Elizabeth Heiter Interview: “Inspiration can come from anywhere”

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Continuing with my quest to find out more about exciting new genres I spoke to Elizabeth Heiter, romantic suspense writer, to learn more about this style of writing and what draws her readers to it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards writing suspense fiction?

Since I was very young, I’ve always loved suspense. As a kid, I plowed through Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries. Younger than I probably should have been watching him, I was intrigued by villains like Darth Vader. What I’ve always appreciated about suspense is the puzzle aspect: as a reader, I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery before the big reveal. As a writer, I like creating that puzzle, including all of the clues and red herrings. The other part of suspense that appeals to me is that (in many mysteries), at the end of the book, you can get the kind of closure real life often doesn’t offer. The protagonist prevails, the mystery is solved, and the villain pays for his crime. I like the vicarious closure in that.

As a suspense writer, I often identify myself within the psychological suspense sub-genre, because I’m equally drawn to characters. Why do people make the choices they make? What causes two people with the same background to take vastly different paths (e.g., one a serial killer and the other a profiler, as in my debut book). So, for me, character is equally as important as plot.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

My degree is in English Literature, and I knew since I was a kid that I wanted to be an author, so many of my educational and professional decisions were based on that goal. In high school, I co-wrote my first finished manuscript (a YA action-adventure) with my critique partner. After college, I got involved in writing organizations to keep honing my craft and learning about the industry. And because I knew I wanted to write suspense and realism is important to me, I also began seeking out research opportunities (e.g. visiting places like the FBI Academy at Quantico and the CIA at Langley). Early on, I put together a career plan to help guide me in making decisions. In 2012, I sold my first five books, which were in two genres – both psychological suspense and romantic suspense; that was also the beginning of my journey as a multi-genre author.

Talk me through romantic suspense as a genre and how you would define this style of fiction?

In romantic suspense, the suspense plot and the romance plot (which involves two people overcoming personal and plot conflicts in order to fall in love) are so intertwined it would be difficult to pull them apart. Quite a bit of suspense fiction contains a romance; the difference in romantic suspense is both the amount and the role romance plays in the plot. One of the things I love about romantic suspense is that it really gives me a chance to dig into my characters’ flaws and force them to grow in order to earn their “happily ever after” at the end of the book. For a writer like me, who’s fascinated by why people make the choices they do, romantic suspense really gives me room to delve deep into character.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. As a suspense writer, I definitely get ideas from real incidents. I’ll see something in the news (a headline or some small detail about an action someone took) and I’ll wonder, “what if this happened instead”? Whenever I plot my books, I’m constantly asking myself “what if” and “how can I make this worse”? In my opinion, character and plot are equally important, and I think the strongest books have the “right” combination of character and plot (meaning that the plot is in some way the worst possible thing for this particular character to face). So, if I’m ever having trouble developing a story, I dig into character and motivation. And I never underestimate the power of a little caffeine and chocolate when I’m feeling writer’s block!

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare. I love that so many of his plays contain elements of multiple genres: suspense, romance, drama etc. Back in high school, with the same critique partner I co-wrote my first finished manuscript, I made a complicated project involving a new play containing half a dozen Shakespearean endings. So, I think my dream collaboration would be with Shakespeare! (Although I suspect he might be a bit of a prima donna!)

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Currently, I’m working on a new romantic suspense involving a woman searching for her long-lost sister in the wilds of Alaska. If she has any shot at succeeding, she needs the help of local a local ex-Marine and his Combat Tracker Dog, but that ex-Marine is fighting his own demons in the form of a new disability and PTSD. For years, I’ve wanted to set a book in Alaska, so this book has been a lot of fun to write. It’s called K-9 Defense and it releases in Spring 2019.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

My friend and fellow suspense writer Jennifer Hillier recently released a book called Jar of Hearts that I’ve been waiting for since she first told me what she was working on over a year ago! I’ve got the book sitting on my desk as a reward as soon as I meet my own deadline.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

If readers want to know any more about me or my books, they can visit my website at www.elizabethheiter.com.

Thanks ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions, it has been fascinating hearing more about your work.

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Night Driver Review: An Engaging Thriller the Likes of Which You Won’t Have Seen Before

night driver

If you’re looking for something a little bit different to your average thriller, but with the grit and human drama that you’re used to, then look no further than Marcelle Perk’s latest novel. Initially established as a sort of alternative crime novel, the narrative quickly escalates as the reader becomes embroiled in a tense mystery that is both unsettling and empathetic at the same time.

Heavily pregnant Frannie is an English woman who now lives in Germany. Hoping to gain some control over her confusing life, she learns to drive; however she is so nervous that she chooses to only drive at night. During one of her nocturnal drives, she becomes entangled in a search for a missing person, and is then thrown into the path of a serial killing truck driver.

Putting a woman, and better yet a heavily pregnant one, at the centre of the mystery gives this a great dynamic, and as unlikely sleuth Frannie gets deeper into this intriguing mystery we learn more both about her and the danger she is facing. Author Marcelle Perks creates has a true imagination and an eye for detail that lends itself to this great, new take on the traditional late night thriller.

Written in the third person, the novel gives Frannie a unique agency as she explores a truly horrendous underground world of pimps, prostitutes, organ trafficking drug addicts and sadistic serial killers. It is really different to read about a heavily pregnant woman snorting cocaine and generally raising hell, but this is what you get with Night Driver.

At the end of the day, this is an unusual take on a thriller/ mystery novel, but it’s definitely one worth checking out. Being a book blogger who specialises in crime fiction, mystery and thrillers, I rarely read anything truly unique, but with this novel I was genuinely impressed.

Can A Rapper Really Influence Great Literature?

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Somebody once told me ‘You’ve got to write about what you know’, and that really stuck with me. You can’t write about things you don’t understand, and as such I constantly work to educate myself and learn more so that I can write about exciting new things.

So, as Stormzy, the famed London rapper, announces that he is launching an offshoot of Penguin Random House, under the name #Merky, to support aspiring writers, what does this mean for the industry?

After all, what does Stormzy know about writing, and will he be able to spot the good from the guff? Sure, I know that he won’t be doing most of the work- which is about as likely as the Kardashians making their own perfumes or slaving away in the factory that makes their lipkits- but it still begs the question, what does a writer of rap music know about literature, and how will he be able to influence the up-and-coming generation of young writers?

It’s my theory that what Stormzy needs to do now is make sure he’s taking on the right writers. People who are truly passionate about their craft- young writers who have grafted, have their names out there and are working hard to succeed. Those who think writing is an easy way to make a name for themselves, and send in a load of poetic cobblers or some true-life drama will only stop writing as soon as their name is out there and try to live off the fame it has bought them. The industry doesn’t need more of those; what it needs is real triers who are working hard to get a foothold in this competitive market.

Offering paid scholarships to kids in schools is a great idea, but I disagree with the rapper’s assertion that it is hard for writers to ‘get their name out there’. With the internet, blogs, free websites and social media, getting your name out there is the easy part- it’s getting people to pay you for your work that’s tough. As a copywriter I know that pretty much every journalist, writer and novelist out there had to go through months, if not years worth of unpaid posts, internships and writing ‘for exposure’ before they managed to get a paid role. What the industry needs is fundamental change; a shift in thinking so that writing is not viewed as something everyone can do, but as a real skill, and something worth paying for.

Overall, I guess really only time will tell whether Stormzy’s foray into publishing is just another publicity stunt or a real chance for some great new voices to be heard.

The Top Five Canadian Authors to Celebrate on Canada Day

Margaret Atwood

Happy Canada Day!! To celebrate, I decided to compile a list of my five favourite Canadian authors from across the genres that showcase the best that this unique country has to offer. So check it out and see if you can find something new to read on this exciting national holiday, and maybe keep going with for a bit longer if you’re so inclined. Happy Reading!

5. Yann Martel: Celebrated author of The Life of Pi, Martel offers readers a truly unique perspective on the absurdity of life. Another of his books that is well worth a read is Beatrice and Virgil, an allegory for the holocaust told through a novelist’s exploration of taxidermied animals.

4. Joy Kogawa: Japanese-Canadian Poet and Novelist Joy Kogawa writes some truly phenomenal poems which are really delve deep into human trauma and the most harrowing of human experiences possible. I have personally never read her novels, however I am told that her work is inspirational, and as such she is absolutely worth looking into.

canada writers3. Peter Robinson: Odd to think that the author of the Yorkshire based DCI Banks as Canadian, but Robinson was born in Leeds and moved to Toronto, presumably because it’s better than Leeds (although, let’s be fair here, there are lots of places better than Leeds). His novels are gripping and will keep you entertained for ages, because there are a lot of them, so what’s not to like?!

2. Louise Penny: Canadian thriller writer Penny creates harrowing and tantalising novels, which will stay with you forever. Set in Quebec, her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been translated into a number of different languages and has become a true bastion of Canadian fiction, and as such any thriller reader should defiantly check her out, especially as it is Canada Day today!

1. Margret Atwood: Renowned for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently been turned into a brilliant TV series, Atwood has also written a range of novels across a variety of genres, and her work really resonates, particularly in today’s perilous world. Her intuitive explorations of human nature are incredibly empathetic and as such everyone will find a character in Atwood’s work that they can relate to.

Simon Bower Interview: “As long as I can remember, I have adored a good crime thriller”

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For anyone looking for a good book to read while they laze on the beach and enjoy the heat wave, Dead in the Water is a great thriller to keep you entertained. I interviewed Author Simon Bower to learn more about the novel and how he drew on his own experiences of international travel to write it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing?

As long as I can remember, I have adored a good crime thriller. While I can appreciate some literary fiction, my personality dictates that I prefer fast-paced heart thumping suspense and mystery to beautifully crafted clauses! When I wrote Dead in the Water, I spent considerable time defining the writing style. Specifically, my first decision was to couch each chapter in the viewpoint of one of the characters. This provides a limited viewpoint that also allows a scenario to be explored from two different points of view, and at times with humour (an early example of this in the book is when Charlie and Ana see their relationship from very different points of view). I also decided to write Charlie’s chapters in the first person – it really immerses the reader in his psychological character. Finally, the vantage point of parts 1 and 2 of the Dead in the Water, is at the end of part 2, so part 3 transcends naturally into a present tense suspense. This real-time style can be liberating for the writer and the reader, since anything at all can happen. So I was attracted towards the writing style that I love and I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I have always enjoyed writing and wrote a number of pieces for personal exploration during the past twenty years that I have spent living away from the UK. Undoubtedly, these projects guided the maturity of my work and allowed me to structure Dead in the Water from the outset. In terms of profession, I have lent myself to a whole array of jobs and industries in quite a few different continents – some of my most influential jobs have been when working in the communications field. Despite my keen interest I writing, time has always been in short supply. So the catalyst to put into words my plot for this book was the opportunity that presented itself a few years ago to concentrate on writing full time.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

In order to have characters with sufficient depth, emotions, speech style and motive, I base my characters on exaggerations of real people that I know. I might not know them well, but it helps to ensure consistency of thought and the liveliness of reality. The crime elements come from a release of constraints, thinking like a kid who has not yet understood the moral lines and laws accepted in our society. What could you get away with if moral boundaries were removed and you didn’t care about the risk of a life in prison?

Dead in the Water is one of a new wave of hybrid genres. It’s a thriller, but before that it’s realistic and a mystery too. Three books in one. The one constant throughout my work is a very strong sense of place. I draw inspiration from locations I know intimately, taking the reader to parts of France, to Amsterdam, New York, London and Oxford, to name a few. When I wrote the manuscript, it was not one contiguous drafting journey – I dipped and delved into different parts of the book, and this meant if I ever met a wall, a way around it soon appeared by working on another point in the story, then going back to it.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Writing the first draft for Dead in the Water was a solitary endeavour. However, developing it with my editor, Kate Taylor, was a productive collaboration. Suddenly I could share the responsibility and she was terrific at editing out superfluous details. However, I have not really considered collaborating to write a book, like Clive Cussler and James Patterson tend to do. Although I love the idea of working with Iain Banks, who has sadly left us, it would probably be most fruitful to work with someone who could bring a truly different perspective to the table – a CIA agent, or a convicted killer.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’ve begun planning a sequel to Dead in the Water. It certainly won’t be simply an extension of the first, but so many people are craving to know what happens next. I won’t say too much, to avoid spoilers, but it would also be set globally, have some of the same characters and occur after the end of the first book.

Other than that, I have a keen interest to work on a book that is more speculative in nature. I enjoyed Matt Haig’s The Humans in part owing to its completely normal setting, but with an utterly abstract twist.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I’ve mentioned a few writers, but the one that keeps getting away is Terry Hayes. I enjoyed his debut novel I am Pilgrim, despite some reservations of stereotyping, and very much look forward to his belated next release The Year of the Locust. I also like to check out new writers and I have a few of those to try out. One example is Strangers on a Bridge, by Louise Mangos – the plot sounds intriguing.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

My book has been released by a UK indie publisher, Middle Farm Press, and the odds are stacked against ‘David’ when ‘Goliath’ and all the collaborators hold all the cards. Dead in the Water is stocked in some bookshops but for now, our distribution is limited mainly to the biggest online consumer direct suppliers. We are working on improving this, but need to demonstrate demand, so we are most appreciative for the support we get for either the eBook or paperback. Finally a hearty thanks to Hannah for conducting this interview and I hope you enjoy Dead in the Water!

Thanks for answering my questions Simon, it has been awesome to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Grave Island Review: A Scorching Thriller to Get You Through the Heatwave

Grave Island

For anyone with time on their hands during the warm spell we’re currently experiencing, Grave Island is the latest gripping thriller to keep you hooked as you laze around and lap up the sunshine. Spy novels are all the rage right now, and as far as espionage tales go Andrew Smyth’s tale of counterfeit drugs and one man’s desperate quest to stop this vicious trade is as intense as they come.

Beginning with the disgrace of Philip Hennessey, an army intelligence officer with a troubled past, following a set-up that sees him lose his career, Grave Island, leads the reader straight into a devilish mystery. When an old friend of his former wife comes knocking to plead for help following the death of her father, Hennessey is drawn into a quest to find a consignment of counterfeit vaccinations before they wreak untold havoc.

Faced with multiple challenges, including the issue of his downfall and the planting of false evidence, Hennessey is diligent and determined as he hunts down a consignment of fake vaccines that could impact the lives of thousands.

Throughout the novel I have the sense that there is a serious understatement to it all. After all, Smyth is depicting a scandal on a global scale that could potentially affect millions, yet his protagonist is, largely, calm and collected, or certainly less panicked than anyone I can think of would be in such a situation. Nonetheless, Hennessey is a strong central character, with his supporting cast equally strong as they lie, cheat and deceive their way through this fast paced novel.

Overall, I was impressed by Grave Island. I enjoyed the pace of the storyline and the intensity of Smyth’s characters as they race against time to stop a global massacre. There is a constant tension throughout the narrative that is completely compelling, drawing the reader through to the nail-biting conclusion and leaving you wanting more.

Why Omnibuses Are A Godsend On Long Haul Flights

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As I’m sure you’re aware by now, I recently had the fortune to travel to Australia and sample the delights and explore the natural wonders of Queensland. Being from the UK, the flight is horrendous, with a long layover in Singapore as well as the flights themselves, both of which combine to steal away nearly a full day of your life.

When packing, I had to think long and hard about which book to take with me for so that I didn’t get board en route. I was only taking carry on luggage in the form of a massive backpack, and as such I had limited space for literature, giving myself added pressure to choose correctly.

In the end I opted for a tried and tested option- an omnibus of Colin Dexter’s incredible Inspector Morse novels. They seemed like a sure bet- I love all of his work and I hadn’t read them in a while so I would be suitably enthralled throughout the whole massive flight.

During the flight I noticed that some of my fellow travellers had also plumped for omnibuses to ensure that they had enough reading material. One of the girls I was travelling with had chosen a Bridget Jones The Single Years and there was a bloke at the back of the plane who was reading a Jeeves and Wooster omnibus.

This got me thinking- why are omnibuses such a good choice for long haul travel? I suppose the main issue is consistency- you know what you’re getting with work from the same author/ series, so you can safely say, even if you haven’t read every book in the omnibus, that you will be reasonably happy with your choice and won’t hate your reading material for the entire flight.

Then of course there is the not-so-small matter of space. Because each book does not need a front and back cover, and the legal bumf is usually confined to the front of the whole omnibus, they are significantly smaller than lugging however many individual books around with you. This is a great thing when trying to cram everything you’re going to need into a limited amount of luggage, and means that you don’t have to heave vast reams of paper about with you.

Anyone who is about to mention buying a Kindle for long haul travel can kindly fuck off. Whilst tablet computers and e-readers have their virtues, there is something to be said for reading an actual book over staring blindly at a screen, particularly when one is on holiday and wants to switch off. Also, on places there are often restrictions to the use of electrical devices, as well as the limitations that the battery will place on you, as there are often not charging points for ages, and those things drink power.

So, as far as I’m concerned, omnibuses are the way to go. They’re often a cheap alternative to buying all the books in one go anyway, and with so many older omnibuses available second hand they are, in my humble opinion, vital for anyone planning a long distance trip this summer.