Monday, June 27, 2022

Daggers Week Welcomes Liz Rachel Walker

Photo credit to Dani Cyr Creative
This multi-talented Canadian has already won Crime Writers of Canada's award for best unpublished crime novel. Now she--and it--are shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger in the UK.


Welcome, Liz. 

Tell us what your life looks like when you’re not writing?

LIZ:  I have a BA and MA in sociology and worked for 15 years in social and health research. But I became physically disabled in 2011 and had to stop that career. I have a connective tissue condition called hypermobility spectrum disorder--my connective tissue is more flexible but also more fragile than average. It led to me developing overuse injuries and extreme stiffness. In 2014, a medication helped reduce my extreme stiffness, and I partially recovered my mobility. I still have physical limitations, but I do several hours of physiotherapy every morning and become mobile for the day. I live in Victoria, BC, with my husband, Kevin Bartlett, who’s also a writer, and we regularly edit each other’s work. (The editing sessions can be painstaking and often involve chocolate or gin.)


Some couples make editing each other look easy. Others....? It's clearly working for you and Kevin Bartlett since you're both on the Debut Dagger Shortlist.

What previous writing experience do you have? What got you started writing crime?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Crime Writing Twins impress the Debut Dagger judges

Yesterday we had one half of a couple who both made the Debut Dagger shortlist with different manuscripts this year. Today we have a set of twins whose joint manuscript made the longlist. Welcome to American writers Jennifer Slee and Jessica Slee.
Jennifer Slee

 Congratulations to you both on coming to the attention of the Debut Dagger judges!  Tell us, please, how did twins come to co-writing a crime novel. Can you remember whose idea started the whole project?

Jennifer and Jessica: We’ve been writing short fiction on our own for years—we were both fortunate enough to go through the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where we learned from Lawrence Naumoff, Daniel Wallace, and Randall Kenan, and this experience gave us a great foundation in fiction and non-fiction—though we can’t say crime writing was ever seriously discussed! That interest came more from what we were reading growing up—we had bookshelves full of mysteries and thrillers.

We started by each attempting to write a novel on our own, but quickly realized that when we worked together, the writing was so much stronger and we progressed much faster. While this project began as Jennifer’s idea, since our work features large ensemble casts and multiple POVs, we both take the lead on different chapters. We’re lucky that we have extremely complementary strengths. Jennifer is skilled at research and big-picture plotting, while Jessica takes charge on editing and rewriting. In the end, despite having two authors, our goal is to make the voice match feel seamless.

Jessica Slee
Tell us a little bit about your shortlisted manuscript, set in The World’s End State Park (is Pennsylvania your home turf?). Geo-caching has long fascinated me, and I can see how it gives you authors the opportunity to showcase a lot of the park’s notable features. How well do you two know the park?

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Daggers Week #3

Welcome our 3rd Debut Dagger interviewee, Kevin Bartlett, with his shortlisted novel, Henry's Bomb.


Tell us something about yourself. What is your life like when you’re not writing?

 My day job takes up a lot of my time. I work for a research institute, operating a dozen oceanographic radar systems on the BC coast. A lot of it is computer work, but there is a field component as well. One week I might be in the office writing code, but the next I might find myself clambering out of a helicopter or schlepping spools of electrical cable up above the high tide mark on a remote beach.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Daggers Finalist Laura

As our second Debut Dagger interview for 2022, we welcome author Laura Ashton Hill with her shortlisted manuscript, Holloway Castle 

 Tell us something about yourself, Laura. What is your life like when you’re not writing?

LA:  I’m a mother of two secondary school age girls and married to a publican. The pubs are great places for picking up snippets of local history— particularly of a criminal nature. As a judge my grandfather sentenced the Kray twins. I’ve met people who knew them, journalists who covered the case and even heard about the carpenter who, the night before the trial started, worked in the dock of court number one at the Old Bailey. His job was to extend the bench so they could fit all ten of them in!


Is this your first entry into the Debut Dagger? Where did you hear about this contest for unpublished crime novels, and what decided you to enter? Have you entered other writing contests with this or other works?

LA: This is the second time I’ve entered. I sent off for a mini critique because

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Daggers Longlister Katherine Futers

Welcome today Katherine Black Futers, who turned her MA in Creative Writing into a focus on entering writing contests, and this spring received the validation of reaching the Debut Dagger longlist with the opening chapter of her second novel-length crime manuscript: Lufkin, Texas

Is this your first entry into the Debut Dagger? Where did you hear about this contest for unpublished crime novels, and what decided you to enter? Have you entered other writing contests with this or other works?

KF This was my second entry into the Debut Dagger. I also entered last year with my first novel, No Fouler Fiend. I heard about the competition through my MA course at the University of East Anglia. Since starting the MA in 2019, I’ve entered a number of writing contests. No Fouler Fiend came third in the Yeovil Literary Prize 2021. I think the competitions are a good way to test the writing, plus placing and/or winning gives validation to a manuscript when submitting it to agents and publishers.


Tell us a little bit about your shortlisted manuscript: cosy, noir, not easily categorized?

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Is this a DAGGER I see before me?

This is not a Dagger Award.
Every May and June my mind flashes back to Spring 2013, when I got the email here in Calgary saying I'd made the longlist for the UK's premier award for unpublished crime novelists: the Debut Dagger. It was the most exciting day of my crime-writing life! 

But it was soon superseded by another email saying I'd made the shortlist too, and that I was invited to the awards banquet in London, England.

Of course I went! All the way from Western Canada straight into southern England's hottest July. London was baking. The Tube was sweltering. I met many great crime writers both new and established. Gyles Brandreth gave a great speech that we still reference today (ask him about the 90-90 rule). Louise Penny and her lovely husband made us welcome. THIS MAN kissed my hand.

What is this award?

Not a Dagger Award either.
From the Crime Writers Association:

"The Debut Dagger is a competition for the opening of a crime novel by a writer who isn’t represented by an agent by the time the competition closes, and who has never had a traditional contract for any novel of any length, or who has never self-published any novel of any length in the last 5 years. Writers submit their opening 3,000 words and a 1,500 word synopsis. The deadline is 6pm GMT of the last working day in February.

Entries from shortlisted writers are sent to UK literary agents and publishers. Every year, authors find representation this way.

 For full rules and how to enter the Debut Dagger, please click on the Entry Process below. For info about how the CWA supports our community of debut writers visit the Debuts section."

Still not a Dagger Award
This year's Dagger Awards will be presented at the CWA Daggers Gala coming up on June 29th at Leonardo City Hotel on Cooper’s Row in London.

In the lead-up to the Big Day for the 2022 finalists, I'll be interviewing one long-listed and 3 short-listed authors on their manuscripts, their inspirations, and their life outside of writing crime.

First up, on June 21: Longlister Katherine Futurs with her entry, Lufkin, Texas.

2nd interview, on June 23: shortlister Laura Ashton Hill with Holloway Castle

3rd Interview, on June 25: Canadian shortlister Kevin Bartlett with Henry's Bomb

4th Interview, on June 27: another Canadian shortlister, Liz Rachel Walker with The Dieppe Letters.

See the full list of 2022 Debut Dagger longlisters and finalists

And how did I and my finalist manuscript do back in 2013? 

Alas, I didn't win. My opening chapter for the manuscript, 'When the Bow Breaks,' a prequel to 'When the Flood Falls,' was that year's Highly Recommended, but it wasn't picked up by any of the agents who approached me after the banquet. 'When the Flood Falls,' though, went on to win Canada's Crime Writing Award of Excellence for Best Unpublished Manuscript (the award then called the 'Unhanged Arthur') and kicked off a 3-book (so far) series set in the mountains and foothills of Western Canada: The Falls Mysteries.

STILL not a Dagger Award!

If you're an aspiring crime writer with the opening chapter of a manuscript you hope will take you far, here's a page you'll want to bookmark for when the Debut Dagger annual submission season opens again in the fall of 2022.

For the most current news about The Falls Mysteries, see