Tag Archives: Karin Slaughter

The Intel: Alex Blackmore

We love writers here, and we’re keen to learn from them. Last week we reviewed Alex Blackmore’s international thriller Letha Profit. Now Alex tells us just how she goes about the business of getting words onto a page.

ABWhat’s your writing process? What comes first – plot or character?

Setting is probably the first thing for me. I think locations are important as they can have a lot of influence over the feel of the story. I’ve set the book I’m writing at the moment in Berlin because that city sends shivers down my spine. After the location is the research and then come the main characters and the bare bones of a plot, followed by the flesh of the smaller characters and the different layers of story.

Take us through a typical writing day for you? 

I’m at my most lucid in the early mornings – at least once I’ve had a coffee! So if I’m writing I tend to get up around six or seven and just start work straight away. Those early hours when the world is still and unrushed have a magical quality to them, creatively speaking. I find if you live in London peace is hard to find so the early mornings are precious in terms of mental space.

I write in one or two hour chunks but I tend to be spinning numerous plates seven days a week, so unless I’m on holiday or it’s an unusually quiet weekend I have to take writing breaks to answer business emails, make phone calls or go to meetings. If I’m lucky enough to have an entire writing day then I just shut out everything other than the dog and immerse myself in what’s going on in my head. When I was a kid and I did that at school I got told off for daydreaming so I’m still adjusting to being ‘allowed’ to do it and not feel guilty about it!

Who are the authors or you love, and why?Unknown

I’m a big fan of Karin Slaughter, Henning Mankell and Robert Ludlum’s earlier books – I mostly like books that have lots of action, aren’t afraid to be a bit political and/or make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I thought Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was interesting – a good, gripping plot with that twist half way through, as well as astute observations on women in society. I found her idea of the ‘Cool Girl’ really resonated with me.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

If you don’t have any discipline then you’ll never finish anything. You need to have a pretty potent imagination as a writer and lots of good ideas, but there also has to be a process through which those ideas get to other people. It took me a while to understand how non-creative the creative process has to be sometimes. I had to force myself to do it initially – rigidly at the same time every day and without distractions. I thought a daily routine (which is something I’ve always hated) would restrict being creative but it was what made it possible to bring it all to life.

How do you deal with feedback?

I’m much better with feedback than I used to be, mainly because I feel like I can tell the difference now between what’s objectively constructive and what’s purely subjective. The thing is that even if something smarts a bit when you first hear it’s actually often really useful for the next piece of writing you take on.  Ongoing progress and development are really important to me and you have to listen to criticism to achieve that. Sometimes people just don’t get your writing though and that’s fine – they’ve just picked up the wrong book. You can’t please all the people all the time…

How have your own experiences shaped your writing?

I used to work in the City and I used to live in Paris so they have been pretty instrumental in terms of the Book 1 setting! The way I think and see the world has seeped in to some of the characters I’m sure, although I think it’s more interesting to challenge yourself to produce characters that aren’t just versions of you or people you know. I’ve been careful not to include anything that is too close to real life too – there are elements of things I’ve done or seen, people I’ve come across in there but no whole transitions from the real world.

Give me some advice about writing…

I’m not sure I’ve hit such dizzy heights of success to be giving advice but here goes…I think discipline is the big one – getting yourself into a good routine and then sticking to it. Follow your instinct in terms of your plot and your characters and avoid copying other writers. Most important of all, ignore the doubters and the people who raise their eyebrows and suck their teeth when you say you want to be a writer. ‘Oh doesn’t everyone’ is often the reply, especially if someone has tried to publish their own work but failed. You have to be a bit arrogant, a bit blinkered and be convinced of your own opinions if you’re going to get your work heard (I have these character traits and I’m sure it drives the people I work with slightly mad…).

 What’s your best advice for an author looking to get into the marketplace…

Be a bit creative about it. Unfortunately now it’s not just about being a great writer you need to market yourself too from the word go. There are many more routes to getting published now than there used to be. You don’t have to be with a big publisher to be a best seller and there could be all sorts of reasons why an agent or reader for a publisher passes over your work when many others would like to read it. If you really believe in it then just be relentless.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently trying to finish book 2 and it’s proving challenging with everything else going on and the inevitable fear of trying to produce something that follows on well from the first book. However, I’ve just got back from an inspiring trip to Berlin so I can feel the ideas starting to accelerate…

Alex Blackmore trained and practiced as a finance lawyer in the City before leaving to pursue a writing career. As well as penning Lethal Profit she works as a freelance copywriter and runs an online fashion business championing new designers. Alex lives in north London, loves hot yoga and is a big fan of a perfectly made margarita.

You can find Alex on Twitter: @AlexPBlackmore

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlexPBlackmore

And she’s got a website: http://www.alexblackmore.com

Crime Thriller Book Log: Mina, Mackay, Dunne & Slaughter

It may not surprise you to know that there were some books published this week. Some crime thriller books. I’m going to tell you about four of them and then you can go.

Unknown-2Red Road is the latest Alex Morrow novel from Denise Mina.

The blurb is very dramatic, as blurb tends to be:

31st August 1997: Rose Wilson is fourteen, but looks sixteen. Pimped out by her ‘boyfriend’ and let down by a person she thought she loved, she has seen more of the darkness in life than someone twice her age. On the night of Princess Diana’s death – a night everyone will remember – Rose snaps and commits two terrible crimes. Her life seems effectively over. But then a defence lawyer takes pity and sets out to do what he can to save her, regardless of the consequences.

Now: DI Alex Morrow is a witness in the case of Michael Brown – a vicious, nasty arms dealer, more brutal and damaged than most of the criminals she meets. During the trial, while he is held in custody, Brown’s fingerprints are found at the scene of a murder in the Red Road flats. It was impossible that he could have been there and it’s a mystery that Morrow just can’t let go.

Meanwhile, a privileged Scottish lawyer sits in a castle on Mull, waiting for an assassin to kill him. He has sold out his own father, something that will bring the wrath of the powerful down upon him.

A playwright and graphic novelist – she’s written for the acclaimed comic Hellblazer – Mina is on a roll. Her Morrow novel Gods And Beasts is on the shortlist for the 2013 Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. She won the award only last year with The End Of The Wasp Season. Among the other books in the shortlist are Stav Sherez’s A Dark Redemption, and Peter May’s The Lewis Man.

*Warning: segue reversing… segue reversing…*

Malcolm Mackay lives on Lewis. He’s the author of How A Gunman Says Goodbye, the second in in his Glasgow trilogy.

Lock ’n ’load the blurb:

Unknown-3How does a gunman retire? Frank MacLeod was the best at what he does. Thoughtful. Efficient. Ruthless. But is he still the best? A new job. A target. But something is about to go horribly wrong. Someone is going to end up dead. Most gunmen say goodbye to the world with a bang. Frank’s still here. He’s lasted longer than he should have …

The final book The Sudden Arrival Of Violence follows next year. The first book was written, he says, as a ‘secret little project on his computer.’

There’s a really interesting article right here about how an author who lives in the placid environment of the Outer Hebrides, and has no intention of leaving, projects himself into the mind of a ruthless Glaswegian hitman.

Last time I looked, Derby was a long way south of Lewis and indeed of Glasgow. It’s the setting for another of Steven Dunne’s serial killer novels featuring DI Damen Brook. This one is called The Unquiet Grave.

Dust to dust, blurb to blurb:

The Cold Case crime department of Derby Constabulary feels like a morgue

imagesto DI Damen Brook. As a maverick cop, his bosses think it’s the best place for him.

But Brook isn’t going to go down without a fight. Applying his instincts and razor sharp intelligence, he sees a pattern in a series of murders that seem to begin in 1963. How could a killer go undetected for so long? And why are his superiors so keen to drive him down blind alleys?

Brook delves deep into the past of both suspects and colleagues unsure where the hunt will lead him. What he does know for sure is that a significant date is approaching fast and the killer is certain to strike again…

Dunne’s a bit of an inspiration. His first book The Reaper was turned down all over the shop, but he had faith in himself, and he self-published it. It sold well – and as a result was picked up by Harper Collins. More proof that writers who believe in themselves can get published.

UnknownAnd finally, if ever there was a terrific name for an crime author, it’s Karin Slaughter. She’s sold 17 million books. One of her continuing series features her dyslexic special agent Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Will has huge hands.

Put the gun down and step away from the blurb:

Special Agent Will Trent has something to hide. Something he doesn’t want Dr Sara Linton – the woman he loves – to find out. He’s gone undercover in Macon, Georgia and put his life at risk. And he knows Sara will never forgive him if she discovers the truth.

But when a young patrolman is shot and left for dead Sara is forced to confront the past and a woman she hoped never to see again. And without even knowing it, she becomes involved in the same case Will is working on. Soon both of their lives are in danger.

Like most successful authors, Slaughter is prolific. She finishes a book a year, but is always making notes for future novels.

Right, off you toddle. No, wait —

Before you go, here’s that 2013 Theakstons Crime Novel If The Year list in full –because you haven’t seen it on, like, a thousand other blogs already, this week.

Rush Of Blood – Mark Billingham (Little Brown)

Safe House –  Chris Ewan (Faber and Faber)

The Lewis Man – Peter May (Quercus)

Gods And Beasts – Denise Mina (Orion)

Stolen Souls – Stuart Neville (Vintage)

A Dark Redemption– Stav Sherez (Faber and Faber)

I know which one I’d like to see win — granted, I’ve only read four on the list. But what about you – what’s your pick?