16 October 2014

Andy McDermott - The World of Thriller Writing - 14 October 2014

Andy McDermott

The World of Thriller Writing

Andy McDermott talks about his career as an author of high-octane action novels that are sold worldwide.

Report by Lisa Nightingale.

It was whilst writing film reviews for hugely successful entertainment magazines that Andy McDermott, casual and unassuming best-selling thriller writer became inspired to take the risk of giving up his career to become a writer. “I was tired of writing about other people’s achievements” he said. To the tune of ‘you’ll be writing the review of Trisha’ from his colleagues his motivation was not to return to his employer cap in hand to beg for a return to his job. The writing had to work.

Initially, he began writing anything from ghost stories to comedies in search of his writing voice. This, he found more by accident than design with an almost successful submission of an action thriller. Unfortunately, it fell at the last hurdle and was rejected.

Undefeated, Andy went back to his ghost stories. He was pressed for another thriller by his agent. With a have-it-your-way desperation, Andy amalgamated all his notes and produced, The Hunt for Atlantis. A fantastical archaeological search for a mythical city with larger than life characters. 

Thriller Writer Andy McDermott
 His agent loved it. The publishers loved it. Andy was offered a two-book deal. Celebrations over, he realised he had to write another action thriller using the same characters. So, he raked through his notes intent on finding some snippet that had not already been used. On a small note he found a scribble from Wikipedia that Hercules was the only demigod not to have been dedicated a tomb of his own. And thus book two, The Tomb of Hercules was born.

Andy was offered another two book deal, did the same thing and was offered another two book deal and so on until a five book deal was offered. Andy is now on book eleven of the series and his characters, Nina Wilde the adventurous archaeologist, her husband ex SAS bodyguard Eddie Chase show no sign of slowing down.

Andy was keen to stress that much of his deadline keeping success is his strict, self-imposed timetable. He sticks rigidly to the hours that he worked as a journalist. In the office and writing by 9.00 am. He starts writing his first draft and does not stop until it is finished. Then straight into a process of revisions. The book stays behind closed doors for a couple more drafts. Then it is sent to his editor. Her suggestions have shrunk to almost nothing as, over the years their trust in each other has grown.

Andy has had the same editor since The Hunt for Atlantis (he sincerely hoped someone would have found a better title. But they seemed to like that one) and they have built a good relationship. She is able to advise when Andy has provided too much technical detail, and when more is needed.

With regard to research, Andy spends anything from three to six months on planning. He delves deep into research. Often much of this does not make it into the story, only the answer that he was searching for in the first place. However, he pointed out that often it will come in handy in other parts of the book. With a little embellishment, a story can be ‘hung’ on a tiny detail.

Word count for Andy’s plan is often more than half that of the finished book. In stories like these, it is imperative that the characters remain pro-active. An action sequence needs almost as much planning as the whole book.

Andy is more than happy to accept that his books are an exhilarating mix of facts and flights of fantasy. With each new project, he asks himself – What is the overall story? What is the ‘McGiffin’ that Nina and Eddie will search for? What is the issue that will test their relationship? The answers are then fitted into the time-honoured format of an action thriller. The result is the white-knuckle thriller that keeps Nina and Eddie on their toes.

There is a strong business element to being a best-selling writer. A commercial publishing house will expect a novel that will appeal to the target audience. Andy will often find himself in marketing meetings in London.

When asked what he would write ‘just for fun’ Andy replied; Nina and Eddie stories! 
However, one of the most exciting aspects for Andy was discussing the movie for the whole series with those described as Hot Fuzz.

Good luck Andy!

The AGM Report will follow.

15 October 2014

Thriller Writing Competition Results

Competition Report 14 October 2014

The Competition for October was to “Write the last page of a thriller” in 300 words in 1st person with the entries adjudicated by Paul Bavister.

Paul is a poet who teaches creative writing for Oxford University and at Birkbeck College, London. His publications include: Miletree, Glass and The Prawn Season and his poetry has recently appeared in South, Shadowtrain and The Rialto. 

Unfortunately Paul was unable to be with us last night, but thanks to modern technology he was able to e-mail his adjudications for me to present on his behalf.

In reviewing the entries Paul said that he looked for an original, distinctive voice. The piece needed to be expertly structured, make the most of the form and respond dynamically to the genre.

Paul’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: Emma Rose Hollands, Aftermath
‘“Aftermath” works extremely well, creating a potent scene with concise images while allowing the character to take centre stage. It is a powerful ending, drawing on the past but never allowing analysis to slow the pace. The mobile phone is used effectively to reach out beyond the scene, leading to excellent dialogue.’

2nd Prize: Deanna Scutt, Casting Off
‘The physical and emotional journey away from the island is captured very well in “Casting Off”. The narrator’s thoughts and emotions scream through the mists of a serene scene. The island takes on a life of its own and becomes an extremely effective image to end the piece.’

3rd Prize: Louise Morrish, A Grain of Truth
‘This successful piece of writing portrays the absolute hopelessness of the main character. The questions asked show a trapped mind reaching out for a way to escape, making the final image particularly striking - dark and engaging piece of writing.’

Highly Commended: Lin Knott, Finale
‘“Finale” is a powerful piece that captures the bitterness and questioning mind of the narrator. Their anger and confusion is portrayed particularly well.’

Highly Commended: Elizabeth Wald, Seeing Red
‘“Seeing Red” is a well-structured ending that effectively outlines the emotional sweep of the character’s situation. The hopeful final lines make a successful contrast to what has gone before.’

1st prize winner Emma Rose Hollands and 3rd prize winner Louise Morrish

Deanna Scutt 2nd Prize winner
 Prizes, Awards and Readings:
The prizes were signed copies of Andy McDermott’s books, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication from Paul Bavister. The winning entries are shown below:

1st Prize: Aftermath - Copyright © Emma Rose Hollands, 2014

Minutes passed. Maybe half an hour. I lingered outside the cemetery gates and stared at the way I had come.
The stone path was muddied with the weight of my footsteps. Silence all around me. The ominous silhouette of the church loomed in the distance, unchanged. I don’t even remember walking away from it. All I recall is sensing a numbness flowing inside me, bleaching my mind. No guilt. No shame. Just the company of the wind caressing my recently shredded trench coat and bloodied hands.
 I had done what I had to do. So, why did I feel nothing?
Gradually, I dragged my gaze away from the path and up to the heavens. Overcast, strips of early morning light poking through the clouds. The rain had stopped falling. Somehow the world seemed bleaker in its ignorant regularity. Had it always been this way?  From my pocket I took out my phone, the blood rubbing onto the silver casing. My eyes were fixed upwards. I couldn’t look away from those strips of light.
My fingers knew the rhythm. I had no control. 0-7-7-8-9-6-7-5-4-3-2-5. Ring. Ring. Somehow, I felt the chill of my phone resting against my ear.  I don’t remember moving it from my side.
Click. Heavy breathing, accompanied by the sound of splashing puddles, filtered through the speaker. “Larry!” cried Jacob, “Larry, thank God. Where are you? Me and the boys are looking for you.”
“I know.”
The splashing on the other end stopped. Breath in, breath out. He was waiting for me. A lump formed in my throat, choking my words. A renewed speck of rain fell from the sky. A better world, I thought. I’ve made a better world. I closed my eyes, took a final breath.
“It’s over, Jacob,” I whispered. “It’s finally over.”

2nd Prize: Casting OffCopyright © Deanna Scutt, 2014

There is mist on the lake as the boat chugs away from the jetty, and Cassidy huddles back from the spray, wrapped up in a blanket and shock. She has said nothing since we left the cabin, and my own silence remains unbroken. I stay focused on the oil-dark ripples that undulate before us. My hands are locked around the tiller; I have to stop myself before I draw blood from my palms.
            A handful of swans make a slow parade past us, and are swallowed by the rolling grey expanse that is spreading across the water.
            It is dawn, somehow, but I remain in the darkness. I can still hear footsteps running through the trees, and Amelia’s blood is so obvious on my shirt that I can almost feel her heartbeat, still singing in her chest. The breeze is her voice, chasing me for the last time, and I turn my face towards it, almost smelling the melancholy lilies of her perfume.
            Cassidy doesn’t look at me, and I don’t acknowledge her.
            There’ll be an inquest when we get to the mainland, so we’ll have to corroborate our story, make the twisted pieces fit, but for now we remain divided. Surviving seems to have pressed us so close together that we are pushing each other away, desperate to be alone, or one of the corpses, still strewn on the island like castaway dolls.
            I can’t stop myself. My neck strains, looking back, but our misery is a silhouette, looming above the wet smoke that stretches towards us. I watch the trees’ black shapes fade into silver and ash.
            The island and the past are engulfed, both swallowed by the white mist that has descended to clean the world. Even as I try to hold the image, it ghosts away.

3rd Prize: A Grain of Truth – Copyright © Louise Morrish, 2014

We are but grains of sand in the vastness of the Universe.
       My father’s voice comes to me from nowhere, as I sit and stare at the peeling, diseased walls. The air is stagnant, a fetid stench coming from the filthy bucket in the corner. Beyond the locked and barred door, I can hear muted shouts and thumps and the clash of keys.
       I’m on my own now, a single grain of inconsequence in this corrupt country, trapped forever in the shifting sands of its judicial system.
       One tiny clue, one miniscule speck of evidence, that’s all it took to bring down everything. The knowledge that I failed makes my bones ache, my head throb. To know that I will end my days here, far from home, in this godforsaken place, makes me long for my gun.
       If my father was here with me, then I might just survive this. He was not above bribery or, failing that, brute force. But what’s the point in wishing for the impossible? He is gone, and my last chance with him. All that’s left is the prospect of oblivion.
       I close my eyes and picture Dad’s laboratory, the microscopes and petri dishes, his pristine white coat hanging from a hook behind the door. What will happen to all his equipment and specimens now, who will take them away? The police? The government? Will they use or destroy what they find? My stomach gives a sickening lurch, as I realise I will never know.
       A faint buzzing sound is coming from somewhere above me, near the one small, high window in this cell. I crane my neck, and see a tiny, frantic bee. Again and again, it collides with the dirty, opaque glass, desperately trying to find a way out.
       Give up, I whisper.

In Conclusion:
We would like to give our thanks to Paul for doing such a splendid job of adjudication, especially as there were sixteen entries this time. The competition for November is:

“Write the first page of a historical novel” 300 words.

The main speaker for the evening will be author and teacher of creative writing Judith Allnatt, adjudicator TBA. 

 Please email to the Competition Secretary, Jim Livesey competitions.hwsAThotmail.com
by noon (GMT)1st November 2014. (please replace AT with @)

Please read HWS Competition rules

10 October 2014

Thriller Writer Andy McDermott 14th October

Hampshire Writers’ Society next event
14th October, 2014 at 7.15pm

International Bestselling Thriller Writer
Andy McDermott

Photo: This time next week international, bestselling author Andy McDermott will be joining us at the society and we just can't wait! 

Andy McDermott, author of the Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase thrillers will be speaking about his career as an author of high-octane action novels that are sold worldwide. His novels have been sold in over 30 countries and 26 languages across the globe! 

Join us for wine and soft drinks from 7pm in the Stripe Building, University of Winchester and settle in for a action-packed talk!

For more information visit http://www.hampshirewriterssociety.co.uk/p/programme-20122013.html
Best-selling author of the Nina Wilde / Eddie Chase thrillers.
Kingdom of Darkness, The Valhalla Prophesy 
At The Stripe Theatre,
University of Winchester
Sparkford Road, Winchester, SO22 4NR

The World of Thriller Writing

Andy McDermott talks about his career as an author of high-octane action novels that are sold worldwide.
Special Guest:
Joanne Bird, Head of Learning and Skills, HMP Winchester:

There will be a brief AGM at 7.15pm before the main programme of the evening begins at 7.30pm

HWS members & students free. Visitors £5
Membership £30 for the season
 Wine & soft drinks available
Visit the book stall with Andy McDermott’s books for sale and signings after the talk.

Write the final page of a thriller. In the first person,  300 words, double-spaced.
  Now closed for entries.
Paul Bavister, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, published poet, and ex-literary editor.

Visit Andy McDermott’s website to find out more about his thrillers