Once more with feeling

By PD Martin

In my post on Australia’s National Year of Reading, I spoke about my early love of reading and how I read to be transported into other worlds — be they realistic or fantastical worlds.

Most crime fiction books take us into the fictional world of a cop, FBI agent, body guard, profiler, etc — but they’re based in realism. The crimes could really happen (although as Gar mentioned in his post yesterday, sometimes real events sound too fictional to include in a novel!).

When I was writing my Sophie Anderson series, there were different elements at play, different motivations in terms of my aim for the reader. Some of the books are classic WHOdunits — my aim was to keep the reader guessing about who the perpetrator was. They are also largely WHYdunits. Given my leading lady is a profiler, the books include forensic psychology that focuses on why the perpetrator committed the crime and/or why they exhibited certain behaviours during the crime. My Sophie books can also be described as forensic-based police/FBI procedurals, so the scientific evidence is also a key element — HOWdunit.

In my National Year of Reading post, I said that reading is also about emotion, about how a book makes you feel. And while this can be an important element in some crime fiction stories, it’s not a key factor in the Sophie series. Sure, I want people to connect with Sophie and the story — to be worried about the characters if they’re in danger, to feel losses, to feel the victim’s pain or the victim’s family’s pain, etc. But it’s not the primary driver in these books. Like I said, like many crime fiction books they’re who/why/how dunits.

However, this is not the case in the book I’ve just completed. Tentatively titled Crossroads and Deadends, it’s the mainstream drama/fiction book that I’ve spoken about on Murderati briefly a couple of times. And while I hope readers will feel transported into the character’s world, my primary aim is to get an emotional response from my reader. I want them to feel the characters’ heartaches and triumphs. I want them to worry about how the characters are going to cope.

It feels very different to be writing predominantly for an emotive response, rather than piecing together evidence and suspects. I’m not analysing a crime, and neither are my main characters. Rather, my three main characters are trying to keep their lives together, despite destructive internal and external forces.

So, what is success from my perspective as the author? For the Sophie books, I felt successful when readers reported not knowing whodunit, staying up until 3am to finish a book (and generally not being able to put the books down), being scared to read late at night if they were by themselves, and telling me how much they loved Sophie. I’ve even had emails from my younger readers who read my books and were inspired to study forensics or criminal psychology at college, because they want to be like Sophie. Success.

So, what will make me feel like I’ve done my job well for this new book? Yes, I want it to be a page-turner even though it’s not in the classic page-turning genres of crime, thrillers and action adventures. But mostly, I want readers to identify with my characters and be inspired by their stories. And, quite simply, I want them to cry at least once. Like I said, this book is a completely different style of book and so it’s not surprising that what I consider to be success in terms of my readers’ reactions will be different.  

Oh yeah, and I guess success is also a best seller…but what writer doesn’t want that?

I don’t really have any deep questions today, but would still love your comments.

And I’d also like to tell you about some other Murderati news from Zoe and Alex, who are both offering some of their books free on Kindle.

Zoë Sharp’s ex-Special Forces turned bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, is described by The Chicago Tribune as “Ill-tempered, aggressive and borderline psychotic, Fox is also compassionate, introspective and highly principled: arguably one of the most enigmatic − and coolest − heroines in contemporary genre fiction.”

Now you have a chance to find out how it all began. For 48 hours from midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, February 29th to midnight PST on Friday, March 2nd the very first in the Charlie Fox series, KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one, will be available as a FREE Kindle download from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The book, complete with two deleted scenes and a Foreword by Lee Child, also includes the opening chapter from RIOT ACT: Charlie Fox book two.

The New York Times said of KILLER INSTINCT: “The bloody bar fights are bloody brilliant.”

Also, Alex’s very dark YA thriller The Space Between is free on Kindle from Thursday (starting 12:00 AM PST) through Sunday (midnight): 

“Alexandra Sokoloff has created an intricate tapestry; a dark Young Adult novel with threads of horror and science fiction that make it a true original. Loaded with graphic, vivid images that place the reader in the midst of the mystery and danger, The Space Between takes psychological elements, quantum physics and multiple dimensions with parallel universes and creates a storyline that has no equal. A must-read. ”  — Suspense Magazine

More info and download now:

Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon ES
Amazon FR
Amazon IT

And Book of Shadows will also be free in the UK and worldwide, except US:

“A wonderfully dark thriller with amazing is-it-isn’t-it suspense all the way to the end. Highly recommended.”   — Lee Child

More info and download now:

Amazon UK 
Amazon DE
Amazon ES
Amazon FR
Amazon IT

11 thoughts on “Once more with feeling

  1. Sarah W

    I think wanting to make one's readers cry is a noble undertaking, and I volunteer! The tension in the Sophie books is palpable — I'm sure it will translate beautifully into a more personal, emotional story and i can't wait to read it.

    Killer Instinct and Book of Shadows knocked my socks off. Thanks for the heads up about The Space Between!

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Phillipa

    Having had a sneak peek at the new book, I think you'll affect your readers just as deeply with the story you tell. I hope it brings success for you on all levels.

    And thanks for the shout out about KILLER INSTINCT!

  3. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Thanks, P! I think it's SO important as an author to do at least one serious pass considering what you want the reader to feel. I'm exactly at that stage with my new thriller, so thanks for the reminder!

  4. David Corbett

    So much of our upbringing seems like one long indoctrination into what not to feel, a problem compounded by the inundation of stimuli we get hit with every day. Getting someone to engage with a story so that their intrinsic sympathies are elicited, not manipulated, is no small trick. Nor is it an unworthy or unambitious goal. I can tell in how you talk about this book that writing it meant a great deal to you, and I have little doubt that the intensity and honesty with which you describe it comes through on the page. I hope your current readers embrace it, and that it brings you a whole new gathering of fans.

  5. Allison Davis

    Eliciting the emotional buy in from the reader requires the writer to be more vulnerable, to take more risk, more than just telling the whodoneit story. But that risk, that open door, can create a wonderous world for the reader. I like to be emotionally drawn in and I am conscious of that when I write — and it is a bit outside the lines sometimes. Going from the brain and bringing in the heart as well is hard to do effectively. I love how you've described the book and can't wait to read it.

  6. Pari

    I want to read that book too!

    And my whole focus now is that translation of idea into emotion. I do it well through voice in some of my characters, but I can feel myself going deeper and becoming more honest in the telling.

  7. PD Martin

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for the vote of confidence 🙂 And I'm glad you enjoyed the Sophie stories. Even though this new book is a very different concept and style, it's still storytelling. This story just needs a different type of telling!

    Thanks, Zoe. And no worries re Killer Instinct. I'll pop it on my Facebook page later today too.


  8. PD Martin

    Hi Alex. Yes, reader reaction is important in every book, it's just sometimes you're shooting for different things. Have fun with your current pass!

    Hi David. Yes, getting a reader to completely immerse themselves in the emotion of a book can be a tricky thing. I hope you're right and that I've done it successfully 🙂 It is definitely a very worthy subject (IMHO) and probably a tad ambitious too, but I always was the ambitious type! When things are more advanced I'll talk about the subject matter. I know it won't appeal to many of my crime readers – it's very different. Assuming I get an agent and publisher for it, I'll be publishing it under Phillipa Martin rather than PD Martin.


  9. PD Martin

    Hi, Allison. Yes, I think it does require the author to be more vulnerable. Certainly with this book one of the story lines is very close to home for me so it's definitely personal. I'm glad I've intrigued you so far!

    Hi, Pari. Yes, I think our artistic lives are tracking along the same path at the moment! Definitely writing from the heart.


  10. KDJames

    Phillipa, that's an interesting distinction. And probably why I don't read much straight crime fiction (although your Sophie books are on my TBR list!) — I like having my emotions evoked. 🙂 Plus I almost always know who/why way before the end and that takes away some of the enjoyment. It's difficult to surprise me. Looking forward to your new book. Congrats on finishing it!

  11. Aurana Books

    Its nice blog and i likes your blog design , its simply good and it can easily to impress the peoples and to increase your blog traffics with good bounce rate, because its having the interesting information.

Comments are closed.