Thursday, 17 December 2009

December Update

It's been a busy time for me recently and continues to be that way. Writing-wise, I'm drawing to a close on novel four. It's a breathless, unforgiving surge to the end and hugely emotional to write. As ever, the characters in the book have become part of my life over the last year and the prospect of leaving them behind (for the time being) is, as ever, strange. It's at times like this I'd quite like to take one or two of them with me and give them another story. But...I already have ideas brewing for my next book and actually can't wait to get started on that next year.

The January edition of Woman & Home magazine is now in the shops and includes me in a rather nice feature on page 62. While I was searching through the contents to find which page I would be on, I didn't immediately notice the little photo of me there among some rather glam women. That's how good the stylist was! Well, he did take four hours to get me ready for the photo shoot. Which took about four minutes! But I'm really very happy with the result and Tell Tale gets a mention, which will hopefully harvest me some new readers.

The Sunday Times Style magazine feature also ran a couple of weekends ago. Typical that it was the one weekend that I didn't buy the newspaper and, when I learnt I was in, all the shops had sold out or sent their copies back! Despite the photoshoot with the Times team, they didn't actually put a pic in with the feature, although there is one on the online version. The piece prompted one comment, I see, with a reader assuming that I must only trust my husband because I go through his receipts. Well, in actual fact, he is quite right. I do go through my husband's receipts. Every month when I do his company accounts. Do I find myself piecing together his movements, what he had for lunch, who he was with? No. Of course not. Because he tells me.

November also saw a nice review of Tell Tale in the Sun. Of course, there were a few jokes from family and friends about me being on page three. I declined
that particular photo shoot and opted for the review section instead. Although the lass that day was coincidentally called Sam. The Sun reviewer said Tell Tale was 'a fabulously compelling read'.

Finally, I wanted to mention a writer who I've 'virtually' known for quite some time now. Neil Ayres is not only a lovely, hard-working chap who one day I'm determined to meet in real life, but also damned talented when it comes to putting words together. He's recently released an e-book, which is available for download for absolutely nothing. At this time of year, what more could you want?

His book is a collection of short stories called The New Goodbye and is available here on the Smashwords site for download in many different formats to suit all the gadgety things that we all have these days. The blurb reads:

In this collection of realist short stories, Neil George Ayres details the often overlooked depth of modern relationships. From the self-contained love story of a modern marriage, through to the microcosm of the patrons of a working class public house, all life is here. If you love Raymond Carver or Jon McGregor, you're in safe hands.

I'd thoroughly recommend that you take a look at this collection. I have and Neil's writing sparkles with clarity. The realism and emotion in his words transform chunks of life that we all recognise, reulting in thought-provoking and entertaining tales. It also has a rather classy cover, too. I really wish Neil the great success he deserves.

Finally, if you've emailed me recently and I haven't replied, please do send your message again. Somehow, I managed to lose a huge chunk of my messages yesterday, causing mayhem and many four letter words in my office.

Sam xx

Thursday, 12 November 2009

TELL TALE published today!

It's that time again...TELL TALE is officially published today and I can't tell you how excited I am about this book being released into the wild. Of course, it's the hardback edition so will have more limited availability than the paperback when it comes out next March. I hope to see piles in the bookshops and supermarkets, but for now readers can buy my new book at selected stores and, of course, Amazon. And don't forget the libraries. They will almost certainly have the hardback and soon there will be a large print version available, as with my other novels.

In celebration, I just ran a long way on the treadmill and pumped some iron at the gym, but before I left I received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers from my amazing editor and all the team at Headline. Haha, I also received a lovely set of paperback proofs to go through over the next week or two, making any little changes and scouring for errors. Plus my head is well and truly immersed in finishing Next Novel - so much so that I've gone scurrying back to the beginning to read/edit/read/edit before I tackle the big finale. Plus, I've had lots of exciting publicity happenings going on recently - a review is due in the Sun next Friday, I believe, and I also have a couple of short stories to write (which I love doing) and hopefully, any minute now, my new website will be launched to mark the publication of TELL TALE. I do hope you like it.

A couple of weeks ago, I had two days of glamour and excitement being photographed for two big publications. Firstly, the Sunday Times came to town - two photographers and a stylist - and between them they made me look rather glam and shifty/suspicious which, if you read the feature in Style Magazine one weekend quite soon (will be more specific when I know the exact date), you'll see why. I'd already been interviewed by a lovely journalist who is writing a feature on me for a new series in Style, and a photo was then needed. I say 'a' photo...they must have shot hundreds as we searched for the perfect spot around town, my stylist flitting around me with her big make-up brush, people stopping and staring at the big lights and rather large lens!

These pictures were taken by my husband when we came back home - they decided to go for a few regular shots, too. Never work with animals - despite my serene look, the cat had his claws dug deeply into my legs!

The day after and I was in London at a studio with the Woman & Home magazine team, who were also lovely and treated me to a day of styling, photography, and lovely food to go with a feature that will appear in the January edition of the magazine, available in the shops at the beginning of December. I had my hair and make-up done (
individual eyelashes, can you believe!) and got to choose what to wear from a wardrobe of rather expensive looking garments with the help of a stylist. Again, very glam and it all left me feeling that my usual jeans and T shirt didn't quite cut it! Still, no one sees me as I sit alone in my study tapping out the words.

If you read TELL TALE then do be sure to send me an email and let me know what you think. I love receiving comments from readers and I get emails from all over the world, which certainly makes it all worthwhile. I think I might have to go and put a bottle of something sparkly in the fridge!

Sam xx

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Going Public

It's that time for me again. As every author will know, the run up to a title's publication isn't all about whipping the words into shape and making sure the book has a brilliant cover. So much more goes on behind the scenes, not least in the publicity department.

I've had the pleasure of dealing with some lovely publicists during my time with Headline (I'm trying not to worry that I'm now on my third!) and have recently been swapping ideas and brainstorming pitches with my new champion, whose job it is to get me out there, in front of my readers and potential readers for free. Easy then.

I've recently given a 'big' and very exciting interview, which is soon to be followed up by a photo shoot in London. Already I'm worrying what to wear, will they be able to airbrush out the wrinkles, how will I come across in the feature...although I know I needn't worry as the journalist concerned writes fantastic pieces. It's an unusual angle, not least because I once had a very unusual job.

I have some more pitches to write for potential articles - from women's magazines to specialist publications, some short stories to get written, a new website in the making, and a very exciting double-act talk with a huge name in crime fiction to look foward to next year. And I'm sure there'll be lots more besides. There's an art to going public, getting an author 'out there' and the Headline team are tireless at their job.

For an author, though, there burns the question througout the process: How far should I go? I don't mean this in a selling-yourself-to the devil way, rather how much of an exsposition should publicity become, how deep should the author drill to achieve a successful publicity campaign, and at what price?

If it means the difference between being a bestseller and a talked-about name suddenly thrown into the controversial limelight that is more usual for brattish musicians and actors, should authors cast caution to the wind and expose their soul even at the risk of alienating friends or family? Odd, that to achieve potentially thousands of new 'friends', i.e. readers, the real thing might be shocked into oblivion when they discover their female writer chum was once a man, following a flourishing career as a pole dancer in Budapest. (No, I'm not trying to tell you anything.)

I think the best route is honesty. And, if you can manage it, an interesting but not damning life. As I get older (and wiser, ha!) I feel much more able to use my past to light the way for my future. And in doing that, I think I grow as a writer. As humans, it's inevitable that so many things happen to us - even if we think they don't - and how, if we are meant to learn from them then we will do just that. I am thankful that I have many 'real life' stories to tell.

So bring it on. Let's go public. Tell-Tale is out on November 12th and I want everyone to know about it.

Sam xx

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Writing under the influence...

No, not what you're thinking, although over the years I admit, I have written some pages while under the influence of one or three glasses of wine. And then promptly rewritten it all again the next morning. It's true that loosening up the brain cells can lead to thoughts and words that may not otherwise have hit the screen, and that's fine as long as in the cold light of day those words are whipped into shape. Wine is not a great writing buddy.

So what is? Cigarettes, I admit most shamefully, used to be a source of comfort and inspiration. There's nothing quite like sucking on a Marlboro and pondering the next chapter. I really believe that smoking helped me concentrate (it's proven, isn't it?), which in turn must have made me a better writer. Than what, I now ask? A writer who doesn't have lung cancer? I gave up that disgusting habit a long time ago now and have yet to find a healthy alternative.

Food, sadly, is next in line and nibbling on 'stuff' all day long might help concentration in a weird way, but doesn't do much for my waistline. So I'm strict. Only black coffee, herbal tea, a bit of salad and fruit passes my lips while I'm writing. It all sounds a bit grim, doesn't it?

To offset the effects of such a sedentary job, I occasionally drag myself to the gym. Or I go out on my bike. And I listen to music on my ipod. And I get inspired. And knackered. I dream up all kinds of plots and twists and characters, plus it helps pass the dreadful time that is exercising. And now I've started listening to music when I write, something I don't generally do. Just really quiet in the background. And when I'm stuck I whack up the volume. At the moment I'm playing Amy MacDonald to death. This song in particular. I've been writing the relationship between two troubled teenagers. It's heartbreaking and uplifting, tragic and real. I also have some music on my ipod from my own teenage years, to get me in the mood. I was a huge Pretenders fan. This is 1981. See all those well-behaved kids? I was fifteen at the time and so are the characters whose lives I am currently tearing apart. It's a funny job.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

J is for Jealousy

I realise the title of this post could lead to all kinds of misconceptions about its content, so let me say from the off that in no way do I mean jealousy in a mean-spirited way. What I'm referring to is the awestruck 'I wanna be like that' way - except that didn't begin with J and neither does envy (nothing much does in publishing, actually, hence the absolute age it's taken me to post about J). Secondly, it's about what I'm awstruck about, rather than the other way around. I doubt very much that anyone wants to be exactly like me right now as I sit in track pants and T shirt, with rather bad hair, my fingers sore from typing manically all day, wondering what I can rustle for dinner after already having rustled last night.

It was a little while ago now, when I was at the wonderful Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge taking part in their annual 'Bodies in the Bookshop' event that I was chatting to a couple of other authors about what 'J' could be in my series. Jealousy was mentioned, amid rather loud laughter and, as I'd already considered it, I thought I'd write a few words on it.

My jealousy began a long time ago, when I first wanted to be a writer. It started about age ten and went on for nearly three decades. It's still going strong. I suppose that jealousy could also be described as the burning desire to write, to not be left out of the amazing party that is publication. I admit, I was envious beyond belief when a thirteen year old girl was interviewed on Nationwide by Frank Bough. She'd written a novel and it was going to be published. At thirteen! I can't tell you how much I wanted that to happen to me. I can't tell you how green with envy I was. So much so that I bought a new notepad from the corner shop and started scribbling immediately. I was a girl obsessed and even wrote to Penguin to ask what I had to do to get my book published.

A rumour spread around my school that the 'new kid' had written a novel. My ears pricked up and my hackles raised. I was the one who was going to be a writer. My stories were the ones that got read out in class. I eyed this girl very suspiciously for a long time, not enjoying the competition. She was far more popular than me, far more likely to get published, I believed. The jealousy simmered. I never did find out what she'd written, but I know now that her career couldn't be further away from being a writer.

As an adult, but before I was published, I got to know a few people in the business, went to a few literary events, joined clubs and groups, met some authors, some editors from independent presses, other aspriring writers...and, of course, I was 'jealous' - in the awestruck way. They were all doing what I wanted to do - making books one way or another. I believe that my awe/jealousy took me closer to my goal. I truly believe that mixing with the right people, by surrounding myself with like-minded people, listening to their experiences and learning from their mistakes I was able to move, step by step, closer to being published.

Now, writing my seventh novel, with my third book for Headline soon to be released, I'm still awestruck by other authors. Just how many books can James Patterson write in a year? Can Anita Shreve's prose become any more beautiful or Ian McEwan's future words top those of 'On Chesil Beach'? When it comes to all books and authors that I'm 'jealous' of, well the list would be far too long. But it's certainly true that I, and I'm sure many authors will think it if not admit it, suffer from a little of the green-eyed desire monster when it comes to other people's writing. It might just be an occasional sentence. It might be an entire novel. It might be the author themselves - their glam lifestyle, their looks, their fame - but I believe that without jeal...desire, we wouldn't improve as writers at all. It's a bit of healthy competition.

So the upshot of this little musing is that I think I'm quite an ambitious person. Having become a published author, I'm now 'jealous' of those who have sold rights in thirty languages, have conquered the States, have sold film or television rights. There's plenty of jealousy left in me to achieve all this, I hope...plenty of awe to sit back, whistle through my teeth that one day I might sell this many books.

A little bit of jealousy never hurt anyone. Did it?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

TELL TALE update

I have several friends who are married to builders. They sometimes grumble that DIY jobs don't get done around their homes. Is it like this with writers and blogs, I'm wondering now, hands up in guilt as mine has languished somewhat untouched for the summer months? I spend so much of my time writing words - made up words - that when it comes to writing about real life it suddenly seems very daunting. But this made me think. Real life. That IS what I write about - hence the newly updated title of this blog. A little slogan. Very soon, my website will be transformed (again) and Real Life Fiction incorporated. Actually, it reminds me very much - and I hope she won't mind - of the title of my niece's beautiful album Real Life Computer Game. I am very honoured to have this very talented lady and her musician boyfriend staying with us at present so the house is full of even more music than usual.

During the last few months, I have finished writing TELL TALE. The blurb on the back reads:

The chilling new international bestseller from Sam Hayes is a story of three women bound together by a shocking secret...


A woman stands on a bridge, the water rushing below. In a few seconds she will jump, plunging more than two hundred feet to her death. Who is she? And why is she desperate to take her own life?


Nina Kennedy, a wife and mother, is afraid. A man is following her, threatening her family, toying with her sanity. What does he want? And how long will it be before he strikes?


Eight-year-old Ava sits waiting for her daddy. But, like the others in the children’s home, she knows her father will never come. The home is a place of whispers and shadows. But no one dare tell the truth. Until now...

I loved writing this novel. The idea came to me from several corners. I was deeply moved by the alleged abuse that went on at the Haut de la Garenne children's home in Jersey, yet I was also fascinated by the building itself and the secrets it contained. Having been a school, a youth hostel and a children's home it would have absorbed decades of human emotion. Hopefully, amongst all the alleged tragedy and abuse that went on, the building saw happier times and was, for some, a respite from their troubled lives.

In TELL TALE, Roecliffe Hall is a Victorian Gothic mansion built initially as a family home in Yorkshire. It's a magnificent piece of architecture, typical of its period with huge ornate fireplaces, stone mullion windows, follies and towers and, of course, many Pugin-esque arches. In modern times, Roecliffe is taken over by the local council and turned in to a children's home. Its most endearing features are stripped out or covered with linoleum and paint. The huge rooms are suddenly filled with metal beds rather than oak four-posters and the many twisting, ever-changing corridors are hiding place for the scared children that inhabit the building during the nineteen-eighties.

The second source of inspiration for TELL TALE was the internet and all the associated friend-making that goes on among young people. It's no secret that modern-day paedophiles have a much easier time of stalking and harvesting their prey. Social networking sites are not infallible and are just as much a hunting ground nowadays as were the corridors of Roecliffe Hall two and a half decades ago. I wanted to bring the two scenarios together, take a look at the differences and, more shockingly, the similarities.

I won't give too much away but do hope you decide to buy or pre-order a copy because I'm very proud of this book. It's a frightening look at a modern day family, how seemingly perfect lives can so very easily become nightmares and - a favourite of mine - how secrets from the past always catch up with the present. The hardback is out in the UK in November, and the trade paperback edition will be released in Australia at the same time.

I also love the cover for this novel (see above). My publishers worked very hard on getting it just right and I think they've done a cracking job. The little waif on the front reminds me so much of one of the characters, it brought a tear to my eye. Anyway, I'll give more updates and info nearer release date.

Meantime, I've been working away on my next book. It's as yet without a title but I'm a good half way through writing this one and I'm loving the characters! It's always hard in the long stretch of summer holidays to devote quite as much time to writing each day as I'd like, but then nothing beats spending time with the kids. I say kids in the loosest possible way as my eldest turned eighteen last week with the others not too far behind. Scary indeed, but (even if I say so myself!) our son is a credit to us and, as a token of my huge respect and love for him, TELL TALE is dedicated to him.

Finally, (and as ever) I'm going to try to be a little bit better on the net. So many authors are committed to updating their blogs and Facebook thingies that I really think I should be one of them. So if you want to add me on Myspace or Facebook, I'd love to be your friend. I have been known to add writerly (or not!) thoughts to these pages as well as rather random musings when the book words won't flow.

I hope to hear from lots of readers...see you on the dark side.

Sam xx

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

I is for Inspiration

Quite an appropriate time for me to blog about this. I feel oddly drained of it this week. Inspiration, that is. There are times, while writing, when the words fly from my fingertips and, thankfully, fewer times when they don't. This week is a week when they don't, it seems.

I've tried all the usual things, of course. Chocolate. Extra coffee. Going for a walk. Going to the gym (all I got there was another knee injury). Shopping, except I'm not a great shopper. Research. Trash TV. Reading. Pottering in the garden. Hell, even all my ironing is up to date.

So what is it that inspires writers? Do we have an on/off switch? If so, then I must have slept funny on mine. It's somehow been (temporarily) turned off.

I have a suspicion it could be to do with planning. I do plan my novels. I think long and hard about them before I write. Plot, sub-plots, characters, themes. I make charts and graphs and breakdowns (lest I have one) and have copious notes and bookmarks to relevant information. But what happens, I think, is that sometimes I get just too inspired. I hear this...and read about that...and notice something else and oh, it all needs to go in my plan because it would be just perfect... Does planning stifle inspiration? Does a pre-set format make a writer blind to other influences? Writing a novel is an organic process. Throwing a load of twigs and leaves into a bin does not make compost.

Or perhaps writing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants is the way to inspiration eternal. I guess, if I'm honest, I'm an in-between gal. I plan in detail. Then I chuck half of it away as I go along. So maybe that's the problem? I think I've got a complete plan, when actually I haven't. A bit like starting a bungee jump with a rope, then realising you don't have anything at all tying you to the bridge.

I heard a wonderful (actually it was grim) story about three weeks ago. It stirred me so much I was desperate to incorporate it into New Novel. I thought I had worked it in successfully. But in doing so, it's pretty much screwed up the rest of New Novel and what I'm left with is Different Novel, which, if I'm honest isn't as good as New Novel was going to be. So. Out with it. It will be in another book, for sure, but had no place in this one. It's left me a bit high and dry, however, because I'd invested so much in this new direction that I kinda, well, lost the plot. The original one that is.

So where does this whole inspiration thing come from? Probably the question I get asked the most, either at talks or when just chatting about my work, is where do I get my ideas from? In truth (and no one likes this) I have absolutely no clue. It's just life, isn't it? Writing emotional thrillers is so heavily based in the real world, all about what happens or somehow touches on each of our lives at some time or other, that by just picking up a newspaper there are probably half a dozen potential novels right there. Of course, there are characters to weave in, motives and themes, and sub-plots that help pull everything along at a thrilling pace, to a satisfying yet unexpected conclusion. Easy, then.

I guess, to distill, my ideas stem from bitesize snippets that cause big thought. Like the friend whose child went missing. Or the woman I knew who had to decide whether to have her frozen embryos destroyed. Or the marriage with a huge age gap, or the bond between a deaf child and her mother...Little glimpses of reality taken one step further.

I can't help asking 'What if...' about certain scenarios. Of course, What if it happened to me is a pretty good place to start and, often, painful to answer. But carry on with that line of questioning...what if that character did this, or what if that person wasn't really who they said they were, and soon a story will start to take shape. It may be that it's the wrong one, but being inspired is a skill to be learned, I reckon. The more you do it, the better you get. And the skill of inspiration, which quickly gives way to imagination, lies in observation and perception. Being open to...well...ideas. Noticing them. Harvesting them. Spotting what is useful to you. Eyes wide open.

New Novel is based around knife crime, but I couldn't just write a story about a stabbing. That would be a newspaper report. Other themes have waded in to make a story, about real lives, relationships, how flawed we are as husbands, wives, we don't notice things until it's too late...until we're living through what we feared most. The characters in this one are taking over. The structure is a little different, too, yet still very readable I hope. But there are some surprises in store for me, I just know (there have to be!). There is still some inspiration to be gained. I just wish I knew when and where I could find it. Contracts with publishers don't generally contain a clause for late delivery based on lack of inspiration. They kind of assume you will have lots of that.

Right, I'm off to hoe between the lettuces. I reckon that's where I'll find some much-needed oomph. That or a load of slugs. Writers: Where do you find yours?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Unspoken Downunder

A few photos from my Australia trip. I tried really hard not to dash into every bookstore we passed, but I just couldn't help it. After travelling twelve thousand miles, I really wanted to see it on the shelves. And it wasn't upside-down.

Youngest She-Devil found her favourite author's book - Chris d'Lacey's Fire Star.

Eldest son, who blanked the camera for the entire holiday, getting stuck in to Unspoken.

Unspoken on Headline in Sydney's reception shelves - with another of Chris's dragon books, Icefire, sitting above.

Friday, 24 April 2009

H is for Home

...which is where I am again after a fabulous month in Australia - and also, more importantly, where I work. It's an odd thing, this 'working from home' lark and therefore, I thought, worthy of a (rather late) post in my A-Z.

It often comes up in conversation: 'Oh, I work from home.' Perhaps pertaining to a delivery... 'No problem, I'll be at home...' or maybe a tradesman wanting access... 'That's OK, I'll be at home working.' No one believes that you actually do any WORK from home. Several times I've had the response, 'Ah, you're a housewife then.' Now, nothing against housewifery - I was a full-time mum and house-looker-afterer for many years (and hell, no one else does the ironing around here) - but many think (mostly men, I must add) that working from home is a fancy way of saying you're either unemployed or a mother going out of her mind with finger-painting-induced boredom. To be honest, sometimes I wouldn't mind a bit of finger-painting. This whole working from home thing isn't as easy as it sounds. It's really tough, truth be known.

I get quite envious when I hear friends talking about the 'water cooler gossip'. The most exciting thing that happens to me when I leave my desk for a cuppa is deciding if the weather's fine enough to hang out the washing. As for gossip, I find myself getting all exited if the postman rings the bell for me to sign for a parcel. We often exchange a juicy word or two about the weather. Of course, I do saunter down to the market or the local shop to pick up something nice for dinner and may well meet a neighbour or friend for a brief chat. But - and this was something I never fully anticipated pre-full-time writing - it's a bloody LONELY business. At Home. Alone. Working.

Imagine. The kids have gone off to school, the kitchen's cleared, the beds are made, the washing's flapping in the fresh breeze, and...then there's the sofa (or the bed!) and eight hours of daytime TV beckoning. Or marathon shopping trips to be made. Or oodles of books to catch up on. Or friends to visit (those that also work from home, of course). All these things have to be fought against. Don't they? It's funny, so many people ask me 'Do you write every day? Really? What, like a proper job you mean?' Maybe it's just me, but I get the impression they're wondering why the hell, because I can, don't I have a jolly good lie in, or hit the shops, or stay in my PJs eating cake all day.

Two things drive me: 1) I really really love writing books. 2) Bills need paying.

But, just because I have this whole discipline thing cracked, just because I don't need pills to stop me watching Jeremy Kyle (actually, I have been watching his show for research purposes, but that's another story) doesn't mean that every day is easy. If I'm stuck on a certain scene then often blitzing the garden with the shears helps get things flowing again. Or meeting up with a friend or an hour in the gym is just what's needed to get through the final stage of a long bout of editing.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work from home. I have a nice study (if it was tidier I'd put up a photo!) and a pleasant rooftop view. I'm doing what I love and, even if there are plumbers banging away beneath me as I type, even though I know that any minute now someone will phone up 'just for a chat' because I'm not really busy, am I? ...even though I don't have a boss looming over me so I have to quickly nuke the Facebook window on my computer, I wouldn't have it any other way. A writer's place is in the home. Besides, I like being alone.

Finally, on a completely different note, I'm doing a talk at Coalville Library on May 7th. The last one planned got cancelled because the library alarm was going off and they couldn't stop it! I'll be talking between 3 and 4pm about my life as a writer, my novels, and reading a couple of chapters. After that, you can fire questions at me as long as they're not too tricky. And I'll sign your books. So please come along if you're around Leicestershire. The more the merrier. I love meeting readers.

Sam x

Friday, 27 February 2009

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Inside Soap

Inside Soap Magazine is where I am, not Love It! as previously reported.

It's out now, apparently, with Unspoken featured in their reviews. See you at the newsagent's!

Monday, 23 February 2009

No. 18...

...on the Asda chart. Sandwiched between the She-Devils' favourites.

Photos of UNSPOKEN released into the wild to follow, once I can figure out how to get them off my phone. Plus, a tale of company policy. Don't you hate company policy?

UPDATE: It's now at 19. Not that I'm obsessively checking or anything.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

UNSPOKEN published today!

Happy Publication day to me! And, of course, to the rest of the team who worked so hard to get UNSPOKEN out there...thanks to my wonderful editor and agent, and the fab team at Headline.

There have been reports...sightings. I hear there is a stack on a table in WH Smith at Victoria Station. And someone I don't even know told my granny that there was a write-up in the Coventry Evening Telegraph. There should be a few of these local features coming out round about now. Apparently Unspoken has been chosen as 'Love It!' magazine's book of the week. I have yet to find out which week, but needless to say I will be checking the news stands. There are some other publicity bits going on in the next few weeks and, as soon as things are confirmed, I'll shout out. And if anyone happens to see Unspoken in the shops or charts and just happens to have a camera in their pocket, all snaps greatly received!

You should also now be able to find Unspoken in the 3 for 2 deals in Waterstone's and Borders, as well as WH Smith high street and travel branches (I think in the charts section). And also, good old Asda will be stocking it - so no excuses not to dash out and buy one. Of course, you can order from Amazon if you prefer.

I think I'll be buzzing around the shops later with my camera, stalking unsuspecting browsers, telepathically guiding them towards my book. In fact, when Blood Ties was on the shelves in Asda, I just 'happened' to be checking out the book displays with half an eye on what people were buying. One woman picked up Blood Ties, then reached for another. 'Oh no no no,' I said, pointing to Blood Ties. 'That's the book you want.' She looked a little shocked that I'd spoken to her, annoyed at the interruption. 'Have you read it?' she asked. 'Ah,' I said. 'I wrote it.'

Funny, but she didn't seem to believe me. Do the book-buying public have pre-conceived ideas about what an author should look like? If so, then I think I was about as far off the mark as I could have got. It was an early dash out for supplies on a Sunday morning. I was dressed, er, sloppily. No make-up. You know, that just-got-up look. A basket of heavy groceries hanging off my arm. Youngest She-Devil was bored and moaning at my side. I no doubt looked a bit weary from the night before (well, it was a Saturday). Actually, to my mind, I was sporting a 'classic author' look. We work hard to achieve that (slightly) dishevelled appearance.

Which brings me on to what (and it will be up here in the next day or two) my next blog will be about. Might seem a bit odd and not very publishing-ish, but H is for Home is what I will be harping on about next. Well, if you're a writer, it's where you spend ninety percent of your time. But there are other issues about home and writing. Bet you just can't wait to find out, eh?

I have, at last, updated my website. It's still evolving to be honest, and I know there are some tweaks to be made, but I wanted something up there in time for Unspoken's release. The next thing to go up will be the book group discussion points for Unspoken. But it's a start. If it looks 'odd' on your computer for whatever reason, then can you let me know? I did the site myself (it's a control thing!) and I have this awful feeling it may look a bit different in various browsers and on other monitors.

Meantime, I have pretty much finished some kind of plan for Next Novel, as it's known. And I have started writing because it was too cruel not to. OK, so the plan's not entirely finished, but give me ten thousand words or so and I'll have a better idea. But I'm loving my characters. They are very individual and have stepped into their roles perfectly. One or two are going to be very good friends, I feel sure. After I've given them a really hard time. It's a wonder I'd not noticed them before.
S. x

Monday, 9 February 2009

The plot thickens...

So I have: A female television presenter. A stabbing. A blind man. An errant son. A couple of baddies. Oh, and a woman who likes women. (Well, I think she does.)

What do I do with that lot?

Actually, I know exactly what I'm going to do with them. It's going to be great. Trust me.

And I am *really* sick of the snow.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow quiet

It's all so quiet, isn't it, with this snow business? It rather suits the between novels mode that has struck me this week. Soft and fluffy outside my window; soft and fluffy in my head. I don't like not being 'in' a novel. I'm beginning to get to know my new characters, but they're not like the old ones yet; the ones I sent off to my editor recently. I knew them really well. I'd spent many months with them. These new people Give me a few weeks, and I'll be begging for them not to leave either. But for now, they haven't done anything to prove themselves to me; to show me what they're made of. That only comes when the writing begins. And how I long for that!

But I have to be good. I have to plan. I have to take this time to work it all out. Once the framework's in place, I'll let loose my players. I give myself until about three o'clock this afternoon before words hit the page. I don't like not writing!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

G is for Genre

For those who haven't died of boredom, or migrated to more regularly updated blogs, I thought I'd jot down something about genre. The G-word. That's easy then, because that just means type or class or style or content. No problem. Or so I once thought. (Actually, I didn't think. That was my problem.)

Genre, I'd say, was the single biggest stumbling block on my path to publication. Oh, that and actually having the staying power to complete a novel, deciding what to write about, er...not writing drivel, um...getting an agent...yadda yadda...

When I was seven or eight, I wrote a story about a rabbit. And her husband rabbit. Really, it was a tale about me and the boy I was sweet on in my class. I showed it to him and he got it. He said 'I'm that rabbit, and you're the girl rabbit.' I blushed. No one else in the class understood. They thought it was stupid and laughed. True, it was rather an exclusive book. (Six stapled-together pages and only one copy ever printed.) It wasn't easy to identify with. It wasn't strictly romance, and neither was there an adventure. It didn't have pictures and there wasn't much of a story. Genre wasn't even a twinkle in my eye back then.

Going on ten - a little more jaded (think the rabbit had dumped me by then) - and I got into horror stories. I didn't know I was writing horror, but I always used to wait until everyone had gone out of the house before I began. I would scare myself witless with tales of ghosts and zombie children and haunted houses that swallowed people up... You get the picture. At least I was experimenting with a real genre, even though I hadn't yet got a clue about such things. I went through a boarding school phase, inspired by Enid, of course. Then there were the fantasy epics, quite a bit more romance, some science fiction and quite a large number of pages that had absolutely no genre whatsoever. I think I was trying to be literary.

So while I was experimenting with genre, I didn't actually know it. Didn't realise how important it is to be successful. And I didn't realise either, the subtlety of sub-genres or that genres suffer from trends and popularity - or lack of - just like any other product.

Has anyone ever asked you what your book's about? Isn't that the most annoying question ever? Well, it was for me. Because I couldn' answer. Not easily, anyway. 'Oh, it', there's this girl in it and...well, something happens and...'

Yes, but what is it?

All anyone wants to hear (initially) - especially those in the business - is what IS it? A romance. Horror. A thriller. Crime. Women's fiction. Young adult. Science fiction. Historical. If you can answer that, then really, nuff said. To begin with, at least. From the moment you approach an agent or editor, their minds are fast-tracking to how/where they can place the novel. How they can categorise it. For that, it needs a label.

Imagine if, overnight, every supermarket manager decided to mix up and randomise ALL the products on ALL the shelves in the shop. Worse - they peeled off all the labels too. So you have ten minutes to grab something for dinner on the way home before you fetch the kids... Supermarket sweep takes on a whole new meaning. Your spaghetti bolognese may well be made with custard.

What if bookshops did the same? And I completely agree with everyone who's now shouting out: But what amazing literary discoveries we would all make! (Custard bolognese). Yes, but also imagine the confusion, the let down, the sales that would be lost when a reader desperate for the next thriller in a series could only find...a kids' picture book, a romance. You go in for salmon and come away with frozen lamb chops. Yuk. Or maybe a better analogy is what if Whiskas cat food started making sandwich fillers. In pink foil sachets. For humans. It's all about expectation. Wasn't there green ketchup once?

Anyway, enough of the food analogy. Genre is important. Books are products, after all. They need to be created with selling in mind. (Yes, of course killer story, amazing characters are important too etc).

Most readers (I realise there are exceptions) want a book to do what it says on the tin. In the correct section of the bookshop. With a cover that shows what lies inside. And all this is important for the author too. It's not just so that CEOs of publishing houses can stack up figures. With some exceptions, most authors want to sell as many books as they can. Right from the start of their careers, they'll be faced with genre. Approaching the right agent (no point sending a YA novel to an agent that deals solely with crime thrillers), the agent sending out the typescript to appropriate editors, the editors balancing their lists/positioning titles and genres in the market place, publicity and marketing strategies - all of these these things are based on genre. What works for one type of novel, may not necessarily work for another.

In the commercial publising business, genre is so important. Decisions are made based upon it. An author needs to be true to their genre - and maybe will have more than one genre - think pseudonyms. I'm constantly excited by writing what I write. Emotional and psychological thrillers. For the moment, I can't imagine writing anything else. I have a ton of ideas stacked up. It feels right. While authors don't want to bore readers with one novel after another that are so similar in content only the cover art makes them unique, we do like to be consistent. It's all about fitting in.

Odd, given that most authors strive to break right out.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

From Russia

Just a quickie to show off the Russian cover of Blood Ties. I totally love it! Quite different to the other BT covers, but very classy and mysterious. Almost a little Salvador Dali with that clock and those errant chairs. Looking forward to seeing what they do with Unspoken, recently sold to Phantom Press. I did a babelfish translation on the title and it gave me: My Strange Daughter.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Seeing as it's up on Amazon, I guess it's OK to shout out about my new book. It's called TELL-TALE and the hardback is out this September. I don't have a release date for the paperback yet, but assume it will be early next year. It's a psychological thriller about a woman living under the witness protection scheme, a paedophile ring operating from a children's home during the 1980s, and it opens with a suicide. It's about the consequences of telling tales, that it doesn't always pay to tell the truth. I'm proud of this one. I haven't seen a cover yet, but have a feeling Headline will do a fine job.

Meantime, the paperback of UNSPOKEN is soon to hit the shelves. My publicist is working hard to make sure everyone knows about its release on 19th February. I love this book and have been getting some very nice emails from Australia where it's been out for several months already. It should be widely available (supermarkets, high street stores etc) but can also be pre-ordered from Amazon. And don't forget to let me know what you think when you've read it. It's a real thrill to hear from readers.

Finally, I'll soon be posting the next in my publishing A-Z series. Thought I'd talk about genre - unless anyone has any better 'G' ideas. Drop me a line.

Sam xx

Monday, 5 January 2009

Must try harder

Not doing so good on the resolutions. I've already been in hospital having X-rays for a broken knee cap. I can't walk very well. Therefore I can't do anything with my poor neglected garden. It hurts to sit for long periods, so writing is tough. I could lie down and watch a movie, but of course I fall asleep.

Still, at least I spoke my mind when I was skittled onto concrete by a thug who clearly took the laser game too seriously.

Anyone else flunked out on the self-imposed regimes that January brings?

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Great Joy

You gotta love it, Christmas. New Year.

Haven't you?

We got nine months in the clear, folks. No more tinsel. No more presents. No unusual diet.

I'm basking in this Great Joy.

Resolutions for 2009: (In no particular order)

* Continue running (without breaking my leg again would be nice).
* Write two novels.
* Sell lots of books.
* Keep in touch - with what/whom remains to be seen.
* To grow better vegetables this year as 2008 was, if I'm honest, a bit of a let down produce-wise.
* Speak my mind.
* Not fall asleep in movies.

Pretty good, huh? And there are ways you can help me. Please buy a novel (preferably mine), or send me an email. How about both?

What are your resolutions?

Have a happy, lucky, and healthy 2009!