Tuesday 30 October 2018

The Insider by Mari Hannah @mariwriter @orionbooks @orion_crime BLOG TOUR #TheInsider

'It was the news they had all been dreading, confirmation of a fourth victim.'
When the body of a young woman is found by a Northumberland railway line, it's a baptism of fire for the Murder Investigation Team's newest detective duo: DCI David Stone and DS Frankie Oliver.
The case is tough by anyone's standards, but Stone is convinced that there's a leak in his team - someone is giving the killer a head start on the investigation. Until he finds out who, Stone can only trust his partner.
But Frankie is struggling with her own past. And she isn't the only one being driven by a personal vendetta. The killer is targeting these women for a reason. And his next target is close to home...

The Insider by Mari Hannah is published in paperback by Orion on 1 November 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this blog tour.

Forgive me Mari Hannah, and Orion Books, for I have sinned! This is the author's tenth book and it's also the first book of hers that I have read. I have no idea how this happened! I've been aware of Mari Hannah for years, I even met her at a book event, yet for some reason, I've never read her before.

Big mistake!  Huge huge mistake! The only positive thing about my big mistake is that I know have nine books to go back and read and if The Insider is anything like her other books, Im in for such a treat.

I absolutely adored this book. I almost inhaled it, I couldn't put it down. I was totally in love with the amazing lead characters and just blown away by the perfection of the writing, plotting and suspense. 

Yes, this is book two of the Stone and Oliver series, but honestly, don't let that put you off. This author is so skilful; she gives the back story of these two incredible characters throughout The Insider, but doesn't over burden the reader with details - there is just enough information and it adds so much depth to the whole story.

Stone and Oliver are called in to take over a murder inquiry. The previous SIO has left the case, left the area and left the force. Not only have Stone as SIO and Oliver as second in command got to get to grips with the finer details of the case, they also have to deal with a fairly negative team of officers. Then, just as they start the investigations, another body is found. There's a serial killer on the loose in rural Northumberland and there does not appear to be any link between the victims.

 Mari Hannah has not only created some of the best police characters that I've come upon for a long time, she also takes her readers and plants them firmly in the heart of the North East of England. Her sense of place is amazing and this fabulous location becomes a character within its own right. I'm fairly familiar with the area, but it's clear from this amazing writing that Mari Hannah know the setting so well. It's almost a advertisement for the area (without the murder victim of course), and I've already been Googling places to stay in Northumberland.

This is an expertly plotted crime novel; the story is intriguing and builds up to a reveal that I certainly didn't see coming. The characters are believable, realistic and very easy to warm to. 

First class crime writing from an author who has an incredible talent. My Waterstone's basket has at least two of Mari Hannah's previous books in it and I'm really looking forward to reading more from her.

Mari Hannah is a multi-award-winning author whose authentic voice is no happy accident. 
A former probation officer, she lives in rural Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective. 
Mari turned to script-writing when her career was cut short following an assault on duty. 
Her debut, The Murder Wall (adapted from a script she developed with the BBC) won her the Polari First Book Prize. Its follow-up, Settled Blood, picked up a Northern Writers' Award. 
Her Kate Daniels series is in development with Stephen Fry's production company, Sprout Pictures. 
She is currently Reader in Residence for Harrogate International Crime Writing Festival. 
Mari's body of work won her the CWA Dagger in the Library 2017, an incredible honour to receive so early on in her career.

Twitter @mariwriter
Website : www.marihannah.com

Saturday 27 October 2018

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull @rebeccamascull @HQStories @Joe_Thomas25 #MissMarley

Before A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.
And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…
In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye is published in hardback by HQ on 1 November 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review feels very personal for me. I went through a whole load of emotions before I even opened the beautiful cover.
I was the first person to publicly review Vanessa Lafaye's first novel; Summertime. I didn't know her, I'd not heard of her but I read Summertime, loved it, and published my review.
Vanessa contacted me to tell me that she got the notification when she was out with her choir and that she was terrified of reading the review.  Luckily, she loved what I said, and that was the beginning of our friendship.

I was lucky enough to meet Vanessa and her husband James for lunch in Lincoln a couple of years ago. She travelled here to go to Rebecca Mascull's book launch. She was as funny and beautiful in the flesh as she was online.
When I met Vanessa, she'd been having treatment for breast cancer. Her hair was growing back and she was excited about plotting her next book; At First Light.

Sadly, the cancer returned and Vanessa died earlier this year.  She'd completed the first nine chapters of Miss Marley. Vanessa's editor contacted Rebecca Mascull and asked if she would complete the book. I'm delighted that Rebecca agreed.

Miss Marley is a truly beautiful book. Just over 150 pages and easily read in one sitting, it is Vanessa Lafaye's imagining of how and why Jacob Marley became that ghost, rattling with chains, who haunted Ebenezer Scrooge in Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

In three parts; Miss Marley takes us from 'the beginning' to 'the end' and is the story of Clara Belle Marley; the imagined sister of Jacob.
Clara and Jake (as he was known as then) are living on the streets of London. Dirty, hungry and pitiful, they snatch at rotting vegetables in the market place and rotten meat from the butcher's shop.

Clara and Jake have not always been poor. They used to live in a fine house, with loving parents and full bellies and warm clothes and shoes, and often think back to those happier times. It is the misfortune of a wealthy gentleman, attacked by a gang of thieves that takes them from the streets to a room in a boarding house that is only marginally better than a cold, damp alleyway.

From here, Vanessa Lafaye leads her readers on a magical journey through the darkest streets of London. We watch as Clara and Jacob grow, as their fortunes improve, as they are knocked back, and as they prosper again. These incredibly created characters take on a life of their own, beautifully rounded and so realistic, they leap from the pages and fit perfectly with the original tale from Dickens.
Lafaye's London is exquisitely painted; the horrors of the struggles of the poorest of the poor contrast with the riches of the most wealthy against a backdrop of the most humble of houses to the glittering shop fronts.

Miss Marley is beautifully tender and Rebecca Mascull has seamlessly and cleverly completed Vanessa Lafaye's story of avarice mixed with love and hope.

This is the perfect seasonal read. It is thoughtful, captivating and an outstanding tribute to the late Vanessa Lafaye.

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Florida and studied in North Carolina. 

She moved to the UK in 1999 (having been deported once). 

She is the author of two previous novels, her first book Summertime, was chosen for Richard and Judy in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Award. 

Vanessa passed away in February 2018.

Rebecca Mascull is the author of three historical novels, all published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Her first novel, THE VISITORS, tells the story of Adeliza Golding, a deaf-blind child living on her father’s hop farm in Victorian Kent. Her second novel SONG OF THE SEA MAID is set in the C18th and concerns an orphan girl who becomes a scientist and makes a remarkable discovery. Her third novel, THE WILD AIR, is about a shy Edwardian girl who learns to fly and becomes a celebrated aviatrix but the shadow of war is looming. 
She has also recently completed the final chapters of her friend and fellow novelist Vanessa Lafaye’s final work, a novella called MISS MARLEY, a prequel to Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL. This novella will be published in November 2018 by HarperCollins.
After previously working in education, Rebecca is now a full-time writer. She has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the East of England. Rebecca also writes sagas under the pen-name Mollie Walton

Friday 26 October 2018

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way @CamillaLWay @fictionpubteam @flisssity #TheLiesWeTold

Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late?

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way was published by Harper Collins on 3 May 2018.

I'm a big fan of Camilla Way and have read all of her previous books. She's one of those authors who seem to be under the radar for some reason, and I really think it's time that more people read her books and shouted loudly about them.

I read The Lies We Told whilst on holiday last month in Rhodes. This meant that I was able to read much of it in one huge sitting, and to be honest, that really was just the way to do it. I found it very compelling, with a writing style that sucks the reader in from the first shocking pages.

The story is made up of two seemingly unrelated threads; one in the past and one in the present day and opens when Beth finds her pet budgie; dead and beheaded. The year is 1986 and Beth knows who is responsible for his awful act; her young daughter Hannah.
Hannah is one of the most convincingly chilling characters that I've come across in a long time. Just a child, but full of malicious evil; goading and hurting her parents everyday.

The second thread of the story concentrates on Clara and her boyfriend Luke in the present day. Clare wakes one morning and Luke is not there. She's puzzled as he has a big interview that day, she's also a little bit annoyed as she suspects he probably had a few too many the night before and has dossed down on a friend's settee. As the day goes on and everyone that Clara speaks to tells her they've not seen him, the tension builds and it soon becomes clear that there may be people who know more than they are letting on.

Camilla Way is an incredible talent. She takes two families, who upon first appearances appear to have it all and worms her way into their innermost secrets. She gradually reveals their insecurities, their hidden pasts and their determination to ensure that nobody sees them for what they really are.

The Lies We Told is beautifully written; full of teasing clues and mind blowing reveals. It's an addictive, clever read that is filled with tension, leading up to a totally unexpected finale.

Highly recommended from me. Another excellent story from a superb author.

Camilla Way was born in Greenwich, south-east London in 1973. 
Her father was the poet and author Peter Way. 
After attending Woolwich College she studied modern English and French literature at the University of Glamorgan. 
Formerly Associate Editor of the teenage girls' magazine Bliss, she is currently an editor and writer on the men's style magazine Arena. 
Having lived in Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Clerkenwell, she now lives in south-east London.

Twitter @CamillaLWay

Thursday 25 October 2018

Crime Files Rooftop Book Club @RooftopBookClub @ellygriffiths @SabineDurrant @RachelAbbott #CrimeFiction @HodderBooks @CrimeFilesBooks

Come along to an evening of thrills and chills atop one of London’s most scenic rooftops. 

Join Hodder & Stoughton for crime and wine on their stunning riverside rooftop, for London’s only Rooftop Book Club in the company of three very special authors: Rachel Abbott, Elly Griffiths and Sabine Durrant. Presenting three of 2018’s most talked-about crime novels, this is a night of twists and turns, bought to you in partnership with CrimeFiles.
Rachel Abbott is the No 1 bestselling author of six psychological thrillers, including ONLY THE INNOCENT and COME A LITTLE CLOSER. In November she is back with a brand new book and the start to a new crime series with her brilliantly twisty and atmospheric AND SO IT BEGINS. Join Sergeant Stephanie King, who is called out to the imposing, clifftop house, owned by famous photographer Marcus North, to find two people, covered in blood in a bedroom lit by candlelight, one dead, one alive. Then travel back in time to find out what happened – who is dead? And how do Cleo, Marcus’s sister, and Evie, his new girlfriend, fit into everything? Rachel Abbott is much loved by readers and has over 8,000 5* reviews on Amazon – if you haven’t discovered her before, now is the time.
Sabine Durrant, Sunday Times bestselling author of LIE WITH ME, is back with a sensational new thriller, TAKE ME IN. A hot beach. A young family on holiday. A fatal moment of inattention. When Tess and Marcus embark on their summer holdiday they find it difficult to shake the strains, stress and secrets that are taking their toll on their relationship. And then a stranger on the beach saves their only son’s life and they know they owe Dave Jepsom more than they can ever repay. And now Dave Jepsom is in their lives. Yet even as he is walking from the sea with their son in his arms, there is something about him that makes them uneasy. Dave Jepsom, with his muscles, his pale eyes, his expressionless face. He saved their child. How can they ever repay him? Especially as what he seems to want in return is everything. He’s in the streets they walk down. He’s at the office where they work. He’s at their front door, leaning on the bell… If only they could go back. Back to when the lies were still hidden. Before the holiday, before the beach, before the moment that changed everything. Before Dave. But it’s never how it starts that matters. It’s always how it ends.
Elly Griffiths, the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries, brings us her first standalone novel THE STRANGER DIARIES, a gripping contemporary Gothic thriller. Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare's life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case. Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn't hers...
This fantastic evening will be chaired by Fabulous magazine journalist Claire Frost, as she interviews the authors and then opens up to questions from the audience.

Copies of books will be on sale from Waterstones on the evening. Tickets are £10 and include a welcome drink and nibbles.
Please arrive from 6.30pm for a prompt 7pm start. The event will finish at 8.45pm.

To book your ticket visit:

The Last Train to Helsingor by Heidi Amsinck BLOG TOUR @HeidiAmsinck1 @MuswellPress #MyLifeInBooks @Mono80

The sound of loud voices made him turn. Two old women had entered the room, obviously roused out of bed. They wore dressing gowns and their long silvery hair hung loose over their shoulders. Borg was reminded of his grandmother, a mild-mannered woman who had looked after him during his school holidays.
He noticed that the women’s faces were identical.
‘Joachim!’ exclaimed one of the twins, clapping her hands. ‘What have you got for us this time?’
From the commuter who bitterly regrets falling asleep on a late-night train, to the mushroom hunter prepared to kill to guard her secret, Last Train to Helsingor is a chilling and darkly humorous collection of stories.
Copenhagen becomes a city of twilight and shadows, as canny antique dealers and property sharks get their comeuppance at the hands of old ladies, and ghosts act in most peculiar ways. With echoes of Daphne du Maurier, Roald Dahl and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Last Train to Helsingor will keep you awake into the small hours.

The Last Train to Helsingor by Heidi Amsinck was published earlier this year by Muswell Press.

As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books.

My Life in Books - Heidi Amsinck

Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm   My earliest reading memories are of the dark forests, locked castle rooms, lost brides and lonely woodcutter cottages of the Brothers Grimm. I grew up in Denmark and read these gothic fairy tales in Danish with the original illustrations by Johann and Leinweber, swallowing the brutal narratives whole. Years later, I discovered and fell in love instantly with Angela Carter’s reinvention of the genre in The Bloody Chamber – so alive, so fabulous and terrifying.

A Day in the Country and Other Stories by Guy de Maupassant    I adore short stories, the single, devastating blow they deliver when well told. This elegant collection by Guy de Maupassant is one to which I keep returning, particularly The Necklace, which neatly skewers the absurd snobbery of social climber Madame Mathilde Loisel. Maupassant combines comedy and a cruel twist of fate into something exquisitely dark.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo     A Francophile at heart, I studied French at high school and spent a lot of time in France over the years, with a particular fondness for Paris. Too many French classics to choose from, but I remember losing myself completely in this evocative masterpiece. Virtually no theme is left untouched in this epic tale of good and evil. As a novel, it has everything, and more.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe    I came late to these tales, which I struggled to read, until I stopped trying to make sense of them. To read Poe is to fall into his disturbing twilight world. The Murders in the Rue Morgue – the tale of a brutal killing of two women, and often recognized as one of the first detective stories – is so genuinely terrifying to me that I still cannot read it alone at night.

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen     Like most Danes, I grew up with the weird and wonderful tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Though rather whimsical and mawkish compared Grimm’s fairy tales, I nevertheless adored these stories as a child, and treasured my two volumes bound in much-worn red leather. My favourite Hans Christian Andersen story is The Nightingale about the Chinese emperor who banishes the nightingale for a mechanical songbird but regrets this bitterly on his deathbed. This was the inspiration for my own story The Bird in the Cage, about a man’s obsession with an automaton nightingale he sees in the window of a Copenhagen antique shop.

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Audrey Niffenegger     Published three years ago, this beautifully illustrated anthology, brings together some of the stories I love most of all. Not sure if I believe in ghosts, but They by Rudyard Kipling almost makes me want to. A lost motorist comes across a beautiful Sussex estate with children playing in the grounds but learns there is more to these mysteriously shy youngsters than meets the eye. Haunting and desperately sad.

Music and Silence by Rose Tremain    Rose Tremain is one of my favourite contemporary writers, and this 1600s tale of Peter Claire, a young English lutenist who arrives at the Danish Court to join King Christian IV's Royal Orchestra, is a masterpiece of historical fiction. I love how Tremain takes us so effortlessly through this fascinating chapter in Danish history, contrasting darkness and light. It’s a book you feel as much as read. To me, it was like stepping into a time machine, the kind of book I happily stay up all night for.

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl     I watched the TV series before I read the books, with subtitles on Danish TV in the late 1970s, and to this day the music from the title sequence is enough to reignite the magic. Watching it again a couple of years ago, I was shocked to discover the low production value of the series, which I remember as utterly slick and spine-chilling. I adore the wickedness of these clever stories, and how Dahl administers comeuppance to the proud, conniving and cruel, such as in The Way Up To Heaven where a husband makes his wife wait unnecessarily for one last time. These are probably the most direct influence on my own short stories.

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier     I could have picked a lot of other stories by Daphne du Maurier whose hauntingly atmospheric work has made a deep and lasting impression on me. It’s hard to distract from the iconic film adaptation starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, but Don’t Look Now is an utterly unsettling read, a post-bereavement quest for answers that takes a strange and violent turn. Something about Daphne du Maurier connects with my deepest fears, and the story itself reads like the telling of a nightmare.

Anecdotes of Destiny by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)    Blixen is part of my Danish cultural heritage and holds a special place in my heart. Ironically, she wrote in English, under the pen-name Isak Dinesen. My first language was Danish, but I too write in English out of choice, as it gives me the freedom to make stuff up about Copenhagen, my city of birth. Blixen’s Babette’s Feast is one of the stories I have returned to most often through my life. All her writing has a mystic fairy-tale quality to it, but Babette’s Feast – the tale of a French chef who treats a remote fishing community in Norway to an unforgettable feast – nails the wonder of fiction. In the words of Blixen’s character General Loewenhielm: “For tonight I have learned, dear sister, that in this world anything is possible.”

Heidi Amsinck - October 2018 

Heidi Amsinck, a writer and journalist born in Copenhagen, spent many years covering Britain for the Danish press, including a spell as London Correspondent for the broadsheet daily Jyllands- Posten. 
She has written numerous short stories for radio, including the three-story sets Danish Noir, Copenhagen Confidential and Copenhagen Curios, all produced by Sweet Talk for BBC Radio 4, which are included in this collection .
A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, Heidi lives in Surrey. She was previously shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. 
Last Train to Helsingor is her first published collection of stories.

Twitter @HeidiAmsinck1

Wednesday 24 October 2018

She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson @TraceyJEmerson BLOG TOUR @Legend_books #MyLifeInBooks

Grace has returned to London after twenty years abroad to manage her dying mother’s affairs. When she receives a blank Mother’s Day card in the post, she is confused and unsettled. Who could have sent it to her and why? She isn’t a mother.
Another Mother’s Day card arrives. Then come the silent phone calls. Haunted by disturbing flashbacks, Grace starts to unravel. Someone is out to get her. Someone who knows what she has done. Someone who will make her face the past she has run from for so long.
Emerson creates an intricate web in this intense psychological thriller whose high energy and fast-pace will have you racing towards the climactic conclusion. Perfect for fans ofThe Girl Before

She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson was published by Legend Press on 15 October 2018.

As part of the BLOG TOUR, I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books.

Tracey Emerson - My Life In Books

Like most kids born in the 70s, I spent my early childhood reading Enid Blyton books.

Adventures of The Wishing Chair was a particular favourite. A chair that sprouts wings and flies you away on exotic adventures. What’s not to love! My sister and I spent many hours squeezed into armchairs together, willing them to take off. An early lesson in disappointment.

Later, I became obsessed with Little Women, reading it countless times. Jo March was my first girl crush. I wanted to be her, and I’m sure not the only female writer to count her as an early role model. And the novel itself is tender and true and timeless.

YA fiction didn’t exist during my teens, so I read whatever books my parents had in the house, as well as the texts I studied at school. My mum was a huge Stephen King fan, so I have her to thank for introducing me to his brilliant storytelling. Misery stands out for me, and I reread it every few years. The novel itself is a masterclass in thriller writing and in the attempts of the captive author, Paul Sheldon, to create a new Misery novel for the psychotic Annie Wilkes, we get a glimpse into King’s writing process.

I also recall a fascination with The Breaking Point, a collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier. ‘The Blue Lenses’, an eerie, surreal tale about a woman who suffers unusual side effects after an eye operation, gave me my first glimpse of how the short story form could contain anything a writer’s imagination might throw at it.

I didn’t do English Literature at A level, and I studied drama at university. Thus, in my late teens and early twenties, reading plays took over from reading novels. When I did read novels, it was usually as research for a character or with a view to adapting the work for the stage. One such novel was The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe. Francie Brady, the unreliable first-person narrator, captivated me. The novel takes us deep into Francie’s delusional mind, whilst simultaneously showing us what is happening outside his delusions. I have loved this style of narration and this type of sympathetic anti-hero ever since.

This affection for the anti-hero led me to Patricia Highsmith’s novels. The Talented Mr Ripley is a fascinating, chilling study of how disaffection can mutate into crime, and it taps uncomfortably into the universal experience of coveting the wealth and lifestyle of another.

François Mauriac’s Thérèse Desqueyroux is a beloved anti-heroine of mine. Acquitted of attempting to poison her husband, Thérèse has to return to the marital home. Everyone, her husband included, knows she did it, but keeping up appearances and family honour are more important than the truth. Trapped in the stifling marriage she tried to free herself from, Thérèse has time to reflect on the complex, ambiguous motives behind the crime she committed. A lyrical, philosophical novel with a gripping premise.

I can pinpoint three other novels with female protagonists that showed me different ways of exploring the female psyche. One is Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. This classic portrayal of sadness, loss and regret slayed me with its brutal honesty and made me feel no emotion or experience was out of bounds as writing material.
Another discovery was Julie Myerson’s The Story of You, the first novel of hers I read. This is a story that depicts raw grief, and it exposes the interior life of the female narrator with no apologies. It also explores the power of female intuition, and it dares to bring supernatural experiences into the narrative, treating them as a valid part of our existence.
Another novel that dared and succeeded was Apple Tree Yard. Louise Doughty’s bestselling psychological thriller contains a perfect balance of literary and genre elements. Reading it convinced me that the psychological thriller permitted the kind of complex portrayals of women I was interested in writing.

To finish, I have to mention Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing—an astonishing novel by one of my all-time favourite writers. On one level, it is a dystopian story about a futuristic Britain on the verge of collapse. An elderly woman, watching society disintegrate around her, finds she has the ability to pass through her living room wall to another world. A world that could provide refuge and salvation if she can only overcome her logical mind and fully engage with it. Memoirs is a novel of huge ideas, suggesting that when logic and the intellect cause society to break down, we will only survive by using our intuition and instinct. By embracing what we don’t understand. It is both a vision of how we might escape the end of the world and also a guide to mental survival, urging us not to give into polarised thinking. Urging us to learn how to hold contradictory ideas in our mind at the same time.

Tracey Emerson - October 2018 

Before writing fiction, Tracey worked in theatre and community arts. As well as acting, she ran drama workshops in hospitals, focusing on adults with mental health issues. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh and works as a literary consultant and writing tutor. She is also the Creative Director of The Bridge Awards, a philanthropic organisation that provides micro-funding for the arts. 
She Chose Me is Tracey’s first novel. Follow Tracey at her website www.traceyemerson.com

Tuesday 23 October 2018

A Day in the Life of Author Susan Elliott Wright @sewelliott #ADayInTheLife #AuthorFeature

In June 2018, the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) published the results of their latest survey on author incomes. They do not make for happy reading, yet despite this, there is still a myth, believed by many, that ALL authors earn as much as people like JK Rowling, or James Patterson, or EL James.
I speak to lots of authors and I know it's not true at all. Look at the facts:
  • The median annual income of a professional author is £10,500, which is well below the minimum wage.
  • The equivalent figure in 2013 was £11,000 and in 2005 it was £12,500.
  • In real terms, taking inflation into account, this represents a fall in writing income of 42% since 2005, and 15% since 2013.
  • Just 13.7% of authors earn their income solely from writing. In 2005 this was 40%.
  • There is a growing gender pay gap, with the average earnings of female professional authors only around 75% of those of the average male professional author, down from 78% in 2005. This finding is worrying, however we are reluctant to comment on it until we see a detailed breakdown of the figures, which ALCS will release in the autumn. We do not know how the figures compare across age and genre and whether this is a true like for like comparison. 
So, I decided to invite authors here to Random Things to talk about their average day, and I'm delighted to welcome my first guest; Susan Elliott Wright here today.

A Day in the Life of Author
Susan Elliott Wright

Thank you, Anne, for inviting me to be part of this exciting new blog series!

A little background: I’m luckier than many of my fellow authors. I’m published by Simon & Schuster, and my first two books The Things We Never Said and The Secrets We Left Behind sold well. The third What She Lost (the best of the three, in my opinion) was well-reviewed – ‘Recommended Reading’ status from both Good housekeeping and Waitrose – but didn’t sell well.

When I was first published in 2013, I was cheffing for an outside catering company alongside my writing. Sadly, severe RSI in both hands made working in a commercial kitchen impossible, and I had to give up in 2015. I write using dictation software because I can’t type for more than an hour or so, and then only if I wear wrist splints.

So, a typical day. I stagger downstairs at 7-ish for breakfast – fruit, egg on toast and green tea. I listen to the news on Radio 4, but no more than once a day – too depressing. I read over breakfast for half an hour, unless it’s a real page-turner, in which case I might still be sitting there two hours later. Next,
I’d usually walk the dog (incorporating a 10-minute sit and read) but we recently lost our beloved Henry after a sudden illness, so we’re dogless just now.

By 9-ish, I’m at my desk. We live in a small terraced house in a student-y area of Sheffield. The house was built as a ‘two up, two down’ but now has a converted attic, which I
use as an office/study.

Most of my work is writing-related – planning and teaching workshops, preparing critiques, or mentoring new writers.

I’m technically an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, but it’s a zero hours contract, and as the permanent staff seem to all be healthy (which is good, obviously) and to have stopped having babies or going on sabbaticals, I’ve had no teaching work there for ages.

So, first job is social media. It is part of my job, although I’m sometimes distracted by cute animal videos – who isn’t? I post on my Facebook page when there’s book news, a blog post, or
info about my workshops or critique services. I’ll respond to any messages or comments before moving on to Twitter, where I dip in and out throughout the day, reading and retweeting things that grab my attention – and of course anything to do with my new novel The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood (out in Feb). When my publishers tweeted recently that they’d had to do another print run of proof copies ‘due to high demand’, I woke up to 63 notifications!

Emails next. I save lengthy personal emails until the evening, but most of my emails are teaching-related – advertising workshops, taking bookings, or discussing content with my fellow tutor Russ Thomas.
We have a workshop coming up, so my day might involve a preliminary planning meeting with Russ and, depending on whose turn it is, typing up a draft lesson plan or writing a new handout. Planning sessions gobble up half a day, so for the purposes of this post, let’s say I’ve only got the typing up to do. Making a new handout can take ages, but for the forthcoming session, I only need to tweak handouts we’ve used before. We’ll meet again just before the workshop to make any final adjustments. Teaching the session is the easy bit!

By the time I get round to writing anything creative, it’s usually late morning. I used to head over to a local coffee shop to write, but even though they’d let me sit there all day nursing one drink, I can’t afford it now.

Our only regular income is a small weekly payment from Working Tax Credits.  (I am the main earner just now, by the way – Himself earns very little at the moment due to ill health)

Until I write a new book, one that my publisher (or another publisher) actually wants to buy, I’m ‘out of contract’, so we live on the WTC, whatever I bring in from teaching, and rapidly dwindling savings. I still receive a tiny amount of royalties, as well as few hundred pounds a year from PLR – the payments made to authors in respect of library loans of their books.

Since I became a published author in 2013, my gross income from writing, teaching, and catering, was £72k over the five years – an average of £14,400 before tax. 

Just over half of that is from writing – and I know I’m lucky!

Few people realise what a tiny percentage of book sales authors receive. I receive 59p for every book retailing at 7.99 (a bit more for e-books.)
If I sell more than 20,000 copies, it goes up to 79p.
Each 59p goes towards chipping away at the advance, and only if the book ‘earns out’ do I receive anything on top.
Most books never earn out – I’m thrilled that my first did, devastated that the third didn’t, and hopeful that the fourth will! There was no ‘fat cheque’ – never is, for the vast majority of authors, even when you’ve written a ‘bestseller’. And 15% (+VAT) of everything goes to your agent.

Back to my day. If I’m writing a blog post, I usually do that first. I write a draft, then edit thoroughly – I did a quick edit on this post last night, and have spent the whole of this morning on a second edit.

If things go smoothly, I’ll have lunch at 1.30-ish. I take about 45 minutes for lunch and eat at my desk, either faffing about – funny videos are legit at lunchtime – or watching something on iPlayer.

After lunch is when I tend to run errands, go to the library, or whatever. On days when I don’t need to go out, I walk around the block – I have long-term back problems and sitting at a desk all day is a killer. Some days, I take a nap. I’m a huge fan of ‘controlled recovery periods’ as recommended by Nick Littlehales in his book on sleep. Fortunately, my office doubles as a guest room, so I have a handy sofabed to curl up on for 20 minutes.

By now, you’re probably wondering when this novelist ever works on a novel. How I’d love to say I go straight to my desk each morning and write until three in the afternoon, but who has time for that if you’re not Lee Childs or JK Rowling? If I don’t do the other stuff, we don’t eat!

I’m currently at the planning stage with a new novel, so I look at a time commitment rather than a word count, usually a minimum of two hours trying to move the outline forward. I’m not a natural planner, but I promised my agent I’d at least try to plan a bit more.
Once I start the first draft, I aim for 1000-1500 words a day, but I don’t allow myself to go to bed unless I’ve written 300. I may end up deleting them all, but the point is that it keeps the story in my head.

If it’s going well, I’ll carry on until 7pm or 8pm, but three or four times a week, I’ll knock off at 6.30 and walk over to the local M&S Food.
Hot tip: the final reductions – about an hour before they close – are amazing.
Last night, I got two loaves of bread for 15p each, a cheese and onion sandwich (today’s lunch) for 20p and a whole chicken for 1.25. I do my main shopping in Aldi (I love Aldi) but I rely heavily on M&S reductions.

We usually eat at about 8pm. I cook from scratch (unless there’s a bargain M&S ready meal!) as cheaply as possible. Fortunately, I love cooking. We eat lots of lentil or bean dhals, pasta with tomato-based sauces, quorn curries, and mushroom or butternut squash risottos. I still drink wine at home three – oh, all right, five or six – nights a week. I justify that by only very rarely going out for drinks.

If I have a critique to do or a submission from one of my mentees, I’ll do my reading and preliminary notes after dinner. If not, I’ll watch a bit of telly with Himself before bed.

Obviously my day varies according to what’s happening. For example, I’ll be promoting Cornelia Blackwood leading up to publication. It stands a good chance of doing well, it seems, so I’ll be shamelessly urging people to pre-order in paperback (apparently e-books don’t count for the bestseller lists).

Or things can go wrong – like when my PC started playing silly buggers and turning itself off – I lost hours. And last week I lost an entire morning trying to sort out a problem with a Facebook ad. Trying to contact the Facebook team is like trying to communicate with Martians! Anyway, it varies, but this post should give you the overall feel of a typical day.

So that’s me – luckier than most, but still skint despite a 50-hour week.

Thanks again, Anne, and I can’t wait to read the other posts in this series!

About Susan -from www.susanelliottwright.co.uk

Although I’ve been living happily in the North for twelve years, I was born in South East London. I left school at 16 and married unwisely at 18. At the age of 30 I took my two children, left my unhappy life and started again, reinventing myself with an education and a new surname, which I chose by drawing up a shortlist from the telephone directory and sending off for brochures so I’d receive mail in those names. I settled on Elliot; Susan Elliot sounded like ‘me’. Soon after changing my name, I met Mr Right, or in this case, Mr Wright. Within a few weeks, we decided to marry (although it took a couple of years to get round to it). We became the Elliot-Wrights, but we’ve dropped the hyphen now.
For most of my life, I’ve managed to avoid a full-time ‘proper job’, although after leaving school I did put in five years as a civil servant – talk about a misspent youth! Since then, I’ve been a cleaner, barmaid, washer-up, market researcher, cake decorator, FE English tutor, chef, freelance journalist, features editor, non-fiction author and creative writing tutor.
Now, as a novelist, I’m doing my dream job, but if I wasn’t an author, I’d be a chef. There’s a wonderful camaraderie in a commercial kitchen, and cooking with other people can be great fun, but professional cooking is hugely physically demanding and sadly, I no longer have the stamina. I loved cooking professionally, and I still miss it, though I remain passionate about cooking at home.
I now live in Sheffield with my husband. I have two grown-up children and a smattering of grandchildren.
I’m the author of three published novels and I’m currently hard at work on my fourth. 

Twitter @sewelliott
Author page on Facebook