© Paul Herrmann
Hello, you’ve reached the official website of Manchester based, crime writer Cath Staincliffe. I’m the author of the Sal Kilkenny private eye stories and creator and scriptwriter of Blue Murder, ITV’s hit detective drama starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. I write the Scott & Bailey books, based on the much loved ITV1 police series. My standalone titles, psychological fiction exploring topical moral dilemmas, have been very popular on the Amazon Kindle. Thank you to everyone who has borrowed, bought or downloaded one of my books. Here on the site you can find out about me and my writing, read my blog and flash fiction, sample extracts from my work, watch interviews and readings and find links to buy my latest books.
In my last post I described the first two stages of writing and publishing a novel, taking as an example my forth-coming book, Half The World Away. This time I’m moving onto stages 3 and 4, the copy edit and proof-read.
3. The copy editor sent me an electronic version of the manuscript where she had marked and corrected all the errors in punctuation and grammar and also style (e.g. italics or different fonts) and had flagged up any inconsistencies, queries or concerns with comments in the margin. My job was to work through and address these adding my own comments. Examples included everything from the correct way of accenting a Chinese phrase, to the timescale of the story, the use of acronyms, if a particular shrub would be in flower at a certain time of year and whether to call the evening meal tea, dinner or supper (a north/south discussion, and we agreed on tea as the characters are Mancunian). Once I had answered all the queries, I emailed the file back to the copy-editor who then finalized the changes and sent a ‘clean’ copy back to the desk editor.
4. The page proofs are unbound pages that contain the typeset book, laid out so it appears exactly as it will when published. The proof-read was the last chance to find any typos or small corrections that needed making before the book went to print. Armed with a red pen I read thirty or so pages at a time, taking a break in between, to help me concentrate on the text. As usual, I worried that I would miss something so it was reassuring that a professional proofreader would also be working on it and our corrections would be collated. Among the mistakes I caught were anomalies in the time difference between China and the UK (how many times did I already check that!), a random bit of italicised text and a rogue beard left over from when I’d changed one character’s facial hair. The pages with my red marks were sent back via special delivery.
There’s always an undercurrent of panic for me at that point as it is too late to change anything, there is no time to make anything better, the book is in someone else’s hands…
The next stage will be getting the cover design and jacket copy through. Watch this space.
I tweet about this sometimes – the stages involved in writing and publishing a novel under contract – and it often comes up in the Q&A section at events so I thought it might be interesting for readers and aspiring writers if I posted about it.
Generally the stages are:
1. Writing the book (this may involve research and any number of drafts).
2. Submitting the book (to agent and then editor) by the agreed deadline and responding to major editorial notes.
3. The copy edit.
4. Proof reading.
5. Jacket copy/author’s bio etc.
6. Publication day.
(Sometimes elements of No 5 come ahead of No 4)
My new book Half The World Away has already been written, delivered, edited and (this last week) copy-edited. I will use this post to talk about the first two of those steps.
1. The book took about nine months to write and that included a period of three weeks researching in China where much of the story unfolds. I wrote longhand and then typed up chapters every month or so to share at my novel writers’ group. The feedback I got from the group was accommodated when I did the second draft (if I agreed with it which I usually did). Once the second draft was complete, I read the book aloud to find instances of clumsy writing or repetition or faults in the dialogue and tried to improve these. I finalised the chapter breaks and checked my Chinese spelling and accents. Finally I worked out my acknowledgements and typed the title page. Then spent far too long trying to stop the page numbers appearing on the title page.
2. In mid December I sent the manuscript to my agent. I was really pleased with her response and that of her colleague (it is always daunting getting those first professional reactions). I made some minor changes as a result of their comments and then send the manuscript off to my editor. Before Christmas she emailed me – she had really liked the book (phew!) and had three notes for me to consider. One was a very simple matter – a change of names – which took no time at all. The second was a suggestion for altering the situation of one of the minor characters and I could see why she wanted this but it meant more work – going through the script and redrafting several scenes. Her final note was a reservation about the ending, which I was keen to keep as it was. In the New Year we had some more discussion and I tried writing a slightly different version which spoke to her concerns without fundamentally changing the ending that I felt worked for the story. I’m happy to say we soon reached agreement. At that point the re-jigged manuscript was sent to the managing editor and on to the copy editor.
Next time I’ll post about stage 3.
That sick feeling? It’s Cupid, stupid.
There are so many good books around at the moment – or maybe social networking means I hear about more of them than I used to. Anyway I’ve enjoyed the following ones recently – a range of genres from both established and debut authors. There might be something here that you like. Enjoy!
Before The Fire by Sarah Butler
The Crooked House by Christobel Kent
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Into The Trees by Robert Williams
The highlights of my year were the selection of my new standalone novel Letters To My Daughter’s Killer for The Crime Thriller Bookclub on ITV3 sponsored by Specsavers and the short-listing of Night Nurse for the CWA short story dagger. Night Nurse was the second time I’d been short-listed for that award and I heard the news while I was in China researching my next book. Like many writers I take the time in between novels (when there is any) to experiment with the short story form. It allows me to try very different styles and voices, a refreshing change. It was a real accolade to be short-listed. The winner this year was, deservedly, John Harvey with his amazing piece, Fedora. You can read both in the collection Deadly Pleasures.
Letters To My Daughter’s Killer is the story of Ruth who writes to the man responsible for her daughter’s murder in an attempt to find some understanding. I watched Crime Thriller Club avidly and it was a delight and an honour to see renowned authors like Mark Billingham, Kate Mosse, Peter James, Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid critique the novel and be so generous in their comments. I also got to show the film crew my neighbourhood’s mean streets, and take them round key locations in Manchester that related to the novel – among them my local library in Didsbury similar to where the central character Ruth works and the law courts at Minshull Street in town where the trial for the murder of her daughter Lizzie’s unfolds.
October saw publication of Ruthless, the third and last of my books based on the Scott and Bailey TV series. I was so excited (and full of trepidation) when asked to write the first one as a prequel back in 2011. Since then, because of my existing commitments, I’ve been writing two novels a year – and exhausting schedule that has now come to an end. But I’m so glad I said yes – I have loved writing those characters and attempting to capture the tone of the TV series that I’m a big fan of.
Author events are a lovely way to interact with readers and talk about books. This year I visited a range of venues and thoroughly enjoyed evenings in libraries in Prestatyn, Rastrick and my hometown of Bradford. I appeared at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate where I was on a fascinating panel discussing domestic noir with Julia Crouch, Chris Ewan and Helen Fitzgerald, and chaired with perception and intelligence by N. J. Cooper. Particularly memorable was the rare coming together of all six members of Murder Squad for an event at Linghams bookshop in Heswall, as well as my first ever international bookshop appearance at The Bookworm in Chengdu, China some months earlier.
As regular readers of my blog will know throughout the year I post lists of books I’ve enjoyed and recommend. I’m not going to try and pick anything out from those, it would melt my brain, but I’ll only say there seems to be far too many good reads out there and not enough time to read a fraction of them.
Here’s to a very happy 2015 and thanks for visiting.
If you’re giving a book as a present (and what better gift is there) I can recommend the following titles. Something for everybody (as long as they read fiction).
The First Rule of Survival by Paul Mendelson
Unravelling Oliver by Lizzie Nugent
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Dark Tides by Chris Ewan
The Secret Place by Tana French
This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash
After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry
How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Thornfield Hall by Jane Stubbs
Exasperated, she told the cold caller Mrs Waverley was dead. That seemed to stop them. But the next time she tried to buy online her credit card was no longer valid.
I love to read, I’m an unashamed addict and I get the jitters and can’t settle when I’m close to finishing a book and haven’t another one at hand. That usually necessitates a trip to the library or bookshop or some online browsing. Mainly thanks to Twitter, I am now getting way more word of mouth recommendations for books than I ever did in the past and so I keep a list of those I fancy the sound of, and gradually they migrate to my TBR pile. The ones I like, go on my regular blog list of recommended reads. The ones I don’t, I ditch as soon as I realise they are not for me. I read quite fast, usually in the gap between the end of the working day and the start of my TV viewing – and often in the bath. Always when I travel. But lately I’ve noticed I’m sometimes going too fast, scrambling down the page, scooping up the gist of a story, racing to get to the end. I don’t think this is simply because I read a lot of ‘page turners’ and thrillers, I think it’s probably the result of that teetering pile of books I know I’ve still got to read. An insidious pressure (all of my own making I’m sure) to ‘get through’ another title and tick it off. I always bolted my food as a kid and do even now if I’m not concentrating: hungry and eager to fill the empty space but not really savouring the food. This style of reading feels a little like that though I still relish the books and enjoy being wrapped up in the story. But reading is such a joy I don’t want there to be even the slightest stress connected to it. I’m not sure what I can do about it; certain books, with more lyrical or poetic prose, make it harder to gobble them down, the writing demands a slower read but I don’t want to limit my diet, I like to read widely. And I like to spread the word. As do so many of you!
Day after day he sat in the car, crawling to work, nose to tail. Spent eight hours on the phone arranging car loans. Weekends he tried to exercise. Tried running but it made his asthma worse.
I was away in Corfu last month with the luxury of lots of time to read. The books I enjoyed took me to all sorts of different destinations from The Isle of Lewis to the Arizona Desert, Dublin to Johannesburg, London to Glencoe, Amsterdam to Glasgow and Majorca (twice). So I arrived back home well refreshed and well travelled. Thanks to everyone who recommended these titles to me, on Twitter and in person.
The Blackhouse by Peter May
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay
Corrag by Susan Fletcher
The Old School by P.M. Newton
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse
Faithful Place by Tana French
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
The Shadow Tracer by M.G. Gardiner