This session at the "Killer Women's Crime Festival" on the 15th October 2016, introduced 4 debut crime writers to the audience, giving them each an opportunity to discuss their debut novel as well as their latest writing project.
Paul Burston, Michelle Davies, Agnes Ravatn and Chris Whittaker were interviewed by Sarah Hilary
This was only published in Sept 2016 and is the first in a brand new crime series, although Burston is the critically acclaimed author of four blackly comic novels. Now he turns to the genre of "domestic noir".
How well do you really know those closest to you? Helen has been holding out for a hero all her life. Her father was a hero - but he was murdered when she was ten. Her husband is a hero - but he's thousands of miles away, fighting a war people say will never be won. Sometimes Helen wonders if Owen isn't the only one living in a war zone. She feels the violence all around her. She reads about it in the papers. It feeds her dreams and fills her days with a sense of dread. Try as she might, she can't escape the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Then one night on the troubled streets of her home town, Helen is rescued from a fight by a woman who will change her life forever. Sian is everything Helen isn't - confident, glamorous, fearless. But there's something else about her - a connection that cements their friendship and makes Helen question everything she's ever known. And when her husband returns home, altered in a way she can't understand, she is forced to draw on an inner strength she never knew she had. As bitter truths are uncovered, Helen must finally face her fears and the one place which has haunted her since childhood - the Black Path. (Blurb from Amazon)
Paul Burston's journey to writing a crime novel is actually one of something that sounds like it is itself from a psychological thriller. Burston had a very difficult time with an internet troll, which eventually resulted in a court case but left him, understandably, struggling with issues of anxiety and in a very dark place. Writing helped. He'd also been dropped by his publishers so found he was suddenly free of expectation, contract and time pressure which allowed him to read more - and he did read more - more crime!
Burston's novel has a female as the central protagonist but he claims that this was not difficult for him. Having several sisters and lots of close female friends, Burston felt he was able to create a convincing voice for his character. He also explained that the character is trapped, isolated and lonely which, sadly, were all emotions that Burston was able to empathise with and relate to which also ensured a strong narrative voice.
His new book which he is working on is using some of his experiences from when he was stalked on the Internet. There is an unreliable narrator and explores Burston's interest in the lack of support for victims of crime, or what happens when the system can't cope or let's you down.
Can you find him on social media? Yes! Despite everything, social media is essential in the life of an author and the positives far outweigh the negatives. You can follow him @PaulBurston.
Michelle Davies' book was published in April 2016 and the paperback is available from 20th October 2016.
Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a £15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives - and friends - as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams.
But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone.
DC Maggie Neville is assigned to be Family Liaison Officer to Lesley and Mack, supporting them while quietly trying to investigate the family. And she has a crisis threatening her own life - a secret from the past that could shatter everything she's worked so hard to build.
Money can't buy you happiness. The truth could hurt more than a lie. One moment really can change your life forever. (Goodreads blurb)
Davies' inspiration for her novel came from the idea of putting an ordinary family in an extraordinary situation. She was intrigued by the idea of "false security". The family in "Gone Astray"live in a gated community but actually they are more isolated and less safe than a normal housing estate as on private roads, with houses that have long driveways and high gates, people are less likely to know their neighbours, see people coming and going or maybe even less willing to get to know their neighbours - they tend to hide behind the security they have.
Further inspiration came from her day job as a journalist. Davies had been researching a story relating to Madeline McCann when she came across the story of Kerry Needham, whose son Ben went missing in Cos in 1991. This also got her to thinking about how it would feel to be a mother whose son is still missing over twenty years later. Following an interview with Mrs Needham, Davies learnt how important the role of a Family Liaison Officer can be for a family in this situation. They are the person that although very involved in the investigation of the crime, they are also with the family throughout the entire time the case is open to hold them together, give them a voice and support them.
Davies' experience as a journalist has helped her to research the role of an FLO thoroughly so that her novels are convincing and authentic.
Her new book, due out in February, is called "Wrong Place" and sees FLO DC Maggie Neville investigating the suicide of a husband and wife alongside a historical missing person's case.
You can follow Michelle on Twitter @M_Davieswrites and as she also tweets with her journalist hat on, you'll be treated to updates about X Factor and other entertainment news as well as books!
For my full review of "Gone Astray", click here:
The paperback of this novel will be out in January 2017. It is available in Hardback and on Kindle.
Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape… TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough… Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.
Ravatn is from Norway and this is her first book translated into English. Sarah Hilary described it as "Rebecca meets Fjords" which I think makes it sound so intriguing! With the current excitement and love for Scandi Noir, the publication of "The Bird Tribunal" is very timely.
Ravatn explained that although her book is set in the isolated countryside she was actually living in Oslo when she wrote it. However, she thinks this helped her to capture it the landscape and atmosphere more effectively as her description is more fresh and more convincing due to this physical distance. The isolated setting also heightens the tension between the man and woman in the novel as it is all about being vulnerable, trapped and far away from anyone.
A large chunk of the first draft of "The Bird Tribunal" was written in three weeks when Ravatn took herself off to a log cabin in the countryside to enforce some uninterrupted concentration. She has also written a self help book - Operation Self Discipline - where she reflects on the impact of social media. Ravatn was shocked at the impact social media was having on her life and how damaging it was becoming in her actually completing her writing. She is not active on Twitter! Although she still uses the internet in her daily life, Ravatn has learnt to draw very strict lines between her writing life and her personal life. She never takes her phone into her office and her publisher tweets on her behalf!
Her new book is set in a city but is still in the genre of domestic noir and is a marital drama. The first draft is currently with her editor.
Chris Whittaker's debut mixes crime and humour to create a darkly hilarious tale which looks at a small town over the course of 3 months.
When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.
Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect. Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures. Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.
Photographer Jerry, who's determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .
In Chris Whitaker's brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants. (Goodreads blurb)
Chris Whittaker had a rather more unusual route into writing than the other authors on this panel. At the age of 19 he was mugged and attacked with a knife. Although physically fully recovered, he was left feeling very low and turned to writing as a kind of therapy to help him work through the dark place in which he found himself. He then trained as a Stockbroker and worked his way up the ladder successfully, until he lost £100,000 in one day. ..... Deciding to write a novel, he began 4 weeks before his second child was born and wrote over 5000 words a day until it was complete! Now that's a story!
He is interested in the idea of "behind closed doors" and his novel explores a town where everything seems idyllic but actually it is riddled with deep secrets.
His new book is once again set in America and is about a missing school girl. A dark cloud arrives over the town on the day that she goes missing and induces a kind of "satanic panic" as people believe the two events are connected. The cloud gets darker every day that the girl is missing.......
You can follow Whittaker on Twitter @WhittyAuthor
To read my Q&A with Chris and my review of "Tall Oaks", please click here:
Sarah Hilary is also a published crime writer with a detective series featuring DI Marnie Rome.
This is the third book in the series and was published in April 2016.
The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.
A runaway who doesn't want to be found, she only wants to go home.
To the one man who understands her.
Gives her shelter.
Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.
He's the head of her new family.
And when Harm's family is threatened, Marnie Rome is about to find out that everything tastes like fear...
Sarah Hilary is also on Twitter @sarah_hilary
For more reviews, recommendations and features on Killer Women's Festival please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)