© 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.
So far I’ve written twenty-two books. They are all set in Manchester except for my latest which, as the title suggests, ventures a little further afield – to China.
The book has a very simple premise – it’s the story of Jo and Tom Maddox, an estranged couple, who reunite in a desperate search for their daughter, Lori, who has gone missing in China. I chose China partly because my son lives there, and it would make the job of research a little easier, but mainly because China is such a fascinating country and so very different from here. A place in the throes of huge development and change and somewhere that my characters would feel completely at sea, unable to understand the language, unfamiliar with the culture and customs. I’d never been to China – or anywhere in Asia – so I’d little idea of what to expect when I visited. Once there, as I gathered background material for the book, I knew it was important to capture the particular feel of the city, Chengdu. Not just with visual descriptions but by conveying the sounds and smells, the tactile sensations of the air and dust, the taste of the spicy food, the atmosphere. As well as making notes on my visit, I also took lots of pictures and used some of these locations for scenes in the book. Here’s a selection below – to give you a flavour. If you read the novel you’ll recognise these places, I hope. And as I posted previously I’m delighted with how the cover reflects both the story of the book and directly references one of the most suspenseful sections in the hunt for Lori.
Half The World Away is published on June 4th in hardback and ebook and we’ve now reached Stage 5 of the process of making a book – the creation of the book cover. Here is it.
I’m delighted with it. In general authors don’t get much opportunity to contribute to discussions about the book jacket but in this case I was able to see some early draft ideas and give my responses. Already people have said that it draws them in and makes them keen to know more, which is exactly what you want from a book cover. I think it also works particularly well because it reflects the content of the story, we can see there’s a Chinese element to it and the blurring of the letters in the title combined with the shout line at the top signals the type of story you can expect. Also, and you’d only know this after reading the book, it echoes very clearly some of the most suspenseful chapters in the narrative.
Once a book is written it has its own identity. As a writer all my books feel distinct and different to me, and the hope is that when a cover is created it will match the identity of the book in my head. This doesn’t have to be literal, a cover can suggest mood or location or it can reference similar titles in the genre (I wrote about this in the past when some of my books were part of the ‘single female eye’ trend kicked off by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). I’m not aware of this new cover being part of a trend – but maybe I’m just not alert to it yet. Anyway big thanks to the designer and the team at Little, Brown and Constable & Robinson who’ve worked so hard on this. And happy reading everyone.
Versace, cooed one. Prada, squealed another. What’s yours? Eyes swivelled, bright, salacious. Brands, she muttered, are for cattle. She was never invited back.
**Originally commissioned by Cartwheel Arts
Some of you might have time off over the holidays, and a rare chance to read, or you might be a bookworm as it is. I can thoroughly recommend the following titles. Something here for all tastes, I think. Is it just me or are there an amazing number of great stories being published these days?
The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
Wake by Anna Hope
The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Vixen by Rosie Garland
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
How To Be Both by Ali Smith
Woman of the Dead by Bernhard Aichner
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
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