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More on the ideas thing

Another question to answer has arrived in my inbox - how do I go about writing a book?

It's well timed as I'm just in the middle of that stage at the moment.

How it starts is with just a single idea.  It can be for a character, as with Evil Valley and the viciously embittered Mr Gibson, or it can be for a plot, or just a quirk of how it works, as in the central theme of riddle of The Death Pictures.  Whatever, just one decent idea can be enough to construct a whole book around. 

It's one of those odd things, like some have said about arthritis, or love - you only truly believe in them when you have them.  It''s the same with an idea - you only really know it's a decent one when it bites you. 

So, this is how it goes.  I have the idea, and from there I nurture it.  I work other ideas around it, maybe a sub plot, perhaps a twist or a character or series of characters.  I write them down longhand on a big pad and then play around with them all, to see how they can interact or develop in the stages of a book. 

I like my books to have plenty of pace and variety, to keep you interested and guessing what's going on, so I have to build in lots of developments or surprises.  I hope I'm doing that ok!

I keep on building on the basic idea - almost baking it in fact is the way I think of it - a process which can take several months - until I'm sure I've got the skeleton, or structure of the book worked out - and only then will I start writing.

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It's only half way through the year - and isn't June wonderful, with the long and light days? - but already I'm being asked to think about next year.

That's one of the greatest differences between the worlds of publishing and journalism.  In publishing, there are lead up times of anything up to two years for a book, and sometimes even more.  In journalism a story breaks and you just go cover it.  A lead up time is a rare luxury!

Anyway, as I was saying, next year.  A new book has been ordered, which is great to know - it makes me feel I must be doing something right!  The problem now of course is waiting for the elusive concept called inspiration.

And it can feel like a long and frustrating wait...

However!  The good news is that I think the idea thing for the new book has finally decided to grace me with an appearance, and it's shaping up nicely.  It'll be another tvdetective adventure, but probably the most difficult, and possibly most shocking case that Dan and Adam have come up against so far. 

I won't give away too much at this stage - not least because I'm not entirely sure how it's all going to come out myself! - but I think there might well be a terrorism theme to it...

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More bookfest

The Oxfam Bookfest idea is coming together nicely.

I think we're now looking at about 20 events across the country, a fine assortment of crime writers giving talks and doing book signings. 

I'm told events will be listed on the Crime Writers' Association website, so do have a look there to see if there's one near you to come along to.  Your support would be much appreciated - it's a great cause.

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My study

Another question has descended upon my inbox, as it were.

I've talked a little in my blog about when I write, now I'm asked about where.

The answer is just about anywhere. I suspect it's to do with my journalist's background, but I can write in almost any place without being distracted by what's going on around me.  One of my favourites is on the train.  I like watching the countryside trundling past, getting ideas from the scenery and the places I pass.  And one of the richest sources of characterisation is my fellow travellers.  A few minutes looking around can always give me an idea for some quirks to give to characters, the sort of tiny human traits that can make a person rise from the paper and feel properly alive.

For much the same reason I also like to sit in pubs, jotting down ideas. Thus I can categorically deny I'm only there for the beer!

But my most common workplace is my study.  It's in the loft of the house, has a lovely skylight which looks out over Exeter, and is great for prompting creativity.  The room itself is just a chair and a desk on which I put my laptop, a stereo system for a little background music, my stack of vinyl from my younger days (yes, I am that old fashioned), plies of cuttings and sheets of papers filled with ideas, and a soft chair, to sit and think.

It's such a pleasant space I have been known to fall asleep up there...

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Book tour

My little tour to support the publication of The Judgement Book is shaping up nicely.

It looks like being a fortnight of events in the middle of September.  I'll be at the Reading Crime Festival, the St Ives Festival in Cornwall, and the Appledore Festival, along with quite a few talks and signings at libraries.

All the details will be posted on the site as they're confirmed.  Please do come along to an event near you.  I still count myself very much a newcomer to this writing business, and audience feedback helps me greatly.

I'm very much looking forward to the tour - and have even started shaping up a few new anecdotes to tell...

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There's an exciting new initiative for crime fans coming in July.

The Crime Writers' Association is joining forces with Oxfam to do a series of events at Oxfam bookstores around the country.  Well known authors will be giving talks and doing signings as part of the two weeks of the Oxfam Bookfest.

I'm delighted to have been invited to take part - I'll be at the Oxfam Bookstore in Exeter on Saturday, July 11th.  There are more details on the events page of the site -

Please do come along!  I hope we get lots of people there to raise money for a great cause.

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A couple of people have asked where I find the time to do my writing, given the full time job with the BBC.

Good question!

The answer is that I tend to do the bulk of my actual writing in the morning.  I get up most days about six, which means I can usually put a couple of hours in before being scrambled to a story. Combine that with a few hours at the weekend, and it's remarkable how quickly you can build up a book.

In the evening, I'm usually too tired to do any actual writing - after a long day, the thought of sitting at a computer isn't entirely attractive - but I find it a great time to outline the next stages of a plot, along with the quirks of any characters who we're going to meet.  I'll usually just crash out on the sofa, put some relaxing music on, lay back and think.

Some days it comes easier than others!  At the moment, it's going nicely, which I suspect is because of the long and light days.  Sunshine can be such a fine catalyst for creativity.

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Apologies, I meant to mention in the previous post - if you're interested in seeing a video of me talking about my writing, there's one on the site -    It's designed for the American market, but still gives a fairly decent idea of the books.

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An invitation

A couple of you kind folk have suggested my blog's a good way to answer ongoing questions about my writing.

That's fine by me.  If you do have any questions, just get in touch via the contacts page on the site -  and I'll see what I can do to answer them - as honestly as possible, within the bounds of taste and decency!

I'm just starting the final edits of The Judgment Book now.  If I'm honest, this is not by any means my favourite part of the writing process.  I like building up ideas, letting them grow, then setting them all down in the first draft of a new book.

Now, this might well sound daft, but although I already know what's going to happen (at least in theory) it can feel like I'm also reading the story as I go along.  Sometimes I even get frustrated at the slow pace of my writing because I want to know what happens next!

Odd, eh?!  But that's how it is with me.

Anyway, as I was saying, that means the editing process sometimes feels like lots of quibbling over the dots and commas of precise punctuation, but I know it's important and has to be done, so if you'll excuse me, I'll be getting back to it...

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