr-eeeeeee . . . and we listen to it dwindle and die, and at that moment the darkness over London pounces, that sad, final instant where daylight vanishes, the electric lights of the city suddenly strong, and I hear a faint tremor of hurt and reproach in Heather’s voice as she says, ‘Nothing. I don’t want anything. I just wanted to see you.’

I try to make sense of this, my mind confusedly grasping at various possible explanations, but then she starts to speak again, and she says – with loneliness like an open wound, so raw and familiar that I have to turn my eyes from it – ‘You were my best friend.’

‘Yes,’ I whisper. And because I have no idea what else to do I get up and put the kettle on and I make some tea while Heather talks, for all the world as though this is an ordinary visit – two old friends catching up: how she lives in Birmingham now (‘We moved not long after you left’), the newsagent’s where she works part-time.

As she talks I take in little glances. Such an ordinary-looking woman. A bit on the large side, her chubby hands folded in front of her on the table, her soft Welsh accent, her shoulder-length hair, her eager smile. ‘Do you still live with your mum and dad?’ I ask, for something to say, falling in with the game she’s playing, if that’s what this is. And she nods. Yes, I think – it would be hard, even now, to imagine her coping without them. She was never stupid, Heather, not back­wards or anything like that – in fact she’d always done well at school. But despite her cleverness there’d always been an inexplicable something missing somehow, an innocence that made her vulnerable, too easily led astray. I sit down in the chair next to her. ‘Heather,’ I say quickly, before I lose my nerve, ‘Heather, what do you want?’

Instead of answering, she reaches over and, taking me by surprise, gently pulls a strand of my hair between her fingers. ‘Still so pretty, Edie,’ she says, dreamily. ‘You haven’t changed a bit.’ And I can’t help it: I flinch so obviously that I have to get to my feet, clattering the tea things together in the sink, her eyes boring into my back.

‘Can I see your flat?’ she asks, and when I nod she goes and stands at the door to my tiny living room. I follow her, and together we look in at the cramped, dusty mess, the fold-down bed, the rail of clothes, the crappy, second-hand telly. ‘It’s lovely,’ she says in a hushed voice, ‘you’re so lucky,’ and I have to stifle a sudden desire to laugh. If you had asked me at sixteen what sort of person I would become, what sort of life my future self might lead, I would never have pictured this.

It occurs to me that she must have found her way to London by herself, before making her way through the city to get here, and I’m both impressed and horrified by this. The thought hits me that she might expect to stay the night, and the idea is so awful that I blurt, ‘Heather, I’m sorry but I have to go out, I have to go out soon and it’s been so nice to see you again but I really do have to—’

Her face falls. ‘Oh.’ She looks around the room wistfully, disappointment etched into her face. ‘Maybe I could stay here until you get back.’

She eyes my sofa hopefully and I try very hard to keep the panic from my voice as I lie, ‘I’m going away for a few days actually, with friends,’ and I begin to steer her back towards the kitchen. ‘I’m sorry.’ Reluctantly she nods and follows me to where she’s left her coat and bag. I watch her, my heart sinking, knowing I should relent. She’s only been here fifteen minutes after all. But I stand there as she puts her coat on, and I say nothing.

‘Can I have your number?’ she asks. ‘I could phone you and then next time we could spend the day or even the weekend together.’ There’s such longing in her eyes that I feel myself nodding hopelessly, and she rummages eagerly in her bag. I watch her, my arms folded tightly, as she slowly punches my name into her mobile.

She looks up expectantly, but my posture or the angle in which I’m standing reveals something to her and as realization dawns, her mouth gapes. ‘You’re pregnant!’ she says.

For the briefest moment I see something in her eyes that makes me shudder, though I don’t know why – just for a second something else peeps out at me from behind her hazel stare. My hands fly defensively to my belly and an image, gone almost before it’s there, of Heri’s face flickers across my mind. I don’t reply.

‘Well,’ she says after a silence, ‘congratulations. How lovely.’ As she continues to gaze at me her pupils twitch intently, and sensing that she’s about to ask more questions, I rattle off my number and watch as she punches it in, agonizingly slowly, until finally I open the door, say goodbye as warmly as I know how, and at last she turns to leave. But before she does she stops and pauses and says very softly, ‘Do you remember the quarry, Edie? How we used to go up there together, all of us?’

I feel momentarily light-headed, a wave of nausea washes over me, and when I speak my voice is barely a whisper. ‘Yes.’

She nods. ‘Me too. I think about it all the time.’ And then she leaves, her sensible lace-ups clattering upon the staircase as she retreats lower and lower. I lean against the wall, weak with relief, until from far below I hear the front door’s heavy slam as she closes it behind her, like a jailor.

 

Want to read more? Watching Edie will be out in paperback on 6th April! Pre-order now: http://amzn.to/2mZYq4U

 

A brave new world – by Jackie Baldwin, author of DEAD MAN’S PRAYER

Category: Author Post

The irony of being published as an ebook has not been lost on me. All my life, I have been easily frustrated by technology and prefer to use pen and paper and speak to a ‘real person.’ I used to run a busy court department with one large hard backed diary. My system was never down. I have allowed myself to fall so far behind with modern technology, I fear I may never catch up.

If I had a time machine, I would send back the following tips to myself…

  • That thing you found on your desk after maternity leave and called ‘the abomination?’ Get it back out of the cupboard and learn to deal with it. Computers are not malign entities out to get you, (yet!)
  • Get a move on with that book you plan on writing. You need time lapse photography to show progress that slow.
  • Do not snort, roll your eyes and paw the ground like a bull when you see a Kindle for the first time. One day you’re not only going to be using one, your book is going to be on one. You are going to have so many books on that Kindle it is going to resemble a literary black hole with its own gravity field.
  • When your husband buys you a Smart phone do not thank him, smile sweetly, and ask him to take it back to the shop. Learn how to use it. You will also be able to chat on it to an AI called Siri and ask it meaningful questions in the hope that you will one day get a sentient reply.
  • Start going to parties, or store openings or anywhere with crowds of people in preparation for attending crime festivals. Practise your opening conversational gambits in the checkout at Tesco.
  • Engage with social media. Change your Facebook settings so that you are not the only one who can see your posts. Oh and do some posts. Nothing terrible will happen if you post that is raining. (Usually, but subject to the usual disclaimers).
  • One day you will be on something called Twitter and make tweets of 147 characters or less. I mean it, stop laughing!
  • You will go on a blog tour. No it’s nothing to do with rock music and you can’t buy a T-shirt. No you don’t need a suitcase or a tour bus. Organise this in plenty of time if you want to maintain a tenuous grasp on your sanity.
  • You will have to read from your book in public. Wear a stiff unyielding fabric that won’t tremble with you.

That about covers it.

Oh, and enjoy every single crazy moment!

Jackie Baldwin’s chilling debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer is out now in ebook. Buy it now.

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