Darley Anderson Authors Interviews

Happy publication day for GONE IN SECONDS by A. J. Cross!

What is GONE IN SECONDS about?
The main character of GONE IN SECONDS is Kate Hanson who’s profile is that of a single mother to 12 year old Maisie – so there’s a readily-availabe source of aggravation.  Kate has a full time post as a lecturer in Forensic Psychology/Criminology at the University of Birmingham, which she loves, and she also has a role as a civilian member of the Unsolved Crime Unit at Birmingham’s police headquarters at Rose Road.  In GONE IN SECONDS psychology and police procedure clash resoundingly at times as headstrong Kate and her Force colleagues search for a Repeater operating in the West Midlands, a killer who won’t stop until caught.

So Dr. Kate Hanson is a Forensic Psychologist like you! How much of your experiences in the field do you use in your writing?

Forensic work is extremely confidential and the nature of cases means that they can be very easily identifiable. However, my involvement in cases allows my deviant imagination to roam and produce ideas which are interesting and which I can link to my forensic expertise without jeopardizing real people in any way. 
Where do you write?
Like Kate, I’d like to call it a study but in reality it’s a spare room in the house which closely resembles a hovel at the moment because I’m so busy with the second book. The desk is layered with papers, emails, notes – you name it, it’s here, although I have to admit that when I do forensic work things aren’t much different. There’s a little, round summerhouse at the end of the garden and I’ve taken my laptop down there occasionally, feeling very authorly, but the weather isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do to make that a regular thing.
Do you ever write/take notes for your novels when you’re out and about with work?
Do I ever!  Wherever I am: in the supermarket, the post office queue, on an escalator I find myself listening (yes, I know: eavesdropping!) to conversations going on around me – sometimes it’s just a phrase which starts up lots of possibilities, even plot directions inside my head. At other times when I’m out and about or relaxing ideas tend to come. Thank goodness for the iPhone – I’m a big fan of its little yellow legal pad.
When you’re writing, do you prefer: a pen or the keyboard? Silence or music?  Day or night?
Keyboard every time.  I’m a trained typist – very fast although not always so accurate.  Silence every time. And How about day and night?  I think concentration is my strength which means I can work for hours at a stretch although I try to break it up a bit by dashing off to the gym.
What inspired you to start writing?
Not sure if ‘inspired’ applies. What happened was that about five years ago my husband, who’s a jazz musician, went to Helsinki for a few days and I decided that we had too many books in the house and they needed winnowing.  Most of what I searched through was crime fiction.  As I sorted them the thought simply arrived in my head: ‘I can do this.’  I’ll never know why or where the underlying confidence came from but soon after I started assembling a plot very similar to GONE IN SECONDS. I was frankly shocked at how quickly the characters appeared.  Through the various drafts subtle changes have occurred but they’re basically the same as when I first ‘met’ them.  At one stage, about two or three years ago, I was so busy with forensic work that I put the writing to one side temporarily. At the risk of sounding fanciful I could almost feel Kate and her colleagues kicking against the side of the box where they were ‘resting’, wanting to get out!
What’s next for you?  Will we get to catch up with Dr Kate and her team again soon?
I’m thrilled to say ‘Yes, you will.’  The second book is almost complete.  It’s underlying theme is very different from GONE IN SECONDS.  If all goes well I think it will be released around July, 2013.
How did you go about finding an agent and getting published?
I made a really good investment: I bought a copy of the Writers’ Handbook.  For anyone who doesnt know, it has all the agencies and publishers listed alphabetically along with details of what they do and don’t represent and how to submit work to them. I hardly knew anything at that stage, except that I needed an agent. I sent the first three chapters of GONE IN SECONDS to Darley Anderson because I liked the name. I didn’t realise that they represent some of the top crime authors writing today. Then I got lucky a second time: the chapters were read by Camilla Wray who rang me the following day to say she loved them.  Camilla negotiated an amazing deal with Orion for me as a debut author.  Kate Mills bought GONE IN SECONDS and the second novel and here we are.  To say that I’m grateful to these two clever, young, women is such an understatement.
Do you have a favourite book?
I have a few relating to different  periods of my life. As a child it was ‘Alice in Wonderland’.  From the age of about seven I was reading Sherlock Holmes.  I sobbed for nearly two days when he and Moriarty plunged over the Falls. Nobody told me at the time that he ‘survived’.  As an adult, Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ is up there for me, as is Ann Rule’s ‘The Stranger Beside Me’. 
What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished ‘Whoops!’ by John Lanchester which is a clever, funny read about the financial mess we’re in.  Crime reading has skidded to a halt.  After I’d been writing for a little while I became nervous of reading other crime authors in case I ‘absorbed’ their ideas – I don’t know whether that’s a common fear. All I know is that two R. J. Ellory’s are sitting on the shelf just here, looking miffed.
What would be your top tips for aspiring writers hoping to get published?
Stick at it.  If you get rejected, remind yourself that nobody asked you to write a book – you chose to – send it somewhere else. Take any advice you’re offered with a good heart.  I suspect that there are lots of people who want to write but maybe they don’t believe they can, maybe because they think they’re not educated enough, smart enough, young/old enough.  The one unifying characteristic of all authors is that they didn’t wait around to be invited. They decided they would do it and then they got writing. 

GONE IN SECONDS, published by Orion, is out today!

Covering letters Editorial Submissions

Our Top Ten Tips for Writing a Tip Top Covering Letter

No.7: Pobody’s Nerfect

I’m just going to come out and say it.

I am not a fan of grammar bullies.

In my opinion, picking on someone for a brief grammatical slip or a badly placed apostrophe is not big and it certainly isn’t clever. It particularly gets my goat when anyone is publicly pulled up on their spoken grammar. If you are correcting someone’s spoken grammar outside of the classroom then you are only revealing your own basic misunderstanding of the nature of language itself, namely that it evolves and most of that evolution occurs orally.

Leave the ‘would of’ers alone. They’re not hurting anyone and everyone knows what they mean. We wouldn’t have ‘don’t’ or ‘can’t’ or ‘you’re’ or indeed ‘wouldn’t’ if it weren’t for trailblazers like the ‘would of’s. Just because whoever makes The Rules has decided to draw the line there for now doesn’t mean that what you are saying is ultimately more intelligent because you scrupulously over-pronounce all your ‘h’s to the extent that even Henry Higgins would be satisfied with your pronunciation of his own name.

Indeed, one of my favourite extracurricular activities is to catch out these sorts of people who are forever hooting ‘whom’ at their friends and family by hiding intentional exceptions to The Rules in my conversation. For me there is nothing quite so satisfying as getting the chance to explain The Rules to someone who is trying to show off their own superior grasp of them to someone else’s detriment.

“On the contrary, my learned friend,” it is an endless joy to parry back at such people, “I think you’ll find that in the sentence ‘Clare asked Mary and me to go to Hay Literary Festival with her’ that ‘Mary and me’ are the object, not the subject, of the sentence. If you find it difficult to remember simply try to remove Mary from the sentence and see if it works or not. Don’t worry, sometimes even I get confused.”

Herein ends my rant.

I just want you to know that I am not, never have been and never will be, a grammar bully. (I may indeed be a grammar bully bully but that is quite another thing entirely.)

However, these creatures are not without their uses. In fact, I might recommend that you even enlist the services of your friendliest neighbourhood grammar bully when you write your covering letter.

If, on the other hand, you are one yourself I hope I have not offended you. I am told that grammar bullies can be perfectly acceptable human beings in all other aspects of their lives. Indeed, some of my closest friends are grammar bullies, and I’m sure you’re one of the lovelier grammar ‘instructors’ of this world. Now here at last is your chance to use your powers for good.

The fact is, little niggling mistakes in a covering letter stand out and they don’t create the best impression.

More to the point, there is an increased probability that your covering letter will be read by someone with at least a vague inclination towards the grammar bully end of the spectrum. In my experience a larger percentage of publishing types have leanings of this persuasion. That is not to say that they aren’t also all perfectly lovely people but you can be sure that they almost all understand The Rules thoroughly and will probably be used to keeping an eagle eye out for mistakes on a daily basis.

These are the people who you want to impress.

So proofread. Proofread until you begin to lose sight of what this letter you’re writing is even for. Look up the word ‘particularly’ so many times that it loses all meaning and goes a bit weird. Check every ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, don’t let a single ‘too’ sneak past you masquerading as a ‘to’ and make sure that there are only ‘would have’s to be seen.

And then proofread some more. Get your friends and family in on it. Everyone likes to be helpful and we all secretly enjoy the chance to point out someone else’s mistakes, don’t we? If we’re all entirely honest? That’s where grammar bullies come from, after all.

Send out a covering letter that you are confident is not going to show you up. Do not give the grammar bullies a chance to get one over on you. Together we can defeat them with our impeccably placed commas and our appropriate use of the semicolon.

Don’t let the grammar bullies grind you down. Proofread instead.

Oh and one extra, very important thing I have to add. Take particular care to ensure that you spell the agent’s name and the title of the agency you are submitting to correctly. Nothing says, “I have not put much thought into this,” like a covering letter addressed to Mrs Darley at the Darling Anderson Agency.

By the way, it’s Vicki with a ‘ck’ and an ‘i’. I wouldn’t dream of pulling anyone up on it but just so you know. Vicki. Vicki Le Feuvre. Much appreciated.

p.s. to any grammar bullies reading this please be aware that any and all mistakes you may find in this blog post are entirely intentional and were only put there to annoy you personally. Go on, resist the urge to point them out to me. I dare you.

By Vicki Le Feuvre