Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Cassandra Neary receives a voice message from Investigator Jonathan Wheedler. It is partly due to this voice message that Cassandra accepts an assignment from Anton Bredahl, a guy she just met over email. The other reason being that Anton wants Cassandra to travel to famed photographer Illkka Kaltunnen’s house to assess some art work of his to verify that they are real. Plus, Anton is going to pay Cassandra a lot of money. Cassandra could really use the money and this is a good way to leave town and avoid the Investigator.
Cassandra meets Illkka and views his photos. Everything seems to be going well until Cassandra sees on the news that Illkka has been murdered. Cassandra realizes than that she has been set up but by whom and why?
Ms. Hand is a new to me author. Ms. Hand has a unique style of writing. In what I mean by this is that I felt both connected and disconnected with this story and the characters in an odd, good sort of way. Connected in the fact that I could not stop reading this book as it was different and intriguing but disconnected in the way that it was like I was in the audience watching a movie but never relating to the characters and what they were going through in this story. I felt that the characters deserved what happened to them. Due to their sick and twisted obsession with death and preserving it through a photograph. I would categorize Available Dark as more on the suspense side than I would mystery. Overall, I was intrigued enough by Ms. Hand’s writing that I would try her again in the future.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Paris My Sweet is Amy Thomas’s memoir of her moving to Paris for a job. Although, it was not just for any job. Amy was offered a job working for famed designer, Louis Vuitton. She wrote ad copies. Thus the journey begins for Ms. Thomas.
I could tell from this book just how much Ms. Thomas really loved (obsessed) over all things sweet. If I had to name a place to visit to indulge your sweet tooth, than Paris would instantly come to my mind. I am jealous of Ms. Thomas getting to call Paris her home and try out all some of the best pastries, cheeses and breads. Ms. Thomas did a nice job of describing in detail, all the wonderful foods she sampled. As I was reading this book, my mouth was watering.
While, I did enjoy reading about Ms. Thomas’s experience in Paris and learning about the different sweets, I also grew tried after a while. It was like Ms. Thomas was repeating herself with every chapter, just that the food item being featured was different. I found myself skimming over the chapters and than finally flash forwarding towards the end of the book.
Highlights of this book are the More Sweet Spots on the Map. These were usually inserted at the end of each chapter. Ms. Thomas would than explain a shop, ingredient or something else. I did learn lots from these little features. Finally I have to agree that the Macaroons you can pick up in the grocery stores are “fakes”. They are not the real deal. If you were to ever try a “real” one, than you would love them.
Coconut Macaroon Cookies Recipe
14 ounces sweetened coconut flakes
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.Adjust your oven racks so one is in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
2.In a large bowl, combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla until well blended.
3.In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and salt on high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
4.Gently stir/fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture, being careful not to deflate the egg whites.
5.Drop the batter onto lined cookie sheets with either two teaspoons or a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop 2-inches apart.
6.Bake for 22 to 28 minutes, or until golden brown.
7.Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes then transfer the cookies to a wire rack with a thin metal spatula to cool completely.
This recipe yields between 2 and 3 dozen Coconut Macaroons
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Review by Nancy
What if you could get rid of everyone who bugged you? Teased you? Made your life miserable? What if YOU could own Earth and everything left on it? Tempting? I’d say so! This is the plan of Andre Ferguson and friends. Frenemies might be a better word, actually. Andre has developed the best chemical ever: an anthrax mutation linked to a flesh-dissolving bead which will not only kill you but get your body out of the way in a day or so.
Andre wants to be THE GUY. And he is for awhile. One small problem – not everyone on Earth died. Oh, he’d made sure some people lived to act as “gatherers” for himself and friend Jim but that was all. Except…..he hadn’t exposed everyone. Derek Silverman an d wife Sveta somehow missed getting infected. Their baby daughter was and she died, but they were left to mourn and try to figure out what had happened.
When Andre finds that Derek and Sveta are alive he sends several groups out to kill them. After all, Earth isn’t his unless Derek and wife die, now is it? Unfortunately, Derek has no plans to dies. He somehow finds ways outfox everyone Andre sends until Sveta, injured and on a table resting accidentally sets her foot on a corpse and catches the disease as well.
This story will not only entertain you but scare the hell out of you. I cannot imagine a scarier thought than everyone in the world dying! It’s brought to life right here in Bacterium and in fine fashion. This is a must-read for all you end-of-the-worlders and anyone who is interested in chemistry at its deadliest.
Purchase a copy here
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Review by Nancy
If you’re the wife of a researcher; be prepared to take the back burner to mice, rats, rabbits and other critters that come cheap and can be tossed if they die. If you’re married to Dr. Simon Patterson like Helen is; even Dorothy the rabbit upstages you. A plus might be that if his experiment works, Simon Patterson will have discovered the way to a much longer life. Not that Helen is anyone’s idea of a gem. She is shrill, nagging, shrill, beautiful, shrill, nagging….you get the idea. She wants something – ANYTHING – other than what she has. She is openly envious of all who are rich and can travel, vacation in exotic spots and tells them so with every breath.
Then Simon saves the life of a very special man: Carlo Vucci and instantly is in Carlo’s inner circle. Possibly a little too in as Carlo’s wife Christine starts finding excuses to visit Simon at the hospital. Soon they have gotten closer than planned and if a comparison of Helen and Christine, Helen isn’t even on the dance card. The closeness evolves into an affair and, knowing that Carlo will kill them if he finds out, the couple go through many moves to stop that from happening. Alas, you know they never work.
Simon is hiding from Carlo, Catherine is pursuing Simon, someone kills Helen in her bedroom, Simon’s chief assistant is gunning for Simon’s job. Such chaos, several murders and near riots ensue. Someone is double-crossing everyone else and there are several suspects. Figuring it out is the fun part!
Purchase a copy here
Friday, February 17, 2012
Review by Nancy
In Force of Habit, we realize that although nuns terrified us in school and hospitals and even in Church they have their own lives – and secrets. Sister Madeline would’ve fit right in. Especially in the secret column.
When the backwoods convent she has been cloistered in hears of old friends dying it’s a shock. They didn’t just drop dead – nope. These folks raised the “dead bar” a bit. The first jumped off a cruise ship in to the propellers. Yucky to say the least. Someone/something is after Sr. Maddie’s old friends and Sr. Maddie herself is included.
We meet Sister Madeline in the road. Driving a carriage being pulled by two teen-aged novice nuns. That’s the calm part…Fake police, male visitors asking for a Madeline Spree. “Old sins can’t be prayed away. There are lessons to be learned, penances to pay.” And the Executive.
I wish I’d been a nun, sometimes. Of course it helps if you’re Catholic and I’m not. However…..most of the nuns I’ve known were a hoot to work with. Sister Madeline would fit in there as well. Go get this book – you’ll love it!
Purchase a copy here
Review by Nancy
Take an old coot, his three horribly spoiled daughters, one druggy grand daughter , the local sheriff and add in one blonde named…..Bambi. Stir up with astrology and chocolate by a gazillion bars and you have a bit of a clue what Hot Chocolate is about.
The sisters Alcott feel it’s time for Daddy to leave the family manse and stay with folks his own age.
They think he’s going to be upset but he is excited about seeing women he can flirt with. After all, he only has one at home – his nurse, Bambi. Bambi is married to the town tough guy who has stashed all the money he’s ever made. Bambi just doesn’t know this. When someone kills Jimmie Roy; Bambi is an instant millionaire (ess?) which may be a good thing as she seems to be expecting.
Who killed Jimmie Rae? Everyone in town could be suspect. His employees adore him but he treats his life like his dog and most folks didn’t cross him if they could avoid it.
The sisters, Lila Mae, Madge and Dorothea are typical ladies of money. They spend it if they want, all three drive Bentleys and all three are unhappy in their own ways. Lila Mae lives by astrology and is dating the Sheriff, Madge is eldest, most protective of here sisters but even she has a stopping point and it has been crossed. Dorothea is the Baby, always getting her way and has taken care of Daddy for a long time.
Jimmie Ray was stabbed with one of Dorothea’s dinner forks. Bambi isn’t the only one “in the family way” and Daddy is having one helluva time in his new digs. You have got to read this book! Even murder is funny here!!
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Interview questions by Nancy
1. Congratulations on a wonderful story! Where is the world did you get the idea for chocolate heiresses?
I'm so glad you liked the book. Hoo boy... every chocoholic's dream must be to never run out of any form of chocolate, so with that in mind, when I came up with the idea of Bernie being this billionaire businessman, I decided that making billions from people's chocolate cravings was the very best business for this story. Don't you just love the fact that Madge stashes boxes of Alcott's chocolate covered cherries for her "emergencies"?
2. Tossing in some astrology and "seers" was a great part of the story and I was wondering if you, yourself, read your horoscope and visit interpreters?
Yes! I meditate one hour each morning and come up with some pretty deep insights, solve problems in my plots, and then turn to my astrology pals. I read Susan Miller (Astrology Zone), Robert Brown (Writings in the Sky), and a few others on a monthly basis. I have periodic sessions with my astrocartographer Scott Wolfram (The Travelers Well), whom I adore. Plus I'm surrounded by friends who have special gifts, such as Margaret, a fantastic numerologist, Sandy and Gwynne, my intuitive friends. Then there's Tom T Moore's The Gentle Way - I say my MBOs daily!
3. What do you need to write? Music? A special part of your house? Cats? Dogs?
I write in deep silence. When I'm in that zone, it flows. Sometimes when I'm trying to work something out, I wash dishes by hand - there's something about hot, soapy water that loosens the brain cells. Walking is also good to work things out. My dog Shasta used to be my muse prior to her passing. Midnight, my black cat, has taken her spot, but he will never replace her. When I need music, I listen to my Twilight CDs, among others.
4. Could anyone possibly be as naive as Bambi? Please, please say no!!
Trust me... there are Bambi's out there. You read about them every day and wonder how in the world they could believe some of the stuff they're talked into! It appears that common sense wasn't handed out to the masses, otherwise we would not see so many news stories about stupid things happening to people. Makes me shake my head and thank God for my brains and common sense.
Just wait... Bitter Chocolate will have you ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing)!
Check out Dawn's website
Paul was just a normal teenager. But what sets a normal person to kill his best friend and lying in his pool of blood. This is exactly where Paul is found when the cops find him.
Dr. Lisa Boyer is contacted by Paul's attorney. Who happens to be an old friend of Lisa's. Paul's attorney wants Lisa to interview Paul and learn the truth about why Paul did what he did. Dr. Boyer agrees but gets more than she bargains for.
I agree with the other readers that this book was seperated into two stories...Paul's and Dr. Boyer's. While, I did enjoy this book, I felt that it fell a little short where Dr. Boyer’s story was involved. She didn’t jump off the pages and come to life for me. In addition, she did nothing to help Paul other than just listen to his story.
Although, it was quite a story. Which I figured out pretty quickly in the beginning, what the story was. There was nothing really new about the story other than the ending was a little bit of a surprise for me. I did not really see it coming.
Paul’s story did draw me in. He had personality. He may have seemed quiet and with drawn but he was a lot stronger and grown up than he really was. I felt bad for Paul. Paul was the nice guy that finished last.
When it came to learning about Dr. Boyer and her tragic past, I thought she was a victim of it and thus was weak. After a while, I would just skim over her parts of the book to get back to Paul's. Overall, this was a pretty, good book. This book did show me enough of what Mr. Seidel is capable of and I will check out some of his other prior novels.
By Spencer Seidel
“‘He’s got a knife!’ Jimmy said after seeing the glint of a blade in the kid’s hand. Jimmy brought his gun up and squared it at the kid.”
A murder rocks Portland, Maine after police discover an incoherent teen sitting in a pool of blood late one night. Paul Ducharme is found with a murder weapon in one hand, the dead body of his best friend in the other, and no clue how he got to the Eastern Promenade Trail.
A teenage love triangle gone wrong brings Spencer Seidel back with a vengeance in LOVESICK (PublishingWorks; $14.95; June 2012), the follow up to his breakout novel Dead of Wynter. Seidel deftly illustrates the trying relationship amid a friend and love interest – each with their own desires, issues and shocking agendas.
Wendy, the girl of Paul’s dreams, has been missing for weeks. Her boyfriend Lee has been murdered–apparently by Paul. It’s an open and shut case–or so most of Portland thinks.
When forensic psychologist Dr. Lisa Boyers is asked to interview Paul, who claims to forget the events leading up to the murder, she reluctantly agrees. In her jailhouse interviews, Lisa helps Paul to recover his memories, but the murder’s circumstances force her to recall her own troubled past.
Media attention mounts. Reporters stream into Portland. All eyes turn to Lisa. She seems intent on exonerating the “brutal teen killer” but quickly finds herself the focus of an over-zealous reporter with a knack for digging up dirty secrets. But the killer who has Lisa in the crosshairs already knows them all.
By Spencer Seidel
PublishingWorks, June 2012
$14.95; 378 pages
The Terrifying World of a Writer By Spencer Seidel
Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you that I can be overly scheduled, neurotic, a tad eccentric . . . Well, I won't go on. You get the picture. Let's just say that sometimes I'm not real good with going with the flow.
Show me a writer who isn't a little strange, and I'll show you a mediocre writer. Writers throughout history have been weird. Hemingway was weird. Same goes for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Do I even have to mention Truman Capote?
I think there's a simple reason for this.
For those of you who don't write, let me describe the concept with an analogy. Suppose you woke up one day with a sense of smell as keen as a bloodhound. Can you imagine how awful that would be? You'd smell everything vividly. Every cleaning product on every surface, your own BO, or worse, everyone else's BO. And I won't even mention that cat box or God forbid, the old cat herself. And that's just the beginning. What about the garbage, the laundry hamper, or the week-old milk in the fridge? Even sex would be a challenge. You'd go mental.
But there's a flip side. Imagine how wonderful freshly baked cinnamon rolls would smell. Or bacon in the morning. No wonder dogs are always begging around for food or dying to get outside. The complex and sometimes overwhelming smells must drive them nuts.
Being a writer is a lot like that, except instead of smells, it's motivations, emotion, and possibilities. When I get into the car to drive to work every morning, it isn't hard for me to make my writer voice say things like, "His last day on earth began just like any other." Yikes! Even on that short drive to my day job, I'm always seeing possibilities. Things that could happen, little things that change lives forever, events that books are made of, like a dropped cellphone on the passenger-side floor that makes someone stray into oncoming traffic, or a blown tire. The more complex the situation, the worse this effect gets.
p>I think this can make writers a little crazy and regimented in their ways as they seek to control their environments. But, like with our newly found bloodhound senses, there is a flip side. Although some can be extremely introverted, writers are very good at sniffing out people's angles and motivations. I contend that this makes writers very difficult to lie to. Think your writer spouse could never find out that you're having an affair? I'll bet she already knows. Or suspects, anyway. We can be hypersensitive and detect subtle verbal clues and facial expressions people aren't even aware they're using. We do that because that's in part what makes good characterization. That's a powerful thing.
People are always telling me I would have made a great psychologist. I'll bet that's true of most writers. That's because you really need to understand people at a gut level to make believable characters.
That also gets a little hairy. You can't just think about all the good things people do, although there is plenty of that around, despite what you hear on the news. Sometimes you have to live inside the head of a killer or rapist or worse, trying to understand how a character like that would think. It can be frightening.
I mean, what if I find out I sort of like it in there? Damn, there I go again.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
It has been years since Meredith has seen or set foot on Aurelia. Aurelia is a piece of property that lies on more than three thousand acres of land. Meredith receives a letter. The letter tells her that her cousin has passed away and that Aurelia will be dissolved and auctioned off to the highest bidders. The attorney suggests to Meredith that it would make things easier if someone in the family was to come down to Aurelia and sign the papers. Once back at Aurelia, Meredith remembers both the good and bad times of her family.
I tried to get into this book but I just was not feeling the vibes. The characters felt old-fashioned and not so much in a good way. For this type of story to really work for me, the characters have to be engaging, jump off the pages and make me feel something for them. Thus is did not happen for me end I did not wish to continue learning about the Hathaway family or their secrets. Like for example, when Meredith’s grandmother, Lavinia left with Meredith’s grandfather, who at the time was her lover. Yeah, Lavinia was an adulteress. Well, anyways, when Meredith’s grandfather came to the house to confront Lavinia’s current husband that he was taking Lavinia away with him, he asked Lavinia if she wanted to go and she nodded her head yes. He than left the room without a fight. This is when I knew I was probably not going to enjoy this book as I had hoped. Although, Lavinia and Meredith’s grandfather were a nice match, I yelled in my head that Lavinia’s current husband needed to show some fight and be more of a man. This book may not have been my cup of tea but it does not mean it might not appeal to you.
Writing on Taboo Topics by Nelle Davy
Because the novel was inspired by I Claudius, in which all these things occur it wasn’t difficult to write because it was the natural course for the story to take. The hardest scene to write was the rape scene and the end confrontation between Meredith and Ava. Everything else was a walk in the park compared to that which was very draining. I think it would be interesting to know that the bloodletting which actually is now a pivotal moment in the novel did not come in until the final draft. Everything that happens in the novel is in context with the characters, their build up, and their downfall, so writing them felt very natural and as I said because the book was a modern reworking of another, it already had a sort of natural path that it was going to take with these things along the way, so I was always prepared for what was going to happen within the novel and the journey it was going to take. What interested me as a writer was not the incidents themselves but the characters reactions to them. That was what kept me gripped when writing it – how the characters behaved and why and what was draining or difficult was trying to understand that and conveying it in such a way that the reader could to while also drawing their own conclusions. After all, books are symbiotic – the writer sets down the story but really it does not come into its own until someone reads it and puts their own interpretation onto it. That’s what gives stories life.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Love me. Love me. I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me.
That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.
From the outside looking in, Kelle Hampton had the perfect life: a beautiful two-year-old daughter, a loving husband, a thriving photography career, and great friends. When she learned she was pregnant with her second child, she and her husband, Brett, were ecstatic. Her pregnancy went smoothly and the ultrasounds showed a beautiful, healthy, high-kicking baby girl.
But when her new daughter was placed in her arms in the delivery room, Kelle knew instantly that something was wrong. Nella looked different than her two-year-old sister, Lainey, had at birth. As she watched friends and family celebrate with champagne toasts and endless photographs, a terrified Kelle was certain that Nella had Down syndrome—a fear her pediatrician soon confirmed. Yet gradually Kelle's fear and pain were vanquished by joy, as she embraced the realization that she had been chosen to experience an extraordinary and special gift.
Bloom takes readers on a wondrous journey through Nella's first year of life—a gripping, hilarious, and intensely poignant trip of transformation in which a mother learns that perfection comes in all different shapes. It is a story about embracing life and really living it, of being fearless and accepting difference, of going beyond constricting definitions of beauty, and of the awesome power of perspective. As Kelle writes, "There is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky."
Big time record producer, Jake, would rather drown his sorrows in Jack and Coke or what ever else his poison is than grieve for the loss of is wife, Kipenzi. Kipenzi died in a plane crash. Although, the loss of his wife does not stop Jake from gaining an interest in waitress, Lily.
Lily is not impressed by Jake's fame. Although he grows on her the more time they share together.
Ras Bennett has a big problem. The last time he saw Cleo, he acted like everything was normal though Ras should have put a stop to things. It has been a year since Ras hooked up with Cleo. Since than Ras has cleaned up his act and he and his wife have a reconnected with each other. Just too bad that Ras forgot to inform Cleo of this fact. She is back! Now, Ras must choose between his wife or Cleo.
Z is just trying to right all of his wrongs. His oldest son, Zander is busy in the studio and his other son, Jake is trying to deal with the loss of his wife.
Than there is Alex, who is enjoying the success of ghostwriting. His latest book is focused on Cleo.
Cleo is definitely a vixen. I did not like her but in a good way. She kept things interesting. I liked Jake and Lily. They did make a nice couple. It was nice that Lily did not fawn over Jake and his fame. If she had, I would not have believed their relationship as much.
I have to admit that it was a struggle in the beginning to read this book. All the characters had some major issues and drama. I was not sure how much of this I could take. This probably would not have been such an issue had I started with Platinum. Than I would have gotten to know the characters better and become more engaged with them. I decided to stick with the book and the characters. Luckily things picked up pretty quickly as this book was intriguing. It showed the grittiness of the hip hop world and that the women are the glue that hold their men together. The ending did finish strong and on a high note. Diamond Life shined!
Monday, February 13, 2012
Frieda came along before the idea of writing a series did. We had always said we wrote stand-alone thrillers, but then we thought about a central character who is a therapist, someone who believes you can’t solve the mess in the world but you can try to address the mess in your own head, the pain and fear and anxiety inside of you. We thought of her as a different kind of detective, a detective of the mind, who is unwillingly dragged by the events that unfurl in the novel out into the real world.
Once we had imagined Frieda—solitary, insomniac, prickly, difficult, honorable, trustworthy, fiercely private—we knew she needed more than one book. She has to be discovered over time. And from that the octet gradually emerged. The books will cover a decade in Frieda’s life and the lives of the cast that she assembles around her; we want to see how time marks them, how they are changed by the experiences they live through together.
Also, we became excited by the idea of writing eight books that could stand as gripping thrillers in their own right, but which are also connected by one over-arching story. In BLUE MONDAY a fuse is lit that then will burn its way through the remaining seven books, coming to a climax in the final novel.
Where did the title BLUE MONDAY come from?
This is the first book of a planned series of dark thrillers that will be named after the days of the week. The title BLUE MONDAY seemed perfect to us because it is both about beginnings but also about the difficulty of beginning, its pains and regrets and fears. It also happens to be the title of not just one but two (very different) great songs – by Fats Domino and New Order.
Set against a backdrop of a dark, tangled London, BLUE MONDAY illustrates your power over a sense of place. As Frieda navigates its streets one can almost feel the damp chill of London’s foggy night air. What is your writing process? What are some things about the London you depict in your books that those of us in the US might not know?
As regards London, our writing process is to do what we have always done, which is to spend a lot of our time walking, cycling—and sometimes running—around the city, exploring its hidden alleys, squares, canals. We have both spent many years living in the city and every time we go out we see something completely new. Much of BLUE MONDAY came out of those walks.
A few things you need to know about London:
It’s big; really big. Greater London is about thirty-five miles across.
It’s really old. It’s been a continuously functioning (and dis-functioning) city since the Romans and it has been built on, burnt down, bombed, demolished, built on, over and over again.
London is really a collection of villages that used to be separated by fields and meadows and woodlands and orchards that gradually got filled up but they still hang on to their identity. In good ways and bad, London is a jangling mess. North Londoners don’t like South London, East Enders feel persecuted by everybody, West Kensington isn’t really in Kensington, and wherever you’re from anywhere in the world, you’ll find a community somewhere in London.
London is a landscape as much as a city, one of the oldest and most complicated landscapes in England.
And still, there’s so much that we don’t understand about London. For example, why do tourists always go to Madame Tussaud’s?
What are some things about you that might be a surprise to those of us in the US?
Sean: My mother is Swedish and we spend every New Year in central Sweden. On New Year’s Eve we have a sauna and jump through a hole in the ice.
Nicci and I studied the same subject (English literature) at the same university (Oxford) but we didn’t meet until ten years later.
In 2005, we ran the London Marathon together. Literally—we crossed the line at the same time.
Nicci: I broke my back a few years ago (and have sworn never to get on a horse again).
I am trained as a celebrant—I can bury people!
One of my passions is growing chillies—very, very hot chillies. Another is eating them (if you eat burningly hot chillies when they are frozen, you can taste their real flavour and only later do they explode in your chest like a small bomb).
Frieda is a psychotherapist. What kind of research did you do to make her so real?
Sean: Frieda emerged from our fascination with the whole subject of doctors whose job it is to make sense of our lives just by the way we talk about them. We have friends who are therapists, we have a certain experience of therapy, we’ve talked to people who have undergone therapy and we’ve read an awful lot about it.
Nicci: And also, in a way, therapy is a bit like writing itself: you take chaos and put order onto it, a road out of the dark woods.
What are you working on now?
Sean: We’ve just finished the second Frieda Klein and we’re standing nervously by the edge plucking up the nerve to dive into the third one.
You are known as the internationally bestselling author Nicci French, yet really there are two of you: Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, writing partners and husband and wife and you live in England. Why did you decide to start writing fiction together?
Sean: In the first years we were married, we talked about the idea. We knew that people could collaborate in different ways but we were interested in whether two people could write a novel that had one voice, where you were really creating a new person.
Nicci: It was like an experiment. But looking back at it, all these years and fourteen books later, it seems so odd, such a strange thing to do when we were both working flat out anyway, with four tiny children racing around the house. We didn’t do it because we thought we would write a book, get it published, become Nicci French. We did it to see if we could do it, because it seemed like a shared adventure—and it has been a shared adventure, a way of exploring the world together.
How do you manage co-authorship? Do you sit down and write together or do you take it in shifts?
Nicci: When we talk about how we write together we tend to make it sound much neater and better managed than it actually is, it’s a rather chaotic and messy business. The one thing we never do is actually sit down and write together, and the thought of one of us dictating to the other is a kind of madness, it just wouldn’t work. We spend a long time talking about the shape of the novel, the story, the way the plot goes, the development of the characters and above all the voice of the narrator into whom we both have to write, and once we’re satisfied with that then we’ll start to write. The writing will quite often take us away from the plan, but that’s what we do. One of us will write, say, the first chapter and then hand it over to the other who is absolutely free to change it, edit it, erase it, add other words to it, and then they will write the next chapter and pass it back. It’s a question of moving between the two of us. We never decide in advance who’s going to write what chapter, there’s no division.
Sean: We felt that in order for it to work we both have to be responsible for everything, whether we (individually) have written it or not. If there’s any research that needs doing for a book then we both have to do it, we both have to have all of it in our heads.
Nicci: If Sean writes something and I change absolutely nothing about that whole section, but I read it and approve it, then it becomes mine as well. It becomes a kind of Nicci French thing so we both own each word of it.
Why did you choose to write crime novels?
Nicci: I’m interested in crime in the sense that I’m interested in the strange path that people’s lives can go down. I’m not so much interested in the criminal; I’m much more interested in the victim, the effects of the crime and what lies beneath the settled surface. Most people, when you meet them, present themselves as ordered and controlled; they have a self-possessed image. Underneath that everybody is a welter of doubt, grief, loss, nostalgia, love and hate; that’s what I’m interested in. The thrillers that we write are not about fiendishly clever serial killers outwitting the police, they’re about ordinary people who have extraordinary things happening in the middle of their lives, and the way that they change and have to resolve things. I think that attracts us to the thriller genre.
You chose to use a female pseudonym, and almost all your novels so far have been written from a female viewpoint. Is there a reason for this?
Sean: The first idea we had was about recovered memory, and 99% of people recovering memory in therapy are women, so it obviously had to be a woman. Once it was a woman as the main character then it just seemed obvious that if we were going to choose a name, that it should be a female name. Women have achieved a kind of independence and equality, a nominal independence, and yet so many things haven’t changed. There are so many kinds of unexpected pressures that have come along with that, and that seemed an interesting road to go down.
Nicci: It is that sense of there being a cross-current between what modern women are like now; assertive, independent, strong, ambitious, and yet still very physically vulnerable, but also vulnerable to all the things that attack us from the past, all the things we’re conditioned to feel. There’s a kind of emotional vulnerability and intelligence, a particular kind of female intelligence that seems to be a good way of looking at the world.