Monday, 21 January 2013

The Real New Year's Day

There are a lot of things happening at the moment, for a January.  I say for a January because normally the New Year starts in February. February the 28th to be exact. Why? Because it just does. Honestly. 

Every year I trudge through the weeks after Christmas, ecstatic that it's over and a fresh new year has begun. It's like a new notebook. You now, that orgasmic moment when you pull back the cover and there it is, that fresh clean page facing you, full of possibilities. It could be covered with black fibre-tip letters flowing from a pen to create words of wisdom. Or a list. Yes, how about a list of things to do in January? Or even by the summer. Or if you're feeling really excitable, by next Christmas . Yes, let's write a twelve month list. The best ever.  So I do. Then I look at it, full of excitement at what 2013 brings.

And then the thing happens. The January thing. The cold weather. The dark mornings and wet evenings and sometimes... the snow. Not crisp and white and imprintable, like it is in places like Norway or proper snow countries like that. But slushy and sleety and wet and icy and  ...well just Northern Irish the city.

There's the scraping through the mortgage payments and loading the fridge up with basics. The endless stretch of December's left-over salary, desperate to get through to January's end. And the thrill of the New Year gets parked, in the cupboard, behind the ten cans of baked beans you've just bought.

Then all of a sudden, there it is, February, coming over the horizon. Young and bright and full of Valentine's day and a short four weeks until you get paid, It comes quickly and then, before you've even shaken off January's gloom it's here. February 28th. Bills paid, Christmas debt wiped, home free with fifty quid to spare. The 28th of February. The real New Year's Day.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Interview NIScene

My brilliant interview in NIScene by Tammy Moore. Thanks Tammy!

Belfast author Catriona King’s DCI Craig novels from Crooked Cat Publishing, A Limited Justice and the December launched The Grass Tattoo (read an extract here), combine tightly-plotted crime, a diverse cast of characters and a ‘tall, dark and handsome detective’ in DCI Marc Craig, the series’ eponymous main character. ‘Well,’ King chuckles, ‘you have to have someone to fancy don’t you?’

Set in modern-day Belfast (very modern, each book is released on the date the story starts) the series deals with what King calls ‘ordinary crime’. So, murder, black-mail, extortion – anything as long as it is nothing to do with the Troubles.

‘I wanted a story that could happen in Belfast or in Paris,’ King explains, adding with a grin. ‘Once you’ve changed the place-names and dialects, that is.’

In The Grass Tattoo, for example, the opening pages detail finding the dead body of a local politician’s wife (A fictional party) covered in writing. However, the local politics angle turns out to be a red herring – ‘It’s not what you think it will be,’ King says – and the criminal organisation involved isn’t a local one, but a Russian gang of tattooed criminals called the Vor Y Zakone.

That isn’t to say the novel isn’t distinctly Belfast. The crime might be ‘ordinary’ anywhere, but the setting and characters are unmistakably local. Craig takes a date to a romantic dinner at Deane’s or goes to Love & Death Inc and his team’s fictitious headquarters is set on the real Pilot Street, where King’s grandfather owned a business. Even the MAC, where King launched The Grass Tattoo in December 2012, makes an appearance.

The only time King isn’t punctilious about using real, physical Belfast locations is when she’s killing someone.
‘I was at a reading and someone pointed out one of the streets I used wasn’t real,’ she remembers. ‘I said, “I was killing someone, you wouldn’t want me to leave a dead body on your street would you?”. I know I wouldn’t, so I don’t. Unless it is a public building, that’s different.’

As an author King is also eager to be inclusive of people who don’t belong to the expected, at odds Protestant and Catholic communities.

‘There are a lot of people in Northern Ireland that aren’t solely Northern Irish. There are Polish and Chinese and other communities.’ King points out. ‘My hero is representative of that. His father is from Belfast, his mother is a first generation immigrant from Rome and he went to an integrated school. Neither side can claim him.’

Craig’s first appearance in print is in A Limited Justice, which is also King’s first foray into novel-writing as an adult. Although she always enjoyed writing, and wrote non-fiction for GP magazine Pulse, being a doctor and a Police Forensic Medical Examiner took up a lot of her time. It was only after she came back to Belfast full-time that she started to think about writing again.

‘It was actually three years ago,’ King recalls. ‘My mother was sick and I had taken time off to take care of her. Whenever I wasn’t with her, I worked on A Limited Justice.’

With Craig’s experience working with the police as a Forensic Medical Examiner, and her long-time love of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, the crime genre was an obvious stop for her. However, it might have seemed obvious for her to focus, a la Silent Witness and  CSI on the medical or forensic side of things. Instead, it was the detectives who interested her.

Although, once she tots up the skull-crushings, snipers and carotid occlusions, there is quite a bit of forensic detail included (‘And I made sure that it was all accurate,’ King says).
‘I didn’t want to bog the books down in detail,’ she explains. ‘Sometimes that can turn into showing off what you know, not telling a story.’
The next instalment in the story, and the third book in the series, is due out in March. That means that King has published three books, and written two, in under a year.
‘I love writing,’ she says. ‘If I didn’t have to make a living, I’d do it all the time.’

Fans of the series can also rest assured that King has no plans to make DCI Craig hang up his warrant card just yet. She plans to continue the series for at least another two or three books, and who knows – if they take off she might get her dream casting for her ‘tall, dark and handsome’ detective.
‘Aidan Turner from Being Human and the The Hobbit,’ she grins. ‘He’s still a bit young, but I think he can carry it off.’

Find out more about the series at Crooked Cat Publishing

Thursday, 3 January 2013


HAPPY 2013 everyone

Well the festive season is over and without being a Bah-Humbug I have to say that I'm glad. I've always preferred new years. I'd even admit to being a bit impatient for the 1st January, convinced that something AMAZING is going to happen immediately afterwards. Of course it doesn't, but the anticipation carries me forward cheerfully into the next year ...even the bad weather can't get me down in January.

It's pretty dark and murky here in Belfast but not cold at 12 degrees most days, not like the north-east coast of America ...brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Anyway books-wise. Book Two in the D.C.I. Craig series THE GRASS TATTOO ( see excerpt below) came out on the 11th December in paperback and is doing well with very little marketing, but I really must pick up on that. 

I've been busy writing book three in the series provisionally titled 'The Visitor' due for release in March and writing away on Book four provisionally titled 'The Library Club' .

I've also been contacted about doing an interview here next week which will be fun. So...all in all it's busy busy over here  :)

Here's a little excerpt from Book Two in the D.C.I. Craig series THE GRASS TATTOO

 THE GRASS TATTOO. Modern Belfast 2012 Crime novel out now On Amazon and

'She glanced idly across the elegant square, planning her next coffee break, and noticed a lithely handsome man entering the Metropolitan Arts Centre opposite. Its lean, arrowed stone and glass slotted perfectly into the square’s smooth design.

The man looked...well, she wasn’t actually sure what he looked, but he looked something, and he made her feel shy somehow, without knowing why. Then she realised what it was - he looked arty. Arty men had always attracted her, and made her shy. There was something so uncontrolled about them, and Maggie liked to be in control.'