Barbara Copperthwaite



August 2017

BLOOD TYPE: ‘Trail’ series author A.A. Abbott @AAAbbottStories #writingtips #amwriting


CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday top-notch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.

“I can write anywhere – on a bus, on a train, or in a crowded room.”

This week: A.A. Abbott author of the ‘Trail’ series

Tell us about yourself…

Helen Website Pic

My real name is Helen Blenkinsop and I’m the eldest of five. Like lots of children, I made up stories and fantasy adventure games. This entertained my four younger siblings and earned me brownie points with my parents. As an adult, the need to earn a living sent me into accountancy – luckily, I was good at maths as well as English. Since then, I’ve put my knowledge of finance to good use in my crime thrillers. Having worked recently in the City of London, I’ve seen ambitious, driven high flyers in the workplace, and I’ve channelled them in my stories.

The books are set in places I know, too. I was born in an industrial town near London and spent much of my life in Birmingham. There was a big upheaval as Britain moved away from a manufacturing economy and Brum became the shiny, service-focused city we see today. Although I moved to Bristol, I love Birmingham, visit it often and big it up in my Trail series of crime thrillers. Being in warm, buzzy Brum makes my heart sing.

While I’m not dyslexic, I’ve arranged for the Trail series to be published in a large print dyslexia-friendly edition as well as in traditional paperback and e-book formats. I wanted dyslexic family and friends to enjoy the crisp feel of a paperback as much as I do.

How long does your first draft take you?

Six weeks of daydreaming, research and… TO READ ON, CLICK HERE


Does the gender behind the pen matter? #GuestPost by LM Krier @tottielimejuice

Women's writes logo

A short series of guest posts explores what it means to be a female author…


By Lesley Krier Tither

I’M WRITING the front page main lead. Steve is bouncing a football off the back of my head as I type. Trevor is jumping on Alistair’s back, making lewd gestures and asking if he had piggy last night.

Wilf, the sub-editor, is waiting for my efforts for the front page lead story and also for a piece I still need to finish for the sports page. He asks in the meantime if anyone is making a ‘bwew’ since he can’t pronounce his Rs. Bob, the chief reporter, is in an ‘editorial conference’. That means he and the managing editor Mr Brown, are round the corner in the Vic public house and won’t be back until closing time.

Just another day in the life of a local newspaper in the early 1970s. I’m just Les, one of the lads. I do the same work as any of the others. I assume I get the same pay. Nobody ever discusses such things in the culture of the time. I get treated exactly the same as the lads. Mr Brown occasionally jumps on them for swearing in front of me, but then swears like a trooper himself.

My point is, back in the day, although there was a glass ceiling, when it came to writing we were all treated the same. I was a reporter, not a reporteress. Which is why I got in a heated debate recently on social media when someone wanted to use the phrase ‘authors and authoresses.’ I could perhaps accept the term if someone could point me at a reputable article which called Agatha Christie an authoress. Or Val McDermid. Or one which stated that P D James was a president of the Society of Authors and Authoresses.

So why do many women feel the need to mask their gender with a name change when writing, especially for a genre like crime?

Why disguise your gender? Photo by Andrew Worley on Unsplash

Here I must declare an interest. I write crime fiction under a part of my real name, L M Krier. It’s simply because I don’t actually like my first name. Or my second one. Never have. I write across three genres and have different names for them all. It’s not about hiding who I am. It’s more about what is suitable for which genre. My travel memoirs are written as Tottie Limejuice (it’s a long story!) and most of my friends these days call me Tots or Tottie. But it sounds too much like a porn star to be suitable for crime fiction or my other genre, children’s fiction, for which I am L M Kay.

Why write crime fiction at all? It’s always been my preferred genre to read and to watch on television. As a former court reporter, and especially a coroner’s court reporter, I’ve heard some fascinating things over the years. People are always intrigued by death. The one certainty in life is that one day, we’re all going to die. The growing trend is to read about more and more extreme ways of doing it.


After leaving journalism, I also worked for a time for the Crown Prosecution Service from its inception in 1986. Again, I read things in the files I handled which were more like the plot of the most noir of books. The market for crime, especially violent crime and psychological thrillers, is clearly still there. It’s hard to turn on the television these days without yet another crime series starting up.

Are women finding it hard to make their mark in the genre because of their gender? It’s interesting that J K Rowling chose a man’s name under which to publish her crime books. Yet crime books by women constantly figure amongst the biggest sellers on Amazon. Many independent women crime writers are now making a very respectable living out of their books, often doing far better than those in mainstream publishing.

It’s perhaps because of such factors that there is an interesting trend developing in crime writing. That of men writing under a woman’s name. One well-known example is Tania Carver, the alter-ego of Martyn Waites. Waites is a well-established crime writer of neo-noir. He recounts that his former editor said he was looking for a high concept female thriller writer, Britain’s answer to Karin Slaughter or Tess Gerritsen. Waites said he could do it, set out his idea for a book and so Tania Carver was born.

All of which begs the question, surely the editor could have found a woman to be the next big-name female thriller writer? There’s plenty of female talent out there and clearly there is a demand for women writers as the editor was specifically looking for one. And can readers really tell the gender of who is behind the pen?

I belong to a lot of book groups on Facebook and this is a debate which comes up not infrequently. I’ve seen one person start a post off by claiming emphatically that they would never read a crime book by a woman nor one with a female detective. I’m notorious on social media for not being able to hold my tongue. I’m a bit like the little boy who simply has to point and say, ‘The king is in the altogether.’

I happen to believe that, as well as being an art, writing is also a craft, like any other, which has to be learned. I mentioned that as a journalist on a local paper I was expected to write sports reports, despite having no interest in or knowledge of the subject. As long as the lads told me whether the sport in question had goals, tries, runs, points or something else, I could usually produce something acceptable as I was trained to write. The argument goes that women can’t write convincingly in a man’s voice. Said poster rather defeated his own case because he thought that Nicci French was a woman rather than a husband and wife team so clearly he couldn’t tell the difference.

So can a woman write credibly in a man’s voice? Or a man in a woman’s? For the above poster’s beliefs to be true, we would have to accept that Agatha Christie’s Poirot books were inferior to her Miss Marple ones. Sales statistics would suggest otherwise since she remains the best-selling crime writer of all time with both series remaining all-time best-sellers. I wonder how many people who enthuse over Fred Vargas’s work realise she is female as Fred is quite a common name for women here in France.

Why then do some readers maintain that women can’t write crime as well as men do? Surely not simply sexism raising its ugly head in the twenty-first century? It’s certainly not because women take a softer approach to their writing. Not only in books but on the small screen, women writers have written some of the nittiest and grittiest series of recent times. Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley, for example, drew some criticism from Mediawatch-UK for its violent scenes, yet the first series also won the BAFTA Award for best Drama series.


Intelligent readers will, of course, read a book with no preconceptions over gender and judge it entirely on its merits. There was always be some, unfortunately, who will dismiss what might be an excellent read because it was written by a man or a woman or a transgender person or some other category which doesn’t fit comfortably into their particular mindset. Their loss.

* Note for those not familiar with the vernacular of Greater Manchester, where I grew up. There is nothing sexist, demeaning or anything else derogatory about the collective term ‘lads’ for men, especially younger men. Nor of ‘lass’ for females. I didn’t remotely mind being collectively termed one of the lads.


Lesley M. Krier Tither is a retired journalist, freelance copywriter and copy editor who also worked for the Crown Prosecution Service. She now lives in central France’s Auvergne region and holds French nationality. She writes crime fiction as L M Krier, travel memoirs and humour as Tottie Limejuice and children’s fiction with a crime twist as L M Kay. She is a proud Indie author and has refused an approach from a publisher to remain so. When not writing she enjoys walking and camping with her rescued border collies, Fleur and Rosie. She is also owned by two cats, HRH the Princess Freddie Mercury and her lady-in-waiting Bibi.

BLOOD TYPE: Dare To Remember author Susanna Beard @Legend_Press #writingtips #amwriting


CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday top-notch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.

“Books don’t just flow from authors’ minds; even the most talented, successful writers work incredibly hard”

This week: SUSANNA BEARD author of Dare To Remember

Tell us about yourself…


I’m an introvert with the odd unexpected flash of the extrovert – happy in my own company but only because I know it’s not going to last too long. I’m quite private, sometimes, and pretty sociable, usually.

After a long career in PR, writing to order, I decided to become a novelist and write about whatever I want. I have a vivid imagination and love deep dark stories from Victorian Gothic to contemporary Nordic noir-style tales. After learning the art of creative writing I wrote my first novel, Dare to Remember (published by Legend Press, 1st February, 2017). My goals are to write at least ten more novels – each better than the one before – and not to get old.

I live in Marlow with one of my two sons and my two dogs, who both keep me sane and ensure I don’t become a lounge lizard. I’m proud to have swum with whalesharks and trekked in Nepal, and I believe travel really does open the mind.

How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?

I try to pick names which sound normal, and are easy to pronounce; I’ve too often heard readers say they skim over names (as in long Russian classics) and so can never remember them. They usually don’t have any special meaning to me, though they become more meaningful as the story unfolds (in other words, the name takes on the character for me in real life!)…TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

‘Fascinating’ #BookReview THE REAL CSI @katiebumpz #amwriting #crimefiction

‘Perfect for anyone interested in crime or crime writing’


Who is allowed access to a crime scene? What happens when a body is discovered? Will a blood transfusion alter DNA? How can the distribution of gunshot residue inform your plot? The Real CIS – A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers answers these questions and more in a unique and exclusive insight into crime scene investigation. Using real-life examples and case studies, experienced CSI Kate Bendelow shines a light behind the yellow tape and debunks the myths popularized by the ‘CSI Effect’. Each chapter explores the latest procedures in contemporary practice including: Crime Scene access and preservation; fingerprints and DNA profiling; footwear; trace evidence; fire scenes; drugs and toxicology and, finally, firearms. Packed with insider knowledge, handy tips and compelling storylines, this is the definitive guide for all crime writers who wish to write with authenticity and authority.


It’s exciting and nerve-racking times in the Copperthwaite writing cave at the moment. My current work in progress is a little different from my previous novels, though still very much crime-based, never fear. It means, though, that I’m reading lots of fascinating non-fiction books on police procedure and the like – and this newly-published book, THE REAL CSI, A FORENSIC HANDBOOK FOR CRIME WRITERS by Kate Bendelow, caught my eye immediately.

The author has been a crime scene investigator for 15 years, and her expertise really shines through. She manages to convey technical complexity with simple explanations, so the book is packed with information without ever seeming… TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

BLOOD TYPE: Try Not To Breathe author Holly Seddon @HollySeddon @corvusbooks #writingtips


CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday top-notch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.

“I try not to take the quick/easy route but instead do the difficult thing “

This week: HOLLY SEDDON author of Try Not To Breathe and Don’t Close Your Eyes

Tell us about yourself…

Holly Seddon bw.jpg

I’m a British author, living in Amsterdam. My first book, Try Not to Breathe was published in 2016 and my second, Don’t Close Your Eyes has just been published. A third is being edited right now…

When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my dog Arnie, my kids and husband, or lifting weights.

How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?

Some times they just pop into my head, like Alex Dale from Try Not to Breathe. I was writing the very first scene with her and the name came out on to the page without any conscious thought, and I loved it.

Robin from Don’t Close Your Eyes is special to me. Her full name is Robin Marshall. Music is a big part of her… TO READ INTERVIEW IN FULL, CLICK HERE

BLOOD TYPE: Sweetpea author CJ Skuse @CJSkuse @harpercollinsUK #writingtips #writerslife


CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday top-notch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.

“First drafts for me are like filling an empty swimming pool with cups of water”

This week: C.J. SKUSE

Tell us about yourself…

I’m a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stain glass window. Nah, not really. Actually I’m a fairly average 36-year-old gal from Weston super Mare who grew up behind bars, eats way too many Maoams, failed Maths GCSE three time2016-09-29 12.13.18.jpgs and spends all her time in churchyards. I am blonde though (on occasion) and I love death sites, dogs and doll houses. I am also a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University so when I’m not writing my own books, I’m helping students to write theirs. BSU is a gorgeous place to work and is where I did both of my degrees. Every time I walk onto campus my spine straightens and I just feel so lucky to be there. I love it more than all the fishes in the sea, which is a lot.

How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?

Character names are always important to me and I spend waaaay too much time thinking of them. Sometimes I’ll just hear a name I like and I’ll use it (as was the case with Paisley – the protagonist of my first YA novel Pretty Bad Things – I was listening to a Scottish weather forecast) and other times I will agonise over them for weeks. The graveyards I frequent on my dog walks are sometimes sources of inspiration when it comes to names too, though I always use centuries-old names out of respect.

In Sweetpea my character was originally called Tamsin but when I heard Fleetwood Mac’s song Rhiannon on the radio, I knew she was meant to be called Rhiannon instead. With my fourth YA novel Monster (set in an all-girl boarding school) I needed to come up with… TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

‘Absorbing’ #BookReview CITY OF MASKS, @SD_Sykes @HodderBooks


‘There’s something for everyone in this gentle crime fiction’


1358. Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is in Venice, awaiting a pilgrim galley to the Holy Land. While the city is under siege from the Hungarians, Oswald lodges with an English merchant, and soon comes under the dangerous spell of the decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the hinge of Europe, where East meets West.

Oswald is trying to flee the chilling shadow of something in his past, but when he finds a dead man on the night of the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that takes him deep into the intrigues of this mysterious, paranoid city.

Coming up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everybody is watching somebody else, and nobody in Venice is what he or she seems. The masks are not just for the carnival.


Still crime, but a definite change of pace for me, as I rarely read historical fiction – but I always make an exception with S.D. Sykes.

The City of Masks is the third in her Somershill Manor series featuring Oswald de Lacy, and this time it is a falling out with troublesome relatives that kick-starts the action as he and his mother visit Venice.

Despite the change of location, the book is as absorbing a read as ever. S.D. Sykes has a way of weaving meticulous period detail through her stories without it ever feeling overwhelming – instead, it brings the story to life. This time she has surpassed herself, and I felt transported to the Venice of yesteryear. As amateur detective Oswald finds himself sucked into investigating a murder, little gems of humour are thrown in that lighten the pace. There’s something for everyone in this gentle crime fiction, right down to a floating brothel run by nuns… Great book!

PhotoFiction: Rachel Abbott shares #writing inspirations @RachelAbbott @MauraRedPR #authorinterview


Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words

THIS WEEK: Rachel Abbott reveals how looking at a photograph can help bring a whole scene to life…


Rachel Abbott’s debut thriller, Only the Innocent, was an international bestseller, reaching the number one position in the Amazon charts both in the UK and US. This was followed by the number one bestselling novels The Back Road, Sleep Tight and Stranger Child, Nowhere Child (a short novel based on the characters from Stranger Child) and Kill Me Again. In February 2017 Rachel released her seventh novel, The Sixth Window.
Her novels have been translated into over 20 languages.
In 2015 Amazon celebrated the first five years of the Kindle in the UK, and announced that Rachel was the #1 bestselling independent author over the five-year period. She was also placed #14 in the chart of all authors. Stranger Child was the most borrowed novel for the Kindle in the first half of 2015.
Rachel splits her time between Alderney – a beautiful island off the coast of France – and the Le Marche region of Italy, where she is able to devote all her time to writing fiction.

RA pic 2RACHEL SAYS: Every writer seeks inspiration for their stories from a whole range of sources. For some it could be news reports, magazine articles or local tales. They may discover a character they believe would be the perfect hero or villain in a novel, or be inspired to develop a devious plot. All of these work for me too – I believe that characters can drive a plot if they are strong enough.

But character and plot without a real sense of place don’t feel like quite enough to me. I want to sense the atmosphere of the surroundings and I try to bring this to life in my stories…TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

BLOOD TYPE: Sheryl Browne @SherylBrowne #writingtips #writerslife


CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday top-notch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.

“Sleep deprivation is definitely a downside of being a writer”

This week: Sheryl Browne

Tell us about yourself…

Sheryl Browne03 small file.jpg

You mean fabulously interesting things about me? Hmm? Well, here goes. I’m a keen boater. I do strange things occasionally like skydiving from 20,000 feet. Living in leafy Worcestershire, I’m a mother and I also foster disabled dogs, mostly on a long term basis, which makes for a quite interesting life. I write contemporary fiction and psychological thriller (apparently I have a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath. Thank you Rachel at Rachel’s Random Reads. I’m flattered … I think). I’m a member of the Crime Writers’ Association the Romantic Novelists’ Association and have several books published, along with two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies where I completed my MA in Creative Writing, finally. Life, what can I say?

How do you go about plotting your book? 

Plotting for me is … complete pandemonium. I start with a character and vague outline, i.e. pivotal plot points. In my second DI Matthew Adams thriller, for instance, the whole story is based around my protagonist making a bad judgement call and finding himself a victim of a drug related sexual assault. When you have a character in your head complete with traits and quirks, he’s inevitably going to lead the story and in this situation his emotions are going to be all over the place. He’s dictating his reactions so the outline goes out of the window and the post it notes begin to adorn my working surfaces, occasionally being seized upon as I actually remember them. The notepad inevitably accompanies me to bed, because those emotions don’t shut off at night. Sleep deprivation is definitely a downside of being a writer… TO CONTINUE READING, CLICK HERE

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