Terrible Titles

What is it with publishers and book titles these days? They seem to have run out of creative steam or else are frightened to do anything other than follow the crowd. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you obviously haven’t perused the crime and thriller section on Amazon recently. Title after title have the same basic theme: sister, wife, friend, husband, daughter. As I write there are four books with wife in the title in the top forty. If it’s not the mention of a relative or such then there’s a preponderance of I, you, she. Then there’s the ridiculous way a subtitle is added. Usually something like “the most gripping, addictive thriller with an absolutely amazingly brilliant twist that you won’t see coming” (hint, you won’t see it coming because it is either totally implausible or the writer has played a trick which it is impossible to guess).

Confession: my latest book The Boneyard even has one of these silly subtitles, despite the fact that I asked my publisher to put “A DI Charlotte Savage novel” since this was used on the previous five books.

What’s going on?

I like to think these titles are not the first suggestions provided by authors and are the result of marketing winning over creativity. There’s a follow-the-herd mentality and editors are reluctant to stray too far from the path. Far safer to just stick to the same-old, same-old then if the book doesn’t sell they won’t get the blame for being original. Still, I think we are approaching saturation point (the silly title threshold) and there will be a backlash. I already filter out these titles as I browse through,  knowing they’re unlikely to provide me with an original story.

As an illustration, my favourite book in the top 100 on Amazon at the moment is The Dry by Jane Harper. No wife, husband, you or I to be seen, just an intriguing title for a great novel (although the publisher has added “The Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year 2017” as the subtitle).

With that said, I am pleased to announce the title of my next book will be: My Brother’s Wife’s Daughter’s Sister’s Father’s Brother: A shockingly tautological thriller with a twist which will leave you breathless (as you run round in circles).

About Time

It has been a long while since I posted anything on this blog. The period from September to the New Year flew by. Since the autumn is my least favourite time of the year, that was no bad thing. Now looking forward to spring and warmer times.

So what have I been up to? Mostly I’ve been finishing and tidying a stand alone novel which is set on Dartmoor and marks a departure from the Charlotte Savage series. The story is about a couple who move from London to a remote cottage on the moor. Needless to say the place turns out not to be quite as idyllic as they were expecting and murder and mayhem quickly sour their chocolate box cottage dream. The best I can categorise it is to say it’s psychological thriller meets rural noir. At the moment the book doesn’t have a home since Avon/HarperCollins weren’t interested in publishing it. Hopefully my agent can find a publisher, but if not I’ll be self-publishing it. The good news is that if I do decide to self-publish, the book will out in a few months time.

My second project has been centred round a series of books featuring a new female protagonist who becomes involved in shady dealings to do with state sponsored terrorism and arms dealing. Very much in the thriller genre, they’ll be for anyone who liked The Night Manager or enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As yet no date set for when the first book will be out – there remains a lot of work yet to do!

That’s it for the moment. My New Year’s resolution is to write more blog posts (so expect the next one near Christmas…).

Oh, and Happy New Year on this, supposedly, Blue Monday.

You May Be Interested…

Recently, I’ve written a number of articles which have been published eleswhere. In case you’re interested here’s a list with links:

Countdown interview with Crime Review

Writing with Kids on The Early Hour

Getting Down to Writing on Writing.ie

My Serial Obsession with Serial Killers on Crime Book Junkie

Ten Things I’d Like My Readers to Know About Me on Female First

There may be an snippet or two worth reading, but don’t hold any of it against me 😉

News from Nowhere

Since 2011 I’ve spent most of each summer writing. The way my deadlines have panned out this has been a necessity rather than a choice. One year the kids didn’t get any kind of holiday as I worked seven days a week throughout the summer (in fact that’s not quite correct –  I took one day off to go to the beach). This year, however, has been very different. No pending deadlines have meant I’ve done no writing. Two whole months without a word written. The reason for this hiatus has been because I’m between books. You could say I’m very between since my next book definitely won’t be a DI Charlotte Savage story. That’s not because I’m done with Charlotte – far from it: I’ve plenty  more ideas and I’m keen to get them out there. However, the series has come to a point where I feel it’s advisable to take a break so as it doesn’t become stale. There’s also the matter of a book contract. I’ve had two three book deals with HarperCollins/Avon but there won’t be another one. Time to move on.

Over the past couple of years I’ve hinted at what might come after Savage. There’s been talk of a stand alone story set on Dartmoor. The good news is that this is progressing well and I have most of it written. It’s a two-handed psychological thriller with some familiar Sennesque elements, but without the cops. Leaving behind the police procedural part of the story has been both liberating and frustrating. There’s a very definite structure to a detective led story and that is swept away when your protagonist doesn’t have the backing of other detectives, pathologists, CSIs, etc. Certain standard scenes, which I can write with my eyes closed, are no longer necessary. On the other hand my protagonists can do as they like (not that DI Savage ever felt much constrained by police procedure!) and I can develop the story with less worries around what is believable in a police investigative context.

Having said all the above, there is a chance the Dartmoor set novel might not see the light of day for a while. You see I’m working on another book too. This is very different from the DI Savage series, although it does feature a female lead. The book is very much in the action thriller category and feautures scenes in Afghanistan, the US, Scandinavia, Turkey and Tunisia. It’s contemporay and bang up to date (in fact several scenes written before the Manchester and London terrorist attacks were so prescient that I changed the story because it seemed distasteful to include them). I’m very excited about this book as it takes me in a completely new writing direction. All of a sudden I can jet across the world and explore new locations. My characters can be Saudi princes and US politicians. Global affairs can have a part to play in the story. I can escape the Devon rain (hurrah!). There’s only a working title as yet and I can’t reveal more details since my new protagonist is very handy with a gun and it’s really not a good idea to cross her.

So, that’s my news from nowhere. Whether anyone (publishers/readers) will want to buy one of these books remains to be seen, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

So Far, So Good…

The Boneyard has been out for three weeks now and initial reviews have been vary favourable. It’s always a nervous time waiting for readers to respond with comments but they’re the only viewpoints which matter. Agents and editors and publishers always flatter their authors and it is easy to enter a world where you believe every word they say. However, readers have the power to bring an author’s ego crashing to the ground. I’m pleased to say that so far reader reviews for The Boneyard have left my own ego floating high:

Once again Sennen has proven why he is one of the best thriller writers in England now, as the Charlotte Savage series gets better with every outing, this is simply a stunning thriller that will leave you breathless.

I think this is the best yet in this series.

This a gripping crime story and one that I would highly recommend.

Harrowing suspense, a story that keeps you guessing (and turning the pages) and his outstanding main character, Charlotte Savage. It’s a brilliant new novel in a series that keeps getting better and better.

If you haven’t read this excellent series of books by Mark Sennen, do it now, you won’t be disappointed.

One reviewer did bring me down to earth though:

I can relate to all these places as I live here in the West Country but how they ever managed to get a mobile signal near Widdecombe is marvellous because I never have!!

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that was an appalling lack of research on my part or justifiable use of poetic licence!

The Boneyard

Today’s the day DI Savage book six is published. Another year, another milestone (or is that millstone?). I really enjoyed writing The Boneyard and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. One early review calls it “a compulsive read” while another says it’s “a stimulating, high octane tale. Step on board, hold on tight, and allow yourself to escape into this wild ride.”

Well, it was certainly fun to write. The main antagonist, Malcolm Kendwick, nearly took over the story and only the actions of a certain red-headed detective prevented him from stealing the show. You’ll have to read the book to find out more!

The Boneyard

Kicking Away My Own Crutch

I’m working on a new book and it doesn’t feature DI Charlotte Savage. You heard, it doesn’t feature Charlotte Savage (but see footnote). Help. Help. HELP!

For six books Savage and I have ridden in the same squad car, heading towards the same crime scene. She drives, I ride shotgun, ready to pick off any nasty surprises which come our way. Squished together on the rear seat are DS Riley, DC Calter and DC Enders. As we hare down the twisting lanes those in the back chip in with helpful suggestions. There’s the occasional gag too. A constant presence on the radio or phone is Detective Superintendent Hardin. He’s always checking up on us, making sure we don’t cause too many unnecessary headlines. Behind us on the road comes John Layton in his battered Volvo with one of his CSI vans bringing up the rear. Dr Nesbit, the pathologist, arrives a little after everyone else, but then he’s a gentleman and all this running around isn’t really for him. Holding it together back at the station is DS Collier, the office manager who has to organise some sort of order from the chaos the rest of us produce. Should we require a little extra help, Inspector Frey is ready with the Force Support Group. They can kick down doors, bash heads, and generally play soldiers.

These people have been my constant companions for the past five years or so and the thought of sitting down at the computer without them alongside me is darn scary. And yet here I am. So wish me luck.

Footnote: DI Savage fans don’t despair. This isn’t the end for CS. I’m not done with her nor her with me. She will be back!


It’s been a long wait this time, but publication day for Two Evils is finally here! Thanks to everybody who has helped get the book out there. Thanks too if you’ve bought the book or intend to 😉

Publication day is always a strange one for most authors because they’ll normally be well into their next book. Same with me. I’m already head down and working hard on book six. About halfway through and, as is usual with me, I don’t have much in the way of plot (shush, don’t tell my editor or else she’ll want a five page synopsis and a chapter by chapter outline). Planning, as some may know, I don’t do, so I’m always pleased to see reviews which mention that ‘Sennen is the master of the twisty story.’ I think that’s only because I get totally lost on the way from A to B and end up going via X, Y and Z to get to the conclusion. Luckily, X, Y and Z turn out to be quite interesting destinations in their own right and well worth taking a diversion for.

Writing Two Evils was a bit like trying to discover a path through a Dartmoor mire, but luckily everything came together in the end via a rip-roaring final blast of murder and mayhem. As usual though, you the reader are the sole arbiter. All I can add is don’t forget your Satnav!



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