Thursday, 12 January 2017

Turning the page...


We are proud to publish "Death Wish", ninth in Maureen Carter's Birmingham-based Bev Morriss crime series - and many people have commented on its striking cover. Author and jacket designer are huge fans of each other's work, and today we bring you part two of a conversation they had recently. Today Dan is asking the questions...

DAN: Maureen, you’ve brought the character of Bev to life in nine novels now, and you must feel very close to her. What’s it like to have created such a richly complex character and have complete control over her destiny?

MAUREEN: Great questions, Dan, and you’re dead right with your conjecture that I must feel very close to Bev. After all this time I feel I know her better than some of my closest friends. I love the fact she shoots from the lip and refuses to take ordure from anyone: villains or VIPS, she tells it like it is.  She can be pricklier than a cactus convention but she’s also sensitive and caring and it’s this that gives her enormous empathy with the good guys and gals. 

Ironically, when I started writing Working Girls, I envisaged that Bev would very much play third fiddle to her boss, Detective Superintendent Bill Byford. I gave her a walk-on part but every time she appeared on the page and I put words into her mouth, she stole the scene.  Then I got to thinking, it’s about time crime fiction had a young female cop taking the lead role. Back then they were pretty thin on the patch considering how many curmudgeonly male detectives were around invariably carrying a back story crammed with emotional baggage. Bev was an antidote to all that and though I do put her through some dark and difficult mills, I’m always cognisant of readers and listeners who’ve taken her to their hearts.  If they think I’m giving her a really hard time, they let me know in no uncertain terms. It gives me a rosy glow that Bev is as real to them as she is to me. 

DAN: Many people have said that your Bev Morriss novels would make a great TV series (and I concur!) Have you ever thought about who would be good at playing Bev?

 MAUREEN: Bev on the box? Wouldn’t that be great? Like zillions of other books, the series has in the past been optioned for TV but it’s currently what’s known in the trade as ‘parked’. The idea might be revived at some point in the future and that would make my day but realistically only a tiny proportion of proposed new crime series make it onto the screen.

Having said that, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to discuss with producers our dream cast list. I’d love Jenna Coleman to play Bev. I’ve thought that since I first saw her in Dr Who. She has that essential feisty side but also real warmth and a twinkle not just in the eye but in the voice. Oh yes, and I’d like Olivia Colman to play Bev’s mum. And Adil Ray to play Oz. And  Greg Wise to play Byford. And . . . you get the picture.  

DAN: Your novels contain some hard-hitting and emotional issues —  how do you avoid carrying those feelings over into everyday life?

 MAUREEN: You’re right about the novels dealing with some pretty grim and gritty issues.  In my book – and books – crime is never cosy. Its impact on victims and the fallout on their families and friends is often devastating. I try and portray crime realistically and, therefore, seriously, but I do leaven the mix with humour mainly through the dialogue, banter between detectives that sort of thing.
Gallows humour is the clich├ęd way it’s described but, believe me, it happens in real life at actual crime scenes. As a TV journalist I witnessed it, took part in it, and to my mind as much anything it’s a way coping; a way of lightening the dark times. I’m sure this carries over into my crime fiction and helps give the necessary distance.  

DAN: Who would you say has had the greatest influence on your work?

 MAUREEN: I suppose it depends what you mean by ‘influence’. I’ve always read voraciously and admire a huge number of authors but I guess as far as my decision to write crime fiction goes, I guess that would be down to Ruth Rendell. I remember years ago being absolutely blown away by the first line of one of her standalone novels, A Judgement in Stone. It goes, ‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.’ What an opening! Thirteen words – but such resonance, such power. The book was definitely one of the springboards for my crime writing career. So yes, Ruth Rendell has a lot to answer for!  

On the other hand, if you mean who’s had the greatest influence on the way I write, unless it’s subliminally, I don’t think anyone has. I do know some writers won’t read books in their genre when they have a work-in-progress but I couldn’t imagine not reading. The way I see it, if an author’s developed a sufficiently distinctive ‘voice’ he or she has a style all their own and is immune from picking up anyone else’s writing traits. 

DAN: In Stephen King’s Misery, Paul Sheldon enjoys a cigarette and a glass of champagne when he finishes a book. What does Maureen Carter do?

MAUREEN: I remember finishing writing a Bev book and immediately going out to get my eyebrows threaded, but that’s so uncool. Have to say that apart from breathing a huge sigh of relief, I mostly catch up with friends over a glass or three of Prosecco. What I definitely DON’T do is drive to Los Angeles through the mountains in a snowstorm. 

Ouch. 

"Death Wish", by Maureen Carter, is available in eBook format from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and all good digital retailers. 


Cover design by Daniel Raven-Clift of HCT Creative.  

See more of Maureen's books (and Dan's designs) at Creative Content

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Maureen Carter covers it...



We're so proud to have published "Death Wish", the ninth book in Maureen Carter's Birmingham-based crime series featuring Detective Bev Morriss. Throughout the series, designer Daniel Raven-Clift has created wonderful covers. He and Maureen have become great admirers of each other's work. We got the two of them in conversation, and Maureen - a former BBC journalist - gave him a grilling...





MAUREEN: If, as they say, a picture paints a thousand words then a book cover has to encapsulate getting on for a hundred thousand! It’s quite a task. How do you set about it?  

DAN: It really depends on the design brief from the publisher. Sometimes I’ll be given specific direction, other times I’ll have a completely blank canvas to work with. If the latter, I’ll usually ask for a summary of the plot and I’ll also have the manuscript to refer to when I’m thinking of ideas. I prefer to keep things simple and, for a novel, I like the cover image to be something that’s both literal and symbolic. For Death Wish I knew I wanted to have a long braid of hair, which features in the book, but I also wanted to get across a sense of isolation and vulnerability, themes I felt were a strong thread throughout the story. And I really liked the idea of using an image that perhaps isn’t quite what it seems at first glance; to me this felt representative of the series, and maybe even Bev herself.

MAUREEN: I usually ‘see’ a cover in my head as I write a novel but I have to admit it wasn’t the case with Death Wish. The plot has so many strands I couldn’t picture a single striking image that ‘said it all’. I love what you produced, Dan, but do you find some covers more difficult to design than others?  

DAN: Thank you, Maureen!  And yes, some are more difficult. A while ago I designed the covers for some classic titles and these were surprisingly challenging. Partly because I had pre-conceived ideas about the books themselves which, of course, had an immediate influence on my ideas, but also I couldn’t resist heading to Google to see what other designers had done in the past. This was both useful and daunting at the same time! With a book like Heart of Darkness that’s had countless jacket designs over the years, to think of something completely different didn’t make it the easiest job ever. Hopefully readers enjoyed my efforts!

MAUREEN: Are there differences between designing covers for stand-alone novels and those for a series of books? 

DAN: Yes, there’s a bit more freedom with a standalone book in terms of the general layout of the cover. For something with a series or author style, there will be certain things that have a set look and feel. Like with Bev Morriss series, we always have the title and your name in the same typeface and size, and I work within those constraints so the series has a cohesive feel to it.  Having said that, with Death Wish the publisher and I decided to give the cover a slightly updated look. I think this is important as you have to be mindful of trends and look to see what the general flavour is for book jackets of a particular genre.  I think even with some quite subtle changes we’ve given Death Wish a fresh look, but it still feels part of the family.

MAUREEN: Does it help when you’re designing if you like the story?!

DAN: Yes, it does make the process more enjoyable! I did a cover for a book of short stories (Gracious Lies by Hilda Lolly) which I really enjoyed, so much so that I thought it would be fun to have individual designs for each story. We ended up using these in the book as an introduction to each one. For the book’s cover I wanted to reflect both the style of the writing and the mood of the stories in one, so the wonderful Carol Kemp did the hand lettering for the title which was all flowing and lovely, and then I made it look like it had sprouted some sinister looking thorns. 

MAUREEN: Authors are often asked if they have a favourite book they wish they’d written. Is there a book ‘out there’ you’d really like to have designed the cover for?

DAN: Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes — simple, clever and oddly amusing. 

Tomorrow we turn the tables, and Dan asks Maureen about writing, influences, and champagne!

"Death Wish", by Maureen Carter, is available in eBook format from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and all good digital retailers. 

Cover design by Daniel Raven-Clift of HCT Creative.  

See more of Maureen's books (and Dan's designs) at Creative Content