OOH – A POSSIBLE AWARD. OH OK THEN, A SIMPLE NOMINATION

Well I never did….I am lucky enough to have been nominated for an award for a short story I wrote HE DID NOT ALWAYS SEE HER. Apparently that means that on July 5 I get to go to a posh dinner in London town (always a good excuse for a spot of shopping) and then they will read some names out and I will feel anxious but pretend to be very cool and fortunately I doubt there will be cameras in my face awaiting a sad response like they do at the Oscars/ BAFTAs then probably someone else will win but I will just be happy to be there and in such good company!! Mainly I want to thank the jolly nice judges for putting me up for the award.

http://www.thecwa.co.uk/daggers/2012/short.html

IT’S FREEZING BUT THE SUN IS COMING…& SO IS CRIMEFEST

I am not good at updating my blog because I spend so long writing fiction, I can’t always think of real stuff to say!! But I’m heading down to Bristol on Thursday (May 24) for the 2012 Crimefest & I’ll be on a panel on Friday which when I can find the details (ahem) I’ll post.. See you in the (nearly) West Country hopefully, for a pint of cider and a pasty.

SUNNY READING DAYS AT MANOR HOUSE LIBRARY, 26 JUNE ’11

Just a quick note to say I will be appearing at Manor House Library in London’s SE13 on Sunday to celebrate the inaugural National Reading Group Day along with the poet Chrissie Gittins.  If you’re lounging around with nothing much to do or you’re in fact rushed off your feet and fancy a breather, a bit of chat about what book you’d take to a desert island and a cup of tea, drop in and see us!

Details here

WHOSE TRUTH?

Sun’s out again, I had a lovely very soft launch for latest opus Fragile Minds and I’ve been lucky enough to be receiving various reviews for the book; if you’re interested, some examples here: Reviewing the Evidence here, Books and Writers here and New Books here (“extremely intelligent thriller – missing the characters already” – thank you, Shona, wherever you may be), CrimeSquad here (I like the phrase “deliciously blunt prose”.).  So far, so good by and large though of course there are criticisms too.  And in case I ever got too complacent, there are inevitably a few Amazon reviewers who apparently hate me, let alone my writing, despite never having met (classic comments include “”she obviously got a book deal because of her media contacts” – oh, if only you knew the truth – and “she needs a ghost writer” – any offers?!)  Which has made me ponder how easy it is to write WHATEVER you want these days because of the internet – and is that a good or a bad thing?  I mean, I’m all for freedom of speech, but there’s a thin line between fact and fiction…which leads me onto this:

On Thursday I did a lecture on Drama Documentary down at Greenwich University.  It involved much complicated downloading of clips (largely so the students could watch more and I could talk less); films we looked at included United 93 about 9/11 which used both actors and real people playing themselves; The Arbor, a brilliantly innovative film about playwright Andrea Dunbar’s tragic life; the much-debated ‘doc’ Catfish and, um, TOWIE ( that masterpiece, The Only Way is Essex to those less in the know).  I mentioned ‘manipulated’ documentaries – see Faking It, Wife Swap etc – and then in the examples I showed, about what was real and what was invented or skewed by the producers.  A fellow lecturer was intrigued by ‘whose truth is real’ (probably more so than the students whom I’m never sure are actually listening, more likely texting mates about who is ‘well sick': this, apparently, is desirable.  Yep, my mind’s boggling too).  Which leads me onto this:

Yesterday morning, drinking coffee in the conspicuously trendy-dom of Shoreditch (slightly painful and frightening, actually, I find it), I read ex-colleague Adam Curtis’s interview in The Guardian here: his new documentary series is about how computers have not freed us but helped us lose our vision.  He talks about the wonderful/ evil twins (delete appropriately to your personal taste)Facebook & Twitter: “On Facebook & Twitter you are performing to attract people – dancing emotionally on a platform created by a large corporation.”  He goes onto compare our revealing our feelings to Stalin’s socialist realism but at that point in the article, I had to go meet my mate (Ok, he slightly lost me)…it is fascinating though, and I think he’s right.  Who exactly are we tweeting/ Facebooking for – and is it ‘truthful’?!  My publishers constantly harangue me to Tweet – I did sign up a few years ago but I only managed to attract couple of female porn stars (confused but flattered, really, girls!), then promptly lost my password and couldn’t ever seem to log in again (those who know me won’t be surprised at this).

Having watched The Social Network the other night, about the advent of Facebook (and sorry, I must just add, Andrew Garfield is CUTE, and that’s my truth. And the au pair’s), I’ve felt slightly dirty Facebooking this weekend (am sure it will pass) but also noted that the genius inventor Zuckerberg actually did so to attract the attention of an ex-girlfriend who’d just dumped him.  That, for me, kind of sums it up really.

FRAGILE MINDS 2011

So my 4th novel FRAGILE MINDS – the one I’ve probably sweated most blood and tears over (you may think I’m joking, but er, actually…) is beginning to filter its way into all good bookshops (hmmm.  Discuss..) and here I am again, still standing.  You may notice I’ve been lying even lower (standing, lying – the possibilities are infinite) since my last post in November.  Life took a strange turn of events just after I wrote it – one day it was trundling down one path and then within a matter of hours, it swerved off on a completely different and rather precarious one…suffice to say not really a direction I’d have chosen as it largely involved hospitals.

But…Spring is here now, and things are looking up.  At the risk of sounding slightly insane, I’ve been on a journey that was at times terrifying, but has changed me forever.  I guess sometimes you have to stare into the abyss before you can jump back from it…and I guess I might have been doing more than stare into it – I actually toppled in for a little while.  This week I arrived in Cornwall again for the first time since last August, having at my lowest ebb feared I’d never be here again; I stood in the evening sun on a hill-top overlooking the sea yesterday and had a strange moment where I felt a bit like one of the evaporating vampires in True Blood where they dissolve into light.  All that without the use of hallucinogens.  Brilliant  -and a properly cheap night out.

So FRAGILE MINDS was probably quite appropriate, title wise.  DCI Silver, the lady’s favourite, is back (promoted since LULLABY days but still as inscrutable and Northern.)  I hope it makes sense to everyone apart from me.  I mean, it does make sense to me.  But then, I wrote it.

Happy Spring, and love and light to all.  (don’t worry, I haven’t found God.  Just a few vampires along the way.)

 

A LONG TIME COMING: FRAGILE MINDS

Hello World! The nights are drawing in and you may have noticed I have been in hiding for the summer….lashed to my computer, suffering over my 4th novel FRAGILE MINDS, or rather, suffering over the deadline. It got nearer and nearer and the book didn’t ever seem to quite catch up in terms of being near finished… Now, I am used to deadlines, coming from a TV & journalistic background – when you’re making a documentary scheduled to go out at 8pm on Thurs, no commissioner’s going to buy the line “It’s not quite done yet”; nor will The Independent On Sunday et al accept an article with a giant hole in the middle because you’re still researching How to make Pot Pourri in 3 easy stages (I don’t know, by the way, so don’t ask for help with that one)…less so a live audience turning up to watch a studio show being filmed…they will bay for blood if you try “I’m just struggling with a plot point in Chapter 7 and I forgot to book the main guest so here’s some incidental music”. But a book… I don’t know, it feels different. It’s going to be out there in perpetuity, (or down the Oxfam book shop at least), with my name scrawled across the front and my words printed finally and forever. Part of me is always pleased to see it leave my mind and desk, and yet….I never really want to let it go, because I always feel like it could be better.

And therein, perhaps, lies the problem of writing ‘popular/ commercial’ fiction…I mean, I love my publishers, really (really I do, lovely publishers) and I am still over-awed to see my books in real live actual book-shops, and I am always excited that I make a living by making stuff up, stuff that tumbles round my head and that allows me another world or 2 to live in when this one gets tough. But picking up, for instance, Siri Hustvedt’s book WHAT I LOVED, and reading that in the middle of the night, a book that took her 6 years to write, and 3 completely new drafts (she chucked the first two away, for goodness sake)…well, I am humbled by the skill and beauty of her writing but also slightly envious…what could I produce if I took 6 years, and should I therefore be trying to take that long? (I know I am not married to Paul Auster who might, I guess, have paid the rent while she wrote, but maybe he didn’t, maybe she suffered for her art alone and independently.) Likewise Jonathan Frantzen who just spent 9 years writing FREEDOM (OK, to be honest, that might be pushing it. 9 years is a flipping long time and he also allegedly sits in a dark room with a blindfold on whilst he writes which seems very dedicated and also, sorry Jonathan, slightly weird). Writers like Tolstoy published classics like Anna Karenina in serial form over four years, as did Dickens with many of his works…

A year is a long time but also flashes by the older I get. If I had that whole year to write one book exclusively, well, I’d be a 1/6 of the way with Siri. But real life intercedes, and in that year, as a single working mother, I also have to do some other stuff to keep the wolf from the door (though so far I’ve managed to dodge the webcam in the bathroom idea)…My agent always says she tells her writers “Don’t give up the day job” and indeed, only 7% or something scarily small make a full-time living writing. I am not moaning, don’t get me wrong. I am just speculating about what great works I might produce should I have a little longer in the grand scheme of things to write my stories down..or maybe I would produce exactly the same book. So I’ll suggest that 6 figure advance to my publisher next deal around and then perhaps we could see. I had a really good idea for a book about a Russian lady who falls for a Count and then jumps under a train in lovelorn desperation…any takers?

THE KILLER INSIDE ME: Gratuitous arguments….

So I’d read a lot of stuff about Michael Winterbottom’s new film before it opened, namely Rachel Cooke’s article in The Observer where she interviewed the director after she’d seen The Killer Inside Me, read here, arriving at the lunch table with personal objections. Strange then that he was not the easiest dining partner?! She seemed to think it was odd he was awkward; personally if someone starts a meeting with me with “I object to your book”, I too might be uneasy. Anyway, this week, I watched the film – one particular scene, admittedly, through the cracks in my fingers. (Or rather, the cracks between my fingers). But I forced myself not to look away because I didn’t want to judge something by having not actually seen it. Then I read Barbara Ellen’s piece in The Observer – here. Then I thought a lot about it, and about the woman who stood up at the Sundance Film Festival where it was first screened and apparently cried “Shame on you.” Cooke herself said she had to go and stand outside the cinema because she felt faint. Hmmm. Those scenes aren’t at all enjoyable, but the film’s hardly SAW 3.

In her article, Ellen accuses actresses Jessica Alba & Kate Hudson of being complicit because they’d let themselves be filmed being beaten up- and this apparently is bad for feminism. OK, so here’s the thing. It’s acting and it’s to do with the plot. The film, taken from the book by Jim Thompson, is about a seemingly normal guy Lou Ford who becomes sheriff, gets involved with a prostitute despite being engaged to another woman and because of his deeply troubled childhood, and building events in the town, becomes psychotic. The sheer fact that you are not expecting him to do what he does (and with his own fists) – largely because he’s involved in a very sexual and apparently quite loving relationship with the prostitute – is the EXACT POINT! Would the audience rather he attacked her with a feather duster? Or off-screen and it was reported? If so, you’d lose the drama and the driving force behind the plot.

I don’t think Winterbottom depicted the violence because he’s suggesting it’s a turn on, which Ellen seems to suggest. She complains that none of the male victims are shown to be beaten in the same manner – but then they die in different ways. I don’t think it’s about glorifying violence to women, or about being gratuitous for the sake of it. Instead it’s about the nature of the relationship Lou Ford has with these two women, and how very messed up he is. Here is a man who kills someone and then sits down to read the newspaper in the same room they lie dying. It’s not normal to try and beat someone to death with your own fists, or to read the paper after and that is the point and that’s why Winterbottom is right to keep the fairly brief violent scenes in. He destroys what he loves. They are absolutely intrinsic to the story. Personally, I’ve been more upset by scenes in films that have been less graphic (Clint Eastwood’s Changeling for instance); it just depends on the story and content. If Lou Ford had neatly shot the prostitute in the head or beaten her off-screen, it wouldn’t tell the audience the same story about his character, who is in every single scene of the film. It’s about him, not the violence. It’s about why he perpetrates the violence in that manner. And that’s the point, I feel. It is a hard film, not a romantic comedy or a laugh, but it’s true to itself. Hadley Freeman got it I feel – see here. Having been punched in the face by an ex-boyfriend, I’d agree absolutely, domestic violence is never pretty – but if you want to underline that, you show it how it is. So climb down off your high horses, ladies and gents, and make your own minds up without all the ‘immoral’ hysteria…Remember that every time the bleeding hero jumps up again in Batman/ Snatch/ Lethal Weapon/ Die Hard or the Bourne films, well, actually, they’d probably really be dead.

ps Given all the ‘feminist’ arguments, I feel it’s only right to admit I also watched the film because I heart Casey Affleck (just a little bit). Presumably this is a very bad thing for the sisterhood because I am objectifying him as a sexual object. Or something…

CRIME FEST, BRISTOL 20 – 23 MAY. NEVER TELL anyone I’m going to be there (ha!)

So I’m preparing to talk tomorrow about PUNISHMENTS MEETING THE CRIME: Morality, Society & Justice in crime novels. Obviously am a great expert on this and am spending much time planning what to say to our moderator Steve Mosby and not worrying about what serious crime writers should wear on such serious occasions: twinset and pearls? Two piece suit? Anyway, since my last book NEVER TELL is all about a rather debauched secret society at Oxford University, the kind of society some of our great leaders used to belong too (yep I’m talking about new PM Cameron – & how the hell did that happen, can I just say; + Chancellor Osborne, Boris Johnson et al), I’m completely all over the morality thing. Even though writing some of the more shocking scenes occasionally made me blush. You might think it’s a moot point whether I really write crime; as a lovely (and the only male) member of the New Eltham Library Reading Group said to me last week, having just read my first book LULLABY, “This isn’t really crime, this is just the story of a young mum whose baby is stolen”…the aghast female members quickly turned on him, poor man! “Isn’t it a crime having a stolen baby” one said crossly. I kept quiet in the corner and let them fight it out!

Anyway, if you’re at Crimefest, please do come and say hello; I’ll be the one propping up the bar in the Mariott really sensible and totally sober one (I’m always amazed by how much my fellow Crime Writers drink. Really.)

NEVER TELL 3: BBC & JOHN SIMPSON

A few quick things: I went to the BBC yesterday to do some radio interviews. Actually I did more than I realised I was lined up for; luckily I was early, because I was shoved on air with literally a minute to spare – frankly it was a relief I even remembered my name during the 1st interview, for Radio Jersey. Afterwards I popped out and as the nice receptionist offered me a drink, a rather imposing man rocked up and then stood looking down at her as if she should know who he was. She obviously didn’t, though I recognised him as the reporter John Simpson (isn’t he the guy that ‘took Baghdad’ before even the US army did?!) Anyway, the poor man seemed quite put out that she had no clue who he was. I skipped back into my tiny cubby-hole of a studio before war broke out and he could declare ‘he’d taken Western House’.

I did a funny interview about NEVER TELL for the celebrity gossip website Female First; I say funny, but it wasn’t really meant to be! You can read here – though it seems to have been transcribed absolutely verbatim with alll my dithering and pausing and lots of laughing apparently…if you do read it, please excuse my dizziness!

Never Tell is apparently doing OK in the British bookshops, so if you’re one of the lovely people who’ve bought it, thank you. It’s climbed up the Heatseeker chart a bit, so fingers crossed!!

Finally for now, I’m going to be at Crime Fest in Bristol from May 20-22 so it’d be great to see you if you fancy it…details here. There’ll be lots of exciting writers milling around discussing important crime stuff (OK, they’ll probably be mainly propping up the bar). Come and say hello!

NEVER TELL LAUNCH: JUST ABOUT RECOVERED

The good news is, I managed to find something to wear to the launch. The bad news is, I got a bit carried away with the free wine so it’s taken me this long to get back to work. It was so lovely to see everyone who came that I got slightly overwhelmed and felt the need to stay out til 4am. Whoops. When I’ve recovered even more and I get a bit more savvy I might even manage to post a photo or 2 on my site.

Apparently NEVER TELL has been doing quite well so far; last week’s exciting news was that it even got into The Bookseller’s Heatseeker chart which would have been even more exciting if I’d actually known what that meant! I spent some time ringing important people like my agent Teresa to then be chastised for not reading The Bookseller often enough. My first official review, from writer Cath Staincliffe, is here: I’m v. relieved she liked it! It’s so strange when something that has existed only in my head and then at the end of my fingertips is now out there to be judged by all…fingers crossed etc….