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Helen Cullen Writers Tip

Helen CullenHelen Cullen’s debut novel,’The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ was published in 2018. Before writing, Helen started her career with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) where she worked in radio broadcasting before moving to London in 2010. She subsequently worked for companies such as the BBC and The Times before her most recent role in Google where she worked before signing her publishing contract. Helen was also shortlisted as Best Newcomer at this year’s Irish Books Awards.

Today Helen shares her writing tips for aspiring authors.

I think the most helpful thing a writer can do to progress is to persevere on finishing a complete draft to the end – afterwards then you can work on polishing, designing and editing – but persevering to the end is often the biggest challenge so developing that stamina is so valuable.

Read more about Helen and her writing journey

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck

Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Northern Ireland writer Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    My real name is Stuart Neville, I’m forty seven years old, and I live in Northern Ireland with my wife, two kids, and a very scruffy dog. I’ve been writing almost all my life, but it was around 2006 when I started to take it seriously. My debut novel, ‘The Twelve’, was published almost exactly ten years ago.
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘Lost You’
    ‘Lost You’ begins with the disappearance of a little boy in a holiday resort in Florida. His mother Libby is frantic trying to find him, but her greatest fear is not that he’s lost – but that he’s been found. When CCTV footage shows him being led away by another woman, she knows years of secrets are about to unravel.
  3. You are a successful author under your own name Stuart Neville, what made you decide to write under a pen name?
    It was mainly because of the change of setting from Ireland to America. Crime authors often become associated with a specific location – Ian Rankin is Edinburgh, Jo Nesbo is Oslo – and under my own name, I’ve become very much identified with Belfast. The first Haylen Beck novel, ‘Here And Gone’, really needed to be set in the States, and it was a somewhat different style than my previous books, so the pen name seemed like the right way forward.
  4. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    I like a good anti-hero, so if I can roll a villain and hero into one, it would be Jack Carter from Ted Lewis’s ‘Jack’s Return Home’, which was adapted for film as ‘Get Carter’, starring Michael Caine. That book was a huge influence on me, and Ted Lewis is terribly underrated.
  5. Why do you think Northern Ireland is so popular and successful for crime authors?
    When my first novel was published ten years ago, there was some resistance to fiction from Northern Ireland, and nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland! That resistance has really broken down over the last few years, with a lot if crime writers coming through, plus Anna Burns’s deserved Booker win. I think we’re now able to tell stories that aren’t necessarily rooted in the Troubles, which has opened things up a lot.
  6. Has there ever been a film that’s been better than the book?
    ‘Jaws’ is the big one. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made, but it’s not a good book! I’d also add ‘The Godfather’, parts I and II, which are better than Mario Puzo’s novel.
  7. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    Probably my bandmates – Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, and Luca Veste – from the ‘Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers’. We have so much fun making music together, I’m sure we’d have a laugh talking books too.
  8. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “The rain rained.” from the above mentioned ‘Jack’s Return Home’.
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    James Ellroy’s ‘American Tabloid’, Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities’ and Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’.
  10. Lost You

  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Simply writing more. A common mistake writers make is finishing one novel, then flogging it to death instead of getting on with writing the next one. Really, the only way to learn to write is simply to write.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A notebook. For every novel I start a brand new Moleskine A5 notebook and I scribble in them constantly when I write the first draft, then through revisions, edits, even up to the copyedit and page proof stage. I then use the same notebook for when I give talks about the book after it’s published.
  13. And finally, 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 a new novel under my own name, which returns to my series character, DCI Serena Flanagan. Once that’s done, I’ve got a couple of screenplays I want to work on just for the hell of it, and I’ve plans for two more novels.

    You can buy ‘Lost You’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshop.

    Follow Haylen Beck on Twitter and his website for updates website

Jake Woodhouse

The CopycatJake Woodhouse is the Sunday Times bestselling author of ‘After the Silence’, ‘Into the Night’, ‘Before the Dawn’ and ‘The Copycat’ is the fourth book in the ‘Amsterdam Quartet with Inspector Jaap Rykel’series

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    I got into writing after waking up from an emergency operation to find a nurse checking the clipboard hanging at the bottom to the bed. She said, with a name like that you should be writing thrillers. Which was really weird because the truth is I’d always wanted to but for some reason, fear probably, I’d done many things (musician, winemaker, entrepreneur) but never written a word.
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘The Copycat’
    ‘The Copycat’ deals with two issues which are becoming hot topics and are often seen as being two sides of the same coin, mental health and drugs. However, in researching it, my opinions changed drastically and the novel is a reflection of this much more nuanced and less clear cut view.
  3. What made you decide Crime?
    Crime is universal really, most good stories whether they’re put in the crime genre or not have some element of ‘crime’ or disturbance against the natural order. That’s what all fiction is really about anyway.
  4. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    Tough one, I’d say Johnny Utah in the original ‘Point Break’. He was a member of the establishment who goes through a personal transformation which puts him in contact with a world he never knew existed, and one he ultimately will sacrifice everything in his old life for.
  5. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    T.C. Boyle, James Ellroy and Thomas Pynchon. Though I suspect it would be less of a book club and more of an all out wild ride.
  6. If you could rewrite any book, what would it be and why?
    I’ve never been asked this… I’m not really sure what book I’d want to rewrite, sounds like an arduous task which would inevitably offend the original author.
  7. What do you find to be the hardest part of the writing process?
    Everything which isn’t the writing!
  8. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    The opening of Don Winslow’s ‘Savages’ (you’ll have to look it up). Can’t get better than that. Also T.C. Boyle’s opening to ‘Drop City’

    ‘The morning was a fish in a net, glistening and wriggling at the dead black border of her consciousness, but she’d never caught a fish in a net or on a hook either, so she couldn’t really say if or how or why.’

    Out of context it makes very little, if any, sense. But in the context of who the character is and what’s she doing it’s a brilliant evocation of her state of mind and serves as a perfect setup for the novel to come.

  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    Probably the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, hands down the most original, startling, weird and ultimately satisfying pieces of fiction ever to be committed to paper.
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    There’s an oft-quoted but of advice which is something along the lines of, write what you know. This is terrible advice. Write about what you don’t know, and learn something in process.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    My dogs (though really at my feet is better, they tend to get in the way on my desk).
  12. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I do but they’re top secret so the old I-could-tell-you-but-I’d-have-to-kill-you thing would sadly apply.

For more information about Jake Woodhouse go to his website

You can buy ‘The Copycat’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Helen Cullen

Helen CullenHelen Cullen’s debut novel, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ was published in 2018. Before writing, Helen started her career with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) where she worked in radio broadcasting before moving to London in 2010. She subsequently worked for companies such as the BBC and The Times before her most recent role in Google where she worked before signing her publishing contract. Helen was also shortlisted as Best Newcomer at this year’s Irish Books Awards.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I am Irish but live in London. I had always wanted to write ever since I was a little girl but didn’t really have the confidence to try to write a book until I was in my thirties. Eventually the fear of never writing a book overcame the fear of not being able to and I joined a six month writing workshop that ‘The Guardian’ ran with the University of East Anglia with the amazing Michele Roberts as mentor. I feel so fortunate now that I had that amazing experience because the very first thing that I ever wrote became the first chapter of ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’!
  2. Can you tell us a bit about your new book, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’
    The book is set inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, where William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries: Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

    When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’, however, his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to the soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives capture William’s heart in ways he didn’t know possible, and soon he begins to wonder: Are these letters truly lost? Or might he be the intended recipient-could he be her great love?

    Torn between his love and commitment to his wife and his romantic idealism, William must of follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

    This novel meditates on the lost art, and power, of letter-writing. It is concerned with the juxtaposition that often exists between the portrayal of romantic love in the media and the arts and the pragmatic reality of sustaining a committed relationship over a long period of time. In the Dead Letters Depot, these notions of magic and realism collide on a daily basis and William’s story unfolds.

  3. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    In my dream book club, presuming I am choosing from just writers that are still with us, I would love to spend time discussing books with Donna Tartt, Elizabeth Strout, Michael Chabon, Anne Enright, Ian McEwan, Sarah Winman, Edna O’Brien, Colm Toibin, Michael Cunningham, Andrew Sean Greer, Michele Roberts, Audrey Niffenegger, Alice Munro…that may be too many already but I could keep dreaming about this one all day!
  4. The Lost Letters of William Woolf

  5. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” – from Mrs. Dalloway by Viriginia Woolf.
  6. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    Oh it’s impossible to say – different books have meant so much to me at different times in my life!
  7. Who’s your literary hero/heroine?
    Without a doubt, Edna O’Brien. There is no doubt in mind that the reason I can walk through doors today with a published book that I have written in my hand is because Edna broke down so many doors first. I can’t recommend her work enough and am always buying ‘The Country Girls’ trilogy as presents for people.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    I love when the structure and story are set in stone and I can spend time polishing the text on a word by word, line by line basis without wrestling with the big picture at the same time.
  9. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
    ‘Anna Karenina’ by Tolstoy
    ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham
  10. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I think the most helpful thing a writer can do to progress is to persevere on finishing a complete draft to the end – afterwards then you can work on polishing, designing and editing – but persevering to the end is often the biggest challenge so developing that stamina is so valuable.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I type on a laptop but also like to have a notebook and pen beside me to write down ideas that occur to me for later or reminders to myself to go back and fix something later!

  12. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
    I am just finishing my second book, ‘Leave A Light On’, and if readers are curious about what I’ve been working on, they can read the first chapter in the paperback edition of ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’. I am so excited that it will be released in spring 2020 and am looking forward to hearing what folks think!

    Follow Helen Cullen on Twitter and follow her website

You can buy ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

 

Amanda Brooke’s Writers Tips

Amanda BrookeAmanda lives in Liverpool with her daughter Jessica and writing was most definitely a late discovery for her. She didn’t really begin to explore creative writing until she was almost 40, at which point her young son Nathan was fighting for his life. Poetry and keeping a journal helped me through those difficult times and the darker times to come when he died in 2006. He was three years old. She continued to write and in 2010, she found an agent. Shortly afterwards in 2011 she was offered a book deal with HarperCollins. Her first novel ‘Yesterday’s Sun’ was published in January 2012 and she was absolutely thrilled when it was selected for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club List. ‘Don’t Turn Around’ is her latest book.

Today Amanda shares her writing tips for aspiring authors.

To be a writer you have to put in the hours and write, so the best advice I can give is not to talk yourself out of it. Don’t tell yourself it’s too late to start writing, or that the opportunity has passed you by. If you want to write, write and if that isn’t enough to get you filling that first page with words then ask yourself if you’ve found the right story. The story, when it comes, has to be one you’re desperate to get down on paper because you’re going to be spending a lot more hours than you think bringing it to life. And if a full length novel is too daunting, start off small to hone your skills. Writing competitions are a great way to develop discipline as they come with a theme and a deadline, and who knows, you might win the odd prize or two.

Read more about Amanda and her writing journey here