My heart is usually most invested in, and captured by, my current work in progress, or my WIP as we creatives call it for short. I live in the world that I’ve created; peer out through my characters’ eyes; get lost in those words.
Currently I’m dividing my time between two such worlds. I’m editing book three, Maria in the Moon, which will be out in September this year. For this I am back in 2007, during the Hull floods, and I’m Catherine, a woman on a journey into her own forgotten past. I’m also writing book four, The Lion Tamer Who Lost, a tragic love story set in Zimbabwe and England.
When I read a book I love, I immediately wonder of the author, ‘What’s next?’ And so I thought that perhaps if I shared mine, so to speak, a few of my favourite writers might share theirs. I’m excited (and a little nervous) to reveal brief extracts from the two novels I’m working on. And then no less than seventeen other award-winning, bestselling, and richly talented writers will share theirs exclusively here.
Maria in the Moon
My mother never told me I was beautiful.
But she told me she was. Heads turned, she said. Boys wanted to be near her, girls wanted to know her, she said. So, when I was very small I’d look at my mother as though I had a mirror in my hand. I’d pretend her face was mine, that my eyes weren’t ice blue but chocolaty brown, and my skin wasn’t white but olive, and my bluntly-cut hair flowed like her silky mane. The pictures of my real mum were too faded and out-of-focus to mimic. Though dad brought her to life for me during our chats, I could not follow her, watch her, try and be her.
The Lion Tamer Who Lost
While Andrew slept, when his breathing evened and the movement behind his eyes ceased, Ben stroked his hair. He wondered what the odds were of finding a man exactly like Andrew, with hands that arched at the thumb like his did, with two fleshy mounds that pressed against his when he held him down, with one freckle nearer his left nipple than his right as though marking the spot for his heart, who believed in wishes and words and made-up games.
Zero. The odds were zero.
And now enjoy a host of other writers…
My current WIP is THE BETRAYAL and will be published in November 2017 by Simon & Schuster. Here’s the blurb; Could you kill someone? Someone you love? It’s Paris 1938. The story of twin sisters divided by fierce loyalties and by a terrible secret. The drums of war are beating and France is poised, ready to fall. One sister is an aviatrix, the other is a socialite and they both have something to prove and something to hide. A story of love, danger, courage …. and betrayal.
And this is the opening…
There is blood on my hands.
I am not speaking figuratively, you understand. Literally. Under my nails. Embedded in the soft valleys between my fingers. Strings of scarlet, glossier than paint, are dripping from me on to the Persian rug, ruining it. I stare at them bewildered. My mind jams.
Where has it come from?
A little more…
I lift my head and instantly hear a loud thumping sound deep inside my ears, like a drum beaten in an empty room.
Lift my head?
Why am I lying on the floor? I sit up, heart racing, and wait for the room to stop dancing, while I struggle to remember what happened. But a black hole lies where my memory should be. I shake my head but when I look again the black hole is still there. Bigger this time. Darker. An inky pool with a sheen skimming its surface and I feel panic uncoil inside me.
‘At First Light’ is published by Orion on 1 June 2017.
In the garden, she fills her lungs with the lush greenness, and pictures the last time she saw the gun in his hand. He held it naturally, the way a soldier does, the strong lines of his fingers wound in a beautiful curve round the walnut grip. She removes the Colt from the box and imagines it still bears traces of his fingerprints, maybe even the smell of his hair oil. But there is no time for such nostalgic self-indulgence. The gun sinks easily into her pocketbook. The weight of it is solid, insistent. It has lain in its box, wrapped and oiled, for seventy years, waiting for this day, this day which she feared, and hoped would never come.
This year I will be releasing a collection of short stories entitled “We Know What We Are”. All the stories are set in Hull during 2017. Here is a short extract from a story called “A Circus Poster On A Chinese Wall”.
Me Dad’s having chicken balls. Uncle Terry wants that beef thing that he likes, beef with black bean sauce. Me Mam says she’s not bothered.
– Number seventy-three with fried rice not boiled and a carton of curry sauce. Number fifty-eight with chips. And a bag of prawn crackers, please.
Terry says I can have what I want with the change. He means curry and chips or summat. But I’m not eating any more Chinky, bollocks to that. I’m proper sick of it. One pound eighty four change. That’s going straight in my pocket, that is. There’s three people waiting for their orders in front of me, a woman and two blokes. I go and sit down near the window. It’s all steamed up. I write H.C.A.F.C and JASE in big dripping letters.
I’m currently working on the second book in the Lori Anderson series (Orenda Books) – DEEP BLUE TROUBLE. The book picks up a couple of weeks after DEEP DOWN DEAD ends. Here’s a bit from the current draft that (hopefully) doesn’t give too much away…
No good ever came from dreaming on a man. Thing is, I’d let myself get caught up in the moment. Let myself think on the possibility of some kind of happy ever after. I knew it was fantasy; some bullshit pedalled by hopeless romantics and greeting card sellers. The best I could hope for was guaranteeing a straight plain after for JT, and so safeguarding one for Dakota.
Coffee can be a cure for many things, but it couldn’t change the distance between us. When you’re that many states apart, moping and wishing on things being different are pretty much a waste of time, and I didn’t have the time to go wasting. The only thing that could get me back to Florida, and JT out of danger, was for me to finish the job.
Swimming Lessons, published by Fig Tree / Penguin on 26th January, is the story of Ingrid, who writes letters to her husband and then disappears from a Dorset beach, and her daughter, Flora who wants answers to what happened to her mother.
As Flora is driving home in the dark it starts raining fish…:
The wind in the pines was a roar, and the rain slammed against the road. Without stepping down, she saw on the slick black tarmac a fish lying on its side with its mouth open. It was the size of her palm and a silvery-blue iridescence shone off it. She stuck her left foot out to flip the thing over, and even in the rain she saw that the underside was lacerated, crushed when it had hit the ground. Shielding her eyes, Flora looked in the direction of the fading headlights: hundreds of the creatures lay across the road, a handful flapping feebly. They may have been baby mackerel.
The Lies Within sees the return of Detective Inspector Will Jackman to unravel a story of deception, family secrets and the ultimate betrayal.
There’s something sinister about lies. They curl and fold, tie themselves around in knots so that in the end they become a tangled ball of wool and you can’t find the end. Grace had wanted to tell someone, all those years ago. But how could she? Her mother had trusted her, given her the taxi fare herself. She wasn’t sure how she’d made it home that night. Vague memories of scrabbling around for her shoes on the concrete slipped in and out of the shadows of her mind.
Here’s a paragraph from my WIP, something I’m tentatively calling THE WHOLE LOVE. I don’t know much about it yet, except that a few forty-something guys are trying to navigate divorce together, with an emphasis on one guy:
So now I’m up, staring into my one-room abyss, and thinking about…well, all of it, I guess, as cliched as that has to sound. It’s just a lot to take in, a lot to sort out, and I’m just too damned tired of the preamble to get past the surface of the thing. In those early years after we’d both moved back here, we were like a seventies movie, Jenny and Carl and Matt and Rachel. Later on, we were less so; Matt and Rachel started having little cabbages, and their closer friends—at least the kind you do stuff with—became the parents of their kids’ friends. It was perfectly natural and just as well. Jenny and I, we never wanted kids. Or, I should say, we never talked about having kids, so the default position was that we didn’t want them. That binary quality—if it’s not yes, it’s no—made sense at the time. Now? Well, now everything is open to debate and conjecture, even within the body of a single person. Me.
JULEP STREET is coming out May 9th. Carson McCullough has given his career to a singular pursuit—putting out a small daily newspaper that keeps his employees engaged and his hometown informed. But as time and technology conspire against him, Carson’s Argus-Dispatch is shuttered by an owner with a different view of its future.
Stung by the abrupt end of his career and burdened by regret and grudges, Carson and his one true companion, a yellow Lab named Hector, set out on a road trip. As the miles pile up and Carson erratically drives into the residue of past decisions and the consequences of current actions, he confronts questions of love, faith, self-worth, and, perhaps most pressing, whether he can redefine himself after his identity is stripped away.
In his seventh novel, Craig Lancaster (600 Hours of Edward, The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter) returns to the broad themes of his award-winning work and goes deeper yet, straight into the heart and mind of a good man who has lost his way and is struggling against himself to set things right.
Five years ago, Susannah Harper’s son Joel went missing without trace. Bereft of her son and then of her husband, Susannah tries to accept that she may never know for certain what has happened to her lost child. She has rebuilt her life around a simple selfless mission: to help others who, like her, must learn to live without hope.
But on the last night of Hull Fair, a fortune-teller makes an eerie prediction. She tells her that this Christmas Eve, Joel will finally come back to her.
As her carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, Susannah is drawn into a world of psychics and charlatans, half-truths and hauntings, friendships and betrayals, forcing her to confront the buried truths of her family’s past, where nothing and no one are quite as they seem.
The Winter’s Child will be published by Legend Press on 15th September 2017 and it’s available to pre-order on Amazon now:
In the warm cigarette dimness of the caravan, the Roma woman’s eyes are shrewd and bright.
“You’ve lost someone,” she says.
We gaze watchfully at each other across a table of polished glass, etched with a cornucopia of flowers. Its bevelled edge is sharp to the sight but not to the touch. I’d imagined the inside of a traditional vardo, painted wood and bright patchworks, but instead I’m surrounded by glass and china and crystal, intermittently set ablaze by the lights of the carriages that dip and wheel above our heads. The cabinet behind my opponent is filled with china girls with arms like ballerinas, waists no wider than their necks and frothing, intricate skirts. Do all showmen live in this impossible delicate luxury? How do they take their homes from place to place without breakages?
The fortune-teller is looking right into my eyes, watching and waiting for a tell. I force myself to sit cool and blank, trying not to be distracted by the fragments of my reflection – blonde hair, blue eyes, slim figure – that appear, startlingly distorted and inverted, in the million reflective surfaces of the caravan.
If my sister Melanie finds out what I’ve been doing, she’ll be furious. I’m supposed to have given this game up years ago. I shouldn’t be here.
This is a first draft, and I’m not yet sure what it might be. It’s set in the 1920s, when it was shocking for a woman to be tattooed.
The first he saw the snake tattoo – he came out of the bathroom on their first morning and found her smoking in bed with the sheets flung off – he was shocked, revolted. The creature coiled up the entire length of her leg, its heavy lines stark against her creamy skin. It was like a deformity.
“Snakes mean wisdom,” she said coolly, noting the expression on his face.
When he didn’t reply, she said, “I suppose you’re wondering why I had it done?”
He nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed, waiting for her to speak. Ginie’s hair was tumbled on the pillow, smelling of smoke and a perfume that was as haunting and unsettling as jazz music.
My next book, My Sister and Other Liars, is released on May 1st, and already available for pre-order on Amazon. Here’s the blurb:
New Year’s Eve. Samantha Hoollihan is dying. She lives on a hospital ward and is in the advanced stages of anorexia, like her fellow sufferers, she thinks of `Ana Unit` as her best friend. She just wants to forget and disappear. But oblivion is not what Clive, the hospital director, has in mind. He has decided on an unusual form of therapy: Sam must talk for a set time, or she will be force-fed through a naso-gastric tube. It is a brutal tactic, and Sam’s last chance for survival.
If only she wanted that.
But something changes. Sam’s mother dies and her personal effects are brought to the hospital, including a chocolate box full of photos. Clive gives Sam the box, and asks her to talk about a photo. Or be force-fed. She has to choose.
So, here’s the thing. Here’s how it all started…
It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a wee Romanian gymnast changed her sport forever. Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. A bizarre brush with the entertainment business – he ‘saves’ the life of the UK’s top showbiz star Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks – has left him with dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group from five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End.
Fast forward almost 40 years and a man sits in a parked car staring out at the calm water of the Firth of Clyde. A home-made CD of songs is playing on repeat, an essay written about the actress Julie Christie 30 years earlier is in his hand, and the body of a controversial Glaswegian politician – who’s been missing for two weeks – is in the boot.
Back to the mid-70s; Shettleston – a district in the East End of Glasgow – had no private detectives. Despite high and increasing levels of local criminality, adultery and missing persons no-one had considered this a viable occupation for middle-aged weegie bampots armed only with a camera and a degree from the University of Life. No-one, that is, until … Robert McAdam Souness.
A week. A confession. A generation. All three strands are connected; by people, by accidents of time but most of all by the city. The city of wee men and big windaes.
This is … A GLASWEGIAN RHAPSODY.
Here’s the opening paragraph of my work-in-progress, which has the working title of ‘The Re-Education of Hana Bresler.’
I got engaged on my wedding day.
I know what you’re thinking – rather late for the engagement, yes? But what I mean is that I got engaged to one man – let’s call him Man A – on the same day that I was supposed to marry a different man – Man B. It sounds like the start of a Jewish joke. But at the time, no-one felt much like laughing.
Leah was fascinated by the Man A/Man B story when she was little. She still is fascinated, if last night was anything to go by. Or maybe horrified is more accurate. Anyway, I don’t want to think about last night. I don’t want to think about Leah’s face as she stood in the doorway, the black eyeliner she favours making her seem even less childlike, looking at me with that cool, clear way of hers. I prefer to think about Leah when she was little, and I could do no wrong in her eyes. Not now, when she is fourteen, and angry, and missing since early this morning.
The as yet untitled Book three in my Oberleutnant Karin Müller ‘Stasi’ thriller series (due February 2018), set in 1970s East Germany. Müller finds promotion is a poisoned chalice, as she she’s thrown headlong into a murky murder inquiry on the border with Poland. When Müller discovers the unexplained deaths are linked to a scheme to get hard currency for the GDR, she puts herself in direct opposition to the Stasi — and that can only end badly.
Next Book is Stasi Wolf, pub date Feb 9th 2017.
This is a flashback scene from my new book STASI WOLF to a time when Oberleutnant Karin Müller was a five-year-old child, in her home village — the east German winter sports resort of Oberhof.
The girl spoke clearly, bravely, without fear, staring directly into the mean big chief soldier’s eyes, challenging him, matching his stern expression with one of her own. ‘My name is Karin Müller. And you are a very nasty man. I will never forgive you for taking away my best friend.’
My WIP is called The Foam of the Sea, and it’s a psychological drama about a couple who meet again after almost thirty years apart. They split up after a traumatic event comes between them, a decision Lauren never stops regretting. They meet again on a ferry to the Outer Hebrides and Lauren recognises Neil’s hand first, because of the scar on the back of it that she gave him.
The story touches on the idea of a parallel existence and explores the theme of refugees, of one kind or another.
‘Shh, now. I meant to talk to your hand only. When you have touched me, hand, at
the end of this journey, will you then pass over a note covered in generic doctor-style
handwriting, while people gather their coats and bags and queue in the doorways to
leave? If you do this, what will the note you’ve written say? Will Neil’s eyes and mine
ever look into each other at all, or will there only be written words and the memory of
the one brief touch between us? The touch that hasn’t happened, yet. And if it does,
will it be enough for us both to take away, along with anticipation?’
As ever, I’m working on a crime novel, but 2016 was a struggle. I’d worked on a Hull novel for 2017, but it took me a while (and a lot of wasted words) to figure out I simply didn’t know how the city was going to look or feel during its reign as UK City of Culture. So I started again, this time on a novel that takes place elsewhere in Northern England. No settled title yet, but it’s slowly building…
“I’d vowed to never go back. Not to the North, certainly not to Yorkshire. But sometimes you don’t have a choice. I stared at the unconscious man in the Intensive Care Unit, knowing I had to make a decision. The once thick head of dark hair had thinned, the goatee around his mouth new. He’d lost weight. He’d also been beaten to within an inch of his life. Decades had passed, but I’d recognised him instantly. The decision was an easy one. I was going to lie to the detective standing next to me.”
A few words from The Secrets of Second Wives, which is out on 24 Feb.
I didn’t actually need to witness the concrete evidence that everyone, possibly including my husband, was still wishing Caitlin had never died, that their lives had never had to break open and include me. No, I could think of things I’d rather do. Like sniff chilli up my nose, mistake Deep Heat for Canesten, sever a limb with a cheese wire.
So this is the very beginning from my next book DAY 7, which is the sequel to CELL 7. It’s out on 15th June with Hot Key Books.
I should be dead.
I feel cold air in my lungs.
I feel somebody’s hand holding mine.
I hear shouting.
DOG FIGHT is out April 6th from Saraband.
‘I see you’re wearing a wedding ring,’ Ian said, looking over at Dom’s hand. ‘A bit young, aren’t you?’
‘Got her pregnant, didn’t I? First time an’all,’ he grinned, grabbed his crotch with his good hand. ‘Super sperm, me. One shot. Bang.’
‘Yeah, that was real lucky,’ said Ian with a grimace. ‘How’s that working out for you?’
Dom took a long draw on his cigarette, exhaled and screwed his eyes against the smoke. ‘Could be better. Missus can’t deal with my…’ he adopted a posh doctor speaking voice, ‘…my anger management issues. And the wean is feart to look at me. Keeps running away.’ He smiled, but it was clear from the haunted look in his eyes that this pained him more than anything. He’d bought the line: join up, fight to keep your country safe, and now to his own child, he was the bogeyman.
Here’s the blurb …
“Kenny O’Neill, a villain with a conscience, returns in a hard-hitting thriller of exploitation, corruption and criminal gangs.
When Kenny’s cousin, Ian, comes to the aid of a fellow ex-squaddie in a heap of trouble, he gets caught up in the vicious underground fight scene, where callous criminals prey on the vulnerable, damaged and homeless.
With Ian in too deep to escape, Kenny has no option other than to infiltrate the gang for the sake of his family. Kenny is an experienced MMA fighter, as tough as they come, but has he found himself in the one fight he can never win?”