Bookouture sign new crime series by bestselling author, Zoë Sharp

We are delighted to share the news that we have signed a new crime series by bestselling author, Zoë Sharp. Associate Publisher Lucy Dauman signed the deal for three books, with World all language and audio rights. The first book in the series begins when, ten years after she disappeared, a girl claiming to be Blake Claremont turns up at the family home, on the day of her father’s funeral. But the family have their suspicions that she is an imposter – not least because of the shallow grave hidden in the woods. It is up to ex-detective John Byron to uncover the shocking truth. Bookouture will publish in October 2021, with a second book featuring Blake and Byron to follow in April 2022.

Lucy said,

‘I have long been a fan of Zoë’s outstanding characters and fast-paced, twisty plots, and I couldn’t be more excited about this fantastic new series. It promises the same nail-biting tension and jaw-dropping twists as Zoë’s previous books, with two stellar new characters that I know readers will absolutely love. I am over the moon that we will be publishing it, and I can’t wait to introduce Blake and Byron to the world!

Zoë said,

‘I’ve been writing steadily since I was fifteen and been published by traditional houses in London and New York before happily going the indie publishing route with my Charlie Fox and Lakes series of crime thrillers. The fact that Bookouture has tempted me back into the fold tells you how impressed I am with both their approach and their personnel. I’ll be penning the new series alongside my existing strands and can’t wait to see what they do with it!’

Please join us on Facebook and Twitter to celebrate.

Ted Hertel Jr has just reviewed BONES IN THE RIVER for Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine. Here are his thoughts:

The annual Appleby Horse Fair generally draws more than 40,000 tourists including many Travellers and Gypsies from around the area. This causes no end of problems for the police and those who live in the small Lakeland town in which they gather. Tensions always run high between the visitors and the locals, but this time they are exacerbated when a young boy on a bicycle is run over and his body disappears just as the Romany begin arriving. It isn’t long before a body does wash up in the river—only this corpse is the remains of a missing adult male from the area. DC Nick Weston and crime scene investigator Grace McColl must work with their respective teams, and each other, in order to delve into long-held secrets and a prevent violent clash at the Fair.

This is the second novel in Zoë Sharp’s entertaining Lake District trilogy, the first of which was DANCING ON THE GRAVE. You need not have read the earlier novel in order to follow this one. McColl and Weston are interesting protagonists, each of whom carries baggage from prior relationships and their police work. They work with different teams but still manage to find their investigations overlapping. Other characters are equally well drawn, from the villains to the visitors to the Fair. The locals believe that those visitors are responsible for both crimes, including that of the young boy whose body also eventually turns up in the river.

The author beautifully describes the English Lake District, as well as the lifestyles of the Romany, complete with their language and culture. The Fair, which is based on the actual event, is so well-described that it makes one want to visit it. The mystery at the heart of this novel is one that will touch your heart; the secrets behind that mystery will then shatter it.

Sharp is best known for the action and suspense in her outstanding Charlie Fox series. While the reader knows the identity of the young boy’s killer right from the start, this bit of information only heightens the suspense as the killer does everything possible to evade capture. This is an entirely different type of tale from the Fox series, a complex one that will twist your mind right to the novel’s final pages. I look forward to the third volume in this set.

My thanks to Ted Hertel Jr, as always, for the kind words.

TedHertelJr

I was very pleased to be invited to take part in a recent podcast interview with fellow crime thriller authors Adam Peacock (writing name, A.M. Peacock) and Judith O’Reilly, who are part of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

(The NCS is a group of crime authors, not a criminal enterprise, although I understand they have been looking at the lease on a hollowed-out volcano somewhere near Tyneside…)

‘Episode 4 of the Northern Crime Syndicate podcast, hosted by Adam Peacock and co-hosted by Judith O’Reilly, features thriller writer Zoë Sharp. Zoë’s series, featuring protagonist Charlie Fox, has received high praise, with Lee Child stating that Fox is the female Jack Reacher. Join us as we discuss Zoë’s early influences, her journey into crime writing and much, much more…’

The name of Linda Wilson is a well-known one in crime review circles, so I was very pleased that she wanted to take a look at Book No2 in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, BONES IN THE RIVER for Crime Review:

June 13 2020

Both your editors are huge fans of Martin Walker’s Bruno chief of police series that’s set in the Dordogne. Sharon Wheeler enjoyedA Shooting at Chateau Rock, although it’s not the best in the series by some way and has a tendency to plod via lots of tasty meals and Bruno building a hen house. Faintly bemusing, though, was the presence of a long-standing mate of Linda Wilson’s, who was piloting a chopper! And we were equally surprised by an appearance from our dear friend Ayo Onatade, who has a guest spot as a pathologist inBones in the Riverby Zoë Sharp. Yes, we know it’s common in crime fic, but it always brings us up short! As for the book, which is set amidst the annual Appleby Fair, Linda says it’s intelligent and cleverly written, with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns like a true Cumbrian road.

Review

Every year, the Cumbrian village of Appleby-in-Westmoreland plays host to the annual gathering of the Gypsy and Traveller community. This is an event not without controversy and there is something of an uneasy relationship between locals and the fairgoers. This year tensions are running high for more dramatic reasons than usual.

Members of the travelling community are being questioned by the police over the disappearance of a local boy and the discovery of his damaged bike in a skip, with forensic evidence that links back to one of the Gypsies. Vano Smith claims he found the bike by the side of the road but wasn’t involved in any hit and run.

Then matters worsen when a body is discovered in a makeshift grave partly collapsed into the river near the spot where the Gypsies bring their horses to be washed. Inevitably, suspicion falls on the Gypsy and Traveller community. The police are keen not to inflame local tensions, but that’s a big ask when the body of the missing boy is found in the river and is believed to be the victim of a hit and run.

DC Nick Weston and Crime Scene Investigator Grace McColl are required to navigate the tensions riding high in Appleby as well as the inevitable internal stresses of both investigations. Grace’s boss, head CSI Chris Blenkinship, isn’t exactly her biggest fan and on this occasion, he’s dismayed to find that she’s picked up the hit and run case.

Grace is a dogged investigator with considerable flair and ingenuity when it comes to an examination of the evidence and is the force’s most skilled forensic specialist. And Blenkinship has good reason for his concern. It became clear very quickly that he was the person responsible for the boy’s death when driving homes from a dinner party, over the legal limit for drinking and driving. A moment’s inattention was all that it took. Not wanting to jeopardise his career, Blenkinship took the decision to conceal the accident, a decision that will inevitably come back to haunt him, especially with Grace’s involvement.

This is the second outing for Weston and McColl and it’s every bit as good as their introduction in Dancing on the Grave. When I finished their debut I had hopes of this becoming a series and those hopes have been amply fulfilled. Appleby, with its influx of caravans, horses and traders, provides an atmospheric backdrop for another ably executed police thriller that positively oozes a sense of place, making it easy to picture the rolling hills and river valleys, the colourful caravans and their occupants. Zoë Sharp writes well and sympathetically of both townsfolk and incomers, with rights and wrongs on both sides.

As ever, there are surprises in store in the forensics, and Sharp pitches a good mix of plot-driven action and character development, with bags of tension on all sides. Every time I thought I’d got a handle on what had happened, a brisk wind blew across the fells, dispelling my theories and leaving me floundering. The final twist was one I didn’t see coming.

The only thing that came close to bouncing me out of the story was the introduction of the shrewd pathologist, Dr Ayo Onatade. Using the name of such a well-known figure in the world of crime fiction drove a horse and cart at speed through the fourth wall, although I did enjoy the mental images of my friend dealing briskly with all comers and dominating every scene in which she appeared with a force of personality and style that went further than appending her name to a fictional character. If anyone is capable of fighting crime with style, it’s Ayo!

Bones in the River is intelligent and cleverly written, with well-drawn characters and a plot that twists and turns like a true Cumbrian road.

Reviewed 13 June 2020 by Linda Wilson

Read and comment on the full review over on Crime Review.

with Elizabeth Hill, James D Mortain, Caroline Goldsworthy, Dawn Brookes,
moderated by Zoë Sharp

The first weekend in June 2020 should have been CrimeFest in Bristol. Sadly, with the current Covid-19 pandemic still on the loose, the live event has had to be postponed.

For the last few years, it has been my privilege to moderate The Indie Alternative panel on Sunday morning at CrimeFest, which allows indie-published authors to showcase themselves and their work. As a hybrid author myself (half author, half digestive biscuit) I still wanted to give these authors a platform, and what better place than here?

So, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the four diverse and interesting writers below:

Elizabeth Hill

Elizabeth published KILLING THE GIRL in April 2019 and is now busy working on her second novel. ‘We all love a great murder mystery and KILLING THE GIRL explores the reasons why an ordinary woman kills. What pushes her to her limit of endurance and sanity? And could that woman be you?’ Elizabeth is a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors, The Bristol Fiction Writers Group and Noir At The Bar, Bath. She was a speaker at the 2019 Bristol Festival of Literature.

Zoë Sharp: Your debut novel, KILLING THE GIRL, is about a woman who has been living a reclusive life for more than forty years in a large house where the body of a man she murdered is buried in the garden. Now the house is about to be demolished to make way for a bypass and she knows her secret will come to light. It’s an intriguing set-up. What inspired this story?

Elizabeth Hill: I live in south Bristol and there has always been the prospect of a ring road below Dundry Hill. The idea came because at one time there were discussions that this ring road would travel up over the Hill. What if a house was built on its path and what if the reclusive woman who lives there has buried a body? How does she survive being forced to leave her home with the prospect of the murder she got away with coming back to haunt her? What will she do? I loved travelling on that journey with her because I didn’t know what would happen, how she would survive, and who else she would kill. She became more vengeful than I’d originally imagined as she told her story.

Zoë Sharp: You’re already at work on your next book. Will there be a continuation of any characters from the first novel, or do you intend to write standalones?

Elizabeth Hill: My second book is a stand-alone but I want to retain the ‘Killing The…’ theme to give a sense of a series, and to be part of my brand of three novels. All my novels will feature women who have killed, or caused the death of someone. Reasons why women kill as a theme for the mystery novel fascinate me.

Zoë Sharp: What was your road to publication? Did you consider or try to find a traditional publisher or go the indie route right away? And why?

Elizabeth Hill: I tried to attract an agent, but it didn’t work. I had overwhelming praise from two big agents during a webinar featuring my first page that came to nothing. It was the positive response to my writing from my editors that gave me the ‘nerve’ to self-publish. Martin Ouvry teaches creative writing at London Uni so when he said my novel was excellent that was a great endorsement, and the impetus for me to bite the bullet and go for it.

Zoë Sharp: What, for you, are the best and worst aspects of being indie published? What do you enjoy doing the most and what do you find something of a chore?

Elizabeth Hill: Marketing, advertising, and all that happens outside of writing that sucks up my time, but I have to learn how to get my book noticed. The plus side is mixing with other authors and becoming immersed in a whole new world—and a lovely world at that. I’ve met some wonderful people and the best thing is that there is no competition because readers will buy every one of our books—and more.

Zoë Sharp: How do you go about marketing your work and building your readership? What do you find your most useful tool or platform for this?

Elizabeth Hill: I’m still learning this! Various book promotion sites with email lists help. I haven’t built an email list because I don’t blog or write news updates, etc. Experimenting and learning from my mistakes and feedback is key to progress. Learning who I should target with advertising and what I should invest in—but that’s ongoing and will probably change as markets change. I’m on Goodreads and have 103 ratings. NetGalley worked as readers that liked my novel listed it at Barnes and Noble, The Indie Bookstore, and a library in the US.

 Zoë Sharp: What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just writing their first novel and considering indie publishing?

Elizabeth Hill: Write the best novel you can because without a great novel nothing you do will get you anywhere. Get as many people to read it as possible and take their feedback seriously. Then re-write it! Use a story editor and re-write again. Before you publish, use a proof reader and read it again several times. That’s the best piece of advice—write the novel you want to write and then make sure it’s the best it can be.

James D Mortain

James is a former British CID Detective with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary turned crime fiction writer. ‘He brings compelling action and gritty authenticity to his writing through years of police experience. He began writing in 2012, following a chance encounter in a Bath bar with SAS veteran, TV personality and author, Chris Ryan. Using his own real-life experiences within a busy CID department, James creates gripping, fast-paced crime thrillers that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat until the very last page.’

His first series has become a Kindle bestseller both in the UK and overseas. Featuring Detective Andrew Deans, these books are a chilling blend of police procedural and the paranormal. His latest work, DEAD RINGER, features a new character, DI Robbie Chilcott, in the start of a new urban crime series set in Bristol, UK.

Zoë Sharp: I have to ask, what was it about meeting Chris Ryan that inspired you to start writing? How long did it then take you to write your first book? And were you still a serving police officer at the time?

James D Mortain: I had left the police one month before that fateful meeting and it was actually Chris who suggested that I possessed the knowledge and first-hand police experience that most crime writers would kill for, and, he suggested, why didn’t I give writing a go? My first book, STORM LOG-0505 took around four years to write. I really had no idea what I was doing at the start and didn’t know if I had the ability within me to write a book. It turns out I had enough of a story to create a trilogy!

Zoë Sharp: Before you wrote your latest novel, the first in a new series with DI Robbie Chilcott, you wrote three paranormal police procedurals with Detective Andrew Deans. Why the paranormal element? And why change to your new main protagonist? What was it about the story of DEAD RINGER that needed a new voice to tell it?

James D Mortain: As you would have already discovered, my writing was somewhat spontaneous in nature, and Chris Ryan had told me to write about what I knew and also write about what would keep me entertained. As a police officer, life was about proving facts or disproving explanations through the gathering of reliable evidence. I thought it would be fun to challenge that process via a topic that divides opinion and belief, and cannot be proven one way or the other. I created the new DI Chilcott series acting on the advice of another author who said I could be missing a large chunk of readership that may be put off by the paranormal elements of my trilogy. I plan to continue both series and I have a far away dream that one day, Deans and Chilcott will both come together in a shiny new series.

Zoë Sharp: What was your road to publication? Did you consider or try to find a traditional publisher or go the indie route right away? And why?

James D Mortain: Gosh, my road to publication was pretty rocky. After a couple of years of endless self-edits and professional edits, I took the plunge and queried a handful of agents. To my utter astonishment, I had a response from a big London agent within the first forty-eight hours, requesting the manuscript to STORM LOG-0505. A detailed response followed with fantastic advice on how I could improve the story and an invitation to resubmit my manuscript. I was absolutely delighted and thought I had a fighting chance of securing an agent, but then within the week, I was struck down with viral meningitis and life for me and my family changed in an instant. I was seriously affected by the symptoms and spent the next few months undergoing various brain and physical tests. Unable to work my day-job, let alone re-edit my book, my cognitive abilities were badly inhibited and for reasons I still cannot explain, I didn’t inform the agent I was ill. Needless to say, I lost that chance and so when I was better placed, I decided to forge my own destiny and publish my book independently.

Zoë Sharp: What, for you, are the best and worst aspects of being indie published? What do you enjoy doing the most and what do you find something of a chore?

James D Mortain: The best part of being indie is having total control of your products: from book cover design to pricing and everything in between. The worst part is finding available time and ‘discoverability’—how to get my book before the eyes of potential readers? I don’t find anything a chore. I think it’s a mindset that indies have to have; there is no one element of publishing a book that is less important than the next and so they need equal attention. Get one part of the ingredient wrong and you’ll likely fail. I actually love editing. I hated it at first, because I put far too much emphasis on the time it had taken to write the swaths of text I was then deleting, rather than appreciating just how much better the story had become.

Zoë Sharp: How do you go about marketing your work and building your readership? What do you find your most useful tool or platform for this?

James D Mortain: I use Facebook and Amazon advertising to help with discoverability. Having a series helps to build loyal readership and I’m blessed to have avid readers who simply can’t get enough of Deans and Chilcott. I subscribe to Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula training modules. This is a paid product, it doesn’t come cheap, but the advice and hands-on tuition is priceless. It covers everything from day one of being a writer to advanced advertising. It has certainly helped me to improve my skills and grow my author presence. I now also have a publicist who is great at tapping up press and media leads.

Zoë Sharp: What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just writing their first novel and considering indie publishing?

James D Mortain: Don’t cut corners and don’t rush to publish…and always believe anything is possible.

Caroline Goldsworthy

Caroline describes herself as an Essex girl living in Suffolk. She was born in Chelmsford and moved to Colchester aged three. Going to university in her early thirties, Caroline graduated with a BA in Spanish Language and Linguistics and won a full scholarship for an MA in Language Acquisition. It was during this time that Caroline discovered she really liked writing.

Her debut novel TANGENT, loosely inspired by events in Ipswich 2006, was shortlisted in 2019 for The Selfies Award—a new prize for self-published authors. The second in the series, RECOMPENSE, is out now, with book three on the way. She has also written SYNNÖVE: THE KING’S CUPBEARER, a murder mystery set in 625 AD.

Zoë Sharp: I well remember the Ipswich prostitute murders which inspired your first DCI Ronnie Carlson book, TANGENT. What was it about this case that made you particularly want to use it as the basis for your debut?

Caroline Goldsworthy: I moved to Ipswich in September 2006 and the first young woman, (Tania Nicol) went missing at the end of October. Her body was found on 8th December. In the meantime another woman went missing (Gemma Adams) and her body was found in the same area as Tania on 2nd December. I was taking my Doberman puppy for a walk and a man told me that I was the first woman he’d seen out on her own in ages. I shrugged it off, nonchalant that it was daytime and I was far from the town centre, but… when I got to the far end of Longstrops (the open ground where we walked) the Police were doing a line search on the other side of the hedge. The last two women had been found about 3-4 miles from where I lived. It brought it all home. How close it had come to me was really scary.

I am old enough to have been around when the Yorkshire Ripper was at large and there was one thing that struck me over the difference in the media response to the women. In Ipswich in the mid-2000s they were “Somebody’s Daughter” in the 1970s and 80s, they were considered disposable and that death was an “occupational hazard”. Until the student was murdered – the first “innocent” victim.

So that was in my head melting away. I met someone who was later in the Cutting Edge programme Killer in a Small Town, and I was inspired by the story of Anneli Alderton and her brother’s memories of her. For a long time I wondered why she got off the drugs and the game and then came back to Ipswich.

All of those things went into the melting pot and a story began to form. I spent a summer doing voluntary work one afternoon a week at Iceni (the drug outreach centre) and was further inspired by the women I met there. I knew that I didn’t want the women in my book to be feeble victims. I wanted them strong but addicted to that heinous drug.

Zoë Sharp: You have also written SYNNÖVE: THE KING’S CUPBEARER, a murder mystery set in the early medieval period. Is this going to be another series, and what drew you to historical mysteries as well as modern crime?

Caroline Goldsworthy: I live near Sutton Hoo, which is the site of a Saxon ship burial. The fantastic treasures are in the British museum and copies are in the museum at Sutton Hoo. I was on a guided walk, standing on mound one (argued to be Raedwald’s grave) and the guide was giving such an atmospheric description of the funeral cortege that it was as if I could see her walking towards me. It was very surreal. She started life in a short story and it grew into a novel. I had great fun researching it.

Is she going to make a series? To be honest, I’m not sure at this stage. I left her story as Christianity is making inroads into the pagan beliefs. I am sure Synnöve will have strong views on that.

Zoë Sharp: What was your road to publication? Did you consider or try to find a traditional publisher or go the indie route right away? And why?

Caroline Goldsworthy: I finished writing the first draft of Tangent in 2017. I’d been on an Arvon course in Crime Fiction and Forensics (run by Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper – they write together as Ashley Dyer).

At this stage I had no idea if I could actually write or not. I had no idea if my writing was any good. I received a lot of positive feedback from that course.

So I did, as everyone does, and tried several agents. I did this far too soon. The book wasn’t polished enough. I did get a full MS request (from a very big agency) but, when my work was rejected at that stage I was devastated. I cried for a week!

Then I got in touch with Ian Hooper at the Book Reality Experience, he took it all over for me with a solid contract with timelines and an agreed publication date. And in December 2018 I had a published book.

Zoë Sharp: What, for you, are the best and worst aspects of being indie published? What do you enjoy doing the most and what do you find something of a chore?

Caroline Goldsworthy: The best part is the freedom and independence. I can write what I want (within reason as I now have readers and they have their expectations of me), but I do get to make things up and sell those stories to people which has got to be one of the best jobs ever. I’m planning a different series for next year which will be released under a pen name.

Zoë Sharp: How do you go about marketing your work and building your readership? What do you find your most useful tool or platform for this?

Caroline Goldsworthy: I really struggle with the marketing side of things. This is the one thing I find a bit of a chore. Despite all appearances I am quite shy and I’m still struggling with the “gosh who wants to know about little me?” I know I have to get past this and I am working on it. I need to spend some time updating the back matter in my books and make sure that there are links to my newsletter page and the other books that I have now written.

Zoë Sharp: What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just writing their first novel and considering indie publishing?

Caroline Goldsworthy: Take it seriously. Publishing is a business and you need to treat it as a proper job.

Once you have written that first book, write another and write a third. Make them a series. Get good covers—research your genre. Get the best editor you can afford.

There are 8 million books on Kindle alone. With one book you will make the merest plop in the ocean. Remember this and keep writing. Readers move on. Make sure you have something for them to move on to. When they love you, you’ll earn their loyalty—but it’s a two-way deal. Take care of your readers and keep writing stories they will love.

PS I wish I’d listened to this advice when I heard it the first time.

Dawn Brookes

Dawn is a British author with a long nursing pedigree and takes regular cruise holidays for research purposes! She brings these passions along with a Christian background and a love of clean crime to her writing. The surname of her protagonist, Rachel Prince, is in honour of her childhood dog, who used to put his head on her knee while she lost herself in books.

Bestselling author three memoirs of nurse training in the 1970s, Dawn worked as a hospital nurse, midwife, district nurse and community matron across a thirty-nine-year year career. Before turning her hand to writing for a living, she had multiple articles published in professional journals and co-edited a nurse textbook.

She grew up in Leicester, later moved to London and Berkshire but now lives in Derbyshire. Dawn holds a bachelors degree with Honours and a Masters degree in education. Writing across genres, Dawn also writes for children.

Zoë Sharp: You have written six novels in your Rachel Prince cruise mysteries, the latest of which is MURDEROUS CRUISE HABIT, and book seven is due out in August. Which came first, the cruising or the desire to write crime fiction? Was it a conscious decision to use the cruise element to give your stories a greater hook to appeal to a segment of readers you felt was perhaps not catered to? What’s the appeal to you?

Dawn Brookes: Cruising came first. I went on my first cruise whilst still working full-time in the British health service in 2006 and fell in love with it.

Yes it was a conscious decision to set the mysteries on a cruise ship. I tended to read in the clean, less graphic murder mystery series and thought it would be fun to use the cruise ship setting rather than the traditional village. There’s a lot of interest in cruising from both seasoned and non-cruisers and because of its international nature both among crew and passengers, I felt it would lend itself to a series.

At first, I had the idea of a murder mystery with the ‘upstairs, downstairs’ appeal of Downton Abbey. The crew provide the stability of characters along with the protagonist whose best friend is a cruise ship nurse. The passengers are the newcomers who bring their issues on board and add to the intrigue. The luxurious setting adds that feel-good factor giving people an escape.

Zoë Sharp: You have also written nursing memoirs, books for children, and you have the first in a new series featuring a private investigator, Carlos Jacobi, in the Derbyshire Peak District. Is this the same Carlos from the Rachel Prince books? Why did you decide to spin him off into a series of his own?

Dawn Brookes: Yes, my first book was a memoir and reminded me of a childhood ambition to write full-time. I decided to spin Carlos off so that I could have a series based on land. As a private investigator he will be able to travel around the UK and abroad. I also wanted to explore writing from the POV of a male protagonist.

Lady Marjorie is popular with readers too. I was going to kill her off in the first book in series but changed my mind and I’m so glad I did. She has her own following.

Zoë Sharp: What was your road to publication? Did you consider or try to find a traditional publisher or go the indie route right away? And why?

Dawn Brookes: Indie publishing was always going to be my choice, though as I wouldn’t have the patience to wait a few years to publish. Also, now I’m older, I don’t have time on my side!

I was contacted last year by an indie publisher and offered a contract but I declined as by that time I was working as a full-time writer. It would take a huge offer to tempt me away from indie publishing.

Zoë Sharp: What, for you, are the best and worst aspects of being indie published? What do you enjoy doing the most and what do you find something of a chore?

Dawn Brookes: The best aspects relate to being in control of my own destiny and owning the rights to my work. I enjoy being involved with the cover design although I employ a designer and I like working with my editor. The worst aspect is that in some quarters it’s still looked down upon and seen as second best although these attitudes are changing.

The thing I enjoy mostly is the creative side, the writing and also the pleasure I get when readers contact me to tell me how much they love my work. Marketing is a chore for me, I do it because I have to but it’s not my favourite. I also found listening to my audiobook chapters to check for errors not to my liking, I’ve passed this on now.

Zoë Sharp: How do you go about marketing your work and building your readership? What do you find your most useful tool or platform for this?

Dawn Brookes: My main marketing platform is Amazon Ads and these, though not as cheap as they were are the most fruitful. I use Facebook ads around launch and at intervals but these tend to have a short life in terms of return for me. I have a website and a social media platform (mostly Facebook) where I stay in touch with my most loyal followers. I write a monthly newsletter to people who have subscribed to let readers know of anything new and about new books.

Zoë Sharp: What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just writing their first novel and considering indie publishing?

Dawn Brookes: Do your homework and invest in editing and cover design. Some things you can do with a little less money, but some things will hurt you if you don’t get it right.

So, it only remains for me to thank my panellists for their time and patience answering my questions. And to say that I’ve read and enjoyed all these indie authors’ latest novels, so if you’re looking for another good book during lockdown, look no further!

This week’s Word of the Week is interrobang, which is the name for when you combine an exclamation mark with a question mark—thus?! Thanks to EvKa for spotting these on fellow author Tim Hallinan’s page.

You can read and comment on this blog over on Murder Is Everywhere.

MIE-title2

Today is Day 9 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Last stop on the tour is ShotsMag Confidential, where I’m the guest of the remarkable Ayo Onatade, talking about taking the first book in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, from being a standalone into the start of a new series.

Although I’ve said I’ll do three books with CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston for the moment, I’m not ruling out more. And if the response is as positive as it’s been so far, that has become a distinct possibility!

When is a Series not a Series

There was Never Going to Be a Second Book
When my Lakes-set crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE came out in late 2018, it was fully intended as a standalone novel. In fact, I stated as much in the sub-title of the book.
I’m not quite sure who I was trying to convince.
That story is my take on the Washington Sniper incident from back in 2002, but transported to the English Lake District. I focused the story around four of the main characters—rookie CSI Grace McColl; recently transferred Detective Constable Nick Weston; the sniper himself; and the disturbed teenage girl who becomes his spotter.
Unlike my first-person POVCharlie Fox series, DANCING ON THE GRAVE was written in close third-person viewpoint, so I could get right inside the heads of the characters—including the perpetrators. That made it feel, to me as I wrote it, unlike the usual police procedural. The story allowed me to explore a number of themes that were important to me, about the abandonment of former military personnel after their service was up, and what seems to be the current obsession with ‘being famous’ without regard to reason.
But I didn’t think it would be an easy book to follow up, even if I’d been intending to. Reviewers and readers had other ideas.
Such was the response to Grace and Nick that I was eventually persuaded to give them a second outing. (Although, strictly speaking, Grace’s first appearance was in a short story,Tell Me, which you can currently read on the Crime Readers’ Association website.)
The basic idea for BONES IN THE RIVER has been with me in some form or another for more than fifteen years. Back in the early 2000s, I was living in the small market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland in Cumbria, while building a house in the Eden valley. Every year in the first week in June, Appleby Horse Fair takes place in the town. It’s been held in one form or another since medieval times, but since the beginning of the last century it’s grown into the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.
Held from Thursday to the following Wednesday (but mainly Friday to Sunday) the Fair attracts around 10,000 members of the Travelling community—quadrupling the population of the town. Another 30,000 visitors flock in to watch the spectacle of horses being washed in the River Eden and shown off along the Flashing Lane.
Locally, it’s greeted with mixed feelings. There are those who love it for the extra business and revenue it generates. And equally those who hate it for the disruption it causes. Not just during Fair week, but also in the run-up to the event, as the different Romany clans begin to assemble in outlying villages.
It is, I was told, a very good time to settle old scores. If one of your neighbours has pissed you off, you wait until the Fair to get your own back, and blame it on the Gypsies. The police are always out in number and trouble is, shall we say, not unknown.
So I set my story against this backdrop. It was somehow a metaphor for what was going on in the country at large over Brexit, where outsiders were viewed with suspicion and distrust. My aim was to portray without romanticising or demonising either. People are people, and there are good and bad of all types.
I also wanted to look closely at the effects of a split-second bad decision on someone who has spent their life on the ‘right’ side of the law. To see the slow, corrosive consequences as they are forced to compound their sins.
And, having discovered the title BONES IN THE RIVER as part of a song by Gillian Welch, I knew I was going to have to make the River Eden as much a character in the book as the people.
Once again, you see one crime as it’s committed and I make no effort to hide the identity of the perpetrator for long. But then a second body emerges, and there’s more mystery to the who and why.
If people react as well to BONES as they did to DANCING, then it’s a style I hope to repeat. I’ve already promised a third instalment with Grace and Nick. After that, it’s up to my readers. If they like what they see (including the Force Medical Examiner, one Dr Ayo Onatade) then there will be more crimes to come in the wild hills of Cumbria!
Read the illustrated version of the post over on ShotsMag Confidential.

Day 8 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today, I’m the guest of the amazing Vic Watson on her Elementary V Watson website, talking about What I Learned From the Day Job:

What I Learned From The Day Job: Zoë Sharp

I suppose there was half a chance that writing fiction might have been my day job, right from the start. After all, I penned my first novel at the age of fifteen—and I do mean ‘penned’. I wrote the entire thing, long-hand, in a month, and gave myself the most appalling writers’ cramp in the process.

That early effort did the rounds of all the major publishers, where it received what’s known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’—everybody said they loved it but nobody actually wanted to publish it.

Looking back, I’m rather glad about that.

Because, in order to be a writer, you need different experiences under your belt. At the age of fifteen, I’d had few worth mentioning. Apart from living aboard a catamaran from the age of about seven and leaving school at twelve. But that, as they say, is probably another story.

Having failed at my first attempt to be a novelist, I became side-tracked by a variety of jobs in my teenage years, including crewing boats and learning astro-navigation. I was mad keen on horses, rode competitively, and once even took part in a rodeo. I learned to shoot—did a little competing there, too. Long guns, mostly. I considered myself an average shot with a handgun but, as I discovered on my last visit to a US indoor gun range, most people can manage to miss the target entirely at less than ten feet.

As for jobs, I became a freelance motoring writer at the height of the classic car boom of the late 1980s. That quickly transmuted into being a photojournalist, having taught myself both how to write commercial magazine articles and also how to take images good enough for numerous front covers and centre spreads.

It was hardly surprising, then, that eventually I’d have to start writing a character who was a photographer. Enter Grace McColl, first in DANCING ON THE GRAVE and now in BONES IN THE RIVER. Grace started out as a keen amateur photographer, who became involved in providing evidence for the defence in a court case. She was then approached by the Head CSI at Cumbria police, who asked her if she’d ever thought of joining the side of the angels. Always nice to be able to write any parts of the story concerning photography without having to do lots of research.

My time spent writing about cars also played a part in BONES IN THE RIVER, which begins with a hit-and-run incident. Understanding how the mechanics of a vehicle work makes writing scenes with them in so much easier and, I hope, more accurate.

Plus, all that time spent with horses came in very useful for a book that takes place during the largest Gypsy and Traveller horse fair in Europe. There were still plenty of times when I had up to a dozen different scientific research books laid on the table at the side of my desk as I wrote, though. Fortunately, forensic science and pathology are such fascinating subjects.

They tell you to write what you know. I disagree. I think you should write what you’re desperate to find out instead.

Read the full article over on Elementary V Watson.

Day 7 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today, it’s the turn of the wonderful Jen Lucas to review the book for Jen Med’s Book Reviews. A thought-provoking look at the underlying themes, plus a plea for more!

My Thoughts

If you like a mystery in which CSI and Detective work side by side (sort of) in order to solve a crime—one that in this case, at least from the start, isn’t clear to them is even a crime yet, then this is definitely the book for you. Now, as readers we are faced with a perspective that is completely separate from that of the investigating team. We know things that they have yet to discover, but then they are set to make a discovery that will take us by surprise too. Confused? You won’t be if you read the book—which I highly recommend you do as it is a brilliant read.

We start with a case of a potential hit and run, one with a startling conclusion that will guarantee to take you by surprise. But this is not the only thread in this story and when a skeleton is discovered on the riverbank close to the annual Horse Fair in Appleby, it leads Grace McColl and Nick Weston to a group of Travellers who are haunted by both secrets and a familial legacy which leads to all kinds of conflicts.

It is easy to paint Travellers in a negative light, as nothing more than thieves, not to be trusted. It is the reputation they have earned, whether justified or not, as they lead a lifestyle that many in the more rooted community cannot understand. However, whilst there is an air of mystery about certain members of the community, Zoë Sharp has worked hard not to bow to any singular stereotype, or make any aspersions about Travellers in general, whilst still conveying the judgement and prejudice that their community is subjected to. It is a delicate balance but very carefully handled. It was the elements of the story in which the Traveller culture is explored more closely, that idea of the sort of head of a clan, which I found fascinating. The story served to challenge my own prejudices without alienating me from what I was reading and I often found myself incensed by the behaviour of the self proclaimed civilised locals who sought to discriminate against the Travellers in their midst. Like every community, there are the good and the bad folk, and the bad are not always easy to identify whilst those you may trust least can often take you by surprise.

I do love the characters of Grace and Nick and the chemistry between them is undeniable. It’s not an easy partnership, several obstacles standing in their way, not least of which is Nick’s partner—the mother of his child. Theirs is a complicated relationship, not likely to be made any easier by revelations from within this book. Then there is Grace’s ex-husband—a man who cannot take a hint when told that they are over. Of course that’s not made any easier when you factor in Grace’s mother, Eleanor. Oh my word how I like her. She is a canny lady that’s for sure and she has the measure of those around her very quickly. She is keen, quick witted and very sly in her own way. A brilliant character and it’s easy to see where some of Grace’s spirit comes from. And it’s a good thing that Grace is so determined and strong as she will need her wits about her this time around as at least one of the people she is hunting for knows how to stay one step ahead.

One other character who was something of a revelation in this book is Queenie. Although she lives her life in a largely patriarchal community where her only role is to support her husband and bring up her children (and I say only with a roll of my eyes and more than a hint of sarcasm), she is so strong of spirit and heart that you cannot help but admire her. She is the calm at the heart of a storm, a voice of reason unafraid to stand up for what she believes in, no matter what peril she puts herself in. She is naturally wary of the police having had no reason to trust them in the past, but the reluctant respect she shares with Grace helps to drive the story. There is a real depth to her character and she is easy to grow to like. Although it’s not always easy to understand her acquiescence to her husband and brother, there is that underlying spark that signals a woman who will ultimately not be cowed by others.

The book is full of moments of tension and conflict and moments that will make you smile in spite of a very hard hitting storyline. It is a tale of long held secrets, of prejudice and mistrust and of family, for good or for bad. Parts will make your heart break, others will even make you angry or perhaps make you laugh. But what they will do is combine to produce a storyline that is 100% absorbing and a completely compelling read in a series I am loving.

I know this series is set to be a trilogy, but then it was only ever going to be a standalone at one stage. Is it too much to hope for that after book three there might just be room for a little more? Fingers crossed as these books are definitely recommended.

Read the review and leave a comment over on Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

Day 6 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today the fabulous Noelle Holten has posted her review at Crime Book Junkie. I think it’s fairly safe to say she enjoyed the book, but don’t take my word for it:

Set in Cumbria / Kirkby Stephen / Appleby the reader is immersed in a novel which looks at the travelling community; discrimination; blame; fear; family; loyalty; grief; secrets; consequences; mistrust; corruption; loss; deception and a search for the truth/justice.

Zoë Sharp is one of my favourite authors because no matter what, she delivers a story that instantly has you on the edge of your seat. What an opening! My eyes widened as I read the final sentence and that was it – HOOKED! What I loved about this book was the puzzle that keeps you guessing in relation to the secondary thread whilst the main storyline has you screaming at the characters as they unravel a horrible crime – you see, the reader knows early on who the police and CSI are looking for – and you absolutely won’t believe it! So it’s not the WHO it is the HOW the outcome will be revealed that will have you racing through the pages! Within the pages, there is great description – you are there in the moment – and it’s hard not to imagine the beauty of the setting balanced against the horror of the crime… There is an authenticity to the novel as well, it was clear that Zoë Sharp did her research and I also enjoyed the #kickass moments – some that might make even Charlie Fox proud!

When I read the first book: DANCING ON THE GRAVE I wanted more – I loved DC Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl so was thrilled to hear that Zoë took on board her readers *ahem* demands and followed up with this book! But readers – both are fabulous stand-alone stories so you can read them on their own – but given we learn a little bit about each of the main players in the first book, you may as well read it – it’s brilliant! DC Nick Weston is still trying to prove himself but we learn a lot more about him and I have to say, I love him even more. Same applies to Grace McColl – she’s determined and not afraid to follow her gut but the insight we receive in BONES IN THE RIVER about Grace goes a long way to explain or hint at why she is this way. I also like the almost uncertainty that hovers over the relationship (personal and professional) between Grace and Nick. And Zoë Sharp can write a baddie well – but in this novel, there are a few who might surprise you when all is revealed and you may even feel sorry for some…

So would I recommend this read? That would be a hell-to-the-yeah I would! Another cleverly constructed and riveting read from the oh-so-talented, Zoë Sharp! BONES IN THE RIVER delivers everything I look for in a crime thriller: relatable characters, a compelling and believable plot and a pace that is sharp, fast and addictive. Highly recommended!

You can read or comment on the review over at Crime Book Junkie.

Day 5 of the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER. Today I’m the guest of Sara Weiss at the Book Lovers Forever group on Facebook. This is an invite-only group, so I’ve shared Sara’s review below:

CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston are back in book two in the Lake Thriller trilogy. The book opens with a murder. This isn’t a whodunnit, we find out immediately who the killer is although the police don’t know. During the investigation of this crime a body washes up in the river and the two cases become intertwined.

I really enjoyed the procedural aspect of the story. I also like these characters very much. There were a couple of plot devices I did not enjoy. I won’t get into specifics because it might influence the reader; I just want to explain the lower star rating. Overall, this was a solid story with great characters. It was well researched, or at least seemed to be, the details were very interesting. I really like all the animals, from pets to breeding horses, the personalities were as filled out as their human counterparts.

This could definitely be read as a stand alone, but the first book, DANCING ON THE GRAVE is fantastic.