Say hello to the people who live in my head

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Characters to me are the single most important thing about a book. Of course your plot is relevant; you need to have a decent storyline, but unless your characters are leaping off the page, no one is going to want to read it.

The characters are going to be on the journey with you and they need to be interesting, if not always likeable, for you to want to spend three or four hundred pages in their company. This is why I put a lot of time into developing mine before committing them to paper.

It is not just a physical thing. Yes, of course you have to know how they look, but you also need to get to know their personalities. Are they confident or shy? Perhaps they are mean or selfish or have a kind heart. Where do they come from, do they have an accent, what was their family life like growing up? Then there’s things such as relationships, tastes in food, music or television, the way they dress, the little personality quirks that make them individual.

Build your characters on paper and in your head. Have conversations with them; get a mental image of how they look and the kind of thing they would say or do in certain situations. It is up to you to breathe life into them, otherwise they will come across as one dimensional and no one is going to want to read about them or care about their fate.

I can’t speak for other writers, but my characters are never based on specific people. Sure I may take a personality trait or two, but in my head they are entirely my creation. As the author though, I am sure each of them has a little bit of me in them.

For example, Angell is a cat lover with a fondness of pizza. Hmm… sound familiar? I could also be accused of sharing Hickok’s direct approach at times. I’m not very good at pussyfooting around an issue. I am a little more polite, but if I want an answer I will ask the question, and I definitely have his sarcastic streak. As for Vic, well he’s a bit clumsy, likes sitting on his ass and has a fondness for stuffing his face with junk food.

Nah, that doesn’t sound like me at all.

 

 

 

 

Are any of us truly perfect?

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When I received the call to say I’d come runner up in the Rethink Press New Novels Competition, I was gob smacked. As I have told before, I had mostly lost all confidence in my writing, having come so close twice before, and I had reached a point where I honestly believed I just wasn’t good enough. But this wasn’t the only reason I was so shocked.

The reason I had so much trouble getting my head round the fact that I had won, was because my book was a thriller, and I had a pre-conceived notion that book awards were for tortured souls and luvvies; people who looked down on my genre in snobbish disdain.

Now I am sure there are writers and critics out there who do hold this view, but I am pleased to say they seem to be in the minority. Most I have encountered are lovely, down to earth, unpretentious people who support all. My book was selected as runner up and the response from the buying public has fully restored my belief that I am just as deserving of success as any other writer.

Dead Letter Day is not a work of art. It is a fast-paced, twisty thriller with a strong storyline and well-crafted characters. Is it a literary classic? No, and I don’t want it to be. As long as I can provide readers with several hours of escapism and fun and they find the story gripping and exciting, then I have done my job; because to me the point of reading is to get lost in the pages of a book and have a good time, irrelevant of subject or writing style.

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Of course any book will have its critic and one particular literary critic refused to even consider my book for review based on a spelling mistake. Now I try my best to make my writing as airtight and perfect as possible, but humans are fallible, and errors do creep in. Anyone who claims to never make a mistake is kidding themselves. The error in question was the word ‘grizzly’. I had used this when I should have used ‘grisly’. It is on my press release and also written once in the book. Yes, I used the wrong context of the word and yes, when it was pointed out to me, I was mortified, and I will endeavour to get it changed for future editions.

But let’s be clear here, this reviewer completely dismissed my book and how good or bad it may be on the basis of one word? Fair or harsh, you decide. I claim full responsibility for the mistake, and I am certain it won’t be the last one I make, but we are talking about a 276 page novel that I wrote and proofed until I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I didn’t pick up on the word, neither did my test audience or anyone else who proofed or has since bought my book. Of course, some buyers may have spotted it and have been too polite to say, but it hasn’t stopped the five star reviews and great feedback for the novel.

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A good job then that this particular reviewer is not in charge of what the public should and shouldn’t get to read, because it seems my book is in good company when it comes to the odd error. Robinson Crusoe for example took all of his clothes off, swam out to a boat and filled his pockets with biscuits. Bridget Jones, having driven to a party, seemed to forget her car was there, because she had to catch the train home and in Harry Potter, characters fly on broomsticks over the castle walls, even though there are enchantments in place to stop this happening. In Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson’s wife calls him James in one scene instead of John and Carrie’s dad in Stephen King’s classic horror novel is described as having been in her bedroom shortly after she was born, even though it is later explained that he died when his wife was seven months pregnant.

So readers I ask you to decide, what you would prefer. A less gripping book that is word perfect with absolutely no errors at all, grammatically or plot wise, or one with a couple of mistakes, but a great story?

As for me, I have finally decided to finally make my peace with grizzlygate. Perhaps a future edition of the book can feature a big brown bear on the front cover to appease the aforementioned critic.

What scares you?

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As a thriller writer, it is my job to try and keep my readers on the edge of their seats by building scenes of fear and tension through my novels. To try and do this well, I take a keen interest in what scares people. Most of us share the same basic fears – death, illness, loss of loved ones and darkness, but we also have more personal phobias scaring us, ranging from things that can actually hurt us, such as wasps, knives or thunderstorms to more innocuous things like clowns or creepy looking dolls.

My biggest fear is heights and even standing on a chair makes my legs go wobbly. I have tried to do high stuff before – castle battlements, top of windmills, ladders, etc, but soon as I’m a metre off the ground I start having palpitations and feeling all faint and sick, and then start to panic that a gust of wind is going to blow me off whatever I am standing on, which is hilarious as I have two great sandbags attached to my chest and it would take a bloody hurricane to blow me off anything.

Fear of heights is a fairly rational one, but others I have are just plain stupid. Can anyone else relate to these?

Being hit by a plane. Yup. Not too keen on being in them either, but my real fear is actually having one crash into me. Cars, motorbikes, trains and buses I am fine with, but whenever I hear that low roar of an engine flying overhead, I practically crap my pants and say my last goodbyes.

Having a wasp fly up my nose and accidentally sniffing. Cos that could happen.. right?

Getting trapped in my house – either by a freak snow storm or a nuclear disaster and not having a completely full wine rack and fridge. This would explain why I always overbuy in the supermarket. If I run low on a particular product, I start hyperventilating.

Having a rat crawl up the toilet bowl when I am sitting on the loo. Now this one might sound a lot crazy people, but you Google it. IT HAS HAPPENED. The thought of suddenly feeling the twitch of whiskers against my bum cheek scares the bejesus out of me.

Since the publication of Dead Letter Day, I have been dreaming that one day someone will snap up the movie rights and make it into a film – because biased as I may be, I honestly think it would it would be great on the big screen. So add to my list a new fear.

Casting.

What if terrible actors such as Paris Hilton and David Hasselhoff were brought in to play Rebecca Angell and Rodney Boone?

The thought is enough to make me break out into a cold sweat. Yup, the thought of the vacuous Miss Hilton playing my sassy, butt kicking heroine is the stuff nightmares are truly made of. I will take a wasp up the nose any day, thank you.