Monday, 29 March 2010

Shouldn't Have Read That

watch the tear...
Cut Short by Leigh Russell
... that's how I feel right now! I've just read an article in book2book about the demise of books as we know them. The journalist posits a future where we will be awash with self-published ebooks - most of which will be poorly edited, lacking any kind of 'quality control' as the traditional gatekeepers of agent, publisher and editor vanish. "How long can it be before Tesco (which already has a 10 per cent share of the book market) stops dealing with fussy publishers and brands its own books?" the journalist asks. The article concludes: "the danger is our bookshelves will come to resemble a long line of branded baked beans." This is so depressing! Why did I read it? I should have paid attention to the headline "Apoca-lit Now" and given this one a wide berth. Now I feel really depressed!
How do other writers maintain their enthusiasm for writing books in such a dreary cultural climate?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Guest Interview with Sherlock Holmes Writer and Scholar Alistair Duncan

Cut Short by Leigh Russell

I am very excited to be introducing my first guest here on my blog, as I interview Alistair Duncan, the well known Sherlock Holmes scholar and author of books on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle whose latest book, THE NORWOOD AUTHOR, has recently been published.

Alistair, welcome to my blog and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed here.

Thank you. It's nice to be here.

1. Many fans of Sherlock Holmes give little thought to his creator, Conan Doyle. What first sparked your interest in him?
I was initially far more interested in the creation rather than the creator. For me Conan Doyle was the man about whom a few pages appeared at the beginning of the Holmes books that I owned. My interest really gained momentum when I found myself living in South Norwood where Conan Doyle himself had lived.

When I wrote my first book, ELIMINATE THE IMPOSSIBLE, it naturally included some details on Conan Doyle. As I researched I became more and more interested. This reflected itself in my second book, CLOSE TO HOLMES, where the balance between Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes became something closer to 50/50.

Finally this interest culminated in my third book, THE NORWOOD AUTHOR, where the book is primarily focused on Conan Doyle.

2. Even though I write fiction, I spend quite a lot of time researching my books. I wonder what proportion of your time is spent on research, and what proportion of your time is spent writing?
Good question and it has varied for each book. Taking the last book I would say that the allocation of time was roughly 50/50.

3. How much of your research is conducted on the internet and how much of it consists of studying original documents and consulting other scholars?The internet is often a good starting point for any research but it is not good to rely on it. I generally begin with the internet and if a promising lead comes up I pursue it through libraries and other sources. For my latest book internet research was far less than the other two and most of my time was spent in front of microfilm readers at Croydon Library where films of the old Norwood newspapers are kept.

4. Can you share with us the most surprising fact you have discovered about Conan Doyle?I unearthed the fact that he became president of the Upper Norwood Literary and Scientific Society. Very few books (in fact only one that I found) mentioned that he was even a member of the society. None had mentioned that he became president.

5. Were your books commissioned? If not, can you tell us how you set about finding an agent?
At the risk of shocking people I am, in fact, agentless. I posted a synopsis of sorts to an internet authors' discussion forum and was contacted directly by a small independent publisher. Things went from there.

6. You mentioned The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Can you tell us something about the society? Can anyone become a member or do you need to have red hair - or have published a scholarly work on Sherlock Holmes?
The original society began in 1934 but was suspended due to an unfortunate event otherwise known as the Second World War. When the Festival of Britain was held in 1951 it demonstrated such a continued fascination with Holmes that a small group decided to resurrect the society.

Unlike some other societies the SHSL does not operate any old-fashioned admissions policy. An interest in Holmes is deemed sufficient.

7. What does the future hold for you as a writer? Will you continue to research Conan Doyle or are you going to branch out in other areas?I fully intend to continue researching him but I think any future written output in that area will take the form of short articles rather than books. I now wish to focus my energies primarily on my first attempt at fiction.

8. Am I right that Sherlock Holmes became popular in the nineteenth century when people lived in fear of crime which the police struggled to control? Do you think the current crime figures explain the popularity of contemporary crime fiction?
Holmes did indeed become popular in the 19th century. This was largely due to the increase in literacy that had been brought about by the 1870 Elementary Education Act which introduced the first compulsory state-funded schooling. I do agree that part of his appeal was down to the fact that he continually outwitted the official police at a time when they were not popular with the public. The public (particularly the working-class) had a distrust of the police. This had not been helped by what was seen as their dismal attempts to capture Jack the Ripper a few years earlier.

I think the modern interest in crime fiction is only partly motivated by current crime levels. I believe that if we lived in some crime-free Utopia crime fiction would still sell. I believe that is down to our love of a good puzzle and the fact that the ultimate puzzle is one where you're trying to catch a killer.

Alistair’s latest publication, THE NORWOOD AUTHOR, is available on amazon. It makes a fascinating read. You can see my review of THE NORWOOD AUTHOR on amazon.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Now how did I do that?

Just watch... before you click... I love that tear!

Cut Short by Leigh Russell

I daren't write any more in case it disappears... It's all magic to me!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Why You Have to Love Twitter

NEWSFLASH This post is quoted in the online trade journal book2book
& is number 1 in Most Popular Stories in book2book 24th March

Many in the publishing industry fear that electronic media are threatening to replace printed books. A recent post on The Literary Project illustrates how, by working together, new media can offer valuable support to traditional books and even help promote their sales.

According to Gemma Noon of The Literary Project, 'You have to love twitter. Less than an hour after I sent out a random tweet along the lines of 'anyone know a debut crime novelist who might like to be interviewed?' than a couple of people tweet back Leigh Russell's name at me.'

You can read the interview that came about as a result of those tweets on on March 19th.

Check home page on Crime Time & see the tear on CUT SHORT move!

More exciting news - Recently helenmhunt of Bookersatz kindly sent me some interview questions and that interview can be seen on Helen's own blog Fiction is Stranger than Fact

And as if that's not enough excitement for one week, here is a photo a reader sent me from Kinokuniya, a bookshop in Bangkok, where she bought a copy of CUT SHORT. I hope you enjoy reading it, JJ, and thank you for the pictures!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Second Book Blues

See March 19 interview
The rollercoaster ride I've been on since I started writing three years ago doesn't seem to have slowed down with my second book. If anything, the pressure has increased. One difference is that I can no longer hide behind the excuse of being a novice. My latest reviewer on amazon wrote, very kindly, about CUT SHORT: "For a first book this is excellent. A well deserved five stars." Having lulled me into smug security at yet another great review, he added, "Of course the expectation will be much higher with book two." No pressure there, then!
I won't pretend my ego isn't concerned about how ROAD CLOSED is going to be received. (Like anyone would believe me if I did!) But I am also genuinely concerned that I have somehow gained a small but loyal following. Only today I saw CUT SHORT by LEIGH RUSSELL listed on a blog as one of that lovely blogger's four favourite books. To a new little writer like me, that's huge! CUT SHORT was listed by a Eurocrime reviewers as a Top Read of 2009. I could go on, but I don't want to sound smug when really I'm feeling concerned. Because a lot of readers enjoyed CUT SHORT and, as the reviewer on amazon pointed out, "expectation will be much higher with book two." And all I can think of writing in response to that is, "Oh heck!" I'm going to have to better than that, I hear you think.

Well, I'm confident that ROAD CLOSED (published this June) will be a lot more interesting than "Oh heck," but whether it will be enough of an improvement on CUT SHORT to satisfy my fans, remains to be seen. I hope I don't disappoint anyone. I actually rather like ROAD CLOSED. I certainly enjoyed writing it so I hope other people will enjoy reading it.

I'm very glad I have a third book in the pipeline so once ROAD CLOSED is published, I'll have something else to think about!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Planning - and keeping to the plan

Stop press - another plan gone awry - my apologies for postponing book signing in Waterstones Watford tomorrow 13th March. I'm not 100% fit and don't want to meet you when I'm not on form. New date to be arranged soon! See schedule on my publisher's website, starting again on 27th March.
I wonder what effect planning has on other writers? There's a continuing debate over whether writing prose is a creative art form or a craft, like chiselling a detailed pattern on a decorative wooden table.
My first book, CUT SHORT, was an undisciplined outpouring of ideas, mainly because I wasn't writing it with a reader in mind. I never expected anyone to read it. I wrote it simply because I started and couldn't stop. It was great fun to write, and I thoroughly enjoyed the creative buzz. Those of you who follow my author blog may recall that when my publisher sent my MS to an editor, I had something of a wake up call. 'Your poor readers won't have a clue what's going on.' So I reworked my rather self indulgent MS into a more coherent form which thankfully went on to receive positive reviews and a lot of word of mouth buzz, resulting in two reprints in the first six months.
I did plan the second book in my series, ROAD CLOSED, but despite my best efforts, I still ended up making some very last minute changes to the MS. (Not in my publisher's good books at the moment, I'm afraid.)
Now that I have an agent, he has encouraged me to write a full synopsis for my third book, DEAD END. Problem solved? You might think so. But now I have to try and stick to my synopsis... and I've already had to make three major changes... I honestly find the writing is quite easy. It's the planning that I struggle with.
Am I unusually disorganised or is this the same for everyone? And does anyone have any helpful hints about planning books? Any hints, tips or suggestions will be very gratefully received - preferably before my third book goes to the typesetters.