Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Still writing

September has appeared without warning. Hard to believe we're this far along in the year. It doesn't seem long since I was jamming the Christmas tree out of sight and wrangling the fairy-lights back into their box. 

The weather already feels autumnal, the July heatwave a distant memory. The leaves are starting to turn, and there's a chill in the air. It's hasn't been the best summer weather-wise, but other countries have had it worse - flooding in Germany, wildfires in Greece - so in a way, we're lucky. (I'm still craving sunshine though.) 

I haven't yet received my edits for my latest book - my editor is overworked after a busy summer - but in the meantime have continued writing with Amanda Brittany, enjoying the process of getting words down and seeing them grow at twice the usual rate; a benefit of having a co-author! 

One of the pleasures has been researching prop hire companies as our main character runs one, and we're hoping to pay a visit sometime to see how it all works. 

My next solo book - which I've started well ahead of deadline for once - is set in Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire, so I've been wandering around there virtually thanks to the wonders of Google Maps. I had hoped to visit the area on a recent trip to see my family in Scarborough, but didn't have quite enough time. Luckily, I have vivid memories of visiting the bay growing up, and took my children there when they were small, so at least have something to draw on. 

Robin Hood's Bay
As usual, when working out plots, I seem to spend a lot of time doing things unrelated to writing - baking and gardening in particular - but my mind is ticking over all the time and when I eventually sit down to write, I find the words are there. At least, that's what I tell my husband and children when they see me hacking at the ivy on the garage roof, or making yet another batch of scones. I think I've perfected the recipe now! In the interests of... well, no one really, I think I ought to sample one (or two.) 

Whatever you're doing, stay well, and have a happy autumn.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Writing during a heatwave

Chiltern Brew Cafe Garden
It's thirty-one degrees today and while we've been waiting - it seems - forever for summer to arrive, the humidity makes it hard to do anything but gently perspire. As some Covid restrictions have now been lifted, I've found myself veering back to air-conditioned cafes and coffee shops to write for the first time in nearly two years. A cool blast of air and a pot of tea - maybe a slice of cake - does wonders for my creativity.

Since my second psychological thriller And Then She Ran came out in April, I've signed a contract to write two more with HQ/HarperCollins and have started plotting my third. It's different to the one I initially outlined for my lovely editor Belinda Toor and I'm currently waiting to hear whether I can go ahead with it. It's one of those ideas I don't want to let go of and have presumptuously written the first two chapters.

Alongside that, Amanda Brittany and I are writing our third thriller, spurred on by the success of The Perfect Nanny. As with our last two books, we're thoroughly enjoying the experience, bouncing ideas off each other and writing a chapter a day, motivating each other to keep going. Motivation (or maybe it's discipline) is something I struggle with when writing solo - until two weeks before the draft is due when I write about 10,000 words a day. (Not recommended.)

Lovely Husband and I managed a weekend away last month - the first in nineteen months - to Whitstable, Kent. The weather wasn't great but it was good to have a change of scenery, and I had a wander around and made notes as I'd like to feature the area in a book at some point. Author Julie Wassmer has already written a whole mystery series based there - Whitstable Pearl - which has been made into a TV series and we're currently enjoying watching that, yelling 'We went there!' and 'That's where we ate oysters!' (Newsflash: I didn't eat oysters, but my husband did - I couldn't face them.)


Whatever you're up to this summer, I hope it's a good one in every way.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Cat and Mouse

It's publication day for And Then She Ran my second psychological thriller, described as a cat-and-mouse story as the main character Grace flees America with her baby, but suspects she's being followed.

I've always enjoyed the cat-and-mouse plot element in fiction, the pursuit, near capture and flight, the near misses and showdown, the psychological dance between characters that keeps me on the edge of my seat. I've read and watched many stories on this theme over the years and have picked out a few of my favourites.

1.  Madam Will You Talk by Mary Stewart

A classic cat-and-mouse tale set in the south of France where a war widow becomes involved with a gang of murderers and a plot to kidnap a young boy and has to figure out who the villains are. Plenty of twists and turns in a story that stands the test of time.

2. The Split by Sharon Bolton

One of the best books I read last year, described as 'a chilling, pulse-racing, emotionally charged thriller about a woman on the run, a deadly cat-and-mouse game at the edge of the world' which I agree wholeheartedly with. Gripping stuff.

3. The Serpent BBC

The true story of the so-called 'hippie-trail killer' Charles Sobhraj, accused of murdering Western tourists in the seventies who plays a long cat-and-mouse game with the police over many years. Great performances - and outfits.

4. YOU Netflix

A stalker/serial-killer series adapted from Caroline Kepnes' novel of the same name, with an oddly charming and likeable protagonist in bookshop owner, Joe (despite him being a stalker/serial killer.)

5. Strangers on a Train 1951

The Alfred Hitchcock film, based on the book by Patricia Highsmith, is a classic cat-and-mouse tale and one of my favourites - a chance meeting between two men on a train, speculating what it would be like to commit the perfect murder, with a private investigator on their case. A brilliantly constructed story.

6. Unsane 2018

A film starring Claire Foy as a woman who tries to join a support group after being pursued by a stalker and finds herself trapped in a psychiatric hospital. It's shot on iPhone, adding to the unsettling atmosphere of being stuck in your worst nightmare fighting to be believed. It veered a little too close to horror at times - I'm a coward - but well worth a watch if you're braver than me.

Published at HQ Stories 28/4/21

Monday, April 5, 2021

Another day, another book.

The end of March saw the digital release of The Perfect Nanny, the second thriller by me and the lovely Amanda Brittany. The paperback and audiobook will be out in May.

In the meantime, I've completed edits for my second thriller And Then She Ran, and the proof copy has been receiving lovely reviews on NetGalley. It's a little bit odd to know the words I've written are being read by strangers, but a massive relief that they don't hate them all.

Now, I'm pressing on with my next book, provisionally titled Her Sister's Child as I like to have a title while I'm writing, even though it will undoubtedly change before publication. My deadline is May 5th and I'm nowhere near finished (as usual) but hoping now I'm getting to know my characters that the words will keep flowing.

I don't know how it's April already, it's been exceptionally cold with a flurry of snow this morning, but things are blooming in the garden and I've been out hedge-cutting and chatting to a friendly robin. I tend not to notice anything about the garden during winter, then one day, when the wind is in the right direction, I zone in, cut the grass, replant the flower pots and declare that summer has arrived (even if it's snowing.)

It's good exercise, considering I've eaten my own body weight in Easter eggs over the weekend. Sadly, sitting about writing doesn't burn many calories though at the rate I'm going, I'll be writing so many words a day for the rest of the month, I'll be a shadow of my former self when I've finished.

Thursday, February 11, 2021


The 'bleak midwinter' seems a fitting description of the weather right now - below freezing, snow and ice on the ground, a bitter chill in the air; bare branches etched against a bone-white sky. And we're in lockdown again, albeit with the promise of better things to come in the shape of a vaccine. 

I'm thankful to be in the business of writing, something I can do anywhere though the mindset isn't always right during the current circumstances. Walking helps with that, even when it's snowing - especially if it's sunny at the same time.

A bright spot this month was seeing the cover for my and Amanda Brittany's second thriller THE PERFECT NANNY, due out on March 31st. It's been receiving good comments on NetGalley, where new books go to be reviewed before release.

Hearing what readers think - and that they're enjoying our book - brings home how much we love telling stories, which are needed more than ever at the moment. I'm reading far more than I usually do (and I read a lot!) but I've put that aside, for now, to work on the edits for my next psychological thriller - title and cover to be revealed soon - which will be out in April. I'm hoping by then, the sun will be shining and life will be returning to some kind of normality. 

In the meantime, I feel lucky that my loved ones are safe and well and I hope you and yours are too.

Ooh, and here a few of the books I've enjoyed, if you're looking for recommendations: 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

What a Year

What a year it's been, and a very different Christmas and New Year's Eve to finish it off. Much quieter than normal, we managed to have a lovely, relaxing time and I'm grateful we've made it this far and stayed healthy, though there have been low moments during the year and not all related to the pandemic!

As ever, writing and reading - the world of words - has been a great solace and a welcome distraction. I'm proud (and amazed) that in spite of everything, I managed to write a whole novel - due out in April 2021 - as well as one with my fellow writer and friend, Amanda Brittany, which will be published in February. We're excited to see the cover early in the New Year.

I'm thrilled that my editor would like to continue working with me, so hopefully, there will be two more thrillers next year and I'm excited to start working on the first, provisionally titled My Sister's Child. (Titles always change, so I won't get too attached to it!)

2020 may not have resulted in the happy ending we were hoping for, but there's still a lot to be thankful for and I'm heading into the New Year with that thought in mind and hoping that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, 2021 will be kind to you and yours.      

Switching Genre

Rom-com to thrillers

Switching from writing romantic comedy to psychological suspense has been a challenge I’ve enjoyed rising to. It's a genre I’ve loved reading for years, having long had a fascination for what makes people tick and do the things they do, which led to me studying psychology as a mature student.

I started writing a thriller years ago, before diverting to comedy and knew I would drift back it one day. All my romcoms have a mystery running through them and a little twist at the end, and after co-writing a thriller with a writing friend last year I knew it was time to make the leap for my next solo project.

In romantic comedy some topics are off-limits and while I loved reaching for the humour, hoping to make my readers smile and experience a warm glow, I found myself drawn to writing about more complex, grittier issues that wouldn't be possible in a romance. I love creating tension in the lives of ordinary people, exploring the emotional aspects of relationships after a dramatic event and that works well in both genres, but with suspense, there’s the scope to dig deeper and go darker with the story.

Writing suspense is more technical in some ways, it's not such a straightforward journey with a neatly tied up ending. There are red herrings and clues and dead ends that must make sense and build to a believable and satisfying twist for the reader, while remaining true to the characters, and I hope I've created some genuine surprises during Beth's story in Your Life for Mine.

My search history has certainly been different than when I was researching the backgrounds for my rom-com characters, from ‘what does owning a bakery involve?’ and ‘what do events managers do all day?’ to ‘what is gaslighting?’ and ‘what is secondary drowning?’ and 'how long would someone have to be underwater to drown?' I had to explain to my husband that I wasn't planning to bump him off.

Unlike in previous books, I found writing the ending first – the twist – helped keep me racing towards that point and the ideas flowed as I wrote. Consequently, Your Life for Mine is the fastest I’ve ever written a book and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey into the dark side. 

First published at HQ Stories

Still writing

September has appeared without warning. Hard to believe we're this far along in the year. It doesn't seem long since I was jamming t...