A Rundown Pier

Last month, I received a professional critique of my current novel in progress and I’ve done some work on the opening section.  In the original story, a group of music students go to study at an old Hall in the countryside where events spiral out of control.  The editorial report contained a number of suggestions, including the subject of scene setting – for instance, I have should have a more contemporary setting because an old Hall in the country doesn’t work well in Young Adult Fiction.  Also, the material dealing with classical music (in particular, piano) seemed too technical and the Reader couldn’t sense the relationship between the central character and their love of music (or lack of).  In the new draft, the central character has grown up in a tough area of London but has managed to avoid trouble…then, he makes a decision that has repercussions for several years.

Much of the scene setting takes place around a rundown coastal town:

The sky’s tinged with angry colours, like a bruised arm, and a gust comes straight at me from the sea, sending a shiver through me. I pass the old fairground, no longer in use, and the seafront café – basically, an egg and chips place with an ice cream sign round the front. Inside, a sprinkling of customers sit alone at tables, hunched over newspapers.

Amusement arcade. I hear the clatter of coins and the squeal of electronic beeps from the machine. Voices close by. Cigarette smoke. I spot a couple of guys in army-style trousers leaning over the railings, smoking, talking.

The army-style clothing gives him away.  

He turns round. His eyes widen in surprise: what are you doing here, mate?

He puts a finger to his lips: leg it. He’s just threatened some bloke for looking at him.

The other guy turns round then.

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

Local Newspaper, Local Author Interview

Twelve months have passed and I’ve appeared in The Archer again, the local East Finchley and Muswell Hill newspaper.  You can find the original article here.

A teenager’s search

Muswell Hill crime writer Lawrence Estrey has published a second novel, this time delving into the dark and desperate
world of a teenage boy searching for the fatherwho abandoned him.

Last summer, Lawrence (pictured right) self-published his first book Secrets, an adult psychological thriller. The new novel, called EggHead, is targeted at a young adult audience. Lawrence said: “I completed EggHead in about nine months and found that my previous experience with my debut novel helped when it came to
structure and planning.

“However, I found  the writing process draining at times, particularly when it came to depicting the bleak and lonely coastal surroundings that make up some of the setting, and I would sometimes consider abandoning
the story.”

Again self-published, EggHead is available on Amazon and Lawrence is already planning to release another novel for young adults.

 

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

A Summer Break

The summer has arrived with scorching temperatures, a welcome contrast to earlier in the year, and I’ve completed the third draft of my latest novel, Silent, a novel for Young Adults (YA).  I will now take a break from the novel and seek independent advice on what to do next.

In Silent, a psychological thriller, five music students come together for a week of piano workshops at Harlesden Hall, a stately estate on the Yorkshire/Lancashire borders, but relations between the five soon get complicated. Central character Gavin (18) suspects that something sinister is going on in the surrounding countryside and he soon finds himself targeted by an unseen stalker. 

At the opening of the novel, five years on, Gavin returns to the area for answers:

I continue on, taking in the air in the hope of catching a scent from those student days of five years ago. A rhythm, the hint of a voice or laughter. Perfume. Her perfume. But I catch only the silence of the fields and the river and the bleakness all around me, the traces of memories and regrets. The overwhelming scent of manure in the air. Thundery clouds reflected in the surface of the river. The silence that is rarely calm.

RIP.

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

The Present Tense In Fiction, Psychological Immediacy

When I first started writing fiction, nearly a decade ago, I tended to favour the omniscient method in which the author not only tells the story but identifies him or herself as the narrator.  Not surprisingly, I preferred past tense to present, and the shift to my current preference of first person narrative in present tense took several years.

Why do I prefer the present tense?  

  • It creates a greater level of psychological immediacy
  • It provides a simpler structure in which to write
  • It helps the author to become aware of redundancies in the writing, for instance “resumed again” – the fact something resumes means it’s happening again, so the second word “again” is unnecessary in the context
  • Back story becomes easier, as the writer can employ simple past tense

What are the cons of using the present tense in fiction, especially with first person?  In my opinion, the writer risks creating too much immediacy, where everything that happens only happens in the central character’s head.  In such instances, the reader can lose the sense of events occurring chronologically. Plus, the intensity can become too much – i.e. all on the same level.

The following is taken from my current novel in progress, a psychological thriller based on a group of music students who take part in a Summer School for pianists.  The central character finds the week particularly difficult due to a failed relationship with a girl on the course.   During the week, the central character becomes increasingly aware of a potentially sinister situation in the surrounding countryside:

I continue climbing and cross a stile where the third dead rabbit lies on the ground.
Step round it.
A branch snaps nearby.
And then another.
I look round again.
Nothing.
Quicken my pace. Reach the next stile. Climb over. Further ahead, a fourth rabbit lies on the ground with its insides ripped out, blood still dripping on the grass.
And then I see something else. A knife on the ground coated with blood and the remains of rabbit.
I leg it diagonally, running as fast as I can.
 
Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Thoughts On A Second Novel

In the weeks following publication of my debut novel Secrets, I wasn’t sure what to do next. Having invested considerable time in writing Secrets, an adult psychological thriller, I couldn’t imagine completing an entirely new novel. It seemed impossible.

Then, about a couple of months later, I started a story about a fourteen-year-old boy who goes looking for his father shortly after his mother’s new boyfriend  moves into their Manchester flat.  Although the central character EggHead doesn’t consciously link the two, his mistrust of his mother’s boyfriend, along with his natural father’s rejection of him, leads him to taking a number of dangerous risks, which eventually rebound and result in him going into care. Three years later, he emerges in a remote coastal resort off the North Sea, cut off from the rest of the family and in considerable danger.  The novel tackles the theme of bullying and addresses what can happen when the recipient of the bullying loses control and retaliates…
 
I completed EggHead in about nine months and found that previous writing experience with my debut novel helped when it came to structure and planning. I enjoyed writing from an adolescent viewpoint, and have been informed that the voice is strong and authentic. However, I found the writing process draining at times, particularly when it came to depicting the bleak and lonely coastal surroundings, and I would sometimes consider abandoning the story. I self-published EggHead at the end of last year, and have just completed a new novel for Young Adults.  It feels strange to be going through the polishing stages again so soon after EggHead.
 
My debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

 

 
 

Upping The Drama With A Fire: A Writing Sample

From the latest novel I’m working on, a psychological thriller:

We’re standing on a narrow path behind the warehouse, in an area with little light, the rustle of wind and flames getting closer, the acrid fumes and heat from the fire permeating the night air.  The fire has spread along the back wall, causing a cloud to mushroom upwards.  Moving away from the building and the possibility of sudden explosion or collapse, we stumble along the narrow pathway in the semi darkness, tramping in broken glass as we make our way to a deserted stretch of road at the side of the building. 

As you can probably see, my intention is to make the scene as vivid and atmospheric as possible. 

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

 

Developing Tension In Crime Writing

Many stories pass through eight stages:

The starting point (“stasis”).
An inciting event (“trigger”).
The central character’s search for an answer, an object or a person (“quest”).
A succession of obstacles preventing the character from achieving their aim (“surprise”).
Decisions the character makes (“critical choice”).
The consequences of the choices (“climax”).
Consequences of climax (“reversal”).
Aftermath/New Stasis (“resolution”).

See more

I’ve reached a critical point in the draft of my latest novel Silent, a psychological thriller set on the Yorkshire/Lancashire borders of UK –  the dramatic peak and where to take it in terms of story content. Some creative writing instructors refer to this stage of the story as the Critical Choice, as the character has to make a choice that will determine the outcome of the quest.  Whatever the case, I’ve been finding the remaining third of the story difficult to shape.

Silent  falls somewhere in between the crossover between teen fiction and adult thriller/Young Adult.  Gavin (18), a classical musician on a prestigious summer school piano course, has got involved with a girl on the course, but has quickly realised the girl’s playing mind games with him.  Nevertheless, he continues in the relationship, thinking he can help the girl.  Meanwhile, events in the surrounding village spiral out of control. The village has a tragic history, including an unsolved serious crime.

 

            ‘You owe me a train ticket.’ 

            Silence.  

            I thought I heard footsteps, then the lights in the main hall went out, and a pair of hands gripped me around the waist, travelling up to cover my eyes. A knee lodged in my kidney, forcing me back, and I found myself half-falling, half thrashing out in self-defence. Shit, he was crazy, far more so than I’d ever anticipated. Totally crazy. Dangerous. I tried stamping on his foot, but he seemed to sense the intended move, and anyway, he had me in an awkward position that prevented me from lifting my foot high.  No good. I couldn’t do the equivalent of playing dead either: pretend to relax, twist into the lock and force him to release me that way.  My only option was to try to protect my head and eyes. Crucial. Yet, I couldn’t even move my arms. Powerless. Like waking up in the middle of a night terror when you can’t move any part of your body. While this was all happening, I realised that there was no one else around. The others had gone off somewhere. Supposing he had a knife. I’d only just turned eighteen. I would die, just like he’d threatened several times in the last couple of days.

            The grip tightened, and another thought struck…supposing this wasn’t him, but the other guy.

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

 

Creative Writing: Linking Emotions And Atmosphere To Solid Objects

In my last article, I blogged about the use of the Pathetic Fallacy in fiction, explaining why I like to see it in some circumstances, especially as it can help develop psychological tension in thrillers.  In particular, I like storm weather scenes as long as they are done properly. I also like the practice of linking emotions to solid objects… for example, (to borrow a bit of a cliché), “the sky stretched endlessly above her, making her feel more alone than ever.”  Certainly, a cliché, but the endless sky does help accentuate the character’s sense of loneliness. 

In the latest writing sample from my current working novel in progress, I take the sense of menace as perceived by the central character a stage further and link it to some real event going on around him, adding the storm as the tension mounts.  The novel falls somewhere in between the crossover between teen fiction and adult thriller/Young Adult.  At this point of the story, Gavin (18), a classical musician on a prestigious summer school piano course, has gone down to the river for the day following complications with a student on the course, Philippa.  The previous  day, Philippa had expressed a romantic interest in Gavin before springing a nasty surprise on him, and Gavin can’t cope with the humiliation.  Note that the village itself has a tragic history, including a unsolved serious crime.

I shivered suddenly and turned round, certain that someone nearby was watching me, but as usual, I didn’t see anyone. I just sensed the person close by but out of reach. Observing me, studying my movements.  The sky changed colour, taking on dark overtones, and a blast of wind charged at me. From the corner of my eye, I caught a flicker of movement, the deft movement of a figure hiding behind a clump of trees, but when I glanced sideward, the figure had gone. Perhaps I’d imagined the figure, the movement. Maybe I’d seen a small animal, a stray dog. But then, I heard the soft crunch of footsteps, just like I had last night on the way down to the abandoned factory, and I hurried on through light drizzle to the main lane near the railway station, looking over my shoulders several times. Again, I detected activity: sudden movement, the blue outline of a rain jacket, the unmistakable silver casing of a cheap digital camera, followed by image shooting sounds and a brief flash. Then, nothing. Just rain.

I hurried up the lane, searching for cover as lightning streaked across the sky, followed by downpour.  Who the hell was the person?  A journalist from some sleazy tabloid?   Shards of rain pelted the ground, stinging my face and hands, and the wind worsened, almost blowing me over.  I ran to the teashop near the Hiker’s Pub and took shelter in there from the weather, ordering lunch and drinking tea while bursts of thunder sounded over area and the rain went grey and wild.

The thunder grew in volume, causing everywhere to shudder almost. The wind blew at fences and the sky kept darkening until it was nearly black, but no figure in a blue rain jacket; and then the teashop door opened and in walked the two squaddie-lads from last night. When they saw me, they exchanged nods. One grinned, the other scowled, and I heard words to the effect of, ‘Get him later.’

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

 

Developing Tension In Fiction, Storms and The Pathetic Fallacy

The Pathetic Fallacy…attributing human feelings and characteristics to inanimate objects, pets, or nature (e.g. the weather).

Clearly, the technique has advantages and disadvantages.  In terms of scene setting and plot, the technique can bring about greater tension and intensity through foreshadowing:  hinting at what is in store.  On the other hand, people can often overuse a technique to the point where it becomes a cliché – hence, lazy writing that reveals nothing new.

I admit to liking the Pathetic Fallacy, especially in regards to stormy weather.  In the sample below from my current novel in progress, central character Gavin (18), a classical musician on a prestigious summer school piano course, has gone off for the day following complications with a girl on the course, Philippa.  Philippa has expressed a romantic interest in Gavin before springing a nasty surprise on him, and Gavin can’t cope with the humiliation. The scene is set in the north of the UK and the thriller falls in two genres; teen fiction and mainstream adult thriller. 

By this time next week, I’ll be back in South London, I told myself as I watched the river. It will as though none of this ever happened. By this time next month, I’ll be getting ready to go to uni to study music. Philippa will have gone from my life totally.

The sky changed colour, taking on dark overtones, and a blast of wind charged at me. I hurried on through light drizzle to the main lane near the railway station, searching for cover as lightning streaked across the sky, followed by downpour.  Shards of rain pelted the ground, stinging my face and hands, and the wind worsened, almost blowing me over. I ran to the tea shop near the Hiker’s Pub and took shelter in there, ordering lunch and drinking tea while bursts of thunder sounded over the area and the rain went grey and wild.

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets by Lawrence Estrey is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

Received this awesome review on my second novel EggHead, a psychological thriller set in the UK.  Teen Fiction/Young Adult:

5.0 out of 5 stars suspense in a grim northen landscape 17 Feb 2013
By ***
Format:Paperback
Egghead is a youngster stranded in a grey windswept northern seaside town. He got involved in something horrible three years before and has had to hide here. We get mysterious glimpses of the past in flashbacks. The scenes are vividly painted and the characters are gradually revealed. You’re kept on edge as the story races on. You can’t put it down. The atmosphere is dark and menacing, and you are swept forward to what seems an inevitable grim conclusion
 
Lawrence  Estrey (lawrenceez)  is a musician and a writer from the UK.    Recently, he published his second novel EggHead, a psychological thriller set in the north of England.  Here, he answers some common questions about EggHead and his life in general:
 
Why did you choose to write teen fiction?    Several reasons.  First of all, my debut novel Secrets contained several scenes told from the perspective of children and teenagers (in this case, a ten-year-old boy and a sixteen-year-old girl), and I’d enjoyed the experience of writing from these perspectives.  
 
Second,  having read a great deal of adult fiction, mostly crime/thriller, I’d observed a type of stalemate situation in the personal lives of the major characters – i.e. they were often disillusioned in some way (especially crime investigators) or recovering from major problems like PTSD. I felt this tendency often created a tired feel, and in many case I would abandon reading a story about half of the way through.  In teenage fiction, however, the protagonists generally have far more energy and are prepared to take all sorts of crazy risks.  That’s what I like the best…craziness, risk taking – plus, raw emotion.
 
Anything of yourself in EggHead?  Not exactly, though I lived in a coastal resort for a few weeks, and like central character EggHead, I wandered around aimlessly during that time. I also drifted into lots of trouble in my teens, so I can relate to some of EggHead’s experiences.  In the story, EggHead is a heavy smoker, just like I was for years and years, but I managed to quit smoking completely while working on the final draft of the novel.  Haven’t touched a cigarette since.
 
Did you find writing a second novel easier?  In certain ways.  For instance, the novel took just nine months to write while Secrets had taken about six years.  In other ways, though, I found the writing far more difficult.  I had higher standards.  I kept going back through the manuscript and pruning, cutting out sections that I didn’t feel were good enough. 
 
Are you working on anything else?   Yes, another psychological thriller about music students set in the north of England.  Like the other two novels, this latest involves an element of cross over with some of the scenes written from the perspective of a young adult and other sections from when he first goes to study in a university environment, aged eighteen. I’m also a musician, having trained in classical piano, and so can relate to a lot of what happens in this next novel.
 

Meanwhile, my debut novel Secrets is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Check out the reviews for  Secrets.

Newspaper article on author.

Local musician publishes crime thriller