A pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for A Pair of Sharp Eyes by Kat Armstrong, published on 10th September by Hookline Books, and available as a paperback and ebook. My thanks to Kelly at #LoveBooksTours for the invitation and support.
Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she wonders at the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen.
Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her, fresh from the countryside and desperate for work.
When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes, eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.
My apologies that I just couldn’t find the reading time to try this one, but I’m delighted to welcome author Kat Armstrong to Being Anne to tell us about her publishing journey…
It took me many years to write a publishable novel. For a long time I plugged away, occasionally publishing bits of journalism and teaching aspiring authors who came to my writing classes in Cheshire. Eventually I felt ‘stuck’ with a manuscript I’d been working on for what seemed ages, and decided to enrol on an MA course in Creative Writing, graduating from the University of Manchester in 2014. After that I worked on my dissertation, winning several nominations including being longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Prize in 2017. Yet despite my hard work I had no luck finding a publisher, and after revising and rewriting the manuscript over several drafts I wasn’t sure what to do next – edit yet again, or move on to something new.
In 2016 I took a short course entitled ‘Becoming a Successful Crime Writer’ with the well-known and prolific Nottingham-based author, Stephen Booth. It proved a turning-point. I realised I could combine my love of history with a murder mystery to produce a story I would enjoy writing and that hopefully readers would want to read.
It still took nearly three years from start to finish before I found a publisher for A Pair of Sharp Eyes. The manuscript, particularly the opening chapters, went through several rewrites, and at one point I despaired of completing. However, I was lucky. Stephen Booth was encouraging about the scene I wrote for his workshop. Other early readers liked the setting and the main character, and when I pitched the book to agents the responses were positive. Most importantly, my writing partner and mentor Sue Crowder edited early drafts (we have been swapping work for many years), and she helped me develop my initial ideas into a full-length narrative.
I only sent the final draft to one editor, and assumed it would be rejected. She contacted me immediately, asking for the full manuscript. A couple of weeks later she rang and offered me a contract – I was so surprised it took me a few days to absorb the news.
From that point on everything changed. As an editor, Yvonne Barlow at Hookline Books has been 100 per cent supportive, wonderfully efficient, and a mine of information about the industry and how to navigate it. She made several editorial passes through the manuscript, resulting in a raft of improvements, and her copy-editor Claire Bailey was a model of efficiency too. The cover Hookline commissioned from More Visual Ltd is eye-catching, beautifully produced and faithful to the story. Yvonne sent the book to a number of reviewers and book bloggers, and had the blurb ready for the London Book Fair in March. She really couldn’t have worked harder for the book, and if it doesn’t find a readership it definitely won’t be her fault.
Writing in isolation is lonely and can mean going round in circles, missing obvious problems with a manuscript that need to be fixed. If I could change anything I’d embark on my MA sooner – and join a writing group from the outset. That said, I’m not alone in having a bottom drawer stuffed with unpublished MSS. I learned important lessons with each one of them. Fail again. Fail better, Beckett said.
Thank you Kat – wishing you every success with this one!
‘Murder and mischief in eighteenth-century Bristol. A treat for fans of Ambrose Parry.’ Mick Herron, Jackson Lamb novels
‘Fans of historical crime fiction will love this one. An outstanding debut.’ Stephen Booth, Cooper and Fry Crime Series
‘A vivid, compelling and immersive read. The sights, sounds, smells (and horrors) of 1700s Bristol leap off the page, and the characters are convincing and memorable. Highly recommended.’ Roz Watkins, DCI Meg Dalton Thrillers
About the author
Kat Armstrong has a doctorate in eighteenth-century fiction from the University of Oxford, and taught eighteenth-century literature at Stanford University, California. She in the English Department at the University of Chester and studied for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester and graduated with Distinction in 2014.