Debut author interview with Imran Mahmood

Imran Mahmood’s debut You Don’t Know Me was met with critical acclaim on its hardback publication last year. The “genre-bending crime novel” (Ruth Ware) has since been chosen for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club, was named one of The Telegraph’s crime books of the year, and was a 2018 World Book Night title.

As You Don’t Know Me is out today in paperback, we’ve asked Imran to share with us some of his experiences as a debut author…

What made you first want to become a writer?

I always loved hearing stories, watching them, reading and telling them. In my day job as a criminal barrister I am in the business of telling stories. These are true stories, but it has always been important to tell them in a way that is as engaging as possible. It was short step from that kind of storytelling to this kind. Ultimately, I wanted to tell people about the things that fell into my experiential ground because I have found them interesting and I hoped other people would too. I am always interested to hear about experiences which are different from mine, whatever they are. I think that by far the most important aspect of writing is the process of exchanging ideas and stories rather than selling them.

You Don’t Know Me is a unique courtroom drama where the Defendant himself tells the story of his life growing up in London’s gangland. Where did you get your inspiration from, and how were you able to research this? 

I was writing a closing speech in a criminal case and suddenly wondered what it would be like if the defendant had to do his own speech. I’ve spent 25 years listening to people and representing people involved in or accused of being involved in gang-related crimes, so it was something I already knew a lot about. My work gives me such a breadth of experience in terms of the people I meet. I can learn about the lives of people in a different world from mine, and I see from a position of privilege how their lives can go wrong or become redeemed.

What has been the best thing about being an author?

Speaking to people. I love meeting new people and hearing from readers whether they liked my book or not. That is the best bit. And I have been really lucky. I have met some amazing and talented people – not just readers, but other authors, editors, agents, publicists, editors, SIMON MAYO!! and Mishal Husain (to drop two of my very favourite names!).

It’s brought lots of new experiences too. I went on live radio (Radio 4, Radio 2, Radio 5 Live), I was interviewed by national newspapers, I went onto the set of a TV show and watched it being made, I met the incredible Adam Deacon as he recorded my audio book. All amazing experiences that I could never have dreamed of achieving in any other way.

 And what’s been the hardest bit?

There is nothing hard about it really, if you enjoy writing. But while writing a complete novel is without a doubt rewarding and fulfilling and all of that, ultimately the thing is a slog. It is hard work and needs commitment and application. The first 30,000 words are the easiest. Most people can do that. The hardest thing is being able to carry on and finish.

So how do you get things done?

I lie awake at night (my only quiet time) and write a chapter in my head (kind of). Then the next day I write it down! I write on the train, in chambers, in court when I am waiting. I don’t have the luxury of a routine so I have to take my chances when I get them.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice for a new author?

This is advice that I find it difficult to follow myself: it’s to write something every day. And to think. Pen to paper is the easy bit, the real work is done before the pen is even lifted.

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On Writing: Family Dynamics with Annie Murray

The dynamics of a family always make for a good story. You probably think your own family is not very interesting and that you’re just like any other. But it’s the small idiosyncrasies of each family member and the relationships between them that never cease to pique people’s interest – and makes for excellent reading.

In this On Writing post, the Sunday Times bestselling author Annie Murray talks about writing family dynamics. As a prolific and successful author of over 20 sagas, she knows how to write a great drama and tells us why it’s always interesting to keep it in the family.

Sisters of Gold.jpg

How do you do justice to the complexities of family dynamics in fiction?

 That’s quite a question. While it’s true that very often people feel typecast in their family – she’s the clever one, or the one who’s always in a mess and so on – this is fatal in fiction if that’s as far as it goes. It’s important to be able to identify characters and not get them muddle because they are too similar, so of course they need defining characteristics. But I think the main thing is to introduce characters in a way so that you can recognize them readily, but to add layers, contradictions, cross-currents – above all in the main characters. If a character is always an ‘angel’ and sickly sweet, never thinks or does anything anyone could disapprove of or dislike, they are unbelievable and in the end, how can anyone else identify with someone like that?

I often write books in which there are large families. If the book covers a long period, there may be a child born near the beginning who, until they have grown up a bit, I have no idea what their personality is or their role in the novel, but a role for them arrives later – like watching a ‘real’ person develop. And in being born into that particular family, they have found a place in something that is like a constellation. Family members occupy a space that makes a unique pattern for that particular family. That pattern is held in place by the ebb and flow of the way personalities interact and how people forge their identity differently from each other. All this gives energy to the family as a distinct shape, which may shift over time – people leave or take on a different role – but the characters need to be held distinct in it. I’m not sure if that makes sense!

 

 Novels often depict families – how do you take a fresh angle?

I think any family is a fresh angle of itself because the dynamics of each are unique. When I’m planning a novel I don’t look for ‘issues’– I like to write books about life in the round which necessarily includes quite a variety of events and moods and often covers quite a long period of time. What makes any family interesting is its very particular character, which, as Tolstoy pointed out, makes it ‘unhappy in its own way.’

 

 Do you have a clear idea in your head who each character will be and what their role in the family/novel will be?

No – hardly ever. I find it’s a matter of focus and time. Once you start thinking about a novel, characters seem to present themselves as the figures you are going to spend time with. Something comes through, a kind of energy that says, I’m the one this time. They are not in any way fully formed – that has to be worked on, and thought out consciously as well as intuited. Sometimes I have to do a Q & A with a character, often asking them really basic questions. It always helps to know where they have come from and something of their birth family’s dynamics – even if that is not in the story itself.

I have tried many times to plot and plan everything because it seems like a way of alleviating anxiety in writing the novel, but it only ever works up to a certain point. I find that the only way to know characters is to write them. It’s very like getting to know a person you have newly met. As the number of encounters you have grows, as you talk more and see that person forced up against challenges, you get a feeling of what motivates them. You work out what it is they want, what their underlying emotional complexities are. The more major the character is in the novel, the more time you spend with them. Once I’ve reached the end of the first draft I usually feel, aha, I’m really beginning to see who you are now. But it takes re-writes to get that better in place. A bit like turning the colour up in a black and white photograph.

 

 Do you use story circles or any other kind of story-boarding device to help you fine tune your ideas?

 I really don’t. Obviously I make notes but it’s more about doing the writing and thinking in between, asking yourself, ‘who is this person?’ What are the things that have marked them, what drives them, what do they fear and long for?

 

 Why do you think that stories about ‘the family’ continue to be popular and interesting?

 ‘Home is where we start from’ as Donald Winnicott said. That’s one of the things that make orphans so fascinating and touching – because home in that way is missing for them. But in general, it’s an experience everyone has in common – in an endless variety of ways. And the more we learn about the impact of early years experiences on infants, the more true it becomes that family is absolutely the cauldron of who we become. I sometimes think the ‘saga’ genre should be called the ‘Family Album’ genre as there’s going to be something in these stories that nearly everyone can relate to.

 

What other authors, in your opinion, have nailed family drama and why?

There are so many. One that springs to mind in terms of what I’ve been saying, is in a book most people have read; the way Jane Austen differentiates the characters of the Bennett daughters in Pride and Prejudice and shows the family dynamics at work through them. It’s even harder when all siblings are the same gender (Barbara Kingsolver does something amazing with this in The Poisonwood Bible with all the main voices being female.) Writers of regional/family sagas also have to do a lot of it as we often write about large families!

 Annie’s new novel Sister’s of Gold, the first of a trilogy set in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, is out now, get it here. Follow Annie on Twitter: @AMurrayWriter

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On Writing: Historical Setting with Margaret Dickinson

The latest blog in our On Writing series looks at Historical Setting with bestselling author Margaret Dickinson. Today marks the publication of The Poppy Girls, the 25th novel from the Queen of Saga. 25 novels? Most writers struggle to finish one! Huge congratulations to Margaret and thank you for taking the time to share your incredible author wisdom with us.

The Poppy Girls

When I found Darley Anderson in 1991, it was he who suggested that I should try to write a regional saga and he gave me three very useful pieces of advice, which I still do my best to follow with every book I write.

  • A strong woman as the central character, whom the reader can visualise from the first page
  • The story should ‘breathe’ the place you’re writing about; your readers must feel that they’re walking down the same streets that your characters are walking down.
  • A satisfactory ending so that the reader closes the last page and says, ‘yes, that’s a good ending to that story.’

And that’s all there is to it, really…  Well, not quite!

Regional sagas are traditionally set during the first half of the twentieth century, though I did once go back to the 1850s with Pauper’s Gold so that the background of the pauper apprentice system in the cotton mills was historically correct.  Sagas, too, are usually spread over several years, so consequently the author is always running into one war or another!  However, that can be a very useful way of getting rid of an unwanted character!  And also, there is ready-made conflict in a war situation.  For example in The Clippie Girls, set in Sheffield, I already had the tension of the Second World War; the rationing, the bombing, the blackout, women doing men’s work and the constant fear for the soldiers fighting overseas.  But I wanted more conflict so I invented a household of women; the grandmother, who owns the house and never lets anyone forget it, her widowed daughter and three granddaughters, all with very different personalities.  Once the time, the setting and the characters are all in place, then the story begins to flow.

There is no right or wrong way to write a novel, but this way works for me.  Before I write anything down, even notes, I have my central character and probably one or two more around her.  Then I know when the story takes place, where it’s set and the background; i.e. farming, fishing, tulip-growing, lace-making and so on.  I know how it is going to start and I already know how it will end and I also have a vague idea what will happen through the story, though this may change as the plot develops.  At this stage I don’t do detailed research.  I may make a preliminary visit to places and talk to a few people to make sure that when I do want to do in-depth research I know where to find it.  I also collect numerous books on the subject in readiness.

Then I write the story, going straight through a first draft to the end without pausing to edit or to refine.  This works for me to keep the pace going, though I do make ‘notes to self’ throughout reminding me where more details need to be filled in during the research stage.  (By the way, editors always talk about ‘pace’!)  At the end of a very rough draft that is fit for no one but me to see, I then go back to the beginning and work steadily through the script, doing detailed research and filling in the blanks.  At this stage I will visit museums and speak to experts as well as reading non-fiction books on the subject and researching on the Internet.  Newspapers of the time are a great resource, giving not only the news of the time but also an insight into people’s lives from advertisements as well as articles.

Another read-through of the script will concentrate on the characterisation asking myself questions such as, are all my characters fully rounded so that the reader will believe in them as real people?  Have I got enough emotion into the story?  Is the plot line credible?  Everything that happens must have sound reasoning behind it; editors do not like plots that hang on coincidence or chance!

I believe it is important to get the facts right, especially if you are writing about a real occupation.  For example, if you are writing about a mining community, they have always been very special people and not to represent their lives accurately could be insulting to them.  Even though it is fiction and all my characters bear no resemblance to real people, I like to think I am paying tribute to the kind of people I am writing about.  And, of course, it’s vital to get historical facts right.  Your readers are intelligent, well-educated people, who will soon spot a glaring error and lose faith in your accuracy and therefore probably in your novel too.

As regards the amount of research needed, this will vary with each book and it’s quite a difficult decision to know how much to include.  You want to give a realistic and accurate background and yet not overload the reader with facts that detract from the plotline.  I have heard readers say that if they come to a page of description, they skip reading it!  What I try to do is weave in descriptions and facts amongst conversation and action.  That way, the reader will absorb it without really being aware they are doing so.

But the most important thing to get right is to create a ‘page-turner’ that will keep your readers wanting to know more about your characters and what happens to them until the very last page!

Margaret’s new novel The Poppy Girls is published by Pan Macmillan today, get it here.

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On Writing: The Difficult Second Novel with Gillian McAllister

 

On the publication day of her outstanding new novel Anything You Do Say, Gillian McAllister tells us about the pressures of writing a second book after your debut novel was a Sunday Times bestseller…

Anything you do say - amazon.jpg

I remember the exact moment I had the idea for my second novel, Anything You Do Say. I had wanted to write a Sliding Doors novel for years, and had been brainstorming ideas with my boyfriend. And then – out of nowhere – two ideas came together: what if a novel followed a woman committing a crime on her way home from a night out, and then split, following a strand where she hands herself in and goes to trial for attempted murder, and a strand where she leaves the scene and goes on the run? I thought it was an interesting concept: that a single second could change your life forever, but showing both outcomes.

I emailed my agent, Clare, and she replied immediately, saying I LOVE THIS IDEA.

Two months later, she sold my first novel, Everything But The Truth, to Penguin. Suddenly, I was under contract with a two-book deal, and the big idea I’d been wrestling with would have to be delivered at the end of the year. I was still working full-time as a lawyer, and I had a moment, standing in my kitchen late one night, thinking of the scale of my novel, where I thought: what have I done? I wasn’t sure I was a good enough – or experienced enough – write to pull it off.

I made sure I had a first draft down by the April, but the strand where my protagonist, Joanna, goes on the run needed more work. In the spring, I pasted all of those scenes into a new document, and tried to forget about the rest of the book. I wanted each parallel narrative to stand on its own. It was  hot spring/summer, and I spent it re-writing that strand of Anything You Do Say in the the garden, my cat for company.

The characters needed work, too. One of the biggest issues with writing a parallel narrative plot is that there is twice as much character development: in one strand, my heroine is a fugitive, on the run, hiding things from her husband, Reuben. In the other, she’s a defendant, in the justice system. Her husband develops differently in each strand as he faces different problems. Likewise, her best friend makes a different life choice in each version, because what she sees Joanna go through has an impact on her. It took several months to get the characters down. But something still wasn’t working. I remember sitting in my garden one evening, the summer air warm against my legs, and wondering if I was ever going to face up to the fact that there was something wrong with my novel. It seemed too big, somehow, on that July evening. The stakes were too high. I went to bed and hoped it would resolve itself.

In the meantime, while also working full time, I was editing my debut, Everything But The Truth, and beginning to promote it. I could see how distracting that would be, and so I was determined to finish and deliver Anything You Do Say before Everything But The Truth came out.

In the very early autumn, I was talking to my father in my kitchen while we waited for a pot of tea to brew, and he said, ‘really, split narrative novels are about a whole life changing, aren’t they?’ and it was as though everything slotted into place. Of course: the novel shouldn’t end with my heroine’s trial, and with the result of her attempts to cover up the trial: time should move on, and show how her entire life life is affected by the moment, the split-second decision, in the first chapter. Of course.

That night, the weather crisp and cool and the air drifting in through my open spare room window, I wrote a plan for what would become the final third of Anything You Do Say. As I wrote it, I got a very specific feeling: it’s working. It was going to work.

I wrote fast, the nights blurring into one. I wrote in train stations with gloves on, in Halfords while my car had its MOT, and before work in coffee shops. Finally, in the late autumn, it was done.

I had often worried about the tricky second novel, but – as is often the way – it wasn’t tricky for the reasons I expected it might have been. It wasn’t to do with contracts or the pressure of being published, and being read. It was just that particular book; my tricky, sprawling, extra-special second novel. It’s published this week, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

Anything You Do Say is published by Michael Joseph today, find it here. You can follow Gillian on Twitter: 

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29 Seconds publication day: interview with TM Logan

Readers were gripped by TM Logan’s debut novel, Lies, keeping it in the Kindle top 10 for months. Now fans can finally read his second novel, 29 Seconds, out today in eBook. To celebrate, we’ve asked TM Logan to look back on how it all started, as well as give us a hint of what’s to come…

As of today, you’ve got two published novels under your belt. Where did each one start its life?

Most of my ideas come from everyday life – a conversation, a story on the news, a thought that turns into a ‘what if?’ question that might form the core of a plot.

With Lies, it was a conversation with my wife as we drove to Brittany for our summer holiday. She related a story about some friends of hers who had been raising money for charity in memory of a colleague who had died. As part of this, they had used the colleague’s Facebook profile to help publicise their efforts. That got me thinking: what if you did something similar but with criminal motives? Perhaps to cover up a crime? To mislead the police? To frame an innocent man?

For 29 Seconds, I had the original kernel of the idea some time ago, but had been searching for the right setting for the story. Then in the summer of 2016, in my previous job (as head of communications for a large university) I fielded an enquiry from The Guardian – a national investigation into the scale of sexual harassment in higher education, almost exclusively senior male academics harassing younger female colleagues or students. That got me thinking. When I read the story that came out of their investigation, I thought it might make a strong setting for a novel – if the victim was so desperate for a solution that she would resort to desperate measures. It’s been very weird to see it coincide with the ongoing international news story about harassment/#MeToo that has become so huge in recent months.

Now for the hard part – once you’ve had your idea, how do you get your novels finished?

I will spend 6-8 weeks planning a story, getting the plot, characters and key moments clear in my head (I’ve always been envious of people who can just sit down and write off the top of their head, seat of the pants style. I need a plan). My desk – in the spare bedroom – faces the wall so there’s nothing to distract me, no window, no view, no outside world. No TV, no radio. Nothing to tempt me away from sitting in that chair and putting my hands on the keyboard. The walls around my desk are generally covered with notes, chapter plans, lists, reminders and scraps of paper with ideas and quotes for the story I’m working on.

When I’ve got to the stage where I’m just procrastinating to put off the real business of writing, I’ll dive into it and write every day, without fail, until the first draft is done. Writing every day helps me to maintain momentum, to keep on top of the plot and stay in touch with my characters. I keep a tally of my daily wordcount, although it’s less about the number and more about making links in the chain and keeping that promise to myself. If I’ve written for 30, or 50, or 100 days straight, I’m less likely to take a day off and break the chain (at least that’s the idea).

Looking back on your own experiences, what advice would you give an author who’s just starting out?

Being a debut author made me realise how important it is to feed constructive criticism into the writing process. Both Lies and 29 Seconds were improved hugely with constructive input from others. It can be tricky, though: when you’re starting out you have to be so single-minded about writing, to keep going without any guarantee that your stories are ever going to see the light of day – you have to believe that they will find an audience eventually. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. But you can’t let that single-mindedness, that belief, deafen you to hearing constructive criticism. Essentially, you need to be proud of what you create, but humble enough to know that it can always be improved with input from friends, fellow authors, family members, reading groups – anybody who’s willing to be constructive. I’ve been lucky enough to work with my brilliant agent Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson and the excellent team at Bonnier Zaffre in that respect.

And finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’ve been writing full-time for a few months now and absolutely loving it! I’ve just agreed a new two-book deal with Bonnier Zaffre and I’m currently working on book 3 for them, which will come out in 2019. It’s a standalone thriller set in the south of France, where four best friends are holidaying together with their families. As the week goes on, their friendship starts to unravel amid secrets, betrayal and lies, until it becomes clear that someone in the group is prepared to kill to keep a long-buried truth from coming out…

For the future, I’ve always wanted to create a series and would love to be able to do that alongside my standalone thrillers. Watch this space!

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Agency Newsletter: November

It’s been another busy month for the agency as lots of fantastic deals are still coming in off the back of a successful Frankfurt. We have also had a number of award nominations and wins for our authors which is always exciting to see!

Here is the news from November!

Newsletter Nov17

Lee Child’s unstoppable global success

‘It’s automatic: Reacher gets of a bus and Child lands on the NYT bestseller list’ – Booklist, 2017

The 23rd novel in the iconic Jack Reacher series, The Midnight Line, has whipped readers round the world into a frenzy, racking up No.1 after No.1 on numerous bestseller lists.

In the UK, The Midnight Line rocketed to the No.1 spot, unseating fellow publishing giant Dan Brown, and has held the position for three weeks so far.

Across the Atlantic, it’s a certified smash hit: No.1 on the New York Times bestsellers list, instant No.1 Bestseller on Amazon, instant No.1 bestseller on Barnes & Noble, instant No.1 iBooks bestseller. It also hit the No.1 spot in Australia and New Zealand, which is one of the first countries in which Lee achieved a No.1.

As other countries begin to publish their editions, we are sure to see more of the same fantastic success, as Reacher and Child both prove, nobody does it better.

Lee also appeared on the hit Scandinavian chat show Skavlan for their special New York  edition. He chatted to host Fredrik Skavlan about jogging, fish and chips and fighting – and how he came to write the phenomenal global bestselling Jack Reacher series.

So many congratulations to Lee on this unmatched, unstoppable success.

 

Martina Cole shines on Graham Norton

The Queen of Crime, Martina Cole, was interviewed on Graham Norton’s Radio 2 programme on Saturday 11th November. With her trademark charm, insight and candour, Martina discussed her writing 25 year career and successes.

The 25th  Anniversary paperback edition of Martina Cole’s iconic debut Dangerous Lady was published this month. Martina has achieved 16 No.1s in hardback and paperback since then! Her latest novel Damaged, the 4th novel in the gripping DCI Kate Burrows series, is out now and has been doing exceptionally well.

She really is a phenomenon.

 

The Mistake tops 100k copies

The 4th  gripping thriller from KL Slater has sold over 100,000 e-books in just two months! The Mistake also climbed to the No.2 spot on the Kindle bestsellers chart last month and has remained in the Top 20 ever since.

Total sales across all KL Slaters novels have well surpassed the half a million mark. Her 5th novel, The Visitor will be published by Bookouture in March 2018. You can pre-order your copy now.

Congratulations Kim!

 

Goodreads Choice Awards 2017

We are delighted that two of our bestselling authors have made it to the final round of the highly regarded Goodreads Choice Awards 2017!

BA Paris’ addictive second novel, The Breakdown, has been nominated for the Best Crime/Thriller of 2017.

John Connolly’s breath taking 15th novel in the Charlie Parker series, A Game of Ghosts, has been nominated for Best Horror of 2017.

Congratulations!

 

BGE Irish Book Awards 2017

We are so thrilled to announce that two of our authors have won a BGE Irish Book Award 2017!

John Connolly’s literary masterpiece, he, won the RTÉ Radio 1 Listeners’ Choice Award, beating out some strong contenders.  His outstanding and original novel, reimagining the life of Stan Laurel, was also a Sunday Times bestseller.

From the DA Children’s Agency, rising star Deirdre Sullivan was awarded the Eason Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year for Tangleweed & Brine, a collection of dark, feminist re-tellings of traditional fairy tales. The collection was beautifully illustrated by Karen Vaughan.

A huge congratulations to both!

 

Goodreads Choice Awards 2017

We are so proud that three of our Children’s Agency authors have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2018!

Kim Slater’s 928 Miles From Home, Polly Ho-Yen’s Fly Me Home and Stewart Foster’s All The Things That Could Go Wrong are all longlisted for the prestigious prize.

This will be the third time Kim and Polly have been nominated, one for each of their three novels, and the second nomination for Stewart who was longlisted for his outstanding debut novel, The Bubble Boy.

 

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On Writing: Dialogue with Kerry Fisher

It’s easy to talk, for most people. On average, we speak around 20,000 words every day. But trying to replicate the ease and nonchalance of conversation with your best friend is tricky. Dialogue is, notoriously, one of the harder things to get right when writing a novel. How often have you read a piece of dialogue in a book and thought that it didn’t sound right or was pointless? It can often be tough to nail the style, delivery and keep it useful to the story.

Today, on the publication of her ‘layered and poignant’ new novel, The Secret Child, bestselling author Kerry Fisher gives us her top tips on writing dialogue.

The Secret Child - amazon

1. Listen to how people speak – in shops, on the train, on TV. Dialogue is influenced by background, age and where you live, as well as the environment the character finds himself/herself in. People speaking in a job interview or making a complaint on the telephone will sound more formal than when they are at the pub with their friends.

2. Teenagers are a tricky age group to write dialogue for because their favourite/current words are constantly evolving. Keep checking with someone in the right age group that the words you’ve used are not from the 1990s.

3. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt about dialogue is not to be too formal. This is where listening to how people really speak comes in. Don’t overthink it – just imagine your character is rushing into a bar to tell his friends what he’s just seen in the street – ‘There’s a right old commotion going on outside. Some bloke just fell off his bike in front of a lorry and everyone’s getting out of their cars to have a good old stare.’ Which is much more natural than ‘There’s been an accident outside. A man’s fallen off his bicycle in front of a lorry and lots of people have got out of their cars to have a look.’

4. People do swear, so if you have a character who would use colourful language, you just have to forget that your mother might be reading (anything, ever). In my experience, most readers will tolerate moderate swearing even ones who don’t like profanity if it’s in keeping with the character. I’d be reasonably sparing with the F-bomb and think very carefully about whether the C-word is absolutely necessary unless you really want to shock or expect your readership to be fairly young.

5. Dialect or an attempt to convey an accent onto the page can be tiring to read. Give your character a couple of words to give a flavour of the accent and leave it at that. Readers hate having to decipher what’s written before they can enjoy the story. In my debut novel, The Not So Perfect Mum, one of my characters had a Basque name, Etxeleku, and I got more complaints about that than anything else in the book because people didn’t know how to pronounce it.

6. Most people don’t often use other people’s names in conversation once they’ve been introduced, unless they are calling them over or trying to get their attention so keep the ‘Would you like a cup of tea, Paul?’/ ‘Where are you going tomorrow, Sandra?’ to a minimum.

7. Usually people don’t speak for very long without someone chipping in or interrupting. Try to avoid huge paragraphs of speech without any action in between.

8. Dialogue should help you distinguish between characters in a book. There are lots of ways to do this but it could be that one character speaks very informally with lots of slang, gives everyone a nickname. Another character might use long, rather pompous words. In my novel, The Silent Wife, I tried to differentiate between two women from different social classes by using specific vocabulary for each one e.g. sitting room/drawing room/lounge/front room, sofa/couch/settee. If, like me, you’re not sure which is the ‘posh’ word, the internet is alive and kicking with forums to debate these things!

The Secret Child by Kerry Fisher is out now, get it here. Follow Kerry on Twitter: @KerryFSwayne

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