STONE COLD DEAD is my first historical thriller, the first in a series featuring Joe Maddison. Published by Austin Macauley, it will be released on Thursday 31st October 2013.
The next in the series, which will be published by Austin Macauley next year, 2014, is already written. Entitled: UGLY TRUTH, BEAUTIFUL LIES, again, it features Joe Maddison in an intriguing mystery reaching back through Time, in a story running parallel to today.
I was asked by the publishers to complete an interview for promotional purposes which I include here:
Please state your name and title of the book:
STONE COLD DEAD
Historical thriller introducing Joe Maddison as the unlikely hero
When did you begin writing, and did you always envisage being an author?
I began writing as a child, inspired by stories my mother told at bedtime. Each story was like entering a portal in Time, stepping through into a new and very different world … and once I began writing, it meant I could take control for the first time in my life of all the dragons and beasties, unlike in my real world where I was being bullied and abused.
Yes, always I wanted to be a writer. Born disabled, it was like I had to go that extra mile … expected to be ‘less-than’, initially accepting my limitations, but then ultimately wanting to be so much more than was expected of me. Somehow, I needed to turn things around, to use all the bad feelings I had stored up inside, creating something warm and fuzzy and positive out of all the negativity I was caught up in … making good come out of all this bad.
I remember the Careers Teacher at school thinking me crazy. From when I was a small child, I would walk hand in hand with my father each Saturday morning to the local library, gazing in wonder at all the books surrounding me, wondering if one day I too might find my name on the spine. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The question was always asked with a touch of sympathy, a look which said: ‘Bless! She’s not going to go far, but hey, give the girl a chance to dream a little …’ And I’d always say ‘A Writer! I want to become an Author … to create stories, to let people see the world through my eyes and understand a little of what that’s like’. Always, the answer would come back as the Careers Master looked up with an echo of surprise at my mother standing protectively close behind: ‘Ah well, the girl has her head in the clouds, right enough. She needs to get a bit of realism, put her feet to the ground …’
Well, hey there Mr Careers Teacher, the school bullies, the dragons of my world, and all those out there who thought I’d always be a less-than … I achieved my goal! I survived … but more than that … I truly am living the dream!
What is the novel about and what inspired you to write (title)?
STONE COLD DEAD is my first thriller. I wrote so many stories in previous years but always they lend themselves to books. I’m not a short story writer. There’s always so much more to tell. And I let the story lead me. I’m not one to plan beginnings, middles and ends … heck, I never really know quite where it’s going to lead me. Like starting out on a journey, I prepare, I have the basics, but then it carries me along … in fiction anyway … but then again, there’s really no such thing as true fiction because every writer uses and is inspired by life experiences, people they meet, things which happen to them, for good or bad. And this will come through in their writings.
This book began on the premise that one day you come across your name on a grave stone, and underneath, the dates of your birth and death. How might that be? What would it feel like? Are you a ghost, some spirit of the past, living now because you have unfinished business in the world? My husband Tony and I bantered back and forth possible scenarios whereby this might happen. But from the moment I actually sat down and began to write, it started to flow, as if from some other place, filled with twists and turns, using raw emotion culled from true life experience.
I didn’t immediately realise, it took time; but ultimately I knew I was being guided by the wartime experience of my mother. I wrote her story which was published back in 2004, on the 60th Anniversary of the death of her wartime fiancé flying over the coast of France, not knowing the beach was mined when forced to make an unexpected landing with his friend and Canadian pilot. They had been on a secret op, one of many under RAF No.100 (Bomber Support) Group. I was a founder member of the RAF 100 Group Association now almost 20 years ago, and today am worldwide Secretary and Editor of their Association magazine.
STONE COLD DEAD is about the draining of the polders in The Netherlands and the discovery of an aircraft, its pilot still in the cockpit and the secrets that surround it. Past and present run a parallel course as the mystery unfolds. And Joe Maddison is unwittingly caught in a battle to save, not just his own life, but that of those he loves most and others connected with events that happened against the background of a Second World War.
What is the main purpose you hope people will gain from your book?
I hope the book will inspire readers to want to learn more. I want it to feed their appetite, to go in search of truths intimated through their journey of reading. Because of my mother’s wartime story, her fiance’s dangerous flights across occupied territory and the secret work in which he was involved, plus the very real heroes I meet today, the veterans of WWII who had to live as if each day might be their last; I write with a passion. I can’t wait to climb through the portal to another age when danger lurks around every corner. No-one knew the outcome. And young men and women risked their lives to preserve the England they knew and loved.
In my growing years, the signs were always there to see in the little ways in which my mother would glance at the clock at nine in the evening, looking quickly down, a tear in her eye. I know now she was remembering that time past when she and Vic, her fiancé, had stood alone at Blymhill Church reciting to one another their vows, looking forward to the day they would say them for real surrounded by people who loved them … I grew up with the unworn wedding dress hanging at the back of the wardrobe. The unshared story. Secrets. Family secrets. And yet a story just begging to be shared. And that done, there were so many others yet to be told … as in STONE COLD DEAD.
STONE COLD DEAD is a historical thriller because it is firmly based in the present, and yet the past is still very much a part of today … there are lessons to learn for us all, because the past is a vital part of us in that it makes us who and what we are … who we can become for the future.
What advice would you give to other budding writers?
Know where your strengths lie. By that, I mean find out what kind of writing is shaped around your abilities. Not everyone can write a book. Often people write short stories, or poetry, or remain in the genre of fact and documentary-type work. Try them all if you remain uncertain. You may find different moods dictate what kind of writing you do. I write poetry usually during very low, bad, depressive periods which I find therapeutic … and after, I can look back on and realise the changes taking place within. Don’t be afraid to put something of yourself into your book and share feelings and emotions, good as well as bad. Feel it. Know the very real power of writing. Use experiences life has given you. Make them work for you instead of against you. Write about things you know.
I am always being told: ‘I could write a book, I just don’t have the time!’ ‘I might write a book someday …’ ‘I could write a whole series of books given the things I’ve lived through and seen!’ So … don’t just talk about it. If you want to write … WRITE! Begin with a blank page. Okay, it can be awesome, sitting with that blank white sheet staring back at you. But then, start to write … anything … each and every day, set time aside for you to do just this. The main thing isn’t getting published. If you are an aspiring writer, there is an urgency, an ache, a very real sense of purpose that drives you forward to create on whatever scale that might be … something you need to address and give time to every single day of your life until it becomes habit, like cleaning your teeth.
I write a limit of 2,000 words a day. Sometimes yes, you have days when you feel empty, confused, disorientated even, and depressed maybe when inspiration just won’t come. But write. Write a letter to yourself. Keep a diary. Keep it going … the main thing is to feed the need to write without life getting in the way. And read. Reading other works is important. Try to understand their methodology … compare … that doesn’t mean plagiarism; it’s about understanding the different ways in which authors write, and there are many. You need to find your own niche, a way of writing which works for you, and which is unique to you.
There is only one further thing I guess I would add, and that is to write the complete work initially without going back to correct every other sentence. Read back the chapter you wrote the day before to climb back through the portal because different moods and other thoughts crowding your mind can cause your writing to change. Ensure you’re still on the same path, and then work on. Only when your book is complete does it become time to begin reading it through. And again, if/when you break off, ensure it’s at the end of a chapter, and when you resume, read back the chapter before so that your editing doesn’t alter what has gone before.
I am very led by emotion. It’s just the way I am. I know that I write in a stream of consciousness. It just comes. And I let it flow, hating to be interrupted when I’m on a roll, because if you stop suddenly, you’re going to lose that pace, that pattern, whatever was going to happen … it never comes again. Like writing that comes to you in the middle of the night. It’s important to keep a notebook by the side of your bed and note down what you thought of. Or else it really is lost forever. It never comes again … never quite in the same way. And my best inspiration comes at the most inconvenient times! Always!!
What other books/authors inspired you to write?
As I child I was heavily into fairy stories. I hated it when good didn’t triumph over evil. So all the classics, together with compulsive reading set by GCE and A Level Literature courses at school … like Wilkie Collins and ‘The Woman in White’. It is vital that we shift the current trend for children from techie games back to books. You gain so much by making a good book your friend … and it’s the feel, the touch, the turning of the page, the placing in of a bookmark that makes that book personal to you.
I moved quickly into Enid Blyton books, and loved best The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. I even ran my own club where, to become a member, everyone had to accomplish three good deeds. My two younger sisters were drawn into my spy games where we’d follow and copiously note the activities of Mum and Dad … then set our own coded messages and traps! It’s not the same thing today when children don’t use their imagination! Cardboard boxes were always my pirate ship sailing the seven seas in which I played for hours, together with the planks of wood made into a wigwam, playing cowboys and Indians with the boy next door.
Imagination is a natural part of play … of childhood … of using instinct and gaining confidence from within without the outside influences that always come with television and techie games.
Then it was John Creasey who wrote under many pseudonyms. Today it’s Lee Child who remains at the very top of my crime list. But there are other good ones around. I love the immediacy, the quickening of the pulse as action takes over from description and words. The ability to place a reader at the heart of the story, becoming more than an onlooker, but rather a very real part of the journey, is where the gift of writing lies.
Do you see yourself as a one genre author or are there other elements in your writing that you can see yourself developing further into future novels?
My first book was unexpected published after two years in 1984 and took off in a way I hadn’t expected. I was then commissioned to write two further books by Thorsons (now HarperCollins) in the genre of abuse. The book actually took just six weeks to write … it was an outpouring of my life as a battered wife, and all I could remember of my life experience at the time given the trauma and my consequent amnesia as a result of what was done to me.
Following a series of three books in the genre of abuse and self-help which came into the spotlight in short time during 1984, 1988 and 1989 … which I have recently updated and re-published … I went on to write my mother’s wartime story using the hundreds of letters shared between her and her fiancé, together with the facts as I knew them then about his final fateful journey.
My fourth book was a fantasy …
But now I know for certain that my genre is on two different levels. On the one hand, historical thrillers … the second following STONE COLD DEAD is already written and, featuring Joe Maddison, will again come out published by Austin Macauley next year, 2014. I also write factual books about the history of the Norfolk airfields which were created under RAF No.100 (Bomber Support) Group during WWII, and the stories and writings of those who served under its Squadrons. I feel passionate that these voices of the people who gave so much that we might have the kind of freedom in this country we enjoy today should neither be neglected nor forgotten. Their stories need to be told and brought into the public domain.
What inspired you for the title of your book?
The title for a book isn’t the first thing which comes to mind. It is the premise by which the story is born which is first. The writing follows … the ideas which flow back and forth between my husband and I often to the extent where he takes the male role, and I become another character in the book, and we mould the conversation around what comes between us. The title is often suddenly there … a spark of inspiration from either one of us.
STONE COLD DEAD became the title of this historical thriller because it summed up the idea of being confronted with a headstone with your name, date of birth and death inscribed beneath.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Most of my time is taken up fielding letters, emails, telephone calls, messages from members of the RAF 100 Group Association to be honest. I am passionate about each and every member. We are like a family, very much involved on an everyday basis in one another’s lives. And there is also a magazine which I create which comes out every quarter to be sent out around the world.
However, given my severe disabilities, there are days which are completely wiped out with attacks which render me helpless. I write around them. It’s frustrating. But I remain determined to be defined by something other than ill-health. And there is so much more to life. However, it is depressing. I also have Post Traumatic Stress from past abuse.
Do you feel that your background has helped you with your new career as a novelist?
Past experiences has definitely helped my writing. It has given me somewhere positive for my negative feelings to be used and stored, it also offers the chance to help and support others who are also disabled and inspire them to create, to use the arts as a way of pushing the negative vibes out of their system. I can honestly say there isn’t one emotion I let go to waste, however hard and unbearable it might be. Even the breakdowns I have had, the last in 2009, allows me to climb back into that pain and write it as it was, using it for a character in a book, empowering me through past pain. It sounds crazy, but it’s just the way it is. And it works!
Do you do a lot of research before you start writing?
Research is crucial. It is a necessary part of preparing for the journey. And I see every new book as a journey … a journey of self-discovery as much as anything else because always something new emerges that I never knew about myself or something else in the world. It challenges. It empowers. It increases the chances of creating the correct background for a story … like a painter prepping his tools, setting up his canvas, choosing his colours, knowing what he might use, and at the same time be willing to experiment.
All the while I am saving sheets from newspapers, facts from books and The News, daily encounters, even snippets of conversations and quotations. They will all be used some way, if not in this book, then the next, or the one to follow after.
Nothing in life should be wasted.
How do you write pen and paper? Computer?
For many years I painstakingly wrote each book by hand, very suspicious about machines, convinced they would either alter or destroy or disastrously lose my work. In fact, the first time I actually wrote a book on computer I was three quarters through and the computer crashed irreparably. My worst nightmare had come true! The words wouldn’t come again. It was lost forever.
Today, with Tony working in the industry, yes, during good days, when health allows, I write immediately in a stream of consciousness onto a main computer. If we’re away, I have a laptop I transfer the book to, or else have it as a backup.
Do any of the characters in the book relate to your own life?
Yes, of course they do, although I’m not saying quite how or who. That would be telling! But as I said previously, it’s impossible not to encompass true life experience and people you meet into your storyline. It’s often the case that I introduce a new character, and only some way after realise who it might be, or who it’s based on at least. But sourcing negativity I find particularly beneficial, as I do basing baddies on bullies in my past … a kind of revenge I guess, but more using the feelings that came with them and from them and the pain they caused much more so than the person.
What feedback have you had from family and friends or other people who have read your novel?
Good. Encouraging. My husband particularly is always right there from the beginning. A true inspiration! He’s in truth a part of the book just as much as me, although I’m the one who writes it ultimately. After being together a few years now, we finally tied the knot at Gretna a couple of weeks ago and took off for France, replicating the journey of the first book I wrote as we came together. It was like a dream come true! He knows I like to write from experience. He even arranged a first flying lesson so that I could appreciate the dynamics from a personal viewpoint for this particular book … although it didn’t come off in the end. And the conversations we’ve shared, especially on sourcing technical data for this book has been tremendous. Otherwise, my younger sister and daughter are particularly encouraging. My daughter, Jo, travelling the world, ‘looking for others ways of living and being’ (her words), writes a blog about the things she sees, people she meets, etc. But her long terms aim is to write a book, carrying on the tradition. Both my father and mother were writers … sadly unpublished, although it remained their dearest wish throughout their lifetime. And it is as much for them as for me that I am writing today, living their dream as much as my own … wishing with all my heart they were alive to actually see the journey my books have travelled, the ways in which my writing developed, and to share the sweet fruits of my labour.
Book your copy of STONE COLD DEAD now to ensure a good pacey read!