Friday, 25 March 2011

A "Hard Time" with Maureen Carter....

To celebrate the publication of the eBook of “Hard Time” today, fourth in the Bev Morriss crime series, we have an interview with the author, Maureen Carter.

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.

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 Bev Morriss detective series is being published in eBook format with Creative Content. Do you have any specific views on the digital marketplace as an outlet for your titles and what do you think of ereaders like the Kindle?

I want people to read my books and anything which helps readers access my work is - in my book - a good thing. 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 She first appeared as a minor character in an unpublished novel I wrote years ago.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 [the first in the series], 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.

Were you at all inspired by the novels of Georgette Heyer in setting your novels in the Regency period and if so, which of hers novels is a favourite?

Yes - her novels did contribute inspiration, but I wanted a different angle - a single woman working around the restrictions of the period to solve a crime. My favourite of her books is Sylvester, where the heroine secretly writes a novel.

You can learn more about Maureen Carter here.

Download a free sample of the eBook here.
 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Etiquette and Japanese resilience

In the wake of recent devastating events in Japan, the world has marveled at the Japanese people’s resilience and maintaining of social order. 

This week we’re posting an excerpt from “The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Japan” by Rochelle Kopp and Pernille Rudlin. Here they talk about the importance of etiquette and order to the Japanese.

“You’ve probably heard that the Japanese are very particular about etiquette - and indeed, that’s true.  By why is it that etiquette is so important to them? 
It starts with the native Japanese religion, Shinto, which places an emphasis on purity and ritual.  The Japanese language itself also emphasizes ritualized ways of speaking in certain situations. Then, as Japanese society evolved, a complex set of rules evolved that governed how people should interact with each other - and breaking those rules could even result in death (from a samurai’s sword, or through the obligation to commit ritual suicide). 

This was in part due to the influence of Confucianism, which emphasizes the proper display of respect between people of different ranks.  Today, proper etiquette, as well as the general idea that there is a right way to do everything, is emphasized in the Japanese educational system.  And when fresh graduates join Japanese companies, their orientation typically features intensive etiquette training on how to behave in business situations.  

All in all, this leads to a lot of consciousness among the Japanese of the need to do things properly!

***
Let’s go through some of the fundamentals of Japanese culture – the “why” of why the Japanese pay so much attention to etiquette – the Confucian roots in Japanese society, the need for harmony and the strong focus on relationship building and the group.  

Confucius was Chinese, not Japanese, but Confucian thought was introduced to Japan nearly 2000 years ago, and was heavily pushed from the 17th to 19th centuries by the Tokugawa Shoguns as a way of trying to pacify and unite the country after a long period of civil war.  

Confucianism isn’t a religion - it’s more of a philosophy, and one of the key elements of it is the idea that societies are fundamentally unequal and that there’s not much you can do to change that. However, you can make life more harmonious and pleasant for everyone if each person behaves appropriately according to their status. Basically, the person with superior status should be benevolent and the subordinate should be obedient. If both parties do this, it works - on a reciprocal basis: it’s easy to be obedient to someone who’s kind to you and it’s easy to be kind to someone who’s loyal to you.  So it helped the Tokugawa Shogunate maintain their feudal social order, and enforce loyalty.” – Rochelle Kopp and Pernille Rudlin

Friday, 11 March 2011

Love Not Poison

To celebrate the publication of  the eBook version of “Love Not Poison”, second in the Crimson Cavalier series, we publish an interview with author Mary Andrea Clarke.

By day, Mary Andrea Clarke is a responsible civil servant - but by night, she is a mystery woman!

1. 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?

Catherine Zeta Jones! She has a lively and spirited presence which would bring Georgiana Grey to life on-screen. Anne Cater did an excellent job of reading The Crimson Cavalier and I think my fellow crime writer Linda Regan would also be a good choice. If I had the chance, I would LOVE to narrate the audio myself as I think it would be a really exciting experience.

2. 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 have a general outline for the entire book, but plot each chapter as I go along using a mind map - this helps with tangents and off-shoots. The initial draft for my first book was written in long-hand, but now I write direct to my laptop. I spend an hour each day on my commute to work, so try to write as much as I can then, but otherwise it’s back on the computer after I’ve had something to eat and working into the night…Weekends are better, as I can have a whole day, but as far as structure and plot is concerned, I either have a notebook or my laptop with me so that I can keep note of ideas and plotlines.

3. Do you have any specific views on the digital marketplace as an outlet for your titles and what do you think of devices like the Kindle?

It’s very exciting to see reading moving into the digital world. It’s a helpful option for the reader to have another medium to enjoy books and which can offer a wide range of titles in an easily mobile format. The Kindle and the iPad can bring a lot more books - even audio downloads - to the reader, which is a great addition. A great way to take a lot of books on holiday without exceeding the baggage limit!

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

The Crimson Cavalier was started as a standalone novel, but as the book progressed, ideas developed for other books featuring Georgiana

5. How do you go about your research?

I tended to do the bulk of my research about the period, and particularly highwaymen, before the first novel and tend to renew and refer back to that as I go along, but if it‘s something I just don‘t know or am not familiar with, I would always do the main research before starting to write. And I am always reading - another way to pass the time during my daily commute! I had read a lot about the Regency period in my youth and that has continued and that has helped a lot when it comes to research and background.

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

I tend to absorb what I can from lots of different writers. When I start to write, I think a lot of what I’ve read returns from my subconscious mind; you almost don’t realise you’ve remembered it! I used to read a lot about the Tudor period from Jean Plaidy and she was always very well researched and could really bring characters to life. She also used to write as Victoria Holt.

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

I was in a fencing club when I was at University!

8. Were you at all inspired by the novels of Georgette Heyer in setting your novels in the Regency period and if so, which of hers novels is a favourite?

Yes - her novels did contribute inspiration, but I wanted a different angle - a single woman working around the restrictions of the period to solve a crime. My favourite of her books is Sylvester, where the heroine secretly writes a novel.




 "Love Not Poison" is also apparently available in a cake version, made by Pretty Cupcakes... :o)
 



 
The third eBook in the Crimson Cavalier series, “Debt of Dishonour”, publishes later this year.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Not so “over the hill” after all!


Ali Muirden blogs about the surprising demographic driving eBook sales...

It gladdened my heart to read in The Bookseller recently that a survey recently conducted by OnePoll has discovered that the surge in digital eBook sales are being driven by the over 55s.

The poll estimates that around 500,000 now own an eReader device and that another 18% of those surveyed said they planned to purchase an eReader within the next year.

This is great news for several reasons. One is that this demographic are known to be heavy book readers/buyers and it’s interesting to see from this poll that they use the internet to buy books more than many other products, including holidays and DVDs.

Many people are posing the question “is the current surge in eBook sales just a fad?  These statistics suggest it’s not. In fact, if you make a commitment to spend over £100 on an eReader in the first place, chances are you’re not going to quibble at the cost of an eBook or two to read on it!

It was also very interesting to note that for once it’s not Apple leading the way.
According to the poll 47% of those who own an eReader had bought the Kindle, compared to 31% for the iPad and 14% rating the Sony eReader.

At Creative Content we’ve been very encouraged by the sales of our eBook products in the last year and have plans to publish at least one (and sometimes more) a month in 2011.

The Crème de la Crime fiction list has a superb and varied collection of crime novels to suit every taste and at just £8.99 represent great value for money and we’re very proud to be publishing the digital editions in partnership with the authors.

So maybe you can teach an old(er) dog new tricks? - AM