A story of life and death
ENJOYING success after embracing e-publishing as a new way to reach readers is Devon author Kate Vane. Although she has previously written short stories and television drama, Kate has struggled to find a publisher for her crime novel Recognition. She was on the verge of giving up and then decided to sell it as an e-book for Amazon's Kindle, and has been delighted with the result.
"The big advantage of e-publishing is you can sell directly to readers," explains the 46-year-old from Dawlish. "If I'd self-published a paperback there would be significant printing and distribution costs.
"With e-publishing, I've been able to keep the costs low by doing all the work myself. Now I can reach readers worldwide."
Kate has been particularly pleased with international sales, including Europe, Canada and the US.
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She says: "In the UK I've been able to make sales based on my previous work and on word of mouth. But I'm not known abroad so it was very exciting to make my first US sales, and to know that they were buying the book purely on its merits."
Recognition features a trauma counsellor, Nat Keane, who is asked to work with the family of a murder victim. It emerges that 10 years earlier, a young mother was killed and mutilated in her own bed, and her five-year-old daughter Amy lay beside her, soaked in her blood.
Nat already knows the family. She is a former police officer who worked as a family liaison officer on the case.
Kate explains: "At the time of the murder, Nat was struggling to fit in with the police. She also had an unhappy family background.
"At a time of heightened emotion, she became close to the victim's family and despite the terrible circumstances in which she met them, they offered a kind of security for her.
"However, when she is asked to go back and work with them again, her life has changed completely. She has a job she loves and a good relationship with her partner, a criminal lawyer, Dylan."
As Nat is drawn into the family's secrets, she is increasingly unsure who is telling the truth, and who really was to blame for the murder, while the demands of the case put a strain on her own life.
For Kate, the characters are the most important part of her writing. She says: "My favourite crime novels are about psychology rather than forensics. In Recognition Nat, and the reader, must decide who is telling the truth at a time when Nat's own judgement is compromised."
Kate drew on her experience as a probation officer to give the novel authenticity.
She says: "My probation experience gave me an awareness of the workings of the criminal justice system. Some of the action also takes place in prison and I wanted to capture the atmosphere of prison, the way it is both tedious and threatening.
"More than that, I think working in such a role gives you a real insight into people. You realise that their motives are always much more complex and confusing than the facts might suggest."
Kate left work as a probation officer to concentrate on her writing. She has done a variety of work since, including freelance copywriting and writing book reviews.
"The copywriting has been really good for me," admits Kate. "In a way, it's the opposite of writing a novel because you have to write in the voice of the organisation, not your own. But that kind of mimicking is an essential skill for a writer. And the discipline of conveying specific information to a required length is also invaluable."
Kate grew up in North Devon and went to university in Leeds, where Recognition is set. After a spell living in Edinburgh she and her partner moved to Dawlish.
Currently Kate combines working on her next novel with a part-time job in Exeter as a project administrator for a charity which advises people on debts and welfare benefits.
Careful not to give too much away about her next book, Kate says: "It's set in Devon and is about three people whose lives are changed by the death of someone they never met.
"Although it draws on serious themes, there is also a lot of humour and I want it to be an uplifting book. Crime fiction inevitably features a lot of the darker side of life."
Kate hopes it will be ready to publish next year, but in the meantime she is enjoying the success of Recognition. "It's great that my hard work with Recognition has paid off, but I never forget that the most important thing for a writer to do is to keep writing," concludes Kate.
Recognition is currently available on Amazon Kindle at a promotional price of £1.99. Those without a Kindle e-reader can download free apps allowing you to read e-books on most PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones.