Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Next Big Thing



A February first – a blog hop. It’s called The Next Big Thing (as you probably guessed) and if you haven’t come across one before (and I hadn’t) then the idea is straightforward - and not dissimilar to a chain letter.

I was tagged by the wonderful Nina Sankovitch, who’s a friend of one of my oldest university buddies, but also - and more importantly in this context - the reader of hundreds of books that she reviews on her website, Read All Day. Nina’s also a writer and her 2010 book,  Tolstoy and The Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading was published by HarperCollins. It tells the story of her lifetime of reading, and of one magical year when she read a book a day to rediscover how to live after the death of her oldest sister. Read about Nina's next big thing right here. It’s a delight to be tagged by Nina.

So much for the preliminaries, onto The Next Big Thing, which in my case, is the soon-to-be-released (April 3rd) novel, Powder Burn.

What is the working title of your book?
Doh – just gave that away, Powder Burn! It’s the first of a new series of Burn books featuring Sam Blackett, a Vermont backcountry girl and wannabe investigative journalist.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’d always wanted to write a book with a kick-ass female hero, and when I saw Kill Bill I realised it was time to get on with it. I started well, but then life intervened - that was about ten years ago.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a suspense thriller.

Which actors would you choose to play the hero in a movie rendition?
A kick ass female hero? I guess Angelina Jolie virtually made that role her own for a while, but right now I’d take Jennifer Lawrence.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
If Dragon Tattoo’s Mikael Blomkvist and the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen could have a love-child, she’d probably be a lot like Sam Blackett.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published. I’ve had some great agents in the past, but as something of a control freak, I get along a lot better now that it’s all my fault when it goes belly up. Or not.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months – and then another ten years for the next six drafts.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I guess you can probably tell from the one line synopsis that I’m hoping fans of The Hunger Games and the Millennium Trilogy will like the books – although those books set a very high bar for comparisons.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I took four sources of inspiration for this book, the movie Kill Bill got me going, so that’s one. I love the way Lee Child’s Jack Reacher moves around the USA and happens into an adventure wherever he lands up. I see the Burn series with Sam Blackett in the same light, she’s travelling, researching and looking for stories, and some of them are going to land her in a world of trouble. Thirdly, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (Dragon Tattoo etc) had a strength, independence and crusade-for-truth aspect to the investigations of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist that I wanted to capture. And finally, I think the first book in Suzanne Collins trilogy, The Hunger Games is possibly the best genre book I’ve ever read. The writing is so smooth, the action, characterisation, plotting and theme are all just so perfectly realised. I think it’s a model for how good genre books can be, and the one I look up to every day I sit down at the computer.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The movie rights of an earlier draft of the novel were optioned by Working Title Films - Les Misérables, Love Actually, Billy Elliot etc. – but now they’re available again, if anyone’s interested... 

And now I get the huge pleasure of passing the torch to four of my favourite writers.  Here they are (in alphabetical order) - go check 'em out!

Rachel Abbott has spent the majority of her working life running an interactive media company, designing and building software and websites, mainly for education. Her company was sold in 2000, and although she continued working for another 5 years, she also fulfilled a lifelong ambition of buying a property in Italy, and then found the time to fulfil her second ambition of writing a novel.

The book proved very successful, and by February 2012 it had reached #1 in the Amazon charts (all genres). It remained there for four weeks. It also hit the top spot on the Waterstones ebook charts, and remained there throughout August, September and most of October 2012. Rachel now has a publishing deal in the US and Canada, and the foreign rights in Only the Innocent have been sold in several countries, including France, Germany, Brazil and Russia. An audio version of the book is also in development.

Debbie Bennett has worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, in a variety of different roles (on the front-line and back in the office), which may be why the darker side of life tends to emerge in her writing. In 2005, she was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award, which gave her the push to independently-publish the psychological thriller Hamelin’s Child, closely followed by a young adult fantasy novel and a collection of previously-print-published short stories. 

The sequel to Hamelin's Child was published in January 2013. At present Debbie plays with police computers during the day. The rest of the time she’s working on a couple of other novels and several short stories. 

Ruth Harris is a 1,000,000 copy New York Times and Amazon bestselling author and a Romantic Times award winner. Ruth’s highly praised fiction has "been called brilliant," "steamy," "stylishly written," "richly plotted," "first-class entertainment" and "a sure thing" and been translated into 19 languages, sold in 30 countries, and honoured by the Literary Guild and the Book Of The Month Club. In their e-book editions, Ruth's novels have risen to #1 on the Movers And Shakers List and been featured on Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink and Kindle Nation Daily.

With her husband, Michael, Ruth indulges her wild side and writes bestselling thrillers with vivid characters, international backgrounds and compelling plots. Their thrillers have made numerous appearances in the top 3 of Kindle’s Movers & Shakers list. Publisher’s Weekly called Ruth's and Michael's thrillers "Slick and sexy with all the sure elements of a big seller written by pros who know how to tell a story.”

Scott Nicholson has written 15 thrillers, 60 short stories, four comics series, and six screenplays. He lives in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, where he tends an organic garden, successfully eludes stalkers, and generally lives the dream. Entering the digital era with a vengeance, Nicholson is releasing original titles and collections while conspiring to release interactive books in the near future, building audio files, video, and collaborative fiction projects. 

Nicholson won the grand prize in the international Writers of the Future contest in 1999. That same year, he was first runner-up for the Darrell Award. He studied Creative Writing at Appalachian State University and UNC-Chapel Hill. He has been an officer of Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers Association and is a member of International Thriller Writers and inaugural member of the Killer Thriller Band. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Couple More Book Reviews


It's winter, it's cold outside all the time, and dark for most of it - what better way to pass an evening than to do some reading? Here's a couple I got through in January...


I was introduced to Jake Needham through the first of his Inspector Samuel Tay books, The Ambassador’s Wife, which I really enjoyed. I thought I should give his Jack Shepherd series a try, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a character-focused rather than an action-packed thriller, and Jake Needham does grumpy, out-of-sorts-with-the-world characters really well, and comes up with some strong storylines to push them through.

Jack Shepherd is a former big-shot Washington lawyer, now living in Thailand and teaching at a University. Unfortunately, the strength of his US and White House connections see him targeted by the world’s best-known and wealthiest fugitive, and the result sucks Shepherd into a grim and tragic plot that threatens to lose him everything. It’s well-paced and well-written, and as I’ve set a couple of my books in that part of the world, I appreciated seeing someone else doing it. Recommended.


I picked this book up to research the war in Vietnam, as I have a story planned that features a US Marine Corps Sniper from that tragic conflict. I'm not going to pull any punches on the writing - this is not great literature, but that's not its purpose or point. I suspect that it does exactly what it set out to do, which is show the reader the mechanics of a very particular form of warfare - humans hunting humans with long-range weapons. If you want to know how the US Marines went about training and using snipers in Vietnam, then this is your book. If you want psychological insight into the cost of engaging in hunting and killing your fellow man - even while harbouring reservations about the politics of the war - then it's not your book, Ward doesn't really go there. But perhaps that's why he was so successful at this most rarefied of jobs.