Archive for the ‘Guest post’ Category

Claire McGowan on Putting Real-Life Events into Fiction

Today I’m excited to be part of the blog tour of Claire McGowan’s new novel, The Dead Ground. To celebrate the release of the second book in the Paula Maguire series, Claire stopped by the blog to talk about putting real-life events into fiction. I hope you enjoy it!

Putting Real-Life Events into Fiction

As crime writers, we have to take the worst events that ever happen to people – murder, bereavement, torture, pain – and make them into a story. That story has to be entertaining or people won’t read it, no matter how much we also want to make a point or debate social and moral issues. Sometimes, as a writer, you find yourself wondering if there are any boundaries, things you should not write about, either because you don’t have direct experience of them, or because they’re too close to real life.

I write a series of crime novels set in Northern Ireland, where I grew up, in a town that’s very similar to my own small hometown on the border. My main character, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, is about the same age as me, and like me, left Ireland for university, only to return. So there are obvious parallels already. I was so concerned about reflecting real life that I changed the name of the place to a fictional town, which is roughly, but not exactly, in the same place.

I often have the experience of writing about an extreme, unusual, or brutal event in Irish history, and then finding out the same thing really happened, or even worse. I’ve covered the Magdalene Laundries, child abuse, the IRA Disappeared, foetal abduction, cults and faith healing, the Church selling babies for adoption, and more. All of these things have really happened. At times I’ve thought I’d made something up, only to discover afterwards that, unbeknownst to me, it was real.


Leigh Russell on Female Detectives on Television

Hi everyone! Today I have a special guest for you. To celebrate the release of her new novel, Fatal Act (to be published at the end of May), Leigh Russell stopped by the blog to talk about her thoughts on female detectives on television. 

Leigh Russell on Female Detectives on Television

Judging by the number of emails I receive asking when my detective Geraldine Steel is going to appear on the small screen, I might be forgiven for thinking there aren’t enough female detectives on television. Yet there are currently roughly the same number of female detectives as male ones on television these days. Starting as genteel private sleuths like Jane Marple and Jessica Fletcher, female police detectives have developed from sergeants to male inspectors, as in Linley and Rebus, to emerge as powerful protagonists in their own right: Jane Tennison, Vera, Rizzoli and Isles, Scott and Bailey, to name just a few.

On reflection, it isn’t hard to find a reason for the rise in the number of female detectives on television. In fictional detectives viewers encounter the vast variety of human life. Holmes, sharp-eyed and logical, poetic Dalgleish, dour Dalziel, brusque Taggart, twee Miss Marple, harrassed Rizzoli and Isles, plodding Vera, clumsy Goodman, widowed Foyle, witty gambler Cracker, ovuncular Frost… they each bring their own unique character to the genre. Because crime fiction not only satisfies our need for moral order, it also gives us a snapshot of society. Today, female officers occupy over thirty per cent of senior posts in the police force. This hasn’t always been the case. The evolution in gender representation in crime fiction is a reflection of cultural norms in society. Can you imagine Inspector Lestrade as a female officer? Even omniscient Sherlock Holmes would be surprised by the cultural shift towards gender equality in the workplace that we now rightly assume should exist.


Chloe Hooper’s Top Five Mysteries – Plus a Giveaway!

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper
Hi guys! I have a special guest for you today – Chloe Hooper, author of The Engagement has stopped by Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share her top five favourite mysteries with you. What’s more, I have 3 brand new copies of Chloe’s book to give away courtesy of Random House. But first, please give a warm welcome to our guest. :) Over to you, Chloe.

1. Firstly forgive me for stretching the genre a bit with this list, but in Jane Eyre ol’ Charlotte Brontë does pit our independent-minded heroine against Thornfield Hall, the quintessential Gothic manse full of festering dark secrets and ghosts, past and present. It doesn’t disappoint on rereading.

2. For famous openings who can go past Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca? “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again…. I came upon it suddenly; the approach masked by the unnatural growth of a vast shrub that spread in all directions… There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream.” This classic novel is fantastically readable, and Hitchcock’s film version (for those who can’t quite take some of the sillier parts of du Maurier’s book) is fantastically watchable.

3. The Journalist and the Murderer is Janet Malcolm’s non-fiction account of the clash between American journalist Joe McGinniss and Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and children. This is a brilliant study of the ethics of journalism, and it works on the reader like a philosophical page-turner.

4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Basically if you haven’t read this, you must.

5. I recently finished Hilary Mantel’s early novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. It doesn’t have the power or range of her Cromwellian sagas, but as you read there’s a sense of burgeoning dread that’s incredibly effective. (more…)

Dan Newman’s Top Ten Crime Fiction Recommendations

Here’s the thing. As much as I love an adrenaline-drenched thriller which keeps me up until way past my bedtime, almost none of my friends or family read this genre. Either because they had tried and it’s not their cup of tea or, in some cases, because they simply don’t know where to start. So, I decided to ask crime fiction writer and author of The Clearing Dan Newman to help me out and share his top ten crime fiction recommendations for people who want to get into this genre. Over to you, Dan. :)

Hi Vicky, thank you so much for letting me trot out my top 10…  It’s a tough list to call with so much talent out there – and I’m sure I’ll leave out some great ones – but here we go.


Guest Post: Getting Inside the Killer’s Head

Getting Inside the Killer's Head with Fergus McNeill

As an avid reader of crime novels, one of the things that always intrigued me is how crime writers come up with their characters – and the killers in particular. How do they get inside the murderer’s head to create such a twisted and cruel character while remaining believable and not far-fetched? Well, Hodder & Stoughton author Fergus McNeill stopped by Books, Biscuits, and Tea to reveal it all. Fergus’s début, Eye Contact, was among my favourite reads of 2012 and the fact the sequel, Knife Edge is coming out in late September makes me grin every time I think about it. He’s one of my (newest) favourite crime writers so it’s a huge honour to have him here on the blog. So, without further ado, please give a warm welcome to today’s guest, Fergus McNeill himself!

Whenever I’m writing, I want to stimulate an emotional response in the person who’s reading. For me, it’s not just about communicating ideas, it’s about communicating feelings too. And because my novels are contemporary crime thrillers, there’s a good chance that one of those feelings will be fear.

I ought to be pleased when I make that kind of connection with a reader – and of course I am – but it can be problematic sometimes. Like the first time I met my agent, Eve White.

We’d agreed to get together at her office to discuss representation and, because of other appointments with my day-job, arranged a time around 6pm. When I arrived, the place was empty, save for Eve and her assistant. We sat down and started chatting, and I thought nothing of it until, after ten minutes or so, I noticed Eve giving a covert signal whereupon the assistant stood up and went home. When I asked her about it later, Eve admitted that she had been rather nervous about being in the same room as the person who’d written that character and had told her assistant to stay until she was sure I was “all right”.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then reassuring people that I really am a nice guy. Honest!

All the same, it was actually quite pleasing to know that my words on a page had conveyed that sense of unease. And I do sort of understand the way she felt, because there have definitely been points in the writing process where I’ve managed to scare myself. One example that comes to mind is a research trip I made to Bristol while working on my first novel, Eye Contact. The story features a killer who targets random strangers – typically the first person to make eye contact with him after a certain time of day. Every potential victim is given a head start – a 24 hour grace period – before the killer starts looking for them and begins to hunt them down.


Crime: A Manifesto

Fiona Griffiths series

As part of my Crime Fiction Month feature, crime fiction writer Harry Bingham stopped by Books, Biscuits, and Tea to discuss what makes a good crime novel. And not only do we have a brilliant and thought-provoking discussion in store for you but – wait for it – courtesy of Orion Books, we have 10 copies of Harry’s first book, Talking to the Dead to give away. Sounds good? Then make sure to read on, join in the discussion and you may be one of our lucky winners. :)

What makes a perfect crime novel? Or rather, since the market moves on and we don’t want to re-write the great stories of the past, I should ask what makes a perfect crime novel of today?

I don’t pretend to have a universal answer – every reader (and, if it comes to that, every literary agent or publisher) will have their own. But here’s mine.


We have to start with character. It’s impossible to name a really stand-out piece of detective fiction that doesn’t have an utterly compelling central character. Sherlock Holmes is, of course, the paradigm example, but you could throw in Poirot, or or Peter Wimsey, or Philip Marlowe, or Lisbeth Salander, or any number of others.

The classic detective is, of course, something of an outsider. A brilliant analyst of society without ever quite being part of it. Perhaps it’s corny, but I like that model. My own Fiona Griffiths is in recovery from a major (and strange) psychotic collapse. She’d love to belong to ‘Planet Normal’, but getting there, and staying there, is more of a challenge for her than solving crimes, no matter how dangerous or complex. There’s a way in which the Sherlock Holmes stories are nothing but a vehicle for the character. The same, I guess, is true of any tale that has Fiona Giffiths trampling through it.

And for that matter, I want detectives who have real lives. Romances, mysteries, problems, families, challenges. One of the beauties of the crime story is that there are so many series novels. They give writers an extraordinary chance to map someone over huge amounts of time, to devote a million words or more to a single life. Writers need to grab that opportunity and do something wonderful with it.


Love Sherlock Holmes though I do, his stories were often preposterous. The Red-Headed League, for heaven’s sake! Or the number of times that poisons, or serpents or secret societies, bred abroad, wreaked havoc amongst those Victorian/Edwardian domesticities. And in the world post-Chandler, I think that doesn’t work any more. For me, the society has to be broadly recognisable as our own. We need crimes that feel plausible, villains that feel realistic.

For that reason, I don’t really like those modern serial killer stories with strangely coded forms of murder, or any sort of sadism that just seems designed to generate nasty crimes for a detective to solve. That’s not to say we can’t flirt with the outrageous. Fiona Griffiths is not, by any means, a standard issue police officer, but for me at least, that’s one real departure from reality. It’s the one concession I demand from my reader.


Author Guest Post: An Interview With the Hero of ‘Out of Sight Out of Mind’

Hello everyone and welcome back! I have a very special guest for you today – you may or may not remember that I read and reviewed Evonne Wareham’s previous novel, Never Coming Home, last year and absolutely loved it. Evonne’s new book, Out of Sight Out of Mind, was published last week – on March 7th – and she’s here with a special interview today. So without further ado, please welcome Evonne herself!

About the book

Out of Sight Out of Mind - Evonne Wareham

Everyone has secrets. Some are stranger than others.

Madison Albi is a scientist with a very special talent – for reading minds. When she stumbles across a homeless man with whom she feels an inexplicable connection, she can’t resist the dangerous impulse to use her skills to help him.

J is a non-person – a vagrant who can’t even remember his own name. He’s got no hope, until he meets Madison. Is she the one woman who can restore his past? Madison agrees to help J recover his memory, but as she delves deeper into his mind, it soon becomes clear that some secrets are better off staying hidden.

Is J really the man Madison believes him to be?

Guest post

Thanks to Vicky of Books, Biscuits and Tea for inviting me here today. I’ve asked Jay, the hero of my new paranormal romantic thriller, Out of Sight Out of Mind, to join us, for a short interview about his part in the story. I know Jay finds it difficult to talk about himself, although in this case I hope that he can be persuaded to open up just a little. I should explain – Jay is currently suffering from amnesia and doesn’t remember anything that happened in his life before about three months ago. I’ve got together with Dr Madison Albi, the research scientist who is helping him in his attempts to recover his past, and we’ve managed to convince him that answering a few questions might help to jog his memory, or maybe someone else’s.

Before we begin, I’d better give you a quick description of what Jay looks like. A little over six foot tall, broad shoulders, probably early to mid thirties, dark blue eyes, dark hair sprinkled with a few traces of silver, flopping forward onto his face. I am sure he’d laugh if he heard me say this, but there is no doubt that he is a very attractive man. Madison is always completely professional in everything she does, but I suspect that privately she might agree with me. Even so, I know she would take great care about letting her feelings interfere in any way with her work. She has a reputation as a very dedicated scientist, who is meticulous in her research. I think we’re ready to begin. Briefed by Madison, I’m going to start with something general.

“Welcome, Jay. To start us off, can you tell me about the things you do remember?”
“It’s not much.” He’s frowning. “All I can recall is what has happened in the last three months.”
“You don’t remember your name, or where you live? Your job?” I can feel a shiver running down my spine at the thought. “That’s frightening. But you still know basic things, like how to read and write. Do you think you were in some sort of accident?”
“I really don’t know – but there’s no evidence of anything like that.” He sighs, and I can feel my own breath catch. “It’s just, well, it’s like there is a wall, inside my head, cutting off everything from my past.”
His face is so desolate there’s a lump gathering in my throat. “I can see that it’s hard for you to talk about …” Oh no – wrong thing to say – Madison did warn me about displaying anything that looks remotely like pity. Jay’s still fiercely independent, even if he doesn’t know who he is.
Better move on to something more positive. “You do recall something though – your name?” Ah, that’s better, he’s settled back in his chair.