I am privileged to work with some well-established authors, but one of the most exciting parts of being an editor is working with debut authors with debut authors on their first novels, helping them to launching their writing careers. There is nothing that beats the excitement around a debut, especially when they are as gifted a storyteller as Laura J Sillett.
It was a privilege to work on Laura’s debut, LET ME SLEEP, a psychological dystopian thriller that is laden with pace and twist at every turn.
I was delighted to get the chance to ask Laura some questions ahead of publication day – today – discussing what inspired her to write crime and thriller, and why the Victorians knew how to do crime right!
Scroll down to read an exclusive interview with the author!
Let Me Sleep by Laura J Sillett
23rd September 2021
He would do anything to remember. And even more to forget.
Tormented by nightmares of a screaming woman, Nico Jakes opens his eyes to an unfamiliar world.
Forced into hiding by war, a society has made its home underground. Suffering from psychological trauma, Nico learns that his lost memories hold the key to the survival of the entire community. Frustrated, confused, and under the watchful eye of his protective brother, Nico submits to an unconventional drug treatment to unearth a crucial secret, before an escaped traitor can exploit it.
But the descent into his mind also opens the flood gates to Nico’s past, bringing back forgotten lovers, enemies, and tragedy. With dreams warped by drugs and memories tainted by lies, Nico soon realises that he cannot trust anything, not even himself.
After the past year, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really craving a holiday. However, with travel rules up in the air and my partner starting a new training contract, who knows when I’ll be jetting off next.
However, I’m not too worried, because I had the delight to work on Karen Dodd’s latest crime mystery, Everybody Knows, set on the beautiful island of Malta. Although there is a lot more action and dark deception in the novel than you’d want on your own holiday break, it’s the perfect summer read that will have you gripped and taken on a wild, thrilling ride, even if it’s from the comfort of your own sofa.
Karen is no newbie to the writing game and has a few mystery titles under her belt, but check out the exclusive interview below to find out what fascinating discoveries she made whilst researching for the novel, not only about the true story the narrative is based on, but also about herself as a writer.
Everybody Knows by Karen Dodd
30th June 2021
A shocking murder. Globe-spanning greed.
Can one man untangle the brutal truth before he meets a gruesome end?
Calabria, Italy, 2019. Special Prosecutor Nicoló Moretti is reeling from the news he has a five-year-old son. And when he realizes his former lover is only coming clean because her high-profile anti-corruption campaign has provoked death threats, emotions flare and he never learns where she’s hidden him. Nico is overwhelmed with guilt when she’s slain in a horrific blast, vowing to hunt down the killers… and find his little boy.
Traveling to Malta to track down who ordered the hit, Nico battles ruthless power-mongers desperate to keep their secrets buried. And as he closes in on unscrupulous CEOs, government officials, and foreign despots laundering their dirty money, the callous assassination of a whistleblower has the determined investigator fearing he’s next on the list.
Everybody Knows is out today – grab your copy here.
Read on for an exclusive interview with the author, Karen Dodd.
By day, I edit crime, suspense and thriller, and by night, well, I read crime, suspense and thriller. It’s a genre that I have always loved; there is something about a complex, changing narrative of intrigue and mystery and a bloody good twist that I just can’t resist.
And an author who delivers on this level with every single book is the masterful Gilly Macmillan. Her latest novel To Tell You the Truth is my favourite yet (and I actually helped edit her previous book THE NANNY, so that’s saying something). Gilly has created a complex and fascinating character in Lucy – a novelist whose talent for imagination may have gone too far. She narrates a dark and multi-layered tale of deception, death and lies – or so you think. With twists at every turn, I was compelled to read the novel late into the night, desperate to uncover the truth.
Set in Gilly’s hometown of Bristol, I was transported back to my university days in a city that I loved, but this also added an extra level of intrigue as much of the action takes place on the other side of the Suspension Bridge from the city, which I actually only visited a couple of times. This created an otherworldy sense for me in a, which was unnerving and built on Lucy Harper’s complex world that Gilly has weaved together so well. (On an aside, this book is also a delight for those who work in the world of books and publishing; I couldn’t help but smile at Lucy’s interactions with her publishers – everyone loves a treat hamper!)
To Tell You the Truth by Gilly Macmillan publishes on 25th June 2020 in ebook and hardback. But if I were you, I’d preorder it now…
Thanks to the author and publishers for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The single most important piece of advice I can give an author is to READ. Step into the mind of your customer – your readers! – and devour as much as you can. What do you like as a reader? What don’t you like? Which characters make you smile, frown? Which characters are you compelled to read on about even though you don’t like them? What plots have been done to death? What plots can you do differently? What books are winning prizes, what books are flying off shelves – and a lot of the time they aren’t the same!
Researching your reader isn’t just for the marketers, but for the author too – and if you’re an indie author, you’ll be wearing both hats anyway! – as knowledge of the market is invaluable. Not only will you find out about your fellow authors and your readers, you’ll also find ouy so much about yourself as a writer.
So why wait to start your education? I have the perfect thriller to kick you off!
Yesterday, I read a fascinating article by American novelist Ben Winters. I had the pleasure of working with Winters briefly whilst I was at Penguin Random House and found his unique predicament intriguing.
The article, published on Slate.com, is discussing how the global pandemic of coronavirus and COVID-19 has basically screwed the plot of his new book, The Quiet Boy. It begins in January 2020 and hurtles towards a finale in July 2020 – in a music festival. Well, that’s not happening any more . . .
So it got me wondering how writers and namely the plots of fiction novels have been affected by the pandemic. It must be soul-destroying to have worked so hard, giving up months if not years of your life to curate the perfect plot line, create the characters that you need and finesse the timeline just so until you have a novel that you’re truly happy with . . . for a global pandemic to make it no longer relevant.
But my question is, does it matter? The role of fiction isn’t about facts. As the dictionary defines it, fiction is ‘the type of book or story that is written about imaginary characters and events and not based on real people and facts’. Of course, the best inspiration comes from the world around us – and no doubt the market will be flooded with coronavirus diaries, novels, etc. (Although I question whether there will be a market for them after we emerge blinking in the sunlight post-lockdown – we don’t want to go through that again *shudders*.) But, what better excuse than the world going a bit bananas around us to make use of this fantastic tool that we have hidden deep in our brains: the imagination. There is no better time to let our minds wonder and think of what-if and how-about.
Winters has a point when he says that ‘Right now, we are in the middle of total and utter upheaval. What reader will accept that my characters blithely go about their business in Los Angeles in the spring and summer of this year we’re in?’ Perhaps we should have more faith in our readers. Every day, fiction asks us to suspend our disbelief and fall headlong into a world that isn’t real, not based on fact, the product of the workings of someone’s mind. Yes, it looks a little like the world we live in, but the fiction form is prism not a mirror, twisting the light of the real world into a kaleidoscope of colour – otherwise the sci-fi and fantasy genres would already be in deep water!
With this in mind, over the weekend, I had the delightful experience of kicking my heels up and devouring Rebecca Serle’s smash-hit novel In Five Years. The whole concept of the novel taking a classic interview question – ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ – and twisting it on its head. The novel is all about how no matter how much we try to plan our ideal lives and how we see ourselves in five, ten, even twenty years time, life has a funny habit of getting in the way. Serle’s characters begin in 2020 and happily work, live, love their way through to 2025 (when it starts getting a little pear-shaped), no mention of pandemic in sight. Of course, when Serle wrote her manuscript, COVID-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head, but the novel is no worse off for it. In fact, it might even be an added strength as it reminds us that although the world looks less than peachy at the moment, we’ll get through it, whatever happens.
Admittedly, there might be a new couple of new courses on the syllabus for future literature students – Pre, Post and COVID Literature – but I’m excited to see what new writing this situation brings us, and whether authors choose to engage or not – some already having voiced their claims of not touching the topic with a barge pole, Anne Tyler and Harlan Coben being among their number. I feel for Winters, who has decided to push the events of his novel back to 2019, but whether you choose to set your next writing project in a world affected by COVID or not, I think the readers are willing to welcome you with open arms. To be honest, we’re just thankful for something to read!
Many of us in the UK woke up this morning to a changed world. We are now effectively in lockdown with restrictions imposed on our travels, work and exercise. They are tough measures, but necessary because it seems that far too many people aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously. Rather than angry, this just makes me sad that in a time when the country needs to come together to help stop the spread of this nasty virus, there is still a lot of selfishness out there. I know these are scary and strange times but we need to think of others as well as ourselves at this time, and namely our precious but precarious NHS.
Can You Hear Me? seems to be an all the more poignant read right now as the UK health services are coming under unprecedented pressure as they struggle to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Jake Jones’s memoir talks about what it’s like to be on the frontline as a paramedic, the first responders to many callouts, large and small, minor and emergency. It’s a fascinating insight into the daily lives of just one of the pillars of our amazing healthcare system, and, alongside This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, it is an essential read that demonstrates just how important our healthcare staff are.
As someone whose partner is a healthcare front-liners, please follow the government guidelines to do your part in fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Our healthcare front-liners aren’t superhuman; they are giving the best they can to help us, so the least we can do is help them by staying at home.
If you’re fighting the cabin fever, I am running my daily writing prompts in my stories to help keep you inspired. I’ll also be pulling together some more material in the coming days and weeks and creating a newsletter so that inspiration can be delivered directly to your inbox. Drop me a line if you’d like to be included, but I’ll be popping a link on my website in due course.
Thank you to Quercus Books for this gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
‘Death? Seen him. Loads of times. Death’s just a bloke.’
I’d already heard lots of good things about it by the time The Keeper by Jessica Moor dropped through my letterbox courtesy of Viking Books. But this is no ordinary thriller. As much as it is compelling to read, it’s also incredibly comfortable for the simple reason it’s so well written.
Moor has succeeded in writing both a gripping crime thriller – with one helluva sick twist! – but also raises awareness of the incredibly important issue of domestic violence. For this reason, although I appreciated the writing, The Keeper is also hard-going at times in that you read in sickening detail about the abuse, both physical and psychological, that the women in the narrative suffer. My God, it was tough reading at times. But in this case, this is no criticism but heartfelt praise as it forces the reader to exam the structure of the human psyche and psyche that allows such tragedies to occur in the first place.
Happy Publication Day to an important book about an issue all too often hidden behind closed doors and masked behind make-up. Congratulations to Jessica on her powerful debut!