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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Agency Newsletter: October

Hi all! After a particularly busy couple of months we are very happy to bring you the Agency Newsletter for October!

Frankfurt Book Fair has been the focus and we are happy to say that we had a very successful and exciting fair.

Check out all the news below!

Newsletter Oct 17

 

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Lee Child Charms on Scandi TV!

Thanks to Lee Child’s incredible success in Scandinavia, he was invited to join Fredrik Skavlan and guests on Friday evening to talk jogging, fish and chips and fighting – and how he came to write the phenomenal global bestselling Jack Reacher series. Skavlan is the show of choice for over 3 million viewers in Norway and Sweden and airs primetime on Friday evenings.

Lee’s fellow guests are astronaut Jessica Meir and New York Rangers hockey players Henrik Lundqvist and Mats Zuccarello.

Watch it here:

 

 

 

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On Writing: Scaring Kids with Helen Grant

Halloween may be behind us, but that’s not to say that the scary fun is over.

I (Kristina) was one of those children who just loved being scared. It started with a book called The Finger Eater by Dick King-Smith. A book that had such an impact on my brother that he shoved blankets and clothes down the side of his bed so the Finger Eater wouldn’t gobble up his pinkies in the night. Then I moved on to some Robin Jarvis, Goosebumps, and later Cliff McNish’s Doomspell series and the classic (and fantastic!) Point Horror series – highlights include Twins and The Babysitter, thanks R.L. Stine.

Now, for a good spooking, I read Stephen King and Shirley Jackson, but it’s the childhood scares that stay with me the longest. They’re the stories I can recall most vividly. We’ve had a number of conversations about Point Horror in the office and EVERYONE interrupts each other with, “Do you remember the one…” It’s something special.

Today we have an author who knows a thing or two about scaring kids, Helen Grant. Her outstanding YA novel The Vanishing of Katharina Linden left me utterly chilled – read it if you haven’t yet. We asked Helen all about how she gets her inspiration and what she thinks makes a great scary novel.

vanishing-act-of-katharina-linden US

What are the three key building blocks when writing a scary novel?

One of the most important things is to remember that a scary novel is meant to be SCARY, not so gory that it’s horrifying. For me, the pleasure of reading a scary book is that spine tingling feeling.

Secondly, I think creating relatable characters is really important. If the reader doesn’t empathise with the hero or heroine, they won’t feel the same sense of tension about what happens to them.

It’s also key to have a really strong plot with lots of thrilling scenes. In a short ghost story, you can build up to one single terrifying event. In a full length novel, you have to maintain that tension for a lot longer, so you have to include lots of scary moments as you go along.

 

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I love to visit scary and atmospheric places, and many of them end up featuring in my books and short stories. Places I have visited in the past include ruined castles and churches, catacombs, a deserted railway tunnel and the Brussels sewers!

I also love folklore and legends, and some of these have definitely inspired my work. My first book, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, includes local German folktales retold in my own words.

Glenfarg railway tunnels

How do you avoid clichés and write with real menace and tension?

That’s one of the biggest challenges, I think. If you are reworking folk tales or creating a plot about some horrible secret buried in the past, obviously you are going to be covering old ground to some extent. There are also certain expectations of a creepy story. My teenage daughter says she reads ghost stories especially for the clichés!!

I think there are several things the writer can do. It’s useful to read the same kind of thing you are trying to write. I love thrillers and ghost stories so I read loads of them. This means that you become familiar with what has already been done many times. A ghost haunting a deserted house is pretty old; if you can think of a really unusual reason for the haunting, it becomes a lot more intriguing.

I think the other thing is that the details of the story should really bring the characters and setting to life. If you can share the character’s terror and absorb all the striking details of a scene, it makes it so much more vivid.

 

What is the scariest book/story you have read?

Hmmm, that’s a very tough question. When I was a child, I think the book that scared me more than any other was – oddly – a Victorian anthology called The Silver Fairy Book. It always astonishes me, the things people thought were suitable for kids in the past! There are various grotesque stories in it, but the one that stands out is The Palace of Vanity, translated from the French. It’s about a place where everyone’s wishes come true, but in horrible ways. For example there is a woman who wishes for a “wasp waist” and becomes so thin that she cannot stand up any more for fear of snapping. It’s horrible! Brrrr.

As an adult, I found Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, about a father trying to protect his son in a post-apocalyptic landscape, so unbearably tense that I have only ever read it once. It’s still on my bookshelf, but I can’t bear to open it again.

If I want a pleasurable scare, though, I read the ghost stories of M.R.James. Some of those give me the creeps so badly that my eyes water!

 

Is there a big difference between writing to scare children and adults? Obviously less gory but what else?

I think there are lines I wouldn’t cross when writing for young people.

As well as my young adult novels, I write short ghost stories for adults, and in some of those, the ending can be quite grim. Well, okay, in practically all of them, the ending is very grim…

In my young adult novels, people do die, and horrible things do happen, but I can’t imagine writing one in which every good character died at the end and the villain got away scot free. I like a sense of justice to prevail at the end. I also like to show my hero or heroine actively battling to bring about that justice – taking control. In some of my adult stories, there is a sense that the protagonist is being carried along by events, or that their own failings (greed, naivety, selfishness) lead to their downfall. My young adult protagonists are more sympathetic characters than that, and they also try to take control of the situation. Lin, the heroine of The Glass Demon, is pretty much the only proper adult in her family, even though she’s only seventeen.

Follow Helen Grant on Twitter: @helengrantsays

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Agency Newsletter: September

NewsletterSep17

 

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