Sunday, 13 April 2014

Strops, sex and death: creative essentials for crime writers.

So, there’s a blog tour on, and The Horrormoanal Woman was tagged by the very lovely writer and possessor of amazing white hair, Wendy Storer. The idea is, that I’m going to say a few words, like a bad father at a wedding or a covetous best man trying to show his lifelong friend up in front of a room of 100 drunken, beige people wearing nice clothes from BHS, because really, he would have liked to have knobbed the bride. I’m going to talk about my creative process...except for me, of course, this presents a problem. This blog that you’re reading now, festooned with lurid tales of shitting in baths full of cold baked beans and being fingered on the night bus, belongs to The Horrormoanal Woman. She’s an anonymous type, pictured right, in a snowboarding anorak. You can’t even see her face. And that’s the way she likes it. The one who does all the serious work, however, is her alter ego, Marnie Riches, who wears actual deodorant and nice clothes.
The only good hair day in 20 years.

For today only, for the purposes of this exercise, I shall write as a strange mash-up of The Horrormoanal Woman and serious author, Marnie Riches, because as Marnie Riches, I don't have a blog and as The Horrormoanal Woman, I just sit around swearing and drinking and generally lady-frotting against the flotsam and jetsam of the internet.


What am I working on?

Just like in love, you know when you've written The One. Chemistry is King.
I have a euro-noir crime thriller, Blown Away that is on submission to editors. The book is marbled with so many of my own experiences, and the characters have become so real to me, that I would say it's my soul-book - a term a friend came up with. Rather like a soul-mate. If you’re lucky enough to find a true soul-mate, you cling on for the ride no matter what, don’t you? Because you know life without them will be a poor facsimile of what it would be with them. It’s a high risk strategy emotionally. You may crash and burn. But it’s so worth it, if and when it blossoms into something wonderful. I’ve always felt like this about Blown Away

Being on submission is a tricky waiting game and can mess with your mind after a while. When my agent first started sending Blown Away out, I was faced with making a decision. Should I start something new? Should I plan further novels in the series? Or should I just twiddle my thumbs and wait? Thumb-twiddling was never an option. So, for a while, I worked on a high concept Young Adult novel. I got half way through a first draft and then Christmas happened and then I limped on for a while longer and then my inspiration ground to a halt. I switched tack and have started work on sample chapters and an outline for an entirely new adult thriller. But to be honest, my heart still beats strong for Blown Away. My fingertips are poised to launch into the second book in what I hope will be picked up as a series. Time will tell...

How does my work differ from others of its genre and why do I write what I do?

In terms of writing crime, I try to meld well-crafted prose with snappy dialogue and a plot that moves at a blistering pace. There’s no doubt that my tastes are commercial as a reader and my writing is too. I want to thrill. I want to be thrilled. I like to punctuate the darkness with lighter moments. Humour is often frowned upon in the crime genre. But life isn’t like that, is it? Even in the midst of tragedy and horror, life is full of those darkly comedic moments. We can fall in love even when our worlds are crumbling around us. We see it in TV series like, Breaking Bad. Why shouldn’t we read it in novels?

Violence is good in crime, as far as I’m concerned. It ups the stakes. I’ve always been fascinated by chains of events that turn apparently ordinary people into dangerous psychopaths. I’m interested in a serial killer’s modus operandi too. Guns? Strangle and dump, sexually motivated murders? Boring! I strive to make this element in my writing as unconventional as possible.  Best of all, I choose to have really strong, complex characters – many of them women, of course - who are often deeply flawed or anxious beneath their evil or heroic exteriors. I’m interested in blurred boundaries and grey areas. This is what holds fascination for me in life, as it does in fiction.

Different locations and cultures lend a rich, extra dimension to my writing. I have lived abroad and like to travel extensively, finances permitting. The criminal landscape of today is an international one, so why would I ever base an intricately-layered story in just one place? Blown Away is set mainly in Amsterdam, but the action also moves between Heidelberg, London and Cambridge. Writing stories with international reach offers the reader a more interesting journey.

I like to explore racial politics and have at least one major character who is Black or Minority Ethnic. Although I am white, I have a culturally rich, minority ethnic heritage. White, middle class, Anglo-Saxon is not my experience of life, so I write ethnically different characters because they feel familiar.

How does my writing process work?

Well, if I was writing as The Horrormoanal Woman, I would tell you that I wait until I have stinking PMT and get pissed off about something and then I compose a rant. Then I go through it and inject some laugh-out-loud bullshit observations and phrases, which makes me seem a little less like a homicidal old bag with an axe to grind. Writing seriously as Marnie Riches...? Not much different! In savouring the melodrama of life, stories come to me fairly thick and fast. I select the more compelling ideas. Initially, I might do an outline that is about four pages long, before embarking on the manuscript. First, I’ll write a rough draft. I’ll think it’s the best thing I ever wrote. Then I’ll realise it’s cobblers and the characters are thin. Then, I’ll do a second and third draft until it’s better and about five times longer and full of swearing and nookie (which is one of my favourite things to write – always nice to deposit new thoughts in the wank bank - and one of the most excruciating things to have other people read) and really horrible violence. Now, it’s definitely the best thing I ever wrote. By this stage, my agent might tell me it’s still shit, except he wouldn’t actually say “shit” but something like “needs a bit more thought”. I might throw a paddy in the privacy of my own home but I will listen to good advice, go back and take a machete to as much of the text as needs be, rewrite it and finally, produce something good. Maybe. Until the next draft. And most of the nookie and swearing will have gone, because reasonably well-behaved and professional, Marnie Riches is more likely to sell lots of books than that filthy cow, The Horrormoanal Woman.

So, that’s your lot. Watch out for news on Blown Away...

Now, I’ll pass the blogging baton onto two real stars

First, the tremendously inspiring and energetic Martin Ed Chatterton - a fellow north-westerner who shares my passion for crime writing, children’s fiction and general interest in world-domination.

Martin Ed Chatterton has been illustrating and writing for thirty years. His children’s books have been published in more than a dozen languages, and have won or been shortlisted in awards in the UK, US and Australia. Mort, his time-travel series is in production as a TV series by Endemol Australia. As ‘Ed Chatterton’, he writes dark crime fiction. He is currently combining writing his PhD with co-writing a children’s book with James Patterson.

...and secondly, the novelist, Emma Jane Unsworth whom I met a while ago through a mutual friend and who shares my keen interest in drinking and swearing. Her word-wrangling is both elegantly executed and funny.

Emma Jane Unsworth's first novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for the Portico Prize 2012. Her short story 'I Arrive First' was included in The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt). Her second novel Animals will be published by Canongate in May. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Women over 40 - improving like strong cheese.

There was a thing going round on Facebook this week. You of those quotes from someone I’ve never heard of that rang true and everyone I know ticked “Like”. It was about women over forty, but the wisdom had been espoused by a man. Though I agreed with it all, I think it should have come from a shouty woman, who is actually 42 AND HAS FUCKING PMT THAT COULD TAKE OUT HALF OF CENTRAL ASIA.

So, here are the facts, in no particular order, on behalf of women like me. I know there are lots of us out there. And if you don’t agree with us, we don’t give a flying fuck, because they’re OUR facts, not YOUR facts:

1. Most of us have shat children out of our foofs. Don’t mistake this for weakness. We gave life. We are God’s emissaries on earth. 

Think carefully before you say whether it looks big in this or not
2. If we say our arses are fat, it’s because our arses are currently fat. We do not have self esteem issues. We just like wine and crisps and sit on our arses a lot doing clever things. But please note, just because we say it, doesn’t mean you are allowed to agree with us.

3. Many of us work. Some of us have been self-employed for years. We are successful, ruling entire families like benevolent dictators. We are used to being our own bosses, so don’t think we’re hoping you’ll help/participate/let us out in traffic. We are expecting you to do our bidding. Our cars are bigger than yours. Fucking move it!

4. We don’t play mind games because we don’t have to. We ask for the things we want, praise the things we love, drop the shutters fast on people who disappoint us and God help anyone who really gets on our tits. 

5. We don’t need to be told how intelligent or impressive we are, because we have a raft of qualifications that prove how intelligent and impressive we are. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy being told how intelligent and impressive we are, so SAY IT, MOTHERFUCKER! 

6. We don’t need to be told that we’re attractive. We’re very comfortable in our own skin. But we do enjoy being told. Follow the previous instruction.

Seriously? Fatal Attraction was not a documentary.
7. We have love, energy and enthusiasm in abundance. If you are nice, we will share them with you. See point number four. This does not mean that we are going to eat you/boil bunnies/start crying at 4am, clutching an empty bottle of gin. Although if you are not nice, we might well eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

8. We are human. We have piles and fart and belch after meals. We like to talk about ailments. We don’t care if you find this unpleasant. We like to talk about masturbation and our enjoyment of sex, which should raise the roof if you’re doing your bit properly. We make no apologies when we forget to shave our legs and armpits. We have 1970’s lustrous pant-shrubbery. Deal with it.
If we wanna rock a Brian Blessed on the beach, we will.

9. We’re not domestic drudges. If you’ve been treating us like that, we’re angry now, so get some fucking life insurance.

10. We are not your mother. You already have a mother. Never confuse us with her. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Beeny, Brits and sore bits

I started a blog post about the Brits, but then, because lady holes are too close together and I am stressed off my tits, I got a bladder infection. It’s hard to blog when you’re pissing razor blades. It’s hard to do anything when your brain is comprised mainly of mashed potatoes. And mine is... 

I have a project to extend and renovate my house that is already six months behind schedule. My house, in case you missed previous posts, is a shithole, made mainly from brightly coloured sanitary ware and broken 1980’s kitchen in dark oak, where the cupboards smell ominously of fish.
My luxus kitchen, where the best worktop is a box with a chopping board on top.
In my house, an old woman called Beryl was found not alive. In my bedroom, in fact. So now, I call the place Dead Beryl’s house, because it belonged to Beryl and she is dead. Admittedly, she is the best work colleague I’ve ever had (I work from home). Dead Beryl never argues or gives me the finger behind my back or pisses on the toilet seat. Although I suspect her life of muesli abuse has caused the toilets to growl when you flush.

See? Sarah Beeny looks cool in a hard hat. I just look a helmet.
But that’s OK, because I’m going to be extending and renovating the house imminently and the very awesome Sarah Beeny is going to document my nervous breakdown for posterity on her show, “Double Your House for Half the Money.” If only I could underpin my comparatively lacklustre boobies as well as the house foundations. Perhaps The Beeny will have some tips... Men: I said tiPs!
Pay attention!

Behold, the glory of my tower of soup! Eat your heart out, Bernard Black.
I’ve also gone partially deaf because of Dead Beryl and her dust-encrusted curtains, which look like a cross between a magic-eye poster from the early ‘90’s and an old lady’s floral underpant with extra large crusty flowers for the myopic and hygiene-challenged. Plus, I’m still writing and hotly pursuing literary stardom like a stalker with furtive words in my flasher-mac pocket instead of a gun or a schlong. This comes with its own challenges, like realising you’re sick of just being the person who washes the skanky undercrackers and makes nutritious food that only looks a bit like vomit and which everyone just consumes with no real appreciation of the effort that went into any of it. 

So, folks, there’s a storm raging in The Horrormoanal Woman’s head. Some call it a mid-life crisis. I call it an epiphany. 2014 will be a year of metamorphosis for me.  And yes, I’ve started liking the things young people like again. It can’t be long before I try to squeeze my sausage meat legs into hotpants or something similarly embarrassing for my family.

Aw, Katy Perry. You look reet bonny in that uniform.
Anyway, back to the Brits: After years of moaning that any new band to emerge in the last ten years is a bag of arse, I found myself enjoying about 40% of the music at the Brit Awards 2014. I already liked Arctic Monkeys, but this time, unlike when I watched Glastonbury last summer, I liked other things too. For instance, I enjoyed Bastille a bit, and it wasn’t just because I wanted to touch the singer’s head. And I enjoyed that band with the warbly, big-haired bird, Rudy Mental. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Katy Perry missed her opportunity to stack shelves in Asda.  To my jaded old eyes, One Direction looks like a bunch of idiotic little scrotes, gurning and churning out pop with more synthetic composition than orange squash from a pound shop. I still think, when Alex from Arctic Monkeys gave that rambling acceptance speech about rock and roll and sludge and glass ceilings, he sounded like my eight year old off his nuts on blue Smarties. Having said that, he did come up with better pissed-up sound bites than my stock Drunken-Lady-Viking witticisms of: “where’s the bucket?” and “get help”.
When I get drunk, I do this, rather than come up with quotable soundbites. That's why I write and am not a pop star.
But generally, the Brits was great. I actually got sweaty palms in a good way when Grimmy snogged James Corden. BeyoncĂ© looked like a really nice bottle of Gordon’s gin in that sparkly dress.

So, I’m coming round to the idea of new things being okay. Maybe a new me could be okay too, then. Time to ditch the anorak and council estate hair? Maybe...

Monday, 11 November 2013

Christmas Parties - ho ho f*cking ho!

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas parties. When I was in paid employment, works’ dos always filled me with consternation... 

Apparently, it is not de rigeur to piss oneself at the office party.
On the one hand: How and why should you endure hours of enforced frivolity, whilst sitting next to or opposite someone you fucking hate? Surely, everyone knows how it feels to look at the cheap, sweet cooking wine and think, if I don’t drink this, I am going to die to death of brain deflation. If I do drink this, I am going to tell Mr. Sweaty Knob Cheese and his over-inflated, ego-inflicted side kick, Miss Hoity Toity Pointy Tits exactly what I think of them. We’ve been there, many times, haven’t we? Looking down at your poorly cooked turkey and stuffing, pondering how you could be at home, snorting supermarket own brand gin; having farting competitions with your other half whilst watching Grand Designs and writhing with semi-sexual anorak envy at Kevin McCloud’s McMurdo parka. 

As you can see, I don't like to overdress at parties but I do shave.
On the other hand: This is the offer of a NIGHT OUT. Shoreleave from HMS Parenthood and Grand Designs. Of course you’re going to fucking go! For once, you can take off the thermal vest that is starting to get stiff under the armpits. Kick off those disintegrating slippers! Do your roots! Shave your cleavage! Take a chisel to the kid-puke stains on your favourite coat! So, you shoehorn yourself into something ill-fitting and sparkly, that looked good when you lost all that weight four years ago. You slide your crispy trotters into the fuck-me shoes that make your arches sting and require you to use the short arse in the office as a walking stick. You put on your best knickers and the bra that aren’t grey with perished elastic. 

And what happens?

It’s a disaster, because your boss expects you to be nice to Hoity Toity and the Knob Cheese. You have to do Secret Santa and buy the bastards something witty, like a tartan scarf with a depressed cat ironically embroidered onto it instead of depleted Uranium and a Jaegermeister bottle full of Harpic 100% Limescale Remover. Then come the crackers. As if wearing a brightly coloured paper hat and reading out remedial jokes isn’t denigrating enough when you do it with your family. Now, you have to do it in front of the accounts manager, who hasn’t stopped looking at your saggy, lacklustre boobies for the last twenty minutes.
You CAN polish a turd! Treat spotty Gail to some of this.
Maybe....maybe you’re obliged to dance and you forget yourself. Twerking to Slade, because it reminds you of the time when you didn’t need gastro-resistant capsules or cod liver oil. And now your pile has come down and you’ve left a little trail of soggy arse-maltesers on the dancefloor because your pelvic floor collapsed in 2005. Maybe, you have to make a quick getaway before you have a complete prolapse into Goolie Julie’s clutchbag or you accidentally tell the boss that he/she is a humourless, tedious cock gobbler of epic proportions that even cooking wine or scribbling out his/her face with permanent magic marker won’t temper or repair.

So, my fine friends, the trouble with Christmas parties is not Noddy Holder or my Father-in-Law scratching his ear flakes at the dinner table. The trouble lies with me. When I had them, I hated them. Now that I’m self-employed and don’t get invited to any, everyone else’s seem to be wonderful, exotic functions. For yet another year, I shall therefore sit, festering in the shadow of my sticky laptop, festooned with ironing and peeling Dead Beryl wallpaper, wondering that invitations to glamorous events simply do not land on my door mat. But once they do start to come my way again, it will be good, for lo! They will be literary parties, where my modus operandi of getting horribly drunk really quickly, talking bollocks at a deafening volume and then mooning at people I’m not very fond of or flashing a tit at those I am will blend in seamlessly with the other quasi-alcoholic sociopaths. But for now, perhaps it’s better I stay at home this year. Again...
Remember! Beer goggles are an essential Christmas party accessory.