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Author interview: Ragnar Jonassan

January 13, 2017
Great to have Ragnar Jonasson here today as part of the Rupture blog tour. Rupture, the latest in his Dark Iceland series, is launched this week by Orenda Books and it was my first introduction to Ragnar’s work. Dark, brooding and very atmospheric it tells intertwining stories of crimes committed in the past and the present day. Ragnar, the claustrophobic small-town atmosphere, frozen landscapes and harsh lifestyle are used to great effect – do you think the intertwining stories could work so well in any other location and climate? I think that crime fiction is very often a character study, although the setting can of course be used as emphasis, so I believe that the stories would probably work elsewhere, if the circumstances were similar. The stories of many characters twist in and out of each other all the way through the novel so can you give us an insight into your writing process – how do you manage this, is it a case of writing straight through, or do you write each character separately then weave the strands together? The stories are mostly written in the right order, i.e. from the first chapter to the last, although there are exceptions to that, but in all instances the storyline and characters are mostly developed right from the start, including the ending and the potential twists in the story. You cite Agatha Christie as being an inspiration for your work – do you think there are any other contemporary writers working today who come close to creating the kind of murder mysteries she made famous? I think more writers than we think are actually influenced by Christie, directly or indirectly, as she has been so widely read, but if you are asking about authors who are writing in a similar style, I would first mention the late P.D. James, as she really managed to write the perfect contemporary whodunnits, with great focus on characters. I think there is also a lot of Christie in Stieg Larsson’s first (and incredibly good) Millennium novel. I think it’s also right to mention Sophie Hannah, who is continuing the Poirot saga with her new novels, and I think she has done an excellent job. Which other writers inspire you and why? Almost all writers I read inspire me in some way. I think I can mention for example P.D. James and Stieg Larsson, as above, and I’d also like to mention Australian Peter Temple, plus of course some of Christie’s golden age contemporaries, such as Ellery Queen and S.S. Van Dine. What can we expect next in your Dark Iceland series? Andköf is the fifth book, published later this year. No English title has been selected, but it takes place in the abandoned village of Kalfshamarsvik in northern Iceland, a real and stunning place, where no-one lives anymore. In the book, I create a fictional household there, and at the beginning of the story a young woman returns to the place thirty years after her

2016 Short Story and Flash Fiction Prize Longlists

December 21, 2016
Many thanks to everyone that entered the inaugural RW Short Story Prize and RW Flash Fiction Prize. There were some really great entries but sadly also quite a number of stories that had to be disqualified as the writer put their name on the entry where we could see it. Please read the instructions properly and only put your name on the covering letter not on the story document or the submission title! We cannot allow stories in that are not read anonymously. Readings are done anonymously until the shortlists are chosen so only the story titles are listed here. Longlist RW Short Story Prize By the Light of the Moon By the River Under the Banyan Tree Farne Islands Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice On Crosby Beach Leicester, 1974 Lobsterfest Misky Bee Free Pandora’s Box Robin (The Handle of a Child’s Bucket) Rocking Bird Stop-Gap Woman Ten Things I Can Tell You About Abraham Lincoln The Bear in the Cellar The Birth of Venus The Cottage on the Hill The Night Picnic The Poet What Was Left Black Dog Longlist RW Flash Fiction Prize Air Daisy 8122 Doolally Tap Eggshells Food of Love Front Cover Down Giddy With It Gifted Gordon Bennett In the Hospital Keep Calm and Carry On Kirianna Last Concerto Last of the First Season Sacred Streams Saturday Nights Congratulations and good luck to all the writers whose stories are listed here. We will be re-reading and announcing the shortlists in January 2017. The 10 shortlisted stories in each category will then go to the judges to read and the winners announced in February 2017. Vanessa Gebbie is judging the short story category and David Gaffney the flashes. Prizes and anthologies, which are being published by Urbane Publications, will be presented to everyone on the shortlists at an event in the summer. Details of this will be available in the new year. Once the winners have been announced for the 2016 Prizes details of the deadlines and judges for the 2017 Prizes will go live.  

Guest author: Vicky Newham – Having my novel optioned

December 19, 2016
Welcome and congratulations to Vicky Newham today. Vicky’s debut crime novel has been picked up by a publisher and also optioned for TV so I asked her to tell us how it all came about… Many thanks, Amanda, for inviting me onto the Retreat West blog to talk about having my novel, Turn a Blind Eye, optioned for television. Like many of us, I’ve watched crime dramas on telly. I’ve grown up with Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect, Rebus, and DCI Banks. The Swedish Wallander is my Netflix treat, along with Hinterland and The Bridge. In my wildest dreams, though, I never imagined my debut novel would be optioned for a TV series – because that sort of thing happens to other people. So, how did it come about? My agents, Peters Fraser & Dunlop, have a UK rights team, an international one and a film/TV agent. At the beginning of September my manuscript was submitted simultaneously to editors, scouts and production companies. Rather than sitting at my laptop, clicking refresh on my email every half hour, I decided to busy myself with important things like painting the garden fence and decorating. Within three days, and just as I was off to the beach to meet some pals, I received an email saying two production companies wanted to meet me. I shoved a bottle of prosecco in my bag and skipped off with my towel and the dog, muttering ‘it’s bonkers’. A couple of weeks later, I accepted a pre-empt deal on the book rights with HQ, a new imprint of HarperCollins. Then PFD set a deadline and three further production companies bid. I begged the hairdresser for a cancellation appointment, got my roots done, and headed into Covent Garden for the meetings. These were amazing, slightly surreal but great fun. It felt strange that high-flying TV people were talking to me about my book. It wasn’t even published, nor had we even announced the publisher! My agent gave me the low-down on expectations. In addition, I’m lucky to know a couple of authors who have had work optioned, so I pestered them for information and the message was the same: it’s important to see any adaptation which might emerge from a novel as separate, and to accept that the project might not get into development. The first hurdle is recruiting a good screenwriter, then getting a TV channel to take it on. I decided that if nothing came of the meetings, or any option which arose, they would be a good way to learn about the industry and get feedback on my book. However, I knew I could talk about writing, psychology and teaching but didn’t feel equipped to talk TV lingo. The first meeting went so well it gave me confidence. The producers wanted to discuss the origins of my main character, who is a female Bangladeshi detective, and my experiences living and teaching in the East End of London. Given the lack of diversity in crime fiction and

Results: October ’16 Themed Flash

December 13, 2016
Thanks to all that entered the October Themed  Flash Competition. The theme was Jealousy and there were some very interesting takes on it. There were a few stories that really had a lot going for them bar some sloppy mistakes – tense switches and lots of typos being the main ones. Proofread! There’s only one more competition for this year and the final theme is Endings so step away from the Christmas leftovers, chocolates and mince pies for a while this festive season to send in your stories by the 30th December deadline and you can get cash and published on the website. Enter here. But for now, details of the October results are: This has such a strong atmosphere and some lovely imagery. A sad and poignant tale, with a real sting at the end, that I really enjoyed.   I liked how it wasn’t immediately clear what the narrator was but that by the time I got to the end, it seemed inevitable.  

Intruder by Victoria Walklate

December 13, 2016
Soft, peaceful darkness. I lie exhausted amongst the remains of my brittle cage. My shelter is lined with velvety down and the reed-woven walls are protectively high. My tiny chest rises and falls steadily. I inhale the musty, comforting scent of home and realise that I’m not alone. How strange. My sibling is bigger than me. I ponder his size. We hatched at the same time, I’m sure, yet unlike me he’s hulking and oddly intimidating. He stirs, and I tense. His eyes are tightly closed, like mine, but suddenly he hoists himself towards me with lethal purpose. I cheep a wary greeting, but he takes no notice. He snuggles against my side for a moment and then slams into me, shoving me sideways. My claws scrape along the bottom of our home, ripping away the soft down and revealing the stark foundation below. He nips me savagely and I know pain for the first time. A rush of wind and flash of light; there’s another creature in our world. Instinct makes us rise up, crying out and opening our mouths. But, oh no. His reach is so much greater than mine. Even blind, I can tell that his gape is wider and much more insistent. I realise that the stranger has a wriggling gift clamped in her mouth. Too late though;my sibling is gulping it down and our visitor has disappeared. Another rush of wind; another stranger appears. This time I’m faster. My gape is wide and I demand attention loudly but my companion throws his bulk over me and crushes me into silence. The soft, crunching noise returns as he accepts the second gift. Hunger and jealousy rush through me, but I am utterly helpless. Four more visits from the two strangers. Four more prizes bestowed on my sibling.He’s getting stronger. I drift into the sweet relief of sleep. Not for long, I tell myself. Just for a moment. I jerk awake. He’s been busy. My naked body is wedged between his cumbrous form and the wall. He’s tight up against me, shuffling backwards to hoist my body on top of his.One rough thrust and my head flops on to his shoulder. Fight! Instinct screams at me to defend myself but he’s just too strong. Another rush of wind. My sibling presents his pink mouth innocently, as if I’m not draped helplessly over him. I wait in desperation for the visitor to notice. Instead, another prize is dropped devotedly into his mouth. She’s far too busy to see any further than the rapacious gape in the darkness. I am so hungry, drowning in jealousy and despair. The beat of wings and we’re alone again. He hoists me to the very top of the wall. A cold breeze sways the shadows around me and flashes of light make me wince, but my eyes stay closed, my meagre strength gone. One final heave and I’m tumbling into the darkness, my fate sealed from my first breath. *** About the author: Victoria Walklate lives in the beautiful English county of Norfolk with her husband and two children, and has a historical fiction novel to her name. She’s currently working on her second novel, several short stories