blog tours, guest author, writing

#BlogTour The Savage Shore by David Hewson talks about How To Research A Book. @blackthornbks @david_hewson #TheSavageShore #BookResearch

It’s always exciting when a new imprint bursts onto the scenes, especially when it is an imprint that focuses on crime fiction, which is my favourite genre. So I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for the first two books by Black Thorn books. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to squeeze in reading either of the books, although I really did like the sound of them both. Thankfully David Hewson, author of The Savage Shore was kind enough to write a guest post for us, about how to research a book. I’m sure that it will be interesting to those who are writers and those that aren’t. Thanks David for stopping by!

Here is a bit more about Black Thorn before the post itself. Enjoy!

blackthornbooks.com

Independent publishing powerhouse Canongate has announced the launch of its new crime fiction imprint, Black Thorn. From psychological thrillers to police procedurals, and from historical detective dramas to heart-thumping suspense stories: Black Thorn intends to seek out and publish compulsive, high quality crime thriller fiction.

Officially launching in May 2019 with 4 titles, Black Thorn will focus on a variety of crime thriller audiences, providing them with compulsive titles from both new and old authors. On 2nd May, crime master David Hewson will launch The Savage Shore, the latest instalment in his tremendously popular Nic Costa series alongside debut American author Catherine O’Connell’sThe Last Night Out. Then on 6th June master of the modern who-dunnit Simon Brett will launch The Liar in The Library and Caro Ramsay, author of the critically acclaimed DI Anderson and DS Costello series, will present The Suffering of Strangers.

How To Research A Book by David Hewson.

Before I became a novelist I was a journalist. Research – hunting down facts, sometimes ones that don’t want to be found – is second nature. I’ve written more than 30 novels over the last quarter of a century and every one of them has involved extensive research. This isn’t because I want them to be ‘true’. They’re not. They’re fiction. Even on the rare occasion I’ve included real-life characters from history I’ve never pretended they’re accurate portrayals. Writers of fiction rarely do that. Even Shakespeare mangled the truth to a huge degree in depicting Macbeth, Richard III and other historical figures in his drama.

No, research is there to provide the bedrock of a story. To kid the reader into thinking your lie is really a version of the truth. That becomes so much easier if you can talk them into becoming a part of a world they may already know just a little, then convince them they’re meeting a bigger, more colourful version of it through the cleverness of an author who knows his or her stuff.

Research, then, is a fundamental part of building the world behind a story. After all these years I have a very practical and well-established way of going about.

First… read.

Yes, writing depends on reading, something a few budding authors tend to forget. If you don’t consume the work of authors you won’t begin to understand structure, style and craft, all the things you need to write yourself. The Savage Shore is set in Calabria, the toe of Italy, a part of the country few people know, even many Italians from other regions. That made the research for this story even more interesting. I perused history books, an old academic tome about the strange society of the communities dotted away in the mountain region of Aspromonte. Then a publication from the EU which investigated the background of the local shadowy crime organisation, the ’Ndrangheta. Some tourist guides, naturally, and a century-old travelogue of the area, Old Calabria, written by a dodgy English writer, Norman Douglas, who was to die in a religious hospital Capri in 1952 after a rather scandalous life,  uttering the timeless last words, ‘Get those fucking nuns away from me.’

Head filled with facts I then start visiting my target area. You can’t fly directly to this part of Italy from the UK. The closest you can get is Lamezia Terme from Stansted with Ryanair (who lost my luggage the first time out and couldn’t give a damn). Several trips later though I had a notebook filled with ideas about locations I could pillage and a copious file of photos. Pictures are important to me because I tend to think visually. Calabria is a natural place for this. Much of the action in The Savage Shore takes place in the part which overlooks the Strait of Messina, with Etna looming in Sicily across the water. At night, in the hills, you can see the glow of the volcano. During the day eagles soar effortlessly in the breeze down to the coast. The fields are full of a fruit you’ll scarcely see anywhere else in Italy – the bergamot, a citrus used for perfume and the scent of Earl Grey tea. The Calabrians live in one of the poorest parts of the country, but they are immensely proud of what is theirs. Another local delicacy too is the swordfish which gather in the strait during summer and are hunted by harpoon using techniques centuries old, a practice which Nic Costa will face himself during the course of the book. 

Lastly, I will always take a run through local cemeteries snapping headstones. A book needs names, and there’s no better to find ones for your local characters than on a grave.

Pictures, thoughts, notes, facts, names. Those are the building blocks of a book’s world for me. Until I have them I can’t write a word because the characters I work with and the story that follows must emerge from that world, and be unique in the sense that the tale I tell could happen nowhere else.

That is definitely true of The Savage Shore. From the bergamot plantations in the hills to the harpoonists looking for swordfish in the glittering blue sea, from the hidden mountain chapels to the grimy criminal corners of the city of Reggio, this is the Calabria I wanted to portray.

Is it ‘true’?

Some of it. Not that external truth matters in fiction, only the inner: does this world feel real to the reader? Am I transporting them to a place they’ve never known, but one they can see and smell and feel and hear?

That’s the test of my kind of book. I put a lot of work in to try to make it happen. If you find your way to The Savage Shore I hope you get the scent of bergamot and the salt tang of that wonderful stretch of the Mediterranean as it runs along the ragged coastline of Calabria. It’s a magical place to be… and to write.

Detective Nic Costa finds himself a stranger in a strange land when he’s sent to infiltrate the mob in a remote part of southern Italy. 

Roman police detective Nic Costa has been sent undercover to Italy’s beautiful, remote Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared mob, the ‘Ndrangheta, who has offered to turn state witness for reasons of his own.

Hoping to reel in the biggest prize the state police have seen in years, the infamous Butcher of Palermo, Costa and his team are aware the stakes are high. But the constant deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy where they are the outcasts, not the men in the hills, with their shotguns and rough justice, the detectives find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. As the tension rises, it’s clear the operation is not going to plan. Is Nic Costa getting too close to the enemy for comfort – and is there a traitor among them …?

About the Author:

David Hewson is a former journalist with The TimesThe Sunday Times and the Independent. He is the author of more than twenty-five novels including his Rome-based Nic Costa series which has been published in fifteen languages, The Savage Shore is the latest instalment in this critically celebrated series. He has also written three acclaimed adaptations of the Danish TV series, The Killing.

The Savage Shore by David Hewson is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

how to, NaNoWriMo, rambling, writing

#authorslife Finishing my first edit!! #NaNoWriMo #submitting #scary #hardwork @bookouture

So my regular readers will know that I have been attempting to write a book for a few years now. In November 2018 I completed NaNoWriMo, where you write 50,000 words in a month.

This isn’t anything new, I have completed NaNo twice before but I have never got further than that. I learnt heaps from my first two attempts at writing a book, but the main one was that you need to write a book that you would read yourself and that you are really interested in. A writer will spend many hours on their book, you need to love it!!

So after I reached 50,000 words with NaNo 2018 I was unsure about what would happen next. I had loved writing it and hoped that I would carry on with it but life most definitely got in the way with major surgery and a load of other stuff going on.

But my writing helped to keep me sane, I had a month where I pretty much stayed home. I’m a huge homebody so in many ways I loved that but I also went a bit stir crazy. So writing helped me escape into another world and gave my brain a workout.

When I completed my first draft I was totally stunned and very excited. I had never got that far but I knew that I was nowhere near done. Lots of people say that it is best to put your book down and go back to it after a break so that you can see your work with fresh eyes.

I had an enforced break from it because it was school holidays and so my time to work on the book was limited and I decided to go back to it in January and have a few weeks off.

I was surprised to find that I really, really missed my book. For a few days, I felt almost bereft and I missed my characters so much. Sounds a bit silly really, but that was how I felt.

It was over the break that I heard about a scheme that one of my favourite publishers, Bookouture, was doing. They were looking for underrepresented authors to submit their manuscript and they will select some to read through and give feedback to the author about their work. An amazing opportunity and one that I did not want to miss.

And so once my kids were back at school I set about editing my book. This terrified me, what if I cut the wrong bit out? Or made it worse? Or didn’t make it better? Scary times. So I sent my book to a friend to read, she isn’t a blogger or author, she just likes reading and so she read my book. And thankfully she loved it and gave me some great feedback that helped to give me focus and the courage to keep going.

Thanks to ProWritingAid I hopefully worked out most of the major grammar errors and sentences that could be constructed differently to make them more readable. I also discovered that I use the word ‘that’ all the blooming time. It felt as though almost every sentence had the word in it, and some had it more than once! I reckon that removing them cut my word count significantly!

It also gave me the opportunity to go through the book chapter by chapter, hopefully, pick up continuity errors and changing the surname of one character that was used regularly in the story.

I use Scrivener to write and I love it, I’m very sure that I don’t use half of what it can do but I wouldn’t be without it. It helps me in so many ways. And it compiled my manuscript for me and saved it as a pdf so that I was able to submit it to the Bookouture scheme.

Oh, and I needed to write a pitch of a couple of sentences which is not the easiest thing to do!!!

So today I submitted my manuscript for feedback from Bookouture, but I also did something very exciting. Scrivener helped me convert my manuscript into a mobi file that can then be transferred to a Kindle to read. So I have my book on my kindle. This just blows my mind! I feel so happy and proud! I know that there is an awful lot more to do on my manuscript but I’m just amazed that I have got this far!!

My book on my Kindle!!!

If you live in London and fit the criteria you can submit your completed manuscript here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/applications-are-open-for-1-2-1-feedback-from-bookouture/ but you don’t have long!!

NaNoWriMo, rambling, writing

Finishing my first draft. #NaNoWriMo #firstdraft #writing #amwriting #authorslife

So something pretty amazing happened yesterday. Not only did I write over ten thousand words in a day, but I also wrote two of the best words ever.

This is my third attempt at writing a book, the first was pretty rubbish but it taught me an awful lot. The second was better, I still think that the story is a good one and with a lot of work it might go somewhere but I’m not sure that I love it enough to do it.

The difference with this book is that it is a book that I know that I would love to read and I think that is why I also loved writing it.

I have never planned my books, I see photos that other authors post showing their boards or notebooks fully of planning, with each chapter outlined and every character thought through. I have no idea what it is like writing a book that is planned in such detail, but for whatever reason planning is just not for me. I have tried but I just can’t do it, my brain simply doesn’t work that way.

But I like it the way that I do it, I started this book with a vague idea of a plot and two characters in my head. I thought that I had a fair idea where the book would go but I was wrong, the book turned out totally differently to how I imagined. Well, not totally but very different. Another character appeared and demanded a bigger part in the story and that changed the book significantly. But I am very happy with the direction the book took and I love not knowing what is going to happen, it feels like the characters write the book and I am just the puppet that types.

I also had my first author lightbulb moment when the ending suddenly came to me, I’m not quite sure where it came from as I had had a different ending in mind, but the moment it came into my head I knew that it was the perfect ending.

Some of you may know that I had a busy November, not only did I do NaNoWriMo but my twins also celebrated their eighth birthday and anyone who knows anything about kids birthdays knows how time consuming and exhausting they are. I also squeezed in a bit of major surgery. It was a busy month.

So quite how I have managed to write seventy four thousands words in thirty seven days I do not know. But I did. And boy it feels good. I have no doubt that a lot of the book will be pretty rubbish, writing in a post general anaesthetic haze is unlikely to equal an amazingly written book and I know that I have made a load of continuity errors when my brain was too befuzzled (that so needs to be a word) to remember what I had written only a paragraph or two before.

But my enforced house arrest as I recover from the surgery has meant that I have had far more time to write, and it has been nice to think of something else too.

So my first draft is done, blooming amazing that I’ve got this far I think. But now the hard work starts…editing. This is foreign territory for me, I’ve never made it this far and so I’m more than a little scared because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to give whatever it is my best shot! Any advice appreciated. Really, really appreciated!

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But for now, I’m am so happy that I got to write the words ‘The End’ and I’m proud of every single word that I wrote, all 74,311 of them!