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Interview with Richard Rippon

I would like to introduce you all to Richard Rippon whose new book, ‘Lord of the Dead’ is out today in paperback and as an eBook, published by Obliterati Press.  I asked Richard all about it.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘Lord of the Dead’ please?

It’s a crime thriller set in the North East. Someone is taking women from Newcastle and brutally murdering them in the Northumbrian countryside. A team of cops investigate, assisted by gifted university psychologist, Jon Atherton. They have very little physical evidence to go on, so it’s up to Atherton to build a profile and get under the skin of the killer. There’s an added complication in that a woman on the police team is someone he’s had an affair with.

 

Where did you get the idea for this book from?

I always wanted to write a serial killer novel, but I never had a strong enough idea. Then I remembered a non-fiction book I’d read about twenty years ago and something clicked. I don’t want to give too much away, but that provided a scenario and a motive for my killer. Once I’d decided what my main character was going to be like, I was up and running.

 

How long did it take you to write?

It took a couple of years. I wrote mainly on the bus, to and from work. There’s a lot to be said for writers using public transport. It gave me about an hour and half each workday when I could focus on the book.

 

Did you have to do any research at all?

Yes. Two of my closest friends are a police officer and a nurse, so they helped to make sure procedurally and tonally I was being authentic in their respective fields. I also corresponded with a historian, a forensic scientist and someone who lives with cerebral palsy. I think I take dramatic license occasionally, but I wanted everything to feel grounded in reality.

   

Did the characters in your book speak to you at all whilst you were writing?

I partially based Atherton on a younger version of my uncle, so I always heard his voice when writing his dialogue. He’s a fiercely intelligent bloke, with a big heart and a funny turn of phrase. He also has cerebral palsy and so does Atherton, so this all helped to shape the character.

 

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

Not myself, but some family members who’ve read it, think they can recognise themselves or others. It’s led to a few awkward conversations about composite characters and so on. Sometimes I do borrow certain characteristics from people I know. It helps to draw upon real people, locations and situations.

 

What has the experience of getting published been like for you?

It’s been a long road. I won a New Writing North Award in 2009 for my first novel, The Kebab King. It led to me signing with an agent, but the book didn’t get picked up, so I self-published (it’s available for Kindle on Amazon) and got started on Lord of the Dead. There was more interest in it, to the point that we started talking to a publisher about sequel ideas, but then they went cold on me. I felt a bit frustrated and decided to have a break from writing. Nathan O’Hagan got in touch out of the blue, asking if I had anything finished he could read for Obliterati Press. I knew Nathan from my time in Liverpool in the 90s. I loved what he and Wayne were doing with Obliterati and was extremely happy they wanted to publish me.

 

Will you be celebrating when your book is released into the world?

Absolutely. We’re having a book launch event on 3rd November in Newcastle, which is open to all. Having a book published has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, so I really want to celebrate and make the most of it. I hope it’s the first of many.

 

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Principally, I want it to work as a thriller. The main job as a writer is to keep the pages turning, otherwise everything else is pointless. I hope they find it a tense and compelling story, with well-written characters and a terrifying villain. On another level, I hope they’ll enjoy reading a book with a protagonist who has a physical impairment. Of the 24 official James Bond movies, 17 have a villain with some kind of impairment, so they’re broadly presenting this idea that physically different means ‘bad’. I want Lord of the Dead to be the antithesis of this. Atherton has a disability and he’s not the villain, or side-lined as a supporting character. He’s front and centre. He’s the hero.

 

Have you got any other writing projects on the go?

I’ve started on a sequel to Lord of the Dead. The working title is The Life of the Flesh, but that could change. I’ve also been working on some screenplay ideas for movie and TV.

 

What do you think of social media and has it helped you?

I work in social media, so I love it. Twitter in particular has been indispensable to track down the experts I mentioned. There’s a social media element to the book’s plot. I thought it would be interesting to see how a serial killer case could play out in today’s modern world where people publicly document their lives so readily.

 

What advice have you got for anyone wanting to write?

I started with short stories and flash fiction. It’s a good way to get into the habit of writing without throwing yourself straight into a novel. There are lots of websites and magazines with open submissions. Look for competitions. Winning the New Writing North Award gave me the confidence to keep going, helped me make contacts and got me an agent. Join a writers group. Usually, writers only work in isolation, so you never get much feedback on your work. Get people other than your family and friends to read your stuff. Don’t try to emulate the flavour of the month. Write what you want to write about, otherwise you’re really not going to enjoy it.

 

Who are you favourite authors?

My favourite authors aren’t really crime writers and I’m actually quite embarrassed about how little I’ve read in recent years. I like Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palaniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King and Cormac McCarthy amongst others.

 

What do you hope to be doing in five years time?

I’d like to think I might have written another novel or two. I see Lord of the Dead as the first in a trilogy, perhaps with a spin-off series featuring a supporting character. I’d love to write or co-write a movie or TV show, but as long as I’m doing something creative, I’ll be happy.

 

 

About Richard Rippon

Richard Rippon has been writing since 2007, when his short story, Full Tilt, was long-listed for a Northern Dagger award. In 2009, he won a New Writing North Award for his first novel, The Kebab King. Since then he’s had a number of short stories published in newspapers, magazines and online. In 2012, he was commissioned to write a short story (The Other One), which appears in the Platform anthology. He lives on the North East coast with his wife and two children, and works in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Richard was also a social media phenomenon in 2016, as one of the men behind the twitter sensation #DrummondPuddleWatch.

 

You can follow Richard on:-

Twitter – @RichRippon

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/richard.rippon.3.

 

‘Lord of the Dead’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lord-Dead-Richard-Rippon/dp/1999752805/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509647090&sr=1-1&keywords=lord+of+the+dead+richard+rippon

eBook – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lord-Dead-Richard-Rippon-ebook/dp/B0771Y153J/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509647090&sr=1-2&keywords=lord+of+the+dead+richard+rippon

 

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Interview with Herta Feely

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Herta Feely’s  book, ‘Saving Phoebe Murrow’ is out today in paperback, published by Twenty7.  I asked Herta all about her novel.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘Saving Phoebe Murrow’ please?

book-cover

(The novel is divided into three sections: Conflict, Revenge, and Justice. And it is written from five people’s point-of-view—three adults and two teens.)

The story revolves around a cyber-bullying episode that targets the young teen, Phoebe Murrow, who self-harms by cutting. The cyber-bullying occurs in the first chapter, which ends without the reader knowing whether Phoebe will commit suicide or not. Then we roll back in time two months to see what happened to cause this in the first place.

The novel explores social media and its prevalence in teen lives, the conflict between two women with very different parenting styles, cliquish women, mean girls, self-harm in the form of cutting, and the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. And finally, it’s about a woman juggling a demanding career and the responsibilities of family, but trying her best to keep her daughter safe in a complex world.

In the final section (Justice), we experience the ramifications of the cyber-bullying on the two girls’ families and the extended community of students.

 

How long did it take you to write this book?

The first draft took the length of a pregnancy, nine months, but that was followed by three years of revisions.

 

Where did you get your ideas from?

The inspiration for this novel came from a newspaper article I read back in 2008 about a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier, who took her life after a cyber-bullying episode (on MySpace in 2006) led by a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, whom she’d never met. After quite a bit of online bullying, in which friends she knew piled on, he suggested she kill herself and she did. Some weeks later Megan’s parents discovered that Josh was not a boy at all, but a 47-year-old neighbor woman who knew Megan and wanted to find out what Megan was saying about her daughter, with whom Megan had been friends, but had had a falling out. It was shocking to me that someone could do such a thing to a child, especially one she knew was vulnerable, as Megan was.

Almost immediately I knew I wanted to write a novel about social media and its impact on girls. The characters and key elements of my novel are very different from the Megan Meier story, though there a few similarities exist.

 

Did you have to do any research?

The primary research focused on self-harm and some medical issues, which I can’t say more about here. After writing the novel, I did quite a bit of research on social media and its impact on teen girls, in particular, and I feel quite concerned about what’s happening. I have read and heard anecdotally that girls are experiencing quite a lot of anxiety because of active, maybe over-active, participation on various social media platforms. There are many reports of suicide, and even reports of murder, the latter related to girls meeting strange men online and trusting them. Such an incident occurred recently in the US. After “meeting” a student from Virginia Tech through a Facebook group, Nicole Lovell snuck out of her house late one night to meet him and three days later she was found murdered. The student, David Eisenhauer, is in prison on murder charges. This latter case, hopefully, is an anomaly, but social media does lend itself to predation.

 

Do you think this is a story lots of parents will be able to relate to?

In a word, yes. I’ve had lots of readers respond, often saying it should be a book club choice to give parents (women, in particular) a chance to discuss the various issues that are raised in the story. I intentionally featured two female characters that fall on either end of the parenting spectrum—one too rigid and controlling (Isabel) and the other (Sandy) too lenient and wanting her daughter to be popular. This will allow readers to discuss the parenting issues they are concerned with, and to critique the choices made by the mothers in the story.

 

What do you want people to get from your book?

First and foremost, I want people to enjoy the read. And second, I hope the novel helps to stimulate discussions about parenting and about social media and its role in our lives, particularly that of young people. How does one parent effectively in this era of heavy Internet use and over-reliance on our various technology devices?

The other themes in the book too, such as mean girls, cliquish behavior among women, the importance of recognizing the need to be good role models to children, and mother-daughter relationships are topics that I hope will be discussed.

Certainly, social media has many positive attributes, especially in its ability to connect us, to enable us to keep up with numerous friends, to promote products and services, to spread news quickly and so on. However, in all of this connection, we can also feel estranged. We may experience not really being in touch with the people whose messages/images we are reading and seeing on a screen. Social media cannot (and should not) take the place of real face-to-face friendships, real activities, and so on. And yet, being active on social media can eat up considerable amounts of a person’s time. Especially young people inexperienced in the world and overly vulnerable to other’s reactions.

For example, there have been numerous suicides that resulted from cyber-bullying. A quick check on the Internet will provide you with numerous examples.

As a result of all this, parents have quite a lot of challenges these days, especially relative to social media. First, because most parents did not grow up with social media, they have a lack of familiarity with it; second, it’s hard to keep up with the ever-changing and new social media platforms—Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Twitter, etcetera; and third, parents have to figure out how to establish boundaries and limits and then monitor use, all of which can be extremely challenging.

I hope the novel will spark conversations along all these lines.

 

Do you think it would make a good TV drama?

I suppose most people say yes to this question (I’d like to insert a smiley face emoticon or a winking one here!), but considering the contemporary nature of the topic raised in Saving Phoebe Murrow, I’d say this is a definite yes and much needed for the reasons listed in the above question. I’ve focused more on adult readers in regards to the hopes for my novel, but in terms of good TV drama, I think it would also be helpful to see this from the children’s angle. I’d love to see a drama that explores social media and its dark sides so that teens have greater awareness of the dangers and negative aspects. Certainly my novel could be seen from both the teen and the adult perspectives (just as it is written), and it could also be expanded upon, with a series that explores more and more forms of social media and how this affects girls and boys and their parents.

 

What are your feelings about social media and do you find it useful?

I do enjoy using social media (mainly Facebook and Twitter) to keep up with friends, to hear the latest news (world and also book news), and to promote my own novel. And, yes, it is useful. Sometimes, though, I find it tedious. And time consuming. I’m beyond that point where I’m worried about whether people like a post or a tweet, though occasionally I’m subject to the same anxieties I’ve read young people can have. I even question whether I’m using the media appropriately and/or effectively. So I guess I’m not entirely immune to what “other people think,” am I?

I think I’ve expressed myself pretty fully about other aspects of how I feel about social media. It’s good and bad. It’s all in how we use it and/or how we let it control us!

 

Are more books planned?

Indeed. The next novel, ALL FALL DOWN, is about a woman who reaches the pinnacle of her career (in the human rights field), only to have her entire world slip out from under her. And, I’ve discovered, it’s a love story. Between Charlotte Cooper and Damian West, a Nigerian sculptor she met at Oxford as a student. It also takes place in different parts of the world, and explores human rights violations there and the destruction of archaeological artifacts in the Middle East.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Lately, there hasn’t been much free time. But I do enjoy traveling with my husband, biking, hiking, and eating good food. I attend plays at local theaters quite often, and recently saw “Hamilton” with the original cast in New York.

 

Did you always want to be a writer?

I always loved to read…always. From the time I was about eight I began writing plays for the kids in the neighborhood to perform, and I enjoyed writing the occasional story. Once, in 6th grade, I had to write part of a play that had to do with the future. So my main character was a woman, who became the first woman president of the United States, and she had a secretary who was male. Perhaps I was prescient?!

I didn’t seriously consider being a novelist until later in life, somewhere in my early forties, and then it took some time to get my writing “legs” and figure out what I wanted to write about. Now I can’t imagine life without it.

 

What’s your advice to anyone trying to write their first novel?

First, I would say, yes, do it. Life is short and you should give it a whirl. But I also believe that people often don’t fully appreciate how much writing you need to do before you can churn out your first decent novel. It requires much practice. Becoming a successful writer requires dedication and discipline with regular and frequent bouts of sitting and writing. There’s simply no way around that. You can have the most brilliant idea, but then you need to sit down and write it.

Everyone has their own method, but I highly recommend allowing time for your idea to gain traction in your imagination and jotting down characters that come to you, snatches of dialogue or interior thoughts, and the occasional scene. It can be very helpful to do a little bit of plotting and figuring out what the main character wants and what stands in his or her way. Identifying the conflict. Doing this sort of pre-work can really help when you get stuck, staring at the computer screen and not knowing where the story is headed. Then you can turn to your notes or do a little research and that can give you the confidence or push to keep going.

And, finally, I would say that though we all write, writing fiction requires some contact with the “muse.” Without going into much detail, I believe this is the ability to open oneself up to the creative spirit and believing in it and letting it flow through you and onto the page.

 

About Herta Feely

Herta Feely is a writer and full-time editor, working with a wide array of authors and writers from around the world. Born in former Yugoslavia, she and her parents emigrated to Germany when she was three, and then to the United States at the age of seven. Her work (both short stories and memoir) have been published in a number of anthologies and literary journals, and she has received the American Independent Writers’ award for best published personal essay. In her previous work, she was a journalist, press secretary and activist, co-founding Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to saving children from unintentional injuries.

She now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and two cats, Monty and Albert. She has two sons, Jack and Max.

 

‘Saving Phoebe Murrow’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Saving-Phoebe-Murrow-perfect-mother/dp/1785770349/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1476813806&sr=1-1

 

Blog Tour – ‘Follow Me’ by Angela Clarke

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‘Follow Me’ is Angela Clarke’s debut novel. It was published by Avon as an eBook on the 3rd December 2015 and will be out in paperback on the 31st December 2015. Today it is my turn on this exciting blog tour. Read on for my review and an extract from the book.

Do you use social media on a regular basis? Well, you never know who could be watching you, following you, planning their next move. You might thing you are internet savvy but it doesn’t mean you are totally safe.

Freddie Venton wants to be a full-time journalist but for now she is working in a coffee shop. One night whilst on shift she spots someone from her past outside. Nasreen, now a police officer, was her childhood friend until eight years ago when something unforgiveable happened. Little does Freddie know that they are about to be thrown together again.

The Hashtag Murderer having already killed someone is posting chilling cryptic clues on Twitter, all of which are pointing to their next target. He or she is enjoying taunting the police, enthralling the press and capturing the public’s imagination. Hundreds and thousands of people are following the murderer’s account. Can Freddie, Nasreen and the police catch the Hashtag Murderer before he or she kills anyone else? It’s a race against time, something which is seriously lacking.

I started reading ‘Follow Me’ a few days ago. It took me a little while to get into the story properly, but a few chapters in and I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. Most of us use social media regularly so I think the idea for this story was brilliant. The author who has herself experienced the extremes of trolling is a self-confessed social media addict and pretty much knew what she was talking about.

Freddie really grew on me. It was obvious that something had happened between her and Nasreen years ago which spoilt their friendship and it was interesting to see if they would be able to resolve their differences.

I did find myself questioning a couple of things in the story but all became clear later on. I didn’t have a clue who the murderer was. Will ‘Follow Me’ stop me using social media though? Never!

I give this book 4 out of 5.

~~~~~

It’s time now for an extract from ‘Follow Me’.  This is taken from the beginning of Chapter 8.

 

23:13

Saturday 31 October

For a blissful second Freddie thought she was in bed. Then the
concerned face of Nasreen came into focus, haloed by a yellow
ceiling stain.

‘Take your time, don’t rush up,’ she said.

‘Is she okay? Jesus this is all I need: the paperwork!’ Moast’s
square head came between her and the overhead strip lighting.
His cropped blonde hair glowing.

‘I’m okay.’ Freddie pushed against the floor. Sticky.

‘Someone should take a look at you,’ Nas said.

‘No.’ The shock of the accusation sharpened everything. Freddie
took in the dirty white box of a room. The pitted table. The grey
plastic chairs. ‘You can’t really think I’m a murderer?’

‘Where were you between 1am and 5am this morning, Miss
Venton?’ Moast was leaning on the table, his knuckles white from
the pressure.

‘Sir, I really think we should give her a minute.’

She looked up at Moast. ‘I’m fine. Let’s get this sorted,’ Freddie
adopted her customer service voice: the one she used when she
was at a job interview or trying to get a doctor’s appointment.
How Changing Your Tone Can Change Your Life.

‘Miss Venton says she’s fine. And I for one am really looking
forward to how she’s going to explain all this!’ Moast said.

‘Explain what? There’s nothing to explain.’ Freddie stood, a little
shakily, opposite him. She wouldn’t sit first, Lego man.

‘Answer the question: where were you between 1am and 5am
today?’ he said.

‘I was working the night shift at Espress-oh’s.’ She had to keep
calm. ‘Except for when I was talking to Nasreen in St Pancras station.
You were there.’

‘Sit down!’ he barked.

She sat. Her cheeks burning. ‘This is harassment!’

‘Freddie, look, I don’t know who you’ve got yourself involved
with, life has clearly not gone the way you planned it,’ Nasreen
nodded at her Espress-oh’s shirt.

‘I’m a journalist!’ She had to make them understand.

Moast scoffed, ‘You just told us you work at Espress-oh’s? Now
you’re claiming you’re a journalist?’

‘I am a bloody journalist,’ Freddie said.

‘Don’t take that tone with me, Missy,’ he snarled. ‘You’re giving
it all that about calling you Ms. What kind of a name is Freddie for
a girl, anyway? Do you have a problem with men? Did you want
to silence Alun Mardling?’

Freddie looked from Moast to Nas. ‘I didn’t even know who he
was till this morning.’ Freddie tried to remember what she’d said
in her voicemail.

‘Freddie, you’re entitled to legal advice. Are you sure you don’t
want a lawyer present?’ Nas said. Moast glared at her.

‘I don’t need a lawyer, I’ve done nothing wrong!’ said Freddie.

‘We spoke to your manager.’ Moast pulled a notepad from his
back pocket and flicked through it. ‘A Mr Daniel Peterson. He says
you have some anger issues?’

Freddie’s mum always warned her daughter: one day that temper
of yours will get you into real trouble. Pleading with her to think
before she spoke. Unfortunately, the mention of her gossiping boss
and the stone-cold reality of being arrested for murder meant

Freddie returned to type. ‘The lying cunt!’

‘He said that you seemed very – and I quote – “agitated”.

‘A word with four syllables! I’m surprised he managed it.’ Freddie
could just imagine how much Dan relished dishing the dirt on her.

‘Mr Peterson said you left early.’

This was getting ridiculous. ‘I did: to follow you guys. Tell him
why I was there, Nas! Tell him about the paper!’

‘You didn’t say anything about any paper, Freddie.’ Nasreen
looked at her hands. How My Best Friend Became My Best Frenemy.

‘The suspected murder weapon is visible in the photo you sent
Sergeant Cudmore.’ Moast slapped an enlarged version of the
screenshot onto the table.

Winded from the blood, Freddie turned away.

‘The knife is no longer at the scene, because you took it with
you after taking this photo,’ he said.

‘No. You’ve got it all wrong.’ She had to make them listen. This
was insane.

‘Did it make you feel good cutting him?’

Her stomach turned. ‘Stop it! Listen! I know about the murder
weapon. I mean, about it being in the photo. That’s why when I
saw it on Twitter I sent it to Nas.’

‘On Twitter? The photo was on Twitter?’

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