One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about writing fiction was to read the words aloud. Reading your own work really helps you to pinpoint those clunky bits of narrative or dialogue, or those descriptive scenes that go on for just a bit too long.
Better yet, I’ve found, is to get somebody else to read your work back to you. After all, you as the author know how the rhythm of the story should run and where the emphasis should go for maximum dramatic effect.
But, if those clues are not present in the way the words are presented on the page, then your reader is never going to be able to reproduce that same rhythm in their head. I’ve always believed that more than the subject matter, the characters or the plot, it’s the individual voice of the writer that turns casual readers into continuing fans.
When you pick up a book by an author unknown to you, before you’ve finished the first paragraph—often even the opening sentence—you just know if you like the sound of that writer’s voice. I had this with the first Robert B Parker novel I picked up, the first Ken Bruen and the first Lee Child. More recently, I happened across the Wyatt Storme series by WL Ripley. They all have such a distinctive style that flicks a switch inside my head. Something in the back of my mind goes, “Yes!” and I have to read on.
If you would like to read on, go to MurderIsEverywhere.
One of the most enthusiastic receptions I had last year to the new standalone crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, was from the fabulous Noelle Holten otherwise known as CrimeBookJunkie. And I’m delighted to have been named as one of her Top Reads 2018.
Top Reads 2018 @nholten40 #crimefiction #thrillers #WhatToRead #CrimeBookJunkie
Well HOLY SH*TBALLS – what a year it has been for crime fiction! I seriously can’t believe how many fantastic books I had the pleasure of reading this year – some new authors, some old faves – but all were phenomenal for one reason or another. I’ve been so busy this year myself, with work, writing and trying to keep on top of blog tour reads, that I’ve decided to just post the pictures of all the fantabulous books that got under my skin and stuck with me.
You can search for the reviews via my blog, but trust me – they are all worth reading!
To read the whole of Noelle’s post about her Top Reads of 2018, visit CrimeBookJunkie.
Also, Noelle has her first crime thriller, DEAD INSIDE, coming out in May from Killer Reads/HarperCollins UK. Look out for it!
Fellow crime author and CrimeThrillerGirl blogger, Steph Broadribb recently invited me to answer questions about procrastination, writing in cafés, and the perils of cats.
#CRIMEWRITERSINCAFESPROCRASTINATING – ZOË SHARP TALKS PROCRASTINATION, WRITING ON THE MOVE AND THE PERILS OF CATS @AUTHORZOESHARP
“Today kick-ass thriller writer Zoë Sharp is joining me for Crime Writers In Cafés Procrastinating. As the title suggests, this feature is all about the lengths writers go to procrastinate when they should be writing, and how they (eventually) manage to win against the temptation of the path of procrastination to finish their books.
“I’m a huge fan of Zoe’s books, and super excited to grill her about procrastination, her writing habits and her latest book DANCING ON THE GRAVE.
“Welcome Zoë! So tell me all about your latest book—Dancing On The Grave?”
Zoë Sharp: “Basically, it’s my take on the Washington Sniper incident from a few years ago, but set in the English Lake District. If you want the slightly longer explanation, it’s an exploration of what it means in today’s culture to desperately want to be famous, regardless of what you want to be famous for. It’s about the way we treat our ex-military personnel when we’re finished with them. It’s about loyalty, betrayal, love, and revenge. Just the everyday story of country folk.”
“How long did Dancing On The Grave take to write?”
ZS: “Far too long. I actually finished the first version of this book eight years ago. It was just about to go out on submission when Derrick Bird went on the rampage in the west of Cumbria, shooting twelve people dead and injuring a further eleven before taking his own life. It wasn’t close to the storyline of my book, but at the same time it was too near the mark. The book was withdrawn from submission and I put it away for a long time. It was only recently I felt able to get it out and work on it again.”
“What’s your favourite writing/procrastination spot—home, café, bar, other?”
ZS: “Home, probably, although ‘home’ is something of a moveable feast at the moment. As I write this, I’m actually sitting in the kitchen of a house in the Aveyron valley in southern France, where I’m house and cat-sitting for the whole of the month. That’s always been the beauty of this job—the fact you can do it anywhere.
“Of course, the flip-side of that is that you can also fail to do it anywhere. I like to make pencil notes when I’m out and about, in cafés, usually, or waiting rooms, or wherever, and then type up my notes and expand on them when I get back to my desk. It doesn’t feel right to make notes at my desk. Here, I go and sit at the bottom of the garden, then it’s back to the kitchen table, or the one under an awning outside, to attempt to transcribe my scrawl onto my laptop.
“If I’m in the UK, there are always other jobs that call to me. I’m in the midst of a house renovation project, so there are a million other things to do that are particularly difficult to ignore when the weather’s good and you don’t know how long that state of affairs might continue. This is why there are fewer distractions in the winter. Except for the cats, of course. They love to sit on paper (particularly with muddy feet) or my lap. Or my keyboard. Or my hands. Maybe they’re the feline equivalent of literary critics?”
To read the rest of this entertaining interview, click here.
“This intriguing novel is a departure from Sharp’s acclaimed Charlie Fox thrillers, as this ‘standalone’ narrative has an opening that is as powerful as it is insightful and disturbing.
“Newly qualified Crime Scene Investigator Grace McColl and DC Nick Weston are called out to investigate a shooting. On the first time they meet, they consider that there is something more complicated about this case, something troubling.
“It seems that there is a killer stalking the Lake District; one who carries a Gun.
“Nick Weston’s past has brought him to Cumbria, transferred from London. He is not welcomed by his police colleagues. They are wary of him, as he is an outsider. Grace is also an outsider; committed to her job—she is an intelligent woman who has something to prove, as there is a shadow in her past, one that requires redemption.
“The working relationship and chemistry between Grace and Nick is finely drawn, with excellent characterisation and observation, making the reader ponder if this is the start of a new series.
“The secondary characters are equally well developed including Edith, a lonely, unloved—and in some ways an unlovable teenager; and then there is the deeply troubled Patrick.”
To read the whole review on Shotsmag, click here.
I’m delighted to get this review of DANCING ON THE GRAVE from crime writer Niki Mackay, author of the brilliant I, WITNESS. She said, “I haven’t updated my blog for ages, and I haven’t reviewed as I found myself in a bit of a reading slump! This absolute belter from Zoë Sharp put an end to said slump.”
This story, interestingly, starts with an animal death rather than a human one. A local VIP’s dog no less and this unusual crime is a catalyst straight into the action.
We meet Grace, a diligent CSI collecting evidence, then Detective Nick Weston. They realise early on that the weapon used ought not to have been available and both are determined to get to the bottom of it. A jagged tale of secrets and suspicion builds from this point. They are hindered by the powers-that-be but start to get taken more seriously when someone starts shooting and killing people, and it becomes apparent that the killer is a highly trained sniper.
‘Dancing on the Grave’ is a pacey, well-plotted crime novel with all the twists and red-herrings you would expect from the genre. It has an almost old-fashioned feel to it, and yet everything has a contemporary spin. I think this is achieved not just by the very current issue of shooter crimes, but also by Zoë Sharp’s obvious insight into human psychology and her exploration of themes such as PTSD, loneliness, neglect, and eating disorders.
I went to France at the beginning of July planning to get a start made on the new Charlie Fox book. I’m happy to report that the tentative 15,000 words I’d hoped for morphed into 20,000 once I got into the writing, and I’m even cautiously pleased with the way it’s going so far. I promised myself I’d have a break when I hit that point, and do some driving around to look at locations for later on in the story, but at the same time, I’m anxious not to lose too much momentum.
No chance of getting out of practise with the writing itself, though. I also had a last-minute Q&A to write for the #BlogTour I did at the start of the month for the launch of the new crime thriller standalone, Dancing On The Grave. Thank you so much to everyone who took part or supported me along the way.
And then I was reminded that I’d promised to provide a short story for a proposed anthology earlier in the year. The editor contacted me and asked for a brief sentence or two about the story, and particularly the setting of it. Within a week, if possible.
My mind was a complete blank.
To read the rest of this blog on MurderIsEverywhere, please click here.
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.
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.
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.