Book review – for readers and writers – no.173: Morgen reviews Rocco and the Nightingale by Adrian Magson

Today’s book review, is brought to you by Adrian Magson who gave us ‘A Change of Setting’ yesterday and previously talked about planning.

I no longer take review requests but you can read the ones done to-date on book-reviews. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. So, on to today’s book…

Rocco and the Nightingale

Synopsis: When a minor Paris criminal is found stabbed in the neck on a country lane in Picardie it looks like another case for Inspector Lucas Rocco. But instead he is called off to watch over a Gabonese government minister, hiding out in France following a coup.

Meanwhile, Rocco discovers that there is a contract on his head taken out by an Algerian gang leader with a personal grudge against him.

The novel is available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rocco-Nightingale-Inspector-Lucas/dp/0995751013 (change the .co.uk to your country).

Author biography: Adrian is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of twenty-two crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book (at the back of which I get a credit!), a young adult ghost novel and two collections of short fiction.

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Review

As many crime novels do, the story alternates between the criminals and police, and poor Rocco has the added complication of babysitting a reluctant African dignitary – accompanied by his bodyguard – with scant support from Rocco’s superiors. Over the course of the novel, we meet a variety of Rocco’s colleagues and a fine array of the underworld’s finest.

As a former dog owner, I liked the comparison between one of the victims and a sheepdog “that didn’t understand what he’s supposed to do. Good at running but crap at following the whistle.” Funny.

Humour is often evident in crime novels, and it’s well known that the police (in real life) make jokes to keep themselves, and their colleagues, sane. Another particularly amusing line was (and I assure you that it doesn’t refer to a child but a man from the Interior Ministry): ‘Rocco wondered if drop-kicking the little tyke down the stairs could be done without losing his job, and decided not. Maybe he could put sugar in his petrol tank… or something stronger.’ (Don’t try that at home!)

There was plenty of conflict – good vs. evil as well as antagonising characters – and well paced.

This is the fifth novel in the Rocco series. I’ve not yet read the previous stories so came to this one as a standalone reader and didn’t feel that I had (a) missed vital information that had already been covered in the previous novels that we should have had here; nor (b) information where it feels it’s been over-explained.

Rocco himself is highly professional and dedicated, wanting to solve the cases he’s involved in (and one’s he’s relieved of). He’s wily, and cleverly outplays a younger colleague without her knowing to suit his end without the reader losing any respect for him because we know it’s in the best interest of the case.

And now for writers…

  • The best piece of writing advice is to ‘show’ not ‘tell’. An example in this novel is ‘The old man looked shocked’ which is fine but it’s always best to have the character doing or saying something, e.g. ‘The old man’s mouth dropped open, his eyes wide’… or something better! 🙂
  • Exposition is a lesser-known term. It’s where two characters are talking about a topic they both are familiar with and know a piece of information but one has forgotten it and asks the other to remind them. It is a technique some authors use to provide information for the reader’s benefit. This may not have been Adrian’s intention but it’s a useful occurrence as I get to tell you about it. So, in this case we have…
    Character 1: ‘Maybe the information was rubbish.’
    Character 2: ‘What was it again?’
  • There were few clichés, which are fine in dialogue (up to a point – one character only) but less so in narration and an example is ‘nip it in the bud’.
  • At times, the story strayed into present tense, e.g. now, here, this, today etc. When writing in past tense, the narration should stay in past tense so the equivalents would be: then (although most ‘now’s can actually be removed), that, the previous day / a day earlier / the day before etc. Dialogue will be present tense regardless.
  • There were also points where it wasn’t clear who the he / she / him / her was where there were two characters of the same gender in the same scene or conversation. An example would be: ‘Rocco wasn’t so sure. It was the end of a long road, and time would tell if the charges stuck and Farek went down. He had no illusions about what a clever lawyer could do…’. The ‘He’ means Rocco but the last male name mentioned was Farek so the reader could think it was Farek who had no illusions.

Conclusion

It was an intricate plot, cleverly weaved, but I didn’t feel lost or confused, the expertise of the author of so many (twenty-two) novels. It was interesting to see how the threads would converge at the end.

Although crime is my favourite genre, I’m not normally a reader of historical fiction. With the occasional reference, e.g. telex rather than fax or email, and characters being threatened with the guillotine, it felt like a contemporary story and for me, an enjoyable read.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Guest post: A Change of Setting by Adrian Magson

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of locations, welcomes back Adrian Magson, this time as part of his blog tour celebrating the release of his latest novel Rocco and the Nightingale. My review of Adrian’s novel will appear here (on my blog) tomorrow and you can read Adrian’s previous post on planning here.

A Change of Setting

After writing a series of five contemporary crime novels set in London, and the first of a spy thriller series, I thought the idea for the Inspector Lucas Rocco crime series, based in Picardie, France, in the 1960s, had come out of left field. But it was probably in there all the time – it simply had to find a way out.

Most of my writing begins as a punt, often based on little more than a nugget; it might work, it might not. Planning a crime series in rural northern France was certainly a punt, although the setting wasn’t. I went to school there, aged ten, in a tiny village that is the basis for Rocco’s home base of Poissons-les-Marais (I changed the real name because it doesn’t sound very French to English ears), so I know the area. I couldn’t speak French and nobody locally spoke English, which was a bit of a challenge, albeit useful for performing a quick learning curve!

I had a good reason for taking an experienced investigator out of Paris and dumping him in a rural setting, because I didn’t want to find myself simply exchanging London city streets for Paris. In any case, France was expanding its policing initiatives at the time, so the idea fitted quite well.

Part of my thinking for Rocco was being aware of the rising popularity in the UK of European-based crime fiction, rather than UK or US-based, and I wanted to tap into that market if I could.

Placing it in the sixties was a challenge technologically (how many times did I want Lucas reaching for his mobile or tapping into the internet!), but it made the research and fact-checking fascinating because France, like the UK, was going through very interesting changes at the time, and I wanted to use a backdrop of historic events of the time on which to hang the story.

In the case of the first in the series – Death on the Marais – that backdrop lay in echoes of France’s Indochina war, in which Rocco and his boss, Commissaire Massin had both served, and which brings to the books an atmosphere of tension between the two men, and similarly the connections between a WW2 resistance fighter and a now highly-placed industrial figure with secrets to hide. In Rocco and the Nightingale, the fifth and latest book, it was the re-emergence of a gangster figure from Algeria’s independence and the rise of a criminal empire based in Paris that formed the backbone, as well as being a revisit of an earlier Rocco title.

Although the area and people are based on personal knowledge, Rocco came fully formed. He’s tall, dark and wears a long coat out of habit, likes English brogues and drives a Citroen Traction Ariane. All this makes him stand out among the locals, where horses are still used for farming and he doesn’t (yet) have running water, but a garden pump that needs priming in cold weather. Part of his struggle from book one is coming to grips with being out ‘among the cowpats’, as a former colleague puts it, and his interaction with the local villagers and villains.

But that was also part of the pleasure in the writing. If it isn’t fun, it’s not worth doing.

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I love it when settings are so vivid and absolutely, writing should be fun. If it isn’t, the reader will know.

Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of twenty-two crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book (at the back of which I get a credit!), a young adult ghost novel and two collections of short fiction.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. Guidelines on guest-blogs. There are other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Guest post: The Perfect Writing Retreat by Helen M Hunt

Tonight’s special guest blog post, on the topic of writing retreats, is brought to you by short story author and creative writing tutor / columnist and interviewee Helen M Hunt.

The Perfect Writing Retreat

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your writing, and sometimes it’s good to remove yourself entirely from your home surroundings and distractions in order to refocus on your creativity. If you can get away from the washing up, the kitchen floor that needs mopping and the lawn that needs mowing, you’ll be able to clear the space in your mind that you need to concentrate on your writing.

At the end of last month I had the opportunity to attend a course at a writing retreat in France, and I had a wonderful time.

Chez Castillon is an amazing 18th century townhouse in Castillon la Bataille near St Emilion, and Mickey and Janie Wilson, the proprietors, have turned it into the most fantastic retreat for writers and artists.

What makes a perfect retreat?

  • Beautiful surroundings – Inspiring surroundings make a huge difference to the success of your retreat. From the town of Castillon with its bustling market, to the River Dordogne and Bordeaux wine-making region, Chez Castillon couldn’t be in a better location.
  • Hospitality – Not having to stop writing to cook and wash up is a huge advantage. Mickey and Janie are the perfect hosts and the food and drink on offer is fantastic.
  • Comfort – It’s vital to have comfortable surroundings in which you can relax and get on with your writing. Chez Castillon has beautiful guest bedrooms (all named after different wines), but there is also a brilliant self-contained classroom, a luxurious salon and a plush library. It even has a swimming pool if you’re feeling energetic.
  • Great tuition – A course leader to inspire and instruct is when I was there, we were lucky enough to have crime writer Adrian Magson as our tutor. Adrian led sessions throughout the week on various aspects of writing and gave us exercises and prompts that were helpful inspiration for free writing sessions.
  • Support of fellow writers – one of the great things about going on a writing retreat is meeting other writers, being able to share ideas and support each other. I was lucky enough to meet a great group of fellow students at Chez Castillon and we are keeping in touch and continuing to support each other by email.

Adrian Magson, our tutor, said: “I have to confess that Chez Castillon was my first ever writing retreat-style session, and I found it surprisingly easy to actually put down some ideas, even though I wasn’t there specifically for that, but to lead the course. Perhaps it was mixing with wonderfully funny, like-minded people, being relaxed, away from the phone, away from the normal daily round of things to do – maybe having mentally crossed that misty line into a semi-holiday mood, which released some constraints and allowed the mind to wander.”

A lot, though, in fact most, had to do with the location; the house itself, which was incredibly roomy and atmospheric (and that library, a writer’s paradise, which I wanted to take home with me – where was Calvin’s transmogrifier when I needed it?), the garden (with swimming pool), which was beautifully secluded, even though it was right in the middle of a small town. And the food! (God, I could go on a lot about the food. And the wine. And the food. And if that wasn’t enough, the Palace of Sin which was the combined chocolaterie / patisserie RIGHT ACROSS the street and I mean about 30 yards away.) Waistline alert!

Mostly, though, any location like this needs good hosts who understand what a retreat is all about. And we didn’t simply get good ones – we got great ones in Janie and Mickey, without which it would have been just a large house in a small provincial French town. Magnificent.”

How do you get the most out of a writing retreat?

  • Go with an open mind.
  • Be prepared to think and write outside your comfort zone.
  • Participate and contribute as much as you can in sessions. The more you put in the more you’ll get out.
  • Don’t forget, you can learn from your fellow students as well as your tutor.
  • Make sure you take some breaks from writing while you’re on your retreat. Allow yourself to be inspired by your new surroundings and by talking to different people.

Mickey and Janie, who run Chez Castillon, said: “We think that one of the most important things about Chez Castillon is that from the moment you step through the blue door into the hallway you can abdicate all responsibility – everything is taken care of and you can concentrate solely on what you have gone there to do. Breakfast lunch and dinner are all provided and the only decision you have to make is what colour wine to drink!

All the bedrooms are en-suite and large. Equipped with tables and chairs, toiletries and even a kaftan for lounging around the pool. They have glorious views over the back garden or the charming street at the front. Every room has WIFI.

Lunch and Dinner provide you with the chance to chat to fellow scribblers… and the terrace echoes with the sound of laughter. To give you a break (and further inspiration) we are happy to organise wine tastings; trips to nearby St Emillon and any of the surrounding market towns.

There is a very special feel to the house, it is a magical place which is why we fell in love with it in the first place and what makes subsequent visitors feel the same.”

Previous guests said:

“Fantastic! The perfect place to be creative and inspired.  There is time to work, to rest, to play.  Come here, you will achieve so much and yet go away feeling as if you’ve been on holiday.” Katie Fforde

“I have had the absolutely best time with the absolutely best people…let me come back.” – Judy Astley

“I am supposed to be good with words, but I don’t have the right ones in my lexicon to describe how I laughed…had fun…wrote…drank…ate and enjoyed myself.” – Kate Lace

“I had now idea it would be this fantastic…I have had a wonderful time.” Jane Wenham-Jones

You can find out more about Chez Castilon here.

They’ve got an array of writing courses coming up, including:

  • ‘Writing Commercial Women’s Fiction’ with Veronica Henry – Saturday 9th June to Friday 15th June 2012
  • ‘Writing Romantic Fiction’ with Louise Allen – Saturday 29th September to Friday 5th October 2012
  • ‘Is There A Book In You?’ with Jane Wenham Jones – Saturday 6th October to Friday 12th October 2012

In addition Katie Fforde and Judy Astley hope to return to lead a retreat, and people are also welcome to organise their own group and then just sort out dates with Mickey and Janie.

Now where did I put my passport? 🙂 Thank you, Helen.

Helen Hunt writes short stories and features for magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, People’s Friend and Take A Break Fiction Feast in the UK, and That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia. She also writes articles for Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine and runs short story writing courses, including a totally flexible online course. You can find her website at www.helenmhunt.co.uk

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with YA fantasy / paranormal author L Filloon – the three hundred and seventy-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & Noble, iTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: ‘Be resolute – make a plan’ by Adrian Magson

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of planning, is brought to you by crime novelist and ‘how to‘ author / columnist Adrian Magson.

Be resolute – make a plan

Anyone noticed it’s a new year again? Time for resolutions and all that stuff, as they say. After all, 2012 has arrived and… what are you going to do this year?

Hum. Well, you can resolute yourself into the middle of next year; personally, I prefer to make a plan.

Resolutions always seemed to me to be far too easy to break, a sort of promise lite. After all, who’s going to enforce it – your mother? I used to make my list like everyone else… and watch it fall apart, usually sometime in early January. In the end I gave up. Instead of merely telling myself that I would write that story, book, comedy pitch or whatever, I concentrated on saying that I would do so by a certain date. Somehow it seemed more disciplined.

And if you want to be a writer, you really need discipline.

The other thing you need in spades, of course, is the desire. It will be with you all the time, whatever is going on around you. You’ll be reminded of it whenever you pick up a book (say, one of your Christmas presents); it will be with you whenever you finish reading something and reflect on it; it will certainly make itself known every time you hear of another writer getting a contract or selling a story.

It’s the itch that never quite goes away.

So. How to go about it?

Well, you need to harness the desire to the intent; that is, say you will do something, but make a firm commitment to yourself and set some target dates. Short story? Easy. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks. But first, flesh out a rough sketch of the storyline. Ditto with the characters (you won’t need more than three main ones for a short) and think about a neat ending. Give yourself a target of no more than a day to do this. Tough? Yes, of course. But that will help you focus. Anyway, how much time do you want? How much time do you have?

If it’s a book you’re thinking about (and this is still in the thinking stage, remember), then be generous: give yourself a week. Very rough outline of the plot, pencil in some characters, sketch any ideas that you have already (for filling out later), then look at the calendar and think, okay, so how long will it take me?

Whatever you’re working on, it has to be realistic in terms of your time and other commitments. But you have to be determined to work around those, not let them dictate your writing.

Next, break up your story into segments, so that each part becomes a job of its own, with its own time plan. If the overall book is going to take say, a year, then you need to focus on getting parts of it done by set dates. It doesn’t have to be in chapter order, incidentally, because you might prefer to write out of sequence – as I do. But your work rate has to be matched to the expectation, so don’t lose sight of that fact. I tend to think of word count, but not each day (that’s too stressful). Instead, I have a rough monthly target, knowing that some days or weeks will be better than others. I might create only 2,000 words one week… but 15,000 the next. Swings and roundabouts.

With a short story, the time-span is much less, but the plan in mind is just as important if you want to succeed.

Some writers set a daily target of, say, 1,500 words. If that’s the way you work, great. But if you’re still finding out what works for you, focus instead on saying what you will do and doing it. The more you do this, the more realistic you will become – and the more you will be able to judge how long a project will take. This is what professional writers do all the time, because they know they have to. To leave a project to chance is to see it crumble – along with any future projects.

There will be times, incidentally, where your writing will set you on fire; the ideas will keep coming, the characters will take over and you’ll be so eager to get on with it that and can’t wait to get back to the keyboard. Take this as a bonus – as words in the bank – but don’t slacken off. Remember, the next week could be a drought, so you need to use the momentum gained to keep yourself going.

So, forget resolutions and go for resolve instead. Instead of saying you will write and hope for the best, plan how your writing will go and how you will achieve it.

To help you get your head around it, imagine this:

You’ve submitted your first work, which took a year to write. You hear back from an agent / editor who says that they want to see more and what else have you got?

What are you going to do? Tell them to wait another year and you’ll get back to them?

No, you’re not, because you already started the next project the moment you submitted the last one. Setting yourself targets will help you focus and add discipline to your writing and work rate. It will make you more professional, lifting you above many others with the same intentions.

It’s simply a matter of say ‘I will’, not ‘I can’.

So good luck with every word. I hope this year is yours to write, to enjoy and to succeed. After all, you’re the only one who can do it.

Thank you Adrian, I’m off to make my plan now! 🙂

Adrian Magson is the author of 11 crime / thriller novels and hundreds of short stories and magazine articles, published here and overseas. His latest novels are ‘Deception’ (Severn House – Nov 2011), in his Harry Tate spy series, and ‘Death on the Rive Nord’ (Allison & Busby), in his Inspector Lucas Rocco French police series, A regular reviewer for Shots Magazine, he writes the ‘Beginners’ and ‘New Author’ pages for Writing Magazine, and is the author of a wonderful book for writers (I could be biased because I’m mentioned at the back but I have it and it’s great): Write On! – The Writer’s Help Book(Accent Press – Aug 2011).

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with multi-genre author Patricia Comroe Frank – the two hundred and thirty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Podcast special episode 30 with crime writer Adrian Magson

Part 3 of 4 of my interview with crime novelist / short story author / Writing Magazine columnist Adrian Magson was released today (8th July). Part 1 was released on Monday 4th July and part 2 on Wednesday 6th July as special episodes 28 and 29 respectively. Part 4 will be released on Monday 11th July as special episode 31. The links to the listen or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, Google Feedburner etc are in this blog’s ‘Where to find me’ left-hand menu. The questions I asked him (although we did wander off-topic from time-to-time :)) can be found at http://t.co/WFIqnkY .

Adrian’s website is http://www.adrianmagson.com and he’s on Twitter and Facebook.

I have recorded an interview with crime writer/tutor Sally Spedding at the July 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference and this will be released as special episode 32 on Monday 18th July.

After that I shall be concentrating on blog interviews which I currently release on two a day basis – the list of posted / scheduled is here. I don’t pay or charge so if you’d like to take part do email me. I just simply email you the list of questions, you fill them in, email them back to me, I add my reactions to those comments (so it feels more of a chat than an interview) advise you of a schedule a date (c. 2 weeks from receipt of answers) and add you on the blog interviews page, then email you the link when it goes live. 🙂

In the absence of the audio interviews, I shall be starting ‘red pen’ episodes (probably every other Monday) where I read out a short story or self-contained novel extract then comment on it. I’m firm but fair but I know that the episodes are listened to around the world (NB. copyright always  remains with the author) so if you’re precious about your writing then this may not be for your cup of tea. If you have  something (one or more, although the episodes will be c. half an hour so likely only one item per episode) that you would like critique on then feel free to email me. I’m no poet so don’t feel qualified to give critique back on this however I have a couple of poets I know to assist. 🙂

Podcast special episode 29 with crime writer Adrian Magson

Part 2 of 4 of my interview with crime novelist / short story author / Writing Magazine columnist Adrian Magson (6th July). Part 1 was released on Monday 4th July and parts 3 and 4 will be released Friday 8th and Monday 11th July respectively as special episodes 30 and 31. The links to the listen or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, Google Feedburner etc are in this blog’s ‘Where to find me’ left-hand menu. The questions I asked him (although we did wander off-topic from time-to-time :)) can be found at http://t.co/WFIqnkY .

Adrian’s website is http://www.adrianmagson.com and he’s on Twitter and Facebook.

I have recorded an interview with crime writer/tutor Sally Spedding at the July 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference and this will be released as special episode 32 on Monday 18th July. I shall then be interviewing novelist Shaun Allan later this month.

After that I shall be concentrating on blog interviews which I currently release on two a day basis – the list of posted / scheduled is here. I don’t pay or charge so if you’d like to take part do email me. I just simply email you the list of questions, you fill them in, email them back to me, I add my reactions to those comments (so it feels more of a chat than an interview) advise you of a schedule a date (c. 2 weeks from receipt of answers) and add you on the blog interviews page, then email you the link when it goes live. 🙂

In the absence of the audio interviews, I shall be starting ‘red pen’ episodes (probably every other Monday) where I read out a short story or self-contained novel extract then comment on it. I’m firm but fair but I know that the episodes are listened to around the world (NB. copyright always  remains with the author) so if you’re precious about your writing then this may not be for your cup of tea. If you have  something (one or more, although the episodes will be c. half an hour so likely only one item per episode) that you would like critique on then feel free to email me. I’m no poet so don’t feel qualified to give critique back on this however I have a couple of poets I know to assist. 🙂

Podcast special episode 28 with crime author Adrian Magson

Part 1 of 4 of my interview with crime novelist / short story author / Writing Magazine columnist Adrian Magson (released 4 July). Parts 2-4 released as special episodes 29 (Wed 6 July), 30 (Fri 8 July) and 31 (Mon 11 July). The links to the listen or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, Google Feedburner etc are in this blog’s ‘Where to find me’ left-hand menu. Below are the questions I asked him (although we did wander off-topic from time-to-time :)).

– Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

– Your website quotes “Harry Tate And Lucas Rocco; Two Different Men. Different Times” can you please explain the differences between them.

– Your novels ‘Red Station’ (the first novel to feature Harry Tate) and ‘Death on the Marais’  (the first Lucas Rocco) are available as eBooks; what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks? What do you like to read?

– You’ve also written two other Harry Tate books (‘Tracers’ released in February 2011 and the forthcoming ‘Deception’), presumably being part of a series they follow on from each other but also have to be readable as stand alones, is this the first series you wrote and how do you get them to tie in but feel individual at the same time?

– It’s interesting that you’ve chosen singular word titles for the Harry Tate books and ‘Death on…’ (areas of Paris?) for the Lucas Rocco novels. Do you choose and get to keep your titles or does the publisher have a say in this?

– You’ve also published a series Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer novels and I’ve just finished reading your first (of 5) entitled ‘No peace for the wicked’. Although Frank Palmer plays a significant role, I’m probably being very stereotypical here but it’s more unusual for a male author to write a crime novel with a female protagonist than male, why did you go this route? (not that I’m complaining!)

– You’ve given her a generic name, Riley, was this for any particular reason? As ‘Morgen’ I find it very useful is I want to write a mixture of genres if not a little frustrating as people often spell it ‘Morgan’.

– Chapter 1 starts right in the action (and I love the first line: ‘The first old man died on the beach.’ Because although you know it’s a crime book by the title and cover picture, it’s easy to imagine that because he was old, his age could have something to do with his death but by saying the ‘first’ old man you know it’s not going to be a coincidence). Did the final version of this opening resemble your earlier drafts?

– I was particularly intrigued with the setting of Letitia Grossman’s house being near the Chalfonts, South Bucks and later references to Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire; as they’re my old stomping ground, what made you choose that setting?

– Did you know the Spanish and Gibraltan areas before writing this book, if so did you have to revisit or do research on the internet? It seems a fairly typical destination so you could get away with non-specifics. How much research do you have to do for your books as a rule? Do you plan locations around holidays or vice versa?

– Do you have any experts that you can check your accuracies with, especially the technical crime aspects?

– Do you receive feedback on your writing from your readers; people that you didn’t know already?

– I’m not sure why but until half-way through the book I imagined Riley as being quite young and slim but on page 123 she ‘called to the dog, slapping her hand against her ample hip’. Lee Child famously doesn’t describe Jack Reacher in any of his novels and yet the reader must have a picture in their minds of what they imagine the characters to look like. Do you think the author should describe them or leave the reader to fill in the blanks?

– The novel we’ve just been talking about, ‘No peace for the wicked’, was published by ‘Crème de la Crime’ and you’ve since gone on to be published by Allison & Busby and Severn House Publishers. Do you find that different books suit different publishers or was there a reason for the change?

– Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

– How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

– Given that you are likely to have readers all over the world, how conscious does this make you of having phrases or products that could be ‘too English’? Have you had to change anything to adapt to an overseas market?

– You’ve had short stories published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, two Maxim Jakubowski’s British mystery and crime anthologies, Sniplits’ Killer Fiction Anthology and a 3-Part Serial in the women’s magazine My Weekly amongst many other publications, do you have any idea why the short story (my favourite format) seems to get such a raw deal compared with the novel?

– You also write a monthly column in, and articles for, the Writing Magazine; how did that come about?

– What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?

– If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?

– What do you do when you’re not writing? (is there time?)

– What are you working on at the moment / next?

– Do you have a writing schedule, are you quite disciplined? And do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?

– What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?

– Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

– Now, not the easiest of questions what do you think makes characters believable?

– ‘No peace for the wicked’ is third-person view point (omniscient as we get into different characters heads) as presumably are your other novels? Do you write in first person (which seems to be less favoured by editors)? Have you ever tried second person (which seems to be avoided by editors at all costs)?

– Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?

– Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?

– Do you ever look at your earlier books and think you would have changed anything of them?

– What advice would you give aspiring writers?

– How involved are you with readers and other writers online?

– What do you think the future holds for a writer?

– Your website is http://www.adrianmagson.com – are there any other way of finding out about your work and/or to buy your books that we’ve not mentioned? (Adrian also has an audio story on the American website store http://www.sniplits.com/storiesforauthor.jsp?a=354 including ‘Almost Paradise’ which we didn’t discuss. He’s also on Twitter and Facebook)

– Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we’ve not discussed?

I have recorded an interview with crime writer/tutor Sally Spedding at the July 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference and this will be released as special episode 32 on Monday 18th July. I shall then be interviewing novelist Shaun Allan later this month.

After that I shall be concentrating on blog interviews (which I release two a day, currently with a two week backlog – the list of posted / scheduled is here). I don’t pay or charge so if you’d like to take part do email me. and I just simply email you the list of questions, you fill them in, email them back to me, I add my reactions to those comments (so it feels more of a chat than an interview) and schedule a date which I advise you of and put on the blog interviews page, then email you the link when it goes live 🙂

In the absence of the audio interviews, I shall be starting ‘red pen’ episodes (probably every other Monday) where I read out a short story or self-contained novel extract then comment on it. I’m firm but fair but I know that the episodes are listened to around the world (NB. copyright always  remaisn with the author) so if you’re precious about your writing then this may not be for your cup of tea. If you have  something (one or more, although the episodes will be c. half an hour so likely only one item per episode) that you would like critique on then feel free to email me. I’m no poet so don’t feel qualified to give critique back on this however I have a plan so poets hang fire for now and I’ll change this with news if it comes to fruition. 🙂