Thursday, 19 May 2016

Mystery & Mayhem Blog Tour: Robin Stevens

Welcome to my stop on the Mystery and Mayhem blog tour! I'm delighted to be bringing to you a guest post from one of my favourite authors Robin Stevens on the origins of her short story The Mystery of Room 12.


The Origins of ‘The Mystery of Room 12’ by Robin Stevens 

Sometimes, stories just happen to you.

In spring last year I travelled to St-Annes-on-Sea for Storytellers Inc’s Midsummer Mystery festival. I knew I had a short story to write for a mystery anthology I was working on at Egmont, but I hadn’t been able to find inspiration for it yet. I wanted to challenge myself by creating something contemporary – after four books, the 30s felt dangerously comfortable, and I wanted to make sure I was actually capable of writing a detective story in a world with iPads and smartphones and Google. But where should I set it? And what could it be about?

It should have occurred to me that St-Annes-on-Sea was probably by the sea – but, somehow, what I found when I stepped off the train was a complete surprise. A miles-long expanse of beach and sky, beautiful but with a slightly eerie, off-season loneliness of it as the sun began to set, and one single donkey plodding along very slowly, far out on the sand. I stood and stared at it, and I thought to myself, this is a place that someone could get lost.


I wheeled my suitcase along the row of beachfront hotels until I found the one I’d been booked into. It was tall and white with elegant windows, like something from an episode of Poirot. And I suddenly realised that I wanted to set my story in a hotel, in a seaside town just like this one.

I went up the steps, and pushed open the front door. The hall was empty, the front desk lit by a big antique lamp with a fringed shade. I went up to the desk and rang the bell – and a gorgeously large and hairy dog leaped up out of nowhere, banged its front paws down on the wood of the desk and panted in my face. A hotel with a dog concierge! I thought. That sounds like the beginning of a story.


By the time I’d been shown to my room, at the top of a winding, narrow set of stairs, hung with paintings and lined by statues and figurines and china ornaments, lamps and tables and desks and drawers, the story was alive in my head. My detective would be a little boy called Jamie, who lived in a seaside hotel with his father and his pet dog. And the mystery, of course, would be a disappearing guest. Jamie would be a modern detective, with all of the gadgets of the 21st century at his disposal – but the mystery would still have to be all about careful observation and clever deductions, with three suspects and one bewildering question: what happened to the guest in Room 12?

The idea sat in my head for a month, and then I finally wrote it in August last year. Writing a short story turns out to be very different to writing a novel. A book is a marathon – slow and steady’s the way to go. But short stories are one sprinting burst of inspiration. It took me less than twenty-four hours to write 4,000 words of it – and it turns out that I love writing short stories. You can test yourself, try new things and explore ideas without the pressure of 60,000 words ahead of you. Trying to create a totally new character, too, was harder than I’d expected – I had to make Jamie seem real instantly, and different enough from Hazel, the narrator of my Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, to be believable.

I hope Jamie and his story works – and, from reading the 11 other stories in the collection, I know that it’s in great company. The stories of Mystery & Mayhem are smart, funny, strange and gruesome. I never knew what to expect – and I hope that, when you read them, you’ll feel just as fascinated and delighted by them as I did.

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Blog Tour: Lying About Last Summer

Hi everyone, today is my stop on the Lying About Last Summer blog tour! I have author Sue Wallman on the blog today with a very intriguing post, can you uncover the truth?



Truth or Lie by Sue Wallman 
(A list of things about Lying About Last Summer where some things are true, some things are false but no indication of which is which)

• My character Brandon was named after Brandon Stanton who founded Humans of New York, which I follow on Facebook. I was on Facebook in one of my (many) writing breaks when I was trying to name him.

• When I wrote the first draft of Lying About Last Summer I wrote it in chronological order and didn’t include any flashbacks.

• When Skye and Brandon go orienteering, Skye vaults over a five-bar gate. I used to be able to do that.

• There’s a paintballing scene in the book. I was once hit in the neck by a paintball pellet and had a massive bruise that looked as if someone had tried to strangle me one-handedly.

• I was shown an early version of the cover in black, white and red.

• The epilogue was the quickest chapter to write.

• There’s a farm shop in the book. I had a Saturday job at a farm shop for a couple of years when I was teenager.

• After I’d finished writing the book I read a story in the paper about a grandmother who’d been buried with her mobile. Her granddaughter used to text her to help get over her grief and was stunned when she started getting replies.

• For research I interviewed someone who runs activity camps for teenagers in Scotland.

• My middle daughter helped me get the kayaking scenes right. She’s kayaked for England. 

ANSWERS! (Highlight to see)
My character Brandon was named after Brandon Stanton who founded Humans of New York, which I follow on Facebook. I was on Facebook in one of my (many) writing breaks when I was trying to name him. TRUE – I’m a big fan of Brandon Stanton 

When I wrote the first draft of Lying About Last Summer I didn’t include any flashbacks. TRUE – I misguidedly thought it was frowned on to put flashbacks into young adult fiction 

When Skye and Brandon go orienteering, Skye vaults over a five-bar gate. I used to be able to do that. TRUE – I used to get a real kick out of doing this 

There’s a paintballing scene in the book. I was once hit in the neck by a paintball pellet and had a massive bruise that looked as if someone had tried to strangle me one-handedly. FALSE – I’m too much of a wimp to go paintballing 

I was shown an early version of the cover in black, white and red. FALSE – I only ever saw the finished cover and as far as I know there wasn’t one in black, white and red 

The epilogue was the quickest chapter to write. TRUE – it just all came together really easily (the only part that did) 

There’s a farm shop in the book. I had a Saturday job at a farm shop for a couple of years when I was teenager. FALSE – when I was a teenager I worked in a café and the local post office, and I was also a chambermaid 

After I finished writing the book I read a story in the paper about a grandmother who’d been buried with her mobile. Her granddaughter used to text her to help get over her grief and was stunned when she started getting replies. TRUE – the grandmother loved her mobile so much she’d been buried with it. Then O2 reassigned the number to someone else and when the granddaughter texted the number to feel close to her nan, the man who’d acquired the number texted back as a prank. 

For research I interviewed someone who runs activity camps for teenagers in Scotland. FALSE – I based the camp on a mix of activities my daughters had done, trips they’d been on, and internet research 

My daughter helped me get the kayaking scenes right. She has kayaked for England. TRUE – apologies for parental boasting 

 Did you uncover the truth? Make sure you follow the rest of the blog tour!

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