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This is a fantastic, lively interview on crime writing and getting an agent, packed full of information for authors and writers!
Sam Blake is a crime writer of 6 books who just signed to literary agency Curtis Brown in London, England, although she is based in Dublin, Ireland. Sam Blake is the pen name of Vanessa O'Loughlin who runs Inkwell Writer's Workshops.
In this podcast, you will learn:
- How Vanessa started writing, and how her journey to becoming a published author has unfolded. 10 years and 6 books later, she has been signed by one of the world's best literary agencies, Curtis Brown.
- How she started Inkwell writer's workshops in order to network with published authors and how that has made a big difference to her own writing, as well as helping other writers
- On the crime genre: Mo Hayder says “crime novels start with a violent act'
- Some of the key aspects of the crime genre: violence, plot that suits intelligent people who like solving problems/puzzles. It doesn't have to have a detective in it, but it does need a character who wants to solve the puzzle.
- We discuss the difference between thriller, horror and crime as genres
- Why genre is so important for publishers and authors who want to sell. You need to know where your book will fit on the bookshelves, even if you don't feel you want to be ‘boxed' as an author. It is necessary for marketing and sales.
- The reader also wants to know what genre your book fits into and how to find you.
- Tips for writing antagonists/bad guys that are 3 dimensional, for example, something that will make the reader empathize with.
- Getting to know your character – what's in their pockets, what happened in their childhood that informs them now. Using a character question sheet that you fill in per character. You've got to know them. Aspects of the character will change as they develop in your mind.
- It is surprising, but these characters do come and you find you will be able to write this information. Just try it!
- Tips for getting a top agent to represent your book. Put your work out there. Enter short story competitions, and network with other authors, publishers and agents. In this way, Sam/Vanessa won 2nd place in a romance contest and then got a story into a compilation book with top authors, ‘Mum's the Word'.
- Be careful what you say to people in the industry as it is a small world and it will come back to haunt you
- Go to events and meet people in person. You have to be out there, away from your desk and making sure people know about your work.
- Publishing is a business, and you need to know the business and the people in it before you will be able to crack into it.
- Why Vanessa uses a pen name. It is important for marketing and branding in a genre, plus crime writers try to use ambiguous names as women's names can be less successful. Also Vanessa O'Loughlin is long and difficult to pronounce, as well as hard to remember. So be open to changing your name to sell books. You need to be memorable.
- How crime writing is researched. There are great forensic sites on the web with pictures. Vanessa's husband is also a member of the Garda, Irish police. It is important to get people who know the details to read your book. Details are important. Readers mustn't be jarred out the story by something that they know is untrue.
- Inkwell Writers have workshops in Ireland, but also have online workshops. They connect bestselling authors with aspiring writers. The best piece of advice is “Just keep writing“. Also, make sure you know what your character's fears are. (I have asked Vanessa if she might consider making audios available as these workshops sound fantastic!)