Sound

Can you hear it?

A professor of psychoacoustics is found dead in his office. It appears to be a heart attack, until a second acoustician dies a few days later in similar circumstances.

Meanwhile, there’s an outbreak of mysterious illnesses on a council estate, and outbursts of unexplained violence in a city centre nightclub. Not to mention strange noises coming from the tunnels underneath Liverpool. Can it really be a coincidence that death metal band Total Depravity are back in the city, waging their own form of sonic warfare?

Detective Inspector Darren Swift is convinced there are connections. Still grieving his fiancé’s death and sworn to revenge, he is thrown back into action on the trail of a murderer with a terrifying and undetectable weapon.

But this case cannot be solved using conventional detective work, and D.I. Swift will need to put the rulebook aside and seek the occult expertise of Dr. Helen Hope and her unlikely sidekick, guitarist Mikko Kristensen.

Purchase Link – mybook.to/sound

Author Bio –

Catherine Fearns is a writer from Liverpool. Her novels Reprobation (2018) and Consuming Fire (2019) are published by Crooked Cat and are both Amazon bestsellers. As a music journalist Catherine has written for Pure Grain Audio, Broken Amp and Noisey. Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Toasted Cheese, Succubus, Here Comes Everyone, Offshoots and Metal Music Studies. She lives in Geneva with her husband and four children, and when she’s not writing or parenting, she plays guitar in a heavy metal band.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @metalmamawrites

Website: https://www.catherine-fearns.com/

SOUND: The Technical Challenges of Book Three

Now that I’m on to book three, I totally know what I’m doing. I’ve got this author thing down, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! The more experienced I become as a writer, the more I spot my weaknesses and the mistakes I’ve been making. That’s exactly how it should be, and I have no doubt that the best authors continue to learn and grow throughout their careers.

So while writing my new book, Sound, I thought a lot about the technical challenges involved. Some of these technical hurdles were specific to my own book, some were specific to writing series, or to writing crime fiction, and some will be familiar to all writers. Here’s what I learned this time around:

Authorial voice

This is probably where I agonised the most. I write in the third person, but from the perspective of one character. I am sort of in their head, but I switch between my authorial voice and their character voice. In addition, I also reserve the right to switch to different character perspectives. This is probably the most common style of fiction writing, and I prefer it to first person narrator. But it takes a fine balance, because it’s very easy to be clumsy. You have to have the elegance to convince the reader that you are a sort of omnipotent god, floating above the story and able to dive into any character at any moment and betray their thoughts, using their turns of phrase. The reader knows you are there but needs to forget you are there. I am usually in the head of Detective Inspector Darren Swift, but sometimes I switch to other characters, even minor characters, if a new scene requires it.

For this conceited omnipotence to work, a writer needs a really good editor. And fortunately my editor Alice Cullerne Brown was able to spot every instance where I was guilty of ‘headhopping’, ie. jumping from one character perspective to another within scenes. Because that’s the golden rule – you can only do this with chapter breaks in between. Otherwise readers are reminded you are there and you have lost them.

Research… and its limits

I LOVE the research part! I’m a historian by training, and before having children I was a risk analyst by profession, so I love digging deep, collating the primary and secondary sources, building up a big picture and then sifting it down to its essentials. And research IS essential.

Each time I make sure that the police procedural, courtroom and location research is accurate and convincing. For Sound, I also did specific research around the themes of the book – acoustics, black metal, chaos magick, and many other minor points.

But – too much research is annoying for the reader. You don’t want to be shouting ‘Look how much research I’ve done’; it needs to be seamless within the story. I had to hold myself back from waffling on about the finer points of black metal, for example, because the reader didn’t need to know everything that I did.

You also have to have the confidence to use artistic licence. This was very important for me with the police procedural aspects of Sound, because my detective character is gradually moving away from conventional policing and increasingly breaking the rules too. So I also found myself breaking the rules, and not following every piece of advice that my police and legal advisers gave me. Because it’s my world, after all!

Locations

My books are very much tied to their location of Liverpool. They are Liverpool crime thrillers, so much so that the city becomes a sort of character in itself. I hope the city comes alive both to resident scousers and those who have never visited the place.

Some locations are of course real – for example Crosby Beach with its bronze Antony Gormley statues and the windfarm on the horizon; the Kingsway Tunnel Vent, the Burnt-Out Church.

But how much licence do you give yourself to invent places within places? The Lumina tower is a sinister skyscraper in a real city centre location. But it’s not a real building – you’ll never find it there. I also had to be really careful not to use real places in a way that might offend certain people. There are risks. For example, I wrote about an acoustics department at Liverpool University. Nothing wrong with that, except that lots of untoward things happen there in my story. So I was careful not to visit the real university acoustics department (which does exist) or to meet any of the real acoustics lecturers there, in case it coloured my imagination. And I of course gave my department a different name.

There are other parts of Liverpool that get something of a bad rap in the book – eg. Blundellsands and Netherton – and I was careful not to base my descriptions on any real streets or buildings, but imagined versions.

Crime fiction style v literary style

You can’t expect a new writer to arrive at their trademark style with their first novel.. can you? I started off writing quite a literary form of crime fiction, with a lot of atmospheric description of landscape, and a lot of literary turns of phrase, I suppose. Most readers liked it, but not all, and when I did get negative reviews they were from people who didn’t want to use a dictionary and preferred to cut to the dialogue. So I tried to change my style a bit in book two, and then it didn’t feel quite me. As a new author I’m still working towards my trademark style, and it’s finding that balance between appealing to readers, and writing the books I want to write.

Spoilers

My first draft of Sound was ridden with spoilers. I couldn’t stop mentioning what had happened in Reprobation and Consuming Fire! This third book can be read as a standalone, but it is also built on what happened before, so it’s really hard to get that balance between reminding established readers, explaining to new readers, and annoying just about everybody! With the help of my editor hopefully I got the balance right in the end.

Physical descriptions

This is partly an issue for series writing… how much do you re-describe the appearance of a character who you have already described in a previous book? But it is also a question of style. I’m not big on physical descriptions. In my own mind, I’m very clear on characters’ personalities, and sometimes I have a very clear picture of their appearance too.. but not always. For example, the Norwegian guitarist Mikko Kristensen has a very specific look which I really wanted to get across to readers. But my detective Darren Swift – he wears his trademark ill-fitting suit and fluorescent Nike trainers, and that is unquestionable. But his face.. I don’t really mind… the reader can picture it their own way. For me, Darren looks like Steven Gerrard. But my reader might prefer to picture his face, and also his ethnicity, differently. There’s nothing more annoying than being told exactly what to think, and I want my character to belong to the readers too. But at the same time readers need something to grab hold of.

There’s no easy answer to this question, and it’s something I’ll continue to consider as my writing journey develops.

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