10 Questions: Alison Belsham, author of The Tattoo Thief

Hi all!

Another in my sporadic series of 10 Questions interview / survey things with fellow writers! I know, it’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it? I’ve expanded the casting of my author net a bit, so not all the writers featured from this point onwards are with Unbound. Mind you, that won’t stop me plugging my own noir thriller East of England, which is out on 24th January 2019, and which can be pre-ordered from all the places that sell books, such as here.

Today, it’s the turn of Alison Belsham, whose The Tattoo Thief is out now from Orion:

Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name’s Alison Belsham and my debut novel, The Tattoo Thief was published in September by Orion/Trapeze Books. It’s a police procedural set in Brighton:

A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again...

When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There's a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims' bodies while they're still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer's next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?



Why should folk read your book?

 If you’re the type of reader that relishes a gory serial killer tale with as many twists and turns as there are pages, this might be right up your street. For anyone who knows Brighton or for anyone who has a tattoo there’s an added layer of interest. The pace doesn’t let up for an instant, so it’s great for a holiday read when you want to be swept away by the story.

What’s the appeal of your book?  

I think one of the main appeals of The Tattoo Thief is the dynamic between the two main characters. Francis Sullivan is a young, newly-promoted DI. He’s as far from the usual fictional DI as is possible – he doesn’t drink, he isn’t divorced, he’s fiercely ambitious and he goes to church every Sunday. He crosses paths with Marni Mullins, the tattoo artist who finds the first body. Marni is older and wiser, but she has a dark past and a strong distrust of the police. The pair are thrown together, trying to track down a serial killer who’s targeting the tattooing community – and the sparks start to fly the instant they meet. Add to that the chance to get right inside this serial killer’s head, and you’ll find yourself on something of a roller coaster.

Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?  

Amazon, Kobo, Waterstones, iBooks and hopefully all good bookshops. Not to mention your local library.

The Tattoo Thief_Approved Visual.jpg

Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

I get up at about 7.00 and usually try to go to the gym for a workout or a swim. Then back home for breakfast. My working day varies – sometimes I’m writing all day and at other times I split my time between writing fiction and copywriting, which is my day job. Being a freelance copywriter and working from home, it makes it easy for me to decide how to structure my time between the two sorts of writing. As well as working at home, I inject a bit of variety by also working at the library and in a number of favourite coffee shops. I sometimes wonder what the people on the adjacent tables would think if they knew I was writing a particularly gory murder scene while they’re enjoying their coffee and cake! I usually stop working at around five or six. Living in Edinburgh, there are a huge number of book-related events such as book launches and author talks, so I try to go to these regularly or just out for a drink with fellow crime writers, who despite what you might think, are an incredibly friendly bunch!


Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

One of the first books about writing I came across was Solutions for Novelists: Secrets of a Master Editor by Sol Stein. I think this is a brilliant book and though I’ve read many since, this is still a book I turn to when I want to remind myself about some of the basics of writing. I can thoroughly recommend it to novice writers and the more experienced alike.


Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

Bleak House – Charles Dickens

Although the latter two are not crime books, these books had a great impact on me when I read them and I think it’s down to the extraordinary characterisation these writers achieve.


Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

 I don’t think I could ever tire of Rebecca and Cold Comfort Farm always makes me laugh. The Art of Fielding is an extraordinary and moving coming-of-age novel.

Any words of writing wisdom?

I think the last thing any writer needs is words of wisdom from me! There’s a mountain of advice out there for novice writers, with plenty of contradiction – so all I would say is find your own way and your own voice. The more you write, the better you’ll become, but there’s no right way or wrong way – just do it the way that feels right to you. Perseverance is what you need most.


Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

The Tattoo Thief – the title says it all!


Social media contacts:

Twitter - @AlisonBelsham

Facebook – @AlisonBelshamWriter

Instagram -  alisonbelsham 

Book URL: mybook.to/TattooThiefpaperback 

Website: www.alisonbelsham.com


Thanks very much to Alison for playing along!


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Details on all of my books here.

10 questions: Eamonn Griffin, author of East of England

It only occurred some time after knocking up this questionnaire format for fellow Unbound authors to maybe apply it to myself. Trust me, this website isn't a brains type of operation. Anyway, for good or ill, here's the skinny on me and my forthcoming noir-ish thriller East of England.

The artwork shown here isn't official material for the book, but was done as a favour by my younger brother Maxim - information about his own crowdfunding project Field Notes may be found here

EoE cover concept 1.jpg

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

Strangely enough, I’m Eamonn Griffin, and my novel East of England is a noir-ish thriller set over five consecutive days in Lincolnshire. Dan Matlock is released from prison after serving a couple of years inside. He’d like to go away and to start a new life somewhere else, but when his elderly father isn’t there to greet him on the outside as promised, he knows that there’s something wrong, so he’s compelled to return to his hometown to find out what’s gone awry.

2. Why should folk read your book?

Because it’s great! Because it’s fast and dark and violent in places, and about family and honour and revenge and inevitability. About immovable objects and irresistible forces, and about the weirdness that lurks under the surface of rural communities.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

Well, East of England is very influenced by US pulp writers of noir crime fiction. I like writers such as Joe R Lansdale, Michael Connelly, and Lawrence Block, each of whom have been something of an influence. So there’s something of the American noir thriller but displaced into eastern England – the book’s set in a slightly-fictionalised version of Lincolnshire – and there’s also something of the kinds of books that people like Ted Lewis, who wrote Jack’s Return Home, the basis of the Michael Caine movie Get Carter (and the two other film versions that are out there) used to write. It’s very much a British take on an American model, and hopefully, there’s some appeal in that for readers.   

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

Well, as of the time of writing – late June 2018 – the project is coming to the end of its crowdfunding journey, so there’s still time to back the book and to become a patron of the project. Folk can do that here: unbound.com/books/east-of-england/ - the book should be funded by 4th July 2018, after which there’ll be the chance to pre-order through the same link. It’s up to the publishers quite when the book will hit the shelves and people’s e-readers of choice, but a best guess right now would be very early 2019.   

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

When I’m first-drafting, I aim for 1000 words per writing day. I like to write fairly quickly, as I think the speed of getting ideas and action onto the page communicates to the reader. As I’m a freelance writer full-time, the creative work has to fold around the other paid work that I do. Ideally, I’ll do other work from 8am to 2pm, then work on the current novel from 2pm till 4pm.   

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I’m going to cheat slightly and opt for two. The first is Writing A Novel by Nigel Watts. This is something of a classic of the writing advice genre, and perhaps the best pound-for-pound how-to book there is. If you can, get an older copy as the book's been reissued several times with additions by others after Watts’ death, and for my money these editions aren't as effective as supports for beginning writers. It’s very much about the mechanics of story, rather than the inspirational kind of writing book, such as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, so bear that in mind, but it’s a very useful book to have.

The second book is On Writing by Stephen King. It’s part autobiography, and part writing advice non-fiction; the former is absolutely necessary to understand the latter half. I’m recommending this because of the audio-book, narrated by King; the personal connection that this gives is very effective. It’s well worth your time.    

If I had to pick a third (I'm a bit nerdy about this sort of thing) I'd go for Into The Woods by John Yorke, which is a great book about story structure, and which contains pretty much everything you need to know on the subject. Then again, you could pay due respect to the classics and pick up a copy of Poetics by Aristotle, which covers the same territory. And so on. I've read an awful lot of these kinds of books, and while there are loads that say good things, there's no one perfect book out there. You have to synthesise your own from your reading and your writing experiences.  

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Blimey. It’s times like this that I wish I’d thought in more detail about the questions that I’d set for other people to answer! There’s a hundred or more, I’m sure, but here’s three to be going on with:

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall is great, but the sequel is better. A storming thriller, a fine slice of whatever “literary fiction” is, and a marvellous dramatization of well-known history. An object lesson in the old saying that it's not the story, but the storyteller...

The Emperor’s Spy by MC (Manda) Scott – the first of Scott’s Rome series is a wonderful historical thriller as well as a sly commentary on contemporary politics and the follies of organised religion and fundamentalism. 

Freezer Burn by Joe R Lansdale – Lansdale is the real deal, a great writer of Texas-set westerns, horror, SF, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novels, and thrillers, with a fine ear for dialogue and a knack for the absurd. This is one of his weirder creations, the story of a criminal on the run who hides out in a travelling fair because of bee-stings so bad he can pass for a sideshow attraction, and who gets into way more trouble than he could have ever done if he’d just surrendered himself to the law.  

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – my favourite book of all time, and one I re-read every couple of years.

Fletch by Gregory McDonald – perhaps the funniest thriller ever written.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris – forget the movie versions, this is the real thing. Perhaps the most influential thriller of the last 40 years. Absolutely indispensable.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

In a previous life I taught creative writing in a college context, so in some ways I’ve already covered this to my heart’s content. However, there’s three things I will say:

a) Learn how your word-processing software works. Your laptop is your primary tool, so be comfortable with it. Writers’ needs here are few, so learn how to use the tool you’re using. It doesn’t take long, but it’ll save so much time in the long run. It's bewildering how many people who profess to want to write don't consider the tool they use.

b) Recognise your mistakes, and learn from them. Many’s the student who made themselves willfully blind to easily-rectifiable errors, through a combination of arrogance and ignorance. Try not to be that person.

c) Don’t have any expectations. If you’re going to write, do so because you like the activity for its own pleasures. No-one owes you anything.    

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

A man missing. A debt due. Dan Matlock has had two years to plan revenge, but so have the forces being levelled against him. This won’t end well.

Social media contacts:

Twitter: twitter.com/eamonngriffin (@eamonngriffin)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eamonngriffinwriting/

Unbound URL: unbound.com/books/east-of-england/

Previous publications:

Juggernaut: A Sequel to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde


The Prospect of This City

So, big thanks to me for contributing these answers to my own questionnaire! Hopefully East of England sounds of interest to you, and you'll consider backing the book if you haven't already done so.