Wednesday 29 November 2017

Guest Post: Do's And Don't's Of Crime Writing - G J Minett

Today on the Outsider it's a pleasure to welcome G. J. Minett, whose latest book is Anything For Her, an amazing follow-up to The Hidden Legacy and Lie In Wait. My review of Anything For Her can be found here, and huge thanks to G. J. Minett, Emily Burns & Bonnier Zaffre for including me on the tour! Enjoy reading reading G. J.'s post on what you should and shouldn't do in crime writing.

Dos and Don’ts of crime writing

DO keep a healthy balance between plot and character. It’s so easy to get carried away with the storyline but readers need to see the development of a central character they can believe in and care about. They don’t want cardboard cut-outs or cartoon sketches.
DON’T make the central character a paragon of virtue. Readers like to identify with someone who is flawed, maybe unreliable or even dangerous, as long as the redeeming features outweigh the negatives.
DO make sure you come up with an opening that grabs the reader’s attention. Most people have a ‘to be read list’ that is spiralling out of control and not everyone sees every book through to the end.
DON’T confuse pace with breakneck speed. Pace is a variable, not a constant. If every scene ends with a cliffhanger and the hero wriggles out of seemingly impossible situations every 30 pages or so, the overkill will alienate the reader. Remember: pace can be measured and considered, allowing everyone a chance to take a deep breath and prepare for the next onslaught.
DO treat your readers with a bit of respect. If they are prepared to devote several days to reading what you’ve produced, there’s a duty of care and you need to avoid huge coincidences or Deus ex Machina interventions that could have been avoided with a little more imagination and effort.
DON’T agonise for too long over the quality of what you’ve written on any given day. Get it down on paper – you can always improve on what’s there at a later date. It’s when there’s nothing there to work on that you have a problem.
DO showcase your skills. Everything you picked up on writing courses and in workshops is just as relevant in a crime novel as in any other genre and readers are perfectly capable of appreciating quality writing wherever they find it.
DON’T go out of your way to imitate. Find your own style and work at it from novel to novel. If you are too anxious to copy others you’ll inevitably lose out in any comparison. Make your own writing the yardstick.
DO think hard about your locations. Some readers derive considerable pleasure from a setting they know well and the demands of plotlines and word counts can sometimes prevent writers from giving the story the detailed backdrop it might need.
DON’T info dump. It’s so tempting, when you’ve researched something in great depth, to want to demonstrate what you’ve picked up but the aim of the research is to provide a backdrop, not dominate the page.
DO provide a twist or two to keep the readers on their toes. A real surprise at the end is particularly effective as it’s what the readers will take away with them. Be careful not to overdo it though – by definition, these twists are out of the ordinary and the difference between the unexpected and the utterly implausible can be wafer thin.
DON’T kid yourself that there’s a substitute for sitting down in front of the laptop and writing. There’s not. There are distractions aplenty and you can try to justify them in the name of research or downtime or networking but what gets the novel written is sheer hard graft and a bit of inspiration. Sit down, shut the door and WRITE.

Having said all that, I do most of the don’ts – and fail to do most of the dos – at least 50% of the time. All part of the fun of being a writer.

Anything For Her - G. J. Minett
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date - November 30th, 2017

About The Author

Graham was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge.

He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and almost immediately won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’.

Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. He was signed up by Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, who managed to secure a two-book deal with twenty7, the digital-first adult fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing.

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Thursday 23 November 2017

The Perfect Victim - Corrie Jackson

Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?

Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily's world falls apart.

Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie's troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man - she trusts Charlie with her life.

Then Charlie flees.

Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she's drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily's unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts.

As she begins to question Charlie's innocence, something happens that blows the investigation - and their friendship - apart.

Now Sophie isn't just fighting for justice, she's fighting for her life.

After the brilliance of Breaking Dead Sophie Kent is back and this time the truth is much closer to home than she wants to believe. Sophie is at a crime scene, a drowning, and discovers the victim was somehow connected to one of her best friends, the Herald's Business Editor Charlie Swift. When it's established that the victim is Sabrina Hobbs, a prominent lawyer, and she didn't drown, she was murdered. Sophie links Sabrina to Charlie, at first in a business way, but then she discovers that the two may have been intimately involved. Only she can't ask Charlie because he has disappeared and everyone's thoughts about him start to turn to a darker possibility. Is Charlie Swift a murderer? Sophie doesn't want to believe this, especially as Charlie is newly married to Emily after tragically losing his first wife, in a drowning accident... Do Charlie and Emily really have the Instagram perfect life that Emily insists they have? Or is the perfect victim right under everybody's noses? 

Sophie once again is struggling in her personal life. Still obsessing over her brother's death she will grab at anything that may lead to information so when it turns out that there may be a link between Charlie, her brother and a religious group called Christ Clan, she leaps in with both feet again. DCI Durand makes a welcome return but unfortunately for Sophie, the man in charge of Charlie's case holds a personal grudge against her because of a connection to events in Breaking Dead. We get to see the story from Emily's point of view too, the state of her marriage in the weeks leading up to the murder and the disappearance, and her state of mind.

As with Breaking Dead, I was hooked from the very first page. There seems to be an awful lot going on and more than one plot strand but Corrie Jackson weaves them together skillfully over the course of the story and by the end, having stumbled through more twists and turns than the first book, she leads you to a most unexpected conclusion, which most people won't even have thought about. Given that Charlie works at a newspaper it was fascinating to see how everybody initially thought completely incapable of any wrongdoing, even infidelity, but as time passed and Charlie stayed missing, even the most loyal of friends and colleagues can start to have their doubts. The crumbling relationship between the missing Charlie and his colleagues as they struggle to accept that they may have a murderer in their midst and that it's up to them to unmask the facts to convict him if it is indeed true was extremely well written and great to see other people's opinion of him.

The Perfect Victim doesn't let up from start to finish, there's an energy about Corrie Jackson's writing that compels you to keep turning the pages and her characters are completely engaging, although not always likable, which makes them all the more human. It's a fantastic sequel to Breaking Dead and I have only one request. Sophie Kent book three, please!!!

The Perfect Victim - Corrie Jackson
ISBN - 9781785761829
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date - November 16th, 2017

About The Author

Corrie Jackson has been a journalist for fifteen years. During that time she has worked at Harper’s Bazaar, the Daily Mail, Grazia, and Glamour.

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Don't forget to check out all the other participants on the blog tour, for links check out Bonnier Zaffre's Twitter feed!

Huge thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and Netgalley for my copy of the book!

Friday 17 November 2017

Breaking Dead - Corrie Jackson

Sophie Kent is hanging on by a thread. Her tenacity and talent have seen her rise through the ranks of a tough newspaper industry. But her brother's suicide has thrown her career and personal life into chaos.

Whilst out on the job interviewing witnesses of a brutal child murder, Sophie befriends a beautiful but traumatised Russian model. When the girl's mutilated body turns up in an upmarket hotel on the eve of London Fashion Week, Sophie knows she could have saved her. Eaten away by guilt, she throws herself headfirst into the edgy, fast-paced world of fashion with one goal in mind: to catch the killer. Only then can she piece her grief-stricken self back together. As she chips away at the industry's glittery surface, she uncovers a toxic underworld rife with drugs, secrets, prostitution, and blackmail.

The investigation propels Sophie from the glamour of the catwalk to London's darkest corners, towards a sinister past and a twenty-year-old murder case that could hold the key. Battling her demons and her wealthy, dysfunctional family along the way, Sophie pushes her personal problems to one side as she goes head to head with a crazed killer; a killer who is only just getting started...

Meet Sophie Kent, intrepid reporter for a London newspaper. Grieving for her brother, Sophie is just about functioning so when she stumbles across a Russian model whilst covering another story she senses there might be more to Natalia's story than meets the eye. 

If you've ever wondered what the seedier side of modelling looks then Breaking Bad might just show you the (imaginary) worst of it. Befriending Natalia, albeit with an ulterior motive, Sophie knows something is wrong with the young Russian girl. When a body is found in a London hotel, brutally murdered, during London Fashion Week no less, Sophie knows she is on to something huge and plunges headfirst into the underside of the fashion industry. 

Suspects are lining up in droves but the one Sophie can't move past is photographer and resident bad boy, Liam Crawford. Sophie knows Liam, intimately. They were up at Oxford at the same time and had a one night stand before Liam dropped out to pursue his photography more seriously. Liam is now the darling of the fashion world, and the on/off boyfriend of one the hottest models of the moment, Lydia Lawson, or Loony Lawson as the tabloids have dubbed her.

Sophie knows that there is something sinister going on and despite not being a police officer plunges headlong into her investigation, putting herself in far more danger than she will ever realise until it's almost too late.

I loved Sophie as a character, one of the most flawed I have come across recently, but this made her seem even more vulnerable. She's deep in the mire of grief after losing her brother to an apparent overdose, her wealthy parents are closed off and don't seem to be missing their son at all, which drives Sophie even more to find out what happened to Natalia and why this girl had to die so horrifically. Her colleagues at the newspaper seem to be aware that Sophie is struggling, but not of how much of herself she is putting into finding out what happened until she crosses the line that her boss says every good journalist should not, that of the truth.

Her relationship with the police is a precarious one, inserting herself into their case does not endear people but DCI Sam Durand has an apparent soft spot for Sophie, and she for him. He bends the rules for her, keeping her in the loop but even Durand has his limits and Sophie doesn't always know when to stop pushing.

Corrie Jackson has written a fascinating story, the darkness and the disturbing picture painted of the modelling world are not easily forgotten. The storyline never lets up, the pace is almost too much at times and the red herrings that lead you in one direction when you should be going in the opposite way are expertly done. I am a fan after just one book and can't wait to see where both Corrie Jackson and Sophie Kent go next.

Breaking Dead - Corrie Jackson
ISBN - 9781785770456
Publisher - Bonnier
Release Date - September 8th, 2017

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colours of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

I picked up Celeste Ng's debut novel, 'Everything I Never Told You',  and absolutely adored it so when I started seeing all the buzz for Little Fires Everywhere I knew I had to read it. It's contemporary fiction which is not normally my everyday read but there's something so delightful about Ng's writing that I seem to be consumed by her work.

Little Fires Everywhere is a masterpiece about families, ones with fathers, ones without, adoption, and the relationships between the members of these families. The Richardson family are long established in Shaker Heights so when Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl roll into town, Elena Richardson is only too pleased to be seen to be doing something for a poor, starving artist and rents them her upstairs apartment. Elena has four children, Trip, Lexie, Moody, and Izzy, and has an easygoing relationship with all of them except Izzy. Izzy is her problem child, the one she spends her time being completely exasperated with. But is this because Izzy is the problem child? Or is it because Mrs. Richardson fears she will lose Izzy and finds it easier to push her away?

When Moody strikes up a friendship with Pearl, Elena is secretly pleased that Izzy then seems to take a shine to Mia and in that way that happens with intense friendships, Pearl starts spending most of her time with the Richardsons, and Izzy starts spending time with Mia, wishing that Mia were her mother.

It's these intense relationships that make Celeste Ng's novels. The pace is slow and delicious, an impressive example of a character-driven novel. Nothing much may happen in Little Fires Everywhere but it doesn't need to, you lose yourself entirely in all the character's stories. Both principal and secondary characters have their stories told, all perfectly interwoven, telling the tale of what happened to each and every one of them to get them where they are today. The driving point of the start of the breakdown of these relationships is a court case over custody of a baby, adopted by friends of the Richardson but whose birth mother is a friend of Mia's.

These characters are not perfect, they all have their flaws but they are perfection to read about. By the end of the story they have all been through something and some, if not all, take a long look at both their lives and their behaviour. Apparently, Reece Witherspoon has bought the rights to Little Fires Everywhere and I can see why. I'm not normally a fan of books-to-tv/movie adaptations but I'm looking forward to seeing these characters on the small screen. This is one book that will stay with me for a long time as I loved it even more than Everything I Never Told You, and I am now eagerly waiting to see what comes next for Celeste Ng.

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
ISBN - 9781408709719
Publisher - Little Brown
Release Date - November 9th, 2017

About The Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a 'best book of the year' by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Huge thanks to both Grace Vincent and Little, Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and a copy of one of the best books I've read this year. Please do check out all the other bloggers taking part on the tour which runs until November 14th. Links can be found on the LB Twitter account, @LittleBrownUK.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

November New Release Giveaway!

Welcome to the November 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop now runs all month long so you can enter from now until midnight on November 30th. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $20 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in November and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for more chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

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