Today it’s my great pleasure to have as my guest blogger one of the most awesome thriller authors I have the great fortune to know, Zoë Sharp. I just got through reading one of her Charlie Fox thrillers, HARD KNOCKS, and found it such compulsive reading. Charlie Fox isn’t just a bad-ass female protagonist. She’s a lovable, vulnerable bad-ass female protagonist. The plot was a non-stop roller coaster ride of plot twists, action, and complications. I honestly can’t praise the series highly enough.
I’ll remind you that Zoë is giving away a copy of her latest novel, FOX HUNTER, to a randomly-chosen reader. In order to win a signed copy of the US first edition hardcover of FOX HUNTER, all you have to do is mention FOX HUNTER on social media, and email Zoë a screenshot of the mention. Send your social media screenshot to authorzoesharp[at]gmail[dot]com. Emails will go into a draw. But let’s hear from the lady herself! 🙂
Getting Back on the Horse
Writing, it has to be said, does not get any easier the more you do it. (Indeed, in some ways I feel it shouldn’t get any easier. Because if it does that sort of suggests you’ve stopped trying quite so hard.)
Not doing it, on the other hand, makes the whole process far more difficult than it ever was to start with.
I’ve just had a long lay-off from writing, going through a fairly bruising divorce, and I’ve certainly found that getting back on the horse, so to speak, has been one of the toughest things I’ve done.
To continue the equine metaphor, the horse looks friendly enough. No flattened ears and white-of-eye showing. No stamping and snorting and swishing of tail. In fact, everything seems normal and familiar, right up until the moment you climb aboard and pick up the reins, and then nothing works quite as well as you remember it. For a start, the damn animal won’t obey simple commands. It keeps going off in the wrong direction and you can’t persuade it to move at anything more than a v-e-r-y slow amble. Plus, your position feels awful, you don’t know what to do with your hands, and what little style you thought you might have once possessed has utterly deserted you.
For the first time—ever, I think—I missed my deadline. More than once.
It was a pretty dark period, I don’t mind admitting. but it made me really strive to make the new Charlie Fox book as good as I possibly could, even if it felt like I was inching forward one word at a time rather than getting into the flow.
I wanted to break some new ground with FOX HUNTER. So, I took Charlie right off her home territory, into the dusty and dangerous backstreets of Basra and Karbala in modern-day Iraq, then to Madaba in Jordan, and north into the mountains of Bulgaria, with a brief foray onto a rainswept Saddleworth Moor in the UK.
Getting the feel of those places took a lot of work, as did trying to bind together Charlie’s past and future and hopefully leave the reader satisfied at the end of the story.
I realised as I went on that the problem wasn’t that I’d forgotten how to write the book, but I’d lost the confidence that I could finish the book. It’s persistence that drives most writers on—pure, pig-headed, stubborn persistence. I was determined it wasn’t going to beat me and I gave just about everything a try.
I usually set myself a monthly word target, chipping away at so many words a day, but that defeated me. Eventually, I took to hiding away with a notebook and pencil, concentrating on making rough notes on the next scene, and trying not too look too far ahead or worry about targets. It wasn’t quick, but it worked. I’m now experimenting with dictation software to see if that makes any difference.
The book was delivered in two lumps—the first sixty chapters and then the ending. I hope for a kindly reception from my publisher, but they were too busy getting it through edits and proofreading and into production to give me much by way of feedback.
Then, of course, there’s the nail-biting part while you wait for reaction. The first reviews gave me hope—a very positive one from the hard-to-please Kirkus, and a starred review from Booklist. But it’s the reader responses that mean the most. And, so far, so good.
There is a universal thread to them all, though: “Please, Zoë Sharp, don’t make us wait as long for the next one!”
I’ll do my best. But take heart, I’m back on the horse now, and I think I might finally be finding my rhythm again.
Zoë Sharp opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. She began her crime thriller series featuring ex-Special Forces trainee turned bodyguard, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox, after receiving death-threats in the course of her work as a photojournalist. The latest in the series is FOX HUNTER: Charlie Fox book 12. She has also written a standalone, THE BLOOD WHISPERER, and a join novella with espionage thriller author, John Lawton, AN ITALIAN JOB. She is currently working on two new standalones, another Lawton/Sharp collaboration, and a prequel to the Charlie Fox series. www.ZoeSharp.com