Monthly Archives: November 2015

On Crime Writing

Today I am being hosted by friend and fellow writer Kate M Colby. I met Kate C. through Twitter and began following her blog which is full of useful and insightful information for writers and indie publishers. We did our 2K Blog Tour earlier this year. Kate C. has just launched her first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, a steampunk dystopian novel and a good read: http://goo.gl/nTYxWS

So hop across to Kate C.’s blog for my post on why I choose the crime genre and what research I have done writing my two novels, The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival:

http://katemcolby.com/2015/11/30/guest-post-author-kate-evans-on-writing-crime-fiction/

 

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Taboos in Writing

Recently, fellow blogger, Brittany Boyce (https://aliceandeve.wordpress.com/) posted eloquently on why menstruation should not be considered a taboo subject. As I manage the symptoms accompanying my move towards menopause – anaemia, painful and heavy bleeds, headaches – I have begun to wonder about the literary depiction of this stage in a woman’s life. Indeed, I struggle to think of one which feels authentic and honest.

I have been lucky that up ’til this point my reproductive system has caused me few problems. Now that it is edging too centre stage (as far as I am concerned) my impulse is to write about the experience. Yet I am shy and cautious about doing this. It feels more taboo than any of the other subjects I have committed to paper.

In my crime novel, The Art of the Imperfect (http://goo.gl/z7HFgz), one of my main characters has post natal depression with psychosis. In that novel and its sequel, The Art of Survival (http://goo.gl/C6U2Jj) launched this week, I attempt to address the stigma surrounding vulnerability and mental health. I have drawn on my own experience of depression several times in order to challenge stereotypes and prejudices.

This hasn’t been easy, though most of the time I have been greeted with understanding and my disclosure has helped others to tell their own stories. It feels as difficult to write about being a pre-menopausal woman. And yet, it must be more common amongst the population than depression.

Do you have taboos in your writing? Do you think it is important to tackle taboos through writing?

The Art of Survival – available on Kindle & in paperback on 21st November
The Art of Survival asks: What will fear push ordinary people to do?  What happens when littleArt of Survival Coverfront onlyfinal girls get lost? DS Theo Akande is investigating the disappearance of eight year old Victoria Everidge. Her mother, Yvonne, is a desperate woman. What is she capable of? Eminent journalist and newspaperman, Stan Poole, dies leaving a filing cabinet full of secrets. As these leak out, his daughter, Hannah, begins to question her own girlhood. She is losing her way. Her best friend, Lawrence, newly an item with Theo, finds it hard to remain supportive. Instead Hannah clings to her work as a trainee counsellor and to her client Julia. Julia is apparently no little girl lost, but appearances can be deceptive. Then a body is found.

 

The Comfort of Books

Sand skates on sand.
The sea is galvanised steel.
The wind buffets and chivvies.
The kestrel spirals upwards, an Autumn leaf caught in the blast.
I leave footprints on the beach.

Small stone, Scarborough beach, 9th November 2015

I took a walk this morning to try and clear the busy-ness in my head. I feel like a plate spinner or – as I’ve said in a previous post – a hat spinner. November sees me: facilitating workshops; giving a talk; formatting my novel for Kindle & createspace; and marketing and launching The Art of Survival. Being buffeted by the wind and hearing the sloshing of the waves is a relief.

After I launched my first novel, The Art of the Imperfect, last December, I methodically detailed what/how I had done in terms of marketing and sales at the end of each month. I thought maybe I would learn how promotional tasks translated into books going to readers. I didn’t and I got fed-up, so stopped in June. It was a nice surprise then to do a bit of a round-up recently and gather the following figures: 270 copies of the novel given away or sold; 233 people (in addition) downloaded it to their Kindle in the recent promotion; 916 people entered the Goodreads giveaway and, of the three who won a free book, two are in the US. The Art of the Imperfect was also long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut dagger award. As I trot towards the release of my second novel, that feels great.

As well as walking, another antidote to the hat spinning is reading. Yesterday, It was Sara Paretsky’s Fire Sale. I became completed embroiled in the Chicago life she portrays; driving the Loop, hearing the glass on the empty lot crunch under my feet, feeling the finger-numbing cold. Paretsky’s VI Warshaswki novels are not what you might call comfortable reading, they tackle difficult issues and there’s violence (about the limit of what I can take). However, in an interesting way, it is a comfort to creep into this other world, where I can be safely buffeted and challenged and the resolution is not for me to find.

What’s your comfort reading? What do you do when the hat spinning becomes too much?

The Art of Survival
Available on Amazon in paperback & Kindle on 21st November (Kindle pre-order: 11th November).

The Art of Survival asks: What will fear push ordinary people to do?  What happens when little Art of Survival Coverfront onlyfinalgirls get lost? DS Theo Akande is investigating the disappearance of eight year old Victoria Everidge. Her mother, Yvonne, is a desperate woman. What is she capable of? Eminent journalist and newspaperman, Stan Poole, dies leaving a filing cabinet full of secrets. As these leak out, his daughter, Hannah, begins to question her own girlhood. She is losing her way. Her best friend, Lawrence, newly an item with Theo, finds it hard to remain supportive. Instead Hannah clings to her work as a trainee counsellor and to her client Julia. Julia is apparently no little girl lost, but appearances can be deceptive. Then a body is found.

Praise for The Art of the Imperfect:

‘The first thing to mention is the writing style is incredibly strong. … The description through this book is brilliantly constructed so that I really felt completely immersed.’ Lizzy, My Little Book Blog

‘The book … retains its readability on a second or third reading and beyond. It is written by an unobtrusively gifted creative talent, whose gifts will assuredly go on expanding and enlarge their range … The novel is convincing enough to haunt us, and graze us into deeper thought.’ Dr Heward Wilkinson, UKCP Fellow, UKCP Registered, Integrative Psychotherapist.

 

Virginia Woolf, Strictly Philosophers & Me

When I was doing more teaching at the university than I do now, I would give two pieces of advice to my students. Firstly, separate your essential you from your writing, a critique of your writing is not a criticism of you as a person. Secondly, just because it’s true, doesn’t make it a good story. As with any bestower of ‘good’ advice, I, of course, often forget my own.

Last week, I received another rejection from a publisher. This one was slightly kindlier, and, indeed, left the door open for further submission. They also sent me their reader’s general comments on my novel and her more particular comments on my first chapter. She made some helpful points, ones I can use to develop and improve my writing, so that’s a bonus. On the other hand, she brought up the contentious issue of the likeableness of one of my main characters, Hannah.

She said: ‘I wholly appreciate that not everyone is going to be positive sunshine, rainbows and unicorns, but when they’re always negative, it takes a real emotional toll on the reader that you have to be careful to temper.’

I find it hard to separate myself from Hannah, hers and my own experience of depression are very similar and, I can tell you, it wasn’t sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. However, just because it’s a true representation of one person’s experience (supplemented by my counselling training/knowledge) of depression, doesn’t make it a good story does it?

Then I think, am I trying to make this a comfortable read? Aren’t crime/mystery stories meant to be challenging? Melanie McGrath, in The Guardian Books Blog on June 30th 2014, said: ‘Crime fiction gives us permission to touch on our own indecorous feelings of rage, aggression and vengefulness, sentiments we’re encouraged to pack away somewhere… where they won’t offend.’

There is a psychological theory which says we most fear the ‘other’ which is closest to the parts of ourselves which we wish not to acknowledge. Hannah maybe a hard character to empathise with, but it that, at least partly, because she represents the part of us which is hard to empathise with?

So I am not to be traditionally published this time and I continue on my merry ‘indie’ way. The Art of Survival will be available on Amazon in paperback & on Kindle on the 21st of November, with pre-ordering on Kindle from the 11th of November. The Art of the Imperfect is available in both formats now: http://goo.gl/z7HFgz.

Being accepted by a traditional publisher still remains an aim for me, even though I know it has its own down-sides. I comfort myself with two thoughts. One, Virginia Woolf self-published; OK her husband bought a printing press and installed it in their basement, but if she were alive today she’d be uploading onto Createspace & Kindle.

Two, the words of Tristan McManus, a pro on Strictly Come Dancing – yes, really. He was asked for his thoughts on winning. He said (I paraphrase): it’s hard when you’re doing something you love and there can only be one winner, you have to focus on your own dancing and improving that as much as you can, as the ultimate accolade (of winning) may never be yours. There maybe more than one winner in the publishing world, but, even so, the winner’s paddock is not huge, and I may not get in. However, I can enjoy my writing and engaging with the readers who are there and for whom I am very grateful for.

The Art of Survival – launch date: 21st November 2015
The Art of Survival asks: What will fear push ordinary people to do? What happens when little girls get lost? DS Theo Akande is investigating the disappearance of eight year old Victoria Everidge. Her mother, Yvonne, is a desperate woman. What is she capable of? Eminent journalist and newspaperman, Stan Poole, dies leaving a filing cabinet full of secrets. As these leak out, his daughter, Hannah, begins to question her own girlhood. She is losing her way. Her Art of Survival Coverfront onlyfinalbest friend, Lawrence, newly an item with Theo, finds it hard to remain supportive. Instead Hannah clings to her work as a trainee counsellor and to her client Julia. Julia is apparently no little girl lost, but appearances can be deceptive. Then a body is found. The Art of… crime series by Kate Evans tackles issues of mental health and marginalisation. This isn’t gritty crime, this isn’t cosy crime, this isn’t police procedural. This is poetic storytelling which peels back the psychological layers to reveal the raw centre.