Sunday 21 August 2011

Zoe Sharp interview: Fox Five

FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection by Zoë Sharp
Introductory offer price £0.86/$1.49

Zoë Sharp opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. When she isn’t writing about her ex-army bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, Sharp is usually hanging out of moving vehicles with a camera, or doing house construction. She is a member of the Murderati blogsite (, and part of the Hardboiled Collective.

What was your motivation for writing Fox Five?

I realised I had four existing short stories featuring Charlie Fox that spanned her career from back when she was still teaching self-defence in a northern UK town, right up to her present career in close protection. The rapidly expanding market in eBooks gave me the chance to gather them up, together with a brand new 12,000-word story, intros and other bonus material like a Meet Charlie Fox section, with the hope both of delighting existing readers and introducing the character to new ones.

Who designed your cover?

This was done by a very talented graphic designer, Jane Hudson at NuDesign. I think she’s really caught the feel of Charlie with this. She’s also done the eBook covers for the first five early books in the series. It was great to have the opportunity to sit down and watch a real artist at work, and to develop a really strong series identity.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Probably ‘having written’ rather than the actual writing, which can be a frustrating, exhausting, mind-sweat slog – at least if you care about it being right. But I do love getting it to all hang together, when the story seems to take on a life of its own and the strands weave together more tightly. I outline a lot before I begin, but this doesn’t make the story stale for me. If I know the route I can enjoy the journey rather than worry about getting lost. I plan the major events of the plot, but not the reactions of the characters to those events. They surprise me as they go, and that’s a pretty good part of it, too.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Two pieces of advice spring to mind. The first I know came from Stephen King’s ON WRITING memoir – ‘read, read, read, write, write, write’. There’s no substitute for it. And the second – can’t remember where this came from, but I have it as my screensaver – is ‘GET ON WITH IT’.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Getting out there and actually talking to people – doing bookstore and library events, and festival and conventions. Which is a shame, really, because more and more the publicity side of this business is being done via the internet. Now I can do an interview slobbing around in my PJs (if I wore any) rather than having an excuse to dress up ;-] OK, TMI, I know . . .

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Hmm, this is a good question, because mainly I write to please myself. I wanted to read about a strong female protagonist who wasn’t a caricature, but I couldn’t find one that satisfied me, so I set about writing my own. However, I realise that there aren’t too many people exactly like me (which, let’s face it, is probably a good thing) so I’m hoping to appeal to all readers who enjoy action with a human touch. I hope fans of Lee Child’s Reacher would also enjoy Charlie Fox.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I can’t really remember a time before I was a writer. Probably just loafed, I suppose. I have always written to one degree or another, finishing my first novel at fifteen. It did the rounds and received what are known in the trade as ‘rave rejections’, but at that age one is easily discouraged. I tried my hand at non-fiction instead, working as a freelance photo-journalist. This teaches you a LOT about the craft – how to write to topic, to length, to deadline, and not to be too precious about it if a sub rips your deathless prose to bits to make it fit the page layout. The photography side of it teaches you to really LOOK at what’s around you, and to capture a flavour, an essence, in a single frame.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Voice, character, pace, story. I love books that lose me a night’s sleep because I just can’t put the damn thing down, where the story is not obvious but doesn’t present impossible puzzles with implausible solutions. And, for some reason, I’ve found since I bought a Kindle that a book has to work just that little bit harder to hold my attention. Maybe it’s because I can’t gauge the length of it as easily, and I can’t just flick forwards to see how many pages to the end of the next chapter.

What's the best collection of short stories you've read?

I still really like Jeffery Deaver’s TWISTED. Every story grips you and because it’s an anthology from a single author, the voice and the quality is consistent all the way through, which can sometimes be an issue with collaborative efforts. I also like single-character anthologies, like the ones done by Leslie Charteris featuring Simon Templar, The Saint. They’re little brain-snacks of your favourite character, rather than a full sit-down meal.

What's the book you've recommended most to friends?

Strangely enough, it’s a non-fiction book by motorcycle journalist Dan Walsh, called THESE ARE THE DAYS THAT MUST HAPPEN TO YOU. Walsh is a mad Mancunian, who set off to ride around Africa – way before Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman – and then down through the Americas, with no prep and very little backup. He’s a prose poet, and his stuff is compulsively, beautifully readable.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Yes. But that, as they say, is another story . . .


  1. I like the Reacher/Fox analogy, though they appeal to two different aspects of my taste. Reacher always seems to know what to do. In the Charlie Fox book I've read (so far) it was fun to watch her figure it out, as she's not the superhuman Agent of Good that Reacher is.

  2. Hi Dana

    Thanks for stopping by. Lee once said Reacher would team up with Charlie, so she'd let him do the heavy lifting ;-]