Cynthia Schweitzer recently posted a comment which contained an excellent question. How do you center yourself and get your thoughts together before beginning to write? It’s a question I’ve been asked before, and I thought it might be good to post my reply here. It is a part of the old problem of writer’s block: what do you do when the inspiration will not come? This is my answer to Cynthia’s question. ” I tend to make a lot of notes before starting to write a book, and continue to make notes about different scenes as I go along. So one way to center myself and clear my thoughts is to go through the relevant notes before I start to write. But another thing that works well for me is this: every so often I read through what I have written so far, or the most recent parts – depending on how far along the book is. That reminds me of the structure of the book, and where the scene I am about to write fits in. I am sure you have the same experience as I do, namely that there are some days when it seems to flow and some when it seems impossible to write at all. Of course, it’s on the difficult days when you need some help getting into it. I find the best cure for writer’s block is sitting down and writing, even if you have to delete or amend heavily later.” I would add: thank goodness for personal computers and cut-and-paste commands! If you just sit and wait for the muse to descend you will wait a long time. So read through your earlier work first; then fire up the computer and start writing!
A Higher Duty has had a good spell in the Amazon lists, rising as high as number 6 in the legal thriller list and number 8 in the political thriller list. The links are below. A big thank you to everyone who has bought or recommended the book. As always, though, my main concern is that you enjoy what you read, If so, please try Removal and keep a look out for future books! My next, Test of Resolve, out for Christmas, is a sequel to Removal. A Matter for the Jury, the first in a series about Ben Schroeder from A Higher Duty, will follow. Thank you again for your support of my work!
Guardian diarist Hugh Muir has unmasked me! My bio on this website and in my books omits to mention that I am a circuit judge. I sit in the Crown Court in criminal cases. I was appointed to the bench in 2007. It has never been a secret. It is publicly available information, and I write under my own name. But I prefer to avoid any suggestion of using my position as a judge to promote my career as a novelist. I did actually unmask myself in an article I wrote recently, by invitation, in the limited-circulation journal Counsel. That article made reference to the fact that I am a judge; though, as Counsel is the Bar’s house journal, most of its readers were well aware of the fact already! The link to Hugh’s piece is above, and it is available in full on another post under Press Coverage on this website. As a loyal Guardian reader myself I have long admired Hugh’s column, and this piece is typically witty. I must point out, however, that he is the first person to describe A Higher Duty as racy! I wonder what he made of Fifty Shades of Grey?
I am pleased to report that ‘Test of Resolve’, my sequel to ‘Removal’ has passed through the editing phase and is now on its way to publication. It will be out in time for Christmas as an e-book, and in paperback in February. FBI Director Kelly Smith is back in action, this time on both sides of the Atlantic, hot on the trail of a ruthless terrorist group which has kidnapped Dani Ryan, the step-daughter of President Ellen Trevathan, during a summer school programme in England. The ransom demand is one which Ellen cannot comply with as President, and time is running out to find Dani and bring her back alive. Editor and writer Paul Magrath says that he loved ‘Removal’ but ‘Test of Resolve’ is even better. I hope you agree!
A busy month ended with a most enjoyable trip to York, and the village of Rufforth, just a few miles outside the city. The occasion was a Saturday evening meeting of a reading group to which I was introduced by Debbie Cooper. The group meets once every two months or so having read a prescribed book, which is then discussed in detail. I was invited to a meeting to talk about Removal and A Higher Duty, and each member of the group had undertaken to read one or the other beforehand. Some had read both. This is an impressive group of women, who are balancing challenging careers and family, but still find time for cultural activities. They had some challenging questions about both books, and particularly the behaviour of the female characters! I spoke about my writing process, and about the books, as well as reading from A Higher Duty. My thanks to Debbie, not only for the introduction, and for opening her home for the meeting, but for a wonderful time in York. She and her husband Rob (who was brave enough to be the only man at the meeting other than myself!) took my wife Chris and myself for dinner on Friday evening and, with their son Nathan, gave us a great tour of the National Railway Museum on Saturday morning. The photos below show (left) my wife Chris and I, and (right) the group during the discussion.
On Wednesday 24 April I was at Royston for the concluding session of the 2013 Herts Lit Fest. Hertfordshire Public Libraries have done a fantastic job with this imaginative county-wide venture, which combines giving publicity to local book shops, publishers and authors, with reminding readers of the superb service provided by libraries in the county. At a time when cuts threaten library services all over the country, and when ever more advanced smart phones and tablets and electronic readers compete for readers, Hertfordshire is leading the way in maintaining a chain of successful libraries, and in keeping the reading public interested in books and the libraries that have them available. My publishers, No Exit Press, are based in Harpenden, and take a keen interest in Lit Fest. It was a pleasure to meet sales manager Andy at Royston. Thanks to Debra, who organised this meeting so effectively. Thanks also to Anne and Claire for picking me up at the station and returning me there. Great kudos, also to David’s Book Shop, the independent book shop in Letchworth Garden City, which supplied the books for sale and signing, a gratifying number of which found new homes. It was great to hear that this venerable member of the Letchworth community continues to thrive despite the pressures. Pictures of the event follow.
I had a great time at the Oundle Literary Festival on Friday 19 April. This well-run and diverse festival fully deserves its impressive and rapidly growing reputation. The town of Oundle itself is a delight, with a rich heritage of elegant stone buildings and a wonderful parish church in which the festival was held. It was intimidating at first speaking in a church, but a large and friendly audience soon put me at ease. I spoke about my experiences as a writer, and about the process of writing Removal and A Higher Duty. I read a passage from A Higher Duty, and signed books for quite a while afterwards. My thanks to Helen Shair for her seamless organization of an excellent evening, for the warm welcome, and the tea and cake, she gave to me and my wife Chris. Thanks to Craig McDougall, who introduced me, and to Len, who miked me up so expertly to overcome the tricky ecclesiastical acoustics! Thanks also to Alex Bolton and Claire Watts from my publishers, No Exit Press, who were in attendance and brought books; to Claire and her husband Steve for driving us to and from the venue; and to the two charming ladies from Coleman’s, whose names I didn’t get, who managed the book sales!
My publishers, No Exit Press, hosted a very successful Crime Evening at St. Albans Central Library on Thursday 21 March. I was on the panel with fellow No Exit authors Leigh Russell and Howard Linskey. We each spoke about why we write, how we came to be novelists, and our individual books. The audience was very receptive and asked a number of excellent questions. Following this, we signed copies of our books. Ion Mills and Claire Watts from No Exit were in attendance and welcomed everyone, as well as making sure everything ran smoothly. As you will see from the photo, the evening also had its lighter moments. Leigh, Howard and I were pleased to pose on the crime scene mat, but we declined Ion’s suggestion of filling the outline of the missing body!
The event was part of Hertfordshire’s Lit Fest 13. I will be speaking and signing books at the Oundle Festival on Friday 19 April and at Royston Library on Wednesday 24 April.
Left to Right: Peter Murphy; Howard Linskey; Leigh Russell
I have some appearances coming up at Hertfordshire Lit Fest 13, and I am very much looking foward to meeting readers and signing copies of Removal and A Higher Duty. The Fest has some great events, which you can find in detail at www.hertsdirect.org/libraries. Hertfordshire is home to my publishers, No Exit Press, and you can get full details of all their books at www.noexit.co.uk.
On Thursday 21 March, I will be on the panel for Crime Evening at St. Albans Library, with fellow No Exit authors Leigh Russell and Howard Linskey. Between us, I hope we can answer any questions, not only about our own work, but also about the process of writing and getting work published. This events begins at 7.15 p.m.
On Friday 19 I will be at the Oundle Festival, talking about books and writing beginning at 7.45 p.m.
On Wednesday 24 April I will be at Royston Library to talk about A Higher Duty and the forthcoming series about barrister Ben Schroeder. A Higher Duty is set in London in the 1960’s, a time when amazing things were happening, and I hope to be able to take readers back to that time and talk about the characters, as well as my own experiences of the period. Time: 7.15 p.m.
Finally, my sequel to Removal, called Test of Resolve, is complete and with No Exit, and I am awaiting details of the publishing schedule. More news as available!
Happy New Year, everyone! I am pleased to report that A Higher Duty was selected for inclusion in Amazon UK’s 12 Days of Kindle Promo.
And – on 2 January it was ranked No.1 in the ‘political’ category.
Many thanks to my publisher Ion Mills and his colleagues at No Exit Press for all their hard work.
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