In Mari Hannah's brilliant, dark mystery—set on the beautiful and wild Northumberland coast—skeletal remains have been discovered beneath the menacing shadows of Bamburgh Castle's fortified walls, and DCI Kate Daniels must solve her most intriguing case yet
Far from their Newcastle base, DCI Kate Daniels and her team find themselves on the rugged Northumberland coast, working their latest baffling investigation. As a blistering weather front closes in, Kate calls on a forensic anthropologist to help identify the remains of a corpse that has been found by the ancient castle on the barren beach. But the more she delves into the case, the more questions surface.
Meanwhile, newly widowed prison psychologist Emily McCann is lured into the twisted world of convicted sex offender Walter Fearon.As his sinister mind games become increasingly disturbing, is it possible that Kate's case has something to do with his murderous past? With Fearon's release fast approaching, Emily fears what he might have in store for her.
As the body count rises, Kate must scramble to outwit a clever, diabolical killer whose fatal games have only just begun.
Read a Sample of the Book
About the Author
Mari Hannah was born in London and moved north as a child. Her career as a probation officer was cut short when she was injured while on duty, and thereafter she spent several years as a film/television screenwriter. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner, an ex-murder detective. She was the winner of the 2010 Northern Writers’ Award and is a nominee for the 2013 Polari First Book Prize.
Thanks for inviting me to the Literati Author Services blog, to give a flavour of my writing to a US audience.
It’s great to be here and to know that my books are being published in America, with two more titles to follow before the end of the year. This is a very big deal for me and I look forward to feedback from US readers.
So, to kick us off, I’ve been asked to describe the book using only the letters in the title, THE MURDER WALL. Here goes . . .
Thrilling Heart-stopping EmotionalMurderous Urgent Ruthless Deadly Engaging RelentlessWatchful Absorbing Lawless Lethal
I thought it would be fun to do the same for my protagonist, Detective Chief Inspector, KATE DANIELS. This is how I see her . . .
Knowledgeable Ambitious Tenacious EnergeticDiscreet Argumentative Nuts Intense Exceptional Loyal Secretive
. . . but don’t take my word for it. Here are some quotes from readers and reviewers in the UK who’ve already been introduced to Kate.
Pam Norfolk, Bridlington Free Press. “Edgy, stubborn, intensely private, fiercely loyal, a born maverick but still remarkably sensitive to the emotions of the bereaved, the enigmatic Daniels has a promising future both as a police chief and as a literary leading lady.”
Marcel Berlins, The Times, described Kate as “a Northerner to join the roster of top literary detectives.”
Eva Dolan, Loitering with Intent via Crime Fiction Lover. “Kate Daniels is destined to take her place among the top rank of fictional detectives; her drive and toughness, coupled with all too credible flaws make for an engaging heroine, something the crime genre is currently crying out for.”
Laura Wilson, The Guardian. “An ambitious individual who has sacrificed her personal life on the altar of her career, Daniels is initially hard to warm to, but it soon becomes clear that she is in the grip of a serious ethical dilemma.”
Can’t wait to hear what YOU think!
From Probation Officer to Crime Writer - From the UK to the US.
My Journey by Mari Hannah
My journey began when an assault while on duty ended my career as a Probation Officer eight years after completing my studies. It left me with a dodgy right wrist but I refused to be a victim. In order to get my hand working again, I began typing on a keyboard and never stopped.
I chose to write crime because it’s what I know best, my knowledge of the criminal justice system informing my work. I tried different forms of writing. If you have aspirations to be a writer, you should too until you find the one that best suits you.
Struggling to write prose, I turned my hand to screenwriting after a chance meeting with American writer, Heather Jeurgensen. She encouraged me to try something different. I then built up a body of work in the hope of getting a foot in the door of the BBC. I had some cracking feedback too – comments that made me keep the faith – but my first break was still a long time off.
In 2005, I was accepted on a scheme to write a feature film. I chose to write a romantic comedy. Yes, I know I’m a crime writer but that’s another story. I’m very proud of my film which one day I hope will go into production. Ahem . . . any film producers out there? I’d love to hear from you!
Working on that feature was a fantastic experience. It taught me the process of editing, critiquing the work of others, taking notes on my own projects, collaborating in the development process – all of which served me well when it came to editing my debut, The Murder Wall and getting my book out there. The main thing was I was having fun, meeting new people, doing something productive again.
I decided to keep writing both prose and TV scripts so long as something good happened each year to show I was on the right track. In 2006, I heard about the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, in particular ‘Creative Thursday’ a day of workshops and talks from writers, agents and publishers. It sounded right up my street. It was a hundred pounds for the day but it turned out to be worth every penny, an inspirational event.
That year, delegates of Creative Thursday were asked to submit ‘Opening Lines’ and mine were read out. I was SO proud . . . and in 2008, I was chosen for a BBC Drama Development Scheme and my debut novel was consigned to the backburner once more. I seemed to be making more headway with the TV stuff. Be warned, the whole time I was trying to get into television was unpaid, apart from a small BBC bursary.
Working with the BBC was thoroughly enjoyable – let’s call it my apprenticeship. So, I found my niche. What next? For those trying to break into television, it’s a hard road. Even though I was a graduate of the drama development scheme, I soon learned that to get an original piece of work commissioned was almost unheard of.
I wrote to every producer whose name I could get hold of and spent thousands of pounds attending writing events in order to network my head off. The way into TV in the UK is either through soaps or on shadow schemes, both of which are very hard to come by. I ended up with a number of finished pieces of work: a feature film, several original TV pilot episodes, radio plays, short films – enough to make your eyes bleed.
Quit while you’re ahead? Not my style – time to go back to the book. When it was finished, I sent it out. A top London agent asked for exclusivity of the material (hooray!) and gave me notes (double hooray!) a good sign she was interested. She gave me criticism too: also good because writing is constantly learning and re-evaluating. Three drafts later, she bowed out. Her verdict: she didn’t know if I had it in me to do what was required. I was sure I did. We parted company but I’m so grateful to her because by then I knew then I had something.
Gutted but undeterred, I sent the manuscript out again to no avail. Rejection after rejection followed. Writers meet rejection a lot. Some agencies just said no, but if an agent took the trouble to write anything positive, I seized the moment. Back then, it seemed that I couldn’t get an agent or publisher for love or money. One day, I saw an article in my newspaper about a local publisher. I got in touch and he offered to publish my book. By now it was August 2008. Yay! I’d made it . . .
Wrong. I did more work on the book. That was okay. I was living on the adrenalin of being published. But at the point of writing acknowledgements, I realised that something was very wrong. I tackled the publisher and found out that he couldn’t publish in the contracted time. I was desperate . . .
A glimmer of hope arrived when my regional writing agency rang me up and asked if I’d like to go to London to their annual summer party where recipients of the Northern Writers’ Awards get to pitch to agents and publishers, a kind of speed-dating for writers. I had twenty-four hours to practice my pitch and research the people who’d be there. I can’t stress how important research is in those situations.
That party turned out to be the most important event in my writing life up to that point. It was where I met agent, Oli Munson, who agreed to read my manuscript. He was really enthusiastic and offered representation – this was August 2009.
So, I found my kick-ass agent: what next? Time to start over . . . I revised my book and just kept on writing my Kate Daniels series as my agent submitted The Murder Wall both here and abroad. Then, in March 2010, there was a mini auction in Germany and I was offered a two-book translation deal. A few months on, major publishing house Pan Macmillan became interested. I was told the publishing director really ‘got’ the book. I was due some luck - it landed on his desk in the same month as I won the Northern Writers’ Award for my second novel, Settled Blood.
A few tips here if I may for any aspiring writers out there – indeed for anyone in the creative industry be it the arts, music, whatever. Have the confidence to show your work to others. I know that’s easier said than done but it’s a necessary hurdle. Do enter competitions. Even if you don’t win, you‘ll enjoy the experience. Look out for competitions and awards. They make such a difference to your CV if you win, as I did. I very nearly didn’t send my entry in!
If like me you write crime, enter the CWA Debut Dagger. It makes you work really hard to get your material in good shape. It’s not easy getting over the initial embarrassment of sending your work out with a little voice inside your head telling you it’s not good enough. But logically, you can only move forward if it stands up to independent scrutiny.
Network your head off, attend festivals, take every opportunity you can to meet agents, publishers, and/or producers if it’s screenwriting you’re into. You may be nervous – in fact you WILL be nervous – but remember you only have a few minutes to impress: so practice your pitch. Above all, don’t sell yourself short. If you have an interesting background, put it in your submission letter and always read the submission guidelines or your hard work will hit the bin.
And study the industry you are aiming at. You wouldn’t try joining the police force without knowing what they do. It’s the same in publishing. If that ‘hobby’ is ever to become your profession you need to know what it is you are entering and how it works. Above all, be patient: the wheels turn very slowly in publishing. There is no quick fix, no easy way in. Waiting and taking advice is all part of the process.
The day I learned that Pan Macmillan wanted to sign me was a cause for celebration after years of hard work following a traumatic end to a career I loved. An initial three-book deal was followed by a two-book deal. Forgive me if you know this already but, for those who don’t, when a publisher takes you on it’s usually two years before a book sees the light of day. It isn’t the end of the journey, it’s just the beginning – it’s where the real collaboration begins.
And as Tuesday 15th October draws near, I’m eagerly awaiting the launch of The Murder Wall in the US by Witness Impulse, digital imprint of William Morrow/Harper Collins who will also publish two more books before the end of this year. I may have taken the scenic route to being a crime writer but I got there in the end. Whatever your ambition, perseverance is the key. Best of luck with your own projects - I wish you every success.
Plotting – by Mari Hannah
As the author of the Kate Daniels series, I’m often asked about my writing regime, how (if) I plot out novels before I begin. I do, meticulously. I was taught structure by a screenwriter who was of the opinion that I should be able to describe an idea in a sentence or two. The reason being that if I ever got the opportunity to pitch to an industry professional, they would expect that of me.
For example, the premise for my novel Deadly Deceit was this: Two people crave a better lifestyle but only one is prepared to kill to get it. The idea posed a series of questions. Someone prepared to take another person’s life in order to enjoy a higher standard of living is evil, right? How evil? Is there a line over which they will not cross? Will they outwit Kate or get caught?
When I read crime I like to know from the get-go what type of book it is: cosy crime, police procedural, suspense or conspiracy thriller. I also adhere to the ten-page rule because I truly believe that if the story doesn’t grab a reader by then, chances are they won’t read on. So I try to drop my readers right into the action.
I don’t use software to organise research or help me visualise a book. I use a card system, the obvious advantage being that I can move them around, altering the position of scenes or even whole chapters. I end up with a murder wall like you would find in any police station as detectives puzzle over a serious offence. No surprise there then!
It took years to develop a model that works for me, one that lets me focus on storytelling. Through trial and error – a lot of error! – I now know how long it takes to introduce main characters, set up and grab my readers’ attention.
A magazine recently asked me for my five points for writing an edge-of-your-seat thriller. This is what I told them . . .
Let’s assume for one moment that an idea has legs. After that it’s as much to do with how I structure a book as it is about characterisation. In The Murder Wall I created Kate (1) a memorable and believable protagonist. Then I needed an antagonist (2) whose name I can’t divulge for obvious reasons, but who equals her in deviousness and cleverness as he wreaks havoc on victims. Once I’d completed the set up and hooked my readers – I try to do this in the first ten pages – I never let up (3). As the book progressed, I escalated complications with lots of plot twists to blindside the reader (4). Then, just as Kate looked like she was home and dry, I put more obstacles in her way until she was at crisis point, then created a false ending (5) before moving onto the climax and resolution. All that took me around a hundred thousand words, each one earning its place on the page.
I never want to write to formula but neither can I afford to ignore genre conventions. If I fail to deliver, readers would be disappointed and I’d hate that. As a recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award in 2010 for my second novel, Settled Blood, and shortlisted a couple of weeks ago for the Polari First Book Prize for The Murder Wall, I can’t see any reason to change the way I write any time soon.
Witness Impulse, digital imprint of William Morrow/Harper Collins will publish The Murder Wall in the US on Tuesday, 15th October 2013 and two further titles in the coming months.
Top tips for creating a great protagonist
It stands to reason if characters were all the same, there would be no conflict between them and therefore no drama. This was drummed into me as I learned the craft of screenwriting before I became an author. There are some excellent books on writing available. They all contain sections on character development . . .
I think it’s essential to nail your main characters by writing a biography for each of them before you start a new book. The more prominent a part they play in your story, the more involved the biography needs to be. They do take time to write but it’s time well spent in my opinion.
Biographies are reference tools. You may never look at them again or you may use them at times when your character is in trouble or has big decisions to make, so if you’re stuck going forward, it might be helpful to look back. Also, if you are writing a series, as I am, biographies are the jumping off point to be added to as/when your character experiences major life changes, gets promoted, or simply decides to change their car.
Writing a biography helped develop my character, Kate Daniels. Go beyond the obvious: physical descriptions, family, job, social status, religion and sexual orientation.
Photographs may help you visualise your character. Concentrate on background, including childhood. This will get you in touch with who they really are. Be honest about their faults – we all have them.
What makes them tick, laugh or cry? How do they relate to others? What drives them? What makes them react the way they do? Pretend you’ve been their shrink for years. Focus on their emotional core. Your characters must appear real – as if you know them – that way they will stay with the reader long after they have forgotten the plot.
Happy writing everyone!
InterviewWhy do you think readers love DCI Kate Daniels?
Although Kate is the senior investigating detective on Northumbria Police’s Murder Investigation Team, she’s also a bit of a maverick who bends the rules on occasions to get the job done. Able to solve crimes using her intellect, not solely relying on high-tech modern methods – CCTV, DNA etc. – she’s also a conflicted individual, torn between her professional ambition and the love of her life. People see her vulnerability and I think they identify with that.
Which of your characters would you like to meet in person and why?
That would have to be Kate . . .
Following her debut in The Murder Wall she was described by one reviewer as: a superb character, and one that we will be meeting again when Hannah’s second novel, Settled Blood, is published later this year. Edgy, stubborn, intensely private, fiercely loyal, a born maverick but still remarkably sensitive to the emotions of the bereaved, the enigmatic Daniels has a promising future both as a police chief and as a literary leading lady.
Kate is her own worst enemy in some ways. On the positive side she cares deeply about others – especially the families of homicide victims – but she puts ‘the job’ above all else to the detriment of her personal life. I’d like to knock some sense into her sometimes but I love writing about her.
Giveaway10 Free Download or print copy of Fatal Games. Winners must have access to Bluefire Reader and have an Adobe account to receive free download.