'One of the best crime-writing festivals around the world' is how The Guardian describes CrimeFest, and it is certainly one of my favourites.
This year's program is outstanding, packed with personalities and a mouth-watering feast of forty panels with more than a hundred participating authors. Small wonder that it has become one of the most popular crime fiction events in the international calendar.
I am delighted to be taking part once again, in two panels:
Friday, 20 May, 10:10 - 11:00
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman? Does Your Protagonist Know Her Place?
I'll be sharing this panel with:
The participating moderator is Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, the well-known Icelandic crime novelist.
Suggested topics might include: are there any roles that are unsuitable for women in crime fiction (or society)? If it is sexist to exclude someone from a job on the basis of their gender, is it permissible to say that men or women are better suited to certain employment opportunities? Do certain environments/places give women an advantage in crime fiction (or society)?
Sunday, 22 May, 09:30 - 10:20
The Indie Alternative
I'll be the participating moderator and the panellists are:
Suggested topics might include: the pros and cons of being an indie author. The pros and cons of heritage vs e-publishing. How do you raise your profile above non-professional e-authors?
Like your crime in bite-size chunks? Then KILLER FEMMES 2 is for you! Stories and extracts from novels by five killer femmes:
I've contributed a Charlie Fox short story — Across the Broken Line — with a back-and-forth timeline that I hope will keep you hooked and leave you reeling both at the same time as Charlie has to protect her principal at all costs. Question is, who is it?
And also my CWA Dagger-nominated short story, Lost and Found, a creepy tale of revenge and justice that's a long time coming.
And finally, you can read the opening to my brand new standalone crime thriller,
DANCING ON THE GRAVE —
I was honoured to be invited to contribute a brand new Charlie Fox short story—Kill Me Again Slowly— to the anthology, which was published in conjunction with Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, held in 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina—the City of Oaks. As with the convention itself, the anthology spreads a broad canopy across a wide range of crime writers from across the country and around the world—including both veteran writers and the brightest up-and-coming talents in the field.
Celebrating Bouchercon’s first-ever meeting in the American South, several of the stories in Murder Under The Oaks also draw on the region’s history and culture—including the birth of a secret society at the University of Virginia, a mystery from Edgar Allan Poe’s childhood days, and a series of less-than-welcome visits by everyone’s favourite hometown sheriff.
One of my favourite experiences is talking to readers in their local library, so I was thrilled to be taking part in a recent Meet the Author event at Haxby Library on the outskirts of York.
Lee Child once said, "If I were a woman, I'd be Zoë Sharp, and if Jack Reacher were a woman, he'd be Zoë's main character, Charlie Fox." I took that as my theme for this afternoon event, as well as discussing what it takes to create tension and suspense when writing crime fiction.
It was all part of Homicide in Haxby - an exciting weekend of crime-related activities, centred on the library and the local community centre.
[left] Event organiser Bev Leymus making the introductions.
[below] Afterwards, refreshments and repartee.
I'm delighted that I've been invited as one of the speakers/readers at the inaugural Noir at the Bar: Carlisle. It's at the Moo Bar, 3-5 Devonshire Street, Carlisle CA3 8LG on Thursday, 10th March, 7-9pm. Come and join us!
Noir at the Bar is a free-and-easy 'gig for the spoken word' at which crime authors will give a five-minute taster of their work. There'll also be book giveaways, etc as prizes and chance to meet and mingle with the authors until the bar closes. The organisers are hoping to offer some wildcard slots to other writers in the audience, as long as it's crime fiction.
Crime fiction aficionados Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven are the masterminds behind this first English Noir at the Bar and will be presenting their work, as well as myself, Neil White and Paul Finch.
Noir at the Bar events were kicked off by crime fiction critic and blogger, Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders back in 2008, at a bar in Philadelphia. Since then, dozens have sprung up all over the US. Last year, Russel D McLean and Jay Stringer brought the idea to the UK with the first Noir at the Bar in Glasgow. Some of the Glasgow N@tB crowd will be coming down to cheer us on (we hope).
More details on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noiratthebarcarlisle/?fref=ts. See you there!
I'm honoured to have been invited to be a VIP guest on the dynamic US digital internet radio talk show, Authors On The Air Radio, hosted by Pam Stack and co-hosted by sister crime writer, Libby Fischer Hellmann.
Women writers, the fiction scene - and crime fiction in particular - the allure of the strong female protagonist, and a glimpse of the latest trends in publishing, are all on the agenda. Do join us! The Authors On The Air Global Radio Network has 2.5 million listeners in 50 countries plus more than 250,000 social media followers, so you'll be in excellent company.
Click here to listen to a replay of the original broadcast. Then click on the play icon in the banner, not the play icon in the picture gallery. There is a brief commercial before the talk begins.
Thanks to the magic of Skype, in February I was able to 'meet' four keen members of a writing group in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and offer critiques of their individual work-in-progress. The event was offered as a raffle prize by New York publishers, Felony & Mayhem during October's Bouchercon.
The writing group - a close-knit foursome who meet monthly on Tuesday evenings - is organised by Toni Goodyear, whose story, Down Home, was published in the Bouchercon 2015 'Murder Under The Oaks' anthology. She has also recently completed her first cozy mystery, 'Trouble Brewing at Tanawha Falls'.
The group sent me their partial manuscripts for appraisal ten days beforehand and the resulting transatlantic link-up produced a thoroughly stimulating discussion. In return, the group very kindly gave me their thoughts on the first few chapters of my own work-in progress, the next Charlie Fox novel, 'Fox Hunter'.
I’m very excited to share with you that the US actress Kathleen Rose Perkins has taken out a TV/movie option on the Charlie Fox series. If you've seen Showtime's highly acclaimed 'Episodes' (with Matt LeBlanc), or 'NCIS: Los Angeles' (with Chris O'Donnell, Linda Hunt and LL Cool J) you will already be familiar with Kathleen's TV work.
She played Shawna Kelly in David Fincher's ‘Gone Girl', opposite Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and has appeared in movies with actors as diverse as Holly Hunter and James Cromwell. Kathleen recently moved behind the camera to take on the role of Executive Producer on indie film 'The Better Half', also starring Jamie Bamber and Chris Parnell.
From October 8th–11th I am appearing at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, this year being held in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I am privileged to be one of the two International Guests of Honour, along with Allan Guthrie. Check out the links for the full line-up and panel events.
I will be signing at Book Culture, 450 Columbus Ave, at 82nd St in New York on Monday, October 12th, at 7pm, in the company of none other than Lee Child, whose latest Jack Reacher, Make Me is hot off the press. Lee famously once said, "If I were a woman, I’d be Zoë Sharp, and if Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox." (And, oh boy, I'll never let him forget it . . .).
While I’m in New York I’ve been invited to deliver a Master Class to the Crime Fiction Academy at The Center For Fiction, 17 E 47th St at 7pm on Tuesday, October 13th. My main talk will be on the importance of openings and finding the right jumping-in point for your story, as well as about my Charlie Fox series and The Blood Whisperer. Afterwards will be a wine reception and signing, followed by a Q&A session for the CFA students.
The Center for Fiction said: "It's not easy to get this British writer to New York but we have, and every crime writer—published or aspiring—should mark his or her calendar."
I’ve had lots of emails over the summer asking if there will be another Charlie Fox book, a follow-up to the events in Die Easy: book 10, and the novella which came after it. The answer is yes! I’m working on the next in the series, tentatively titled Fox Hunter and set in the Middle East and Bulgaria as Charlie goes after Sean (who’s apparently gone rogue).
There will also be a prequel novella next year, Trial Under Fire, which will tell the story of how Charlie earned her chance at Special Forces back when she was still in the regular army. Stay tuned!
I’ve been asked numerous times if I’m going to do another book featuring ex-CSI turned crime-scene cleaner Kelly Jacks from The Blood Whisperer. Well, I haven’t ruled it out, but first there will be another standalone featuring a character you may already have met from one of my short stories. More about that soon!
Not content with being a best-selling, much acclaimed crime writer, Chicago-based Libby Fischer Hellmann has always hankered after being a radio DJ, and this year her long-time dream has come true. She's hosting a monthly live internet radio show called 'Second Sunday Crime'.
I was delighted to be Libby's guest for her show on Sunday evening February 8th, when we chatted about the world of crime . . . er, crime writing, that is!
On February 3rd I’m off to Chicago for the Love is Murder Mystery Conference being held at the Loews Chicago O’Hare hotel over the weekend of February 6th – 8th. This will be the first time I’ve attended this particular event, and I was thrilled to be invited there as one of their Featured Authors.
I dive straight in to Love is Murder with a 10am ‘Brunch with Our Headliners’ on Friday morning, together with Robert Goldsborough and Denise Swanson.
At 1pm it’s 'Meet the Headliners – Sisters In Crime Interviews Two Sisters and a Mister' moderated by D.M. Pirrone.
Saturday morning kicks off bright and early with a 9am panel 'Suspense That Doesn’t Stop – Even When You Cry "Uncle!"' moderated by Gunter Kaesdorf and in the company of Evelyn Cullet, Jamie Freveletti, Raymond Benson and Nancy Sweetland. This panel will cover: How does a writer keep the level of suspense and tension at the level to keep readers engaged? Do they write peaks and valleys, giving you a chance to take a breath and lean back or do they keep you perched on the edge of your chair with a white knuckle grip?
Then at 10am I’m giving a 'Master Class with Zoë Sharp: Getting Your Plot Together' where I’ll be examining all the important elements of sitting down to write a crime novel, including the most important aspect: defining suspense and mystery versus thriller. Come and learn whether/when to plot; how to outline and summarise, for yourself, for the pitch, and for jacket copy; and other invaluable skills of the crime writer’s trade such as picking a jumping-off point, raising the stakes, the MacGuffin, how to pace, chapter breaks and cliffhangers, and how to craft an opening line that grabs the reader from the get-go.
Just to make sure I don’t start to slack, at 3:30pm, the Tea Time event is a reprise of my self-defence demonstration 'You Can’t Run in High Heels', ably assisted by Robert Goldsborough.
We even have to sing for our supper. At 6pm the Dinner includes 'Improvisation at Love is Murder'. Join myself, Andrew Grant, Jamie Freveletti and Shane Gericke as we share the chaos in their minds. Audience suggestions are required.
And finally, at 8:30am on Sunday morning is the Breakfast 'US/UK – Two Nations Divided by a Common Genre' where I’ll be in conversation with Robert Goldsborough and Denise Swanson about how the mystery genre (and all its various incarnations) differs between one side of the Pond and the other. Hopefully, over the weekend our audience will have time to think up some great questions on this subject.
I can see I’m going to have a great time in Chicago, and Love is Murder looks like a wonderful conference, where other highlights include watching a lie-detector at work, walking through a crime scene set-up and seeing if you can piece together what happened, and examining Civil War weaponry, among many other gems. I can’t wait!
American book-lovers and readers of fiction, like their British counterparts, are blessed with a dynamic local library system. Libraries contribute huge benefits to our local communities, and we writers have every reason to be grateful for this wonderful conduit to countless readers.
I have been delighted - and very privileged - to talk to numerous library groups in Britain and the States over the years, and I am looking forward to paying a return visit to Lisle Library, west of Chicago, on Thursday, 5th February (7:30 to 8:45pm). Local readers may also have seen the announcement in the Chicago Tribune.
I've been asked to talk about the evolution of my Charlie Fox series but there is also keen interest in my stand-alone thriller, The Blood Whisperer, featuring another strong female protagonist, Kelly Jacks. In fact, Murder Among Friends - Lisle Library's Mystery Book Group - have scheduled it for their discussion evening on Thursday, 19th February (7pm).
Lisle Library, a prime example of a district library at its best, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, so I'm especially honoured to be making a return visit at this time, and I look forward to meeting many friends, old and new.
Crime Watch: News and musings on international crime and thriller fiction, with a New Zealand flavour, has kicked off the New Year with a bang by publishing the first of a new series called "First Tastes". Editor Kiwicraig explains that this will "regularly take a look at novels where some terrific authors first introduced their series protagonist."
This first instalment takes the form of a guest blog by Karen, from Takapuna (Auckland), who describes herself as "a frequent visitor to Takapuna Library, who likes crime stories without lots of blood or 'really twisted psyche'-type characters." Karen says she wanted to share her thoughts about Charlie Fox because the series has meant a lot to her, and a recent instalment paid homage to Christchurch, New Zealand—a city which suffered devastation earthquakes in 2010 and 2011."
Charlie Fox in KILLER INSTINCT
By Karen of Takapuna.
My favourite crime fiction character is definitely Charlie Fox, the ex-Special Forces turned bodyguard heroine created by Brit author, Zoë Sharp. She’s a tough, self-sufficient protagonist who, "doesn't suffer fools gladly and can take good care of herself."
I did not meet Charlie in her first story....
In the library some years ago I grabbed a paperback completely at random. It was HARD KNOCKS; and from a few pages in I was hooked. In this story (Charlie's third outing), she is reluctantly doing a favour for an old friend, and whatever was afoot means she has to keep her wits about her.
Next, I found RIOT ACT (book two) and devoured that story too, enjoying it immensely. I wanted to know Charlie's history and how she came to be—something about her feistiness and determination just grabs me, and there were so many tantalising hints about her back story . . . KILLER INSTINCT, Sharp's debut novel, was proving difficult to track down. When I finally got my hands on it I read it in one sitting—it was subsequently republished with a couple of extra scenes and an amusing foreword by Lee Child.
Although I appreciate a good action thriller—and there's plenty of action in Charlie's stories—I read mainly for character. An interesting, complex and principled protagonist like her makes for a great read. Charlie has depth, a sense of humour, a feeling for justice, compassion, and above all she's human, like the rest of us. She's also been described as a ‘female Jack Reacher’ but I see much more to her than that. Charlie does more soul searching than Reacher and carries more baggage than a mere toothbrush. Lee Child himself is a firm fan and is on record as saying: "If I were a woman, I’d be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Zoë's main character, Charlie Fox."
Zoë herself describes Charlie Fox as a sympathetic character rather than just ‘a guy in nylons’.
Very rarely for me, I have re-read the whole series many times. The writing is clever, and although I think Kiwis quite possibly would understand the British quips better than some Americans (the US uses different words for common items), this doesn’t detract from the storyline. In fact I've laughed out loud while simultaneously being gripped by the twists and turns of each book. I really care about Charlie and what happens to her, and I think that is a testament to a writer's skill.
I've recently re-read ABSENCE OF LIGHT, Charlie's latest outing, which is played out against the devastation following a major earthquake, and pays tribute to the rescue teams, victims and survivors of the earthquakes in Haiti and Christchurch, New Zealand. This novella's cliffhanger ending means I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment, as in my opinion each book in the series (and Charlie) keep getting better.
Thanks Craig for the opportunity to share a true favourite. I often think of how glad I am that I grabbed that paperback!
The second ever Iceland Noir event is taking place at The Nordic House in Reykjavik from November 20th to 23rd and I’m delighted to be taking part again.
Quite a few of my fellow Brit authors are making the trip across to the frozen north—well, part of Iceland is (just) inside the Arctic Circle—and I’m looking forward to seeing them. If last year was anything to go by, the event will be relaxed, informative and entertaining.
I’m lucky enough to be on a couple of panels on Saturday, November 22nd. The first of these is at 3pm—Spies, Lies & Private Eyes. I’m not quite sure where Charlie Fox fits into that list! The panel will be moderated by Michael Ridpath, and I’ll be joined by Chris Morgan Jones, Árnie Thórarinsson, and William Ryan.
The second panel is the closer for Saturday at 5pm (well after dark in Reykjavik) and will be taken over by the members of the Murder Is Everywhere blog who are attending the event—myself, Jeffrey Siger, Annamaria Alfieri, Michael Sears (one half of Michael Stanley) and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. We’ve been given free rein to be as badly behaved as we choose. They really should know better than to lay down challenges like that . . .
While I’m in Iceland, I also intend to do a bit of research for some aspects of a long short story I’m in the midst of writing, as well as finally getting to see the Northern Lights, which evaded me last time. Apparently, though, it’s bad luck to whistle, wave or sing to them, at which point the spirits of the lights will come down and take me away. I shall bear that in mind.
The very first crime novel I ever remember reading was The Misfortunes of Mr Teal, way back in 1979. Title not ring any bells? Here's a clue: the author was Leslie Charteris. When I tell you that it has just been re-issued as The Saint in London, you will know immediately that I am talking about Simon Templar, the Saint, the Robin Hood of the twentieth century. The copy I read in 1979 was given to me by my grandmother who had in turn been given it in 1941. So you can see that I have a very long-standing affection for the Saint series in general and this book in particular. It was truly one of the inspirations of my writing career.
The Saint in London comprises three novellas, all originally published in 1934. The Simon Templar Foundation features DCI Claud Eustace Teal of Scotland Yard, who gave this collection its original name. It's a classic tale of taking from the rich to give to the poor, and by the end of it wealthy men being robbed are desperate to give their money away. The Saint's tendency to rescue damsels in distress is the starting point for The Higher Finance, a rip-roaring tale of counterfeiting, a reclusive millionaire, a long-term prisoner and a stalking danger that even Simon Templar doesn't fancy tackling unarmed. And finally, The Art of Alibi, in which a killer attempts to pass himself off as the Saint.
The encyclopaedic Saint series is edited by writer, producer and director Ian Dickerson, a personal friend of the late Leslie Charteris and honorary secretary of The Saint Club which Charteris himself founded in 1936. I am honoured to contribute the foreword for The Saint in London, which is re-issued by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery, thriller and suspense imprint of Amazon. It's available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Saint fans old and new will treasure it.
New York publishers, Felony & Mayhem Press, have recently been running "tough chick" week on their stylish, user-friendly website and I'm delighted to say that this made them think of both my tough chick protagonists—Charlie Fox and Kelly Jacks. They embellished the feature with a video interview I recorded at last year's Bouchercon in Albany, N.Y., in which I talked about the death-threat letters I received (as you do) and how this led directly to the creation of the Charlie Fox series, with eleven novels to date and counting.
If your browser does not display the video correctly, please use this link to go direct to the Felony & Mayhem page.
Felony & Mayhem is a breath of fresh air in the publishing world. It is the brainchild of Maggie Topkiss, one of the partners in my favourite (alas now defunct) New York bookstore, Partners & Crime, in Greenwich Village. Launched in 2005, it specialises in publishing re-issues of mystery books, has over 100 titles in print, a growing list of digital titles, and expects to publish original books in the near future.
June is National Crime Reading Month, promoted by the Crime Writers Association. Throughout the month, CWA members will be visiting venues all across the UK for a series of special talks, book signings and workshops. I'm proud to be part of this important promotion of the crime fiction genre.
Alison Joseph, chair of the CWA and herself a crime novelist, launching National Crime Reading Month, commented: "We read crime stories because we know that within the pages of a crime novel we will find a story that interests us, and possibly gives us something to think about. And we who write them, write them to find that story, too. In crime fiction, writer and reader are utterly interconnected, and Crime Reading Month is a celebration of that relationship."
I'll second that! My personal contribution includes four library events spread across four counties:
They say the way to read more books is to surround yourself with them and dip in and out. If that’s the case you’ll love these two e-boxed sets just out.
The first is THRILLING THIRTEEN, which offers ten mystery thrillers, two novellas and a short story from some of today’s top thriller writers—oh, erm, and me. I've chosen to include ABSENCE OF LIGHT: a Charlie Fox novella, which finds Charlie working as security advisor for a Disaster Recovery Team after a major earthquake. Even if you've already read this book, there's plenty more for you to enjoy.
The other e-boxed set is ADRENALINE RUSH, containing seven thrillers by even more top mystery thriller writers, including a different book from me. In this case, my recent standalone THE BLOOD WHISPERER, featuring former CSI turned crime-scene cleaner, Kelly Jacks, who went to prison for a crime she can't remember.
Sorry if you missed this time-limited offer, which is now closed.
Crime Saturday, 3rd May, is a splendid opportunity for crime fiction aficionados to hear three panels of crime writers discussing their individual areas of expertise. The event is being staged by the Literary & Philosophical Society in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Lit & Phil, as it is affectionately known, is reputed to be the largest independent library outside London, housing over 150,000 books. The three panels are:Historical Crime 2.00–3.30pm
We are very fortunate in the UK in our network of well-stocked local libraries, which continue to thrive in spite of drastic cuts in local authority finances. I know that whenever I am invited to take part in library events, I shall be talking to a well-informed group of keen readers, and face some searching questions. So I am particularly looking forward to two exciting library events this month.
The first, to celebrate World Book Night, is on Wednesday, 23rd April (6.30-8.30pm) at Poulton Library in Poulton le Fylde. I'll be in good company on a panel which includes fellow crime writers Chris Simms and Frances Brody, plus Lytham-based local author, Alan Veale. So, book talk aplenty, lively debate, and we're promised a delicious Lancashire hot-pot supper (there's even a veggie option). £5 tickets at the door.
Then, on Tuesday, 29th April, 2.30-3.30pm, you are invited to "Meet Author Zoë Sharp" at Brownhills Library in the Park View Centre in Brownhills, near Walsall. I've been specifically asked to talk about the origins and development of the Charlie Fox series but I've no doubt that the audience will also be keen to discuss the impact of ebooks and the future of local libraries.
It is always a pleasure to talk to that best-informed of audiences, the keen writers' group, and I was delighted to be a guest recently of the dynamic Scarborough Writers' Circle, courtesy of an invitation from president, Bill Kitson and his wife, Val.
We covered a wide range of topics, from plotting and outlining, character development and dialogue, to the nitty-gritty of getting published and the impact of the ebook revolution.
An inspiring evening indeed—their word not mine!—was how it was described on their very active website. They even paid me the ultimate compliment of buying signed copies of various instalments of the Charlie Fox series.
Are you considering making 2014 the year you write your first novel? There's so much more to being a published author than simply writing the story. Believable location, coherent plot and authentic dialogue are key elements in creating a manuscript. But it's also necessary to know how to network with key players in the publishing industry and how to package one's work so that it can be pitched to agents and publishers.
Budding crime writers wishing to learn these skills would undoubtedly benefit from a down-to-earth, hands-on weekend course, Crime & Publishment, which takes place in Gretna Green on 7th-9th March 2014. It's organised by Inga McVicar, of Full Paper Jacket literary consultancy, and Graham Smith, reviewer at the well-known Crimesquad.com crime fiction website, who is also manager of the picturesque Mill Forge hotel, venue for the course (elopements optional but not essential).
I’m honoured to be one of the tutors for this course, along with Chris Ewan, Michael Malone, Darren Laws and Inga McVicar. Check out the full course programme. Contact Graham Smith on email@example.com to book your place on this exciting and practical course.
"I love reading thrillers with kick ass female characters," she says. Her list features what she calls "feisty women who can fight as well as outsmart their enemies, some you may have heard of, and others will hopefully be new for you." I'm honoured to be in such dynamic company.
Naturally, I'm delighted that topping her list is Die Easy, tenth book in the Charlie Fox series. She quotes the Chicago Tribune's assessment of Charlie Fox as "ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic—and coolest—heroines in contemporary genre fiction." She also notes that Lee Child said: "If I were a woman I’d be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox."
Adrian Mullen, Arts Correspondent of The Westmorland Gazette, writes (Sunday, December 22nd):
Zoë Sharp is up there among the thriller writing elite.
International best seller and fellow Lakelander Lee Child is a big fan and recently wrote: "If I were a woman, I'd be Zoë Sharp. If Jack Reacher were a woman, he'd be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox."
Zoë’s just back from Iceland Noir at Reykjavik, the country's first festival of crime fiction.
As captivating as her pacey prose, over a tea cake and 'naked' coffee she regales me with fascinating tales of her upbringing, nuggets from the Zoë 'factfile' and how she was encouraged to put pen to paper by her parents: "When I wrote my first novel at 15 my father typed up my handwritten notes—with carbon copies, which dates me horribly. That novel did the rounds of publishers to receive what’s known in the trade as 'rave rejections' and still sits in a box in the attic. My father now threatens to get it out and put it on eBay. I warn him that one day I may be the person choosing his nursing home."
I'm off to Iceland Noir (Reykjavik, November 21st-24th), the country's first festival of crime fiction and my first visit to a country which I have always longed to explore. Not only does the event offer a varied, well-chosen literary feast but the organisers are also arranging tours of some of Iceland's unique features—volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls and whale watching— and hopefully a grandstand display of the Northern Lights.
I'm taking part in two panels on Saturday, 23rd, both with an intriguing mix of UK and Icelandic authors, so the discussion promises a truly cosmopolitan flavour:
I'll be blogging my impressions of the whole event on my return, so watch this space . . .
. . . and on my return, it already seems like a dream but here I am actually experiencing the magic of Iceland. I'm standing not too near the edge of the drop-off into the freezing glacier-fed Gullfoss waterfall, just one of the unforgettable sights in this breathtaking land.
For my impressions of the country, the people and the Iceland Noir festival of crime fiction, do read more of my Icelandic saga in this weekend's Blog.
We get many hits on my website from Australia and there is a constant stream of subscribers to my newsletter from readers in that dynamic land down under. Indeed, reading crime fiction seems to be an Australian national pastime. I really must create an opportunity before too long to pay a visit and make personal contact with the many Charlie Fox fans who so far I know only through Facebook, Twitter and personal emails.
Amazon are obviously aware of the potential of the Australian market and their new website is now open for business. They are carrying Kindle editions of all ten books in the Charlie Fox series, plus the newly-released Charlie Fox novella, Absence of Light, and my first standalone crime thriller, The Blood Whisperer, featuring another strong female protagonist, Kelly Jacks. And for good measure they are also offering ten individual Kindle short stories, plus Fox Five, my Charlie Fox short story anthology.
I’d be the first to hold my hand up and say that since the highly acclaimed Murderati group blog site closed its virtual doors earlier this year, I haven’t been blogging anywhere near as often as I intended to. Maybe it’s the journalist still lurking in me that requires some kind of a deadline for a non-fiction piece.
So, I’m delighted to announced that I was suckered, erm . . . coerced, erm . . . warmly invited to become the latest new member of the Murder Is Everywhere site, saying my bit about life, the universe and everything connected to what we write and where we write it, along with a fine set of international writers: Annamaria Alfieri whose books are set in South America, Cara Black (France), Lisa Brackmann (China), Leighton Gage (Brazil), Luke Preston (Australia), Caro Ramsay (Scotland), Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, better known collectively as Michael Stanley—or as I prefer "the Michael Stanleys"—(South Africa), Jeffrey Siger—the only one who appears to have posed naked for his profile pic—(Greece), and last but definitely not least Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (Iceland).
I’m posting on alternate Sundays—catch up on my Blog page.
I’m delighted to be a special guest at a meeting of the Elementary Writers group at the above venue. The theme of the night is Thrills & Chills and the emphasis is on audience participation—so come along and present your prose, poetry, drama or any other facet of creative writing. Invite your friends, there’ll be a bar, and you can dress up if you wish. There’s a token £3 entry.
Event organiser and hostess for the evening is Victoria Watson and ‘elementary’ is not a comment on the achievements or aspirations of the participants, by the way—it’s an allusion to Victoria’s proofreading and copywriting service: Elementary V Watson.
On a dark and stormy Guy Fawkes night, three-score years ago, a group of shadowy figures met in a candle-lit room, to sign in blood the document that would bind them together in a mysterious organisation known as the Crime Writers’ Association. Ok, ok so they probably had a pen, but what is true is that in 2013 the CWA are celebrating 60 years of supporting and promoting the work of crime writers, one of the most popular of literary genres, with a staggering capacity of reinventing itself.
On the night of its 60th birthday, the CWA will reveal the hotly anticipated results of the poll to find the Best Ever Crime Writer, Crime Series and Crime Novel.
I am delighted to be taking part in a panel discussing the poll’s findings and reflecting on the past, present and future of the genre, along with Belinda Bauer and David Stuart Davies, all overseen by Barry Forshaw.
First, I’ll be appearing at Bloody Scotland, the vibrant new litfest in Stirling (weekend, September 14-15th). I'm sharing a panel with fellow crime novelist Julia Crouch on the Saturday. Our panel on 'Thrilling Tales and Psychological Twists' is chaired by David Wilson.
Then it's straight off to Albany, New York, for Bouchercon 2013 (A New York State of Crime, September 19th-22nd). I'm taking part in a panel on Thursday, 19th: 'You're Only Human—Secret Powers and other little-known talents that would make us great Super Heroes (or Villains).' I'm also moderating a panel on Friday, 20th: 'Running on Ice—Adrenaline-driven Stories.'
Bouchercon is always a blast and I look forward to meeting many friends, old and new.
I am fortunate to have been interviewed recently by Joanna Penn, thriller writer and prolific blogger and speaker on writing, publishing and marketing.
We talked about how I got started in writing after I received death threats for my photo-journalism. How this gave me a keen interest in learning self-defence, which has become a key aspect of the Charlie Fox books. How much of Zoë Sharp is in Charlie Fox? The motorbike, the travel, the self-defence . . . I explain some of the similarities and differences.
We also discussed violence in crime/thrillers with a female protagonist, and how the cumulative effect of violence affects Charlie Fox’s life. Finally, we talked about writing in first person and the dark humour that comes through in Charlie Fox's voice.
Do read the details and watch the video on Joanna Penn's website.
The interview above was followed by a further video interview on writing a series, finding your voice as a writer, and Zoë's views on being a hybrid author.
'Summer is here and like a lot of you, I've been catching up on my reading. I finally got to read the two latest books by one of my favorite authors, Zoë Sharp. Her kick-ass heroine is relatable, lovable, and seriously cool. I want to be Charlie Fox in my next life.
'If you haven't read Fifth Victim or Die Easy you don't know what you're missing! I recommend starting with the first book, Killer Instinct, and not stopping 'til you catch up. You won't regret a minute of the sleepless nights you spend immersed in Ms. Sharp's world.'
From fellow author CJ Ellisson's July 2013 Newsletter (see also her Amazon review of Killer Instinct)
'It is hard to get my head around the fact that Zoë Sharp has already written 10 Charlie Fox novels. It seems as if KILLER INSTINCT, the first in the series, was first published only a year or two ago. Sharp started off a winner with that initial effort and has never flagged since. Fox, a capable and believable private operative, is reliably and by turns a competent and sympathetic character who, at least to my eyes, seems ideal for film adaptation, but for the fact that any cinematic version of the series would be found wanting in light of the literary.
'Sharp's trademark strength is action coupled with spot-on tradecraft, both of which are in ample supply here. At the same time, Fox’s precarious relationship with Meyer provides a dangerous counterbalance to the story, a ticking clock that may or may not wind down in time to put things right. While DIE EASY is complete in itself, its conclusion sets up a situation that has the potential to run through at least a few more installments in the series, and possibly beyond, giving Sharp’s fans much to anticipate.'
'In Sharp’s white-knuckle 10th Charlie Fox thriller (after 2012’s Fifth Victim), professional bodyguard Charlie takes on an assignment in post-Katrina New Orleans—the first job with her lover and partner, Sean Meyer, since he recovered from being shot in the head, though he’s forgotten much of their relationship.
'Tasked with protecting wealthy businessman Blake Dyer during the After Katrina Foundation fundraising event, Charlie is grateful for what appears to be a straightforward task. But when a face from her and Sean’s military past reappears and there’s a calculated attack on the party, Charlie realizes that there might be more at stake than just the financial well-being of several powerful men.
'In a fitting tribute to Mississippi riverboat culture, the bloody showdown takes place on a revamped paddle wheel boat. Sharp convincingly mixes hand-to-hand combat with the ups and downs of Charlie’s attempts to rebuild her old life with Sean, even as that possibility grows dimmer by the day.'
It's always an anxious time for an author when launching a new book—waiting for the reviews to come in. I am fortunate that throughout the Charlie Fox series of ten books to date, critics have been very kind. The first reviews of DIE EASY have been very encouraging. And not just from professional reviewers— reader-reviewers, too, have been most enthusiastic.
In the latest DIE EASY review, Karen Perkins writes: 'Die Easy is Zoë Sharp's 10th novel about Charlie Fox − a strong, motorbike-riding ex-special forces soldier turned self-defence instructor turned bodyguard. Charlie is the character most strong, independent women long to be: calm in a crisis; skilled in a fight; beautiful; witty; sarcastic; sometimes apparently omniscient . . . Okay maybe I'm laying it on a bit thick, but Charlie Fox is still one of my favourite fictional heroines, and with good reason . . .
'Fast-paced and action packed with just the right amount of detail, plus fascinating characters with complicated relationships, Die Easy is gritty, hard-hitting, and utterly compelling. Once again, Zoë Sharp and Charlie Fox take us on one thrilling ride − fasten your seat belts, and hold on tight.' Read the full review.
My mind always tends to be focussed on the most recent book in the series— DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten—plus, of course, the work in progress, book eleven. So it's easy for me to overlook the fact that readers and reviewers are still discovering earlier books in the series. I was therefore delighted to read this very encouraging Euro Crime review of FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine.
Reviewer Terry Halligan writes: 'The story leads on with nail-biting, fast-paced suspense to an absolutely unexpected ending. FIFTH VICTIM is a very detailed, but well plotted and researched book and the author shows great familiarity with the New York and Long Island areas, where all of the action takes place. Her fourth title in the Charlie Fox series of ten books, FIRST DROP was nominated for the 2005 Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel and Sharp's heroine Charlie Fox is often described as a female Jack Reacher.
'I thought this book was absolutely stunning and could not put it down. I will certainly look out for her name in the future and her previous books also. Recommended.' Read the full review.
American crime writer and ace blogger Seely James has launched a series of literary awards with a difference. I'm flattered that he chose the Charlie Fox Series for his Best Existing Series award.
He writes: "Many years ago, someone handed me Lee Child’s 10th book and I was hooked by the end of page one. Ms. Sharp’s series impressed me the same way. I found the cheeky humor and the thrilling scenes exceptionally well done. The best part are the little scenes that tie the big ones together, you can relate to them because you’ve driven down that street, stopped at that house, been slobbered on by that dog. And every scene has a friendly sense of humor . . . I liked the series so much I’ve measured my way through the backlist, carefully rationing myself so as not to run through them too quickly. If you’ve not discovered these yet, dive in with KILLER INSTINCT and ration them yourself."
Take a moment to read Seeley's entertaining blog, with the full story on the awards. Personally, I'm looking forward to that Awards Banquet in the Maldives!
As well as Kindle format, DIE EASY is now available in hardcover in North America from US publishers, Pegasus; and in paperback in the rest of the world from Murderati Ink. Convenient links to further information on my Bookshelf Print page. Easy access to Kindle editions on my Bookshelf Kindle page. Paperbacks of the early books in series coming soon.
Charlie Fox storms New Orleans—Big Easy—in this tenth book in the series. The background to the book, Chapter One and an excerpt, are all available here.
Charlie Fox books one, two and three are now available in an e-boxed set − A TRIPLE SHOT of Charlie Fox. So you can enjoy KILLER INSTINCT, RIOT ACT and HARD KNOCKS in one downloadable package, together with a bonus standalone short story, 'Last Right'—a tale of betrayal and revenge on the Mexican border.
Books four, five and six are also available in a similar e-boxed set − ANOTHER ROUND of Charlie Fox − offering FIRST DROP, ROAD KILL and SECOND SHOT in one downloadable package, together with a bonus standalone short story, 'Tell Me'—a CSI has to coax both evidence and identity from the young victim of a vicious assault. ANOTHER ROUND OF CHARLIE FOX is available in Kindle format only.
Download those into your Kindle or tablet and enjoy an abundance of Charlie Fox, in chronological order, all at a very affordable price.
The two short stories included as a bonus in the e-boxed sets highlighted above are also now available to download individually in Kindle format.
In 'Last Right', a prodigal son, a vanished wife, and a dying patriarch combine in a tale of betrayal and revenge on the Mexican border.
'Tell Me' is a poignant tale of the meeting between CSI Grace McColl and a young girl found attacked in a local park. The victim may be reluctant to tell Grace who she is and what happened but the evidence will speak for itself and Grace is a very good listener.