Q1. What, in your opinion, makes a great crime novel? 

A1. Tension is the first thing that grabs me. There are so many ways that this can be done effectively; dialogue, perspectives, pacing, sentence length, which scenes are shown on the page, which scenes are omitted. I’m always won over by a book that has bite and thick, visceral tension – at the moment, I’m working with our brilliant Susi Holliday on her next book called The Hike. It’s about two couples who go hiking in the Alps, but only one returns, and slowly the tragic story unravels. It grabbed me immediately with its fantastic hook and high altitude tension.

 

Q2. What have been some of your favourite novels of the last five years been?

A2. I am obsessed with people-watching – I’m one of those people who loves to walk down the street at dusk and peek at houses with open curtains, like a window into their life. You can see that reflected in what I acquire for Amazon Publishing; I love people-centric thrillers. I love to see the impact of the crimes on relationships and the best and worst of the characters on the page – even better if there’s a personal stake at the heart of the book. Some of my favourites over the last few years have been Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan, The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave, and I Know You by Claire McGowan (Claire’s actually one of the authors I have the pleasure of working with).

 

Q3. What are you looking for in the submissions for the 2021 New Voices Award?

A3. I’m looking for the trifecta of character, pace, and plot, as well as an author’s special ability to create a vivid and real world. I’m [also] keen to see submissions from writers who bring a perspective to the mystery, crime and thriller genre that we don’t usually see, whether that is the cultural background of characters or an exciting setting. 

 

Q4. Do you have any advice on form, style or length?

A4. Keep it short and trust your reader. Don’t feel the need to over-explain. If you know your characters inside out, you know how they would react, the subtleties of their character and their responses, and you won’t need to tell the reader why they are doing what they’re doing. You’ll naturally fall into the age-old wisdom of ‘show and don’t tell’. 

 

Q5. What do you see as the future of fiction writing?

A5. I hope to see yet more experimenting with what can be done digitally, in audio, and in print, to compete with all other forms of entertainment which we sit alongside as an industry. We are fighting for our readers’ attention in a really interesting landscape where there has never been more immediate access to entertainment as there is now. It is important to innovate and really think about what we can do to push the boundaries of what a reading experience can be. This is something I thought about a lot when I worked on the Audible Original team – I worked on non-fiction titles where we ‘borrowed’ elements from other types of audio, so as well as having the structured listen that readers love from an audiobook, we wove through clips of the interviews we were discussing, so they had a podcast feel and made it a more layered and engaging listen. I also worked on Audible’s first fully sound-designed novel, but writing for audio can be as simple as thinking of dialogue or the structure differently as you’re not constrained by what readers see on the page. In print and ebooks, it’s the opposite – you are able to explore visually how the reader consumes your story and you don’t have to handhold as much as you may have to do in audio, because readers can move through your book any way or any pace they like. Readers are becoming more and more format-agnostic. There’s an exciting opportunity to give them a different experience within each.

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