Wednesday 26 February 2020

Life as a Debut Author - Guest Post Emma Jackson

I love inviting author friends onto my blog. Today, the lovely Emma Jackson, a fellow member of the RNA, is going to talk about her life as a debut author.

Over to you, Emma.

Life as a Debut Author

Your dream has come true – now what?

When your goal is to become a published author, it’s likely to be a long, hard slog and that moment of signing the contract or getting ‘the call’ shines like a pot of gold at the end of your sludgy rainbow. You battle through the slush pile and a publisher finally, finally, wants your manuscript (and maybe a second or third). It’s amazing and all your dreams have come true…


Where is the instruction manual?

If you have an agent, maybe this part isn’t so mind-boggling but these days more and more authors within commercial fiction don’t. I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to get published than to get an agent and we know how hard that is! So, if you don’t have an agent, you’re in new territory without someone dedicated to explaining everything to you and advising you accordingly on how to make the best start of your career. You probably expect there to be an editing stage or two but other than that, the reality of how your life is about to change will only become clear as time passes, and new challenges are revealed. I thought it might be helpful to lay out a few of the milestones I came across here:

Congratulations - now you are running a business!

Hold on, you might think, it’s all about the creativity for me. Well, I’m afraid I must burst that bubble. Of course, if you write, you do it because you love it. (Goodness knows you’d have to be majorly deluded to get into it for the money.) But, once you’ve committed to a contract with a publisher, you have obligations, deadlines, legal clauses to try to wrap your head around, tax to pay, and lots and lots of emails to deal with. Perhaps you imagined being an author under contract would mean you could finally find the time to drink tea and gaze out the window, waiting for inspiration because your talent has been validated and people would respect your creative needs? Hmm. Not so much. Instead, it’s more likely you will be hunched over your phone or laptop, agonising over how to word each email with your editor, whether it be about your account details for their financial department or organising the best time for your cover reveal on social media, which leads me nicely into…

Effective marketing or unicorns – which do you believe in more?

You have a hard-won deal to shout about and a cover and pre-order link to show off, so you are likely to take to social media and share it with everyone on the internet. Your publisher may or may not have a specific amount of marketing they want you to do – whether it means being present on as many social media platforms as you can stomach or simply making yourself available for a few days when your book launches. However, one thing is inescapable, unless you have signed a five-figure deal, the marketing will be left largely to you. Tread carefully. On the one hand, the internet and our smart technical gadgets make it a lot easier to market ourselves and our books. On the other hand, this means there is now a new, never-ending list of ‘to-do’s’ and the social media office never closes. If you’re not careful you can burn yourself out trying to promote your book. This may be a job but there should be a balance, because your career as an author has to fit alongside your normal life, just the same way your day job does (which you are likely to still have) and your responsibilities to family and friends and, of course, yourself still exist. Take a break, go for a walk, speak to people in the real world and put the phone down occasionally!  

Reviews – the Schrödinger’s cat best left in the box?

On a last note about keeping a healthy work life balance, I would just like to talk about the minefield of reviews. You want to know what people think of your book when it is finally out there in the public domain. After the creative expression of writing it, the thought of sharing it with readers was the point. Perhaps you imagined someone would read that really clever line you wrote in Chapter Sixteen and be moved to tears or laughter by it and how else will you find out unless you read reviews? But beware…where there are five starred reviews there will also, in all probability, be one-star reviews (particularly on the hellscape that is Goodreads). It’s a known phenomenon of our psychology that it takes five positive comments to repair the damage of one negative. Bad reviews can really knock you off you’re stride if you are a sensitive soul. And there is literally nothing you can do about them. Your book is out there and it’s scary because it’s going to get judged but you did your best so you may as well move on to the next story, or piece of cake, whatever makes you happy.

Finally, remind yourself at regular intervals that you achieved something amazing – it can be easy to forget as you get busier and busier. Be kind to yourself

Author Biography

Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE, published in 2019 by Orion Dash, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her next romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, is due for release in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and speculative romantic fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL'S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

You can find out news about Emma via her website or on:

Wednesday 19 February 2020

The Darker Side of Crime - Guest Post Lorraine Mace

I first 'met' this week's guest, Lorraine Mace, when I was lucky enough to win the Flash500 Novel Opening and Synopsis competition which she runs. That win helped me to secure my publishing deal with Bookouture and, since that day, Lorraine has been nothing but supportive of my work. Lorraine is a columnist for Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum and is head judge for Writers' Forum's monthly fiction competitions. She writes a series of crime novels featuring D.I. Stirling and I couldn't wait to ask her some questions.

Here are her answers.

You write crime. Have you always written in this genre?

No, my first completed novel was written for children in the 8-12 age range. I thought that was where I wanted to be as a writer, but I used to (still do) read a lot of crime and psychological thrillers and wondered if I could create something others would love to read: the D.I. Sterling series was born. The series is definitely on the darker end of the crime spectrum.

Which writers in your genre inspire you?

I enjoy a few American authors for the way they bring their characters to life on the page, such as Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and John Lescroat. British favourites include Val McDermid, Sheila Bugler and Chris Curran.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

Rage and Retribution came about because I saw a programme covering how few rapes are reported, compared to rapes committed. I wondered what would happen if a vigilante type person had incontrovertible knowledge of rapes committed but never reported and that person decided to carry out a programme of retribution.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I think I must being a plotting panster! I always know the crime, the villain and how the novel will end. I try to plot each chapter, but all too often characters and subplots appear as I’m writing, which means I have to incorporate issues I hadn’t even considered when I started out.

I can get a first draft down in a few months, but then the real work starts – edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit … and so on.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I try to write between 9 and 11 each morning, but am not always able to stick to it. I am involved in so many different fields of the writing industry that sometimes deadlines for articles or critiques have to take precedence.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

When I moved to France in 1999, I needed something to do and foolishly believed getting short fiction accepted would be easy. After more rejections than I care to think about, I was lucky enough to hit the right note and was paid the grand sum of £300.

I used the money to fund a Writers Bureau course and discovered I had a knack for writing humour pieces. This led to being offered a column in Living France Magazine. I subsequently moved to Spain and wrote a similar humour column for Spanish Magazine. For the last ten years I’ve been the humour columnist for Writing Magazine.

Writing novels came much later. The children’s book, Vlad the Inhaler- Hero in the Making, was written in 2005 and my first crime novel was completed in 2012.

Do you ever struggle to find inspiration?

No! If anything, I struggle to turn off the inspiration gene. I have more ideas in my head (and languishing on my hard drive) than I will ever have time to write.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I live in a small village in Spain and enjoy trying out my appalling Spanish on the locals in tapas bars. My partner and I are both keen joggers and try to run at least five times a week. Apart from that, I spend as much time as I can with my family. I am doing my best to enjoy life, as who knows what is around the corner?

What suggestions do you have to help a writer write better?

Join a good writing group and be open to criticism. You don’t have to follow all the advice you are given, but you should take each piece seriously and ask yourself if there is any merit in what has been said.

What next for Lorraine Mace?

The fifth in the D.I. Sterling series has already been accepted by Headline Accent, so there will be editing and rewrites for that, I’m sure. I am currently writing number six. After that, I have the outline for a standalone psychological thriller.

Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.
When not working on her D.I. Sterling series of crime novels, Lorraine is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions. A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service.

Find her at:

You can buy Lorraine's books here:

Wednesday 12 February 2020

5 Tips for Writing a Psychological Thriller - Guest Post Jenny Quintana

Ever wondered what it would be like to write a psychological thriller? Today, as part of my 'Psychological Thriller Author' series, author Jenny Quintana gives us her five tips to ensure you do it right. Jenny's second thriller 'Our Dark Secret' was published in February by Mantle. Can't wait to read it!

Five Tips For Writing A Psychological Thriller


One of the most important things to consider when writing any novel is your characters, and it is most definitely true when writing a psychological thriller. This is because a lot of the suspense takes place inside the character’s head, so it is crucial to understand their emotions. It is also important that the reader cares about the characters. If they don’t engage with them they won’t be bothered about their plight and they won’t be interested in their story.


Knowing when to speed things up and slow things down is an important skill. There are a few rules that can help with this. For example, avoid giving the reader too much backstory right at the beginning of the novel as this can become boring. A line or two is sufficient. The rest can be drip fed through the story. Description is important, but don’t clog the action up with paragraphs and paragraphs of beautiful, flowery writing. A few lines and then the reader wants to know what is going on. Make sure you don’t repeat information either. Readers like to work things out for themselves or flick back through the book to check things.

Language and Style

Vary your style. Use short, punchy sentences when something speedy is happening and then longer sentences to step back from the action. Use different sentence constructions and a variety of verbs. Spend a long time editing, getting rid of superfluous words that slow things down. Do a search on words like very, pretty, such and so and get rid of them where possible. Watch out for repeated words – we all have our favourites.


Put your characters into difficult situations. This doesn’t mean they have to be embroiled in fights or dangerous events all the time. Conflict can occur because of all kinds of situation, from getting lost in a strange place, to arguing with or misunderstanding another character, to a feeling of being watched or followed. Make sure your characters suffer. If the reader truly identifies with them (see above!) they will suffer and sympathise along with them. 


Some writers plan their novels meticulously. I’m not one of those people. I start with my characters and I get to know them before I consider what their story is. I usually know the beginning and the end. Then I fill in the gaps as I go. When I finish a draft, I go back over the book time and again, planting subtle clues. It’s important that when a reader finishes a book that they are able to recall these clues. If they want to reread and pinpoint these moments, then the writer has done their job!

Jenny Quintana is the author of the psychological mystery The Missing Girl which was chosen as a Waterstones thriller of the month in 2018. Her second novel Our Dark Secret was published in February 2020. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and now lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and two dogs.

You can buy Our Dark Secret here:

You can buy The Missing Girl here:

Follow Jenny here: Twitter: @jennyquintana95

Wednesday 5 February 2020

The Rise of the Audiobook - Guest Post Diane Jeffrey

I'm so lucky to have had such great guests on my blog recently. Today it's the turn of psychological thriller author, Diane Jeffrey. Diane lives in France but will be coming over to England for the 'Killer Women' festival in London next month so I'm hoping we'll be able to meet in real life. Both Diane and I have been lucky enough to have had our novels made into audiobooks, a format that is becoming increasingly popular, and I asked her to share with us her thoughts on the new kid on the block.

Over to you, Diane.

Listen Up!
The Rise of the Audiobook.

Audiobooks are increasingly popular and look set to continue to expand even as sales of physical books are dropping. Publishers are more and more creative and ambitious with their production of audiobooks. So, what makes a good audiobook and why are more and more people drawn to this format?


Surely the first advantage of audiobooks is that we can listen while we're doing something else. With our ever-busier lifestyles, there just aren't enough hours in the day to read all the books on our to-be-read piles. But we can listen to books in the car on a commute, while we work out or do the housework. They make the journey go faster or the ironing less tedious and they keep us company.

Furthermore, for many of us, our working day involves sitting for hours in front of a computer screen. When we get home, listening can be more relaxing than reading, especially from a tablet or an electronic reader.

Secondly, while audiobooks might provide an alternative format for many readers, they also are attracting new audiences: children and adults with dyslexia, for example, or the visually impaired. According to Nielsen Book statistics, there has been a huge increase in downloads of audiobooks by males aged 25-45, who weren't big on buying books until now. Although many men in this age group aren't keen on reading books, they seem to enjoy listening to them being read.

Finally, studies have shown that listening to stories stimulates the parts of the brain that are associated with attention, memory, language and mood. Audiobooks are also an efficient way to learn a foreign language. I teach English at a secondary school in Lyon, France, and one of the set books this year is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. My pupils are reading and listening to the book at the same time and it helps them with both comprehension and pronunciation.


The first audiobooks I listened to were David Walliams's children's stories. My kids and I used to listen to them every day in the car on the way to and from swimming training – an hour's round trip. They're brilliantly narrated – by David Walliams himself – complete with sound effects. We all preferred that to music, which we could never agree on!
Then an author friend of mine gifted me her book in audio format. I started listening to it while I was walking the dog. The narrator had a voice that I found both grating and soporific. I couldn't get into the book at all, so instead I bought the ebook and devoured it.

These two experiences highlighted for me the importance of having a good voice actor. At the end of last year, my third psychological thriller, The Guilty Mother, was selected as one of the Daily Mirror's Top Ten audiobooks of 2019, largely thanks, I believe, to the narrators, Charlie Sanderson and Philip Stevens. Charlie read the chapters written from the perspective of Melissa, a woman convicted of killing one of her children, and Philip read the chapters written by Jon, a journalist investigating this possible miscarriage of justice. Both Charlie and Philip affected slight Bristolian accents as the story is set in Bristol and they both did a fantastic job.

It's no secret that voice is vital. People leave reviews specifically for audio versions of books and sometimes even select an audiobook because they have become fans of a particular narrator rather than the author. Celebrities are attracting listeners to the audiobooks they have narrated just as they attract viewers to films that they have starred in. I've listened to Becoming by Michelle Obama, which she recorded herself, and The Handmaid's Tale read by Elisabeth Moss. I would highly recommend anything that Stephen Fry has narrated.

It's a relatively new format and yet it echoes an old custom – stories were passed down orally from generation to generation, long before the written word. And in our own lifetimes, our parents used to read us bedtime stories. Perhaps that has something to do with why we like audiobooks. There have always been stories – throughout our lives and throughout history. In a strange way, new technology has come full circle and recreated this oral tradition.

Diane Jeffrey has published three psychological thrillers with HQ / HarperCollins all of which have been Kindle bestsellers in the UK, the USA, Australia and Canada. THE GUILTY MOTHER, Diane's third book, was published in 2019 and was a USA Today bestseller.

Diane grew up in North Devon, in the United Kingdom. She now lives in Lyon, France, with her husband and their three children, Labrador and cat. Diane is an English teacher. When she's not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays.
Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Author website:
Readers can also follow Diane on Twitter @dianefjeffrey
or on