I’m really pleased to introduce the lovely and very comical Nell Peters as my guest author today. Nell is a crime writer and the author of By Any Other Name and the recently released Hostile Witness – described as a “mesmerising new psychological thriller.”
Here Anne talks about cantankerous chickens studying for a degree as a mature student (like me and, as it also happens, at the same university as me) and her road to publication.
Thanks for dropping by, especially on a Monday morning – and sincere apologies if you were expecting to read an entertaining blog from Eva. You’ve only got me today, but normal service will be resumed asap.
I have written several guest blogs recently – my publishers like their authors to get out and about online and elsewhere, to spread the word for new releases – and as my latest book, Hostile Witness, launched on 4th February, here I am, waving the chequered promo flag. Even if it is a little limp. Promise I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, in the unlikely event that anyone has read more than one of my posts.
My real name is Anne, with a double-barrelled surname that is quite a mouthful and so I use the pen name, Nell Peters. I didn’t have to look far for that, simply pinched my parents’ Christian names – draw own conclusions as to which is which. Don’t think I haven’t been asked – more than once.
I am currently a crime writer with Accent Press, but I self-published for a long time in a rather random manner, my efforts frequently interrupted by the usual trials and responsibilities that real life tends to throw at us. And with four sons, that’s trials aplenty! There were a good few near-misses at successfully placing various masterpieces over the years, only for the dreaded email to finally arrive, quoting one of those very well-worn rejection phrases that most writers could recite from memory, and print off to paper a largish wall; ‘It’s not quite right for our list at the moment,’ or ‘I just don’t love it enough.’ My favourite is the agent line, ‘Unfortunately, I don’t feel I could give your book the representation it deserves.’ Why not? Couldn’t you just try? Hey ho…
It was during this period spent in No Man’s Land that I took the plunge and went back to uni to read psychology, with a bit of sociology thrown in for good measure – I think I had a vague thought that knowledge of the subject would offer me insight to the criminal mind and perhaps give my writing an edge. Or alternatively send me over the edge … By coincidence, Eva went to the same uni, except I never actually set foot on the Cambridge campus – a local college offered an affiliated degree and child-friendly hours, so I went there. A no-brainer, as the youngest boy would say – hideous expression. Anything you want to know about terrorists, psychopaths in general or serial killers, I’m your man. Not Freud, though – I am so not a Freudian, which was slightly unfortunate, as two of my main psych lecturers most certainly were. ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,’ is possibly the most sensible thing SF ever said …
I managed to scrape a 2:1 Hons, with an additional, implied award for being the oldest student on campus – I also learned to swear a lot more and discovered microwave meals to save time in the kitchen (much to my family’s shock/horror). I passed on having a tattoo, though, even if I was the only undergrad there who hadn’t been inked (see, I have the lingo, just not the tat!) And yes, it is possible – though really not recommended – to write a 3K word assignment overnight to meet a deadline (pesky real-life being a nuisance again) including all that tedious Harvard Referencing stuff, and land a merit for it. The marker did observe, however, that my conclusion was weak compared to the main body of work – what did they expect? I was nodding off by then!
After the social culture and buzz of campus life, I snuggled back into my rather insular existence in front of the laptop to write. Taking my backlist by the scruff of the neck I edited ruthlessly, rewriting or deleting great swathes in some instances. I also rewrote and finished a book one of my sons had managed to delete from my system when it was half-finished, over a decade ago. That book was By Any Other Name and it was the first of mine to be published by Accent. Son survived, by the way – as I type this, he is flying to Thailand for work, but has tacked on a few leisure days. Lucky thing.
As soon as a book goes live, there comes the anticipation of a review – the first for BAON was an embarrassing 1*. Accent used to do free promotions of eBooks after a couple of weeks to boost interest, and following some detective work worthy of Inspector Morse on an off-day, I deduced the reviewer (‘Patsy’ – her name is ingrained in my memory forever) was a serial offender who’d grab any freebie going. She’d read just a few pages, post some poisonous prose and award a single star. If you already have some reviews you can weather a low rating, but when it’s your first it’s soul-destroying. However, that’s the risk you take when you raise your head above the parapet and say ‘Look at me, I’ve written a book!’ First World problems …
The head/parapet thing goes for social media too – whilst it’s great for spreading the word about your new release/whatever, it does leave the individual open to all sorts of missiles. I find self-promo excruciatingly awkward, with my mother’s words ringing in my ears along the lines of, ‘Stop that showing off immediately – who on earth do you think wants to hear what you have to say?’ Not hot on child psychology, my mother. But self-published authors and those – like me – with small, indie presses have to bite the bullet and advertise our wares.
And then come the stalkers … I used to protect both my FB and Twitter accounts on the highest notch, but that had to change to be practical. I’ve collected numerous stalkers on FB, one on Twitter and one by email (an old address). Because I’ve cornered the market in friending undesirables, my fellow authors openly despair at my naivety – but belatedly, I have come to recognise the dodgy profiles. They are always posing in some sort of military uniform (usually American), always widowers (sympathy vote?), have a very stunted timeline and we typically have only one or two friends in common. Quite often the Christian names they have adopted suffer in translation, for example a recent-ish Michaels and Simonn. The inevitable DMs are written in appalling English, telling me how pretty I am, yada, yada – so not only frauds, but so myopic they should be wielding a white stick. I am Grannie Annie to six, after all.
OK – time I wasn’t here. Pavlova the cantankerous chicken is making one hell of a racket at the back door – obviously it’s time for her third breakfast. Can’t get the staff, can you?
Huge thanks to Eva for inviting me, thereby risking her good blogging reputation.
Hostile Witness now has five 5* reviews (two on .com from when it was previously self-published), so if you’d care to take a look it can be found at mybook.to/hostilewitness. Here’s the blurb:
‘When her husband leaves her and their sons to shack up with a younger model, Callie Ashton thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Already unemployed and struggling to hold everything together, her life goes into freefall when she stumbles across the murder of a neighbour. The killer soon becomes intent on despatching Callie too, wrongly assuming she can identify him. Despite her new man being the officer in charge of the investigation, Callie’s in great danger – and it soon becomes clear the murderer isn’t too worried whom he kills or maims in his quest to eliminate her. No one is safe and the killer seems to know her every movement. With no resolution in sight, Callie feels she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands … but at what cost to her safety – and sanity?’