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The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair: Joël Dicker

Joel DickerThe Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, written by Joël Dicker and starring Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) will soon, courtesy of MGM, hit our screens.

Under Jean-Jacques Annaud’s direction, Dicker’s entire novel will be brought to life over ten episodes. This is a similar approach taken to The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood and starring Elizabeth Moss, which won a host of Emmy awards.

Back in the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dicker in Dublin for writing.ie:

Having finished The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair only days before the interview, I was intrigued to meet Geneva born Joël Dicker, a writer with a novel which belies his mere 28 years. He is hailed as Switzerland’s coolest export since Roger Federer, with rights sold to 45 countries in 32 languages and over 2 million copies sold in less than a year. For me, minus the supernatural element, it was reminiscent of a great Stephen King novel. Dicker laughs when I mention it – apparently, I’m not the first to make the comparison although he has not, yet, read any of King’s novels. I suggest that with his busy schedule he could try Joyland, far shorter than King’s regular books but, in my opinion, up there with some of his very best. Dicker, like King, has a way of bringing his books to life by producing such fully formed characters that you feel as if you already know them personally and you never want to let them go.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair is set in New Hampshire. Here’s the blurb:

In the summer of 1975, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame. Quebert is the only suspect.

Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America.”

But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

Not just a book about an unsolved murder case, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair explores the price of fame and the seduction of success, the ferocity of the publishing industry and the power of the media, love in all its forms and what it means to be a truly great writer.

Dicker is currently on a roller-coaster ride, jetting in and out of countries so fast, while promoting his book, that his feet have barely touched the ground. Yet, relaxing over a coffee in the Ballsbridge hotel, he is charming and humble, excusing himself for a moment while he finds a socket to re-charge his iPhone.

This is a guy who has worked hard for what appears to be overnight success. His writing career began at age ten, when he was Editor-in-Chief of a monthly wildlife magazine, and wrote factual articles about animals. Until then he had not considered short stories. “I wanted to feel free to tell the story I wanted, because with the magazine I was only able to write true facts, so I tried short stories.” Dicker admits he finds it difficult to be able to condense a story enough to produce a short story, yet he managed it successfully with The Tiger which won an award in 2005. Some accomplishment for him, he laughs, as he nods towards his current novel, The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, which is over 600 pages long. Perhaps another similarity between himself and Stephen King …

At age 24, he wrote The Final Days of our Fathers which won the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois (Geneva Writers’ Prize) for unpublished manuscripts. The novel was subsequently published in 2012. His passion may always have been for writing, but he may well have taken another road when he headed off to an acting school in Paris. “I’ve always really enjoyed writing and playing music and doing some artistical creative stuff.” But Dicker explains, “I always felt the need to have a back-up plan. After six months, I realised I was not made for that. I really felt I should have a degree in something.” I ask if that’s how he ended up studying law. He laughs easily and nods, “I was not very good at literature and horrible at mathematics, so, I chose the only faculty at the University of Geneva that has no literature and no maths!”

We chat about his book and I ask whether his publishers might have requested him to shorten the title. Apparently that was never the case, but they were a little concerned about the pronunciation of Harry Quebert for his English-speaking audience. Dicker came up with a novel way to get over this problem. The waitresses, at the local coffee shop where the great Quebert frequents, are given a lesson by the owner, Tamara, on how to bring his order and on the correct pronunciation of his name:

“The chorus of waitresses croaked like frogs: “Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear, Kuh-bear.”

It does the trick!

With his first novel, Dicker had tried to imagine what it would be like to have his book in the shops, expecting the bookseller to have it displayed in the front window. But unfortunately, back then, that wasn’t the case. Today it is a different story. Wherever he travels he comes across huge posters of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair displayed in bookshop windows; most recently earlier today in Dublin. “I feel very, very lucky with this one. Each time I see a window I think of the first book and how disappointed I was.” When I ask where he was when he came across his first novel, he tells me it was “at a book chain in Switzerland called Payot. It’s a terrible memory actually,” he grins, “because the book was supposed to be out on 10 January and I told my friends, ‘go, try to find the book,’ just to make the bookseller think it’s a must-read. But there was a delay in the delivery of the book in France and Switzerland and no-one told me. So I was very disappointed. But then it came out a week after and I finally saw it and I was very happy.”

His love of books was fuelled by his mother who works in a bookshop called, La Librerit. Dicker tells me “it sounds like bookshop but it’s a play on words – to be free and to love.” Directly translated to For The Love of Books, this is a Geneva bookstore with an immense stock of children’s books which no doubt whet Dicker’s appetite from an early age.

Dicker chose America as the setting for his novel, mainly because of the amount of time he spent there as a child. His cousins lived in Washington DC and had a summer house in Maine; an ideal location for them to spend their summer holidays and a feeding ground for Dicker’s imagination.

I ask about Nola, a character loved, it seems, by all who come into contact with her. Dicker tells me that in the beginning, Nola was not in the novel at all. “The very first idea, the first layer, was just a house by the ocean. Then came Harry and then came Marcus and the relationship between them.” Joel goes on to explain his thought processes and how they developed. “I should give Marcus a girlfriend and so that was Nola.” Then he got the idea to change the dynamics, “I tried again, but Nola should be going out with Harry, that’s much more interesting. And then – she could be dead! She could have been murdered, which is even better, so always going one step further and one step further. I’m very bad with plans, I much prefer just to write and let the story unfold.”

Dicker had four novels rejected before he was finally able to find his first publisher, yet when I ask him for the best advice he could offer new writers he appears uncomfortable. “It’s to keep working. I feel out of place giving advice, or anything, maybe in thirty years . . .” he shrugs. “I’m just a very lucky guy.” At book signings, he regularly has writers asking him for advice; he says the only thing he can tell them is to “keep trying. It’s very hard at times, but maybe there’s nothing more than that. Keep trying and try again and again.”

While currently travelling and promoting his novel, Dicker is still “working hard, trying to keep the machine going. Even though I don’t have much time to write a lot, I’ll read some pages – write down some ideas and plot ideas.”

As the interview draws to a close he tells me that ultimately, ”you write to please yourself. You write for an audience, of course. You write because you want to be read; because you want to share your story. But if you tell a story that you don’t enjoy yourself, how can you expect people to read it and enjoy it?”

“The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read all year. Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood.
Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph.

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Interview: Stuart Neville – Those We Left Behind

Those_We_Left_Behind_Stuart_NevilleMy eyes scan the luxurious Westin Hotel’s, Atrium Lounge in Dublin and land on the bearded guy in the corner, dressed in black. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d already met, Stuart Neville would have appeared more rock star than author and my eyes would have moved on. I find later, that if he hadn’t caught the writing bug, that’s who he may have become. Although then he may have swapped his pot of tea for something a little stronger – in keeping with that rock image!

When we get talking about his life before writing he agrees that “it seems to be quite a common thread among writers that they’ll have done a lot of odd jobs over the years before they finally end up as writers. I worked in a music shop and I worked for a long time trying to break into writing music for film. I studied music in college” he tells me, “and then I did score one low budget feature.” He grins, “sort of a musical director – for want of a better word – on a short film with Ardhal O’Hanlon.” It appears that Stuart Neville’s hands have a claim to fame all of their own. In a scene where O’Hanlon has to play the guitar, it’s actually Neville’s hands that appear on screen!

Many readers have authors they admire and would relish an opportunity to chat to them about their craft. And every writer has a number of writers they feel the same way about. I was delighted to find that we were both fans of Stephen King who Neville actually met up with last year. “It was a bit of a thrill to meet him actually,” he says.

You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.

 

About Those We Left Behind

Those We Left Behind is the new DCI Serena Flanagan novel from the King of Irish Noir:

When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.

DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.

Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.

When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, fresh back at work after treatment for breast cancer, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

Those We Left Behind is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.

Interview: Joel Dicker – The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair

“The cleverest, creepiest book you’ll read all year. Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood,” Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph.

Having finished The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair only days before the interview, I was intrigued to meet Geneva born Joel Dicker, a writer with a novel which belies his mere 28 years. He is hailed as Switzerland’s coolest export since Roger Federer, with rights sold to 45 countries in 32 languages and over 2 million copies sold in less than a year.

For me, minus the supernatural element, it was reminiscent of a great Stephen King novel.

Will you agree?

You can read the full interview on writing.ie by clicking here.

 

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair:

In the summer of 1975, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan. Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame. Quebert is the only suspect.

Marcus Goldman – Quebert’s most gifted protégé – throws off his writer’s block to clear his mentor’s name. Solving the case and penning a new bestseller soon merge into one. As his book begins to take on a life of its own, the nation is gripped by the mystery of “The Girl Who Touched the Heart of America.”

But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

Interview: Chris Pavone – The Accident

The-Accident-by-Chris-Pavone

According to Michael Connelly, “Chris Pavone is the new best thing. The Accident proves the promise of The Expats. It is as intelligent and timely as it is relentless and gripping. Pavone is going to be around for a long time and now is the time to jump on the train.”

Moments before I met Chris Pavone, Stephen King had just Tweeted to his 350k+ followers, ‘THE ACCIDENT, by Chris Pavone:if you like real nail-biters, this is the best one so far this year’.

A wonderful writer and an interesting guy, Pavone talks writing, social media and the importance of having a plan. Similar to most avid readers, we have a preference for the physical rather than the virtual book, but his take on eBooks is refreshing – so maybe, after all, there is a place for both to inhabit our world . . .

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, I know you’ll enjoy, hopefully as much as I did, hearing how and where Pavone writes, why his characters are so engaging and what he considers to be the best piece of advice he could offer to writers struggling with their first novel.

Will you agree?

You can read the full interview on http://www.writing.ie by clicking here.

 

About The Accident

Isabel Reed, one of the most respected and powerful literary agents in New York, is in possession of a time bomb and she’s about to give it to her good friend and trusted editor at one of the top publishing houses in the US. Anyone who begins reading the manuscript is immediately struck by the importance of its contents. They can also see that publishing it could be dangerous, but it could also be the book that every agent, editor and publishing house dreams of… What they don’t realise is that reading it could get them killed. On the trail of this manuscript is veteran station chief, Hayden Gray, for him, quite simply, it must never see the light of day.

Writing Tips: Books

BOOKS  ON  WRITING:

Since I began writing some years ago, the one thing that has astonished me, is how giving, every writer I have met has been.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a writer, at the top of their game, with a bundle of published books on the shelves or someone on the bottom rung of the writing ladder. I’m sure I’m not the only one who pounces on these nuggets of information, shared by these wonderful people, especially when they seem to be especially relevant to my writing at that particular moment in time.  What better place to share with fellow writers than here! Hopefully, with your help, this post will grow and we will all pick up even more helpful tips and advice to push us to the top of that ladder.  To get started, I’ve included books on writing but watch out for future posts I’m currently compiling, on software tools and general tips:

‘The New Author’ by Ruby Barnes
A self-help guide to novel writing, publishing as an independent ebook author and promoting your brand using social networks.

 

 

 

Eats, Shoots & Leaves‘ by Lynne Truss
The zero tolerance approach to punctuation.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves


‘The Five-Minute Writer
‘ by Margret Geraghty
Exercise and inspiration in creative writing in five minutes a day.

On Writing‘ by Stephen King
A memoir of the craft.

Cover of "On Writing: A Memoir of the Cr...

 

 

 

 

How To Write Damn Good Fiction‘ by James N Frey
Advanced techniques for dramatic storytelling.

How To Write A Thriller‘ by Scott Mariani
This book is designed to help aspiring thriller writers to create exciting, suspenseful novels and to give you the best chance of getting your work published and into the bookshops.

Cover of "How to Write a Thriller"

Write And Get Paid For It‘ by Terry Prone

From Pitch To Publication‘ by Carole Blake
Everything you need to know to get your novel published.

Cover of "From Pitch to Publication: Ever...

‘The Author’s Toolkit’ by Mary Embree
A step-by-step guide to writing and publishing your book.

‘Becoming A Writer’ by Dorothea Brande
As recommended by @maryjoburke1
A reissue of a classic work originally published in 1934 on writing and the creative process, Becoming A Writer recaptures the excitement of Dorothea Brande’s creative-writing classroom of the 1920’s.

‘Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White
– As recommended by @n_appleton
First published in the 1930’s and considered classic and timeless by many. Mentioned as a must by Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’.

Cover of "The Elements of Style, Fourth E...

How Not To Write A Novel‘ by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark
– As recommended by @gutterbookshop
200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published.

Write Away‘ by Elizabeth George
– As recommended by @JanetOkane
“Here’s what I tell my students on the first day when I teach one of my creative writing courses: You will be published if you possess three qualities — talent, passion, and discipline.”

Cover of "Write Away: One Novelist's Appr...

Getting The Words Right‘ by Theodore A Rees Cheney
– As recommended by @JanetOkane
39 ways to improve your writing.

Write To Be Published ‘ by Nicola Morgan
– As recommended by @JanetOkane
The Crabbit Old Bat whips you into shape and helps you make a publisher say ‘Yes’.

Writing Fiction‘ by Janet Burroway
– As recommended by @ValerieSirr
A guide to narrative craft.

The Writer’s Handbook Guide to Crime Writing‘ editor Barry Turner
– As recommended by @arlenehunt
With advice from Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Tony Strong and Minette Walters.

The Art of Fiction‘ by John Gardner
– As recommended by @MWheelaghan
Notes on craft for young writers.

I’d love to hear your comments and any recommendations which can be added to this ever-growing list.

Today is NATIONAL LIBRARIES DAY

Which celebrates all libraries: public libraries, school libraries, university libraries, prison libraries, law libraries etc.  It also celebrates librarians, members and supporters across the UK.

Why not have a world-wide Celebration of Libraries?
We’d be lost without them!

I LOVE libraries.

I love reading because of libraries and I have no doubt, that I am a writer today, because of all the books I devoured from their vast shelves . . .

I spent weekends and holidays at my gran’s and remember fondly, from the age of seven, walking to Inchicore Library, Dublin, each day where I would spend hours scouring the shelves for their latest offering.  I would hand in my two green tickets and in return, I was allowed to take two precious books home.  They would have been read, from cover-to-cover, and returned the following afternoon when I’d walk back through the swinging half-door to repeat the process.  Years later, after reading Stephen King’s, ‘IT’, I could see that scarey clown, in my mind’s eye, standing right there!

But way back then, it was Enid Blyton’s books, ranging from; The Faraway Tree; Brer Rabbit or Noddy to The Secret Seven; The Famous Five and The Five Find-Outers (remember Fatty with his fabulous disguises and Buster and Mr Goon?).  I wonder in current re-prints if Fatty has changed his name?  Everyone loved him in the books and it was only ever used as a term of endearment – but different times.  Ditto with Noddy and Big Ears . . .

English: Blue plaque for Enid Blyton near Dulw...

English: Blue plaque for Enid Blyton near Dulwich Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember moving on to HE Todd’s Bobby Brewster books – do you remember Bobby with the magic kite, magic lamp or the magic hair that stuck up at the back of his head?  Or the Mrs Pepperpot books by Alf Prøysen – the poor woman spent more of her life shrinking at the most inopportune moments, to be saved by her black cat who would take her home on his back – just in the nick of time.  I was enchanted by the magical stories about The Five Children (and it), written by E Nesbit, but when my cousin Charlie, after spending the afternoon teaching me to play chess, gave me his copy of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, I had to be prised from the pages.  It is still, to this day, one of my all-time favourite books – thanks Charlie!  I gobbled it up along with the rest of the Narnia chronicles and had the pleasure of re-living them all again when my children came along.

Although I received hundreds of books over the years, without my local library, my parents would never have been able to keep up with my reading appetite.  Today, with purse strings a little tighter, we should be making the most of this great facility we have on our doorsteps – to be able, for free, to borrow brand new books which have just arrived in the shops; older books by a new author you’ve recently enjoyed; to be able to search out and borrow books which are no longer in print and to research absolutely any topic under the sun.  Do we cherish our libraries as much as we should?  When was the last time you visited your local library?  You might be surprised to see the rows of PC’s, racks of CD’s and shelves of DVD’s.  Fans of the eReader can borrow books, from the comfort of their own home, without ever having to worry about fines – the books magically return to the library on their due date!

I am fortunate to be a member of The County Library, Tallaght, where, along with fellow writers and poets from local writing groups, we had the opportunity to Read our work.  Sign up for emails at your local library, to keep you informed of events they run, which can be anything from free Readings to free Spanish or creative writing classes . . .

I look forward, immensely, to your comments on your favourite library and your favourite children’s books – and hopefully one or two of you may remember some of mine!

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