Saturday, October 12, 2013
A Leap in the Dark --- Guest Post by Zoe Sharp
It is a pleasure to introduce author Zoe Sharp to these pages as our guest blogger today. Zoe is no stranger to this activity, having been a stalwart member of the Murderati blog for several years. Zoe is of course best known as the author of the internationally bestselling Charlie Fox series and THE BLOOD WHISPERER, her newly published stand-alone thriller. Thank you for dropping by, Zoe...or should I say for dropping in! Joe Hartlaub
Every writer makes constant leaps in the dark. In fact, taking a great big bound into the unknown is standard operating procedure for most of us. Every time I sit down at my keyboard and open up a new file—chapter one, page one—and the only thing visible on a stark white screen is a little cursor in the top left-hand corner, it always seems to be flashing, not in a friendly way, but in an impatient, ever-so-slightly taunting way.
As if to say, “Get on with it.”
As if to say, “Last time was a fluke, wasn’t it? And the time before that. You can’t do it again, can you?”
At least, writing my Charlie Fox crime thriller series, I’ve always had the reassuring feeling in the back of my mind that I’m on ground that, if not exactly safe, is at least a known quantity. After all, I know people love the character of Charlie. Many email me hoping for a hint of what’s going to happen in her tortuous relationship with her former training instructor and close-protection boss, Sean Meyer.
And even if I push the boundaries a little with what I put the pair of them through, ten books into their story it is easy to slip beneath their skin.
Not so with a standalone.
My first standalone mystery thriller, THE BLOOD WHISPERER, came out last month. It’s been a while in the making, and I wrote it because I wanted to explore a different world to that inhabited by Charlie Fox.
The same description could be placed on the heroine of TBW. Kelly Jacks is a former London CSI turned crime-scene cleaner, who went to prison for a crime she can’t remember. Now out again, she’s trying to pick up the pieces of her life when it seems like the nightmare might be repeating itself.
I get the feeling that if Charlie and Kelly ever met, they might get on pretty well, but they’re not clones by any means.
So far, the reaction from readers has been very encouraging. I’ve had some lovely emails from people that have left me walking around with a big cheesy grin on my face.
But I’ve also had emails anxiously checking that this departure doesn’t mean I’m leaving Charlie and Sean behind. So, I wanted to say right up front that this is Not The End for Charlie Fox. I even tried to reassure everyone by also bringing out a Charlie Fox novella, ABSENCE OF LIGHT, last month at the same time as the standalone—although at nearly 60,000 words some people have told me it’s more like a full novel.
Still, as the rest of the series books are getting on for twice that length, I’d rather call it a novella and have readers pleasantly surprised, than call it a novel and have them come after me with pitchforks and burning torches. And I’m already making notes and formulating ideas for book eleven, tentatively titled FOX HUNTER.
As for the standalone well, no, I have no immediate plans to start another book featuring Kelly Jacks, although I haven’t completely ruled out returning to her story at some point in the future. Instead, I’m intending to write another standalone, with another strong independent female protagonist whose first option, when the chips are down, is not to go to the police. That’s after Charlie Fox #11, of course, and rewrites on a supernatural thriller which, surprisingly enough, also features a strong female lead.
Watch this space …
So, my question to you all is this. Do you prefer reading about the familiar characters within a series or prefer the uncertainty of standalone novels by a familiar author? And how does the idea of a series of standalones, as I’ve described, grab you?
I usually like to include a Word of the Week when I blog, so this week’s word is amphibology, meaning a phrase or sentence that has an ambiguous meaning or one that can be read in more than one way. It comes from the Greek amphi-, ‘both’ and ballein ‘to throw’, so it could be translated as ‘to hit at both ends’. A nice example I was given was an editor who has received an unsolicited manuscript: “I shall waste no time in reading your book!”