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Ross Armstrong

Ross ArmstrongRoss Armstrong is a British stage and screen actor who has performed in the West End of London, on Broadway and in theatres throughout the UK. Among others, he has acted opposite Jude Law (Hamlet), Joseph Fiennes (Cyrano de Bergerac), Kim Cattrall (Antony and Cleopatra) and Maxine Peake (The Deep Blue Sea). His TV appearances include Foyle’s War, Jonathan Creek, Mr Selfridge, DCI Banks and most recently, Ripper Street. After gaining a BA in English Literature and Theatre at Warwick University, Ross joined the National Youth Theatre where his contemporaries included Matt Smith and Rafe Spall. A three year course at RADA followed and whilst there he won the RADA Poetry Writing Award. The idea for his debut novel ‘The Watcher’ came to him when he moved into a new apartment block and discovered whilst looking at the moon through binoculars that he could see into his neighbours’ homes.

  1. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I studied English Literature at Warwick University and acting at RADA and for the past ten years have been an actor in TV shows like ‘Ripper Street’, ‘Foyles War’ and ‘Jonathan Creek’, and on stage with the RSC amongst others. But I’d always kept writing in one capacity or another. Finishing a book was something I only managed to get the time and mental alacrity to do a few years ago. Then I threw that one away and wrote a better one. I was lucky to have a lot of interest in it, the wonderful literary agent Juliet Mushens took it on and it’s being published by HQ (Harper Collins) in the UK and Harlequin in the US. And is being translated into many languages including, most recently confirmed, Hebrew.
  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    I’ve been thinking recently that crime stories are tales told backwards. I don’t know whether this has been said before and more eloquently, but I feel like someone like Chekhov told stories by showing you the surface and then delving into its darker elements, crime stories start with darker elements and then try and reel back and show you the seemingly innocuous surface. With ‘The Watcher’ I came to a way of doing things which starts with creating a setting and a motive which has some kind of resonance to modern trends, like the gentrification of London in this case, and then tried to figure out the most enjoyable and instructive way to tell that story structurally.

    In this case, we go in at the middle. Then go back to the start. Then move past the middle and drive on to the end. But then the process of writing any novel is all about dashing around in terms of timeline. The challenge I set myself was to do that in a clear but beguiling way, and by staying with one viewpoint while I did that. Creating an obsessive tension caused by never moving from a close up on the central character. Like a movie like ‘Buried’, or even ‘Son of Saul’ does.

    As for figuring out where that original idea comes from, usually I see an image, in this case the view of a distant apartment from mine and then figure out a plot point, from there I imagine a character that might do the most interesting thing with that plot. Then go from there.

  3. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    Firstly, I just love reading, I write in my second book about the pure process of reading is enjoyable in a way that watching a screen can never be, somehow chemically, something my central character can never have, because he can’t read. That’s a long winded way of saying I almost always enjoy a novel. I do however often have trouble with short stories. I’m sure it’s my particular view on things, but I feel like I don’t understand the format. So often stories from the American short story tradition leave me cold. However, I’m enjoying Shirley Jackson’s collection ‘Dark Tales’ and I loved David Eagleman’s ‘Sum’, a series of virtually one page visions of the afterlife written by a neuroscientist. I love Eagleman and he’s been a big influence on my next book.
  4. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    I suppose I would’ve started writing thrillers earlier because I feel I’ll never have enough time in my life to experiment with all the stories I have in my head in the genre, and to read all the wonderful books out there, in all genres, that I want to. I really get so inspired by other writers, the choices they make that take you out of your usual way of doing things.
  5. Why did you decide that you wanted to write crime?
    It took a while for me to realise it was my favourite genre. I think it has a simplicity but sense of constant mystery which I can’t stop going back to the well for. My favourite movies are mostly Hitchcock or David Fincher movies, and I wanted to see whether I could write something that people couldn’t help but consume, but also has a kind of weight to it that those directors, and writers like Gillian Flynn and Harlan Coben create too.
  6. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    I think there is a point where story relevance meets absolute irrelevance, in terms of pure enjoyment and escapism. If that’s not too elliptical. I think a lot of my favourite crime writers seem to do that naturally.
  7. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    Great question. John Doe in Seven comes to mind. The way he comes into the story. The absolute relentless darkness. So brilliant, empty, unusual, and superbly played by Kevin Spacey.
  8. The Watcher

  9. If you were to start your own bookclub, what authors would you ask to join?
    Chuck Palahniuk, Teju Cole, Stephen King, Lee Child, Jessie Burton, Deborah Levy, Paul Beatty, Harlan Coben, Gillian Flynn, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Franzen, Ottessa Moshfegh, Patti Smith, Haruki Murakami, Lena Dunham, the poets Derek Walcott, Kate Tempest and Adam O’Riordan, the ghosts of Patricia Highsmith, John Williams, Charles Bukowski and Phillip K. Dick. I think we’d have a good time.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Stoner’ by John Williams. ‘Freedom ‘by Jonathan Franzen. ‘The Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace; at over a thousand pages it’s probably the perfect length for the occasion.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Throw out the idea of writing a great line. Come up with a great structure. Test it over and over again. Chip away at it until it’s a perfect statue. Make sure it’s clear but surprising. Then write a clear and surprising first chapter. Re draft it a hundred times until it’s the most clear and surprising and enticing and true to you it can be.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I can start writing anywhere, then I kind of wake up eight hours later, like someone that can fall asleep anywhere. It’s very weird. But I also need coffee and water to make it happen.
  13. And finally Ross do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m in a great TV show called ‘Will’ about the early writing years of William Shakespeare, made by TNT, which will be arriving soon in 2017. It’s a spikey, punk version of his life, but I play the least rock n’roll character of all time, and I loved every second of it.

    Then I’m working on my second book which is about a man who survives being shot in the head, leaving his brain irrevocably altered, and how he awkwardly tries to solve a crime no one has asked him to get involved in, while negotiating a new way of looking at the world. It’s ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ meets ‘Seven’.

Follow Ross Armstrong on Twitter Ross Armstrong for updates

Katerina Diamond

Katerina DiamondKaterina Diamond is the author of the ‘Sunday’ Times Best Selling crime thriller ‘The Teacher’, and Number 1 Kindle best selling novel ‘The Secret’. Katerina is currently working on her third novel in the series. Katerina lives in East Kent. Katerina was born in Weston-super-Mare and has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Katerina loves stories and is currently working on her third novel. ‘The Secret’ is her second book in the series.

  1. To the readers of the website, who aren’t familiar with your writing and your books, can you tell us about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I am a Crime Thriller writer. I have always been an avid reader, and I am quite into movies, too. I used to spend my one day off from my job when I was younger in the cinema all day, watching whatever the new releases were. About 15 years ago I decided I wanted to try and write this idea I had for a movie. I continued to learn the craft of screenwriting for several years, writing several screenplays but never getting anywhere with them. I entered a local competition and didn’t do so well with it, but I persevered and entered twice more in following years. After joining a local writing group for a few months I adapted the things I had learned from all the books on screenwriting I had read over the years. I won the competition for the first chapter of a novel, which became the first chapter of ‘The Teacher’, my debut novel and ‘Sunday Times’ Bestseller.
  2. What book inspired you to start writing?
    It’s hard to pick an exact book actually. I just love crime fiction and wanted to see if I could do it.
  3. Can you describe your writing style?
    I would say that it’s pretty pacey, I try to constantly move the story forward. I have also got a bit of a reputation for being shocking and extreme.
  4. You’re books are incredibly graphic and gory, what’s been the most goriest book you’ve even read?
    I don’t ever recall reading anything particularly gory, probably the most unpleasant and shocking book I ever read was delicatessen by William. S. Burroughs though.
  5. The Secret

  6. What do you think makes a good crime novel?
    Lots of surprises and plenty of tension.
  7. Your books are based on the investigative team DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles, who are quite an complex team with a good dynamic between the pair. Do you have a favourite of the couple
    Actually my allegiance often swap sides, sometimes I love one more than the other but I don’t think I could pick one of them.

  8. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexander Dumas – and an SAS extreme survival guide.
  9. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Write all the time, for ten minutes or ten hours it doesn’t matter. Also read books on story structure and things like that, there are some excellent books out there and they can really help.
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A pint of water is the boring answer, but also I have a winter soldier bobble head toy that sits on my monitor.
  11. And finally Katerina, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website
    I am currently Editing book 3 of the Miles and Grey series of books, and I have started writing book 4. After that I have no definite plans – 2 projects at a time is enough!

Follow Katerina Diamond Twitter Katerina Diamonnd for updates or check out her website at Katerina Diamonnd

The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir Book Tour – Interview WIth Lesley Allen

Lesley AllenLesley Allen lives in Bangor, County Down, with her teenage daughter. She is a freelance copywriter and the press officer and assistant programme developer for Open House Festival. Whilst crafting words for other people has been her bread and butter for the past two decades, her heart lies with writing fiction. Lesley was named as one of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s 2016 Artist Career Enhancement recipients for literature. She is using the award to complete her second novel.

  1. Can you tell us what your book ‘The Lonely Life Of Biddy Weir’ is about?
    It’s called ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ and in a nutshell is about the long-term effects of bullying. At the beginning of the book we meet Biddy Weir, a shy young loner who lives a solitary existence with her old-fashioned, emotionally crippled father. Biddy is happy to exist in her own wee world, sketching seagulls and examining bird poo – until she is branded a ‘Bloody Weirdo’ by the golden girl at school. What follows is a heart-breaking tale of bullying and redemption, which spans from the late 1970s to 2000. Biddy’s is a story with universal appeal, which ultimately affirms the value of being different.
  2. To the readers of the website, can you tell us about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I’ve been writing in one form or another pretty much my whole life long. As a child I was always happy when I had a book (or a comic) or a notepad and pencil in my hand. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing, and if I wasn’t writing I was reading. I did a degree in Drama and English – more reading, more writing; stumbled into a career in pr and copywriting – more reading, more writing. In my early thirties I decided to ditch the pr and focus on being a freelance copywriter, which meant lots and lots and lots of writing, which was great – but, in my heart what I really wanted to write was fiction. I wanted to ditch the ‘copy’ part of my job title and focus on the writer. The thing was, I just didn’t have the guts to do anything about it. I was knee-high in a big muddy puddle of ‘I could never be a real writer’ gloom. As I approached my 40th birthday I read ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Seabold, and it was like a huge big brick had been thrown into the puddle and soaked me. I knew I couldn’t allow myself to be approaching my 50th birthday without at least trying to get out of the mud. So I finally joined a creative writing group, and the relief I felt by the end of the first hour almost made me weep. Fast forward 13 not-quite-straightforward years and here I am, a writer – finally! And as a lovely touch of symmetry, my book launch will be held in the same building where I took that writing course.
  3. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    This question causes me soooo much anxiety! Do I really have to pick just one? It’s like asking which of your children you like the best! (Actually, that would be an easier choice for me, as my daughter is my glorious one and only – but when it comes to books, blimey!) I’ve had more book crushes than men-crushes over the years, from ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, to ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath; F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, to Hardy’s ‘The Trumpet Major’; Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, to David Nicholl’s ‘One Day’ – and a multitude in between. But if you force my hand, I guess I’d have to go with ‘The Lovely Bones’ as it was the book that finally made me join that writing group.
  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    It would have to be my fellow authors from Twenty7 Books: TeamT7 we call ourselves. We’re an eclectic bunch of first-timers who were all thrown into the publishing playground at the same time and have become ridiculously close. Twenty7 Books is an innovative and dynamic new imprint that champions new writing and gives debut authors a voice. We were hugely privileged to be their first group of debuts, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how well our voices have blended. You should hear us when we all get together, especially if there’s a glass or several of something involved!
  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    It’s back to ‘The Lovely Bones’! ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie.’ Hooked me and reeled me in! (See what I did there? Salmon … hooked! I’m overdoing this, aren’t I.)
  6. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
    There have been two so far. Getting ‘The Call’ from my agent to say that Twenty7 Books had bought my novel was the first. It was a gloomy February evening and suddenly the room was drenched in sunlight. Luckily I just happened to have a bottle of fizz in the fridge! The second was holding the book in my hand for the first time just last week. It was other-worldly. My book baby! The only thing that’s come close to the feeling was holding my actual baby after she was born, almost nineteen years ago.
  7. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    When you think ‘oh shit, I can’t write that’ – and then you realise that it’s fiction, and you can write whatever the hell you want!
  8. The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir

  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    See, here we are with the anxiety thing again! All the books I own are literally jumping up and down, yelling at me ‘Take me! Take me!’ So, sorry books, but for my first choice I’m going to pick one that I don’t actually own and have never read, but sometimes (ok, often) pretend I have: ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce. Next, and this is really hard, like really hard, because my home is literally bulging at the seams with brilliant books, I’m going to say ‘Tall Oaks’ by Chris Whitaker because it’s rare that a book can make you laugh, cry, scream, and shout out a four-letter word beginning with f in the space of one sentence – but this one did. (Also he’s on Team T7 and he’s promised to be my blog tour groupie!) And finally, it has to be ‘The Lovely Bones’, doesn’t it? I mean, if I didn’t chose it you’d probably be wondering, ‘um, what about ‘The Lovely Bones’?’
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    The only thing I really need is my computer. But from now on, I think I’ll always keep my first copy of ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ beside me when I’m writing. What better inspiration could I have when things aren’t going to plan and the words aren’t coming the way they should?
  11. And finally Lesley, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I’m currently working on my second novel, ‘The Possibilities of Elizabeth’, and I’ve been very lucky to receive support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to help write it. It’s about a girl, Elizabeth, who is in a coma, the result of a car crash which may or may not have been an attempt at suicide. She can’t remember. But she does know that the choice to live or die is hers, and hers alone. I think dark subject matters seem to be my thing!

Follow Lesley Allen on Twitter Lesley Allen for updates.

You can pre-prder The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 3rd November 2016.

Tammy Cohen

Tammy CohenTammy Cohen was born in Ibadan, Nigeria and then attended school in both Sierra Leone and California before moving to London. After taking an American Studies degree at Manchester University she taught English in Madrid. While working as a secretary back in London, she started writing features and hand-delivering them to the magazine publishing house around the corner. Tammy’s first book ‘The Mistress’s Revenge’, was followed by three more contemporary fiction titles under the name Tamar Cohen,’ The War of the Wives’, ‘Someone Else’s Wedding’ and ‘The Broken’. In November 2014, her first crime novel, ‘Dying For Christmas’ was published under the name Tammy Cohen, followed by ‘First One Missing’ a year later, her latest book is ‘When She Was Bad’ and has just been optioned for television. Tammy has just revealed that she will be writing a new book in a new genre for her called ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ under a new name

  1. To the readers of the blog, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    I always wrote, even as a very young kid. My poor parents were used to being presented with home-made books tied together with string that they had to dutifully enthuse over and declare brilliant. After uni I did a few odd jobs then fell into journalism after getting a job as a secretary in a marketing magazine. So I wrote features for newspapers and magazines for over twenty years, until print journalism went into decline starting around 2008 and the work started drying up. By 2010 I was angsting so much about money that I stopped sleeping for a while. And it was during this bout of insomnia that I wrote ‘The Mistress’s Revenge’, which became my first published novel. When life gives you lemons and all that stuff…
  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    It always surprises me when people ask that because the better question would be where don’t you get your ideas. Every situation you get into, every person you meet, every newspaper you read, could be the starting point for a story. As novelists, we just take reality that one step further. So, for example, when my partner and I found ourselves dragged into our friends’ messy divorce, that became the starting point for The Broken. I just added into that already toxic situation a character with psychopathic tendencies, and suddenly I had the basis of a thriller. Similarly my latest book ‘When She Was Bad’, which is a psychological thriller set in an office, was inspired by a job I had years ago in a magazine office where a new, very divisive boss, caused relationships among the staff to unravel spectacularly.
  3. You have written both crime and women’s contemporary fictio novels. Is there one genre you prefer more than the other?
    I suspect you might call my first three books, which were very classed as dark women’s contemporary fiction, the antithesis of romance. In those books I explored the dark underbelly of marriage and relationships – a married woman driven crazy by the break up of her affair, who stalks her ex lover’s family, two women who discover at their husbands’ funeral that they’ve unwittingly been married to the same man. When I decided to start writing psychological crime, it actually wasn’t that big a leap from there.
  4. Was there a book that you read that didn’t live up to the hype?
    I must be the only person in the world who couldn’t even glance at ’50 Shades of Grey’. Everything I heard about it made me feel like I’d need to have a jolly good wash if I picked it up – not because of the sex, but because of the unhealthy power dynamics.
  5. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    I have so many favourite books – from childhood ‘Anne of Green Gables’, the first adult book that really engaged me ‘Catch 22’, but I think the book that’s had the most powerful effect on me is ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’, by Lionel Shriver which is all about the very darkest side of family life. That’s the book that made me think, I want to write like this.
  6. When She Was Bad

  7. What do you think makes a good crime book?
    Strong, believable characters and, most of all, a motivation that feels convincing. There’s nothing more irritating than investing time and energy in reading a book only to discover the driving reason behind the crime, the thing that underpins the whole book, is flimsy and un-realistic.
  8. From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
    Voldemort is a great bad guy because even while he’s immensely powerful he’s also fallible. He has weaknesses and insecurities, and that’s what keeps us on our toes as readers throughout a very long drawn-out series.
  9. If you were to start your own bookclub, what authors would you ask to join?
    All the brilliant crime writers I know like Amanda Jennings, Clare Mackintosh, Marnie Riches who are such good fun. Also, I’m in a group called Killer Women which consists of sixteen brilliant female crime writers including Alex Marwood, Paula Hawkins, Louise Millar, Erin Kelly, Colette McBeth and loads more, so they’d all definitely get an invite.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Apple Tree Yard’ by Louise Doughty, ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver and ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Stamina, without a doubt. You can have all the writing advice and classes you want but they’re worth nothing if you haven’t got the discipline and stamina to sit down and actually write day after day after day until finally you’ve got a book.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Coffee!
  13. And finally Tammy do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’ve just started writing a new psychological thriller set in a private psychiatric clinic. And there’s a secret project coming out next spring, which is a major departure for me. Watch this space!

Follow Tammy Cohen on Twitter Tammy Cohen for updates or check out her website at Tammy Cohen

You can buy When She Was Bad from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Day I Lost You Book Tour – Interview With Fionnuala Kearney

Fionnuala KearneyFionnuala Kearney pronounced Finoola, lives in Ascot with her husband. They have two grown-up daughters. One of seven children, ‘The Day I Lost You’ is her second novel with Harper Collins.

  1. Can you tell us what your new book ‘The Day I Lost You’ is about?
    The book tells the story of Jess, a forty eight year old woman, whose only child, twenty five year old, Anna, has been reported missing in an avalanche. Jess is devastated, and while immersed in grief, is left looking after Anna’s five year old daughter Rose. As secrets and lies unfold and Jess discovers a world of suspicion and hurt left by Anna, she’s forced to question whether she ever knew the person she loved most in the world. It looks under the skin of a mother and daughter relationship, and explores love (in all its guises) and loss, but ultimately – hope.
  2. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
    Everywhere! Listening in on a conversation on the tube, reading an article in a newspaper, hearing something on the radio… Or sometimes, I come up with a character whom I love and ask loads of ‘What if?’ questions about them.
  3. Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
    Ooh! If there was, I’m too much a lady to say! Seriously, I admire anyone, and I mean anyone, who has a novel published today, so I’d hate to single out someone and say I was disappointed. That said, reading enjoyment is such a subjective thing. Also, I rarely read a hyped up book during the hype, preferring to keep it until after the fuss dies down!
  4. I always thought the opening lines to “The Lovely Bones” was quite memorable, are there any opening lines to books that stuck out to you?
    Since I love writing family drama, one of my favourites has to be ‘Anna Karenina’:
    “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Another favourite (Hell, I love every line she writes) is the beginning of Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ for its immediate sense of atmosphere.
  5. The Day I Lost You

  6. What’s been your favourite book of 2016?
    It’s hard to choose but if you’re making me?! So far, probably ‘Olive Kitteridge’ by Elizabeth Strout which just has the most brilliant characterisation…
  7. What part of the writing process do you most enjoy?
    I love writing the first and second drafts – where the writing is free and I can bash out my story and characters without worrying about it too much. The subsequent drafts, where I have to cut and cull and enhance and zone in on the detail of the plot and the story, I find more of a challenge!
  8. How would you describe your writing?
    Gosh, that’s a hard one! I write family drama so I try hard to make sure my dialogue is authentic i.e how these people would really speak to one another. I don’t go in for long lengthy descriptive prose, preferring my characters to tell the story. As a result, I think most of my books are pretty dialogue heavy. I try also to tune into the senses – what’s going on in the background? Are there any sounds – is that a siren that just went by? Is that the outline of a sleigh I can see in the dark? What’s that smell? And taste – as well as food and drink – fear, anxiety and desire can be tasted too.
  9. What is your favourite book and why?
    I have two – completely different – so please don’t ask me to choose! The first is a classic – ‘Wuthering Heights’, by Emily Bronte, a beautiful tale of love, loss, revenge and obsession. Frankly, Heathcliff is probably singularly responsible for my writing tortured male parts!
    The second is a more recent novel, ‘One Day’, by David Nicholls. And yes, it too has a (more contemporary) complex male in the form of Dexter! It’s essentially a love story but its simple structure – where the two main characters Emma and Dex meet on the same day for the following twenty years is one I wish I’d thought of!

Follow Fionnuala Kearney on Twitter Fionnuala Kearney for updates

You can buy The Day I Lost You from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.