One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about writing the Charlie Fox books is that they are not tied to one location. A part of me can see the attraction of a familiar locale and I know it might be a good idea to do this. After all, tours of Rebus’s Edinburgh, Morse’s Oxford, or Aimée Leduc’s Paris are undoubtedly popular.
But every time I sit down to write the next instalment in this series, deciding where she’s going to be heading off to is one of the things that keeps me hooked. The very nature of Charlie’s job in close protection means she has to be minutely aware of her surroundings. I take it as a challenge to try to weave in as much of the ever-changing dynamic between Charlie and her environment as I can into the fabric of the story.
For BAD TURN, number 13 in the series, I wanted a real European setting. I took Charlie to a bodyguard training school in Germany for one of the early books, HARD KNOCKS, and on a bikers’ fast trip around Ireland in ROAD KILL, but this time out I decided it was high time she made a return to mainland Europe.
I’d driven down to the southern area of France just before starting BAD TURN, and the scarcity of both people and other vehicles once we got away from the cities really set my imagination going. Tailing someone without other traffic to use as cover, for example, would present its own difficulties for Charlie.
Read the rest of this article over on Shotsmag Confidential here.
I’ll be talking about the story behind the story, the settings and the characters with either a guest blog or a review every day from pub day, September 27, through to October 06. It should be an interesting ten days. I hope you’ll join me!
Day 1: September 27
Day 2: September 28
Day 3: September 29
Day 4: September 30
Day 5: October 01
TripFiction with Tina Hartas https://www.tripfiction.com
Day 6: October 02
Day 7: October 03
Day 8: October 04
Day 9: October 05
Day 10: October 06
Today is the very last stop on the #BlogTour for the latest standalone crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE. Today I’m the guest of Sean Talbot at Sean’s Book Reviews. Short and sweet…and long. He makes an interesting comment about the length of the book. What are your feelings on the subject? Is there an optimum length for a crime novel, or does it depend on the type?
This book was good and had a lot of intricacies in (the) plot. I like the main character and think it was well written.
(I was) concerned with only one thing and that’s the length of the book. It seems that more and more books have to be over 400 pages which to me is very long for a crime book. I prefer shorter reads where we get to the meat of the story right away.
A close friend of mine decamps from the UK every year to Italy in order to get any writing done. You might think the climate had something to do with it, although it can be just as cold in the wilds of Tuscany as it is in the wilds of the Derbyshire Peak District.
I’ve managed to get quite a bit of work done over the first half of this year. Nevertheless, when I set off for the Aveyron area of southern France at the beginning of July for a month’s house and cat-sitting, I had hopes that my own writing retreat would prove fruitful.
One of the reasons for this was the company I was keeping. I travelled down from the UK through France with my American friend and fellow crime author, Libby Fischer Hellmann. Libby was on a deadline for a book she needed to finish. I really wanted to come back with a decent start made on the next in the Charlie Fox series.
At the same time, we wanted to get out and see something of the surrounding area. Libby had spent time in France years before, and her French came back to her like she’d never been away, whereas I’m a stumbling linguist at the best of times. We agreed that we would spend the mornings chipping away at the word-face, and the afternoons out and about, part exploring and—for me, at least—part researching locations where I’d like to set the book I’m working on right now.
I confess to a certain apprehension. This is the first time I have taken my own, right-hand-drive car onto Continental European roads. Fortunately, coming from the States, Libby found it natural to remind me to stay on the correct side of the road.
We took the traditional Dover-to-Calais route and our first stopover was a short hop down the coast, arriving at the Normandy beaches in thunder, lightning and flash-flooding. I was doubly glad I’d remembered to use Rain-X on all the glass in the car. Call me old-fashioned, but I do quite like to be able to see where I’m going when I’m behind the wheel of a vehicle. With that, and Mrs Google doing sat-nav duties and sending us into fits by mangling the French place names—“périphérique” became “perry-ferricker”—we arrived in good time and good temper.
The following morning was the Fourth of July. We visited the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. A stunning setting for a sobering experience. Row after row of white grave markers looking out over the tranquil beach they died to secure. That place, on that date, brought home the true price of independence.
There are certainly themes here that resonate with the new book, and after visiting I wanted to try to include them in the story.
We were not the only ones making a trip through France. In Tours, heading south, we chanced upon a Slovenian-registered big Honda, so laden down with luggage it was hard to spot the make, never mind the model. No doubt the rider, too, had stopped off to see the beautiful cathedral.
The place we were looking after is in a small town in the Aveyron area between Toulouse and Rodez, lovely open roads with little traffic, winding down to river valley bottoms with narrow stone bridges. Villages with medieval architecture of picture-postcard prettiness.
Belcastel was one such example. Set on a steep hill by the side of the Aveyron river, the ancient castle began life in the ninth century before falling into disrepair at the end of the seventeenth century. It was purchased by a French architect in 1973, who restored and extended it to the current building.
Today, the Château de Belcastel houses exhibitions and art, and it’s even possible to stay there. Not wildly expensive, either, considering the views, not to mention the fact guests have their own moat.
Working in someone else’s house, both Libby and I discovered, certainly has its advantages. For me, the temptation to renovate was removed from me. For Libby, deeply engaged with current American political shenanigans, the lack of twenty-four-hour news channels was a boon to her creativity and productivity.
I found a shady spot in the garden that appealed to me, with the butterflies flickering over the lavender and two cats to keep me company.
So, has our French writers’ retreat proved successful? Well, by the time I took Libby across to Toulouse to catch her train for Paris, where she spent a few days before flying home, she was a few pages away from the final chapter of her latest novel. And this was something she’d feared at the outset she would not be able to complete in time to meet her deadline.
As for me, I’d cautiously hoped to end my sojourn with perhaps a 15,000-word opening to the next Charlie Fox book. As I write this, I have already reached 17,000 words and should have a solid 20,000 done by the time I head up-country again next week for my return ferry.
So, having another writer—or maybe even other writers—present to encourage or lead by example, is clearly very good for me. I shall definitely be repeating this method of working. And the sunshine, lovely fresh food, and open roads of southern France proved a very good place to do so.
This week’s Word of the Week is peradventure, a Middle English word from the French par aventure, meaning perhaps as an adverb. As a noun, it means to have doubt that something is indeed the case, and is often used (when it’s used at all, as it’s a fairly archaic word) in a humorous or slightly mocking context.
Today is also the final installment of the #BlogTour for DANCING ON THE GRAVE. Thank you to everyone who joined me along the journey, and especially to those who invited me to contribute an article, or interview, or who reviewed the book to celebrate the launch at the start of July.
Well, we’ve reached the antepenultimate day of the #BlogTour for DANCING ON THE GRAVE. It’s been a blast so far. And that continued when I read the following opinion from top reviewer LJ Roberts on It Is Purely My Opinion. Yet another call for this standalone to be the first in a new series…
Dancing on the Grave by Zoë Sharp
First Sentence: It was a bad day to die…a perfect one to kill.
Newly-qualified crime scene investigator Grace (McColl) is trying to prove herself after making a disastrous mistake on a previous case. Detective Constable Nick Weston has just been transferred to the Lake District after nearly dying during an investigation in London. Neither of them can understand why they’ve been called out on a dog having been shot except for the presence of a local (MEP)’s wife. Upon examining the dog, it’s clear the shooter wasn’t the local farmer. But why is there a trained sniper in the area, and who was the real target?
It is difficult to say much about this book without giving away spoilers. My best recommendation is to read it cold without having looked at any information about the plot, impossible as that may be. And so…
An excellent opening is one which compels one to continue reading. Zoë Sharp has accomplished that goal in spades with her new standalone which is a remarkable combination of police procedural and psychological thriller.
Read the rest of the review here.
Well, we’re on the home straight with the #BlogTour for the new standalone, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, and I’m delighted to be hosted, yet again, by gracious New Zealander, Judith Baxter, on her Books And More Books blog. I also did a Q&A with Judith over on her Growing Younger Each Day blog, on July 18.
If you have read any of my blog posts in the past, you will be aware that I am a fan of Zoë Sharp and a stalker of Charlie Fox the protagonist in her series. If you haven’t made contact with Charlie, I strongly recommend you do so now.
And now I have been given an advance copy of Zoë’s latest novel, a standalone called Dancing on the Grave.
“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: ‘Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.’” So says master storyteller, Stephen King.
And the opening line in Dancing on the Grave by Zoë Sharp certainly does this. Her opening line? It is a bad day to die…a perfect one to kill.
Read the full review here.
For today’s stop on the #BlogTour, I’m with Anne Bonny Book Reviews for a Guest Post about one of the major characters in the book—that of the disturbed teenager, Edith Airey. She’s a prime example of a supporting player who totally stole every scene she was in, and eventually became one of the stars of the novel. And not in a good way…
Edith in Dancing On The Grave: a standalone crime thriller
I like conflicted characters. They make life interesting. When I started writing my latest standalone crime thriller, Dancing On The Grave, I originally envisaged that the story would centre around the two official characters, CSI Grace McColl (who I first wrote about in a short story called ‘Tell Me’) and DC Nick Weston. As is so often the case, however, the story changed direction in the telling.
Instead of being a straightforward police procedural, as soon as I introduced the ex-military sniper and PTSD sufferer, Patrick Bardwell, and the disturbed teenage girl, Edith Airey, who becomes his spotter, they owned the story. The sniper himself was a complicated mix of predator and victim, but Edith fascinated me.
For the rest of this article on Edith, click here.
My thanks today go to Judith Baxter at Growing Younger Each Day, who has not one but two book blogs and has been a fan of the Charlie Fox books for some time. She’s keeping me in suspense as to what she thinks of DANCING ON THE GRAVE, though, which she will be reviewing on Books And More Books on July 20. Fingers crossed until then!
Those of you who have followed my blog for some time, know that I am a fan of Zoë Sharp, and particularly her protagonist Charlie Fox. Well, now Zoë has created and published a stand-alone novel, DANCING ON THE GRAVE. If you would like to read an excerpt from the book, click here.
I looked forward to reading this book and must thank Ayo Onatade for inviting me to join the tour and to Zoë for providing an advance copy of the book for review.
My review of the book will be available on July 20 my other site, Books & More Books.
Meantime, because I have a need to know, I asked Zoë a few questions about this book and some other things.
JB Hello Zoë, and thanks for agreeing to answer my questions. I hope they are not too intrusive.
After the series on Charlie Fox, was it time to take a break and write another stand alone?
ZS Well, this is not so much ‘after’ as ‘in between’. I’m currently writing the next Charlie Fox, which will be book #13 in the series. Plus, I have the prequel waiting in the wings, so Charlie Fox is still very much alive and kicking. But, it certainly makes you appreciate the familiar more when you take a break from it, I think. It’s been lovely getting back inside Charlie’s head. She has a dry, somewhat laconic sense of humour that makes her voice so distinctive for me as I’m writing.
All the Charlie Fox books, with the exception of a couple of the short stories, are told from first-person Point Of View. Being able to get inside the heads of other characters to tell the story from another perspective is very appealing at times. There are quite a few stories percolating through my brain that can’t be told within the framework of the series, so for those I need to step outside. I couldn’t have told Kelly Jacks’ story in THE BLOOD WHISPERER any other way than third-person POV, and although having a sniper on the loose might have worked very well as a threat for Charlie Fox to face in her capacity as a bodyguard, I would certainly not have been able to go into the mind-set of the peripheral characters as deeply as I’ve been able to do in DANCING ON THE GRAVE.
To read the rest of Judith’s extensive Q&A, please click here.
Day8 of the #BlogTour for the new standalone, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, and yet another call for this to be the start of a new series, this time from Liz Barnsley at Liz Loves Books. This is giving me serious food for thought…
“A departure from the Charlie Fox series here in what I hope is the start of a new series from Zoë Sharp as I loved this and found the characters highly relatable.
“It is in trademark style an intriguing and pacy thriller, some emotive and socially relevant themes explored and a great mystery element with a headline feel.”
Read the rest of Liz’s review here.
…about DANCING ON THE GRAVE being a standalone novel. She’s rooting for this to be the first instalment in a series, and I keep saying I’m not ruling that out! Huge thanks to Jen Lucas for her thoughtful and thought-provoking review on Jen Med’s Book Reviews, which is Day7 of the #BlogTour.
Now I love me a good action thriller and if there is one thing that Zoë Sharp knows how to do (and trust me there are actually many), it is how to write a bloody good action thriller. Her Charlie Fox series is fabulous and her sense of pace, energy, tension and plain old-fashioned, top-notch storytelling is superb. Dancing on the Grave is absolutely no exception.
Now if you are of a sensitive nature and don’t like crimes against animals then this may not be the book for you as it starts in a rather gruesome way. Gruesome yes, but also essential as it sets us up for everything that is to come. It is a very clever and very effective opening giving us a hint as to what is about to happen but also leaving some ambiguity over who the sniper’s target may be and leaving us completely clueless over what their motives are too. But the ending of that opening chapter…well I certainly wasn’t expecting that. Massive curveball. Loved it.
It’s a tough review to write as I don’t want to delve much into story. You need to go on this journey for yourselves. The action is fast paced, the story moving between target and between characters as needed, and, as always, the tension that Zoë Sharp produces on the pages is spot on. Those moments of eerie silence echoing the laser-sharp precision of the sniper’s aim, the calming of their heartbeat just as we see an escalation of our own. It had me gripped from the start, desperate to know more and to find out who what why where and when.
To read the whole of Jen’s in-depth review, click here.