We recommend escaping into a story. And this week, we are participating in a cross-promotional giveaway. It's easy. It's free. Click the below button and you'll land on a page full of free mysteries and thrillers. Take your pick. About midway down, you'll find Frédérique Molay's Paris Homicide series prequel: Vital Links. Now is as good a time as any to get it and enjoy.
As in life, when you write a novel, at some point you will publish it, and then, you face either success or failure. David Khara, author of the Consortium thriller series, enjoyed instant success in France. Here, he shares some thoughts on coping. His advice applies to many endeavors.
You’ve been brave, you fought against yourself, against the odds, against those who told it would never happen, and here it is at last: your book is there, in front of you. It will be sold very soon, online or in bookstores. Now is the time for THE question: will it be successful?
Forget about that. I know it is hard, but you HAVE TO FORGET ABOUT IT.
Why forget? Because success doesn’t depend on you. Even if your book is pure genius, you never know what’s going to happen, so let go. Something good happens? Take it. Nothing happens? That is the fate of a huge majority of books. Of course, you can hope. Not hoping would be ridiculous. But if nothing happens, do not give up. Do not surrender, and do not start believing you have no talent. A professional has decided to publish your work, this should mean something. Maybe it wasn’t the right time, maybe too many good books were released at the same time, who knows.
Something else could happen: your book could be an amazing success. It could become impossible to open a magazine without seeing your face (this happens to very few writers). Stay calm. It doesn’t mean you’re the best. Maybe you were in the right place at the right time. And still, with success comes exposure and harsh criticism that will hurt your feelings. Put all this aside. Keep doing what you like, keep telling stories. Always imagine you’ll be writing for ten people. And do your best to bring these ten people the only thing that makes sense: entertainment.
Laurent Guillaume is a multiple-award-winning French writer and former police officer. In law enforcement, he worked anti-gang, narcotics, financial crimes, and served in Mali as an advisor to the local police. His first novel to be translated into English is a hard-boiled PI story set in West Africa: White Leopard. Here he tells us about how his life as a cop mixes with his life as a writer.
Does being a cop help to write a mystery novel?
It is both an asset and toxic. My novels necessarily borrow from reality, so being a cop is an advantage. But I also think it is a trap. In a mystery, the writer's main preoccupation has to be the plot.
In your novels, politicians are never very clean.
I think the quest for power has a negative impact on everyone who goes after it. Politics has the power to corrupt on many levels because it lives off of everything that is toxic in our society: money, dissimulation, and lies. One has to overcome so many obstacles to attain power that it becomes a kind of Grail, and overcomes its original raison d’être: public good. But there are politicians who are driven by a real sense of democracy, by honest political conviction and humanism. I like to believe that even the worst people can at certain times and under certain circumstances prove to have some purity. The opposite is true as well. It is just a matter of proportion.
You seem to leave the reader to judge. Is this done on purpose?
I don't like the idea of telling a reader how to think or what to like or not like about my novels. I don't judge, I tell a story. Moral judgments are for philosophers. All of my characters are made of shadow and light, like in life. You are free to love them or hate them for what they are. But I don't want them to leave you indifferent. Indifference is the harshest criticism.
Tell us a little something about the genre you chose for this book.
White Leopard is what I would call a “hard-boiled African” thriller. I went back to the codes of the 1930s-1940s hard-boiled detective novel (tough, alcoholic PI; the femme fatale who brings him a complicated, perilous case; etc.) and then I transposed them to contemporary Africa. And it worked.
What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on real events or your own experience?
When I worked at the French Embassy in Mali, I was in charge of police cooperation, particularly with regards to drug trafficking and organized crime. At the time, I worked on a case called “Air Cocaine” as a consultant for the Malian authorities. It didn’t take long to find some material for a good mystery in there. For that matter, a better part of the novel is based on real events.
Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne are the bestselling French authors of the Antoine Marcas mysteries (over 2 million copies sold worldwide). These high-action thrillers combine meticulous historical research with unusual plots and a compellingly complex hero. We asked the writing duo what it's really like.
It’s a curious experience, one that requires organization… and diplomacy. We take about nine months to write a novel: one month for the outline, two months of research, and the six remaining months writing.
When we come up with the outline, we see each other nearly every day. We set up the plot, balancing narration and characters, weaving in suspense, planning the cliffhangers. It’s meticulous work and often raises more questions than answers. At the same time, it’s a fascinating phase, as we watch a structure rise out of nothingness. It is both fragile and seductive, and in it, the novel will take root and blossom. It is also technical work, and we use a lot tools, from Excel sheets to mind maps, to help us better visualize the novel’s structure and see, for example, where it could be unbalanced. For example, a major character who doesn’t appear often enough in the narration quickly becomes problematic, and we can fix the problem right away. It's like being a goldsmith.
On the other hand, when we go into the research phase, the work is very solitary, because we have already defined who does what. It’s very exciting work, a mix of web research, hours spent in libraries, and travel, often abroad, to soak up an atmosphere or prepare descriptions.
Then comes the longer, harder work of writing. Shadow Ritual, as the first in the series, is a bit different than the others, which, like The Lafayette Sword, are built around two plot lines—one is contemporary with our protagonist, Inspector Antoine Marcas, while the other is historical, and can take place in the Middle Ages or during the French Revolution. We each are responsible for one of the plot lines, but the two have to be written at the same time in order to include foreshadowing and other effects that work like a system of echos, allowing our readers to go from one period of time to another smoothly.
So, at the same time, we each write two chapters, which we then exchange by email. This way, we can follow in real time the progression of the narrative, suggest changes and smooth out effects. This work also includes a key work of rewriting. Each of us has our own style. Eric, with his background as a reporter, likes short, nervous sentences, while I’m more of an academic, and prefer long, dense sentences. We don’t want our readers to feel like they are changing pace or tone, so we rewrite each other’s text. This requires a delicate touch, as writers are always very sensitive about their writing.
Our catalog has a couple of smart, modern spy thrillers by former top-level French intelligence officer and award-winning thriller writer Bernard Besson. His team of freelance operatives must unravel the consequences of global warming on the geopolitical landscape and discover the intricacy of high-frequency online trading. They struggle to maintain their independence where the loyalties of official agencies are not so clear and corruption and political machinations are everywhere.
I’m fascinated with this world of espionage and recently took a moment to review my conversations with Bernard to come up with a list of some modern rules of espionage.
- Ninety-five percent of an intelligence officer’s assignments consist of gathering information and verifying it. Computers and software, along with general knowledge and conversational skills are more useful in this area than guns.
- In today’s world, technology allows everyone to intercept everyone else’s communications. Official intelligence circles are only part of the problem. The greatest threat comes from the uncontrolled private espionage.
- Intelligence professionals must do more than intercept communications and messages. They have to analyze and understand the conversations they hear and the images they see.
- Information is not a spy’s only target. Another real strategic objective is to understand the other’s intentions and way of thinking. In June 1944, Hitler had a large reserve of SS Panzers in Belgium. The Allies knew this, but was Hitler’s intention to send them to Normandy? If he had done it right away, he would have held off the Allies. Fortunately, he did not and lost the battle. The Allies did not need to chase cars through the streets of Berlin to find out this kind of information. A spy needs to be in the trust of well-informed people.
- Classic techniques are still useful, such as using knowledge of the other’s methods to your own advantage. French national security agents have been using it at least as far back as the Hundred Years’ war that pit France against England in the fourteenth and fifteenth century.
- Gadgets and technology can come in handy, but since the times of Julius Caesar, King Louis XIV and Alexander the Great, spies have worked with their minds. The human brain has no equal as far as software goes, because of its capacity for emotion and its power of conviction. Spies are trying to guess the opponent’s strategy, confidence, personality, and beliefs.
- A good intelligence service is one that asks the right questions. Information itself is not hard to come by. What is difficult is knowing what you actually are looking for.
- A good spy is discreet, polite, attentive and has real common sense. He or she has to listen to the silence, what is not said, and notice the hesitations. A good spy is armed with patience and good general knowledge.
- Today, keeping things top secret is less important than being quick to think and to gather information.
Thanks, Bernard, for these insights.
Ben Macintyre wrote a fantastic book about the real-world spycraft, which I highly recommend: Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory.
In our world of rapid climate change, The Greenland Breach gives you an entirely different perspective on how we are all being impacted. The blood splattered on the ice sheets of Greenland belongs to shadow fighters, mercenaries fighting battles we don’t learn about on the evening news.
What about technological disruption? In The Rare Earth Exchange, you get a heart-pounding story that could have been ripped from the headlines. What happens when a grain of sand throws off the well-oiled international finance machine?
After Looking to the Woods, Frédérique Molay has now produced a prequel to the Paris Homicide series. It's called Vital Links and for now it is only available for free. We will be selling it soon, so don't miss this chance to get the ebook.
Vital Links by Frédérique Molay
A prequel to the Paris Homicide series
A detective’s dogged quest for the truth reveals more than he bargained for. Newly appointed to lead a squad at the elite Paris Criminal Investigation Division, Nico Sirsky catches a challenging homicide case that plunges him into toxic police rivalries and harsh personal realizations, changing forever his approach to police work. This prequel to the award-winning Paris Homicide series by “the French Michael Connelly” transports readers to the French capital, where fighting crime is always personal.
Frédérique Molay's story has something truly special. Her first published novel took France by storm when she won the Prix du Quai des Orfèvre—this is The 7th Woman, which we were so very proud to count among our first titles. She then wrote Crossing the Line and The City of Blood. However, after that, for reasons beyond her control and related to the occasionally obscure world of publishing, she lost her French publisher, and almost stopped writing altogether.
I told her to send me the manuscript and, if nothing else, we would bring it out in English. We did better than that. It was published by Amazon Crossing in January in English—Looking to the Woods, and at the same time by Amazon Publishing Europe in French as—Copier n'est pas jouer.
As of yesterday, Copier n'est pas jouer is in paperback as well in France, published by City Editions. And Frédérique spent last weekend at the Paris Book Fair, as did both books.
“Paris had its birth, as the reader knows, in that old island of the City which has the form of a cradle,” Victor Hugo wrote in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This very island in the center of the city has held a number of key institutions, including the Palais de Justice (central court house) and the Police Headquarters, at 36 Quai des Orfèvres, setting for all of the Paris Homicide mysteries (and before that for Simenon's Maigret mysteries). Both the courts and the police headquarters are being relocated in the near future, and according to an article in The Local, the center of Paris could be preparing for a makeover.
The police headquarters is set to move to the 17th arrondissement on April 18th, 2017. According to a recent article in the satirical Canard enchaînée, the new buildings won't have a cafeteria until 2018, because it will share with the new Palais de Justice, which is slated for completion a year later. The temporary solution is a 2 km walk from the new building. As the French refer to cops as "poulets" (chickens), the paper couldn't resist a joke about the upcoming free-range chickens.
Here's a picture taken by Frédérique Molay (author of the Paris Homicide series) in the soon-to-be-old police headquarters.
We're getting very excited about the upcoming release of the new Paris Homicide mystery by Frédérique Molay. We translated it, and Amazon Publishing in both France and the US are publishing, with a simultaneous release in both countries on January 17! We can't wait.
In the mean time, check out this pre-launch giveaway on Goodreads. Don't miss your chance to win one of 100 ebooks.
When you sip a glass of wine, how often do you think about the lives, tradition, craftsmanship, and dumb luck involved in getting that beverage into your glass? Every year Mother Nature holds a new adventure for winemakers who, like goldsmiths, craft each harvest into a moment of pleasure captured in a glass.
Readers of the Winemaker Detective series discover much about winemaking as an art. Each book in the series is, in fact, a wine tasting. As you read, you take a sip, and then a second one, until you climb into the glass and become completely immersed in the drink, surrounded by the land where it was made, and the people who made it.
Each book is written to honor winemakers and set in a place that is constantly changing. The world of Bordeaux is light years away from that of Burgundy. Who could possible put Alsatian wines in the same category as Loire Valley wines? This mystery series is an initiation, with stories we hope will stay with readers for a long time.
Clearly, the authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen love wine. They love the France that is far from the beaten path, where people are struggling to make exceptional vintages, despite the blows dealt by fate, hail, or drought. We asked Jean-Pierre and Noël a couple of questions.
Where do you find your inspiration for the series as a whole?
Exploring the universe of wine is a little like taking a long journey. The more you taste, the more you go out and discover wine regions, the more there is to marvel at. Exploring the diversity of wines found in France is a humbling experience. We draw our inspiration from immersing ourselves in this world. With each novel, we visit a climate, a type of winemaker, and new natural environment. It’s an adventure, and we discovered that the world of wine has ways of doing things that are not always very orthodox. When we began the Winemaker Detective series, we had no idea how complex this world would be nor the failings we would find behind the scenes of the fine châteaux, which hide very human weaknesses.
Tell us something about the two characters central to this mystery series?
Before we even outlined Treachery in Bordeaux, the first whodunit in the series, we sketched the characters who would drive the plot. We began with Benjamin Cooker, a winemaker by profession, of British descent who had been living in the Médoc region in France for many years. He has an international reputation and his skills are recognized the world over. His sidekick Virgile went to winemaking school in Bordeaux. He has youth and a Cartesian mind, with a strong connection to his country roots. They are a tandem that combines two generations and two ways of approaching wine, working in a world where Mother Nature dictates fate and where traditions and myths still have a strong hold.