An Interview With Jemima Forrester

Hi folks, I am so sorry for the delay in posting this interview. I have had a LOT to handle with regards to my Access Course. Assignments, more assignments and then some personal stuff.

Anyway, I am delighted to welcome literary agent Jemima Forrester to my blog. Here, she discusses her background to becoming a literary agent, her guilty pleasure genre and what she looks for in a submission package.

Over to you, Jemima.

1) Did you see yourself as a literary agent after you left school? Did you have any other career plans?

Not at all. I studied English at university, but until my second year I was set on doing the conversion course and going into law. Sadly the 2008 financial crash put paid to training contracts the year I was applying and I couldn’t afford to study it without financial help, so I thoughts I’d get a job and apply a few years later. I’ve always loved books and been a big reader so publishing seemed to be an obvious choice. I got my first job as an editorial assistant at Headline about eight years ago and I haven’t looked back!

2) How did you find your experience of being a senior commissioning editor at Orion Publishing?

I loved being an editor and commissioning gives you such a thrill. It’s the very front line of publishing and you’re involved in every stage of the process, from spotting the potential of a manuscript when it lands in your inbox, to negotiating a deal with the author and/or agent, helping to mould the text, working with Design and Production to get a beautiful looking book, and liaising with Sales, Marketing and Publicity to get that book into the hands of as many readers as possible. It’s a big job and a lot of responsibility, but when a book works and readers love it, you can feel very proud of your role in that.

3) How does it differ to your current role at David Higham?

There are a lot of similar elements to my role as an agent now. I still have to be able to spot manuscripts with the potential to be commercially successful published books, I work with authors to edit their novels and get them into the best shape possible before submitting, and I have to negotiate contracts – though this time from the other side of the fence! However, the biggest difference is probably having less control over the shaping of a book once it’s been acquired (writing copy, briefing the cover, devising marketing and publicity plans, etc). I have to let go and trust that the publishers to know what’s right for the book. The other big difference is my relationship with my authors. The agent/author relationship is much closer than agent and editor and I have to be there for my authors to offer them guidance, support and alleviate their worries. Authors don’t want to nag their editors or unburden their worries and fears onto them, but they know they can do it with me and that I’ll be there to help them as much as I can.

4) What do you look in a covering email by a submitting author?

The covering letter is probably the most important part of the submission package. When you think about how many submissions agents get every day, it’s important that your covering letter pitches your book in just the right way and sell you as a writer. By that I don’t mean it has to be a work of literary genius, but take the time to make sure everything is spelled correctly and in a format that looks smart and easy to read. Other than that, your covering letter should include a brief pitch of the book and where in the market it fits (comparison authors or titles are useful for this), some concise information about you and any book-related credentials you have and, to show you’ve done your homework, it’s good to include a line saying why you’ve selected the specific agent or agency you’re applying to. I want to know that you’ve picked me because you’ve looked at my bio or client list and felt like your book would fit well on my list. I hate to feel like an author has just printed off (or emailed over) 50 identical, impersonal emails to a random selection of agents. Letters or emails addressed to ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear agent’ or – the worst – ‘Dear sirs’ usually end up at the bottom of my to-read pile as I know they’re the least likely to be tailored to my personal tastes.

5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’?

That’s a tough one. Crime is one of those genres that is so well-represented it’s hard to think of something credible that hasn’t been done. Top of my wish list is a female-led thriller where the central female characters aren’t portrayed as unhinged, manipulative or straight-up victims. I’d love to find a fresh British crime series with a really nuanced female lead and a strong sense of place.

6) What is your guilty pleasure genre?

I feel no guilt about this, but I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I’ve read all the books multiple times and listened to Stephen Fry’s audio editions more times than I’d probably admit.

7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?

The last book I read was a non-fiction book: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton. I adored it and it brought back many memories of my teenage years spent mainly on MSN Messenger (cringe). I’m not sure I learnt anything about love, to be honest, but it was a really beautifully written, funny, moving book about growing up, making mistakes and the enduring power of friendship.

8) Completely random – Do you like Rod Stewart and do you have a favourite song of his?

I love this question! Definitely the first time I’ve ever been asked this. I’m not a die-hard Rod Stewart fan (though my mother definitely is!), but I do love ‘Maggie May’ and ‘Handbags and Gladrags’.


Jemima joined David Higham in September 2016 having previously been senior commissioning editor at Orion Publishing Group. She is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction, including crime and thrillers, psychological suspense, accessible literary fiction, women’s fiction and speculative/high-concept novels.

Jemima loves distinctive narrative voices, well-paced, intriguing plots and characters that leap off the page. Her favourite books of recent years include Elizabeth is Missing, Disclaimer, Life After Life, The Night Circus, Me Before You and anything by Jo Nesbø, Margaret Atwood or Curtis Sittenfeld.

In non-fiction, she is looking for innovative cookery, popular-culture and lifestyle projects, unique personal stories and humour.

An Interview With Caroline Hardman

Good morning folks, and today I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Caroline Hardman to my blog. Here, she discusses how her career plans would have been very different if she wasn’t a literary agent, what she looks for in covering emails and her guilty pleasure genres.

Over to you, Caroline.

1) Did you see yourself becoming a literary agent after you left school? Did you actually have any other career plans?

Definitely not. I didn’t know what a literary agent was! When I left high school, I was always going to be a dancer (and went to full-time dance school), but decided it wasn’t for me after all. As a university student I just wanted to carry on being a student for ever, so I did a masters with a view to doing a PhD, but found after my masters that I was yearning for the bright lights of London, realised I loved books, so I decided on a career in publishing (like a lot of other people, as it turned out). But I still hadn’t thought about a career as an agent until I got my first job at the agency.

2) How did you find leaving the North for the South? (Manchester to London)

I love the North and think I still have a northern sensibility, but I always wanted to come to London. It wasn’t a big transition for me as lots of my university friends were coming to London too, and I loved it as soon as I arrived. I consider it home now, absolutely. Not that I’d say no to living somewhere like New York or any other big city – I love cities.

3) Did you always plan to set up your own agency?

Not really. I’ve always seen where the wind blows, to a certain extent, so it was really about the right circumstances and timing, though now it seems like a no brainer. When I told my friends, their response was something like ‘of course you were always going to work for yourself – you don’t like being told what to do.’!

4) What do you look for in a covering email?

Clarity, concise information about the author and the book, good English, no typos, and most importantly, an enticing sounding novel or proposal. And it’s always nice when people bother to say why they’ve submitted to you or shown that they’ve done some sort of research before sending, but it’s not essential.

5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously and think ‘I could see that in a book.’?

Not that I can think of right now, but that’s the joy of the business – I like it when authors surprise me with their ideas and I’m sure there are so many new directions for crime. I’d love to find more regional crime and diverse characters.

6) What is your guilty pleasure genre?

There have been guilty pleasure books (hello, 50 Shades), but I don’t think I could classify a whole genre that way.

7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?

I read I AM, I AM, I AM by Maggie O’Farrell, which I loved. I’m currently reading THE DRY by Jane Harper (and next on my large to-read pile is MISSING, PRESUMED – a bit embarrassed I’ve not read it yet). Sorry, that’s more than what you asked for, but it’s hard to stop talking about books.

8) Completely random – do you like Rod Stewart and do you have a favourite song of his?

Ha ha, not really. The song I know best is Da Ya Think I’m Sexy. Does it count if it’s a cover?!

Yes, it does. Thanks for your time, Caroline.

An Interview With Sam Copeland

Good evening, folks. I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Sam Copeland to my blog. Here, he discusses how he became a literary agent, what he looks for in submissions and his favourite Rod Stewart song.

Over to you, Sam.

1) Did you see yourself becoming a literary agent after you left school? Did you actually have any other career plans?

No, I hadn’t even heard of literary agent of at school. It only occurred to me when I was working in a bookshop. I had no other career plans before that.

2) How did you find your first job in publishing at Curtis Brown?

I was fortunate. I sent one letter to a literary agency and they had just lost their assistant that week, so I was very lucky. But sometimes you need a bit of luck.

3) How did you find being made a Director in Rogers, Coleridge and White?

I have found it rather energising. Helping to shape the company as a whole is fascinating.

4) What do you look for in a covering email by a submitting author?

Just in the email? Competence firstly, then the ability to interest and excite me in whatever they are sending me.

5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’? 

Not in my mind right now. The last time I thought that was ‘I’d love to see a crime novel set in the Muslim community in somewhere like Bradford.’ Next thing I see an announcement for A A Dhand’s Streets of Darkness.

6) What is your guilty pleasure genre? 

No such thing as guilty pleasures.

7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

It was actually Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and to my shake, I’d never read it. But I loved it.

8) Completely random – Do you like Rod Stewart and if so, do you have a favourite song of his? 

Who doesn’t like Rod Stewart? I’ll go for ‘Young Turks’.

Thanks for your time, Sam.

An Interview With Philip Patterson

Good afternoon, folks. I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Philip Patterson to my blog. Here, he discusses how he became a literary agent, his guilty pleasure genre and the time he met Rod Stewart!

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1) Did you see yourself becoming a literary agent after you left school? Did you actually have any other career plans?<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Definitely not! I always remembered Withnail’s line in Withnail & I, shouting at his agent to “kiss ten percent of the arses then.” I wanted to be an artist for a while, but I have two brothers who were quite successful in that world, and didn’t think I was good enough. I think I would liked to have played for Newcastle United in my dreams.

I always loved books, so I wanted to work with words. I thought about journalism for a while, but my third brother was an editor for a trade magazine and I saw how tough that was, plus I didn’t have the drive to be a journalist. I definitely gravitated towards publishing, but I was looking for a job during the recession in the early 90s.

I had a contact at HarperCollins Publishers so I was lucky enough to get a job there in Rights and Contracts working for the Director, who was this fabulous man called Kendall Duesbury. At the time, publishers had kept some film rights to their authors work (it is very rare to happen these days), so he was handling film rights and taught me how to structure a deal. I love film and theatre too, this to led to 2).

2) How did you find your role at Curtis Brown as a film, TV and theatre agent?<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
ging Director at HarperCollins headed up Curtis Brown and recommended me to a film agent, there as her assistant.

I joined there and it was the pre-internet era, so lots of typing on typewriters and sending out of physical scripts and books to producers. My boss left and that gave me my break to step up. I did a lot of books to film stuff in the main.

Curtis Brown hired two excellent agents, Nick Marston and Ben Hall from A P Watt and they brought their clients over. So I got to work alongside Nick and his list of top dramatists, screenwriters and directors as well.

3) What do you look for in a covering email?<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

That the email is concise and gives a few lines pitch for the book and the briefest of bios. Be direct and confident and to the point. Make sure you check out the agency website. Attach the work as a file. Don’t cut and paste the work into the body of the email. Try and address it to the person rather than a ‘Hi, here’s my book’ which seems very impersonal and will be treated with a similar amount of effort by the recipient.

4) Did it differ to your time working at HarperCollins? <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

You see the business from the clients perspective. As an agent, the client definitely comes first. The publisher would agree that the author comes first too (after all what is a publisher without its writers), but it is also a business and the relationship with the author is slightly different, although a good editor/author relationship is key. When I moved to Marjacq, I was ready to work with books again. If there is one frustration with film and tv rights it is the low rate for books to be exercised and turned into feature films and tv series. Likewise the development of a screenplay can be fairly torturous at times, and it’s a special kind of writer to be a screenwriter. You have to be prepared for far more drafts and far more input from a wider selection of people (the development person, the producer, the broadcaster, the star). The process is far more fluid and collaborative than the book world. An author still seems to have a measure of control over his or her work. That said, an author must be able to work with an editor and take an edit.

5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’? <<<<<<<<<<<

I think when I read a new book, I am looking at a combination of voice, storytelling and something about the writer. I don’t get too hung up on fantastically hook-driven plots, which can veer quickly into the world of gimmick if not careful. A killer hook is good, but if the rest falls apart and it is all about the concept, then it is probably not going to be for me. Good crime fiction will also be concerned with broader issues like any other fiction. It needs to say something about the human condition or society too. That is not to say I want polemic, but purely escapist fun is great as a guilty pleasure, but starts to wafer thin after a while. Then again, I bloody love Die Hard, so if you have a novel like that, send it to me.

6) What is your guilty pleasure genre? <<<

The Die Hard movies. 60s/70s/80s thrillers. The kind with a rusting hammer and sickle on the cover. Or a smashed up swastika. Spies and ex-Nazis hiding out in the modern day. I used to devour Len Deighton, Eric Ambler, Jack Higgins and Alistair MacLean. I still love reading ‘The Day of the Jackal’ now and again. Also, Jilly Cooper. Her books are great fun. Haven’t read one for a while, but high time I did. I thoroughly recommend everyone to read as widely as they can. Read outside your comfort zone. I do love crime and thrillers, but pick up a classic, read some poetry or a play, pick up some SF or whatever, and give it a go.

7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?<<<

The last book I read that isn’t one of my clients, is Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator (bedtime reading to one of my kids). I seemed to remember I loved this book when I was about seven, but it was a bit disappointing (obviously not as good as the first one). I am going to give Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land a go.

8) Do you like Rod Stewart and if so, do you have a favourite song of his? <<<

Haha! Great question! Maggie May is a good one. Actually I have a Rod Stewart story. Our drains were blocked in our old offices and we called Dyna-Rod. We had a Spanish office cleaner and I misunderstood her as I thought she said Dyna-Rod is outside the office. We opened the front door and there was Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster outside the office. All hair and tight trousers. And they didn’t unblock our drains.

Thanks for your time, Philip.

10 Questions With Sam Carrington

Good evening folks, I apologise for my absence – real life took over for several weeks and I have had UCAS application to complete and assignments to get done for my Access Course.

Without further ado though, allow me to introduce my Q&A with one of my favourite authors, the lovely Sam Carrington.

Sam discusses her degree in psychology, how her publication day felt and how her lead detective DI Wade changes in her next book Bad Sister.

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author?

Yes, Enid Blyton was my favourite. I devoured the ‘Adventure’ series and loved ‘Hello, Mr Twiddle!’

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I did! English literature was my best subject – I always found it interesting and adored reading the set books, interpreting them and discussing what we thought the author was trying to achieve.

3) At Open University, what was your psychology degree like and how did you find your experience?

It was really challenging completing a degree with a young family and full-time job. I enjoyed many aspects of the course and I loved trying to better myself. I did have high expectations of myself too, though, which made it stressful sometimes. If I got a distinction in one assignment I HAD to ensure the same in the next one. I ended up with a 2:1 which is great, but I would’ve preferred a first! Gaining the degree definitely helped me secure my job as psychological assistant in the prison.

4) How did you feel meeting your agent and what was your publication day like?

I was so nervous on the way to London to meet my prospective agent, but to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d heard that agents were the ‘gatekeepers’ and in some ways held them in such high regard that they became almost God like! They are, I can now confirm, very lovely people! It was a great day when I met Anne, and I immediately liked her. I was so completely thrilled when she offered representation. I celebrated in London with my sister and daughter, and couldn’t stop smiling!

Publication day for my debut novel, Saving Sophie, was in two parts – the ebook being published four months ahead of the paperback. Both days were amazing, but seeing my paperback on the shelves in stores is a moment I’ll never forget.

5) Is it nerve wracking, knowing that you have someone to impress, but also someone who will champion you and your writing?

It’s a very strange mix isn’t it? Yes, when a manuscript is with my agent I’m biting my nails and half-dreading the feedback. But, on the other hand, she is championing my writing which is a fantastic and reassuring feeling!

6) I LOVE Lindsay Wade in Bad Sister, as I feel we get to know her more as a human being, not just as a detective. Do you have any tips on creating a police procedural aspect to your novels?

I like to have the police procedural aspect as more of a side line, instead, focussing on the main characters – the ones who have/are going through the issues and problems I’ve set for them. It can be a difficult balancing act but for me, concentrating on the main character of the story I’m telling helps me to keep them the most important aspect. I enjoyed writing the police scenes, however, I do try and keep the procedural side low-key. It’s more about the people.

7) Do you have a favourite all time book?

I always answer The Secret Life of Bees to this question! I think it was a book that surprised me, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as it’s out of my reading ‘comfort zone’. But I loved the writing and the story stayed with me.

8) Do you like Rod Stewart and do you have a favourite song of his?

Of course! Legend. My favourite Rod song would be You’re In My Heart.

Thanks for your time Sam x

A Feature by Fiona Glass

Good afternoon, folks. I’m delighted to welcome fiction writer Fiona Glass to my blog. Fiona has kindly agreed to share a feature on her novel, Got Ghosts. 

Here it is. 

Where there’s a ghost there’s a… crime!

Book genres are becoming ever more firmly fixed these days: something is either horror, or romance, or sci-fi, or crime, and those genres are rarely allowed to mix. But real life’s a lot more blurry than that, and even in fiction, if you scratch the surface of almost any book you find other elements creeping in.

My own book, Got Ghosts?, is no exception. Of course, at heart it’s pure paranormal, with a haunted manor house, a medium who stirs up something she shouldn’t, and all sorts of fun but spooky goings-on. But underneath all that, there’s something more sinister. Because where you have ghosts, you must have had deaths, and only some of those are natural.
Most of the ghosts at Greystones Hall are harmless enough – a medieval knight, a young woman with a baby, even owner Emily’s recently deceased grandfather. But when a TV production company come to film the ghosts, it disturbs a new and malevolent spirit called Alfred, who takes a violent dislike to Emily and her artwork. He rampages through the house, scares the TV crew silly, and upsets the local vicar. And not even Gramps and the other ghosts can help.

At first Emily is as baffled and scared as everyone else. But with a little help from Gramps – and Guy, the deputy back-up medium – she sets out to solve the mystery. And even as the TV crew chase the ghosts – and vice versa – she manages to find out who Alfred is, why he’s so unhappy, and what happened to his own beloved paintings. 

Theft, jealousy, murder, revenge – all these could easily be elements of a proper crime novel. So does that make Got Ghosts? crime? Well, no, not really – it’s far too lighthearted for that, and there are far too many ghosts! But it does show that sometimes, the boundaries between genres aren’t quite so inflexible after all…

Fiona lives within stone-throwing distance (never a good idea in Glass houses…) of England’s largest lake. When she isn’t being a pane in the glass, she writes dark contemporary and paranormal fiction. 

This is mostly in the shape of short stories, but she’s also had two paranormal romance novels and two novellas published so far. Her latest book, Got Ghosts?, a ghostly romp involving a TV production crew in a haunted English manor house, has just been published by Fox Spirit Books. 

You can find Fiona lurking on the internet at her website (, Facebook ( or Twitter ( 

Please come and say hello!

Thanks so much for your time, Fiona. 

10 Questions With Matt Johnson

Good afternoon folks and I’m delighted to welcome Crime writer Matt Johnson to my blog. Here, he chats his career highlights from when he was a police officer, self publishing his debut novel Wicked Game and getting an agent for it, and his advice for aspiring crime writers looking to write police procedurals. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?

I did, and it rather dates me to admit it was PG Wodehouse. I used to really enjoy his work. Nowadays, that’s a much harder question to answer as, over the years, I have developed an eclectic taste. I like some science fiction – Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov – I enjoyed the James Herbert horror books like The Fog and The Rats, and I thought Birdsong by Seb Faulks was excellent. Possibly the most memorable book I’ve read was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist – a book that really made me take note and think.

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

Not particularly. I liked writing essays but, when it came to literature, I didn’t really care for the choices on the syllabus – Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. I dropped English at 16, preferring the sciences at that age and planning a career in the Army.

3) How did you find your career with the Metropolitan Police? Any career highlights?

Too many to list! Twenty-odd years left me with many memories. I saw tragedy, heartache and helped to take some very bad people off the streets. I also delivered a baby, drove in car chases, attended a Royal wedding and ‘dad-danced- at the Notting Hill Carnival. A rich tapestry of experience doing what many cops refer to as the best job in the world.

4) What was your inspiration for Deadly Game and the sequel Wicked Game?

Personal experience of PTSD and of people trafficking. I wanted to use fiction to write about both to try and reach an audience who might not normally read about such things.

5) Did you encounter differences when writing the sequel to your debut?

Very much so. Wicked Game as a debut raised the bar for me. Not that I’m complaining, but having the book CWA listed and to have had it receive such an amazing reception meant that the pressure was on to ensure book two matched it. I became very self-critical during the writing process and was pretty nervous when it hit the shelves, even though I liked it myself.

6) How did you find self publishing Wicked Game by Amazon and then publishing a physical copy via your agent?

Self-publishing is a great way to reach out to people, especially when you consider how very hard it is to break into traditional publishing. Self-publishing means retaining control for everything from content to marketing. Traditional publishing means handing that control over. For me, traditional publishing was always the ambition. It opens doors, puts you in the hands of experts and helps you reach an audience you can never reach by yourself – Rachel Abbott excepted of course!

7) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors – particularly if they’re writing police procedural?

Do your research – thoroughly! You owe it to people who are going to pay for the privilege of reading your work to get it right.

8) How do you find you work best – music or silence? Do you have a particular band or artist you currently like?

Mostly I work in a quiet office with a view over the Brecon Beacons. It’s peaceful. But I do use a website that plays sound effects like waves on a shore, or rainfall, which I find helps me concentrate.

9) What genre of music did you grow up listening to and has your taste changed?

I was a Bowie child and Elton John went to the same school as me, so they were both idols of mine. That said I loved Pink Floyd, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and others so I guess that makes me something of a rock fan. As with books, I have eclectic taste, enjoying the classics and some opera. Rap, house and some modern music puzzles me, though. I just can’t find it enjoyable.

10) I find writing is therapy for me, somewhere I escape to and where I feel I can lose myself in the written word, how do you feel when writing?

Exactly the same. Once I’m away in my fantasy world the time passes very quickly. It’s tiring, relaxing and cathartic all at the same time. The wonderful thing is that others enjoy the result, something I will always be grateful for.

Thanks for your time, Matt. 

10 Questions With Louise Jensen

Good evening folks, I don’t know about you lot but I’m made up it’s nearly the weekend! Thank God!! 

This evening I’m delighted to welcome psychological thriller writer Louise Jensen to my blog. Here, she chats how she was discovered by the WoMentoring Project, the writing processes for her novels The Sister and The Gift and whether she shares my love of Rod Stewart. 

Over to you, Louise. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

Enid Blyton was my favourite author and I’m currently reading the Famous Five series with my youngest son (I read them to his older brothers too) so I guess she still is!

2) Did you enjoy English at school? 

I loved English although I found some of the reading quite heavy going. I’ve re-read the classics as an adult and have a whole new admiration for them now.

3) How did you come up with the idea behind The Sister? 

 I visited a writing group and was given three words and was given three words and a ten-minute time limit to come up with something. That something was the bare bones of chapter one.

4) How did winning a mentor in WoMentoring feel? 

I was SO scared applying. I’d read the website about a million times and decided it was for ‘real writers’ not someone like me with no experience and no qualifications in writing. It took a good half a bottle of wine before I had the courage to apply. I was delighted when Louise Walters agreed to be my mentor. Letting someone read your words is huge and she was very kind.

5) How did meeting your agent feel? 

 A bit like a job interview! I was hugely nervous and took along my husband for support. Thankfully we both felt really at ease when we met him and we all got on really well. You put your career in your agent’s hands to a degree so there has to be mutual trust and respect.

6) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given? 

Write the book you want to read. (And incidentally I don’t particularly like the term ‘aspiring’ writer. If you write you ARE a writer. Be proud of it, published or not.

7) How’s best for you to work – music or silence? 

Music. I listen to piano music when I write a first draft so I’m not distracted and then when I edit I can listen to songs with lyrics. Music is a huge part of my life and I make sure my characters listen to songs to suit them. Every book has a playlist.

8) How was the writing process for The Sister different to the writing process for The Gift?

The Sister was very much a ‘Yay I get to spend time with Grace and Charlie again – how lovely’ process. The Gift was ‘OMG I’ve a book deal, a deadline and I have to write and I haven’t a clue what I’m doing’ period. I found it quite stressful and was very much finding my feet as a new writer while The Sister was hugely successful worldwide and there was pressure to deliver something that equalled, if not bettered it.

9) Did you grow up listening to a genre of music and how has it changed? 

I love music and go to gigs whenever I can. When I was younger I was a huge heavy metal/rock fan and although I still listen to rock my taste is a little mellower these days. The Counting Crows have been my favourite band for the past 25 years. Adam Duritz is such an emotive writer. His lyrics really move me.

10) Have you heard of Rod Stewart and if so, do you like any of his songs? 

I took my husband to see Rod Stewart for his birthday a couple of years ago at the O2. My mum was a huge fan and although I’d grown up with his music I didn’t think I’d remember many of his songs. I did and I felt quite emotional listening to them. Rod was amazing, we’ve seen younger artists do shorter sets and run out of stamina but he was full of energy, charming and utterly professional. I do hope to see him again one day.

Thanks for your time, Louise. 

10 Questions With Sarah A. Denzil

Good afternoon folks, and this afternoon I’m delighted to welcome crime writer Sarah A. Denzil to my blog. 

Here, Sarah chats about self publishing her book, her inspiration for her novel The Silent Child and her views on strong female characters in crime fiction. 

Over to you Sarah! 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

I read a variety of different authors as a child, like the Worst Witch books, Enid Blyton mysteries, and Point Horror stories. I pretty much read anything I could get my hands on, which was usually second hand books from car boot sales and library rentals. I’ve never singled out one author as a favourite over others, but I do read everything by Donna Tartt and Gillian Flynn.

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English in school? 
I did enjoy English, and I used to write stories as a child. But I didn’t come back to writing until I was an adult. Teachers would often get excited about the stories I used to write which I found overwhelming as a child.

3) Where did the inspiration for The Silent Child come from? What was the first draft like? How it did it differ to the book on Amazon KDP?

I was trying to think up a new storyline for a thriller and thought about a young teenager emerging from the woods having been missing for many years. Once I had that idea, I thought up logical reasons for this boy to be missing for so long, and to me this was the one reason a normal boy would be gone without someone looking for him. It was quite nerve wracking to write such a dark story, but I always kept in mind some light at the end of the tunnel.
The first draft was very similar to the final product, it was just tidied up a bit. I don’t tend to make a lot of developmental changes to my books anymore.

4) As a self-published author, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

The pros of self-publishing are that you can keep a higher percentage of your royalties, you have complete control over the final product, and you don’t have to work to someone else’s schedule. 

In terms of cons – creating a polished product can be harder. There are plenty of freelance editors who don’t cost the earth but chances are they’ll work on the book once and then you have to go over their work and do a final check. An author shouldn’t rely on an editor to catch everything. Also professional covers can cost money and are useless if you don’t know how to market a cover to your genre. It’s very competitive and it can be difficult to get reviews.

Self-publishing is a lot easier if you write in a popular genre, so if your book is a literary genre mash-up it might be amazingly well-written, but chances are it will be much harder to sell.

5) Do you have an agent, if so, is it nerve wracking, knowing that you now have someone to impress but also someone who will champion you and your writing?

I do have an agent, but I hadn’t actually considered it my job to impress her! No, I’m much more focused on what the readers will make of the book. It’s really useful for me to have someone who will work on translation rights, audio etc. so I can concentrate on writing the next book.

6) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given?

One piece of advice that always stood out was: You can’t expect to earn a full-time living if you aren’t working full time hours. Although I think it’s often more complicated than that, those words really inspired me to work harder. I realised that I was hoping for the best rather than preparing for success.
In terms of craft, reading is pretty much the best advice. Read books and practise writing.

7) What are your views on strong women in crime fiction? How do you think they’re different to men in crime fiction?

Women characters tend to drive grip-lit and domestic noir novels that focus on aspects of a woman’s life, such as their role as a wife, mother, daughter or sister. I must admit I do enjoy these books because I can relate to them and it’s fascinating to read women focussed fiction in a genre that has been predominantly male focussed. But apart from that I don’t think there’s much difference. I’d like to see a few more male main characters in grip-lit. It’d be interesting to read that suspense from the perspective of a husband or father. 

Other male focused crime books tend to be police procedural books with a detective as the main character. I’ve never loved police procedural books so I tend to gravitate more towards a dark domestic noir.

8) How do you work best – music or silence? Did you have a favourite genre of music growing up and has it changed? 

Silence or classical music for me. I quite like atmospheric film scores. 

9) What was the last book you read? Did you enjoy it? 

It was The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier. I watched the film again recently so decided to finally get round to reading the book. I did enjoy it. It’s completely different to the film and possibly more frightening.

10) What was your first ever book about?

It’s a YA dystopian novel called The Blemished about conflict between genetically enhanced clones and normal people, labelled Blemished. It was the first book I published, back in 2012. 🙂

Thanks for your time, Sarah. 

10 Questions With B. A. Paris 

Good evening folks, I’m delighted to welcome psychological thriller author B. A. Paris to my blog. Here, she chats about growing up in France, her first draft of Behind Closed Doors and her favourite authors. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

As a child I loved Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. I don’t have a favorite author now, I have too many to choose just one! 

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English in school? 

I started writing 8 years ago and yes, English was my favorite subject in school. 

3) Where did the inspiration from Behind Closed Doors come from? What was the first draft like? 

Some years ago, I had a friend whose husband seemed very controlling and I thought it would make a good story. I didn’t expect it to come out as dark as it did though! 

The first draft wasn’t that different from the final one. Nothing much changed in the story.

4) What was it like growing up in France? 

I grew up in England and only moved to France when I was 21. I loved it so much I stayed there over 30 years. 

5) Do you have an agent, if so, is it nerve wracking, knowing that you now have someone to impress but also someone who will champion you and your writing?

I have the best agent in the world and never feel under pressure from her. That said, I always hope to impress her!

6) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given? 

Nobody knew I was writing so I didn’t really get any advice, except from myself, which was to never give up!

7) How do you work best – music or silence? 

I prefer to work in silence but I can also work with a lot of noise going on around me. If I need inspiration I’ll put on a Muse album. 

8) What was the last book you read? 

The last book I read was « East Of Hounslow » by Khurrum Rahman. 

9) Did you enjoy it? 

I can definitely recommend it! 

10) What was your first ever book about?

My first ever book was a psychological drama about a dysfunctional family. 

Thanks for your time, B. A. Paris. 

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