Jon Barton – Q&A

Jon Barton

Jon Barton

Dive is a gripping crime thriller about the murky world of Metropolitan Police divers and the River Thames, London’s deadliest crime scene. When his daughter disappears and bodies surface in the river matching her description, workaholic diver David Cade and disgraced detective Naomi Harding join forces to uncover a sinister crime that will change the course of everything.

Jon can be found at:
Website: www.jon-barton.co.uk/
Twitter: @jnbarton
Instagram: @jn_barton
Facebook: www.facebook.com/j.n.barton

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

My side hustle starting out was pulling pints at the Captain Kidd, next to the Marine Police in Wapping. Those guys would sometimes come in to unwind after a shift and share war stories with trademark black humour. It struck me that divers are neglected characters in crime fiction, yet they have one of the diciest jobs in the Met. Sitting down to write ‘Dive’, I wanted to explore this shadowy world of policing, with the Thames at the heart of the action.

What came first the characters or the world?

The world came first in this case. The river holds secrets and has a habit of exposing them. If you’re lucky you’ll find treasure on the foreshore; if you’re not, you could see a body being dredged from the mud. I just felt it was the perfect setting for a thriller exploring a part of London that’s rarely glimpsed, this undertow of criminality concealed beneath the surface. It also felt like a great way to get under a character’s skin metaphorically.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Dive by Jon Barton

Dive by Jon Barton

I submitted the novel to agents during the first lockdown, and it was then Kate Nash Lit that picked it up. I spent six months developing the book before it went to editors in Spring 2021. It was a painful ten weeks, and a lot of rejection. It went to acquisitions with two other publishers, before it was picked up by Joffe Books for a three-book deal. I’d spent four years working on Dive on-and-off at that point, so it was hard not to take it personally. When you know you’ve written the best book you’re capable of, and people still don’t like it – that can take some getting used to.

How long did it take to write?

‘Dive’ was a screenplay before it became a novel, and I spent six months writing that before I thought of it in another form. All told it then took me a further six months to write the first draft. I easily spent a further two years revising and editing. I’m happy to say the second book didn’t take as long to write, but there’s something about that first novel. I was learning to write a novel the first time. I was teaching myself how to do it. Writing the second book meant I was trying to carry over everything I learned the first time round.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I have a playlist of movie soundtracks, although I do only put it on when I’m editing or have hit a snag and need inspiration. I’m jealous of people that can write to heavy metal or on public transport. I have to be totally immersed. I need silence when I write.

How many publishers turned you down?

Twenty publishers turned ‘Dive’ down, and it went as far as acquisitions elsewhere before Joffe Books acquired it.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I’ve had the full gamut. Some people (my agent and my friends) give me the biased response. There were definitely some publishers that said they wanted something more conventionally commercial. I get the strongest reaction from people that actually like crime fiction. While I’ve had nice responses in reviews on GoodReads and Netgalley, I’ve also had blank stares and muted reactions. You can’t please everyone.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

I don’t think I have a favourite. It’s gratifying when someone reads it and totally invests in the world and the characters, and they can see the same potential I saw listening to divers and their stories.

What can you tell us about your next book?

The Thames is the world’s biggest crime scene. There’s huge scope for criminality and darkness as I discovered in the research phase. The idea behind the ‘Dive’ series is that it explores the kind of crime with each book. The first story is about the drugs trade. There is a second story exploring human trafficking. The backdrop to all that is a long-running story about city-wide police corruption. But it all depends on whether Dive sells well enough to justify another story featuring those characters.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Yes I do. Though I’d love to say I have the willpower to ignore them.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I’d really love to write a children’s story. I have an idea that’s been burning a hole in my head for about a year now. Sooner or later, the time will come when I won’t be able to do anything but write that. On the other hand, all my new ideas are psychological and destination thrillers. We’ll see which comes first.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve done a lot of things. I graduated in 2011 when there were no jobs to be had thanks to the aftershock of the financial crisis. I found myself working in pubs, theatres, bookshops… anything that paid the rent. I’m lucky enough to teach creative writing now and I love it.

Which author(s) inspire you?

I loved Michael Crichton when I was younger. That mix of science fiction and science fact and fast-paced action just ticked the boxes for me at that time in my life. I’ve always loved children’s writing. Lately I’ve been digging into Michael Connelly and Jean Hanff Korelitz. Anything that I find propulsive an exciting inspires me one way or another.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I don’t discriminate if I can help it. I gravitate to commercial fiction. I really like good science-fiction if it’s grounded, and I have a lot of time for horror. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend was a seminal moment when I read it the first time, but I would say the same of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Roald Dahl’s The BFG. I like to think I read widely.

What is your biggest motivator?

I love telling stories. I love breaking them, finding a way into them, spending time with the characters. I write because I often struggle to express myself. Writing is a way to articulate that lived experience. Stephen King has a great quote in On Writing that I can relate to: “Writing is not life, but sometimes, it can be a way back to life.”

What will always distract you?

I have a cocker spaniel that basically finds it insulting I’d have other interests besides her, so she does distract me often when I’m at my desk. I also have a prolific writing partner who can write much faster than I can. We’ve always got something in the air, but it’s nice to be spinning more than one plate.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I had a lot to say about the first cover design for Dive. I heard a statistic somewhere that 90% of authors don’t like the covers for their books. Make of that what you will.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes I was. I read a lot of Roald Dahl and Terry Pratchett, and because I loved movies I read a lot of novel adaptations for the films I enjoyed at the time. I think that’s why I found my way to Michael Crichton when I was too young to really understand what he was writing about.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I really loved one of Terry Pratchett’s early stories called Johnny and the Bomb. Almost nobody has heard of it now, but at the time, it was incredible. This bombastic adventure about a kid with a time machine in a shopping trolley being pursued by men in black… I’d never read anything like it because this was pre-Harry Potter.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Can’t say I do.

What books can you not resist buying?

It’s all about the story for me. If I write a blurb that grabs me, I’m all in.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Cup of strong coffee, total silence, and I really like to be by myself if I can help it. I find it difficult to write in public spaces.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

I don’t really buy books I don’t read if I can help it. I’d say about five at the moment, but I don’t tend to buy books if my TBR pile is too high.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I really liked Josh Winning’s first book The Shadow Glass so his second book, Burn the Negative, really appeals to me.

Any events in the near future?

I’ll be recording some podcasts with Chloe Timms and Yvonne Battle Felton, and I hope to attend one of the book festivals like Crimefest or Harrogate.

And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

The story came first and the genre made sense after that. It didn’t feel like anything other than a crime thriller. I also wanted to tell a story that wasn’t strictly procedural or a mystery, but something else, something people haven’t read before. Ultimately, I’ve written the book I think I would like to read.


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Nobody (2021)

Nobody (2021)

Nobody (2021)

I was a bit tired last night and didn’t have much brain power for a new film of much over 90 minutes, especially after at least the previous 20 minutes had been taken up with trying to decide on which film to watch.

Finally settled on Nobody (2021) which I had seen at the cinema previously, an easy film with nothing too taxing for the brain, exactly what I needed.

Starring Bob Odenkirk from so many different things but the latest biggie is Better Call Saul, with great parts for Christopher Lloyd, Connie Nelson, Michael Ironside, and more.

A ‘retired’ auditor (government killer) is living in the ‘burbs, a life of boring monotony, trying to grasp what he thought he really wanted, normality, until a home invasion sets off a stream of events which culminates in strapping a claymore mine to a shatter-proof window to make a final point.

Lots of extreme violence with a decent back story packed into the limited run time of the film made it feel as though there was no down time, apart from the bits about the monotony of American suburban life.

The choreographed violence often gets compared to that of John Wick, true to a certain extent, this feels more visceral, real, crunchy. John Wick’s action scenes almost feel like a well choreographed dance, you really feel the pain in Nobody, the crunch feels crunchy.

My favourite though is Christopher Lloyd as the retired FBI father, who else could get away with a shit-eating grin whilst draped in several shotguns.

Overall a fun film that is hyper-violent, but if you know this going in and view it almost like a cartoon you can get a lot out of it.

Looking forward to Nobody: Back from Obscurity, or whatever they decide to call the sequel.

Nobody | March 26, 2021 (United States) 7.4

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If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

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Laura Laakso – Q&A

Laura Laakso

Laura Laakso

Laura is a Finn who has spent most of her adult life in England. She is currently living in Hertfordshire with her two dogs. Books and storytelling have always been a big part of her life, be it in the form of writing fanfiction, running tabletop roleplaying games or, more recently, writing original fiction. When she is not writing, editing or plotting, she works as an accountant. With two degrees in archaeology, she possesses useful skills for disposing of or digging up bodies, and if her internet search history is anything to go by, she is on several international watch lists.

Her debut novel, Fallible Justice, was published in November 2018 by Louise Walters Books and the next three instalments in the Wilde Investigations series, Echo Murder, Roots of Corruption, and The Doves in the Dining Room came out in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively. They are paranormal crime novels set in modern day London, but with magic, murder and general mayhem.

Laura can be found at:
Website: https://lauralaaksobooks.com/
Twitter: @LLaaksoWriter
Facebook: @lauralaaksowriter
Instagram: @lauralaaksowriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17986279.Laura_Laakso

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

Fallible Justice began with a question: if a justice system was built on celestial beings looking into a person’s soul to determine guilt or innocence, how could such a justice system be fooled? As soon as I had figured that out, I knew it was a story I had to write.

What came first the characters or the world?

Beyond the basic premise of the story, the first image I had of a woman running on a beach, channelling nature. What began as a character study for my narrator later became the opening scene of the novel. Once I’d met Yannia, I built the rest of the story in a fairly mechanical fashion (victim, suspect, red herring etc.) and moulded the world to suit the needs of the story. Because I needed both magic and modern technology for the plot, the idea slotted neatly into urban fantasy.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I got extremely lucky and skipped several steps in the traditional publishing journey. Fallible Justice was chosen as a runner up in a first chapter competition back in 2017. Unbeknownst to me, Louise was reading for that competition and when I later sent in a submission for her new imprint, she recognised my name and asked to see Fallible Justice. It didn’t meet any of her submission guidelines, but Louise loved the story regardless, and thus began an incredible journey.

How long did it take to write?

I think Fallible Justice took about 15 months to write, which is a relatively long time for me (the sequel, Echo Murder, only took 5 months), but I was struggling with some health issues at the time. As a general rule, writing for me is very much a juggling act between work, my dogs, and doing just enough housework to maintain the appearance that I don’t live in a cave.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I don’t have a writing playlist per se, though for the Fey sections of Roots of Corruption, I did listen to a lot of Celtic heavy metal. My taste in music is wildly eclectic, so I tend to have some quite random YouTube mixes on the go. I do prefer to listen to music while I write, but I’m less bothered about what the music is. However, I will say that if my main character Yannia had to choose a theme song, it would be Rachel Platten’s ‘Fight Song’.

How many publishers turned you down?

Technically none. Louise did turn down another novel I submitted to her before she asked to see Fallible Justice, but I never submitted my Wilde Investigations series to anyone but Louise. I have had a couple of agent rejections and I expect to receive many more in the near future.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Overall, the reception to the series has been very positive. I’ve built something of a fan base, especially on Twitter, and I love nothing better than seeing how invested readers are in the development of the characters and the various story lines. I play several hashtag WIP games on Twitter, so my followers get glimpses of what I’m working on and occasionally it leads to howls of outrage. I have had some negative comments about writing lesbian sex scenes, but instead of being upset by them, I view them as a badge of honour.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

Without a doubt it’s people contacting me to say how much enjoy the chronic illness representation in the series. Yannia shares my chronic pain condition, but like her sexuality, the colour of her eyes, or her favourite biscuit, it doesn’t define her, being only one small part of what makes her who she is. To have readers contact me to say they hadn’t realised they needed this kind of representation until they saw themselves on the pages of my book is amazing. I gave Yannia my pain as a way of explaining my world, but I’m so pleased that my words are resonating in others too.

What can you tell us about your next book?

The fourth novel in the Wilde Investigations series is called Wildest Hunger, and it will be published on 31 October. In the book Yannia is hunting one of her kind, while being drawn deeper into the political machinations of Old London.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I do have a look at reviews in the run up to a publication date and if I’m tagged on social media, but I rarely look at them for books that have been out for a while. At the end of the day, they’re not there for me. But I do love it that many of the regular reviewers and bloggers have become good friends.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have and will continue writing outside of urban fantasy. My first two novels, which shall forever remain in the digital desk drawer, were a psychological drama and a sci-fi novel. My wild imagination takes me in all manner of directions, and I see no reason to confine myself to a single genre.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’m an accountant by day and also do some dog training in the evenings and weekends.

Which author(s) inspire you?
Joanne Harris, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman for their extraordinary imagination and amazing use of language. Agatha Christie for being the queen of the detective story. Nicholas Evans for his incredible ability to evoke deep emotions.

Which genres do you read yourself?

While I have a particular liking for speculative fiction, I read widely. If a book’s premise intrigues me, it doesn’t matter if it’s literary fiction, horror, or a middle grade adventure novel.

What is your biggest motivator?

Taking one of my mad ideas and running with it. I also love sharing all aspects of the writing and publication process with my first reader.

What will always distract you?

One of my dogs being sick in the other room.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Louise and I are lucky to work with Jennie Rawlings of Serifim, who absolutely gets my books. So while we may suggest a few minor tweaks to the covers, the concepts are all Jennie’s and she’s never yet failed to amaze us. I love all of my book covers.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Very much so. My parents once threatened to ground me for the summer holidays over some long-forgotten infringement, and my only thought on the matter was that as long as they’d still let me go to the library, it could turn out to be a very nice summer indeed. I also seem to remember being absolutely disgusted when I discovered that my local library had a lending limit of 50 books.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I adored Elina Karjalainen’s Uppo Nalle series and Astrid Lindgren’s books, with Pippi Longstocking and The Brothers Lionheart being my particular favourites. But if I had to pick one book that had a profound effect on me as a child, it would have to be Jostein Gaardner’s extraordinary The Solitaire Mystery.

What books can you not resist buying?

Anything by Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris, Nicholas Evans, and Jodi Taylor.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Not really, though during the winter months I like to curl under a blanket with my laptop and a mug of hot chocolate. I’m also strangely prolific on public transport, so all train or plane journeys are a perfect opportunity for writing.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Far too many to count… Though having said that, since getting into audiobooks, I’ve been consuming books at a far faster rate than I have for some years.

What is your current or latest read?

At the moment, I’m listening to Hannah Gadsby’s autobiography Ten Steps to Nannette, which is wonderful, and I recently listened to all of Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary books published so far.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’m about two chapters from finishing the fifth Wilde Investigations instalment and I think it might be the darkest story in the series to date. That cliché about writers enjoying torturing their characters is absolutely true. I have also written two MG novels that I’m getting ready for agent submissions. Hopefully they will find a home somewhere as I adore both of the stories.

And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I never sit down with the express intention of writing an urban fantasy or a steampunk novel. Rather it’s the idea that comes first and that’s what dictates the genre. One of the greatest parts about being a writer is the freedom to explore any idea or story I choose. Everything else comes later.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Lisa Fantino – Q&A

Lisa Fantino

Lisa Fantino

“By way of introduction for everyone in the ethers. I have literally been writing since I could hold a crayon, so a degree in literature and communications followed by a masters in journalism was a natural progression. I was truly fortunate to be a reporter, anchor and producer in New York City, the toughest media market in the world. By the way, ask any New York City journalist what their book is about and they’ll tell you. That’s because if you write, you write and you can’t think of doing anything else.”

Contact details for Lisa are:
Website: authorlisafantino.com/
Facebook: @AmalfiBlue
Twitter: @AmalfiBlueBook
Instagram: @realauthorlisafantino

What came first the characters or the world?

They sort of arrived together. My first book was “Amafli Blue – Lost & Found in the South of Italy,” a memoir of life, love and lessons learned while living in Naples. Yet, I had always been a diehard mystery lover, from film noir to reading crime novels. Years ago I read Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton and now I enjoy Anne Perry, James Patterson and John Hart.

So, when I became a lawyer , rather than reporting on crime I was representing police officers in various capacities and for various matters. Thus, the birth of a strong, sassy, native New Yorker, female detective was born in Detective Maggie Flynn.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

Not hard at all. After decades of rejection letters from agents and publishers, some of whom would taunt you, continually asking for a chapter, then another chapter, then another chapter. I literally said, “screw this – there has to be a better way.” I was so impressed when David Bowie left his record label behind and released on his own label more than twenty years ago. That is now doable for authors. Fortunately, I had a corporate vehicle in place in my own production company, so we immediately released and distributed through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and Ingram.

How long did it take to write The Costa Affair?

This is a true pandemic story. I started outlining at the start of the pandemic and finished the final manuscript just three months ago. It kept me from listening to the news and going bonkers.

Do you have a writing playlist?

Not really. I need to be silent in my own thoughts as my characters speak to me and they do speak to me. There’s a lot of noise going on while I silently create.

I have conversations and find myself editing as I type dialogue, deleting it, then correcting it because I know the character wouldn’t say something that way.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Mixed. There are lots of fans who loved Amalfi Blue and want to hear more. Unfortunately, that was written about a specific experience and at the end of the book, I tell the reader the rest of my life will not be an open book.

But mixed reviews are to be expected. I have a thick skin. I was a New York City street reporter and now a hardened litigator. It doesn’t get tougher than that.

We all love honest reviews. Now, do I care about a review full of hate and frustration which is full of misspellings and poor grammar…..to be honest, no!

What can you tell us about your next book?

Detective Maggie Flynn has a lot more fight in her. After all, she has only been a Detective for three years. I’m guessing there are a lot more killers she needs to nab.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

At this point, unlikely. The advice authors always receive is write what you know. I have been exposed to two very different worlds – rock ‘n’ roll and crime. Maybe one day I’ll write a book on the death of rock ‘n’ roll!

The Costa Affair

The Costa Affair

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I’ve designed all four of my book covers, including use of some of my original photos. I love the creative process. It’s just really hard to re-learn photo editing each time I need to design a new cover because the programs always update and create new tricks for you to tackle.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Extremely, thanks to my parents. My Dad started me on Nancy Drew mysteries. He would buy me a new book for my collection which seemed like every week, in addition to our trips to the library. While my Mom created stories on the spot and also let us order an unlimited amount of books at the Scholastic Book Fair at our school. Her only criteria was that we had to read every book we ordered.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

No but that’s because I have a few favourite libraries. They are wonderful places full of treasures and digital connections…..and the best part, it’s free.

What books can you not resist buying?

I had to stop buying books about the same time I stopped buying CDs and DVDs. I had a record collection of 3,000+ albums and countless books. I should’ve opened my own indie shop. Instead, I sold off the lot on Ebay and gained about 50 square feet of open space. Now the light shines!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

None. Since I’ve gone digital I only download or borrow one title at a time. That being said, there are about 12-15 books which are in my permanent Kindle collection and another half dozen or so which are older titles on my shelf and which are now out of print.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

Always planning the next Detective Flynn Mystery.

Any events in the near future?

This is the first release where I am working with a book tour promoter. I’m eager to get started, so check back with me again in about two months.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.