WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW… : SALLY SPEDDING

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW… : SALLY SPEDDING

Sally Spedding takes a critical look at an old adage and suggests instead a leap into the unknown. Write what you know... How often have we seen that well-worn dictat in writing magazines and wherever else some confident scribe is ploughing that easiest of furrows? It’s worrying how influential they can be to new writers putting toes into the treacherous waters of creativity, where the ‘what’ could include using real-life people. I’ve been around the publishing block many times since 2001 when ‘Wringland’ appeared as the first of a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan, and many times since then, it’s been a particular place which has haunted my mind, triggering copious, long-hand notes. Plus photographs and sketches… That place, be it the Fens or a ruined lead mine in Carmarthenshire, even a bottomless loch full of man-eating carp in Scotland, will be the main character. Its history, climate, smells, residual vibes are for me, the keys to unlocking a chilling story. Next, is who...
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Crime Cymru Abroad #4: Catalonia with Chris Lloyd

Crime Cymru Abroad #4: Catalonia with Chris Lloyd

Chris Lloyd discovers how location can be the inspiration with his police procedural series set in Catalonia. If you stand at the foot of the cathedral steps in Girona, some hundred kilometres northeast of Barcelona, what you’re really standing on is the Via Augusta, one of the roads that led to Rome. You can feel the centuries of history tugging at your sleeve. Towering above you is the Gothic cathedral, its stones carrying fossilised sea creatures, an evolutionary contradiction for a cathedral wall. To your right is a carriage-width chasm of a street, where the windows along one side are up to five hundred years younger than the buildings they’re in. It marked the edge of the medieval Jewish ghetto, its residents banned from looking out over the city, the windows put in after the Jews were expelled in 1492. Turn again and you see a café that had been home to seditious talk of democracy and freedom under the Franco...
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Domestic Crime #2. Bound by Blood – Thorne Moore

Domestic Crime #2. Bound by Blood – Thorne Moore

Fascinated with the consequences of crime, Thorne Moore takes a close look at what it is that leads someone over the edge and the aftermath of their actions for those around them. Crime. This one branch of human activity fascinates writers and readers so much that it creates a genre of its own. Libraries don’t have fiction shelves labelled “work” or “education” or “religion” but there’s always a section labelled “Crime.” It deserves a section of its own because “Crime” covers so many sub-genres, from the cosy country house puzzles of writers like Agatha Christie to the psychological dissections of human frailty by writers like Barbara Vine. The one thing they all have in common, whether they are police procedurals or purest Noir, is transgression – someone has broken the rules, with nasty consequences. It’s consequences that matter to me. My books have been defined as Domestic Noir, which is great because no one is quite sure what it means, but I get...
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WALES AS A SETTING #6: JOHN NICHOLL

John Nicholl extols the beauty of Wales as the setting for his darkly psychological thrillers. Those of us fortunate enough to live in Wales are surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful countryside and diverse coastal areas, much of which remains surprisingly uncrowded, even in the best of the summer months, when the sun sometimes shines. For me, this green and pleasant land provides the ideal base to live, write and set my stories, all of which have a strong Welsh flavour, being based in the country I love. I have written eight darkly psychological thrillers to date, the most recent of which - The Girl in White - will be published by Bloodhound Books on the 4 September. Like all my other books, the novel draws to some extent on knowledge gained during my working life as a young police officer, and my much longer career as a social worker and lecturer. I started writing after leaving my job heading...
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LOST IN TRANSLATION?: GWEN PARROTT

Gwen Parrott explains the ups and downs of translating her own novels from Welsh to English The one huge advantage of translating your own novels is that the perennial problem of trying to read the original author’s mind doesn’t exist. I say this having spent well over twenty years as a translator, puzzling over the intentions of thousands of writers on every topic under the sun as I struggle to understand what they meant to say, as opposed to what they actually said. However, translating my own novels from Welsh into English has proved a salutary experience in other unforeseeable ways. Originally, I did it to provide an English copy for family and friends, once the Welsh novel was complete, but I found that the process was an unexpectedly useful form of editing and, since then, I’ve tried to translate before submitting to a publisher. Perhaps I’m just a poor editor, but when I translate I see things that my eye slides...
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Crime Cymru Abroad #3: Spain with Phil Rowlands

Phil Rowlands, whose last book Siena was set partly in Italy, moves to Spain as a location for a new novel. I wanted to set my next book in Spain. I’ve spent the last 10 years of summer holidays there, in our family apartment situated in a working class barrio of Alicante within walking distance of the old town and the beach. I love the buzz and bustle that is the heartbeat of this part of town. Whilst here last year I read a wonderful book about the Spanish civil war and started to develop an idea for a story, the Mouse of Bernarda Alba, that begins during the conflict but would live in the contemporary world and still remain rooted in the past. It begins in Alicante in 1937 with the theft of a precious stone set into a large brooch by a well known jewellery designer, its disappearance, the flight of the perceived thief, and his brutal murder in 1950s London....
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Wales as a Setting #5: Leslie Scase

Leslie Scase explains why Pontypridd is a perfect setting for his Victorian mystery. Let's Go Back in Time It all started when I began to take an interest in genealogy. My grandmother’s family were originally from Trowbridge. Her parents had moved to South Wales in the middle of the 19th Century and she was born just outside Pontypridd. My grandfather was born in Rapallo, Italy and arrived in Cardiff in the 1890s. Their wedding took place in Pontypridd in 1898 and my grandfather worked in a colliery as a ‘stoker-above-ground.’ I started to think about what sort of place Pontypridd must have been in the 1890’s. What I found absolutely fascinated me. Pontypridd had only existed as a town due to the industrial revolution. The population of the Rhondda Valleys had exploded in a very short space of time. It was a time of great migration but not everyone was heading to America. Some saw the chance of a better life closer to...
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July Events

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s summer, which means summer holidays, and everyone takes a break, even crime writers, so it’s a quiet month for Crime Cymru, but there are still a few events, not to be missed if you can make it. On 4th July, at 6pm, Matt Johnson will be at Waterstones in Swansea, talking about the experiences that led him from traumatic events as soldier and police officer, through PTSD to a career as a writer. Guaranteed to have you captivated. For more details, check Waterstones website Cathy Ace will be over from Canada. On July 5th at 4pm, join her at the Worm’s Head Hotel in Rhossili for Crime and a Cream Tea at the Gower Festival (full details) On July 10th, 2pm, Cathy will be at Pembroke Dock Library, talking about her life and books. Everyone welcome.   And maybe catch the rest on us on the beach somewhere. Full details of all events, check out our Events Calendar....
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Environmental struggles, real and fictional – by Alison Layland

Alison Layland's environmental mystery, Riverflow, has just been published, and she writes here about the issues raised and the lengths to which an author can go to get into the skins of her characters. The border between fiction and reality Fiction can have a strange habit of becoming reality, whether it’s due to the experience of research changing us in some way, our fiction being overtaken by the events it describes, or even strange coincidences. All three certainly happened to me when I was writing my psychological mystery, Riverflow. Life-changing research As the saying goes, it’s not the things you’ve done that you regret, but the things you have left undone. The road protests of the 1990s are referenced in Riverflow, and while I fully supported them from a distance, when looking back, I have regretted not being there. So it was inevitable that my research would lead me to get more actively involved in environmental protest. Many of the important themes in the...
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Historical crime #2: Hindsight and misconceptions – Thorne Moore

Thorne Moore writes about the perils of hindsight in understanding the past. Although most of my books have a contemporary setting, history plays a large part too, In my novel, The Unravelling, an adult looks back on events that happened when she was a child and realises how much she misunderstood back then. But more often, the theme I prefer to explore is the ease with which the present can misinterpret past events. Hindsight can cast light on a great many things, but sometimes the light it casts creates wholly deceptive shadows as we struggle to peer through the veil of our modern perceptions. In A Time For Silence, a contemporary woman tries to understand the world of her grandparents in the 1930s and 40s, and simply can’t do it because her life is so utterly different. In Shadows, people rush to the assumption that a medieval body recovered from a bog must surely have been a human sacrifice, because theories...
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