The Devil’s Daughters

Aug 2015

So it’s here at last! My second novel is on the shelves, both real and virtual, for people to read. Publication day is always exciting. Seeing your book in all its glory with that shiny cover and inviting blurb is an emotional moment. Finally the novel you been working on for the last year or longer, is out there. But of course as well as being a day of celebration it is also a day of apprehension. Will people like what you have written? Has all the research and painstaking editing paid off? Does the story hang together? Are the characters that you have created with such care, as real to other people as they are to you? Authors never really know the answers to those questions. All we can do is hope that we have done enough for the answers to be yes.
I hope that you will enjoy reading ‘The Devil’s Daughters’ as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now it’s time to turn to the next novel. In fact I’ve already started it and I’m busy greeting old characters, meeting some new ones and creating more fiendish crimes to be solved.

And for my next trick…

14th June 2015

At last I have waved a reluctant goodbye to my second novel ‘The Devil’s Daughters’ and delivered it to my lovely editor. I say almost but no doubt there will be some final tweaks to make. It’s a strange feeling to be letting go of something that I’ve been so focused on for the last 18 months or so – a mix of emptiness, trepidation and excitement, not unlike waving off a child as they leave home for the first time and make their way in the world. Now though I am turning my attention to the next novel and a non-fiction book too, so there’s plenty to keep me occupied over the summer months and beyond. The research phase of a new book is exciting and I love it. For the novel I have made some preliminary decisions about themes, setting and storylines already so now it ‘s about firming things up into a more detailed synopsis and writing a few chapters. But alongside that process is my favourite bit – reading and possibly a research trip or two. I’ll keep you posted.

The Devil’s Dinner: Food in the ‘City of Devils’.

8th June 2015

If you’ve read ‘City of Devils’ you’ll know that food and wine are intrinsic aspects of my writing. In particular I use them to convey my lead character’s voyage of discovery in a new country. Turin, where the book is set, is in the region of Piedmont, a centre for some truly wonderful cuisine and these days home of the Slow Food Movement. During one of my research trips I went to a Sunday morning farmer’s market which gave me the chance to experience the fresh produce from the area at first hand. There was also a book- stall and I was lucky enough to find a collection of local recipes that dated back to the 19th century. I have used some these in ‘City of Devils’ and also the sequel ‘The Devil’s Daughters’ and I thought that it would be fun to share some of them with you.
One of my favourite scenes is where my protagonist James Murray is taken by his new employer Cesare Lombroso to a local trattoria. Here they dine on acciughe al verde (anchovies in green herb sauce) and finanziera, (a rich casserole with all sorts of bits that might be difficult to get hold of like veal brains and spinal cord and chicken crest braised in red wine). Here is the recipe for the first dish, which is rather more appetising and has more accessibly ingredients.
Acciughe al Verde
Serves 4
20 anchovies, filleted and rinsed of salt.
3 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh parsley and basil.
A dried chilli pepper.
The yolks of 2 hard boiled eggs.
Extra virgin Ligurian olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar.
Chop the herbs, garlic, chilli and egg yolks and place in a bowl. Add the vinegar and oil to make a dense sauce – the consistency of single cream. Arrange your anchovies on your serving dish and cover with sauce. Then simply repeat these layers until you run out.
I ate this dish in a Torinese restaurant called Tre Galli in the Via Agostino 25 accompanied with some fresh crusty bread and a glass or two of an elegant, citrussy chardonnay from the Langhe. Well I do like to be thorough in my research!

The Editing Process

31st mar 2015

Finally after much blood, sweat and tears, swearing, coffee, wine, a bit of screaming, endless post it notes on my plotting wall and countless anguished discussions with my husband (my anguish, his patience) I managed to produce a first draft of the sequel to ‘City of Devils’ which is called ‘The Devil’s Daughters.’ I then entered the editing process and although I know that this is not the case, it somehow feels as if the title is the only thing that has stayed the same. This, I hasten to add, is entirely my fault and not my lovely editor’s. She gave me her usual helpful feedback and line edits. It’s me. I just can’t let go. Every time I go through I see something that I want to change. And then of course when you do that - even if it’s just a small thing - it can cause major ripples throughout the book. The chaos effect is alive and well and living in my manuscript. But it isn’t just plot developments that have this result. The motivation of my characters suddenly starts to haunt me. Would he/she really do/say that? More changes are made…then unmade…then made again. It is like living on a small boat in the middle of an Atlantic storm - up and down - a bit of sickness - exhilaration and then despair. But then something mysterious happens. You force yourself to down tools and get on with something else. When you go back the storm has passed and you are in calmer waters. The changes required become clearer and you can finally see what needs to be done. But letting it go is the really difficult thing. Like dumping a bad boyfriend, you know you must but you just can’t bring yourself to say a final goodbye. I was lucky enough to hear Denise Mina, one my all time favourite crime writers, talk about this at last year’s Harrogate Crime Festival (editing not boyfriend dumping ). How do you know when to let go of your manuscript, she was asked. You don’t, she said. It has to be taken from you. She’s right of course and I can’t hold out much longer...I think I’ll send it out into the big wide world but before I do I’m just going to go through it one more time…

Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Harrogate 2015

Still recovering from the Harrogate Crime Writing festival. As ever I had a wonderful time, meeting old friends and making new ones. There were some fascinating panel discussions and great guests. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on crime fiction as morality tale, which Cath Staincliffe chaired with great skill, negotiating some tricky issues. The panel on dark art of the critic featured the uncompromising Ann Widdecombe who unsurprisingly would not be shaken from her position that criticism is only useful when it focuses on the book rather than the author. Eddie Izzard was in conversation with Mark Billingham in a very entertaining exchange of views on everything from comedy to the meaning of life. Lee Childs talked to Rory Bremner revealing, amongst other things, the origin of his fictional hero Jack Reacher’s name – a supermarket employee who reaches for goods on high shelves, apparently. On Sunday morning, despite a very late, wine filled Saturday night, I watched the king of Icelandic crime fiction Arnaldur Indridason discuss his work with Barry Forshaw, which was a rare privilege. On top of all of that my team managed a respectable third place in the quiz. Not bad but we didn’t beat Telegraph crime critic Jake Kerridge and the Faber team who still reign supreme. Next year, Jake, next year… Looking forward to it already.

‘The brightest mind meets the darkest killer.’
‘From time to time there have been criminals who are true geniuses – creators of new forms of crime, inventors of evil.’