Author Archives: Liz

Noir at the Bar : crime, alcohol, the ideal mixture?

Noir at the Bar, I’m told, first appeared in Philadelphia in 2008.

The full story is here.

Brits, not slow to adopt anything that takes place over a drink in a pub, quickly caught on. It’s now a popular pastime for crime and mystery writers all over the UK.

Crawley Festival of Words

Elly Griffiths, Barbara Nadel and Derek Farrell at Crawley Festival of WordsCrawley, my nearest big town, has a month-long Festival of Words in March and it includes a very popular crime weekend.

There was a crime panel hosted by Derek Farrell – author of the Danny Bird Mysteries — who was talking to Elly Griffiths and Barbara Nadel.  Caroline Green gave a workshop on writing “killer characters”. Spooky readings were the Saturday night treat in the ancient cloisters. The culmination of the weekend was Noir at the Bar, held in an oak-beamed pub called the Old Punch Bowl.

Was I nervous?

Crawley Crime Weekend ProgrammeWhen I received an invitation to appear at Noir at the Bar and read from one of my own books, I leapt at the chance. Who wouldn’t? I’m new to this genre and I need the exposure as a “crime” writer. The terror, the why-did-I-say-I’d-do-this regret would come later…

I’m applying the same technique to a couple of gigs I’ve signed up for at CRIMEfest next month. I have never moderated a panel before, but they say that doing something that scares you is a good thing… Continue reading

Clothes and character : does fashion matter?

Blogging Inspiration and Regency clothes

AI generated picture of three cats dressed in historical costume.

AI generated image by GrumpyBeere at Pixabay

Joanna recently blogged about blogging, and where we could find inspiration. All very helpful but I envy the fact that, as an historical novelist, she has photographs to share from costume exhibits at the museums she has visited.

Lovely dresses, shoes, uniforms as well as what her characters wore beneath them. So much fascinating detail to write about.

Regency fashion is such an important part of the pleasure in reading books set in an era when clothes and character are inextricably linked.

As someone who has always written contemporary novels – and with a very low personal fashion threshold – I tend to find dressing my characters a bit of a challenge. Continue reading

Why romance writers turn to crime…

Changing genre to crime

Cover of Murder Among the Roses by Liz FieldingSince I made the major step to turn to crime writing (with just a touch of romance) I’ve noticed how many other romance authors have decided to turn to crime.

In my case, the story that became Murder Among the Roses (which is out in audio later this month) had been at the back of my mind for years. I had written a few thousand words, but had never had time to take a serious look at it. But it never let go. It was always there, a little voice nagging at me to get on with it.

It was lockdown, combined with the end of a publishing contract that did it. I realised that if I didn’t write it then, I never would. That gave me the push to take six months away from romance and go for it.

Crime needs more Characters

Cover of Murder Under the MistletoeIt was a sharp learning curve. Writing crime is a lot more complex than romance, no matter how many twists and turns it takes to get to the happy ending.

You need a lot more characters for one thing or, as I quickly discovered, the murderer is going to be obvious from about chapter two!

And some advice to anyone thinking of starting a series. You need to keep a very clear bible of who they all are, as they appear, and all the places you mention.

But, with the publication of the second of my Maybridge Murder Mysteries – Murder Under the Mistletoe – this week, I decided to ask a few other authors why they had been drawn to the crime genre. Continue reading

The joy of lists for writers (and for normal people too)

The to-do list

lists of listsThis weekend, with the revisions for my second crime novel on my editor’s desk rather than on mine, I spent the weekend working through lists: essentially my “to do list”, catching up on housework, the ironing and reading a “treat” book.

They were on my mental list of things to do and, mentally, I ticked them off.

One of the things I did, once the heavy lifting was done, was sit down with a cup of tea. The radio was on – I love the radio – and Weekend Woman’s Hour was playing.

shopping list

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Lucy Ireland Gray was talking about the 200 discarded shopping lists that she’d collected from shopping trolleys (we’ve all seen those) and picked up from the ground. They went on display at the Museum of London Brands, in Notting Hill. 

One of her friends was horrified that one of the lists might be hers. Not so much worried that her shopping list would betray her inner secrets, but that it would out her as a litter lout. 

Why do we make lists?

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Poisonous plants lurking in the border

Gardening…

When I started writing my Maybridge Mysteries series, the opening scene for the first book had been in my “ideas” file for years. And I already knew that my main character, Abby Finch, was going to be a gardener.

I had a title in my head – A Rose for the Dead. Since I envisaged a series, it seemed like a really good idea to have a plant name in all the titles.

However, since it appears to be the convention for cozy crime is to have either murder, or death in the title, my publisher, Joffe Books, changed it to Murder Among the Roses.

Having spent thirty years having my working titles changed by my publisher, this didn’t come as a huge surprise. I still prefer mine but whatever sells the book. And I had my flower.

Since the use of plants was going to be part of the branding of the series (next up this autumn, Murder With Mistletoe), I fell down the research rabbit hole looking for plant life that can kill. Continue reading

Promoting a book : tips from Liz Fielding

“One of my first bosses in the industry told me that publishing is a hits-based business. Publish enough books, the hits will buoy up the titles that don’t sell many copies. Now more than ever, it feels like there’s often a push from on high for more volume – throw more at the wall and more will stick – but often, it’s very much a case of more for less: more books without more marketing spend; more output but no more budget for quality editorial and design; more authors but no more resourcing to ensure good author management.”

From an article in The Bookseller, May 2nd(NB the link may not be accessible for everyone).

GOOD NEWS!

Murder among the Roses by Liz FieldingGood news for Liz Fielding fans!

She has a new book out!

This time she’s giving us a mystery set in one of her much-loved English country towns, Murder Among the Roses. I pre-ordered it and read it in one gulp, deep into the night. I can tell you, it has her signature tone of kindly humour, allied with a cracker of a mystery!

As a fellow writer who is pretty clueless about all things marketing, I wanted to ask Liz about the practicalities of promoting a book which is, for her, a new type of story.

Promoting a book: when to start and who does what

Q1  When did you start to tell people about Murder Among the Roses, Liz?
Has it set you any new challenges?
Continue reading

Plotting the perfect crime…

Switching Genres…

Image by Davie Bicker from Pixabay

I’ve been a published romance writer for more than thirty years now. That’s seventy books for Harlequin Mills and Boon and a few more for other publishers.

I was in a groove – some people might call it a comfortable rut – but I was producing books that enough people loved to keep me in contract and an advance and royalties coming in.

It’s hard to give up that up just because you’ve had a story in your head for a very long time that refuses to go away.

When you’ve had that security for thirty years, to write a book in a totally different genre — crime — on spec, with no publisher, no advance or promise of publication is like stepping off a cliff.

Sink or swim?

Image by J Garget from Pixabay

Maybe it was lockdown, the sense that life was out of control and might never be the same again. The sense that if I didn’t do it now, then when? That if I didn’t take the risk, would I go to my grave regretting that I didn’t have the courage, or the self-belief that had the “do it now” bells ringing.

I’d delivered the last of the books on my current contract. I could take six months out for a passion project – I knew the story – inspired by a documentary I’d seen. I had my victim, I had my murderer, I had my “sleuth”.

I’d lived with them in my head for a long time. I could give them six months of my life.

The Beginning…

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I’ve got a little list for when I’ve finished the book

When I say I’ve got a little list, it’s growing longer by the day.

Obviously, I always have lists of things I have to do – last month it included “Pay My Tax”, but also check my Public Lending Right statement, to see how much I’ve earned from the wonderful people who borrow my books from libraries.

Times are tough. Your library is a free resource and they’re under threat everywhere, so do make the most of them.

Public Lending Right for those who have never heard of it – and if you’re not a writer, why would you? – was spearheaded by the Society of Authors, an organisation that offers advice to, and lobbies for the interests of authors.

If you’re an author but not a member, Writer Beware gives information about scam merchants who try to rip off authors with fake competitions and dodgy publishers – the people who ask you to pay vast sums of money to publish your book and, having pocketed it, do nothing to sell it. Check them out before you sign a contract.

But back to my list

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A pearl anniversary…

One score and ten years ago…

Busy fizzWith apologies to Abraham Lincoln – I couldn’t resist – it is thirty years ago, almost to the day (it was actually December 2) when my first book, An Image of You, was published.

It was my fourth attempt to write a book for Mills and Boon. I do, somewhere, still have my first rejection letter. I seem to recall the word “wooden” used to describe my characters, and a suggestion that I read books by Elizabeth Oldfield and Vanessa Grant. As you can tell, it is ingrained in my memory.

The book…

I later had the enormous pleasure of meeting Elizabeth at author lunches, along with so many fan-favourite romance authors. But back to that precious moment. The arrival of my first box of books. I’d been out somewhere and when I came home the box was sitting on my desk, with my husband and daughter staring at it, waiting for me to open it. Continue reading

Books Set in Bookshops

Reading Recs

I was talking to my daughter over lunch the other day about the books we’re reading.

She belongs to a book group that reads “serious” fiction and, coming up on their list is Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. It’s a book much loved by Sophie Weston and I have taken advantage of Amazon’s “download a sample” button to get a feel for the voice, the story.

Reading cozy crime

My daughter and I talked about a crime series that I’ve read (not cozy) Harry Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths series. Annoyingly, it appears to have stopped, leaving a lot of questions unanswered.

She downloaded the first book but she’s not sure. She didn’t quite take to the main character and while I read very fast on kindle, she listens on audio (she has three children and doesn’t have time to sit down with a book) which gives the listener a surprisingly different experience.

I knew the series was set in Wales but she was getting the accents, which can make listening hard work.

Books set in bookshops

Then, because I enjoy cozy crime, she mentioned a book by Helen Cox, called A Body in the Bookshop that she thought I might like and we started talking about how many books are set in and around bookshops.

Amy suggested I try the Pultizer prize winner, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which was on her book group list. Time for another sample because there is something inherently appealing about a book set in a bookshop.

I fell in love with Helen Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road a lifetime ago – and Anthony Hopkins in the film, playing the man with whom she had a long and profitable correspondence.

Anne Bancroft fell in the love with the book, too, and her husband, Mel Brookes, bought the film rights so that she could play Helen.

Romances set in bookshops

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