Tag: crime fiction

Interview with City short course alumna and debut novelist Tania Tay

Tania Tay is the debut author of The Other Woman, published in May 2024 with Headline Accent.

Tania first wrote stories and plays on her mum’s old typewriter in the school holidays. She worked as an advertising copywriter in agencies from Singapore to London – which was great training in writing commercial fiction. One day at a job interview, she was asked if she was a “brave writer”. It triggered her join a short story class at the City Lit, with Leone Ross where she wrote a few weird, dark tales. Her writing explores female friendship, and the relationship between mothers and daughters. Occasionally there’s a supernatural twist. Tania is the author of the Spellcasters middle grade series, in collaboration with Storymix Studio. She has written a screenplay, developed with BBC Writersroom London Voices. Tania is second generation British Malaysian Chinese. She studied History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and lives with her family in East London.

  1. What inspired you to write your novel and how did the idea for the story come about?

 

The idea came from a writing exercise where I had to imagine if I lost everything in my life. At the time, my children were younger and I was a stay-at-home mum. I imagined what would have to happen for me to lose my husband and children.

 

  1. Why did you choose to write in the thriller genre? What is it about this genre that interests you most?

 

I’ve always enjoyed reading psychological thrillers where the suspense is more in the mind than in spilling blood and guts. The threat of danger to ordinary people going about their everyday lives is terrifying, as what if…. these things happened to me?

 

  1. When did you first think you wanted to be a writer?

 

I’m first and foremost a reader. I’ve always been a book worm and started writing plays as a child, inspired by fairy tales and stories I loved. I worked as a copywriter in advertising, but I never thought I could be a proper writer of fiction until I did a short story writing class at the City Lit.

 

  1. You took our Crime Writing short course at City, how helpful was it in the development of your debut thriller?

 

The course was invaluable. At the time I’d mainly been writing for children. Caroline Green was so inspiring with her personal journey about how she’d made the change from writing YA to writing adult crime. She introduced us to some brilliant crime fiction excerpts, many of which I’d never read. She set short writing exercises, and we teamed up with people in the class to discuss ideas. The course really got my imagination going. Soon after taking the course, I started writing the novel that’s now my debut.

 

  1. How important do you think feedback from writing groups and creative writing courses is?

 

Trusted feedback has been really important for me. I’ve been a member of various critique groups over the years. But I’m very careful about who I choose to trust to give me feedback. I only work with creative writing tutors and peers who enjoy reading and writing similar genres to my own. I don’t see my work as literary, but commercial so I surround myself by other writers who enjoy reading and writing commercial fiction. Before I signed up for Caroline Green’s course, I’d read her books and knew that I enjoyed her work and that she would be a great teacher for me.

 

  1. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while writing your novel?

 

To keep going, even when I got stuck. I knew I needed some big twists but I didn’t know what they could be. I had to draft and redraft until I found them.

 

  1. What has the route to publication been like for you?

 

It’s taken me a LONG time… years! I had short stories published in 2002 but could never finish a whole novel. I kept trying different genres including children’s and YA. I queried my first YA novel in 2018 and had some nice rejections. My debut adult suspense novel was started in 2018. I worked on it for over a year with the help of a tutor. Then I re-drafted it again. In April 2022 I was shortlisted for an open submissions competition with Headline and had to finish another draft by August. In September, I won a publishing contract, and it was finally published May 2024.

 

  1. Which writers inspired you as a younger author, and who inspires you now?

 

I’ve always loved mysteries – As a child and teenager, I read Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier, Georgette Heyer. I’ve always enjoyed psychological thrillers, like Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Damage by Josephine Hart, Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood. Currently, my favourite authors are Lisa Jewell, Louise Candlish, Lucy Foley, Ellery Lloyd, Sabine Durrant, Lucie Whitehouse, Araminta Hall, Lauren North, BP Walter.

 

  1. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers who are thinking about publishing a novel?

 

Read a lot in the genre you enjoy, and analyse your favourites. Take a short course or do some writing workshops to inspire you. Surround yourself with writers and get involved in the writing community, whether on social media – Instagram and twitter – or by going to festivals. Be nice to people and tell other authors when you enjoy their work. Write them nice reviews! It’s a long and can be lonely path to publication, so you need to find your writing tribe to share the ups and downs with. When you’re finally agented and have a publishing deal, these will be the people who will happily give you endorsements, reviews and shout about your books to everyone.

 

  1. What are you working on now?

 

A destination thriller set on a luxury resort on a Malaysian island. A group of colleagues from an advertising agency re-unite for a party, but there are secrets from the past casting a toxic shade over the festivities. And then a dead body is found.

Thank you so much, Tania! We wish you every success with your debut novel and all the many novels to come. We can’t wait to read the book!

To order Tania’s novel, visit HERE.

For more information about Tania and her writing, visit HERE.

To sign up to an intensive week-long summer school version of the course Tania took at City, visit HERE.

For all information on our writing short courses, visit HERE. Or for all our other short courses, please visit HERE.

Final Call for Submissions to City Writes Autumn 2023 – DEADLINE THIS FRIDAY, 17th NOVEMBER

Deadline 17 November 2023
Want to join brilliant author and tutor, Caroline Green on the virtual stage of City Writes, the showcase for the best creative writing coming from City’s Short Creative Writing Courses, on Wednesday 13th December? All you need to do is submit your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction (we accept YA but sadly NOT poetry, drama or children’s fiction) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by midnight on Friday 17th November. Please check the full submission details here. That’s just 5 days away!

You will get to read your work in front of a supportive audience alongside Caroline who writes wonderful fiction for young people and adults and is the fantastically acclaimed teacher of the Crime and Thriller Writing short course and Crime and Thriller Writing Summer School here at City. From YA, through psychological thriller, to supernatural detective fiction, Caroline Green is an inspirational powerhouse. Register here now to save your spot for the night.

City Writes guest, author and tutor Caroline Green

To share the virtual stage with Caroline on the 13th December, don’t for get to submit your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk  Please check the full submission details here.

Don’t forget to sign up for the event on the 13th December here.

Get submitting and good luck!

City Writes Autumn 2023 Open for Submissions

City Writes Autumn Deadline 10 November 2023

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

With a new academic year comes more fantastic writing from the short courses at City with our showcase event, City Writes, this term on Wednesday 13th December at 7pm on Zoom. We are delighted to announce that our published author this time is the brilliant writer and tutor, Caroline Green. Not only does Caroline write fiction for young people and adults, she is also the much valued and acclaimed teacher of the Crime and Thriller Writing short course and Crime and Thriller Writing Summer School here at City. From YA, through psychological thriller, to supernatural detective fiction, Caroline Green is an inspirational powerhouse. Register here to save your spot for the night.

Crime writer and City Writes Autumn 2023 guest, Caroline Green

If you would like to read your work in front of a supportive audience and share the virtual stage with Caroline on the 13th December, all you need to do is submit your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction (we accept YA but sadly NOT poetry, drama or children’s fiction) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by midnight on Friday 17th November. Please check the full submission details here.

 

Don’t forget to sign up for the event on the 13th December here.

 

We can’t wait to read your submissions! Good luck.

Top Ten Tips for Writing Crime Fiction

By Caroline Green

Crime fiction is booming right now. If you have ever wondered if you could write for this thriving, thrilling genre, here are ten things you should know:

  1. Understand who you are writing for. Read widely within the genre and decide what type of crime fiction you love to read. (Frankly, if you don’t get excited about reading it, why do you want to write it?)
  2. But after you’ve read all those lovely books, don’t try and second guess the market. No one saw the likes of Girl On The Train. The most important thing is to know the genre but write what you want to write.
  3. Watch quality drama as well as reading books. Programmes such as Happy Valley or Line of Duty can teach budding crime writers a lot, despite being delivered via a different medium.
  4. Aim for living, breathing, characters, not cardboard cut-outs. If you are writing another alcoholic PI or police investigator make sure they are so well-rounded they could step right off the page. What is their back story? What made them who they are?
  5. Don’t be afraid to delve into your dark side. Your own imagination is more powerful – and has more twists – than all the CGI in the world. Tap into it and never shy away from those big, bold ideas that make you think, ‘Dare I…?’.
  6. The best twists don’t come hurtling out of nowhere. The really satisfying ones make such perfect sense, you can’t believe you didn’t see them coming.
  7. Remember that conflict is the engine of story-telling. Try to weave some form of conflict into every single scene, every conversation, every plot line.
  8. Think about the ‘why-dunnit’ and not just the ‘who’. The reason psychological thrillers have taken off so much – and helped cause that boom in sales – is that the psychology behind dark deeds makes for a gripping read.
  9. Vary your pace. Sometimes readers need space to breathe, and others they need to be sent hurtling towards the thrilling climax of your story.
  10. Let your setting do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating atmosphere. A creepy atmospheric setting can really help rachet up tension.

 

Caroline Green writes best-selling thrillers as Cass Green and teaches City’s Crime and Thriller Writing Short Course.

Book now for the autumn term, starting 3rd October 2023.

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

On Valentine’s Day we pay homage to love, both real and imagined. Read on for how one City writing student found love on a short creative writing course, and five more published debut novels exploring the complexities of love.

 

Back in 1987 a young woman called Philippa enrolled on a creative writing short course at City. She wanted to learn about writing, but she was also hoping to meet someone special. As it turned out, she got both.

Author photograph of Philippa Perry

Philippa Perry

Philippa has now written three best-selling books and is an internationally renowned psychotherapist and agony aunt. As for that special someone? Attracted to another classmate on the course—the blonde ‘show-off’ in the red leather jacket—she began going to the pub with him after class.

That ‘show off’ turned out to be Grayson Perry.

That’s right, reader, she married him.

And if that’s not romantic enough for you on Valentine’s Day, how about treating yourself to one of these love stories, all from the pens of our talented writing short course alumni:


Rachael’s Gift
by Alexandra Cameron, Novel Studio alumna

Book cover of Alexandra Cameron's novel Rachael's Gift

Rachael’s Gift, debut novel by Alexandra Cameron

A skilfully plotted, continent-crossing literary thriller which explores a mother’s love for her troubled daughter and the lengths she will go to protect her.

Dona Nicanora’s Hat Shop by Kirstan Hawkins, Novel Studio alumna

Book cover of Dona Nicanora's Hat Shop

Dona Nicanora’s Hat Shop, by Kirstan Hawkins

Doña Nicanora has her heart set on turning Don Bosco’s barbers into a hat shop, but Don Bosco has his heart set on her. A wonderfully warm-hearted comedy of errors set in a backwoods South American town.

Ten Steps To Us by Attiya Khan, Novel Studio alumna

Book cover of Ten Steps to Us

Ten Steps to Us by Attiya Khan

A compelling and timely YA story about a teenage Muslim girl navigating love, identity and faith in the UK.

Butterfly Ranch by Remy Salters, Novel Studio alumnus

In a remote jungle lodge in Southern Belize, a local policeman investigates the mysterious disappearance of a world-famous reclusive author. A masterful tale of obsessive love, self-destruction and unexpected redemption.

Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma, Short Story and Writers’ Workshop alumna

A letter delivered to Dr Andre Cabal in London catapults him back to his 17-year-old self in 1980s Brazil and begins the devastating and mesmerizing story of one man’s secret infatuation for the daughter of his family’s maid.

Book cover of Flesh and Bone and Water

Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma

To find out more about our writing short courses visit our home page here.

Or join us on 28 March for our online Open Evening where you can sample free taster classes, speak to our writing coordinator and find out more about all City’s short courses. Register here.

 

5 reasons why now is a good time to learn how to write crime fiction

Crime fiction is having a boom time, spurred on by the phenomenal success of books like Richard Orsman’s Thursday Murder Club series. Read on for more on why now is a great time to learn how to write crime fiction.

 

 

  1. Crime fiction is an incredibly popular genre

Crime is one of the fastest growing genres in UK fiction book sales, with Nielsen’s reporting a 19% volume growth in UK book sales for crime and thrillers in 2020.

 

  1. Crime fiction translates

Write a successful crime novel and the chances are it will be adapted into a film or onto the small screen or stage. From TV staples such as Midsomer Murders and Wallander to box office hits like Murder on the Orient Express and The Talented Mr Ripley, all began life as crime novels.

 

  1. Crime fiction has some of the most loyal fans

From Hercule Poirot to Philip Marlowe, from Inspector Morse to John Rebus, at the heart of the best crime fiction is an unforgettable detective. Create a detective your readers love and you’ll have them clamouring for the next book in the series.

 

  1. Crime fiction: a genre for our times?

From climate change to global pandemics, we live in increasingly uncertain times. While crime fiction delves into the darker side of life, ultimately justice prevails – the criminal is caught, the mystery is solved – and readers are left with the, however temporary, relief that order has been restored.

 

  1. Crime fiction is versatile

Study crime fiction and you’ll discover plenty of sub-genres to sink your teeth into (no pun intended). From cosy crime – currently having a moment due to the incredible success of Richard Orsman’s Thursday Murder Club series – to psychological thrillers epitomised by City Novel Studio alumna and Sunday Times bestselling crime writer Harriet Tyce, to hardboiled fiction, courtroom dramas and legal thrillers, there’s a sub-genre for everyone!

 

 

City’s Short Courses offer a ten-week Crime and Thriller Writing course taught by Sunday Times bestselling thriller author Caroline Green. Read here for her top tips on how to write crime fiction. Or click here to book her next course starting in January 2023.

 

And don’t just take our word for it: in the words of former student Darah O’Reilly, it’s ‘an outstandingly well put together course from a leading crime writer.’

 

For more on City’s Writing Short Courses visit our home page and keep an eye out on this blog for more updates on our growing list of published alumni.

 

Starry night: Novel Studio Showcase 2021

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Tuesday 15th June was a beautiful summer evening, perfect for sharing the dazzling work of our 15 Novel Studio 2021 students via zoom. The Showcase is the culmination of a year’s work on their novels and with genres as varied as satire, sci-fi, procedural crime and literary fiction, this year’s cohort promised a varied and tantalising programme of extracts from their work-in-progress.

This is the first year of the Novel Studio which has been run entirely virtually and it has led to a wonderfully diverse group with students joining us from India, France and America as well as the UK. The students have forged a tight-knit group, challenging each other in an incredibly supportive and encouraging manner, leading to some truly fabulous work being produced as we soon heard.

After running through the amazing list of published alumni, that grows year on year with names like Kiare Ladner, Harriet Tyce, Deepa Anappara, Hannah Begbie, Elizabeth Chakrabarty, Attiya Khan, Anna Mazzola and Greg Keen, we heard from alumna Harriet Tyce who introduced and funded the Novel Studio Scholarship in 2019, which provides one successful applicant from a low-income household with a fully funded place. We are delighted the scholarship is running again for the third time this year.

Harriet spoke with fondness about her time on the Novel Studio and all that it offered her in terms of structure and support. She also spoke of her sense of anxiety waiting to share her work at the Showcase and wished all the students luck. Hopefully they will all go on to have writing careers as successful as Harriet’s.

Nana Wereko-Brobby

With some thank yous to all the tutors, Kiare Ladner, Emma Claire Sweeney and Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, alongside our director Emily Pedder and the Short Courses team, in particular Laura Bushell, Robert Lastman and Sathya Mathivanan, we were ready to be transported into the various fictional worlds of the students starting with Nana Wereko-Brobby whose novel, Dark Heart explores one British Ghanaian’s journey into boredom, excess and murder. Reading from the first chapter, Nana gave us an insight into her character’s acerbic attitude to his daily life and relationships that left us wondering what else might be in store.

We went from London to a village in Tamil Nadu next as Deepa S. read from her novel, Nivya, a coming of age novel in which twelve-year-old Nivya must come to terms with a more complex understanding of her world and heritage. Narrated by Nivya, Deepa read us a passage that introduced her uncle’s latest business venture, the tuk-tuk Henry.

Freya Sanders

Freya Sanders took us into a young woman’s mind next when reading from her literary anti-bildungsroman, out of the sky. We learnt about the tragic death of Peter Gilbraith, a popular, high achiever whose death is all over Facebook. What will this mean for the character, her friends and the wider social circle? What importance do external achievements have in the face of death?

Michael Lawson

From Cambridge to British Airspace next, Michael Lawson took us into the mind of Blanche, an undead agony aunt and political agitator who died choking on a custard cream in an airplane sitting next to her best friend, Cilla Black. A hilarious satire sending up the British and their political system, Michael’s extract from Biscuits with Blanchehad the audience giggling in delight.

Scholarship winner Janice Okoh

We were dropped right into the action in a large house in Nigeria next as Novel Studio Scholarship 2021 winner, Janice Okoh, read from the beginning of her novel, The Killing Season. Olori’s daughter is missing. She went out with the bosses new British Nigerian wife who Olori does not trust at all. Where is her daughter? Who will help her find her? Certainly not the police, or so it seems. Leaving us on tenterhooks, reeling from the pithy phrases of Olori’s mind, we were transported into an entirely different character’s mind next.

Stephan Schmidt

Delving into the head of a young man who wishes he’d already written the Next Great American Novel, Stephan Schmidt shared an extract from his novel Abscondia in which his second person narrator described meeting a woman at a cafe in France. Seeped in skepticism and nihilism, will this woman mean anything for the unnamed narrator, or will it just be one more in a catalogue of disappointingly mundane events?

Rhiana Gold

We were transported into the near future next as Rhiana Gold read from her speculative fiction novel, Under the Surface. We joined her character, Stevie, at the hospital, there for her dying father, a father no one like her – a lab-born – usually has. What is a lab-born and how is Stevie different? You’ll have to wait for the full novel to find out!

Seema Clear

Seema Clear took a different look at identity and belonging next, as she read from her multigenerational novel, The Refugees, that explores the life of Vidya and her father who were some of the many Asians expelled from Uganda in 1972. Seema read from the opening of her novel in which Vidya is back in the family home in West London, tending to her father on his deathbed.

Lucy Blincoe

From one set of emotional waters to another, we travelled to the Cornish coast with Lucy Blincoe next as she read from her novel, Kernow. Susie is a Met detective on leave, taking time out from London after the death of her colleague ostensibly to spend more time with her teenage daughter, Nancy. Then Nancy finds a dead body washed up on the beach. Susie thinks the young man won’t be her problem to solve, but the audience all knew better.

Grayson Anderson

We were blasted into the distant regions of an alternative galaxy next as Grayson Anderson read from the first in a trilogy of science fiction novels, Until Time Runs Out: The Awakening. We joined Aluz as she attempted to persuade her superiors to let her keep a perfectly preserved body found on a long-dead planet while mining. Drawn in by the sharp dialogue and Grayson’s fabulous voices, the audience was left wondering about Aluz’s discovery and what it might mean for her future.

Catherine Till

Time traveling into the past rather than the future next, Catherine Till took us on a train ride as her character attempted to travel illegally across the border and out of Soviet-controlled Hungary, as she read from her novel, Behind The Curtain. Leaving us with our hearts beating in our mouths, fear sounding loud in our ears, we were left to imagine whether her character made it or not.

Back to London and the world of environmental protest, government cover-ups and organised crime, James Mott read from his novel, The Holloway Men next. He introduced us to his main character, DI Robert Bramadisso, just back from a year’s suspension whose first job is to babysit City boys. How could that possibly go wrong?

Vasundhara Singh

We went back to India next with Vasundhara Singh whose novel, mistress, mother, explores the lives of three women: the wife and mother, the daughter and the mistress. Taking us into a scene of shared memory and food, we followed each bite with careful and lyrical attention.

Nola D’Enis

Continuing the lyricism, we journeyed to a small French town next as Nola d’Enis read from her novel Doulun. We joined her for the opening pages as one of her characters, Judith, explored the treasures of her underwear drawer and revealed a little of the steely femme fatale that lies beneath the frills.

Rhydian Wynn Davies

Finally, we were thrown into a scene of rich drama as Rhidian Davies read from his novel, Role of Lifetime, in which his two main characters, ex-actor Oliver Molyneux and solicitor-agent, August Avery, talk about Oliver’s impending divorce. Both narcissists, the extract from this tragi-comic novel introduced us to a world where these men and their impulsive actions might take them into deeper water than either of them expected.

 

 

 

The readings ended with a fantastic revelation, taking the death knoll high and our emotions higher. With final thanks and reminders about students’ contact details in the chat and in the anthology now available here, the Showcase for the Novel Studio students 2021 was concluded with a marvellous dramatic flourish. Watch this space for news of these students’ future successes. Congratulations Novel Studio Cohort 2021!

 

Who Says Crime Doesn’t Pay?

By Emily Pedder

Greg Keen is an alumnus of The Novel Studio course at City, University of London. He completed his debut novel in between stints working as a pitch consultant and a media trainer, all based in Soho. In 2015 Soho Dead won the CWA Debut Dagger. We caught up with him to find out more about his crime series.

EP: Your novel reveals some brilliantly unsavoury characters. Were they based on people you’ve met…?

GK: I’ve met a few people who share their characteristics but no one who is absolutely like them. Bella – the sex club owner – is probably closest to someone I know.

EP: Your novel is set mostly in Soho, a place you seem to know intimately. Can you tell us about your relationship to the place?

GK: I got my first job there after university. Over the next ten years the company re-located four times, always in Soho. During that period I frequented most of the pubs and quite a few members clubs when members clubs meant a dimly lit cellar bar. Few of these remain but The New Evaristo (aka Trisha’s) in Greek Street is still going strong.

EP: Which crime writers have influenced you?

GK: Mark Timlin’s Sharman series primarily. I love Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May books and Colin Bateman’s Dan Starkey novels are wonderfully dark and funny.

EP: What kind of research did you do for the book?

GK: Part of the novel is set in the seventies. Mostly it was a matter of researching what was where in Soho in that period and which drinks and cigarette brands were available etc.

EP: “His pecs needed a training bra and his gut seeped like jelly from a dodgy mould…” Humour is rife in your book. Do you see it as an important element in the crime writing you’re interested in producing?

GK: To a point. Soho Dead began life primarily as a comic novel and was rejected by agent after agent as not having a big enough crime element. Over the next four drafts (complete re-writes basically) I bumped this up. The best advice I received was in a workshop when someone commented that the humour worked when it came from the situation and not when I was trying to insert gags. If any of my three review readers think something isn’t funny then out it comes. But the short answer to your question is that noir and humour often work well together.

EP: The novel is intricately plotted with lots of satisfying sub-plots and red herrings. How did you approach the plotting of the book?

GK: Thank you. I have about 70% worked out up-front and the rest is found while writing and re-drafting.

EP: The ending of the book is nicely unpredictable. Did you have an alternate ending in mind at any point, or were you always clear where the book was going?

GK: Some crime writers only find out who committed the crime when they reach its conclusion. I find this amazing and always knew who did it and why.

EP: What are you working on next?

GK: I’m about to begin structural edits on Soho Ghosts, which is the second in the series and out next year.

EP: Have you given up the day job?!

GK: As I freelance it’s not quite that dramatic for me. I have decreased my hours to focus more on writing though.

Thanks to Greg Keen and all the best with his fantastic novel Soho Dead and upcoming Soho Ghosts.

The story behind MD Villiers’ novel City of Blood

by Jennifer Mills

“I had to write my story, this was the story I wanted to tell,” MD Villiers.

Martie de Villiers’ debut novel City of Blood – published in May 2013 – has taken seven years to write.

Brought up in South Africa, Martie studied psychology and sociology at university and then worked as a tennis coach, in HR and finally Commodities, but she always wanted to write. By the time she attended her first writing course at City, University of London, Writers’ Workshop in 2006, Martie was already writing in her spare time.

“City gave me invaluable insight into the industry,” says Martie. “You can’t always read up on how to be a writer,” she adds, “There are things you actually need to learn from those with experience in the publishing industry.” Thanks to the course, her writing developed.

“Before the writing courses at City, I wrote very detailed stories and said the obvious, but feedback on your writing helps and I realised that I didn’t have to show every action in my writing.”

Martie soon discovered how isolating writing can be. With fellow course members she formed a writing group.

“We met up and read each other’s work and gave feedback, because by sharing you see yourself becoming better…You need feedback to keep up your motivation. Comforting words from family and friends will not develop your writing and story in the same way as feedback from fellow writers.”

She began to attend as many talks by writers as possible: “You need to study the craft and keep going.”

In 2003 she read a news story in the local Johannesburg paper about a murder where the culprits escaped. It inspired her to write the story about Siphiwe, a young orphan whose life dramatically changes when he meets two dangerous men in Johannesburg; this developed into City of Blood. Growing up in South Africa, Johannesburg is a city Martie says she would never want to get lost in: her mother was a social worker and used to come home with horror stories from what she had witnessed. Martie wanted to understand the violence of the city and its consequences and dedicated herself to write these stories.

After a few years working on her novel, Martie sent three chapters to just one agent, Euan Thorneycroft. He signed her straightaway. After further redrafts her book went out to publishers. She didn’t expect an answer for months, but just six weeks later Martie got an offer: a two book-deal with the prestigious Harvill Secker.

Writers’ Workshop takes place on Friday evenings and is run by Katy Darby. For more on our writing short courses visit our home page here.

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