Paul Gitsham Interview: “My earliest scribblings were science fiction based, but often with elements of crime mixed in”

Paul Gitsham Headshot - Hi-Res

Paul Gitsham is the author of the DCI Warren Jones series, as well as a teacher, Trekkie and fan of true crime documentaries- the perfect person for an interview with the Dorset Book Detective! He shares insights into his work and how he’s created such an iconic police procedural series.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing crime fiction?

I was always a book lover, filling my library card each week. I also loved writing stories and always wanted to be an author, but for most of my life it was little more than a hobby. My other passion is science, and after gaining a PhD in molecular biology, I spent some years doing research as a biologist, before finally retraining as a science teacher. But in all that time, I kept on reading and always had something I was tinkering with.

The first DCI Warren Jones novel, The Last Straw, is about the murder of a reviled university professor, and so my background in academia became really useful.

How does your experience as a teacher influence your writing?

The most obvious example is the novella, A Deadly Lesson. The story centres on the murder of a deputy head teacher in her office late one night. Being so familiar with the way modern schools work not only allowed me to write an accurate story, it also suggested ideas and plot twists that I could incorporate into the story.

Like anyone who works in a profession, I cringe sometimes when I see teaching portrayed either in books or on TV. Schools are dynamic, changing places and education evolves constantly. It’s really obvious when a writer is a non-teacher and hasn’t set foot in a school since they were pupils!

The other way in which being a teacher influences my writing is that Warren’s wife, Susan, is a biology teacher and I do bring that into their home life.

What drew you towards writing crime fiction novels?

My earliest scribblings were science fiction based, but often with elements of crime mixed in. When I finally realised that the murder subplot of a Sci Fi novel I was working on was becoming the dominant thread of that story, I finally realised that somebody was trying to tell me something!

By this time, my taste in books had largely gone full-circle; the first books I read as a child were Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew etc. I then read a lot of science fiction before drifting back to the crime genre. By the time I sat down to write The Last Straw, I was almost exclusively reading crime and thriller.

Please tell me about the DCI Warren Jones series and why you believe that they’re so popular?

The DCI Warren Jones series are modern police procedurals, set in a fictional Hertfordshire town. Starting with The Last Straw, they now number six novels and 4 novellas, with this year’s A Price to Pay, the most recent.

I really love a good, twisty plot with some red herrings. Something that many of my readers comment on is how normal Warren is. I realised very early on, that I didn’t want to write a broken, alcoholic divorcee – not because I don’t like those characters – but because I didn’t feel I could necessarily add something substantial to the host of brilliantly written characters that already exist. So instead, Warren is happily married without any substance-abuse problems or dark, depressive tendencies.

Many readers have found it a refreshing change! That’s not to say I don’t put him through the wringer, and he has experienced more than his fair share of tragedy, but he still passes the ‘Friday night pint test’ – i.e. would I like to go for a pint with him on a Friday evening? And yes, I think I would!

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

My partner and I are big true-crime fans; we watch a lot of dodgy documentaries on Freeview! Interestingly, it’s not the story that inspires me -after all, that tale has been told. It’s the tiny little detail that sends my imagination flying off at a strange tangent. I keep a file of ideas on my phone, usually little more than a single sentence, and I am forever adding to them. But nine times out of ten, anyone reading what I jotted down during the programme would probably struggle to make the connection between the idea and what was on screen!

In terms of writer’s block, because I write out of sequence and fit it all together at the end, it’s rarely a big problem. If a section isn’t behaving itself, I put it one side and write something different.

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

This is where I have to leave the crime genre and proudly display my geek credentials: I am a HUGE fan of Star Trek and the novels based on the series. I own hundreds and have read even more. Back in the late nineties, two Trek authors – Judith and Garth Reeves-Stevens – teamed up with William Shatner and wrote a series of fantastic novels continuing the story of Captain Kirk after he supposedly died in Star Trek: Generations. They finished after three trilogies and I doubt there will be anymore. I have read them all at least half-a-dozen times. It would be a dream to continue that series, but collaborating with the Reeves-Stevens (ideally with Bill Shatner involved, obviously). If you are reading this Pocket Books, please don’t be shy about emailing …

What do you like to read and how does this influence your own writing?

Aside from the aforementioned Star Trek novels that I still love to pick up now and again, I have been reading a lot during lockdown. Will Dean’s Tuva series are an inspiration when it comes to describing environment – I read Red Snow during a mini-heat wave but had to stop myself from turning the radiators on as I was transported to Sweden.

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series is a masterclass in character growth. Harry is an unmovable constant – yet he never stops changing. It’s a wonderful paradox and I love being immersed in that series. If I could make a returning reader of my Warren Jones series feel just a taste of the warm, comfortable feeling I get when I pick up the latest Bosch, then I will have succeeded beyond my dreams.

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

The eBook of A Price to Pay came out in June and I’ve been exchanging notes with my audiobook narrator ready for the audio and paperback release on August 6th. By far the bulk of my sales are Kindle, but there is still something special about having the paperback sitting on my shelf, and hearing Malk reading out my words.

I am also into the final stages of next summer’s book, snappily titled DCI Warren Jones Book 7, Title TBC.

I have a ton of editing and rewriting to do, but two days ago, I wrote the scene where Warren finally charges the killer with the murder. It is a wonderful feeling.

Are you planning on using the current crisis in any of your future works, and how do you think it will affect the world in which your characters live?

In terms of the DCI Warren Jones series, I am in the fortunate position that the series’ chronology runs a few years behind the real world. I have another couple of books to go before I have to start thinking about what the hell I’m going to do about 2020 – a year that if you had pitched it to an editor as dystopian fiction 12 months ago would have been rejected as too dark and unrealistic.

The big changes will be to the standalone that I have been writing in my ‘spare’ time. I wrote a large chunk of it over summer 2019, before putting it to one side to start the next Warren Jones. I had been planning on finishing the first draft this summer before starting Warren Jones 8. However, half the book is set in July 2020. Changing the date it is set in will need significant work but won’t be impossible, however things are so uncertain at the moment that it feels risky to assume that everything will be back to normal next summer and just change all the dates to 2021 – I really don’t want to have to do it again!

So, I have decided to push on and write the next couple of Warren Jones before coming back to the standalone when I have the benefit of hindsight. I have written enough that it will definitely be finished one day, but I’m not sure exactly when!

What new books or debut authors are you looking forward to reading and finding out more about in the future?

Last weekend was the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone Locked Up online festival in aid of the Trussell Trust. My partner and I spent a LOT of money at Waterstones the day after it concluded. I’ve bought/pre-ordered a couple of old favourites: Steve Cavanagh’s next Eddie Flynn – Fifty-Fifty will be devoured at an indecent pace. As will Alex North’s latest, The Shadow Friend. Last year’s The Whisper Man was brilliant.

We have all of Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra’s signed and face-out on the bookshelf, so we are intrigued to read Midnight at Malabar House, the first in his new series. And finally, from the New Blood debuts panel, Nadine Matheson’s The Jigsaw Man sounds like it’s just up my street. It’s not due out until next spring, so I will see if I can persuade someone to send me an arc!

Huge thanks to Paul for answering my questions- it’s been a blast!

 

 

 

 

Are You A Harry Potter Fan And Trans Ally? How To Be Both When J.K. Rowling Is Transphobic

sharon-mccutcheon-uUkjeWxSh7c-unsplash

J.K. Rowling keeps doubling-down on her transphobic rhetoric, most recently by sharing a Twitter thread referring to hormone therapy and puberty blockers as ‘the new conversion therapy’.

It’s clear that Rowling has never spoken to a single trans person, never mind a transgender child who she claims she wants to protect. Paris Lees invited her to meet trans kids and discuss her views, but so far I’ve not heard that Rowling has taken her up on this kind offer.

Rowling also uses misleading information to make her points; for example, she points to an isolated case of a clinic that is under investigation for not supporting transitioning children properly, and rather than suggesting that greater support is given to trans children, she continues to defend her views that access to hormone therapy should be even more restricted than it already is.

Given that trans people are under the intense threat of violence and even death, you’d think that an author who’s works inspired millions of children to become better adults and be accepting, would be more supportive of this marginalised community.

For those of us who grew up adoring the Harry Potter series, this latest evidence that Rowling is showing herself to be incredibly transphobic is deeply troubling. This must be especially tough for trans and non-binary fans, who must feel dejected and abandoned by an author who, quite possibly, originally inspired them to be their authentic selves.

After all, Harry Potter is all about being yourself and support those who are different. It’s about enjoying the richness that diversity brings, rather than punishing uniqueness and individuality. It’s about supporting those who rebel against injustice.

So, for Rowling to come out with these disgusting statements, which are filled with misinformation and designed to inspire hate, rather than support, all while using her privileged position and past experiences such as her sexual assault to prompt her hateful ideology, it’s understandable that many fans are heartbroken.

As a Harry Potter fan myself, as well as a dedicated ally to the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve wrestled with a lot of mixed feelings over the past few days.

Clearly, I’m not alone in this: many fans have condemned Rowling over her comments. Most notably, two of the biggest Harry Potter fan sites out there, Mugglenet and the Leaky Cauldron, issued a joint statement denouncing Rowling over her hateful comments.

For the Leaky Cauldron, this appears to be a genuine attempt to show solidarity with the trans community; however, the founder of Mugglenet was the one who initially spawned Rowlings latest comments by tweeting support for her and claiming that, despite everything she has said, she’s not transphobic. As such, it remains to be seen if Mugglenet’s part in the statement was just lip service designed to placate fans.

After much soul searching and consideration, I’ve reached a conclusion; being a Harry Potter fan doesn’t make you transphobic.

It just means that you have to support trans rights even more than you love Harry Potter. Show your support for the trans community loudly and proudly at any time you can to make it clear that you’re an ally despite the views of the author of your favourite kid’s books.

One bookshop is donating to trans children’s charity Mermaids for every sale of a Harry Potter book, so consider buying your copy from there if you ever need to replenish your collection. Alternatively, you could donate to Mermaids yourself, or check out any of these worthy causes that support trans people and help make the world a safer place for them.

You should also constantly rebel against transphobia and the abuse of trans or non binary people wherever you see it. Whether it’s online, or in a conversation, you should show your support for the trans community.

Additionally, you should also try to read more books written by trans authors and watch more shows and films that are created by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Read some books by trans and non binary authors, and watch films created by trans people, not just about them. I’d recommend the Laverne Cox Disclosure as a starting point; it’s a great way to learn more about the representation of trans people in film and popular culture from the point of view of the trans community.

At the end of the day, it’s tough to deal with the revelation that an author who inspired you as a kid is transphobic, especially during these already challenging times. Just keep supporting trans rights, and remember that if Harry Potter has taught us anything, it is that supporting those who are marginalised is a noble cause that you should take great pride in, no matter who stands against you.

And, if you’re really feeling low, just remember that Arthur Weasley would adore you and be impressed with your Muggle skills: you’re using a computer!

2020 Is The Summer Of Crime Fiction

dan-dumitriu-3w1XBUGj4ds-unsplash

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the world has gone to shit.

Between Trump, Brexit, murder hornets, the Coronavirus and the shocking way that some world leaders are handling it, police brutality and institutional racism, it’s all going down the pan.

The whole world is dealing with a pandemic and an economic crisis of epic proportions, not to mention additional genocides, political coups and general mismanagement from so called ‘leaders’ which are occurring on a daily basis in countries around the globe. All of that can be wearying for even the most stoic of individuals.

With that in mind, you need to transport yourself to a better world, while still keeping yourself alert and not completely disappearing into a fairy tale.

While books from your childhood can help you to soothe your worries, a good thriller is just what you need to transport you away from the madness and give you something to really think about.

Also, there are loads of great new thrillers out there for you to check out. If you haven’t already read Mark EllisFrank Merlin series, then I’d recommend it. Start from the beginning, or, if you’re already a fan, check out the latest instalment, A Death In Mayfair.

For anyone who loves spy thrillers, then James McCrone has a new one out called Emergency Powers. Without spoiling my upcoming review, it’s an amazing, gripping thriller that I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes spy novels, particularly governmental ones.

If classics are where you’re at, then why not try reading Raymond Chandler’s work, or buy a copy of the Sherlock Holmes short story collection. With new adaptations coming out all the time, including one on Netflix shortly, there has never been a better time than now to start brushing up and enjoying these amazing tales.

Whatever you choose to read, make it something gripping and informative that keeps you on your toes. If you read too much comfort literature, then you might find yourself slipping into complacency, so read a little crime fiction to keep your mind sharp.

Jim Eldridge Interview: “I left school at 16 and worked at a variety of jobs, but I always wanted to write”

Jim Eldridge

Having just finished Murder At The Fitzwilliam, I’m very pleased to share my interview with the author, Jim Eldridge.

Please tell me about your books. What do you think makes them so popular with readers?

I’ve been very fortunate that the readers who discover my books seem to respond well to them, first during the time I was writing children’s books, and latterly when I’ve been writing historical crime fiction. This new direction in my career as a writer took place in 2016 with the publication of Assassins, a crime novel set in 1921 featuring Chief Inspector Stark and his assistant, DS Danvers, published by Severn House.

I had been a scriptwriter for TV and radio for 40 years since 1970 until 2010, and then primarily writing children’s books, with over 90 published. The book was well received and led to a sequel Shadows of the Dead. Shortly after this my new literary agent (my previous agent only dealt with children’s books) introduced me to Susie Dunlop, publishing director at Allison & Busby, and from this came my Museum Mysteries series, which I’ll expand on in my answer to Question 4.

Again, fortunately, these have been well received by readers, and I believe that’s because the readers like and have sympathy for the lead characters, Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton, as they did for DCI Stark and Sgt Danvers in the two Stark novels. During my 40 years as a scriptwriter I learnt that what audience, and readers, want is a good story with sympathetic lead characters, and interesting other characters, and they like to follow those lead characters through a series and see how they and their situations develop.

You write across a range of genres and for a variety of readers: how do you adjust your writing style?

Yes, I have written across a wide range of genres, both as an author and a scriptwriter. For me, whether I’m writing for adults or children of any age (I’ve written for picture books aimed at 3-year olds, as well as television series for young children and sitcoms for adults) the key is much as I set out in my answer to the previous question: what audience, and readers, want is a good story with sympathetic lead characters, and interesting other characters. This applies whether the lead character is human, animal, an extra-terrestrial alien, or even a plant. Will the readers like that character?

The only real adjustment is in the language used: for very young readers the words have to be very simple so they can understand the story; with the level of language increasing as readers get older. Even this is aimed at an “average” reader for this age range, because I’ve known 8-year olds reading books written for adults, and 14-year olds struggling with simple texts. Often this is because they are dyslexic, and I have written some books for the specialist publisher, Barrington Stoke, aimed at the dyslexic teens. My background as a teacher helped. From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, in addition to scriptwriting, I was a teacher, working mainly in schools in disadvantaged areas in the Luton area. I came to specialise in working with children with literacy problems, and was proud of the fact that every child who left my sessions left able to read.

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

I left school at 16 and worked at a variety of jobs, but I always wanted to write. During the late 1960s I was a performance poet, including an appearance as guest poet on John Peel’s Radio 2 late night show. In 1970 I got commissioned to write a thriller novel, basically pulp-fiction.

It was called Down Payment on Death and appeared in 1971. In that same year I pitched an idea for a radio sitcom to the BBC about a small rural railway station. They liked it and a pilot was made, starring Arthur Lowe as the stationmaster, with a support cast of Kenneth Connor, Liz Fraser and Ian Lavender. It was called Parsley Sidings. The audience liked the pilot show, and I was commissioned to write a series, and then a second series. In all, I wrote 21 episodes.

The main factor for me was that I was paid a lot more for my work as a scriptwriter than I was for the thriller novel; so although I wanted to continue writing crime fiction (my favourite genre), the bigger money was more attractive, especially with a family to support. And so I became a scriptwriter, first writing sitcoms and sketch shows for BBC radio, and then for television for BBC and ITV.

By 1983 working in comedy had begun to pall, the atmosphere in comedy is often stressful with lots of egos trying to dominate, so I changed to writing for children’s television. This was hugely enjoyable. For the next 24 years I wrote for various children’s TV series, including creating series of my own (Uncle Jack, Time Riders, Monster TV, and Powers were just some) and BBC radio comedy-drama (my Radio 4 series King Street Junior ran for 100 episodes over 20 years from 1985-2005). In all, during my time as a scriptwriter I had 250 TV scripts and 250 radio scripts broadcast. I wrote not only for BBC and ITV but also for American TV (e.g. Disney). But by 2010 things at both BBC and ITV were changing, including all my producers taking retirement. It was time for a change.

What’s the inspiration behind your murder at the museum series? How did you create Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton? 

As I mentioned earlier, I’d left scriptwriting behind and continued writing books for children (which I’d been doing at the same time as scriptwriting since 1990), but deep down I wanted to get back to where it had all began for me in 1970, crime fiction for adults.

In particular, historical crime fiction, which had become my favourite genre. I had acquired a new agent, and – as previously mentioned – she arranged for me to meet Susie Dunlop, publishing director at Allison & Busby to talk ideas. Susie was the one who raised the topic of a series of historical crime novels investigating murders in famous museums. We both agreed that late Victorian times would be best because that had been a time of great social change and scientific discoveries. Susie wondered if we could base it around Frederick Abberline, the famous Victorian detective who led the investigations into Jack the Ripper. I liked that idea very much, but my concern was that if our lead character was a real person it could limit us to where Abberline had actually been at different times. I’ve always felt that if a real person is used in a fictional story, it should fit with what that person was actually doing, and where, at that historical time. After discussion, we agreed a compromise: that our detective would be a fictional member of Abberline’s squad. And so Daniel Wilson, private detective, ex-Scotland Yard, was born.

But every lead detective needs a partner, someone to discuss cases with. Who would be Daniel’s partner?

During my time as a scriptwriter I often worked on scripts where a relationship of clashing opposites was at the heart of things: two people with opposing ideas, or life experiences that meant they were at odds with one another, but eventually (and reluctantly) they realised they were tied to one another. I’d always enjoyed writing this, and realised that audiences like it, too, as they waited for this ‘odd couple’ to face up to what everyone else could see – that they were made for each other.

We had in Daniel someone who’d risen through the ranks to become an Inspector at Scotland Yard. He came from the poorest of backgrounds (just how poor we only discover in the new book, Murder At The Natural History Museum. He still lives in Camden Town in London, what was then an notorious slum area. So his partner needed to be the opposite of all of this. A woman of the same age, educated, upper middle-class, socially aware, highly intelligent, well known in her own right. And so became: Abigail Fenton from Cambridge; studied at Girton College, and gained fame as an archaeologist, especially with her work on the Pyramids in Egypt. Forthright, determined, and not afraid to upset people.

For those who want to know how things developed between them, please do check out the first in the series: Murder At The Fitzwilliam.

nat history 2

When choosing books to read, what style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

 I often find myself returning to books I have read and enjoyed before: namely: P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster; Simenon’s Maigret stories; Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes; and Edward Marston’s Railway Detective novels. I also love Raymond Chandler, and George Orwell’s work, including Animal Farm, 1984, and his essays.

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

This is a difficult one because some writers can be very prickly to work with. For example, I admire George Orwell, but by all accounts he could be quite difficult. When I was scriptwriting I often collaborated with other writers; scriptwriting is one of the most collaborative forms there is – which is why the list of writers credited at the start or end of a TV show or film is often quite lengthy.

One of my most enjoyable collaborations was co-writing with the wonderful and brilliant Malorie Blackman on all three series of her ITV children’s sitcom Whizziwig, developed from her book of the same name. But some were not as emotionally enjoyable. On reflection, I think I would choose P G Wodehouse.

By all accounts he was happy to collaborate when writing all those Broadway musical comedies he worked on, and I would have learned so much from him.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My next book will be Murder At The Natural Mystery History Museum, the fifth in my Museum Murders series, which will be coming out in hardback in August. And then, early next year, Murder At The Ritz Hotel, the first in a new series set during World War 2 and featuring DCI Edgar Coburg, a veteran of World War 1 is out. I am very excited by both of them.

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

I always look forward to any new book by Edward Marston in his Railway Detective and Home Front historical crime series; and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, set during WW2. As someone born towards the end of WW2 and who grew up in the 1940s, this period resounds within me.

Anything you’d like to add?

Just thank you, Hannah, for letting me share this with you and your readers.

Thanks to Jim for answering my questions; you’ve given some really insightful responses!

 

Wildwood Review: The Perfect Pastoral Escape From The Harshness Of Reality

wildwood

Over the past few months, while I’ve been trapped in the house, I’ve been searching for escapism in the form of beautifully written books.

While the majority of the books I’ve been reading are mystery and crime fiction, I’ve also been searching for nature books that take me out of myself.

One book that I found buried under a pile of other books on my bookshelf, which I picked up months ago in a charity shop, was Wildwood. I chose it simply for the gorgeous front cover and the fact that it’s about trees.

I adore trees; they’re beautiful and majestic, and I feel like they’re under appreciated. They remind me of the power and symbolism in the natural world, so I was intrigued by the book and, as it was about 50p, I picked it up and threw it on my shelf.

With so many other books to read, and so much drama going on with the pandemic, I clean forgot about Wildwood until a few weeks ago, when I was searching for an easy, relaxing read to comfort me.

At first, I wasn’t sure about this book, but I’m glad that I carried on and read more of it, because this is a glorious read that will make you see nature, and trees in particular, in a whole new light. 

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, is part tree book, part autobiography, and all love affair with the great outdoors. Roger Deakin takes his readers on a journey around the world, starting from his home in the Suffolk woods.

From there, we travel alongside him as he visits Spanish horse festivals, the wilds of the Australian outback and more. Deakin paints an intimate portrait of every new landscape that he visits, making you feel like you’re actually there with him.

Thanks to his knowledge of trees, wood and the way the material works, Deakin is able to paint an evocative picture and show the reader his passion for trees and the natural world.

When he’s talking to artists and sculptures that work with wood, Deakin makes an amazing case for handmade, artisan crafts over mass-produced junk, if you ever needed one.

Between the beauty of the natural world and the majesty of the trees in it, not to mention the delicious fruit that he eats, Deakin manages to transport the reader out of their lockdown blues and into a world full of sumptuous smells, tasty treats and atmospheric landscapes.

So, while I was moping around indoors and whiling away the days, Roger Deakin was able to take me out of myself and give me a sense of belonging in a natural world that I’ve either not been to in years or, in many cases, never even experienced.

As well as talking about trees and walking readers through some of the world’s most magnificent forests, Deakin also weaves in quotes from amazing poetry and cute illustrations, which create a visual representation of each of chapter.

All in all, this isn’t just a book- Wildwood is an escape from reality into a world of nature and wonder: it’s an innovative combination of autobiography, retrospective and much more. It is rich with the author’s passion for nature, so it’s the perfect read for anyone who wants to feel calm and informed.

Emma Grant Interview: “My whole everyday life influences my writing”

PROMO Emma Grant headshot1

This week I’m speaking to Emma Grant, a hypnotherapist and coach who writes self-help books, to find out more about her work and how she aims to help people with it. 

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

I’ve always naturally loved writing from a very young age, poems used to wake me to be written in the middle of the night as a child and even as a teenager I would write plays and short stories for my best friend. As I got older and settled down with a family and started running my Childcare and Hypnotherapy/Coaching businesses, there was no time to write. Then when I hit my thirties the muse came looking for me and gave me daily inspiration that turned into my latest two parenting self-help books.

Tell me all about your writing and how you came to create self-help books. What’s your motivation and why do you think your books can benefit readers?

In my role as a Hypnotherapist / Coach and Counsellor, I could only help clients one on one and over the last 16 years in my child care business, I could see parents struggling with the same issues over and over, so writing a parenting self-help book, seemed the most obvious choice to reach and help as many people as I could and share my experiences, knowledge and therapy skills.

What books do you like to read and how do they impact on your own writing?

At the moment I’m reading 3 books at the same time, one is fiction but focuses on a character that, as a therapist, I so badly want to help and is a character I’ve come across with the same issues in my hypnotherapy business. The 2nd book is a memoir and I swear the author could be writing my exact life story and the 3rd is a kind of spiritual, self- help, non- fiction, business PR and media book. My preferred choice and type of books I like to read, are non -fiction books that teach me something I don’t know, I just love learning! I always think they help me become a better writer of non- fiction, self -help because I always think – how can I convey what I know to my reader, who doesn’t know what I know, in an easy, simple to read and understand way, so they put the book down feeling reassured, uplifted, motivated and inspired in some way.

Is there anything else that influences your writing (places, people, films etc)?

My whole everyday life influences my writing; no person or experience is ever wasted on me. (Maybe I shouldn’t have said that? I’ll have no friends or clients now, through fear of becoming an example in one of my future books!)

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

There’s no question about this, I’d love to collaborate with my friend Jana because she covers both of those examples in your question (living and dead) and she has unique abilities that the world needs to know more about, in order to enjoy everyday life more in the present moment.

What’s next for your writing? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

My current WIP, my 3rd book is a weight loss, self-love, self-help book. Its grounded in my nutritional therapist knowledge, so its practical with good weight loss advice, yet, it also embraces my therapeutic approach with a spiritual twist. I’m loving writing this book so much and its definitely changing me in profound ways.

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

Mary Swann-Bell, author of Post its and Polaroid’s, Snippets And Snapshots Of An Otherthought Life is a beautiful, honest writer. Katherine Turner author of Finding Annie is another raw and talented writer and Sarah Lloyd makes the practicalities of PR seem more fulfilling and authentic in her new book Connecting The Dots- Making Magic With The Media- Uplevel Your Brand On Your Terms. All three women are new authors that I’m sure will have many great books to come.

Anything you’d like to add?

What readers need right now is positive, uplifting books to comfort, reassure and help heal the world. I feel so blessed to be a writer, right now, that can help contribute to that. Thanks for inviting me to be interviewed. My books are available world wide from all good book stockist and you can find my parenting blogs here.

Thanks to Emma for answering my questions, it’s been great!

The Top Five Jesse Stone Novels For Fans Of Gritty Police Procedurals

jesse stone 2

Finding a new series to obsess over has become my recent mission, thanks to the crummy situation in the world and the UK government’s singular lack of organisation or common fucking sense.

As my country’s leadership has decided that testing isn’t a good idea and the economy takes precedence over human lives, my future, for the safety of myself and others, will be spent mostly indoors.

Even as the UK reopens, and everyone starts queueing around the block for cheap socks from Primark, I’m still reluctant to venture out, which means I’ve got a lot of spare time to fill.

So, with so much time spent indoors or lounging in my scrubby garden to look forward to, I’ve had to find a new series to keep myself occupied.

It was this, combined with my love for Tom Selleck, Kathy Baker and Viola Davis that led me to start watching the Jesse Stone adaptations made for TV a few years ago.

TV and films help to keep me occupied a little, but what I was looking for was a new book series. Books don’t require the internet, which in my house, lags a lot because of overuse. They also don’t need batteries, and can be read in the sunny garden or curled up in bed on lazy days.

Watching these shows got me interested in the Robert B. Parker novels that inspired it and introduced me to a new set of books to enjoy.

Parker was a prolific novelist before his death in 2010, and alongside the Jesse Stone series he also created the Spencer For Hire novels, which inspired a recent Netflix film with Mark Wahlberg. As well as crime fiction, he also wrote modern western novels and his books have been enjoyed by many readers over the years, so I thought that they were worth checking out.

Using the magic that is Internet shopping, I was able to procure some of these novels, and I’ve been loving them ever since the first one turned up at my door.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this enticing series, then check out my top 5 picks!

5. Split Image: In this last in the series written before he died, Parker turns what appears to be low-level hit on a lowly foot solider for a local mobster into a complicated case that tests Stone’s personal and professional resolve. He soon finds himself entangled with an out-of-town private detective who might be more involved with the case than he originally thought, leading to an array of startling revelations. The novel is a brilliant depiction of the alcoholic, workaholic small town cop, and a must-read for fans of the series.

4. High Profile: A salacious talk show host is found hanging outside of Paradise, with a second death following hot on its heels. The two bodies are connected, but Stone still finds it hard to identify a single, viable suspect. He’s stonewalled by the victims’ families and irritated by riled-up locals, making the investigation even more challenging.

3. Killing The Blues: Continuing Robert B. Parker’s legacy, Michael Brandman writes an engaging thriller that perfectly captures the character. I hadn’t actually planned to buy a Jesse Stone novel that wasn’t written by Parker, but I added it to my cart before I realised, and in hindsight I’m very glad that I did- it was a happy accident. The book continues Stone’s adventures, as he comes to believe that car thieves are operating in Paradise and contends with an old enemy who’s out of prison and out for revenge. In the middle of all of this, he’s got to deal with a new town publicist who is eager to turn Paradise into the New England version of Woodstock. Then the car thefts turn deadly, and Stone quickly finds himself in a perilous position.

killing the blues

2. Sea Change: Jesse Stone faces a sordid and confusing case when a woman’s dead body washes ashore. After a tough process of identification, Stone and his team uncover a web of lies, deceit, steamy sex scandals and much more. Connected to the murder is a rape allegation, which leads the intrepid detective into the sordid and opulent local yachting scene. This intriguing and fast-paced novel shows the seedy side of Paradise and the small-town challenges that Stone faces as Police Chief.

1. Night Passage: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it yet again: When you’re reading a book series, you should try to begin at the beginning. Night Passage is the first Jesse Stone novel, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Fired by the LAPD and dumped by his wife, alcoholic detective Jesse Stone reluctantly takes a job as head of police in a small town called Paradise. What appears to be a serene New England town quickly shows its true colours as a hotbed of crime and mystery. From political intrigue to murder and mobsters, the wise-cracking, quick-witted mess of a police chief is quickly out of his depth and thrust into a series of dangerous adventures.

Bill Todd Interview: “As a kid, I made up adventure stories in my head”

20190701_133216_2

Author Bill Todd, who created the Danny Lancaster series, talks me through his work and why it’s so popular with readers.  

How did you come to define your writing style? What drew you towards crime fiction?

As a kid, I made up adventure stories in my head, in bed, in the dark, picking up where I’d left off when the light went out the next night. If real life is not fully grabbing my attention I’ve always had a tendency to return to an escapist story in my imagination.

I was drawn to crime fiction by the huge opportunities it offers to explore any field of human activity. Create a believable character and the world is his or her oyster.

Tell me about how your background in journalism and travel writing. How does this influence your writing?

Being a journalist, you have an inquiring ‘what if…?’ mind which is a big help writing non-fiction and fiction.

Most of my working life has been spent on local and national newspapers. Nationals have the big headlines to tell the big stories but my heart has always been in locals. It’s more intimate and a good local paper is a real public service, probing, informing, entertaining.

They are suffering badly these days as a result of social media and now coronavirus. But it’s amazing how many problems suffered by a lonely pensioner for months or years can suddenly be fixed when the local rag wants a quote from the source of the difficulty.

The job puts you in lots of fascinating places – criminal, political, celebrity – and you meet all sorts of people. All of this, every little detail, is fertile ground for fiction.

My books are based in Brighton but scenes are set in all sorts of places and many of my travel destinations have featured. These include Namibia in West Africa. I love a desert and the Namib is awesome.

What aspect of your books do you feel attracts your readers and makes your work so hard to put down?

If knowing what attracted readers was an exact formula everyone would do it. It’s the alchemist’s great secret.

My Danny Lancaster crime thrillers have a loyal following but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t welcome more.

Danny fans seem to like his character and outlook on life although he does manage to infuriate them at times. Readers also respond well to the characters around him such as artist Wanda Lovejoy and Detective Inspector Pauline Meyers.

The relationships and settings are recognisable and accessible and readers seem to enjoy being drawn in.

So far I’ve written seven Danny Lancaster books, including one of short stories. I’ve also written three short military history books based on family papers – my father’s diary in France 1944, a great uncle’s war in Palestine in 1917, and the story of a young woman on course to be the RAF’s first woman pilot who was killed in an air crash.

Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Are there any specific exercises or tricks you use to get your creative juices flowing?

Most often I’ll be wandering along, mentally miles away, when an idea comes out of nowhere and hits me. It’s almost like a physical blow.

I develop the idea as far as I can, then push it away and try to ignore it. I never start writing until the compulsion is overwhelming. Then, if the idea seems sound, a first draft comes pouring out.

I used to spend long periods in my home office, the record is 17 hours. Now, pre-lockdown, I favour cafes or pubs using my mobile phone and a neat little foldable bluetooth keyboard.

After many years working shifts in noisy offices I’m able to screen out any surrounding noise.

What books do you enjoy reading yourself and how do these books influence your work?

I enjoy many varied crime writers. I started with the likes of Frederick Forsyth, Jack Higgins and, of course, Conan Doyle. It’s hard work following authors I enjoy while discovering new ones.

There’s a long list that features Simon Kernick, Peter James, Vaseem Khan, Stuart MacBride and Peter Robinson. Not forgetting the many talented indies such as Andy Barrett whose gritty crime books are based on his work as a real life CSI.

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

Shakespeare would be wonderful to work with. His dialogue is razor sharp and he wrote some cracking crime stories.

If I had the skill I’d step into the shoes of Philip Kerr. Sadly, he died in 2018 and I really miss his wonderful Bernie Gunther books.

Beyond that, I’m probably too much the solitary observer to collaborate effectively.

What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you would be happy to share with me?

I’ve been working on a number of projects including a new Danny Lancaster plus a standalone crime thriller. I’ve made a bit of a mistake here because it’s like trying to ride two horses at once. Very soon I’ll have to pick one and gallop it to the finish line.

During my travel writing I kept a personal diary. After visiting 50+ destinations it runs to more than 500,000 words. A lot of that is what I had for breakfast and laundry arrangements but I’d like to edit it down to the interesting experiences and encounters. I also have a handwritten children’s story written and illustrated by my grandfather in the 1960s for my brother and I. It’s about two caveboys and I’d like to do something with that.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I like to keep my options open as widely as possible. I like to be surprised and am always prepared to shoot off at a tangent if something promising bobs up.

One thing I have to do is avoid JK Rowling’s Cormoran Strike books. My main character, Danny Lancaster, is also a disabled ex-soldier. Danny appeared in print before Strike but I don’t want to risk any subliminal cross-contamination. That said, Danny’s fans have very firm views on Lancaster versus Strike.

Anything you’d like to add?

I would urge readers to discover some of the hugely talented indie authors out there. Many of their books are as good, or better, than the big bucks famous names, and often much cheaper, even free.

I’d also urge readers to review, review, review – even if it’s just a few words. Authors are really encouraged by reviews and a brief comment on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, is a real boost. Also, support on social media is vital oxygen for one-man-band indie writers with no in-house PR machine.

And finally… thank you, Hannah, for inviting me to feature on your blog and thanks to your readers for their time – Bill Todd.

Thanks to Bill for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re interested in learning more about Bill and his books, then you can find out more here.

Black Lives Matter: If You Don’t Get It, Fucking Read And Educate Yourself!

maria-oswalt-pyPm6ofHI6I-unsplash

The Black Lives Matter protests, in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other innocent black people, look set to change the world for the better.

As a white person, I can never understand what the BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) community is going through, but I’m trying my best to be a supportive ally.

One thing I, as a white person, have noticed is that other white people keep asking members of the BAME community to explain what’s going on to them.

That is fucking stupid.

It’s not the BAME community’s job to educate you. You’ve got the whole internet at your fingertips, not to mention books, documentaries, blogs, podcasts and more, all explaining the history of racism and white supremacy.

I see it myself all the time; white guys I went to university with demanding explanations for stuff that they could learn about for themselves like sexism and why I hate the President of the USA.

Recently, a guy I went to school with commented on a Facebook post asking me to prove that Donald Trump’s photo op at that church, where he cleared a congregation to take a picture waving a bible, was real. Like he couldn’t read the news for himself.

And that’s just me dealing with douche bags I went to school with; if I’m irritated, it must only be 10 million times worse for the BAME community.

Don’t get me wrong; if the BAME people you know want to talk to you about the protests or their experiences, then listen, support them and ask questions if you need to. Be a good friend and ally.

Just don’t expect them to educate you and prove to you that racism exists.

If you don’t know or understand what’s going on right now, or why these protests matter so much, then read about it- don’t put the burden on your friends.

There are loads of free resources, blogs and websites online that will help you to understand the importance of this movement, including:

You could also read books like:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Strength to Love

  • Literally anything by Maya Angelou

  • Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father

  • Michelle Obama’s Becoming

  • Zadie Smith’s On Beauty

  • Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider 

  • Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things

  • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

  • Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave

  • Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement

  • Anchee Min’s The Last Empress

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

  • Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race (the title is apt given the topic of this blog post)

  • Toni Morrison’s Beloved

These aren’t exhaustive lists; go out there and read as widely as possible. The world is evolving and you’re living through history- put some fucking effort in and learn about what’s going on!

Try to read books written by as many BAME authors as possible, so you can find out about different perspectives without being an annoying dick to the people you know.

So, in all, be a supportive friend and learn for your fucking self. I’m not asking you to do much, just read and learn without having to make your friends, who are already in turmoil and living in a bloody strange world, educate you like you’re a small child. Read and learn like the responsible adult you’re pretending to be.