Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lisa Gardner is a bit like Yvonne Walus, right?

Lisa Gardner writes thrillers as herself and romances as Alicia Scott. I love her already! She can be funny (see her Writing Day), she can be heart-breaking (and that’s the thrillers, not the romances). Her dialogues rock. Her characters are so real I feel I know them personally, even if they are tertiary ones like Miss Patsy from Live To Tell. And her plots keep you glued to the pages way, way, way past bedtime.

I’m listening to one of her thrillers in the car this week. In the morning, I can’t wait for my daily commute to work. Weekend tomorrow. Drat.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Operation Genocide - a timeless thriller

An inhuman agenda… 

Annette Pretorius lives a life of privilege, but when her husband is murdered, she discovers a shattering secret: he’d been commissioned by the government to develop a lethal virus. 

A clandestine organization… 

The murder came with a warning to Annette from a secretive organization: keep our secrets or you too will die. Captain Trevor Watson, Annette’s former boyfriend, is appointed to lead the investigation. Watson’s loyalty is tested as the evidence stacks against his high school sweetheart. 

And the killing isn’t over yet… 

When the investigation points in a terrifying direction, Annette and Watson face a wrenching choice: protect those they love or sacrifice all to save innocents from extermination.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Interview with Yvonne Walus

(This was an interview I did for one of the pupils in an Auckland Intermediate school.)

What advice would you give any young reader with publishing dreams?
A: Think very carefully why you want to write a book. Is it for money or fame? Chances are, you won’t get either. Approximately a million books get published every year in the USA alone, not counting England or Australia or New Zealand. Your book will be one of the million. You will have to be both extremely good and extremely lucky to become a bestseller.

If you want to write for the sheer pleasure of writing, though, go ahead. You’re a real writer.

What inspired you to write your first book? 
A: I’ve always had a burning urge to write. I wrote letters to my friends (who sat next to me at school), I wrote poetry, I wrote short stories. Books were a natural progression from that. My first book was a murder mystery, because that’s the genre I enjoyed reading. I wanted to be another Agatha Christie. Now that I read thrillers, of course, I want to be anther Lee Child.

Do you have a specific writing style?
A: My writing style is chatty rather than formal, hopefully with a touch of humour. I try to make my writing beautiful and unique. For example, why write: “He circled an ad in the Classified section”, when you could instead say something like this: “The crayon moved down the page. Red, livid, ready. Spread on the table, splayed open like a sacrifice, was the Classified section of the New Zealand Herald. He could’ve found the information faster online, but the risk of leaving an electronic trail made him turn to the old fashioned, the tactile, the untraceable.

How did you come up with the title? 
A: My first murder mystery was called “The butler did it”. I thought it was funny, as there was no butler in the story. But the publisher changed it to “Murder @ Play” because the phrase “murder at play” can mean different things to different people, and the @ symbol was important because the killer was caught using computer technology.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
A: Always. In my opinion, if a book has no message, what’s the point of reading it?

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? 
A: Let me see. I never base my characters on a specific person, because they could sue me if I said something they didn’t like. But sometimes I get inspired by real-life people. In one of my murder mysteries, the victim was someone very much like an ex-boss of mine. I must say, I enjoyed writing that book probably more than I should have.

you got to choose a current author as your mentor, who would it be?
A: One of the bestselling thriller writers, like Tess Gerritsen or Lee Child.

What book are you reading now? 
A: A thriller by a South African writer called Deon Meyer. And a parenting book titled “Taming the Tiger Parent”.

What are your current projects? 
A: I’ve written a thriller set in Auckland, and my agent likes it very much but would like me to do some revisions. While doing that, I’m also plotting my new thriller set at a boarding school. Oh, and not to forget that travel article about Singapore that I have to submit to a magazine. J

Do you see writing as a career? 
A: Definitely. It’s something I take as seriously as my day job, even though it doesn’t pay as much.

Who designed the covers? 
A: Publishers employ graphic artists to do it for us. They are expert at making sure the cover looks good as a small image on the computer screen at as well as on a paper book.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? 
A: It’s always the first page, the first chapter, the first half. The more you get into your book, the easier it becomes.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 

A: My books are unique because I make sure the setting plays a crucial part in the plot. You can’t take a book of mine set in South Africa and rewrite it so that it now happens in New York. Can’t be done. It’s like you can’t set The Hunger Games in Auckland.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Suspicion - Joseph Finder

"Suspicion" by Joseph Finder is the first thriller I've read by this author, but it won't be the last. I really enjoyed the quick pace and the twisty plot of this one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writers' Bar at the Singapore Raffles Hotel

'Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic East.' 
~ Somerset Maugham

What writer could resist drinking in the same spot that must have witnessed a tipsy Kipling, a maudlin Maugham, a depressed Conrad? What writer could pass up a chance to stay a night in the same hotel that was once upon a time graced with Pablo Neruda and James Michener? What writer wouldn't be seduced by a hotel that has a historian of its own? (Leslie Danker has been with the hotel for more than 40 years, and even has a book to his name, Memoires of a Raffles Original.)

And so, in mid-January 2015, I had the honour of adding my name to the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Nelson Mandela, Kate Middleton (as well as her less-famous husband). I'm not sure how they spent their time at the Singapore Raffles Hotel, but I ordered a Singapore Sling: a cocktail invented in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel as a ladies’ drink. Today, the Sling is the signature drink of Singapore Air and is enjoyed by men and women alike. The ingredients, as revealed by the Raffles Hotel include: gin, cherry brandy,  pineapple juice, lime juice, Cointreau, Dom Benedictine, Grenadine, Angostura bitters, topped off with a slice of pineapple and Maraschino cherry. 

The Raffles Hotel also comes with its own unique stories, pure magic to a writer's ear. Did you know... that in August 1902 a live tiger was found under the Bar & Billiard Room? Or that during World War 2, the silver beef wagon from Raffles Grill was buried in the Palm Court to save it from wartime looters, and was later recovered to be still used in the restaurant to this day? Or that Noel Coward played the part of Captain Stanhope in `Journey’s End’ while staying at the Raffles in 1930? Or that the now-majestic Raffles Hotel opened its doors on 1 December 1887 as a 10-room bungalow on the beach front? (Today, the sea has been reclaimed as land and the beach is a good block away.)

Rooted in history, the Raffles Hotel is an oasis of authenticity among the desert of modern artificiality that is Singapore today. Don't get me wrong, as a piece of contemporary architecture, the Marina Sands Bay Hotel is an impressive building, with its three towers and an infinity pool shaped like a boat on the 57th floor. But go inside, and it's a sausage factory primed to process tourists as fast and as anonymously as possible. In comparison, the Raffles is bathed in history, the Raffles is synonymous with opulent personalised service, the Raffles has a soul.

My stay here is one of my favourite memories. And I will be back.

PS: If you look at my blog's tagline, you'll see it starts with: "Have you ever noticed how the good things start with the letter S? Sex, scuba diving, sleep, single malt and Saturdays. " I can now proudly add Singapore's Raffles Hotel to the list of the best things in life.

The Raffles Hotel, Singapore

The Sling at the Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel, Writers Bar

Raffles Hotel, the lobby

Raffles Hotel, a closer look at the lobby

High tea at the Raffles

Raffles Hotel, one of the suites

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Die Again

It was strange reading Tess Gerritsen latest Die Again: (Rizzoli & Isles 11) while visiting South Africa, as a lot of the action is set in the Cape and Botswana. Loved it all the more for it. For the traditionalists, relax, Boston still features in a major way. You will love the plot, its twists and turns, you will love the character development. While the mystery is solved, Dr Isles still has some stuff to figure out in the next book. Can't wait!