Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Proof is in the proof copy!

At last, I have proofs of Starfishing; something that looks like a book that gets sent out to reviewers, as well as to other authors to try to get cover quotes. This is the point where it starts to feel real - that it is a book and is going to be out there soon. The first sales have gone through on Amazon too - I checked the other day and the book has a sales rank now :)

It's hard to read your own book and see anything but the process you've been through. You know it so well at this stage. I do wonder if there ever comes a time when you can read your own book as a reader, in any true sense. I'm not sure; I've had that kind of experience with a few short stories that I didn't read for years but, then I probably never knew any of those as well as I did my novels.

I am reading Starfishing, though. Making what I can of it. And I'm pleased with what I've done. It wasn't an easy book to write. Second novel syndrome hit at various stages and for various reasons. But I got over that, I finished it, and I am very happy with the result. Here's everything crossed that the reviewers are too.

Someone said something very nice to me today about my other book that's coming out next year; The Okinawa Dragon. Five Leaves press are publishing this as part of their Crime Express imprint. I've just sent my latest draft off to the publisher and am waiting on his comments. I have to say this was fun to write. 15 000 words, an unusual length, and to have the opportunity to write something like this to be published as a book is unique and very satifying. Long live small local publishers.

And long live the bigger ones that put my longer novels out there, help me make them read so well, make them look so good, publicise them but, most of all, make them look like a book. I don't think I'll ever get bored with seeing my name on the spine :)

Nicola x

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Possibly the last Killing Jar event?

One thing that has taken me by surprise about being a published writer is how much I've enjoyed the 'being on stage' bit. I didn't think I was a 'being on stage' kinda gell, but it just shows how wrong you can be.

Admittedly, the first couple of shots I had at it, the adrenaline was aflow; my heart still beats fast as I wait for an event to start and prepare myself for a reading. I wouldn't be natural if I didn't feel something at these times. But the shock is that I actually enjoy all of it. Turns out I'm a bit of a show off. This hasn't come as such a surprise to my friends and family - just me lol.

I was at Lowdham today, with crime gents (and prize winners) Chris Ewan and Allan Guthrie. I've read Chris's book, which was very entertaining and original, and I bought two of Allan's today and can't wait to get into them. He's one of the few people I've met along the way who are writing from the same point of view as me; the bad guys. I was into what he said about this, how the psychology of these people interested him more and how he was influenced by noir fiction and movies.

The last two events I've been at have been low key. Intimate, if you like, but it's all exposure and it all builds your profile, of that I am sure. My reading has improved immeasurably since my first time. I finally know how Kerrie's voice should sound out loud and I get into character. Which is a shame really; very soon it will be a different book I'm reading from. Frankie (my main character in Starfishing) has a very different voice, much more similar in tone to my own when I'm not trying to be Nottin-um.

I was struck a little by a strange kind of sadness today. The feeling that I'd been pimping around town with this book just about forever. The understanding that I was heading towards the end of that. I'm excited about the new novel, of course I am. A lot of writers compare putting out novels to giving birth, though I'm not sure it's quite that painful or important. Still, using that image, what's happening to me now is my kid leaving home. She's only two ffs!!! How will she look after hersen?

Time to focus on the new baby, next year, I guess. Or two of them. Or even three... We'll just have to wait and find out.

Nicola x

Friday, 23 November 2007

Blog silence

Apologies for the lack of posting recently. I've had a lot on personally, have been redrafting the Okinawa Dragon, and been working really hard at The National Academy of Writing.

In the words of Arnie, I'll be back.



Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Those of you who read my fiction blog may have noticed that I somewhat lost interest a while ago now. I really tried hard to get back into it, but the 60x60x60 soap I'd set up for myself just wasn't doing it for me. It got so bad that, together with novel finishing, it contributed to me avoiding all of my blogs, and the blogging groups I was a member of too. I just didn't know what to do - I felt somehow that I had failed by not finishing the piece and wanted to bury my head in the sand and forget the blog had ever existed.

Then I came to my senses. The whole point of Shots had been to have some fun with my writing, get playful, and I'd got lost with that aim. So I found the 'delete' button and used the damn thing. I can't say what a relief it was.

The blog is still there, as are the short pieces I posted before the soap thing came along and spoilt it all. And now I feel like I can go back there and start posting again. Yay!

Huge thanks to the people who've been supporting me and encouraging what I was trying to do on Shots. You've been bloody ace and I love you all.


Saturday, 20 October 2007

Catch up

It has been a busy, busy, busy time for me the last few months. I'm gonna do this Reduced Shakespeare Company stylie to catch up.

NAW. 12 new students. Ace. Fiction module starts soon and is gonna keep me busy. External examiner (who is an agent) gave us a good report and we have all sorts of meetings coming.

Went to New York. Met my editor Alexis for the first time (gorgeous she is) Molly my publicist and Nan Graham and other Scribner types and their New York friends, including Alexis's boyfriend Postell, a very cool and funny guy who is an actor and musician. New York was fabulous, the way it always is. Caught up with my old friend Bekah and her new husband Patrick. Went over the bridge to Brooklyn for a reading at the Candy Store (great venue) and to eat Pizza with Laurie Collyer, scriptwriter of the stunning movie Sherry Baby and the (eventually to be I am determined) stunning movie The Killing Jar, and maybe even Starfishing. Watch this space...

Went to Waverton. It was, like, the polar opposite of New York. Award was presented at the golf club, which had been turned into a tribute to the book by organisers Wendy and Gwen. The two ladies and their husbands, the Peters, did us proud with a great night of food, as well as entertainment provided by yours truly :) I stood up and mumbled on about my book for twenty minutes or so and people seemed to like it. The consensus was that The Killing Jar did wonders to win out in Waverton, as there really are residents who will give you a mark of zero for using a four letter word. They can't have voted for me! They certainly wouldn't vote for Starfishing lol. All I can say is well done Waverton for enjoying being outside your comfort zone for the near on three hundred pages of my book. It does you credit.

Birmingham Book Festival madness ensues. I do all night workshops driving around the West Midlands. Yawn. (Not boring but TIRED). Bad cold does not help. Off to Brum again today to perform and record my Radio 4 story. It went down well and made one lady cry. Yay! (Does that sound cruel and heartless lol)

Went to Nottingham Creative Business Awards dinner. Ate great food and enjoyed clapping and cheering as we bigged up our special arty types for what they've been up to of late. Writers Studio did not win. Member of the studio Michael Pinchbeck did, for his play The White Album, which I have not seen but have heard great things about.

Meanwhile have received typset pages for Starfishing and am reading them, as well as putting finishing touches to the Crime Express story The Okinawa Dragon.

Novel number three? I can hear it whispering to me from down the road...

Saturday, 15 September 2007

A thousand words a day...

It's just a good number...

A friend of mine who had been struggling to finish a novel for a while, and had started and stalled with several projects, suddenly overcame the block simply by setting herself this target; a thousand words a day.

I'm going to sound sickening, I'm sure, when I say I've never really had writers' block. I've always managed to write what I've needed to without setting myself targets. I've been able to go when it flowed and do enough to make up for those days when I'm only fit for editing. But talking to my friend made me wonder if perhaps I should try this thousand word target and see how it felt, for research if nothing else.

And, I have to say, it works. A thousand words. It's only about three pages, A4, double spaced. It's not that intimidating. Type for a bit, type for a bit more. Add a word, repeat times a thousand. A couple of scenes. About a third of a chapter. When you're rolling, you can knock it out in ten minutes.

A thousand words a day and you have a full length novel or, at least, a draft of one in a few months. That's pretty darn good.

So there you go. You got writers' block? Dr Monaghan prescribes a thousand words a day. Unless it's something viral, that should do the trick :)

I hope to post from NYC. See you there.


Friday, 14 September 2007


Remember me? Thought I'd disappeared forever? Nah, just finishing things. Finishing Starfishing (which I'll need to finish again when the copy editor has finished writing questions on it) and finishing The Okinawa Dragon. Ha! You didn't even know I'd started that one, did you. A very short novella/long short story packaged as a book and published by a local publisher. I will get some information about this one up on my website soon soon.

But first I go to New York City. I've not been for four years and I can hardly believe it's been that long, but it really has. I'm looking forward to meeting my US publishers, and my Killing Jar scriptwriter and catching up with my good friend Bekah, and meeting her husband (she's meeting mine for the first time too!) And I can't wait to touch the ground in Manhattan again. I just love the place. Yay!

I may even have time to post blogs from there :)

Soon soon everybody.

N xxx

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Harrogate Crime and Dina's chain letter...

I'm very excited because I'm doing an event on Friday, and I haven't done anything like this in a while. I do enjoy them. Which came as a surprise to me.

Heads up, then, I'm at the Harrogate Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. A bit of a mouthful but it promises to be a corker. There's a party Thursday night, where I get to meet all the other writers and remember their names to drop when I come back :) Then I do my thing Friday at midday. The event's called New Blood, and I'll be sharing the stage with several other debut writers. To paraphrase, well, more accurately cut and paste from the brochure:

A quartet of exceptionally talented authors will introduce you to their very different first novels. Nick Stone’s Mr Clarinet is a noir tour-de-force set in Haiti, Tom Cain’s The Accident Man features action hero Daniel Carver, Caro Ramsay’s atmospheric and emotionally intelligent thriller, Absolution, is set in Glasgow, and Nicola Monaghan won a Betty Trask award for her darkly moving, twisty debut, The Killing Jar. Joanna Hines, novelist and paperback crime reviewer for the Guardian, chairs.

Joanna Hines in fact is the person responsible for the lovely review I had in the Guardian a few months ago so A It will be nice to know she genuinely did like my book and B I will be able to thank her in person, which I'm looking forward to.

Well, if you fancy a jolly out to North Yorkshire you know where I'll be. Full details and tickets available here.

Meanwhile this wonderful blogger has taken up the baton with Dina's book. Yay!


Monday, 16 July 2007

Dina Rabinovitch

I've become involved in a piece of blogging chain mail. I don't usually do chain mail, but this one is different. Your head won't fall off if you don't join in and you won't get lots of gold and chocolate or your biggest wish come true within 7 hours if you do. But it might just pass an important message on.

The point is breast cancer, and Dina Rabinovitch, a long term sufferer of the disease. Long term sufferer is an important idea, because such a thing, with breast cancer, did not exist until recently. Advances in treatment and drugs have changed this. Dina lives on the cutting edge of cancer treatment. She blogs about it here.

Dina's book is beautifully written and full of information. It made me cry, it made me realise how lucky I was and it made me check for lumps again. Thanks Dina.

I now need someone to continue the chain. The deal is, I send you the book, you blog it and ask for someone to send it on to, and continue the chain. Each blogger writes their details in the front. The first person to comment on this post asking for the book will get it. You can blame this minx for starting the chain. Thank you Minx.

Pass it on....

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Left Lion mystery

The left lion in Nottingham's slab square is an institution. Everyone who grows up here has countless nights out that start there. Why the left lion? Nobody knows. Years ago, I'm told by older friends, it just used to be 'the lions' but it's evolved. How do you tell which one's the left lion? It's on the left hand side when you are facing the building, not standing outside looking out. There is even a (rather good) cultural magazine named after this most famous meeting place. And yet, although everyone claims to meet there, the place is rarely packed with people. How does that work? It's all a bit platform nine and three quarters if you ask me.

Today, though, there were hundreds of people there. The event was a meeting of minds or, at least, a photocall, for all of the creatives in Nottingham. And they came. And they all tried to stand at the front, which was quite funny to watch. Especially the girl in the hat who was just determined not to be moved backwards no matter what. You go girl! Lol.

All my creative friends have been banging on recently about how cool it is to work in Nottingham right now, and how there's a buzz, and how it truly is becoming a creative hub. I knew this. But to see it today in flesh and blood in the market square, it was quite something.

What's more, I met Troubled Diva, whose blog I've been reading for a while. And what a very nice man he is too. We talked blogging and people we knew in common, while drinking wine in the sunny mezz bar at the Broadway, and he had his caricature drawn. I love being a writer :) He was off to see Armistead Maupin afterwards, together with most of the Nottingham literazzi, but I didn't have tickets.

Talking of talking about blogging, I must point you in the direction of a new website I've been involved with which has just gone live; Bookarazzi. It's been put together by a support/networking group I was invited to join a while ago. It's a diverse group of writers who all have blogs and who all have book deals. That's probably as far as the similarities go. There are memoirists, chick lit writers, literary types, artists,... Actually, there is another couple of things they all have in common and that's talent and energy and ideas. Oh, that was three things. In fact, this is in danger of becoming a 'what have the Romans ever done for us' comment so I'll stop here. Visit the site. It is good there.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

The Waverton Good Read

I received an email this afternoon telling me I've won the Waverton Good Read. I'm very pleased and excited. I've been invited to a dinner and presentation in October.

The really cool thing about this prize is that it's voted for by readers in Waverton. Part of the aim of the whole scheme is to get people reading. I'm really proud to have won this on the basis of readers' opinions.

I'm now looking forward to finding my way to Waverton Village and meeting some of the readers in person.


Friday, 6 July 2007

Starfishing, across the universe...

So, the news from the coalface is that my editor is more or less happy with my latest draft. Perhaps some polishing, and she has a few questions, but no major work. Yay! The second novel is almost out of the way :)

I said it was all over bar the shouting. Perhaps this is where the shouting begins.

The image here is work in progress for the jacket. It's all moving along nice and fast now. I wasn't sure about this at first, but it's growing on me.

I went to see Irvine Welsh at Bookslam in West London last night. He was class as ever. Funny and entertaining and he 'did the voices'. Chad always wants me to 'do the voices'. There aren't many to do from The Killing Jar that are far away from the narrator's Nottingham voice, so coming from Nottingham myself I can pull it off. The Essex and American accents in Starfishing are going to provide me with a bit more of a challenge methinks. Help!

Happy Friday.


Sunday, 1 July 2007

Event in Harrogate on 20th July

Just for a bit of advance warning, I'll be at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival on 20th July. I'm well up for an event; haven't done one for ages. For more info and ticket details go to their website.

I'm also going to go to next week's bookslam. Irvine Welsh is performing. Should be class. DJs and all sorts of other stuff happening too.

Now I'm going to think about what to do about Shots and watch some Six Feet Under.

Monday, 18 June 2007

All over but the shouting...

I finished Starfishing today. Well, I say I finished Starfishing, and that is not really true. I finished my latest draft of Starfishing. My editor and then the Chatto copy editor have yet to get their sticky hands on it, so there will be more work to do, no doubt. In fact, even painting it this way is slightly misleading. I've just printed it out and will be reading it one more time tonight and making more changes before I email it to Poppy tomorrow.

Will this madness never end?

And the strangest thing of all happened a couple of days ago. The book appeared on Amazon, available for pre-order. A book available for pre order that isn't even finished yet? What a weird world we live in.

I am looking forward to having a normal life again, to keeping more normal hours, to being able to socialise with friends and watch DVDs with my husband.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award

I promised pictures from this ages ago, but it's taken a while for me to get my act together on this. So, here they are now. I didn't get a picture of the apple crumble, unfortunately. Damn, that was good :)


Andrew O'Hagan announces and presents the prize!

Me speeching. You can't see here just how much my hand was shaking...

I point out to everyone how much my hand is shaking...

Group photo! Me, Andrew, the sponsor and the agent

Impromtu book signing...

Chatting with Poppy and India

The gorgeous Ms Orr

Kit Whitfield

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Blogger rules

So, I've moved my news page over to Blogger. This is for two main reasons. I was going to use MySpace, but they once deleted my whole account and, once bitten and all that. The second is that blogger rocks. It just does. Without wanting to be too disgustingly sycophantic, it's so easy to set up an account and post, and make it look pretty and professional. So here I am.

My second novel is going to be finished by the end of next week. I promised my editor this and, at the time, I did wonder if I was being a little ambitious. I'd had a workshop on the first thirty thousand words last weekend and there were so many points for discussion that I thought my head might explode. I wasn't quite sure how I could revise the novel and make it work.

But this morning, in the bath, I had absolute and divine inspiration. It came from nowhere as I read Come Closer by Sara Gran. I don't think it had anything to do with the book, though it's a great book. Still, it came, and I jumped out of the bath, all wet and inspired and rather archimedian, if that's a word, and wrote it all down. And now I know this book is going be all right.

If you haven't read Come Closer then do. It's the best book I've read for ages and ages. Thanks Maria for the recommendation.

Now I just have to write a story for the Bridport Prize - I've bought a postal order so I have to enter. That and write the long short story for Five Leaves Press. It's going to be called The Okinawa Dragon. I am most excited about being in a series with John Harvey and Stephen Booth, that has gotta be good.

Events this week: Tuesday 12th is very busy. At 3:30pm you'll find me in Waterstone's on New Street in Birmingham, for a NAW masterclass on the art of suspense led by Ken Follett. Then I'm off down to the Canal, to interview Mick Scully about his new book of gritty stories Little Moscow. Another recommend, great tight writing exploring the Brum underworld. Scary stuff, but my kind of thing. If you're anywhere near Birmingham and fancy coming along see the Tindal Street Press website for details. Next month, I'm doing my thing at the the Harrogate Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, so advanced warning on that. In fact, the above mentioned brilliant Nottingham crime writers will be fighting for a prize there too. How cool is that?

Right, moff to write them words, innit?