Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Putting Voices To Characters

by Matt Lynn

I got a call out of the blue the other day from an actor called Paul Panting. He was about to start recording an audio version of Fire Force, and he wanted to have a chat about accents, as well as checking the pronunciation of some of the military hardware.
As anyone who has read either ‘Death Force’ or ‘Fire Force’ will know, there is a big group of character in the stories, and they all come from quite different places. Steve is South London, working class. Ollie is a public schoolboy. Dan is an Australian, Maksim a Russian, Chris a South African, and so on.
We were discussing what kind of voices to give the different men, and how far too push it. In the books, I don’t really give them different accents all the time, in the sense that, Chris, for example doesn’t talk about ‘Seth Eefrica’. That’s partly because I’m not very good at writing accents, but also because it could turn into an accent fest, and get very silly and distracting. I prefer to let their characters comes through by the type of things they say, and how they react to situations, rather than by giving them funny voices.
Paul and I agreed that that was the way to do it in the audio version as well – even if it meant he didn’t get a chance to show off all those accents he learned in acting school.
But it also struck me that just hearing the audio book – which I’m really looking forward to – is going to change my perception of the characters. I already hear Steve and Ollie’s voice in my head when I’m writing them, but of course an actor’s interpretation will be slightly different to mine. It will be fascinating, but also a bit strange to hear a different take on all the guys in the unit. It may even change the way I think about them.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Curzon Group at Havant Festival 2nd October

Bestselling authors and members of The Curzon Group, Tom Cain, Matt Lynn and Leigh Russell are looking forward to their panel at HAVANT LITERARY FESTIVAL at 2pm on Saturday 2nd October. This will be held at The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre in East Street Havant. Tickets can be booked online http://www.thespring.co.uk/index.php/events/19-literary-festival/406-the-curzon-group-matt-lyn-leigh-russell-a-tom-cain
or from the Box Office 023 9247 2700.

Friday, 24 September 2010

How Old Should Someone Be Before You Can Kill Them?

By Richard Jay Parker

This was one of the questions that constituted the casual conversation over dainty sandwiches and tea in the green room at The Reading Festival of Crime Writing. A number of authors had gathered there as they waited to do their various talks and anybody who had walked in after the preamble would have been shocked to hear about the body count generated by the group of outwardly respectable people gathered there.

There was a consensus about teenagers. You could off them by the truckload and nobody bats an eyelid. Younger than that and you might have some problems. Strangling cats was a definite no no. Author X (I'm protecting their identity) had received serious flak for this.

What about poison? Had anybody posioned anybody? There was a momentary racking of brains before misty nostalgia clouded some of the eyes there and they nodded gleefully that they had.

I've done a few festivals this year but I have to say that Reading had every element right. The Town Hall was a great venue and it was impeccably organised. More importantly they had some great authors there and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. They're doing it again next year so I recommend it to fans of crime as well as aspiring authors everywhere.

I was on a panel with Elizabeth Corley and Zoe Sharp. We had a great audience and the hour we had to discuss thrillers as well as share our own experiences trying to get published felt like it was over in five minutes.

We were all agreed - it's getting easier to submit material to agents. Many of them will accept email submissions now rather than writers having to go to the expense of printing off sample chapters. This does, of course, mean that the volume of submissions will increase because it can all be done with a click of a mouse. Good work does get picked up though and even though we all had tales of frustration to share we hope it encouraged many of the ambitious crime writers there - perseverance pays off.

Zoe had the address of a great website dedicated to locating the right agent. I'll try and include it in an update to this blog or post it next Friday.

Zoe's partner Andy was there to take some pics and these are now being used in a caption competition put together by Chiara Priorelli, our publicity co-odinator at Allison & Busby. Click HERE and have a go. There's a copy of THIRD STRIKE by Zoe Sharp, INNOCENT BLOOD By Elizabeth Corley and my own book STOP ME to win.

Happy, creative weekend.

More info about Richard and his novel at http://www.richardjayparker.com/

Friday, 17 September 2010

When Can I Call Myself A Writer?

By Richard Jay Parker

I was speaking to a fellow writer this week - although she wouldn't call herself that. She feels that because she isn't published, she isn't a writer. A lot of writers have this attitude. If you feel inside yourself that you are a writer then you are. It's often other people's perception of you that causes the problems.

Every writer goes through periods when their material isn't getting out there. It doesn't mean they're suddenly not a writer.

Before your first piece of work gets picked up (unless you write purely for pleasure) it's a lot harder. Still doesn't mean you're not a writer though. Obviously the ultimate goal is to have your work published or your script shot. To you it legitamises all the hard work and is something tangible, something that you can point at.

Again this is based on what other people's definition of a writer is though. If you're at a party and you tell someone you're a writer the very next question is always 'What have you written? Anything I'd know?' It's a strange assumption - that all writers are involved in high profile, mainstream projects. Tell them you're still perfecting your craft and they're not interested. To them it's as if you've claimed to be a doctor when you're still at medical school.

Ask them what they do. You're an architect? Any famous buildings that I've been in? When are you going to design something I've heard of?

I think the truth of the matter is that a lot of people have considered being writers. Some dabble in it before giving up. It can often be an unrewarding and disheartening process so I certainly can't blame them for that. So when you say you're a writer it's almost an affront to some.

I know writers who have had plenty of work published but don't feel like they're writers because they don't do it full time. It's human nature to achieve something and immediately want the next thing. It's good for our development. Self belief is the key though and, although they might mean nothing to people at a party, try to enjoy every one of those small victories - a rejection letter that isn't a standard one and has some encouraging remarks, interest from an agent that didn't go as far as you wanted it but at least made you feel that your last project took you another rung up the ladder. They're a part of every 'successful' writer's journey.

What matters is that you believe you're making progress - however excruciatingly slow it seems.

If you've just received one of those standard rejection letters and you still find yourself sitting down at your keyboard to write something else because you just have to - then you're a writer. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

Info about Richard's novel and work at: http://www.richardjayparker.com/


This Sunday (19th) at 3.00 - 4.00 pm Elizabeth Corley, Zoe Sharp and Richard Jay Parker
will be appearing on a thriller panel in The Waterhouse Room, Reading Museum & Town Hall as part of Reading Festival Of Crime Writing. Books to be signed afterwards. Admission is free but you'll need a festival ticket. Hope to see you there.

Virtual Programme HERE

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Books and Booker

‘I know it sounds pompous,’ I often hear myself say, ‘but I think writers have a duty to at least try to write well.’
Why do I feel I have to apologise for holding that view? If it implies criticism of some of my fellow writers, where does the blame lie?
Just the other day my dentist apologised for extracting the wrong tooth. ‘Sorry’, he said as he wiped my blood from his grubby fingers, ‘I’ve done a shocking job for you. Now I must be off, I’m up for an award as Dentist of the Year.’
Once my gums had stopped bleeding I arranged to meet some friends for supper. I ordered fish. It arrived promptly, quite well cooked on the outside and only slightly frozen in the middle. When I tried to return my dish I learned that the chef was no longer on the premises. ‘He had to dash,’ the waiter explained. ‘He’s off to hear if he’s won Chef of the Year.’
‘The food must be good,’ one of my friends said. ‘The chef’s up for an award!’ The others were too busy chewing to speak.
‘Some of the seasoning could do with severe cutting,’ I muttered. ‘Didn’t the chef taste this before serving it up?’ The only response was the sound of someone choking.

Sir Andrew Motion commented recently that some of the books put forward for the Booker Prize were ‘pretty shocking’ and ‘quite shockingly in want of a decent edit.’ Does the author take no responsibility for the quality of the writing?
My own books have been described as ‘well-written’ (The Times, Marcel Berlins) ‘refreshingly compelling and original’ (The New York Journal of Books, Michael Lipkin) ‘intelligently written’ (Bookersatz, Helen M Hunt) ‘well-written’ (Eurocrime, Amanda Gillies) ‘accomplished’ (Watford Observer, Melanie Dakin). I could go on.

So why do books like mine, well-written though they are, never appear on a long list for a literary prize? Because my books are also described – to quote just a few of many similar reviews - as ‘gritty and addictive… gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end ..’ (New York Journal of Books, Sam Millar) ‘a gritty page-turner from the start’ (Star magazine,) ‘tense… fast-paced twisty narrative’ (US Publishers Weekly starred review)

Yes – well-written they may be, but I write crime fiction.
Sorry about the door slamming. That was just my credibility as a writer leaving the room.

Leigh Russell
CUT SHORT (2009) ROAD CLOSED (2010) DEAD END (2011)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


by Matt Lynn

One of my favourite themes is how thriller writers aren’t keeping up with the times. Britain and the US have been involved in two major and very nasty wars in the last decade, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. But you wouldn’t guess it from reading the thrillers on the shelves at your local WH Smith. The y are all old-style Cold War spy thrillers, stuff about hidden scrolls, serial killers, or lawyers. There is almost nothing about the wars we are fighting now.

There is a fascinating piece related to that in the New York Times. It points out that the most vibrant story-telling about contemporary warfare is in the video game industry, not in the thriller industry. Games like Medal of Honour and Call of Duty are far more relevant to what is happening in the world today than just about any book.

I’m trying to address that with my ‘Death Force’ series, which are bang up to date. But not enough writers are taking up that challenge. I suspect that is partly the fault of the publishers, who should be looking for more contemporary material. But it also because writers have lost the desire to be relevant. The video game already poses a big challenge for writers. In many ways it is a more interesting narrative form. But surely it is silly to leave the field completely top gaming, rather than the novel

Friday, 10 September 2010

Done it again!

Quick bit of news to share - ROAD CLOSED is being reprinted. Seems to be doing as well as CUT SHORT which sold out 3 times in a year. Leigh Russell

Martyrs To Writing

By Richard Jay Parker

Thanks to Simon Dawson and Mel Sharratt for providing the inspiration for this week's blog. They left some comments on the back of my last blog that got me thinking about a group of people who are the unsung heroes of the writing world - our partners.

Whether you're married, cohabiting or just sharing a living space with others, the miasma from the writing process is frequently difficult to deal with. How many sit across from us at meal times looking at our glassy stares because, even though we've been persuaded to turn off our computer, we're still immersed in our work.

I always experience an anticlimax when I finish work for the day because I've never written as much as I want. What jolly company I must be. Then there's the making of copious notes at all hours, on weekends, when we should be enjoying quality time and even on holidays.

Then there's those highs and (mostly) lows that our partners and friends have to endure with us. A morsel of good news - an email or a telephone call - transforms our mood and makes it all seem worth it. 'I'm taking this with a pinch of salt.' 'I'm not getting excited.' But of course we don't and we do.

They don't know what the hell we're doing most of the time. Our enthusiasm stems from something that's hidden in our heads for the majority of a project. Their support is an act of blind faith - or they're just humouring us. Whatever the case, the creative process is difficult for a writer but equally as frustrating to watch.

Mel suggested a support group for writers' partners but I'm not so sure. Do we really want to be talked about - our habits dissected? No - let the bi-products of our writing remain shrouded in mystery. If writer idiosyncrasies became public knowledge we'd never persuade anyone to live with us.

So - a 21 gun salute for the partners of grouchy, introspective, partially insane writers. We couldn't do it without you. Now, I'm just going up to the office for an hour. Just an hour.


Some time ago I wrote a horror short for British horror stalwart, David McGillivray. He wrote a couple of horror movie classics that bridged the gap between Hammer and the Video nasties era in the UK. Due to my previous writing life I'm no stranger to TV crews and shooting schedules but I did enjoy spending some time on location when it was being shot. It was called SLEEP TIGHT and many of the technicians on the set had impressive movie CVs having worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, The Doctor Phibes movies and, more importantly, Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

SLEEP TIGHT is still languishing in post production but while the finishing touches are being added I wrote a quickie script for David which was shot a couple of months ago. The challenge was to encapsulate a horror movie in one minute.

You can see it HERE - One caveat though - it's not for the faint-hearted.

More about Richard's novel and work at http://www.richardjayparker.com/

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Fact vs Fiction...

by Matt Lynn

I haven’t been writing very much on this blog, largely because I’ve been rattling out a quick book on the Greek crisis for Wiley. The book was written at huge speed – a couple of months – and will be out in November. That was exhilarating in itself. As most of us know, the process of writing can be pretty leisurely. It takes a long time to write a book, and just as long for the publisher to bring it out. This one will be about five months total from Wiley getting in touch about the idea to the book hitting the shelves.

For me, it was also a chance to reflect on the difference between writing fact and fiction. I wrote a couple of business books much earlier in my career, but this was the first one I had done since I took up writing fiction.

It is a very different process. Obviously, the non-fiction book involves a lot more research. On the other hand, the story is just there. You collect the facts, marshal them into a coherent argument, then tell the story.

In fiction, you have to create every detail of the story yourself. You have to create the characters, and make them real. You need twists and denouements. It’s far harder work.

The funny thing is, most people looking at ‘Bust’ would assume it was a far more serious book than, say, ‘Fire Force’. But a book like ‘Fire Force’ is far more difficult to write.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Leave That Twitter Alone!

By Richard Jay Parker

I tweeted a comment yesterday about having to put a gun to my own head to get some writing done and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. As a writer you have to be your own boss - a hard-nosed, humourless taskmaster that won't even give you the afternoon off when the sun's shining outside. One that most of us wouldn't like to have at our shoulder in an office environment. But at least you'll never have to worry about sexual harassment...unless you're really bored.

Nobody makes you write. Even if you have a deadline and bills to pay there's still nobody to watch over you when you're at the keyboard. There's a romantic image in movies I've seen with agent turning up at writer's home to massage shoulders and ego while they drag themselves to the desk but it doesn't have much to do with reality.

Fact is, unless you're an established best seller, you have to do a huge amount of solitary work to create an entity before it can involve others - readers, agent, publisher etc. Until then it's all down to your own faith and determination and nobody can crack the whip but you. It's all in your head for a large percentage of the time so you don't even have much to show yourself at the end of each day except for a few pages at a time.

Apparently a lot of people give up on writing their first novel around page 60. The initial enthusiasm has died, they're not even half way and all that stretches ahead is hard work. Who's there to make them finish?

With so many distractions, particularly for people who write at home, it's a small wonder any work gets finished.

Personally, I like to pinpoint a date on the calendar which I estimate to be the time I'll have a project finished. I'm always optimistic and have a secondary date which I know is probably more feasible but do everything I can to meet the first date. If I don't - it's always done by the second.

When you're tiring of trying to fill blank pages I also think it's a good idea to take a break and read a couple of chapters of a book that inspired you. It reminds you why the hell you're doing it in the first place. You can lose sight of that sometimes.

Any writers want to share how they stay on course? Or would that be another distraction?

Watch out - the boss is back from lunch the same time as me. He really doesn't trust me.