Tag Archives: sam blake

Behind the Bestseller PODCAST

What makes a book a success? What’s that magic ingredient writers need to bring to their manuscript to make it fly off the shelves?

Ever since I started writing I’ve been fascinated by what makes a bestselling book. As an unpublished writer I voraciously read debut novels to find out just what those authors had that had attracted an agent, and then a publisher, and got them over the line. As my latest thriller (a complete change from the Cat Connolly trilogy of police proceduarals) Keep Your Eyes on Me hits the bookshelves, I’m launching a new podcast, talking to bestselling and award winning authors, agents, editors and publicists from right across the industry to find out what makes a book a success.

Join me, crime author Sam Blake, as I chat to bestsellers from every genre to find out what makes a book fly off the shelves in Behind the Bestseller. Discussing concepts and ideas, where stories come from and how authors develop them into what you see on the page, I will also be chatting to agents, editors and publicists to understand their part in the process.

I started writing fiction in 1999 when her husband went sailing across the Atlantic for 8 weeks, I was convinced that first (terrible) book would be a bestseller – but it took me a bit longer than I expected to get published and it was actually my the fifth book that became my debut novel. Little Bones hit the number one slot for four weeks and launched detective Cat Connolly into the world, as well as launching my writing career.

In ‘Behind the Bestseller’, I quizz authors on exactly what made the difference for them and dig into the detail of how brilliant stories are born and how they grow.

My first psychological thriller Keep Your Eyes on Me arrives on bookshelves in January 2020 – it’s ‘Strangers on a Train’ meets ‘Dial M For Murder’; TM Logan, bestselling author of the Richard and Judy Book Club choice, The Holiday says ‘Revenge is sweet in this deliciously entertaining thriller, as two women scorned aim to settle a few scores – with an ingenious plan that will have you cheering them every step of the way.’

Join me in ‘Behind the Bestseller’ to discover the insider secrets – subscribe now so you don’t miss an episode!

Behind the Bestseller

Episode 1: Sam Blake talks to Catherine Ryan Howard (2nd January 2020)

Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork.

Her debut thriller, Distress Signals (2016) was an Irish Times and USA Today bestseller. It was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger and the Books Are My Bag Irish Crime Novel of the Year, and it won Best Mystery at the Independent Press Awards (USA). Pre-publication, it was optioned for television by Jet Stone Media and it has since been translated into five other languages, including Swedish, Chinese and Japanese.

Catherine’s second thriller, The Liar’s Girl, was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel, previously won by Stephen King, Ian Rankin and Raymond Chandler, making her only the second ever Irish woman to be nominated for this award. The Irish Independent said ‘solid plotting … propels The Liar’s Girl forward at a terrific pace. In this, only her second book, Catherine Ryan Howard has certainly pulled off, with remarkable confidence, the notoriously difficult task of surpassing a debut novel that was met with critical acclaim and garlanded with awards.’ It was named a Best Book of 2018 by the Irish Independent and Crime Time (UK) and a Best Audiobook of 2018 by Library Journal (USA). In May 2019, it was included in The Guardian’s list of 50 Great Thrillers by Women written since 1945The Liar’s Girl has been translated into five other languages, including Polish, Norwegian and German.

Catherine’s third novel, Rewind, is out now in the UK/Ireland and North America. The Irish Times called it ‘a top-class thriller, fast-paced and vividly rendered … [which] confirms its author as one of Irish crime writing’s leading lights,’ while the UK’s Daily Mail said ‘[the] third novel from the precociously talented Howard … confirms her position as a major new talent in thriller writing.’ Rewind entered the Irish Original Fiction bestseller chart at no.2 and was shortlisted for the Crime Fiction Book of the Year at the 2019 Irish Book Awards.

In March 2019, it was announced that Catherine had signed a major new deal with Blackstone Publishing that will see her publish a further six books in North America.

Catherine began her writing career self-publishing non-fiction – a memoir, Mousetrapped,  about her year spent working for Disney. She has delivered workshops on the subject for Faber Academy, the Irish Writers’ Centre and Guardian Masterclasses, among others. But her goal was always to write crime fiction and to get  published. Catherine was once obsessed with the idea of becoming a BSL4 virologist and she still hopes to be a NASA astronaut when she grows up. Catherine graduated with a BA in English Studies from Trinity College Dublin in May 2018.

Catherine has a lot to tell me about where her ideas come from, how she writes and what the secrets of multiple award nominations are!

Subscribe now to hear from a range of authors including Shane Dunphy, ER Murray, Darach Ó Séaghdha, Alex Barclay, London based literary agent Sallyanne Sweeney and many more…



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MURDER ONE! Ireland’s International Crime Writing Festival

Murder One, a three-day long weekend crime writing festival that launched in November 2018 was jam packed with interviews with Irish and international authors, panel events, and a free speakers corner where attendees could listen to readings from some of Ireland’s newest crime writers.  Murder One  featured all aspects of the genre from thrillers and spy fiction, to police procedural and supernatural, cosy mysteries to psychological suspense with more coming for 2019 – we have something for everyone.

Michael Connelly has a full house when he discussed DARK SACRED NIGHT with Declan Burke. All our fabulous authors received a hand numbered and printed limited edition Oscar Wilde quote to remind them of their visit to Dublin, UNESCO City of Literature.

Michael Connelly opened the inaugural Murder One International Crime Writing Festival with a special preview event on October 28 2018, discussing his latest book Dark Sacred Night with crime writer and Dublin City of Literature writer in residence Declan Burke.

Michael Connelly is the bestselling author of twenty-eight novels and one work of nonfiction. With over sixty million copies of his books sold worldwide and translated into thirty-nine foreign languages, he is one of the most successful writers working today.

A former newspaper reporter who worked the crime beat at the Los Angeles Times and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Connelly has won numerous awards for his journalism and his fiction. In Dark Sacred Night Renée Ballard is working the night beat again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself and it brings a deep tug of empathy and anger.

Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.

The main programme took place in Smock Alley Theatre, one of Dublin’s premier event venues, from 2nd – 4th November.  Featured over the weekend were a stellar cast of crime and thriller writers including Lynda La Plante, Peter James, Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Clare Mackintosh, Lisa Jewell, Ruth Ware, Mick Herron and Robert Goddard together with many of your favourite Irish crime writers including Liz Nugent, Jane Casey, Karen Perry and many more.

Lynda La Plante discusses Murder Mile and the Widows Movie with Niamh O’Connor

International bestselling & award winning author, Lynda La Plante, whose TV dramas from Prime Suspect to Trial & Retribution have kept viewers on the edge of their seats, discussed her criminal passions and her latest novel, Murder Mile, with Niamh O’Connor. As Widows, the movie inspired by Lynda’s hit TV series is released, does print still pull her back and how does she keep those ideas coming?

Lynda La Plante was born in Liverpool. She trained for the stage at RADA and worked with the National Theatre and RDC before becoming a television actress. She then turned to writing – and made her breakthrough with the phenomenally successful TV series WIDOWS, that has been adapted for film this year. Directed by Steve McQueen from a screenplay by McQueen and Gillian Flynn WIDOWS features Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson, and is released by 20th Century Fox on November 16 2018.

In her latest book, Murder MilePrime Suspect meets Ashes to Ashes as we see Jane Tennison starting out on her police career . The fourth in the bestselling Jane Tennison series, Murder Mile  is set at the height of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in February 1979. Can Jane Tennison uncover a serial killer?

Lynda La Plante also brought festival attendees a unique free workshop for anyone interested in the world of forensics or Crime Scene Investigation. This interactive event is hosted by Think Forensic whose experts include CSI’s, forensic scientists, and senior investigating officers. In Lynda La Plante’s CSI Murder Room, vistors got a hands on introduction to forensic science during which you will be briefed on the crime of the day, inspired by Lynda’s newest thriller Murder Mile, and help the team solve it. Signed hardbacks are available at The Gutter Bookshop – get in touch to order yours!

The legendary Val McDermid talks maggots and methods of murder with Niamh O’Connor

Murder One has been developed and is curated by two of Ireland’s most experienced literary event programmers, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of Writing.ie (aka crime writer Sam Blake) and Bert Wright formerly of Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival and currently curator of The Dublin Festival of History and the DLR Voices Series. Working with Dublin City Libraries, Dublin City Events, and Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, this sensational festival attracted engaged crowds to see some of the biggest names in international crime writing.

We’re planning the 2019 festival now – sign up so you don’t miss our news.

Follow Murder One on Twitter @MurderOneFest, Instagram @MurderOneFest or Facebook @MOneCrimeFest

Join our mailing list to keep in touch with Murder One and find out what’s coming at Ireland’s International Crime Writing Festival in 2019

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Sam Blake at The Professional Writing Academy

Sam Blake is a guest tutor at The Professional Writing Academy Crime Fiction Online Workshop designed and facilitated by course director & Unsung Hero of Publishing 2018 Tom Bromley. 

Are you passionate about crime fiction? Would you like to expand and hone your writing skills? This four-week online course will help you master the conventions of crime fiction as you develop ideas, create compelling characters and inject suspense into your writing. You’ll learn how to develop page-turning plots and put this knowledge into practice by writing a short crime story or start of a novel. Broaden your palette of writing techniques and explore the world of thriller, suspense and crime  – and you can do it wherever you are in the world!

About Tom Bromley (but obviously the pic above is *me* 😉 )

I am a published author, editor, creative writing tutor, book reviewer and ghost (not the scary kind). I have written ten books under my own name and the pseudonym Thomas Black, which are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. I have also ghostwritten a dozen more titles, several of which have been international bestsellers.

As a creative writing tutor, I teach novel writing and five further courses for the prestigious Faber Academy. I am also Director of Fiction for the Professional Writing Academy, where I run courses on crime and genre fiction.

I work, too, as an editorial consultant and mentor for a number of publishers, literary agencies and organisations, and also in a private capacity. Locally, I host the Salisbury Writing Circle — a community of new and experienced writers alike and write a weekly column on the arts (sort of) for the Salisbury Journal.

This autumn, I’m also one of the founders and Director of the inaugural Salisbury Literary Festival.

You couldn’t be in safer hands!

Sign up here http://bit.ly/CrimeSignUp

See my thoughts on literary festivals, events and courses, PLUS how to deal with writer’s block below…

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Now Out in Audio!

I’m thrilled that Little Bones. In Deep Water and No Turning Back are now ALL available in audio in MP3 and CD formats (click here to order directly from Bolinda or download from Audible here ) – and in libraries, including libraries in Australia – do ask if you can’t find it!

The series is narrated by Aoife McMahon, a fabulous actress who has also narrated Marian Keyes, Cecilia Aherne, Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It and Carmel Harrington’s The Woman and 72 Derry Lane plus Jess Kidd’s The Hoarder and many of Jo Spain’s nail-biting thrillers.

Aoife attended The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and has appeared in  many TV series including Doctors, Broken, Partners in Crime and The Royals as well as A Touch of Frost and Bad Girls.  A well known face on the BBC and ITV she also has an extensive stage career.

Listen to an excerpt from Little Bones here on sound cloud:

And here’s a bit of No Turning Back

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More About In Deep Water…

In March 1993 I had been in Ireland for six months when a report aired on the lunchtime news  about an American student who had vanished from a place less than ten minutes from where I was sitting in Bray, County Wicklow. She was American, I am English. She was 26, I was 23. We were both foreigners around the same age. I felt an immediate connection with her.

What on earth had happened?

It was cold that March, it has been a grim grey winter and by mid-afternoon the days were starting to draw in. I was glued to the news to see how the investigation was progressing.  The search was exhaustive including a hand search through hundreds of acres of woodland, particularly in Crone wood, three miles south of Enniskerry.

A couple of weeks after the televised, print and radio appeals began, a doorman at Johnnie Fox’s pub, 8km from Enniskerry, reported seeing Annie on the night she disappeared – she appeared to be scanning the room as if she was looking for someone. The doorman stopped her to tell her there was a cover charge in this part of the bar. A man in his twenties wearing a waxed jacket, who was standing behind her in the queue, paid the charge for both of them. Johnny Fox’s was packed that night, a company party was taking place (which a friend of my husband’s was attending). Annie was a tall girl – 5ft 8 – and with her striking looks and American accent I always thought she would have stood out, but from the reports at the time, the two doormen appear to be the only people who remember seeing her. Was she intending on meeting someone there?

Originally from Long Island, New York,  Annie had travelled back and forth to Ireland since 1987, finally moving here in January 1993 to study at St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra. Her flatmates Jill last saw her sitting knitting on her bed before she left for work.

Later that morning Annie was captured on CCTV at the AIB in Sandymount, she did some shopping in Quinnsworth (her receipt was issued at 11.02am) and used the phone box outside the bank. She called her friend Anne to see if she’d like to go for a walk in the mountains. It’s a four minute walk to Annie’s apartment from the Bank, did she go straight home, or did she go somewhere else first and meet someone, or call them, on the way?  It’s thought she left her apartment again around 2.30 or 3pm – what was she doing in that time?  She left her shopping in the supermarket bags on the table, not unpacking, as if perhaps, she was in a hurry.

It was pretty cold and damp that March, although 25th and 26th were dry and bright. I always wondered why Annie had taken two buses to get to Enniskerry when she had the whole of Sandymount strand to walk, so much closer by. I felt she must have a reason for going there.  If walking was her plan, by the time she got to the village and was seen visiting the post office, the best of the day would have been over. The clocks went forward  two days later on Sunday 28th March,, sunset on 26th was at 6.48pm.

I’ve always felt that Annie was meeting someone that day. There is time apparently unaccounted for in her morning and three to four hours between her arriving in the village and being seen in Johnny Fox’s remain unaccounted for. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would walk that road up to Johnny Fox’s in the winter at the end of the day, so I’ve always wondered if she met someone in the village, perhaps went for a drive in the mountains and then stopped in Johnny Fox’s on the way back down.  It’s pure speculation and could be my writer’s mind working overtime, but I know if I was going to catch two buses anywhere, there would need to be a good reason. And walking around a village on my own in the dark in March wouldn’t have been enough.

I had Annie’s story at the back of my mind as I was plotting In Deep Water – as a writer you hear stories that you can’t forget, stories that nudge at you. Part of In Deep Water is set in Enniskerry and the story involves an American student going missing. Set in 2016 though, Detective Garda Cat Connolly has a huge range of resources available to her that weren’t available to the Gardai in 1993, and she uncovers information that leads her into the Dublin underworld of organised crime. Did Annie meet a career criminal who told her too much and had to murder her to protect himself? One theory is that she met a member of the IRA who was lying low, but who revealed too much trying to impress her.

There may never be answers to what happened to Annie, but  I sincerely hope there will be one day. And I hope that her story, like the stories of all the missing women, are kept alive so that perhaps someone will remember something that will make a difference. And that one day, their families may have the resolution that’s available to us in fiction, but tragically can prove more elusive in real life.

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