Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Jem Tugwell

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Jem Tugwell

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

I’m a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University. No Signal is the second book in the iMe series and follows my debut novel Proximity. In a past life, I had a successful career in technology and investment management, and I’m inspired by the fascinating possibilities of where technology and AI will take us. And how easily people give away freedom and privacy for the convenience of the latest technology.
My books balance the pros and cons of our new worlds in a fast-paced crime thriller.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

A lot of procrastination, watching the news and worrying about the world, but trying to balance it with hoping for the best. My third book, Dishonoured, is with my editor so while I’m waiting, I’ve written a short story, and planned a few others that I will give away free to readers.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

The pace of life has slowed, which is a good thing. Urgency and stress aren’t healthy to embrace and carry with you. Also the background hum of the road is quiet and you can hear the birds. It’s so nice to feel closer to nature.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book.

No Signal is the second book in the iMe series and follows on about a year after PROXIMITY ended. It asks the question: Can a game change the world? It starts with the selection process for an augmented reality game where The Ten are tested and become The Four. DI Clive Lussac hates iMe, the system that controls everything, but he’s ill and iMe’s health monitoring is helping him. He has to decide: conform or fight. As Clive’s world unravels, he and his partners DC Ava Miller and DS Zoe Jordan can’t believe the entry price to the game. They strive to answer the real questions:
Why does the ultimate Augmented Reality game have four different finishes? And how is a simple game wrapped up in politics, religion and the environment?

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

It’s fast-paced escapism that blends elements of a police procedural with an action thriller, and I hope is thought-provoking.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

Currently reading Adam Hamdy’s Black 13 and next is K J Howe’s The Freedom Broker.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

Escape the house to hug family and friends – no virtual meetings and two metre exclusion zones.

To find out more about Jem Tugwell and his books visit his profile on the CRA website.

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Maggie Hamand

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with Maggie Hamand

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

I am a former journalist, a novelist and creative writing lecturer at the University of Hull. I studied biochemistry as a first degree and have a Masters in theology so science and religion are my big themes, and I use my knowledge of these subjects to craft intelligent, literary thrillers. I was founder and director of the award-winning independent publisher Maia Press and have taught creative writing in a range of institutions including Morley College, Holloway Prison and London University of the Arts. I’m author of the best-selling Creative Writing For Dummies and a follow-on volume, Creative Writing Exercises for Dummies. I live in East London.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

I am teaching online at the University of Hull and have been busy with publicity for my latest novel which came out on 2 April. As all the events, bookshop readings and the launch have been cancelled, this has been very hard. I’m trying to stick to a routine with my husband to stay sane – breakfast, exercise workout with Joe Wicks, work, 30 minutes on the exercise bicycle, lunch, a walk, more work. In the evening I don’t watch the news as it’s too depressing and stops me from sleeping – instead we read, listen to music, watch a film or play Scrabble. I am trying to keep up with family and friends with regular Zoom/Skype meetings.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

Usually I’m far more sociable. I swim or go to aqua aerobics two or three times a week, and have coffee with friends afterwards. I work for the University of Hull one day a week, so on other days I spend the afternoon at my desk, writing or related tasks In the evenings I usually attend lots of bookshop events, book launches and see friends. At the moment I am unable to concentrate on writing my next novel. Everything seems so bizarre; it is hard to write a book in which the pandemic either isn’t or hasn’t happened, so it’s hard to find a way through that at the moment. Perhaps I should write a historical novel instead!

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book.

Virgin & Child is a literary thriller set in Rome and Ireland. It concerns the recently elected Irish Pope Patrick who is attacked in St Peter’s Square by a woman protesting against the church’s policy on abortion. Pope Patrick makes a discovery that makes this issue a very personal one for him. As he struggles with this revelation, Cardinals turn against him, eventually trying to remove him from office. Shocking revelations threaten his traditional status and his faith. In this literary thriller where nothing is at it seems, Catholicism and modern morality are held in tension. Pope Patrick has to face challenges and make choices he never could have imagined.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

The book has a mystery at its heart, and keeps up the suspense right till the end. It has all the ingredients of a thriller – intrigue, plotting, assassinations, a car chase – while at the same time exploring serious issues of sexuality and gender in the modern Catholic Church. There’s some theology and spirituality in there too. It’s less like Dan Brown than perhaps a kind of contemporary The Name of the Rose.

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

I’ve just been reading Barry Forshaw’s Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide to tell me what books and authors I’ve missed out on, and what I should read to fill the gaps! And I’ve just downloaded my former student and author Dreda Say Mitchell’s latest, Spare Room, for some page-turning relief after finishing the latest Hilary Mantel.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?
Travel to my favourite place in Normandy, eat lots of French cheese and drink lots of French wine, and blissfully swim in the sea.

You can find out more about Maggie Hamand and her books on the CRA website.

Writers in Residence – at home with Rachel Sargeant

Writers in Residence – at home with Rachel Sargeant

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write. 

I’m a full-time author, living in Gloucestershire. Brought up in Lincolnshire, I have also lived in London, Shropshire, Germany and Wales and like to feature places I know in my writing. I write psychological thrillers and crime fiction, published by Harper Collins. 

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing? 

As well as engaging on social media to keep connected with authors, readers and bloggers I had intended to meet in person at festivals this year, I’m continuing with my current writing project, and doing lots of reading.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

It’s similar to what I would normally do although I miss my swims and trips out for coffee and to the theatre. Like many people, I was quite unsettled for the first two weeks. Coming to terms with the shock and enormity of the situation took time. Luckily, because my current project is part of a formal course of study, I had to remain disciplined and keep at it, albeit at a slower pace for a while. The only items I decided to panic-buy before lockdown were books, so I’ve got a big pile of paperbacks that is going down a bit quicker than in normal times. 

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book. 

The Roommates is a psychological thriller set on a fictional British university campus during freshers’ week. Four new students, each hiding a secret from their past, find themselves sharing a flat. When one of them suddenly disappears, the others must trust each other and work together to find out what has happened. Little do they realise the danger ahead.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction? 

It is a tense, dark thriller set against the authentic backdrop of university. Four students, four secrets, one devastating lie. Closer Magazine described it as “Must Read….Gripping. We loved this book, which is full of twists and turns” and Woman’s Weekly made it their Book of the Week: “Deliciously dark and twisty, this is a book that will keep you on your toes.”

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM? 

I’m about to start a novel by A.J. Waines – Cut You Dead. It’s the latest outing for her psychologist sleuth, Sam Willerby. This time Dr Willerby is on the trail of a cold case serial killer and, from the blurb, it sounds like she’s about to get herself into very hot water. 

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?  

Go to the seaside. 

You can read more about Rachel Sargeant on the CRA website.

 

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with AJ Waines

Crime Writers in Residence – at home with AJ Waines

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.

My name is AJ Waines. I used to be a psychotherapist and have an irrepressible curiosity over the secrets people keep, their hidden motives for radical actions and the ‘masks’ they wear to disguise their true natures, much of the time. I loved reading mysteries growing up and when I started writing in my later years, the idea of putting together a murder mystery on the surface of a story with a psychological thriller underneath really appealed to me. I’ve now written ten such books and have sold over half a million copies.

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing?

I’ve just had a book published, so it’s time for a break. I’m so glad the weather is better, because I love gardening, so I’m spending time outside whenever I can. I’ve been reading on the patio, taking photos, doing yoga and meditation and catching up with all those little bits and pieces that tend to fall by the wayside when I’m working on a book.

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

Aside from my husband working from home, my lifestyle isn’t very different, to be honest. One up-side of the lockdown is that I’ve had more contact with friends through Skype or Zoom and speak to them more now than I normally would! I think a lot of people are enjoying the tranquility without crowds and thick traffic.

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book.

Cut You Dead, my latest psychological thriller, came out at the beginning of April. It’s about a serial killer who snips off pieces of women’s hair, then kills them seven days later. Samantha Willerby, the lead character, is a feisty, jump-in-at-the-deep-end kind of psychologist who doesn’t play by the rules. The Met bring Sam in to examine a batch of cold murder cases to see what she can pick up that everyone else has missed. Using every avenue she can think of – and disobeying direct orders on the way – she uncovers a trail of clues that lead her right into the path of the killer.

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction?

Cut you Dead has all the hallmarks of a mystery who-dunnit, with plenty of red-herrings, twists and turns. Like most psychological thrillers, there’s a big OMG moment near the end, which seems to have taken virtually all readers by surprise, if the reviews are anything to go by! I’m sure many readers will have come across thrillers where the victim’s hair is cropped off, but in Cut you Dead there’s something different. The hair is not a trophy at the crime scene. To find out exactly what the killer does, you’ll have to read the book!

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM?

I love Peter James and I’m about to start Dead at First Sight. I recently read William Shaw’s The Birdwatcher and eagerly await Grave’s End which comes out in May.

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over?

Get to a garden centre and buy some plants!

You can find out more about AJ Waines and her books here.

Crime Writers in Residence: at home with Holly Watt

Crime Writers in Residence: at home with Holly Watt

The CRA: Please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write. 

My name is Holly Watt, and I write novels about a journalist called Casey Benedict who investigates stories that take her all over the world. The first one – To The Lions, which won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger – came out last year. My second one, The Dead Line, came out on April 16. I am currently working on my third one, which is as yet untitled. I was a journalist for fifteen years, working on the investigation teams at the Telegraph and the Guardian (I know – all over the place politically!) before quitting to write full-time. As a journalist, I did a lot of undercover work, which features in my novels. 

The CRA: Tell us about what you are doing during lockdown/while social distancing? 

I have to get my third book done by June, so I am quite up against it. I live in the middle of Devon, in the Dartmoor National Park, so I am pretty isolated at the best of times. I write until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and then I go for a walk with my nine month old daughter, Izzie, and our dim-witted dog. One thing I am finding weird about writing at the moment is that my characters are meeting up with friends! And having dinner together! And getting on planes! And all these things suddenly seem completely alien. It’s quite hard to write several paragraphs without interjecting “and then he washed his hands while singing Happy Birthday.” But I have to assume that by the time Book 3 comes out, all this will be over. Right? 

The CRA: How does the above differ from your usual routine?

Before all this, I would usually go for a walk with a friend in the afternoon, and maybe even pop to the pub in the evening (imagine such adventures). We are still allowed to walk together under the current rules, but one of my closest friends down here has asthma and has to isolate, another is a doctor at the local hospital, so is flat out busy, and other trusty walking buddies have children and are stuck at home in the darkest depths of homeschooling (homeschooling sounds challenging…)

The CRA: Tell us about your most recent/forthcoming book. 

The Dead Line is about the international surrogacy trade, focusing particularly on the refugee camps in Bangladesh. I was a journalist until eighteen months ago, working at the Sunday Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian. While I was at the Guardian, I travelled out to the Rohingya refugee camps and the state of the camps was truly shocking. To The Lions was also partly based on some of my journalistic tasks, with the characters travelling to Libya, Jordan and Lebanon. 

The CRA: Why will it appeal to lovers of crime fiction? 

Hopefully, it is a fast-paced novel which takes readers on adventures all over the world. 

The CRA: What CWA member writers are you reading during NCRM? 

I am lucky enough to be reading MW Craven’s new book, The Curator, and just finished fellow Devonian Jane Corry’s brilliant My Husband’s Wife

The CRA: What one thing are you planning to do once lockdown is over? 

I’m just going to go around hugging people. Hug, hug, hug. 

You can find out more about Holly Watt and her books on the CRA website.