The INTO THE FIRE blog tour: CTG interviews Manda Scott – plus a fab #IntoTheFireComp

INTO THE FIRE cover image

INTO THE FIRE cover image

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Manda Scott to the CTG blog as part of the INTO THE FIRE blog tour. Manda is the author of four critically acclaimed novels about Boudica and, writing as MC Scott, four novels set in Ancient Rome featuring assassin and spy Sebastos Pantera. She is founder and Chair of the Historical Writer’s Association, the Historical Publishers’ Group, Chair of the HWA Debut Crown and of the programming panel for the Harrogate History Festival.

So, to the interview …

Your latest book INTO THE FIRE is out in hardback this month, can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a dual time line thriller – the contemporary thread is set in 2014 and there’s a historical thread in 1429, when a young girl, who claimed to be a peasant, turned up at Chinon and told the king she had been sent to free France from English rule (I paraphrase, but that was the gist).

In 2014, Inès Picaut is a police chief in Orléans, called to the site of a fire at a hotel, that is clearly arson. It’s the third such fire in as many weeks, but the first in which there is a body – and so she is now leading a murder hunt. The dead man in this case has been burned beyond recognition, but for the fact that he swallowed a USB drive before he died, and it contains three enciphered files which may help Picaut and her team to identify him – a task which becomes ever more pressing as further fires erupt, and more people die.  

In 1429, Tod Rustbeard, a man of French and English nationality, fights on the English side as the self-styled Maid of Orléans breaks the siege of Orléans. As the English defences crumble, he is sent behind enemy lines with an explicit task: to find the truth behind this girl who cannot be what she says she is – and then to use that truth to destroy her.  As he grows ever closer to his quarry, he has to question not only her identity, but his own. 

The two timelines weave together, each informing the other, so that the central question WHO WAS SHE? drives both forward.  I am absolutely convinced that she wasn’t an illiterate peasant girl, but we can talk about that more in the next question.   Beyond that, any good thriller is driven by a mix of anticipation and uncertainty, and each thread has to have its own threats, rhythms, internal questions that make the two together greater than the sum of their parts.

What was it that sparked your idea for writing INTO THE FIRE?

I’d always had an interest in Joan of Arc’s reputation as a woman warrior – having written about Boudica, it at least made sense to take a look at  the next most famous woman warrior – but I always got stuck on the notion that she was a peasant girl who turned up out of nowhere, got on a warhorse and led the troops into battle. Either she was a cipher, a flag-carrier and nothing more… or she had to be trained. If she was the former, I wasn’t interested. If she was the latter, I couldn’t see how it was possible.  Then I read an article that pointed me in the direction of who she could have been and the more I read about it, the more sense it made – until in the end, it seemed to me she couldn’t have been anyone else.  The question of why she had to spin her own lies in the beginning also makes so much more sense once everything falls into place.

Then I learned that the man who proposed this theory first was thrown out of France and even now, is immensely bitter about it – and it seemed to me that this, the current way of looking at her, was the most important.  She has been mis-represented for 600 years, and even now, she’s being held up as an icon of ‘perfect womanhood’ (virginal, godly, republican) by the far right in France.  So iI really wanted to explore how the political movements of the twenty first century hijack the myths of the past – and how they’ll kill to keep that myth intact. I believe absolutely in the maxim of ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing, so that meant that if I wanted to do what I thought was possible, it had to be through the vehicle of a dual time line narrative – that I had to *show* who she was in the past, in order for us to understand more deeply the projections and patho-mythologies of the present..  It’s a lot harder to write, but if the author gets it right, it’s immensely satisfying to read.

How would you describe your writing process – do you plot the story out in advance or jump right in and see where it takes you?

I never plot in advance, although if there is a historical thread to the book, then I need to make sure I know the history of who was where, doing what and when – and that I have all the ancillary data correct: the things that bring history alive. But for me to write a book, it needs to live inside me, which means the characters have to have their own freedom and they have to have the power to surprise me. I’d grow bored otherwise, and if I’m bored, then the reader is going to be bored too…

INTO THE FIRE features both an investigation taking place in present day Orleans and a historical timeline featuring Joan of Arc in 1429 – how did you go about researching them?

First, I got on the EuroStar and went to Orléans – that was really key to understanding the dynamics of both past and present.  In anything I write, the characters matter most, their identities and inner integrities and the charisma of the situation, but always, the place shapes its people and Orléans was key to both threads.  Having been there, I spent a very large amount of time reading everything I could about Joan of Arc (and there’s a lot), particularly the transcripts of the two trials – her trial by the English and the ‘rehabilitation trial’ by the French 30 years later that endeavoured to prove she wasn’t really a heretic after all – eye witness statements at the latter were crucial to understanding what actually happened, although of course we have to remember that human memory is flawed and undoubtedly coloured by time.  But still, having got my head around her, the modern day narrative of Picaut and Patrice, her computeroid cyber-brain assistant was fast and furious and most of it just rolled out almost unaided. I’m very wary of people who say that books write themselves, because they never do, but some are less effort than others and this bit flowed particularly sweetly – I revelled in the cyber-crime aspects, and the breaking of ciphers.  I’d written a series of spy thrillers just before and the cadences of that were still working their way through.

What was it that first attracted you to writing crime fiction?

I read Val McDermid’s Lyndsey Gordon series back in the 90s and fell in love with the genre. I wrote HEN’S TEETH in the late 90s because I thought I needed the exigencies of plot to help me complete a novel and then I joined the CWA and learned the actual rules of crime writing, as opposed to the ones I had invented for myself, and found that it was a fascinating structure within which to explore the things that matter most to people – I hate the kinds of novels that look at our masks. I am most interested in what happens when we drop those masks and we do so in the presence of death and danger – so crime writing, and thriller writing in particular – is the obvious medium. I consider my historical novels to be thrillers too, they’re just written in a different milieu.

For those writers aspiring to publication, what advice would you give?

I’d say what Fay Weldon said to me on my first writing course, which was ‘Find your own voice’, and then what Terry Pratchett (one of the greats, so sadly missed) said on the second writing course which was, ‘just keep writing.’  And then last, from me: Read.  Read everything.  Read books you love and books you loathe and books you don’t really care about – and work out what you love and why you love it and how it was done, and what the good bits are and what works and what doesn’t.  Reading is the apprenticeship for writing so read and read and read.

And, finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?

I’m 3/4 of the way through a sort-of sequel to INTO THE FIRE called ACCIDENTAL GODS so I have to finish that, and then we seem to be about to sell the TV rights to Into the Fire and the company wants me to write the screenplay which is both an enormous honour and an enormous privilege, so I’ll crack on with that.   I’ll be at Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in July in Harrogate and then back up again for the History Festival in October. I’m Chair of that for the third and final time this year and so it’ll be all-out to make it the best yet.  I’m handing over Chair of the Historical Writers’ Association to the brilliant historical crime writer Imogen Robertson also in October and Andrew Taylor, multiple winner of the Historical Dagger will take over Chair of the HWA Debut Crown, so between now and October, I’ll be flat out, but I’ll have a rest in November. Perhaps.  I suspect something else will have come up by then.

A massive thank you to Manda Scott for talking to us today on the CTG blog.

To find out more about Manda and her books hop on over to her website at www.mandascott.co.uk and be sure to follow her on Twitter @hare_wood

 

*** COMPETITION ALERT ***

 I’m thrilled that those lovely folks at Bantam Press have given me a copy of INTO THE FIRE to giveaway to one lucky winner! To be in with a chance to win all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway – making sure to include the hashtag #IntoTheFireComp. You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter so we can send you a direct message should you win.

Rules: (1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winner at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Monday 29th June 2015 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

 

Also, make sure you check out all the other fabulous stops along the INTO THE FIRE blog tour …

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Your Chance to WIN: DANGEROUS by Jessie Keane #bookgiveaway #CTGcomp

DANGEROUS cover image

DANGEROUS cover image

To celebrate DANGEROUS by Jessie Keane coming out in hardback, those lovely people at Pan Macmillan have given me three copies of this fabulous crime thriller to giveaway.

Here’s a bit about the book …

What the blurb says: “Whatever the cost, she would pay it. Coronation year: 1953. Fifteen-year-old Clara Dolan’s world is turned upside down following the shock death of her mother. Battling to keep what remains of her family together, Clara vows to keep her younger siblings, Bernadette and Harry, safe whatever the cost.

With the arrival of the swinging sixties, Clara finds herself swept up in London’s dark underworld where the glamour of Soho’s dazzling nightclubs sit in stark contrast to the terrifying gangland violence that threatens the new life she has worked so hard to build.

Sinking further into an existence defined by murder and betrayal, Clara soon realises that success often comes at a very high price.”

This is a real page-turner of a book. What I especially love about Jessie Keane’s books is the way she creates such a compelling cast of unique and nuanced characters. DANGEROUS is no exception, with brilliantly drawn main characters, and fully rounded supporting characters, all adding to the intrigue and richness of the story. You can read my full review here http://crimethrillergirl.com/2015/02/19/ctg-reviews-dangerous-by-jessie-keane/

 

*** THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED ***

So, to the competition …

For a chance to win a copy of DANGEROUS all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway with the hashtag #CTGcomp [You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

Rules
 (1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winners at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Sunday 8th March 2015 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

Your Chance to WIN: Crime Thriller book bundle from Orion Books #bookgiveaway

To celebrate THE DISTANCE by Helen Giltrow coming out in paperback today, those lovely people at Orion have given me three five-book bundles of fantastic crime thrillers to giveaway to three lucky winners.

The Prize:

Each bundle includes the following wonderful books …

The Distance by Helen Giltrow

Missing You by Harlan Coben

Hell’s Gate by Richard Crompton

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham

Touching Distance by Graham Hurley

It’s a fantastic prize with five great books. To wet your appetite, here’s a bit more info about each of them …

The Distance cover image

The Distance cover image

The Distance by Helen Giltrow

What the blurb says: They don’t call her Karla anymore. She’s Charlotte Alton: she doesn’t trade in secrets, she doesn’t erase dark pasts, and she doesn’t break hit-men into prison. Except that is exactly what she’s been asked to do. The job is impossible: get the assassin into an experimental new prison so that he can take out a target who isn’t officially there. It’s a suicide mission, and quite probably a set-up. So why can’t she say no?”

This breath-taking thriller from Debut Dagger shortlisted author Helen Giltrow is described by bestselling author Lee Child as “Fast, hard and very, very good.”

You can check out my review of The Distance here: http://crimethrillergirl.com/2015/02/25/ctg-reviews-the-distance-by-helen-giltrow-2/ 

 

 

Missing You by Harlan Coben

Missing You cover image

Missing You cover image

What the blurb says: It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart 18 years ago. Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable. As Kat’s hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved – her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.”

Harlan Coben is an international No.1 bestselling thriller author and a winner of the EDGAR, SHAMUS and ANTHONY AWARDs. His books are published in over 40 languages, with more than 47 million copies in print worldwide.

 

Hell’s Gate by Richard Crompton

Hell's Gate cover image

Hell’s Gate cover image

What the blurb says: When Mollel, a former Maasai warrior turned detective, ends up in a small, fly-blown town on the edge of a national park, it looks as if his career has taken a nose-dive. His colleagues are a close-knit group and they have not taken kindly to a stranger in their midst. Mollel suspects they are guilty of the extortion and bribery that plague the force, but when the body of a flower worker turns up in the local lake, he wonders if they might be involved in something more disturbing… For all is not as it seems in Hell’s Gate. Amid rumours of a local death squad, disappearances and blackmail, Mollel is forced not only to confront his Maasai heritage, but also to ask himself where justice truly lies. In upholding the law, is he doing what is right?”

Richard Crompton lives in Nairobi. Hell’s Gate has been described by bestselling crime writer Ian Rankin as “A compulsive whodunnit set in Kenya”.

 

 

 

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “When DC Fiona Griffiths says ‘yes’ to her policeman boyfriend, it’s an affirmation that she wants finally to put her psychological breakdown behind her, and become a resident of ‘Planet Normal’ like everybody else. But she still can’t resist the challenge of an undercover policing course, and finding it remarkably easy to assume a new identity, she comes top of the class. So when an ingenious payroll fraud starts to look like the tip of a huge criminal iceberg, Fiona is selected to infiltrate the fraudsters’ operation, posing as a meek former payroll clerk now forced to work as a cleaner. But as she penetrates deeper into their operation, coming closer to identifying the mastermind behind it, she faces another, even more frightening danger – that her always fragile grip on her sense of self has now been lost and she may never find her way back.”

You can check out my review of The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths here: http://crimethrillergirl.com/2014/03/11/ctg-reviews-the-strange-death-of-fiona-griffiths-by-harry-bingham/ 

 

 

Touching Distance by Graham Hurley

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “DS Jimmy Suttle is trying to get his life back on track. His marriage has fallen apart and he rarely sees his young daughter, Grace. But then a murder shuts the door on the chaos of his personal life… The victim was shot through the head at the wheel of his car on a lonely moorland road. The only witness? His two-year-old son, strapped into the rear child seat. Within days, two more killings, equally professional, equally without motive. Meanwhile, Suttle’s estranged wife is embarking on an investigation of her own in the world of journalism. But the story brings her to the question at the very heart of Jimmy’s case – what does it take to make a man kill?”

Graham Hurley has twice been shortlisted for the THEAKSTON’S OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD, and has been praised as one of the INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY’s five best UK crime writers.

 

 *** THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED ***

So, to the competition …

For a chance to win a five-book bundle all you need to do is tweet the link to this post (using the Twitter button below) OR retweet one of the CTG tweets about the giveaway. [You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

Rules
 (1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winners at random (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 9pm GMT on Wednesday 4th March 2015 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

Competition Alert: WIN a copy of The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

The Tournament cover image

The Tournament cover image

It’s Monday morning. What better time to launch a new giveaway!

Those lovely folks at Orion Books have given me ten copies of the fabulous historical thriller The Tournament by Matthew Reilly to give away as prizes for today’s competition.

THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED.

How to enter

For a chance to win one of the copies of The Tournament by Matthew Reilly all you need to do is send a tweet to @crimethrillgirl Your tweet must include the answer to this question: Where is the chess tournament in The Tournament held? [hint, check out the prize description below!] Your tweet should also include the hashtag #CTGORION. [You’ll also need to follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

If you’re not on Twitter don’t worry. You can also enter by emailing crimethrillergirl[at]gmail.com. Give your email the header CTGORION and be sure to include the answer to the question: Where is the chess tournament in The Tournament held? [hint, check out the prize description below!]

Rules
(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the ten winners at random from the entries containing the correct answer (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 10pm GMT on Friday 7th February 2014 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The prize: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

What the blurb says: “England, 1546: a young Princess Elizabeth is surrounded by uncertainty. She is not currently in line for the throne but remains a threat to her older sister and brother. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s teacher and mentor in the art of power and politics, is determined to keep her out of harm’s way. When an unprecedented invitation arrives from the Sultan of Constantinople, to an assembly of the finest players of chess from the whole civilised world, Ascham resolves to take Elizabeth with him.

But once in Constantinople for the chess tournament, the two find more danger than they left behind. There’s a killer on the loose and a Catholic cardinal has already been found mutilated. Ascham is asked by the Sultan to investigate the crime. But as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they find dark secrets, horrible crimes and unheard-of depravity. Things that mark the young princess for life and define the queen she will become …”

You can find out more about Matthew Reilly and The Tournament pop over to the Orion website here: https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781409134220

And click here to check out my review of The Tournament.

Competition Alert: WIN a fabulous bundle of Quercus Crime Books!

The Prizes!

The Prizes!

Love crime fiction? Well, you’re in for a real treat. Those darling people over at Quercus have teamed up with the CTG blog to give away a gorgeous set of novels just perfect for the avid crime reader.

The lucky winner will receive a copy of the following books: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, The Chessmen by Peter May, Screams in the Dark by Anna Smith, The Gift of Darkness by V.M. Giambanco, and The Deliverance of Evil by Roberto Costantini.

How to enter
To enter all you need to do is send a tweet to @crimethrillgirl Your tweet must include the answer to this question: Where is Peter May’s novel ‘The Chessmen’ set? [hint, check out the prize descriptions below!] Your tweet must also include the hashtag #CTGQUERCUS. [You’ll also need to be follow us on Twitter, so that we can send you a direct message should you win].

If you’re not on Twitter don’t worry. You can also enter by emailing crimethrillergirl[at]gmail.com. Give your email the header CTGQUERCUS and be sure to include the answer to the question: Where is Peter May’s novel ‘The Chessmen’ set? [hint, check out the prize descriptions below!] plus your name and address.

Rules
(1) One entry per reader (2) UK residents only – due to postage costs – sorry! (3) We will draw the winner at random from the entries containing the correct answer (4) No cash alternative (5) The competition closes for entries at 10pm GMT on Tuesday 24th December 2013 (6) The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED

The prizes
Here’s the blurb for each of the fabulous books  …

THE CHESSMEN by Peter May

Fin Macleod, now head of security on a privately owned Isle of Lewis estate, is charged with investigating a spate of illegal game-hunting taking place on the island. This mission reunites him with Whistler Macaskill – a local poacher, Fin’s teenage intimate, and possessor of a long-buried secret. But when this reunion takes a violent, sinister turn and Fin puts together the fractured pieces of the past, he realises that revealing the truth could destroy the future.

ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre

In kidnapping cases, the first few hours are crucial. After that, the chances of being found alive go from slim to nearly none. Alex Prévost – beautiful, resourceful, tough – may be no ordinary victim, but her time is running out. Commandant Camille Verhœven and his detectives have nothing to go on: no suspect, no lead, rapidly diminishing hope. All they know is that a girl was snatched off the streets of Paris and bundled into a white van. The enigma that is the fate of Alex will keep Verhœven guessing until the bitter, bitter end. And before long, saving her life will be the least of his worries.

SCREAMS IN THE DARK by Anna Smith

Crime reporter Rosie Gilmour has learned to be tough … The places she’s been and the stories she’s covered, she’s had to be. Her experience stands her in good stead for a grisly new investigation: the body of a refugee in a Glasgow canal, missing limbs and vital organs. He’s not the first person to go missing – are there vigilantes at work or is there something far more sinister going on? It’s up to Rosie to find out – but will what she discovers leave her with murder on her hands?

THE GIFT OF DARKNESS by V.M. Giambanco

Twenty-five years ago in the woods near the Hoh River in Seattle, three boys were kidnapped. One did not come home. A quarter of a decade later, a family of four is found brutally murdered, the words thirteen days scratched near their lifeless bodies. To stop a psychopath, Detective Alice Madison must go into the woods and confront the unsolved mystery of the Hoh River Boys. She must forget her training and follow her instincts to the terrifying end …

THE DELIVERANCE OF EVIL by Robert Costantini

On 11 July 1982, Elisa Sordi was beautiful. Commissario Michele Balistreri was fearless. Italy was victorious. A killer was waiting … On 9 July 2006, with Sordi’s case twenty-four years old, and Balistreri haunted by guilt and regret, Italian victory returned. And so did Sordi’s killer … But this time Michele Balistreri would be ready. This time he would fear no evil.

To find out more about these fabulous novels hop on over to the Quercus Books website at http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/blog/2013/11/30/for-the-crime-lover/