Tara Moore’s new book, ‘Fade to Dead’ was recently published by Urbane Publications and is the first of a series. I asked Tara some questions about it.
I have been hearing good things about your new book. Can you tell me a bit about it please?
My books generally originate with a character that pops into my head in the dead of night, setting up such a clamour that sleep becomes impossible. It’s annoying, but exciting too, and when that character is pretty much fully formed – for which read loud and insistent – I know there is a book to be written. Indeed, Jessica Wideacre, the lead character in Fade To Dead, arrived a full ten years ago. Back then, she just wasn’t the right fit for the contemporary novels I was working on, but I knew, beyond shadow of a doubt that, someday, she would emerge kicking and screaming into the light. Actually, kicking and screaming is something Jessica does rather well.
In Fade To Dead, she’s tasked with apprehending a vicious serial killer. Self-styled, The Director, he’s snatching young girls off the street to star in his movies. Armed with the perfect script, he’s got a role to die for. Literally. With a rising body count and clues scarcer than hens’ teeth, Jessica’s back is right up against the wall. Time is not on her side. Neither is her boss, who doesn’t hesitate to turn the thumb screws. In the perfect storm, Jessica’s home life is also disintegrating around her ears. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something or somebody subjected to sustained pressure will eventually crack. However, going to pieces is a luxury Jessica can’t afford. Whatever it takes, whatever the personal cost, she will not rest until The Director is behind bars.
How many books in the series are there going to be?
I’m leaning towards seven books, the second of which, Babyshoes, is currently underway. That may change, of course. I’m not the one calling the shots. Jessica is!
What made you decide to write a series?
As I was writing Fade To Dead, it became clear that both Jessica Wideacre and her team had a lot more to give. An expression you will hear time and time again amongst authors is that the characters became like family. I want to know ALL about them and ALL their secrets. I’m nosey like that. Jessica, in particular, piques my interest. She’s prickly, wears her pride like armour, is sometimes misguided, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She’s definitely no angel and will bend the rules if circumstances warrant it. That said, her heart is in the right place and her sense of justice unshakeable. I would want a Jessica in my corner (especially in a boxing ring!).
Was any research involved?
South London where Fade To Dead is set was my old stomping ground for twenty years and so I have a good knowledge of the area and its surrounds. It is also the place where my two sons were born. That alone, means it will always have a special place in my heart, Tooting Broadway in particular.
Regarding the police procedural aspects – (although Jessica is not a by-the-book copper) – I called on the knowledge of an ex policeman friend. As is the norm these days, I also consulted with the great and all powerful Wizard of Google, read lots of books and watched lots of films.
Can you relate to any of your characters?
Yes, to certain aspects, otherwise I could not write them convincingly. Sometimes there is the urge to make one or other the mouth-piece for one’s own favourite hobby horses. Luckily, they tend to arrive with their own set of characteristics, baggage and prejudices and I have to lead the horse back into the stable.
Have you got any other writing projects on the go?
I like to work on two projects at a time on the basis that if I get stuck on one, I can then move on to the other. It works – sometimes! When I get stuck on both, I simply go away and drink wine. After the second bottle, I don’t much care. As touched on above, I am currently working on Babyshoes, the second book in the Jessica Wideacre series, as well as a standalone thriller, Get Set, Kill! (working title).
When did you first start writing?
I’ve been writing for almost as long as I could hold a pen and join letters together. The whole of my teenage years were documented in cringe-making, angst-filled poetry, short stories and half-written novels. I yearned to become a writer and follow in my own ‘umble way those writers who so enriched my own life with their wonderful books. I learnt the power of the written word early and am still firmly under its spell. Sometimes, I want to jump up and down like a lunatic shouting, “I am not a number, I am a writer.” Then, I take my pills and go and lie down in a dark room until the feeling passes.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given about writing?
Give up and become a nun! Clearly, I didn’t listen. The next bit of good advice was very simple – apply butt to chair, switch on computer and write! You may have the best idea in the world and the greatest plot, but if it remains trapped in your head it’s just another idea among millions.
A more useful piece of advice was to get the skeleton down first rather than edit and re-edit the same piece over and over. Seeing the book progress is a great psychological spur. You can go back, flesh it out and polish it to perfection after that. You cannot, however, work on something that has yet to be written. Get it writ. Then, get it right!
Have you got any good advice for anyone wishing to get published?
I’m tempted to say, give up and become a nun. You get four square meals, don’t have to bother about bills, have a roof over your head and are supplied with a nice smart habit. What’s not to like? Barring the shoes! So, drawing a veil over that (see what I did there) here’s a list – in no particular order – of what I think are non-negotiables for anyone wishing to get published.
- A thick skin – rejection is not for the faint hearted and with a very few exceptions, you are bound to get knocked back and often with great regularity. A friend of mine has wallpapered her downstairs loo with rejection letters, which is really putting a positive spin on things. Last seen entering a convent.
- Just because one hundred agents/publishers may reject your manuscript, it doesn’t mean that the 101st won’t leap on it with the fervour of one who has just found the Holy Grail. Walk into any bookshop, look around, and remind yourself that thousands of books by new authors are published every year – you can bet your life most of those will have suffered their own share of knockbacks on the path to publication.
- This probably should have been number one and it’s so obvious you would think there would be no need to say it – DO NOT DREAM of submitting your MS until it is as polished as it possibly can be. Have it proofread; have it edited, have it correctly formatted. That is part of your job. Yes, it costs money, but ask yourself how much you want this. Do without the new shoes, the weekend in Cornwall, the bottle of wine each night (okay, not that one!). Sacrifice whatever you need to give yourself the best possible chance of getting your manuscript picked up. Do not imagine that an agent/publisher will merrily discount the shortcomings on the basis that it is an earth-shattering story and it can all be sorted out later. Your book is a product, just like any other product. If at first sight it presents as careless and unprofessional, the agent/publisher will never get around to discovering your amazing opus and it will be consigned unread to the reject pile. Think of it as the supermarket principle. No one wants the torn package, the rotten tomato, or the mouldy bread.
- Speaking of submitting, do your research first. Arm yourself with the Writers And Artists Yearbook for a comprehensive list of agents and publishers in the UK or abroad. Another useful site is agenthunter.co.uk . For a modest sum, this gives you year-long access to an up-to-date list of literary agents. It lists the genres they represent, the kinds of books they particularly enjoy, and whether they are actively looking for submissions. There is also a wealth of free information available on the internet. Draw up a list of those agents/publishers who are most likely to be receptive to your book and get submitting. Always follow the submission guidelines.
- Write the story you want to write and not what you think the market is looking for. There really is no guessing what is going to be popular in eighteen months/two years from now. Twilight spawned a rash of vampire novels and 50 Shades a rash (probably not the best use of the word here) of erotica novels. By the time you have produced your own Twilight or Fifty Shades, the vampires will have flown off into the twilight and the handcuffs will be gathering dust in the nation’s bedroom drawers.
- Before you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, before you write the first word, be crystal clear as to genre and target audience. This is a cardinal rule. It serves not only to keep you, yourself, focused, but also allows you to pitch clearly to an agent/publisher.” It’s a kind of Western/meets sci-fi/meets Alice Through The Looking Glass/with overtones of Pride And Prejudice, mixed with a splash of War And Peace, which will appeal to all ages,” simply won’t do. I have seen too many people fall at this hurdle and end up with an unpublishable manuscript. The agent/publisher needs to know exactly how to categorise and market a book. And, yes, some books do successfully straddle more than one genre, but the book should be able to fall comfortably into one or other.
- Now here’s something that has become increasingly important in recent years; I’m talking marketing and social media. Every author nowadays is expected to have a significant online presence with a view to marketing and publicity. Websites, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest et al, as well as participation in reading/writing forums is essential. Some agents/publishers are now asking for these details in their submission requirements. Regardless of whether you are published by one of the Big Five publishers with a large marketing budget or a smaller independent publisher of lesser means, you will be expected to take an active role in marketing your book. Gone are the days when an author could squirrel themselves away in their lonely garret, popping out only to cash their royalty cheques. Techno/social media phobes, be warned, there is no place to run, no place to hide. See you on Facebook!
- Finally, the old refrain, do not give up. There is a school of thought that there are only so many story lines. Perhaps, but you have a unique slant and a unique voice and only you can tell your story your way. That makes you an original.
Describe a day in your life.
I have recently discovered that I am a ‘pantser’, not to be confused with a ‘prancer’, which is some daft form of exercise where one gallops Shergar-like through a local park losing both calories and credibility (more of the latter, I suspect). Look it up on Youtube – it’s good for a laugh. Pantser. I’m guessing, derives from seat-of-the-pants. In other words, I do a lot of winging, writing mainly when inspiration hits and when deadlines loom. I wish I could say I get up at 6.00 a.m. every day and work tirelessly till the moon comes up, but that would be to paint a false picture. A nice picture, but utter rubbish. My muse is a slacker. She’s off shopping and surfing the internet when she should be at home whipping me into shape. So, really, there is no writing routine to my days, no magic formula. I write when the mood and inspiration is upon me. I am a fully paid up member of the Society of Pantsers (SAP). Simple as that.
Who are your favourite authors?
Too many to list, but here’s a few and an eclectic lot they are:
The Brontes (to whom I am always true)
Robert Louis Stephenson
. . . and on to infinity
What do you prefer; long or short chapters?
I don’t have a preference. I find the type of book generally dictates the length of the chapters and I sometimes forget to stop. Just like now!
Thank you Sonya for allowing me the opportunity to bore on.
About Tara Moore
Tara Moore is a Dublin-born writer, now living in Ramsgate, Kent. She is the author of several books, including RSVP and Blue-Eyed Girl (Orion Publishing). Her first crime novel, Fade To Dead (Urbane Publications) was published in March 2016.
Website – http://www.taramoore.com
Twitter – @TaraMoore2
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/tara.moore.7731
‘Fade to Dead’ is available to buy from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/fade-to-dead/
Please note that ‘Fade to Dead’ can be downloaded for free today on Kindle via Amazon UK.