Wednesday, 20 September 2017

MY PUBLISHING LIFE with Hannah Robinson

Welcome to MY PUBLISHING LIFE, an interview with a literary agent, publisher, publicist or editor about their publishing career to date. Some serious questions, and some just for fun!

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


Publicity Director

at Quercus Books

What and when was your first job in publishing?
My first job was PA to the MD at the independent publisher Michael O’Mara, where I worked for almost four years. It was a very varied role which touched on rights, special sales, PR and office management as well as PA duties. I enjoyed all of it but felt that my skills and personality suited publicity best and was lucky enough that a publicity job came up there and I successfully got the role.

How long have you been working in your current job/role?
I’ve been at Quercus for coming up to four years. I joined just before the company was sold to Hachette so I’ve seen lots of changes but we are having a great year and have lots of amazing books coming in 2018.  

Which books have you worked on recently/are you working on?
We publish a wide range of books at Quercus but I tend to focus on non-fiction and crime fiction. On the fiction side I’m heading into autumn with our biggest crime book of the year The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz, the next in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series and the new Elly Griffiths The Vanishing Box. On the non-fiction side I’m working with one of our biggest non-fiction authors Damien Lewis on a fantastic WW2 book SAS Ghost Patrol and I’m super excited about the new lifestyle book The Little Book of Ikigai by Ken Mogi which I know is going to be a popular gift purchase this Christmas.   

Which qualifications/life skills/experience have helped you get to where you are today?
I’ve got a degree in Art and English but I didn’t go straight into publishing from university and I think that helped. I also think working in a small publisher at the start of my publishing career was really helpful because I got to see and understand how different of areas of the business worked. Those entry level office assistant roles might seem unglamorous but they can allow you the time to learn before choosing what you’d like to specialise in. 

How do you relax after a busy working day?
I love interior design and sewing and am planning to set up a blog later this year. For now, you can see what I’m up to on Instagram: @Hannah_is_sewing

What was the last book you read for pleasure?
I just finished He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly which I thought was excellent. It’s just a bit different from a lot of psychological crime and I finished it the day of the eclipse which if you’ve read the book you’ll know is quite relevant. 

Describe your job in 15 words or less...
I tell people how great our books are and ask them to tell other people.

What have been the highlights of your publishing life so far
Being part of unexpected successes like Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting winning Book of the Year at the British Book Awards last year, we thought we had something special in that book but none of us expected it to be so big. I used to do a lot of celebrity books and had some amazing (if sometimes stressful) times with huge book tours. It’s one of the few parts of a publicist’s job where you can immediately see the effect of your work in book sales. Also, seeing my team do well, for example Elizabeth Masters winning a PPC Award (publishing publicity campaign award) for our Enid Blyton for Adults series Five Go and Olivia Mead being named one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars this year. 

If you could try out any other job for one day (with no limits on money, travel etc.), what would you choose?
I’d be a house renovator/ interior designer. I’m in the process of renovating and redecorating our new flat which has been hard work but I really enjoy it. If I had lots of money I’d buy old houses and do them up. 

If your publishing life was a book, what would the title be?
Oh God, this is why I’m a publicist and not an editor! Something like: Blagging It: A memoir of white wine and Twitter.
Follow Hannah on Twitter: @Hannah_Robbo

Follow Hannah on Instagram (books): @Hannah_Robbo

Thanks so much for taking part, Hannah!

Look out for more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features coming soon.

Click here to read more MY PUBLISHING LIFE features.

If any literary agents, publishers, publicists or editors would like to take part, please contact me through my blog or Twitter for the full list of questions.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Ngaio Marsh Awards Blog Tour: In Dark Places by Michael Bennett

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for the Ngaio Marsh Awards. I've read and reviewed the true crime book In Dark Places by Michael Bennett, which is one of the finalists for the Best Non-fiction Award.

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (popularly called the Ngaio) is a literary award presented annually in New Zealand to recognise excellence in crime fiction, mystery, and thriller writing. The Award was established by journalist and crime fiction reviewer Craig Sisterson in 2010, and is named after Dame Ngaio Marsh, one of the four Queens for Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. The Award has traditionally been presented each year in Christchurch, the hometown of Dame Ngaio.

In Dark Places
by Michael Bennett
Published by Bookbaby (4 April 2016)

Publisher's description
Teina Pora, a 17-year-old car thief, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Susan Burdett, who had been beaten to death with the softball bat she kept next to her bed for her own protection.
Tim McKinnel, en ex-cop turned private investigator, discovered the long forgotten case 18 years later, saw an injustice had been done and set out to win Teina’s freedom. 

Reaching from the mean streets of South Auckland to the highest court in the Commonwealth, this is the story not just of Tim’s quest, but also of how an innocent man who was left rotting in a prison cell for two decades found the inner strength to rise above the dark places to which he had been condemned.

My verdict
In Dark Places is one of the best books I've read all year. The story is not only fascinating but also heart-breaking - of a man sentenced to life in prison for murder, a crime he didn't commit. And of the 18 years he spent there (more than half his life) before he was finally freed.

I was glued to the story of New Zealander Teina Pora and private investigator Tim McKinnel's quest to determine the truth about Susan Burdett's death. The book is compelling and fast-paced from the outset and reads like fiction.

There are cliffhangers, twists and turns, tensions and drama - everything you'd expect to find in a crime novel. Except this isn't fiction -  these are real life events and real people involved. I had to keep reminding myself of that. With his brilliant writing, Michael Bennett makes the people, places and events leap out of the pages.

The police procedure, legal framework and forensics are described in detail, yet very easy to understand. During his research, Tim McKinnel explored the science of false confessions and racism in the New Zealand justice system. This devastating miscarriage of justice left me with one word:


In Dark Places is perfect for true crime fans and those who followed Making a Murderer. But I also urge people who don't usually read true crime to pick up this book. I hadn't read any true crime for years, but now, thanks In Dark Places, I'll be reading lots more.

I received an Advance Reader Copy.

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Monday, 18 September 2017

Michael J Malone's Writing Toolkit

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for House of Spines by Michael J Malone. Michael is taking part in my new blog feature, sharing his essential writing toolkit. House of Spines was published by Orenda Books on 15 September 2017.

I am delighted to welcome 




Background TV
When I moved in to my current home the floored attic space was a big draw. The plan was to get a nice desk, line the walls with bookcases – and have a comfy armchair for writing breaks, or for reading my research. It would be quiet and peaceful and without distractions. I did all that, but I’ve never actually written there, Instead, I write at my dining room table with the telly on in the background.

Laptop stand
That initially caused me neck and shoulder pain. Not sure why. A combination of the table height and my chair perhaps. A quick question to my friends on Facebook and someone recommended a stand for my laptop to lift the top of the screen to eye level. This necessitated a free sitting keyboard and mouse (you try typing into a laptop keyboard that’s sitting at an angle.) From the very first writing session, the pain vanished.

Coffee is a must, to get me going in the morning. I use an espresso pot and it has to be my favourite thing in the house.

It turns out I need some noise in the background while I’m writing. Hence the neglect of my noise- free zone in the attic. I’ll either have the TV on a low volume – without choosing any programme in particular. Or I bring up YouTube and select a musical backdrop. The last one I worked to was a two hour long selection of Mozart. Apparently listening to him increases your I.Q. I have no idea if it worked or not. My son gave me a strange look when I told him why I had chosen that. As if to say, yeah, right.

I use a notebook for each book I’m writing. I’ll take notes for research purposes and also jot down ideas for plot and character development as they occur. I can’t be arsed with the time it takes to set up any writing apps  – some writers swear by them – but I do need to keep track of the book as I write. So, I write up a very short breakdown of each chapter as I finish it, which means it’s less likely that I forget what the hell I’m banging on about.

Gym (& paper towel & pen)
I need to exercise to help keep me sane, so I always make sure I take a break to hit the gym. And often that break works well to help me winkle out plot problems as I often come up with solutions while sweating over a piece of exercise equipment. Cue me tearing off a piece of paper towel and borrowing a pen from a passing gym instructor.

A famous author said (I’m paraphrasing) that no writer could work with a functional WIFI signal. Don’t you love a generalisation? It’s crucial for me. A quick search on Google – other search engines are available – often gets me out of a bind. I also take regular breaks online. A quick scan of FB or twitter – it’s like I need to temporarily connect with the world beyond my writing space - and I’m good to go again.

Despite my willingness to allow a social media distraction, I can’t be doing with the disruption of having to make myself a meal when I’m in the zone. So I found this stuff called Huel. Perfect nutrition apparently. I just add a few scoops to 500ml of water with some frozen fruit and Bob’s your whatsit.


About Michael J Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In- Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Find Michael on his website and on Twitter - @MichaelJMalone

About House of Spines

Published by Orenda Books (15 September 2017)

Publisher's description
Ran McGhie's world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow's oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word - the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall's endless corridors, Ran's grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror... the reflection of a woman...

Here's a snippet of my review
In House of Spines, I felt like I was living the story with Ran - seeing what he saw, feeling what he felt. The pictures the author paints within his prose, of the smells, sounds and sights of old Newton Hall, are as chilling and disturbing as the story itself.

To read the rest of my review of House of Spines, click here.

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