Unscripted by Claire Handscombe – Guest Post – Blog Tour.

Unscripted Image copy

Today it is my pleasure to feature a guest post from Claire Handscombe who is publishing a novel via Unbound.

How to make your characters believable:

My books always start with my characters – I have some sense of who they are, hear their voices in my head, or sometimes just want to write a better version of myself. In Unscripted, Libby is very similar to me, though I made her ten years younger, because I didn’t think anybody would believe that a woman in her mid thirties could have a celebrity crush that is quite as all-consuming as hers. It’s totally possible, of course, that a woman in her mid-thirties would – and I’d know. But the oft-repeated cliché that truth is stranger than fiction is an oft-repeated cliché for a reason. Fiction has to be just that little bit less strange to be believed by our readers.
Unscripted is a multiple point of view novel, and all four characters are sensitive arty types – involved in writing, publishing, and/or acting. They all have something of me in them – Libby most of all – but I didn’t want to make them all a version of me, or different versions of each other. So, as I have with other books in the past, I dived into the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.
If you’re not familiar with Myers Briggs, it’s a personality typing system in which everyone falls into one of sixteen categories, which draws on whether you’re an Extrovert or an Introvert, make your decisions based on iNtuition or the more concrete five Senses, are more a Thinker or a Feeler, and prefer to Judge (plan) or Perceive (let things happen more spontaneously). The different elements come together to form personality types with their own sets of characteristics.
All my characters in Unscripted are NF – those sensitive arty types I mentioned – so it was important that I differentiate them in other ways. Libby is an ENPF, but Dan is an INFJ. ENFPs are visionary types, always excited by new ideas. INFJs are idealistic too, but they’re doers rather than dreamers – one of the reasons why it’s a combination that can work particularly well in friendship.
I also used the Enneagram system – cross-referencing with Myers Briggs and what I already knew of my characters. Each of the nine Enneagram personality types has one basic fear that drives them, and one basic goal. It’s helpful if you can keep those motivations in mind as you write each personality, because it informs how they think and speak. The first time I came across the Enneagram was actually in a book called Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue (https://www.amazon.com/Dialogue-Techniques-Exercises-Crafting-Effective/dp/1582972893/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524069271&sr=8-1&keywords=writers+digest+writing+great+fiction+dialogue). (Incidentally, that book is from a series by Writers Digest called Write Great Fiction, and they’re excellent for when you’re starting on your writer’s journey.) The author showed how each type might speak, and, importantly, why.
There’s a lot of good stuff online about the strengths and weaknesses of each personality types, and how they interact with the other types. So, for example, Thom is a Type Three: his basic fear is being worthless and his basic desire is to feel valuable and worthwhile. Ebba, his long-ago ex-girlfriend, is a Type Two, which is known for being nurturing and caring for others. They’re both driven by emotional needs and the need for attention and love. Ebba wants to feel proud of Thom and Thom wants to make her feel proud. Ebba wants to put the spotlight on Thom, and Thom wants the spotlight. So far, so perfect. But there are downsides, too: the Type Three’s tendency to become chameleon-like in an effort to feel loved, and the Type Two’s tendency to overwhelm with their attention.
I think the trick is to internalise these things about your characters, and not let these character traits just be abstract concepts, but to think through how each trait works itself out practically. One book that can help massively with that is What Would Your Character Do? by Eric Maisel and Ann Maisel. It puts your characters in all kinds of specific situations – a family picnic, say, or a high school reunion – and gives you options for how your character would react in a number of scenarios. Given what you know of your characters’ underlying motivations, you can start to flesh out how they would be in the world. I also ask my friends what Myers Briggs and Enneagram types they are, and think through my interactions with them, and how they react in different situations. I ask them to help me understand them better.
Of course, just like people in the real world, our characters aren’t just cardboard cutout examples of particular character type – but having an understanding of how they see the world and what their motivations are can help make them three-dimensional, as well as help us figure out what they want and why, which is the driver of so much good fiction.

 About the Book

No-one is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby. No-one. That’s why she’s totally going to marry him
She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. It is a fail-proof plan.
Except for the fact that he is a Hollywood star – not A list, perhaps not B list, but certainly C+ – and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the teeny tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable. All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It’s all about determination.

About the Author

Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but actually, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. (Like her main character Libby, she knows a thing or two about celebrity crushes and the life-changing power of a television series.) She was recently longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, and her journalism, poetry, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Bustle, Book Riot, Writers’ Forum, and the Washington Post. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show about news and views from British books and publishing.

Twitter — @clairelyman
Blog — britlitblog.com
My other book, Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives can be found at thewestwingbook.com

About Unbound

Claire Handscombe’s novel Unscripted is forthcoming from Unbound.
Unbound are an innovative, crowdfunding-based publisher who’ve produced best-sellers and award-winning books, like The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla. Their model is based on Kickstarter-style pledges, and when a book reaches 100% of their funding, they kick in as a more-or-less traditional publisher. So when you pre-order a book, you’re actually helping to make it happen. You get thanked in the back for being part of the journey, and you can also get various rewards at different pledge levels. So if you like the sound of Unscripted, please consider supporting the book by pre-ordering it at Unbound.

Unscripted Final BT Poster

Dead Man’s Badge by Robert E. Dunn – Blog Tour Review.

Dead Man's Badge Cover

About the Book

Career criminal Longview Moody, on the run from killers, assumes his dead, twin brother’s identity as the new Chief of Police of a Texas town that’s being terrorized by a Mexican drug cartel. To pull off the deadly deception, Longview desperately works to become the kind of cop and man that his brother was. But when the two lives he’s living converge, he’s forced to embrace the violence within him to get justice…and vengeance.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. At the beginning of this novel Longview isn’t having the best day, which is hardly surprising when he is digging his own grave at gunpoint. But he manages to escape and goes to meet his brother at his trailer. Things don’t go to plan and Longview ends up assuming his brother’s identity as chief of police in a town on the Mexican border. He makes plenty of enemies immediately but there are also a handful of people who he feels he can trust. These are also people who he can’t fool.
The book is full of violence and corruption and mistrust. Hardly anybody is who they say they are, including obviously Longview. He has to work out who can be trusted the most,and with his most likeable colleagues tries to make things better.
My thoughts changed throughout, I’m not that familiar with the different American agency and Government departments, or the politics between America and Mexico but what I did discover is that the family who ruled the town were capable of anything. This is demonstrated in the latter part of the novel when the reader realises exactly what type of people they are.
I had to admire Longview, the easiest option would have been to walk away but he was determined to be a better person whilst getting revenge for his own reasons. And even though he didn’t fool many, there were people willing to help. My favourite character by a long way was Hector, he was probably the only one who could show how his true feelings. I also liked the married couple who dealt with council matters, they added some welcome humour and compassion amongst the violence.

Dead Man's Badge FINAL Poster

Binary Witness by Rosie Claverton – Blog Tour Review.

 

Binary Witness Cover

About the Book

A young woman trapped by her fear, a young man pursued by his past, a murderer hunting the Cardiff streets by night. Agoraphobic hacker Amy Lane employs ex-con Jason Carr as a cleaner. When the police `borrow’ Amy’s skills to help track down the killer, Amy and Jason become a crime-fighting team, Amy on her computer, Jason on the streets.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
Binary Witness is a different type of crime novel. Police officers do feature, and they are looking for a serial killer but the people they get the most help from are not the police. Amy is an agoraphobic computer whizz who lives in squalor and forgets to eat. Jason is an ex-convict who gets a job as her cleaner/ housekeeper/cook. She also uses him to do the stuff that she can’t,which is basically anything that involves being outside or having any contact with people she doesn’t know. They have a great relationship, no sign of any romantic entanglement but they understand each other and have each other’s best interests at heart. Although I do have the feeling that Jason gets unsettled by Amy knowing everything about him.
It is completely unbelievable but I found it to be very entertaining. The crime they are investigating is no different to other crime novels, women abducted and killed who have no apparent connection to each other. But the way in which Amy and Jason have so much input in the investigation is what makes it fun and refreshing.
It is the first in a series, the second book is also part of this blog tour, so I have plenty of opportunity to get to know Amy and Jason. Amy especially is a character I want to know more about. I want to know what happened in her past, most of the focus in this novel was on Jason.
It was a novel that I read after a more harrowing one so it was perfect timing for me. Great entertainment and quick to read. Recommended.

Rosie Claverton Blog Tour Poster

Body and Soul by John Harvey – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When his estranged daughter Katherine appears on his doorstep, ex-Detective Frank Elder knows that something is wrong.

Katherine has long been troubled, and Elder has always felt powerless to help her.

But now Katherine has begun to self-destruct.

The breakdown of her affair with a controversial artist has sent her into a tailspin which culminates in murder.

And as Elder struggles to protect his daughter and prove her innocence, the terrors of the past threaten them both once more …

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
Body and Soul is the last book in the series that features Frank Elder. Despite being the first that I have read I could follow it very easily.
When a relationship between Frank’s daughter Katherine and an artist ends in murder Frank is determined to stand by his daughter even though that help isn’t really wanted. Their relationship is strained, most of Frank’s are, but he does try his best.
Whilst his role in the novel is important there is also a lot of focus on Katherine and the officer who is investigating the murder, Alex Hadley.Alex is under pressure, because of the victim’s fame, the mental state of Katherine and Frank, who has a very short fuse most of the time.
I had a lot of sympathy for Katherine, I don’t think I will be alone in this. What she experienced when she was younger was horrific and some of what takes place in this novel makes life very difficult. Frank was a strange character. A loner, who could be very aggressive and who never seemed to have any control in any situation. Katherine appeared to handle what was happening a lot better than he was. Maybe it was guilt, I’m not sure. Hadley could also be a little abrasive, a little cold without much empathy.
I enjoyed the art world setting, I could easily imagine the models posing for hours, experiencing cramp and nausea, and having to put any feelings of embarrassment or misgiving to one side.
I feel quite sad that this is the last book, but at least I can go and read the earlier books in the series. John Harvey is an author who I will happily read again.

Body And Soul Blog Tour poster

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson- Translated by Maxim Jakubowski – Blog Tour Review.

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About The Book

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.
London, 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down. Following the highly acclaimed Block 46 and guaranteed to disturb and enthral, Keeper is a breathless thriller from the new queen of French Noir.

My Review

I couldn’t wait to see what Johana Gustawsson would write after the marvellous Block 46, so as soon as it landed on my kindle I started to read. I purposely didn’t read the blurb, I didn’t want to know too much about what I would be reading.

It takes place in London and Sweden in 2015 and also in 1888. This account is one that follows the same family into modern-day. The first few years of this was quite sad, reading how the events that occurred changed circumstances so much for Freda.

Anybody who is familiar with Jack the Ripper, the killer who terrified women, particularly prostitutes, in the late 1900s will enjoy this. Reading about the murders from the point of view of a woman who knew the victims was chilling. Johana has done a great job of humanising the victims, and the people who lived in the vicinity. Most of what I have read is from a policeman’s point of view or those from the upper classes, and they have never moved away from the view that the woman deserved to die because of their profession. That it didn’t matter, because it would never touch somebody like them. This is proved in the way that Freda is almost gleefully questioned by her employer.

I was pleased to see Emily and Alexis both reappear, they are very strong characters who have both suffered trauma in the past. More is revealed about what happened to Alexis, how it still affected her and how she tried to move on. Emily’s past is still hinted at but there are no real details. Other characters from the previous books also reappear. Some I was glad to see, some not, but I liked a newcomer Alienor very much.

I don’t think I have ever read a book that shows evil people in the way that Johana does. They are people who make you cold and at times nauseous. I couldn’t even begin to think what else that might be capable of. Each time I thought I had solved it I was proven wrong and the ending was one of the bigger surprises I have had when reading a crime novel.

A great follow-up, I was wondering how she would follow Block 46, because that book had a brilliant storyline but I wasn’t disappointed. Unique, compelling and it took over my life until I had finished it. First class crime fiction.

FINAL Keeper blog poster 2018