Tag Archives: Writer

An Interview with Julia Crouch – Part 2

Candice: Part 2 of our interview with thriller writer – Julia Crouch.

How did you approach an agent or publisher and when did you expect from them?

I researched agents and came up with the one I wanted (Simon Trewin) because, like me, he had a theatrical background. He was also very open to new writers and he was very well respected and connected in the industry. This was what I needed, because when I went into Headline (my publishers) to talk to my future editor before they signed me, it was the first time I had ever met a publishing professional face to face. When I signed my contract, I was the only published writer I knew. I had not one contact in the publishing world and no understanding of how it worked. Simon was my intermediary in all that. He also negotiated a great deal for me at a point where, like any new writer, I would have done anything to be published – very handy indeed!

You come from quite a creative background – playwright and director, graphic designer.  Do you think you were always destined to be a writer?

I’d often thought about it, but I thought writing novels for a living was what other people did. I lacked the background, contacts and temperament for it. But in fact now I’m here, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve never really planned anything in my life, just gone with the flow, guided by the need to make a living and raise my kids in a way that makes me and them happy. I have to say that, while I imagined from the outside that the publishing world was full of fierce naysayers, now I’m in it, I haven’t met a bunch of nicer, more fun people in my life. And that includes all those actors I used to hang out with.

It seems that an author’s ability to promote themselves is very important these days.  How do you feel about doing publicity? Do you feel the need to blog or tweet or if it something you’d do anyway?

I think I would probably tweet and use facebook, but I doubt if I’d blog. I enjoy the blogging, and I try always to find things to talk about that other people find interesting – usually it’s about my process as a writer, and discoveries I make as I’m working. Obviously, if I weren’t a writer, I wouldn’t have that to talk about.

I don’t really view it as publicity – although I suppose it is all that in the long run. I see it more as a way of offsetting the fact that I spend most days entirely on my own. I like that, and treasure the rare day when I have no appointments whatsoever, but it’s nice to know there are other people out there when I surface from my 90 minute stretches. Writers seem to be the most prolific tweeters out there, for precisely that reason!

I do a lot of appearances now – festivals, talks, library events, signings and workshops. I have to say the old theatre me loves all that. And it’s a good excuse for a spot of frock-buying. At least that’s what I tell the old man.

Do you write the sort of fiction you enjoy reading?

I do. I have always enjoyed the more psychological literary type of books. I would say that encompasses a wide range of reading – from the Brontes through Virginia Woolf, to Patricia Highsmith, Ian McEwan, Julie Myerson and to my contemporaries like Sophie Hannah, Erin Kelly and Louise Millar. Since I have been moving in crime writing circles, I have come to appreciate that genre more widely, and now enjoy a bit of police procedural and the odd action type thriller. Not that I think I would ever write those particularly, but in the best examples, the demands of plot, tension and character require a certain skill that is rarely seen in other genres.

How you feel about the idea that you don’t look like you’d write the sort of books you do?  I was quite shocked by the plot lines (incest,murder) from someone who came across as a ‘light and fluffy’ (I mean that as a compliment!)

I heard it said once that crime writers are generally sweeter people because they get all their dark side out in the writing. I think to some extent this is true of me. And for me, it’s all about understanding human beings. While I’m always imagining worst case scenarios in life and in fiction, I don’t believe in evil any more than I believe in original sin. I think we are inherently good and only do things because of life experience or accidents of internal wiring or chemistry. It’s the tipping points that interest me.

The greatest stories are those that throw the most challenges down for their characters and/or their readers. This has always been true – look at the Bible, at Aristotle’s Poetics, at Shakespeare. What we get up to at the extremes is endlessly fascinating.

Thanks again to Julia for letting us interview her.  Happy reading blog readers and pick up a copy of one of Julia’s books to find out more about her ‘Hidden Darkness’

1 Comment

Filed under Interviews, Writing

Engineers are engineers. Writers are writers.

Pen and V-BlockPhil: One of the jobs I have involves book reviewing. You might think consider this a lovely way to make a living – settling down with a fresh publication in front of a roaring fire, spending a few hours reading it and then knocking up a pithy review for an adoring editor.

Well, that might be how it works for the broadsheet and literary press, but if the books in front of you feature lots of pictures of steam engines, your pithy review better fit in the sidebar of a magazine and it will only earn you enough for a working weeks worth of McDonalds Happy Meals, it’s not quite utopia.

Ignoring this, there is a bigger problem. Some of these books aren’t exactly great reads. I know as an author that each one represents a lot of work on someones behalf. Many hours of toil over a hot keyboard have been expended but that doesn’t mean they are any good and I feel a touch of guilt for pointing this out.

Good, in this context, means readable. For many of those who will be buying the book, getting the facts right and printing the pictures of trains properly is paramount. I am looking for more though, there should be evidence that someone has made a bit of effort to make the text read well. Occasionally they haven’t, and boy, it shows.

Years ago, I enjoyed the title “Corporate Webmaster” for a local authority site. This involved me spending time with “information owners” trying to translate what they were saying into words that the people who paid Council Tax would comprehend. To this end, I developed a maxim:

Don’t let engineers write web pages.

It’s not that I have a problem with engineers. Quite the opposite, people who know me realise I have an incredibly high regard for anyone who can properly call themselves an engineer (and Kevin from Coronation Street is NOT and  engineer, he is a mechanic, or at least was the last time I looked about 20 years ago). It’s just that having sat through several meetings about the contentious rebuilding of one of our town centres with people who thought that the public could be stopped from writing to the local paper by filling the Internet with information on pavement loadings and other technical terms, I appreciated their skill considerably more than they appreciated mine. It got so bad that the lady from the press office stopped turning up as she was fighting a losing battle with people who cared passionately about a subject but used language that might as well have been Chinese to her.

Subsequent discussions on a relief road did nothing to alter my maxim and when I used it in a conference presentation on web usability, the audience all chuckled in a way that said “Been there. Got the T-shirt.”

To be fair, it’s not just engineers. I was once told (bellowed) by someone that they didn’t need me to tell them how to communicate via the web as they had been a Social Worker for 35 years. Presumably that’s they were part of the team who had spent half a million pounds on a project used by less than 10 people in a year, which is why I had grudgingly been asked to the meeting…

Anyway, the bad books. It’s not that they are bad, just the facts are thrown at you as though they are hurled from a shovel. Splat, splat, splat. Each one hits you in the face like a clod of earth. Sentences fit together like parts from different jigsaws, tangents are taken and frequently the original topic is lost in a rambling haze (I know I’m setting myself up for a fall saying this, but you haven’t paid to read £14.95 to read this). At the editing stage, someone would have sat the author down and said, “Stick to the point”, crossed out the rambling and made then do it again.

Better still, they should have brought in a writer to tell the story. Writing is a skill that everyone thinks they have because they can put words in some sort of order. Sadly, this means that very few see any need to pay for it. How you can think this when you are about to publish several thousand copies of a book I don’t know. Maybe the projected sales aren’t enough to warrant the expense, in which case, would the paper be better left as trees?

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Phil, Publishing, Writing

A taste of things to come?

Candice:  Phil and I have been beavering away in the background for the last few weeks working on our next project.  We’ve mentioned that we have been looking for new ideas and have been drafting something different from the usual.

Now Phil’s done all this research into Chick Lit, but no, to be different we haven’t written a Chick Lit story, but a horror story.  As he pointed out it has generated a few comments in our weekly meets in the local near my work.  Especially if the people listening also work there…. Hum that woman in Marketing was talking about murder at work… (well, to be honest, I feel like murdering some of them sometimes).

Anyway, the story is now finished and has been submitted to a writing competition.  It’s with a magazine called Writer’s Forum who publish entries every month and you can pay extra to have a critique of your entry.  Well, we are not expecting to win on our first entry (well, I am, but just trying to be modest) but we both think this is a cracker so are dying to see how we get on.

Writing a short is a different kettle of fish to a full book.  We both got a bit lost into the reasons why our characters would do what they do when I pointed out, “We don’t have to explain, that’s what a short is all about.”  My favourite parts were coming up with a punchy start and crafting the ending that just leaves things hanging.  It was actually quite nice to not have to finish it off and round it up to explain all.

So, I thought you might like a taste of what we have been writing.  I’m not going to give you it all until we’ve got the competition feedback, but tomorrow we’ll give you a taste of Nolan Parker, Horror Writers of repute.


Filed under Candice, Writing