Simon Wood

Posts Categorized: book of the month

TOTGASo THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY has been out for a month (two if you’re an Amazon Prime Member) and reader feedback has been coming in.  Quite a lot of it actually.  On Amazon.com, the book has racked up almost 2,000 reviews so far.  This is understandable as TOTGA (as the cool kids aka my editor calls it) is by far my fastest and bestselling book so far.  Phew!  I may be in publishing for a little while longer.

But a lot more readers mean a lot more opinions.  Luckily for me, people more often than not like TOTGA.  Thank God for that.  I was a little worried about reader feedback because there’d be a lot more people reading out of genre.  More exposure is nice…as long as everyone is of the same opinion and a positive opinion at that.  Well, it looks as if it is so.

Actually I’m quite pleased about TOTGA’s reception.  People, by and large, got it.  They embraced Zoë Sutton warts and all.  I wasn’t sure readers would, considering she is someone suffering from PTSD, which makes her a little difficult to like or understand at times.

But with every book, I get feedback that I wasn’t quite expecting.  So here are a few findings:

  • Quite a few people want or think TOTGA is the first in a new series. I didn’t have any plans to make Zoë Sutton a series character but now you’ve got me thinking. At this point I don’t know how I would take Zoë forward and maintain the same level of danger.
  • I’m surprised and amused by how many women have said they’re going to take fight classes after seeing what happened to Zoë. So be warned predatory men, the ladies are no pushover.
  • I’m touched by the therapists and victims of violence/stalkers thought I got Zoë right. This was a tough book to write because I tried to interview a number of victim support groups and all of them declined to speak to me so I’m glad people feel I got it right.
  • Some people have thought the violence is quite graphic and to be honest, most of the violence is off the page. It’s like Psycho, you see the knife but you don’t see anyone get stabbed. It’s your mind embellishes the rest.
  • And speaking of embellishments, I’ve had a few emails describe scenes/events that never took place. It happens with every book. People always bring something to the story.
  • People think the book is short but it’s longer than my last three and quite a bit longer than the average James Patterson. It’s a product of my writing style that it’s focused and pacey so it tends to feel brief.

When a book meets the public, it’s exciting and daunting because it’s an interpretive voyage of discovery…and the discovery will continue as the book continues to travel.

 

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playlist-barrygruff-1I’m a big music freak and as I’ve done with my last couple of books, I’ve created a playlist for my heroine Zoë Sutton from THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. Zoë’s playlist is pretty dark as she’s a troubled woman, not surprising considering her past problems and her present danger. This mix tape is the kind of thing her therapist would have her make to help her understand herself better. So here’s what I expect to find on her playlist:

1. “Hit me with your best shot” – Pat Benatar
2. “One way or another” – Blondie
3. “Missing” – Everything But The Girl
4. “Showdown” – ELO
5. “Tallyman” – Jeff Beck
6. “I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You” – Foreigner
7. “Wicked Game” – Chris Isaak
8. “Bad Girls” – M.I.A.
9. “The First Cut Is The Deepest” – Cat Stevens
10. “Out of Control” – She Wants Revenge
11. “Hurt” – Johnny Cash
12. “Fox On The Run” – Sweet
13. “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” – Chris Issak
14. “Out of Control” – Hoobastank
15. “Died in your arms” – Cutting Crew

Readers of the book should recognize the significance of these songs and song titles, so if you have suggestions for Zoë, call them out. I’m sure Zoë will appreciate it. 🙂

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baby TOTGAI witnessed the birth of my sixteenth child a week last Sunday.  Although it’s my sixteenth baby, I’m just excited to see it as the first one.  THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY weighed in at 10oz and 8 inches long from head to toe.  Not a bad size and weight all things considered.  For an author, I don’t think there’s a smell like it.  It’s a combination of fresh paper and glue that hasn’t had the chance to breathe in the air.

Although I joke, bringing a book into the world isn’t much different from bringing a child into the world, although I won’t have to send it to college or pay for its wedding.  There’s the conception—that first spark of passion when the idea for the book is born.  The excitement builds as the story grows from an idea into a story and the page count swells.  It’s not long before it actually possesses a shape resembling the embryo manuscript.  The editing process refines its shape and it starts to resemble the story I wanted to make.  Then before I know it, it’s reached the end of its first trimester.

Then my baby enters a tricky stage as I search for a publisher and/or agent to assist with the birth.  This can be a long and treacherous route filled with disappointment and setbacks, but I always have faith regardless of the passage of time.  I know it has to happen.  It’s happened before.  And it does.  Someone shares my love for my book and offers a contract that carries my baby through to its final trimester.

TOTGAThis is the most nervous of times.  Everything looks sound enough, but I’ve experienced things going wrong.  Publishers can change their mind.  Circumstances can change.  And I have to keep a careful eye on developments.  But with little one, there were no such troubles.  Compared to some of my children (I’m looking at you WE ALL FALL DOWN), this book went to term with few problems.  It arrived on the day they told me.

Now that THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is born—and did I mention it’s a fine looking kid—I still have a lot of work to do.  Like any proud father, I have to show this baby off.  Anyone and everyone who stops for more than two seconds is going to hear about how wonderful my baby is.  I know it may bore some, but I can’t help it.  I really love this one.  This isn’t to say that I like this one any better than the others.  Well, that’s what I tell my other books.

And what kind of father would I be if I didn’t break out the baby pictures?  So here’s a picture of baby THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY.

So it’s cigars all round and I hope you’ll enjoy the bambino as much as I do.

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TOTGAI have a soft spot for autograph hunters and book collectors.  Book collectors kindly gave me an education in the education of book collecting and autographing when my first book came out (as I wrote about previously).  So I’ve always made a point of making myself available for an autograph.  If you want a signed copy of my latest thriller, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, I’ve got you covered in three ways.

  • Autographed copies can be ordered from my website bookshop.
  • You can request a bookplate and I’ll send one out free of charge. Just drop me a note here.
  • And I can even autograph ebooks through Authorgraph.com.

So if you want that book signed, just let me know.  I’m here to please.

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TOTGAI am a proud father all over again in that I am happy to announce the official release of my new thriller, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY.  The back jacket blurb goes a little like this.

“Graduate students Zoë and Holli only mean to blow off some steam on their road trip to Las Vegas. But something goes terribly wrong on their way home, and the last time Zoë sees her, Holli is in the clutches of a sadistic killer. Zoë flees with her life, changed forever.

A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a police investigation where the crime eerily resembles her abduction. Along with a zealous detective, she retraces the steps of that fateful night in the desert, hoping that her memory will return and help them find justice for Holli. Her abductor—labeled the “Tally Man” by a fascinated media—lies in wait for Zoë. For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.”

You don’t have to take my word for it, the books picked up some nice blurbs:

“Simon Wood’s THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY turns the serial killer convention upside down in a genuinely suspenseful novel.”
—Charlaine Harris, author of THE DAY SHIFT

“Wrenchingly intense–the talented Simon Wood goes psychologically dark and deeply disturbing.  For those who like their thrillers twisty, shocking, and relentless.”  
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of TRUTH BE TOLD

“Zoe Sutton is one of the most compelling, interesting, and complex heroine’s I’ve read in a long time.”
—Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author of NOTORIOUS

“Marvelously nerve-wracking, The One That Got Away is a wicked roller-coaster of suspense that paints a realistic picture of a serial murderer and Zoë Sutton, the one prey that got away.”
—Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author of THE BOOK OF SPIES

We’ve picked up some early online reviews:

Quiet Fury
Will Kill For A Story
Carol Taylor Reviews

It’s available in paperback, as an eBook, on CD and as an audio download.  I hope you like it and please, please, spread the word by sharing this post and annoying family, friends and strangers.  Word of mouth is everything.

Thanks for listening.

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Hot-Seat-2nd-loThe second Aidy Westlake mystery, HOT SEAT, is the book of the week.  The eBook is 99cents at Amazon, 99p at Amazon UK and $1.99 at Audible.

The storyline goes like this:

“Things are looking good for Aidy Westlake. He’s Pit Lane magazine’s Young Driver of the Year, which has earned him a drive in the European Saloon Car Championship. But his good fortune ends at a race car show when he discovers Jason Gates, a mechanic from a rival team, with his throat cut. The murder sets off a disturbing chain reaction – someone is breaking the rules in the ranks of saloon car racing, on and off the track.”

Now you’ve got no excuse to climb into the HOT SEAT!

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It’s Halloween this month, so I went with a spooky choice as my Book of the Month pick—THE SCRUBS.  This is also a title of mine which has fallen between the cracks with readers and I hope you will take the time to check it out.  I think you’ll find it worth your time.

The Scrubs is what people commonly call Wormwood Scrubs prison, located in west London. It’s an unusual name for a prison, but not as unusual as some in Britain. In Manchester, you’ll find Strangeways prison (although, it has been renamed in recent years because of its bad image). I do like how British prisons have weird names whereas American prisons sound like vacation getaways. Pelican Bay. San Quentin. Soledad. It seems like cruel and unusual punishment to be incarcerated in a place that sounds so idyllic, but I digress.
Wormwood Scrubs was built in the Victorian era and is a typical piece of neo-gothic architecture. The prison strongly resembles a fortress in some ways, except it keeps people in and not out. It’s not very big as prisons go. Less than fifteen hundred people call it home. If you ever take a trip on a Central Line train of the London Underground system, you’ll see the prison as you ride through Acton. If anyone has watched the original version of The Italian Job with Michael Caine, the prison he’s released from is Wormwood Scrubs. But any relationship between the real life prison and the one contained within these pages are purely fictional. I took the prison’s name and its location and ignored everything else.

Anyway, I stopped thinking about Wormwood Scrubs in terms of a name of a prison and started thinking about what the words meant. This is a habit with me. I think about words we all take for granted and break them down. Too often we take words at face value and forget their meanings. Places were named for a reason, not by chance. So I forgot the prison identity and just wondered about Wormwood scrubs. Wormwood is an herbaceous plant. It’s a key ingredient of absinthe. Wormwood oil is poisonous, considered psychoactive and possibly addictive. Wow, what a herb! The word scrubs bolts on nicely onto wormwood. A scrub area or scrubland is an area of stunted vegetation. I wondered whether Wormwood Scrubs the prison had been built on an area of scrubland covered with wormwood.

I liked the concept of a prison built on top of an area covered in a poisonous, psychotropic and addictive plant. It’s just asking for trouble. All we need is a psychotic prisoner with special powers and we’ve got ourselves a story!
I have to admit that THE SCRUBS is a guilty pleasure. It started out as a short story but kept getting bigger as I got caught up in creating this alternate universe for this prison and its inmates. And it’s not going to stop here. They’ll be two more installments—SCRUBBERS and SCRUBLAND. There’s just too much fun to be had playing with THE SCRUBS. Besides, someone has to stop Jeter. I hope you agree and you’ll come back for more.

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This month’s Back Story piece centers on my recent release, CRESTFALLEN.

When I decided to write, I wanted to write PI novels like Raymond Chandler.  There were two problems with that plan—one, I didn’t know what a Private eye did and two, Raymond Chandler is a bloody good writer.  So I tended to steer clear of PI fiction, mainly for the latter reason.  The problem was I wasn’t Chandler.  I didn’t have his experiences or his world view.  I had my own and it was more in line with Hitchcock’s movies—ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  It was me in a nutshell—and I’m happy with my nutshell. 

However, I still wanted to write pulpy PI stories and I wanted to create my “Marlowe” character.  I came up with Peter Crestfallen about a decade ago.  I tested the waters with a short story.  It sold very quickly and I wanted to keep going but I needed to do my research.  I signed up for a couple of classes in Sacramento—“How to become a PI” and “How to find out anything about anyone.” Even if I never wrote another PI story, I thought the classes would be good research for other novels and stories.

Both classes were run by a woman who was a PI in the greater Sacramento area for a couple of decades—and she was awesome.  Just like Marlowe, Spade, Archer, Hammer, etc., she ran a lone wolf PI agency, but if you’re imagining a leggy redhead with cleavage to drown a football team in, then think again.  In appearance, she had more in common with Miss Marple than VI Warshawski.   

She taught us the mechanics of what you had to do to become a licensed PI in California and how to build investigation hours and credits.  The “How to find out anything about anyone” was essentially a public records class.  She detailed how to track people and find them through public records and how to protect yourself against being traced.  This was all very interesting stuff and useful to me in my other books.  I’ve used several nuggets of information in a number of them over the years.  However, her personal experiences were worth the price of admission.  She talked about her career and how it wasn’t like the movies.  I liked how she was the “go to” person when it came to serving papers on the unserveables. She got to people that other process servers couldn’t reach.  She had some nice tricks for catching people out. Her story about tailing a client’s husband to strip clubs became the inspiration for CRESTFALLEN’S KINK.  A number of her other tales made their way into the stories in some form or another. 

I took the classes for story purposes, not knowing that Julie and I would become PIs ourselves a few years later, but not in the traditional sense.  We worked for an agency and started off as mystery shoppers before ending up going undercover in casinos in Nevada and California trying to unearth staff who were stealing from their employers.  This work is very different from the modern PI who tends to work on the behalf of defense lawyers—read David Corbett’s books for an idea.

Having done some PI work and talked to a few modern day PIs, I was a little worried that the classic PI we know and love ($50 a day plus expenses) doesn’t really exist, so I took comfort that there was someone out there gumshoeing it like Marlowe.  So I hope you’ll give the CRESTFALLEN stories a shot and if you buy a copy, let me know and I’ll send you an audio edition of CRESTFALLEN’S WIDOW just to ensure I pick you up as a client.  J

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