I’d like to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Catriona King to my blog today. She is the author of a five book detective series set in Belfast, which began with ‘A Limited Justice’. Click on images or see the links below to puchase copies of these thrilling crime novels.
Hello Jeff, thank you so much for having me on your blog today and for letting me chat about writing in general and my DCI Craig Thriller Series in particular.
What are the main ideas or themes in your book?
‘The Broken Shore’, released this week in e-book and paperback is book five in the series and this time Craig and his team are on the North Atlantic Coast of Northern Ireland, in a town called Portstewart. They become involved in the investigation of a murder on Portstewart’s stunning beach that mimics another murder there thirty years earlier. Solving it unveils corruption at the highest level, involves a terrorist from the 1980s, and reveals people with pasts that surprise them all.
What is the setting or context of the narrative? Why is it important?
Northern Ireland has stunning landscapes and vibrant, modern European cities so it seems a shame not to use them in storylines. ‘The Broken Shore’ had to be set on Northern Ireland’s wildest coastline; the North Atlantic coast. The plot starts on a beach so the coastal setting is integral to the book’s storyline.
Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.
Marc Craig, the hero of the series, is now a Superintendent detective in the police force. I’ve tried to make him a complex character using things learned from people that I’ve met in life and my own life experiences. He is half-Italian/ half-Northern Irish and comes from a family with a fiery musician mother and a quieter scientist father. He is well educated, trilingual and, I suppose, quite sophisticated, with a temper and a complicated love life.
His team is comprised of various characters; Liam Cullen, a rough diamond and quite a wit, Annette McElroy, sensible and ambitious, Davy Walsh, the team’s young analyst, who is clever, shy and an Emo. Nicky Morris, Craig’s brilliant and slightly bossy P.A. who has very strange fashion sense, and Craig’s best friend since school, Dr John Winter, head of Forensic Pathology for Northern Ireland. John is a quiet genius who knows Craig like the back of his hand and handles him brilliantly.
The core team allows me to show relationships, loyalty and lots of craic! I also bring in other characters as and when necessary for the storylines; such as other police officers, romantic interests for the team, their families etc.
Why did you write this novel? Any other issues or ‘big ideas’ behind it.
The story came to me when I was on the beach one day. I love the sea, especially when it’s wild (so does Craig and there’s definitely part of me in his character) and I wanted to write a story that took the team out of the city for a while.
Previous books have been set in Belfast, London, Paris etc. this time I wanted a smaller town in Northern Ireland, although Belfast is part of the story as well. I hope people enjoy hearing about Portstewart and perhaps they might visit it someday as well.
How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?
Oh I’m a dreadful example to anyone who wants to write a book because I have absolutely no system for doing it! I literally sit down with my computer and a blank page (and a blank head most of the time!) The most I have is a vague idea of a storyline then I just start to write. If there is a structure it’s usually that I show the person who was murdered quickly, either as the murder is being committed or afterwards, obviously without giving away who did it.
Then I’ll move to Craig’s team becoming involved, so in the opening chapter of each book you know that a crime has been committed and a little about it, but not the killer’s identity. And the reader sees Craig’s team becoming involved. After that… I go wherever the plot takes me.
I try to write between 2-5,000 words each day, three to four days per week, always in the morning. I find that I can’t write after lunchtime. I can edit but not write new text. I’m not sure why that is. I’m probably just a bit odd, ha ha.
I write the first draft, which can take two-three months, then I go back to the beginning and start the rewrite and editing, which takes up much less time, probably a maximum of two weeks. Then I’ll send it to the publisher, Crooked Cat Publishing, to see if they like it.
If they do like it and offer me a contract then they will suggest more edits and I’ll go back through the book again and re-edit taking those into account, then it all goes back to Crooked Cat again and we discuss cover art, back cover blurb, dedications etc.
That all sounds like a lot of work, but if you love writing it doesn’t feel like it.
What advice do you have for less experienced writers?
If you want to write then write. Write anything that you can think of; poetry, short stories, books, plays. It’s all valuable even if it doesn’t get published because it’s all helping you learn how to shape a story.
By all means take advice from other people but listen to your own judgment as well, and don’t try to write like anyone else, because you have to find your own narrative style or it will seem false and you’ll come across as a poor copy, not as an original.
Pick someone that you trust and respect and give them your work to read/ edit. Don’t be oversensitive. You chose them because you respected their opinion so don’t take their advice as if it’s meant to be hurtful. They are trying to help you.
Generally I’d say develop a tough skin, because you will need it. Publishers will have opinions, reviewers will have opinions, readers will definitely have opinions and not all of them will be positive.
Don’t worry about rejection. Everyone gets rejected and if they don’t I’d love to meet them! Getting published is a hard slog and remember that just because one publisher doesn’t like your work that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. They are only human beings with an opinion, albeit informed about the industry and what sells, but plenty of publishers have rejected books that turn out to be best sellers for someone else. Bear that in mind. Even the Harry Potter books were rejected at first.
People ask me if agents are a good idea, and my answer would be that I’m not sure. I don’t have one so for me I’d have to say no. I like having a direct relationship with my publisher. Having an agent introduces a middle man and that wouldn’t work for me. Publicists however may be useful if you can afford them (see marketing below)
Choose your writing style and I would also suggest that you choose a genre and stick to it for at least a couple of books, so that readers become familiar with your work and ‘know’ what they’re buying. People like to read books that they trust will be well written and if they’re going to spend money on something, especially nowadays, they’ll feel more comfortable buying the work of a writer whose style they know and trust. Make yourself that writer by writing well and consistently. Picking a genre and sticking to it, at least for a couple of books, would be my advice. If you want to try other genres in the future then do so when you’ve established a following.
Then, when you get published remember that’s only the start of the work and I think that’s what shocks writers most.
Marketing and publicity are thorny topics but they are very much the writers’ job, as well as writing. The two often don’t sit comfortably together for writers because, let’s face it, most writers write in a room alone, which doesn’t suggest a gregarious personality! Marketing is the opposite. It requires lots of contact with the outside world, which can be an anathema to some shy writers. But it has to be done if you want to sell your books.
Even the largest publishing houses expect their authors to do interviews, book-readings, signings, have a social media presence (usually Facebook, Twitter and Google plus) and to appear on other authors’ blogs, as I’m doing today.
But you can market in ways that suit you. Blogging about topics rather than just about your books (in fact it’s a lot more interesting both for you and the reader if you blog around the books rather than just shout ‘buy, buy’ which can make people switch off)
So marketing is important. Sorry!
Also remember that you won’t make a lot of money initially, if ever, so don’t give up your day job until it’s safe to do so!
What are you working on next?
I’ve just had a standalone thriller accepted for release. It’s called ‘The Carbon Trail’ and it’s set in New York City this time. It’s not a Craig crime novel, more a spy thriller, with new characters and a scientific twist. I hope that reader enjoys it and won’t see the ending coming. I’d like it to be a complete surprise for them!
I’ve also submitted DCI Craig book six to the publisher. It’s called ‘The Slowest Cut’, and I’m completing the first draft of book seven, ‘The Coercion Key’ at the moment. I have a few more Craig plots lurking around in my head as well as another thriller, but they are for next year.
If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?
Be kind to everyone you meet and help other people as much and as often as you can. Too many people are only kind to people they think may be useful to them and that’s very wrong in my opinion.
You will gain a huge amount by helping other people as well.
I’m a medical doctor and I can tell you that a lot fewer people would get ill in this world if everyone did those simple things.
Thanks for giving us such an interesting insight into your work and particularly into the processes of writing. Some very useful advice here for other writers. All the best for 2014.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Jeff.
Below are some links to purchase Catriona’s exciting novels:
Buy these books on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_6_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=catriona+king&sprefix=Catriona%2Cstripbooks%2C564&rh=n%3A266239%2Ck%3Acatriona+king
Catriona’s Blog http://http://catrionaking1.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook authors page http://https://www.facebook.com/CatrionaKingWriter?ref=hl