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.
Here’s a list of my latest recommendations. Hopefully there is something for everyone here as it’s quite a mix in terms of genre - though fair to say half of them are crime fiction. What they all share is a strong story, vivid characters and locations and accomplished writing. What else could you ask for? Happy reading.
Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey
Harvest by Jim Crace
The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Trouble Man by Tom Benn
The Son by Philipp Meyer
Red Joan by Jennie Roonie
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly
There was an impression, just like the Turin Shroud, she told the neighbours, but a back view. When they’d taken him away she’d run her hand round the bowl his head had made.
*Originally published by www.the-phone-book.com (now archived)
Last week I delivered the manuscript for my 20th novel. Twentieth! It’s hard to believe I’ve written that many. One question people ask is whether it gets easier and I don’t think it does. Harder perhaps, thinking up fresh situations that I haven’t explored before. The process may be more familiar but the core activities of writing: finding characters, developing the story, choosing the words, shaping the material, editing and improving it, are still as challenging and as engaging as ever. Some books flow more easily, others take a while to uncover. In my mind I think the making of a novel is a combination of discovery and construction. It’s like mining for an artefact that is buried and as you dig it out, you clean and sculpt and colour it until it feels complete. I’ve no idea whether the ‘mining’ metaphor rings true for other people but it doesn’t matter. As practitioners we all find out what methods work for us, whether we plot in advance or just start writing, when we edit, whether research precedes the writing or is done on the hoof, dipping into the internet as we go, whether we count the words or the pages, if we write chronologically or weave collages together, if we use particular software to help us with structure and continuity, whether we read aloud or dictate our work. When I start afresh with each book I still need that leap of faith, a suspension of the critical voice that tries to undermine my efforts. And when the book is written I have the all too familiar lurch of confidence while I wait for feedback, maybe even greater these days as with each new title there’s the hope it will be an improvement on what came before. The buzz I get from writing remains just as strong and rewarding as it always was and I can’t imagine ever wanting to stop.
There was a moment, on the coach, as the sun licked the sky light, when she wanted to weep for the precious loveliness of it all.
On occasion I’ve heard people say they don’t like books written in the first person (often when praising a title in that narrative style that they’ve just read). I wonder why the resistance. Do they find it uncomfortable to be so intimate with the character? Is it hard to suspend disbelief and be inside another person’s head whose world view, attitudes and experiences may be a long way from their own? Personally ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’ is one of the things I love about reading. Although when I’m choosing a new book I don’t consciously think about what the point of view is. Other factors – the cover, the blurb, the first page of writing, people’s recommendations – are much more significant.
But when I’m writing, the first elements I need to pin down are character and point of view. Some stories I know instinctively* have to be a sole first person. I want that intensity and focus, there is no doubt about whose story it is and it’s not to be shared. My Sal Kilkenny series uses the first person POV as does The Kindest Thing, a book about a woman who is tried for murder after she helps her husband end his life. The novel I’ve just finished, Letters to my Daughter’s Killer, which explores the question of whether it is possible to forgive a murderer, is also a first person account. Other stories such as the Blue Murder and Scott and Bailey series and standalones like Split Second suit several third person points of view. As a writer I find it refreshing to switch from spending months in the almost claustrophobic world of ‘I’ to the variety and freedom of ‘he’ and ‘she’. And in my most recently published novel, Blink of an Eye, I’ve used two narrators, both written in the first person.
Does it matter to you?
*And sometimes I don’t. Credit must go to my novel writers’ group who on reading the opening chapters of The Kindest Thing all agreed the only viewpoint they were at all interested in was Deborah’s. And so it came to be.
This week I am guest blogging over on Womens Writers, Women’s Books. Come see me there.
The average woman spends £124 a month on clothes, shoes and accessories. The rest of us are just trying to find something halfway decent that fits.
**Originally commissioned by Cartwheel Arts
There are various techniques for building tension in a story: the use of foreboding, the ominous comments of hindsight, the race against time or the ticking clock set-up, the sudden reversal of fortune or the shock revelation that trips up the reader and changes what we understand of the narrative. Writing in the present tense can also contribute to the breathless, fast-paced feel of a thriller. With this technique there is neither foresight nor hindsight. We do not have the bigger picture, only the frame by frame, chapter by chapter account. Like the protagonist we are in the moment. It’s a very modern style, well, I assume it is (people who know about the history of literature please correct me if I’m wrong).
I’ve written novels in the present tense and others in the past. Sometimes I’ve found that changing to the present tense gives a better edge to a story. In my latest book, Blink of an Eye, one character’s narrative is written in the present and the other is in the past though it covers the same time-frame. As with most choices your first instinct is usually the correct one but if you’re unhappy with the flavour of the prose then tense is one element to consider. Write a chapter both ways and compare. Like POV the tense should suit the story and work for the characters.
In the lull between the tides of traffic she hears a woman screaming abuse. Imagines bruises, broken cups, a dying marriage, an ocean of bitterness drowning out the soft summer day.
*Originally published by www.the-phone-book.com (now archived)