Friday, 30 October 2009

A weekend in Cognac

A couple of weekends ago I went to France for an awards dinner. Twisted Wing, or Les Visages du Mal as it's called on the other side of the Channel, was nominated for Le Prix Polar International. Travelling on Eurostar for the first time (it's great!), we navigated the Metro and the French railway system to arrive in the pretty town of Cognac on Friday night.

I lost out to fellow Brit Lord Jeffrey Archer (above), author of the multimillion-selling Kane & Abel (among other works), on the night, but met some lovely and interesting people. Anne-France, my editor at Editions France, was utterly charming, as were her colleagues Isabelle and Chantal. Lord Archer (or "Jeff", as I like to call him) was very entertaining and encouraging. Journalist Bertrand Rosenthal told us fascinating anecdotes of his time as a correspondent in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and Cuba. And French author Sire Cedric made me jealous as he told me he spent six months writing then six months partying! I currently spend five days working, half a day writing, half a day playing Xbox and the rest of the time asleep. At least I got to experience a brief weekend of glamour!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Le Prix Polar International 2009

I'm off to Cognac in France tomorrow to attend the Prix Polar dinner. "Les Visages du Mal", which is what Twisted Wing is called in its French translation (published by Editions France), has been nominated for Le Prix Polar International. I've got no chance of winning - look at the other nominees! - but I'm thrilled to even be included on that list. And I'm also looking forward to spending the weekend in France, meeting my French publishers, drinking lots of Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, and travelling on the Eurostar for the first time!

Hopefully I'll be able to update you next week with entertaining photos of me, tipsy, embarrassing fellow nominee Lisa Unger by gushing about how much I enjoyed "Blackout" (which I was coincidentally reading when I found out about the award nomination)... :-)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

13 Writing Tips

Just read Fight Club author Chuck Palaniuk's excellent 13 Writing Tips blog post, and had to pass it on. Tip #1 is excellent advice - the number of times I've procrastinated then wondered why when after 10 mins I'm 'in the zone'... but tips #2 and #3 are the ones that are really resonating with me at the moment:

#2: Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don't be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. My personal theory is that younger readers distain most books - not because those readers are dumber than past readers, but because today's reader is smarter. Movies have made us very sophisticated about storytelling.

#3: Before you sit down to write a scene, mull it over in your mind and know the purpose of that scene. What earlier set-ups will this scene pay off? What will it set up for later scenes?

I'm editing book 2 at the moment, and there's quite a lot of discussion going on with my readers/editors as to whether certain elements of it are confusing. Basically there's a final surprise at the end, and it's quite an important one that explains a lot about the main character and the love of her life. However my editor wants me to cut it, as there are already a lot of twists, turns and other surprises in the book, and she thinks the foreshadowing/hints I'm dropping are going to confuse the reader - that when they read the hint their reaction will be "huh?", but that it won't be a big enough "huh?" that they'll remember the hint at the end of the book.

So do I follow Palahniuk's advice and trust that the reader is intelligent enough to both pick up on those hints and remember them at the end, when sense can be finally be made of them? My instinct is 'yes'. Maybe the solution isn't to cut the twist altogether, but to weave in more hints, so in the final pages the reader's reaction is "aha! now it all makes sense". I just need to find that fine line between the kind of gossamer foreshadowing that the reader brushes off like a cobweb strung between two lampposts, and sledgehammer foreshadowing that whacks the reader over the head until said twist becomes so obvious that they have a skull fracture.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Company of Shadows

Well we've chosen a title for the second book, and it's not on the list! Thank you nevertheless to everyone who voted!

Here's the back cover blurb for - wait for it - "The Company of Shadows":

Flicking through her friends’ holiday snaps, Kate Benson receives a sudden shock. For there in the background is her husband, Charlie. Dark hair, blue eyes, familiar smile: there’s no mistaking him. But that’s impossible. Because Charlie died a year ago.

Determined to track down the man in the photograph, Kate follows the trail from Miami to Sicily, where her husband drowned in mysterious circumstances. But when she discovers serious discrepancies in the original investigation, Kate starts to question whether she ever really knew the man she loved so much.

Was Charlie murdered? Was their marriage as perfect as Kate likes to remember? Why is she being followed? Who can she trust? And is Kate herself to be trusted? Because there are secrets in her past too . . .

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Front Row, BBC Radio 4, Weds 17 June 2009

Ooh, thanks to the lovely tool that is "Listen Again", I just heard Twisted Wing mentioned on the BBC Radio 4 programme Front Row. Mark Lawson and reviewer Jeff Park were lovely about it, and Jeff bigs up Cambridge as the fictional crime capital of the UK!

If you want to listen to it yourselves, it's about 15 mins and 50 secs in:

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Help me choose the title for book no. 2!

Well book no.2 whizzed its way to my agent, the lovely Vivien Green of Sheil Land Associates, yesterday. Trouble is, we're still a bit stuck with a title! Would appreciate any feedback, either via the poll or via comments... :-)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Twisted Wing out in Italy

I'm happy to say that Twisted Wing is now out in Italy, under the title "Il College Delle Brave Ragazze" ("College of the Brave Girls" or so Google Translate tells me!). Visit the Garzanti Libri website to find out more!

In other news, my lovely German teacher (from way back when - trust me, it's been many years since I was in a classroom!) tells me she's persuaded her book group to read Twisted Wing - thanks Mrs O!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Twisted Wing out in China

Fellow blogger Joann Chang, who writes a mystery blog in China, has kindly emailed to let me know that the traditional Chinese translation has just come out, with the title 扭曲的翅膀. You can buy it here, but just a warning - avoid the mini extract beneath as it's a bit of a spoiler!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Twisted Wing reviewed in the Spectator

The online review of Twisted Wing has appeared on the Spectator's website today; think the print issue is due out imminently. Have just noticed that it appears to have been written by Nigel Lawson - blimey! It's exciting enough to be reviewed at all, let alone by someone as well known as Nigel Lawson!

Hopefully they won't mind me reprinting the review in full:

A crime story of a more serious kind is Twisted Wing, by Ruth Newman, which is set in Cambridge. The novel begins at the fictitious Ariel College, where a third female student in two years has been gruesomely murdered. Sitting next to the butchered corpse, bruised and insensible with shock, is Olivia Corscadden, another student. Matthew Denisoan, the psychologist attached to the case, is convinced that Olivia saw what happened, but for weeks she is in a state of terror-induced catatonia to the point where she has to be tube-fed. When her condition improves, Denison interviews her and a shocking picture begins slowly to emerge, as Denison and his colleagues in the police try to capture a serial killer.

In structure, this is classic crime fiction, with a ring of suspects, false leads and deftly laid twists — the very stuff of Morse and Marple. In content, however, it is less homely. By comparison with Twisted Wing, an episode of Taggart seems positively dainty: this novel explores deep psychosis and child abuse, among other horrors, and presents murders of extraordinary bloodthirstiness, so that one is alternately impressed by the technique and chilled by the effect.

There are just a few teething problems in this strong debut. It could have done with better proofing, to excise errors such as ‘she was sat’ and to rework the odd infelicity of style. The ending also, while gripping, left some small areas of the plotting looking questionable. But Newman is a good new writer, and Twisted Wing is a well-paced, rigorously researched and captivating crime novel which would lend itself to a screen adaptation.

Think I might have to insist the next edition of the book has "Makes Taggart look dainty" plastered across the cover - love it!

See the review on the Spectator's website »

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Twisted Wing Book Launch at Heffers

Cripes, it's been a while since an update, eh? Think I might have to start doing posts wittering about nothing in particular, rather than waiting till I have book-related news!

Last month the launch party for Twisted Wing took place in Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge. Loads of lovely friends and family turned up, coming from London, Oxford, Shrewsbury, Reading and also just down the road! Had a very pleasant surprise when two old school friends, Adina and Mey Yee, turned up unexpectedly, and we followed the party by going to the local tapas bar and getting sozzled on cava sangria. Those of you that have read the book may recognise Adina's name; she's a barrister, and helped me out with some of the legal aspects of the book. Naming a character/street/shop after someone is a little shoutout of thanks! Tracey Webb, a character in the book who discovers the first body, is named after my friend Tracey who happens to run the website where I work. I've promised her she can play the role in the movie, as long as she's prepared to do a Mrs Overall impression (Tracey Webb is a cleaner), but she seems strangely unimpressed by this offer.

In other news Simon & Schuster, who will be publishing the mass market paperback edition of Twisted Wing next Spring, have just bought my second novel (which currently has a working title of All the Old Familiar Places), which should be out in the Summer of 2010. I met them for the first time recently and they're a lovely bunch, so I'm looking forward to working with them again. Next to deliver draft v2 by the end of May!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Twisted Wing out in France on 22 Jan 2009

And next on the whistlestop tour of lovely European countries is France, where Twisted Wing is called Les Visages du Mal ("The Faces of Evil"). Love that cover, what a clever idea to have the gargoyle high above the Cambridge skyline. I'm looking forward to getting my free copies of the Polish and French translations so they can go on my dedicated bookshelf of gloatiness.

The Christmas FrightFest went as planned - "The Mist" was my Mum's favourite, but boy was it bleak. "Death Line" was a load of pants, don't bother. Also don't bother with "The Breed", a Michelle Rodriguez film about very intelligent but violent dogs - I nearly wet myself during one particularly silly scary scene involving a seaplane. If the director had been playing it for laughs it would've been edited in exactly the same way. There were lots of shots throughout of dogs gathering on the horizon which were obviously meant to be very ominous, but just made you go: "aw, look at that cute little doggie, look how fluffy he is!" And the dogs practically wagged their tails during the attack scenes they were having so much fun. (Note: this mocking tone would not have applied had the film makers decided to go with spider baddies rather than canine baddies. Although can spiders chew through your mooring rope so your only method of escape begins to float away then wait for you casually on the wings of said seaplane, looking for all the world like they're chillaxing till their wrangler waves a doggie biscuit behind the camera? No.)

All The Old Familiar Places (working title for book no.2) is nearly done - took a red pen at it over the weekend and rewrote a couple of key scenes. Having said that, a very honest mate who's currently reading it told me a couple of days ago: "that doesn't work, that should be in the third person, that bit is too smug". So when he's finished and has given me all his feedback I'll need to a) do another draft, b) find some way of dismembering and disposing of his bloody corpse so no one will ever find it again...