Friday, 25 June 2010

The importance of etiquette

Our guest blogger this week is Rochelle Kopp, co-author of “The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Japan,” which publishes today.

The recruiter I was talking to was incredibly frustrated. She had just sent a terrific candidate to interview for the position of Executive Assistant to the President of a Japanese firm in the U.S. The candidate had excellent qualifications, good experience, and a pleasant personality. Seemed like a perfect fit. And yet the President had rejected her. The reason? At the end of the interview, when she got up to leave the room, the candidate had not pushed her chair back under the table. The President felt that this small breach of etiquette was an indication of inattention, and he was so uncomfortable with it that he decided not to hire the candidate.

From the point of view of those from other countries, being such a stickler for etiquette may seem a bit extreme. However, it’s an excellent example of how for Japanese, etiquette serves as a symbol of what the person is like, and how well they might do their job. In the Japanese point of view, if someone can’t be relied upon to follow the rules of etiquette, what can they be relied upon for?

The emphasis placed on etiquette goes back to the days of the samurai, when strict protocols covered every facet of life, both public and private. And if you broke one of those rules of conduct, the result might be a samurai sword lopping off your head, or a requirement that you commit seppuku (ritual suicide). So in this environment, clearly one would want to pay attention to proper etiquette.

That emphasis on appropriate conduct has carried over into present day Japan. In children’s schooling, a great deal of emphasis is placed on how to act, and how to do things properly. Bookstores are filled with a wide variety of etiquette manuals, covering every conceivable situation. And when employees join companies, their orientation places a heavy emphasis on etiquette training.

Fortunately, most Japanese realize that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for people from other countries to keep track of all the aspects of etiquette in Japan. And most Japanese are more willing to cut foreigners some slack and overlook minor etiquette transgressions than the President who would not hire the candidate who didn’t push her chair in. Yet, for non-Japanese who want to be successful in doing business with Japanese, it’s important to be aware of etiquette as much as possible. The more you can play by the Japanese rules of behavior, the more comfortable they will be with you, and the smoother your business dealings.

We suggest that Rochelle’s book is a good place to start!! - LK

Friday, 18 June 2010

Embed and breakfast...

It’s been a really busy week – Ali and I have been negotiating a co-production deal for some audio titles, as well as the usual hectic schedule we have as we head toward our monthly publication date.

It’s a little more hectic than usual this month, as we’re publishing two titles: “The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Japan” by Pernille Rudlin and Rochelle Kopf (follow them on Twitter – @pernilleru and @japanintercult, respectively – really interesting posts about Japan!) and “No Peace for the Wicked,” a terrific thriller by Adrian Magson which we’re publishing as an eBook under our eCC imprint (with crime fiction publishers Creme de la Crime).

All this means that here it is after midnight – and I haven’t had time to write a blog post or coerce someone into doing one for me!

So I’ve decided to have some fun and try embedding a video into our blog for the first time.
Luckily Mark Caven (author of our speech titles “The Lowdown: Improve Your Speech - American English” and “The Lowdown: Improve Your Speech – American English for Chinese Speakers”) has just made his own YouTube channel and has kindly let me use one of his videos.

Here he is telling you all about the letter ‘L.’ Enjoy!

By the way – we at Creative Content have our own YouTube channel too! Come and see us! - LK

We’d love to know: Do you think things like embedded videos make a blog better?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Interview with author Roz Southey

To celebrate the recent launch (with Crème de la Crime) of our eCC crime fiction eBook imprint, we continue our occasional series of author interviews. This week we talk to Roz Southey, author of “Broken Harmony.”

Roz Southey has a passion for the often contentious world of 18th century music-making in the north east of England; in fact, she has a PhD in it! Roz lives in the northeast herself and lectures at the International Centre for Music Studies in Newcastle Upon Tyne

If you could choose any actor to play the lead role on TV or reading an audio version of your titles, who would you choose?

Charles Patterson is a real person to me emotionally and I’m quite scared about giving him someone else’s face, because then he will become unreal and merely a character in a book…he is himself and no-one else. I also think the reader should imagine the character for him/herself - I don’t spend too much time on physical description beyond the basics - the personalities and their interactions are the most important thing. As far as his voice is concerned, I hear him with a northern English voice with perhaps a hint of Geordie or the northeast - definitely educated, but very definitely from Newcastle. As far as specific voice, I feel that any decent actor ought to be able to do that sort of voice or accent anyway, but nobody specific comes to mind.

How do you structure the layout and plot lines of your books? Do you have a clear plot line, or do things twist, turn and develop as you go along?

I start writing with a clear idea of roughly what’s going to happen…but I have thought about the basic idea for some months beforehand and at some point I start seeing scenes in my mind: the opening scene, a couple if climactic scenes in the middle - usually the last scene too. When those characters in those scenes start talking to me, I know it‘s time to start writing. The first draft is always in long hand and then I transfer it to my computer for editing and tidying. I always build the books around a true event, person or trend from the 18th century. I liken this first draft to the sort of research I do as an academic: I’m not making any of it up; I’m finding out what happened. My subconscious mind is free to offer me all sorts of characters and plot twists that my conscious mind just wouldn’t come up with. Then I have to plan the novel in detail from the first draft, cutting or enlarging and making sure the plot hangs together an makes sense. This becomes the second draft, then finally when I’m convinced the structure is right I move on to tidying the language etc.

I like to start my writing day around 7:45am and I’ll do an hour or so, then have a walk and then another couple of hours. This is the really serious stuff and I’m at my best in the morning…and then I ease back a little over lunchtime and then get back into it mid-afternoon until around 5pm…and I LOVE Mondays as I always feel fresh, but it’s important to write regularly and treat it in a business-like way. I tend not to set myself a daily word limit.

Your book was published in /eBook format with Creative Content at the end of April. Do you have any specific views on the digital marketplace as an outlet for your titles and what do you think of the new devices like the Kindle?

I do have a reputation for being a little behind with technology! I love the smell of a new book in my hands, but I do feel that anything that encourages people to read is itself to be encouraged enormously and eReaders can be incredibly useful for packing large numbers of books into a small space for travel etc. I may be a little late, but the idea of eBooks is beginning to excite me! It’s interesting also that I teach 18 and 19 year olds who have barely bought a CD in their lives; all of their music comes from downloads, so with this aspect and audio downloading being a feature on some eReaders, it makes for exciting times…and attitudes certainly are changing.

Did you set out to create a series based character or was that accidental?

Yes, for two reasons. One is mercenary: a writer’s books are more likely to remain in print if they are in a series - people finding later books always want to go back and read the first ones - and secondly (and chiefly), it allows the writer to develop the main character (or in my case, four main characters) over a period of time, showing them growing and changing which makes them much more real.

How do you go about your research?

I was lucky in that almost all of my research was done before I started writing novels. I did a PhD on music-making in the northeast of England during the 18th century. As part of that, I read my way through four centuries worth of newspapers form that period and took out all the references to music. There were also a lot of gossipy stories there, which I couldn’t use in my academic work, and it’s these I’ve used as the basis for the novel. I absorbed the 18th century by osmosis, so to speak, so the research was done painlessly. So many important events occurred during this period; I’m always amazed when people say it’s not very interesting as “nothing much happened”. This period has always interested me and I’ve learned so much more through doing my PhD. One of my editor’s comments relating to Broken Harmony was that it seemed that all that people seemed to eat was ale and game pie and nothing else, so I had to separately research that aspect - what people would have eaten! The other thing in trying to view a period in the past, is to set yourself IN that period and realize that the WAY people thought at that time is simply not the way we think now - and this can only come through reading things like 18th century newspapers -and by doing that you start to think as they would have thought on a daily basis. And having worked around this period for 5 years, I was just immersed in the whole period and the way people thought at the time.

Is there any one person who inspired you to become a writer?

Well, linking to the last question, I quite enjoy 18th century writers, though I haven’t read any for a while, but I like Ellis Peters, who said she was interested in why nice people do nasty things… and that has certainly influenced me in that I am very interested in the relationship between the murderer and the victim. I also read a lot of American crime fiction in general - people like James Elroy and Elmore Leonard - I very much like that gritty style.

Is there any one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you?

I’m very much into local history and particularly the valley where I was brought up. We lived in a house which dates back to around the 1520s and on the window; various people from over the years had carved their names and dates. There were two I remember from 1804 and 1836, I think… so this to me was like history made real, when you live there every day. I have a very fluid feeling about time sometimes merging into one, past present and future, and I think my upbringing was what sparked my interest in history - the house is still standing and I am actually writing about the history of that house…oh and I’m a very keen gardener!

Interview by Al Muirden

eCC launched on 30 April 2010. For further information, visit or contact

Friday, 4 June 2010

Interview with author Maureen Carter

To tie in with the recent launch by Creative Content of their first four Crème de la Crime novels in eBook format, we continue our series of interviews with the four authors. This week we feature Maureen Carter, author of “Working Girls.

Maureen has worked extensively in newspapers, radio and television and still freelances in the business. As a journalist, she worked closely with the police, covering countless crime stories, interviewing many victims and reporting on several murders. Originally from Staffordshire, Maureen lives and writes in the West Midlands.

If you could choose any actress to play the lead role on TV or reading an audio version of your titles, who would you choose?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the actress Liz White playing WPC Annie Cartwright in Life on Mars - I’d never seen her before, but apart from her eye colour, she was Bev Morriss made flesh - she is SO close to how I see Bev in my mind… As for who’d read an audio book, that’s trickier - voices are incredibly important. The voice says so much about you from the moment you open your mouth - one thing I don’t hear though is a Birmingham accent! If I had the chance I would LOVE to narrate the book myself!

How do you structure the layout and plot lines of your books? Do you have a clear plot line, or do things twist, turn and develop as you go along?

I generally write a two or three page outline around a central plot and, usually, a sub-plot. This also includes major developments in the core characters’ lives, both professionally and personally - so I start with clear ideas about the book’s opening, close and several key scenes along the way…but I’m free to go where the fancy takes me! I always have a notepad with me, and on the bedside table, so that I can make notes and maybe even jot down the odd bit of dialogue. You can get some great ideas in the early hours and if you don’t write them down, you can so easily forget them. I tend to write in “office hours” and tend not to wait around for inspiration to strike; I like to get on with it, setting myself a minimum number of words per day to keep me on track and I don’t believe in such a thing as “writers block.”

Your book was published in ePUB/eBook format with Creative Content at the end of April. Do you have any specific views on the digital marketplace as an outlet for your titles and what do you think of the new devices like the Kindle?

I’m really excited about the ePub of Working Girls. I want people to read my books and anything which helps readers access my work is - in my book - a good thing. As for the new devices - yes please! I definitely want a Kindle, because it also allows audio downloads and I think this is so important - especially perhaps to the older reader who may be averse to an eReader as such, but would be swayed by the audio options - it’s a great thing for them. We would be silly not to embrace the eBook, as the sales increases - particularly in the USA - are quite extraordinary.

Did you set out to create a series based character or was that accidental?

It wasn’t my intention to create a series and certainly not a series based around Bev Morriss. She first appeared as a minor character in an unpublished novel I wrote years ago. There was something about her I liked, so when I embarked on writing Working Girls I brought her centre stage - to me Bev is like a breath of fresh - if feisty - air!

How do you go about your research?

Having been in journalism for over twenty years, researching and finding things out is second nature to me and if there’s a particular aspect of the plot that I need help with, I tend to phone someone I know who could put me in touch with someone in that specific area - that way you don’t just get the facts, you get some anecdotal stuff as well. I don’t do it ALL when I sit down to write a book; I tend to do some and then for a particular plot twist or something, I do more. I tend to like to meet these people and take a portable recorder with me which helps build up a stronger contact.

Is there any one person who inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve read voraciously all my life and I always wanted to be a writer. I guess that’s one of the reasons I became a journalist. I can’t pinpoint a single person who inspired me to write fiction, but the opening line of A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell blew me away and I thought when I read it how could anyone not want to read on! Another writer that I am in awe of is John Le Carre - I think his prose is extraordinarily good and A Perfect Spy is a perfect book! As far as being influenced by a writer, I know a number of writers who choose not to read another author when they are writing themselves; they don’t want to pick up someone else’s style. I totally disagree with that, because if you have strong voices and a strong writing style, you aren’t going to be affected. Also, if you’re not reading what’s out there, then you’re not really keeping abreast of things…so I say that if you’re a writer, you have to write all the time and you have to read all the time but always keep your own distinctive voice.

Is there any one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you?

Well I do have an absolute passion for Johnny Depp - very much like Bev, as he is her fantasy figure! I think he is one of the best actors and he has a wonderful voice and is truly captivating on-screen.

For further information, visit or contact