Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guest blogger Zoë Sharp

My guest today is Zoë Sharp.  She is the author of the bestselling crime thriller series featuring her ex-Special-Forces-turned-bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, of which the latest instalment is DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten.  Her work has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, Barry (twice), Benjamin Franklin, and Macavity Awards in the United States, as well as the CWA Short Story Dagger. The Charlie Fox series was optioned for TV by Twentieth Century Fox.  She blogs regularly on her own website,, on the acclaimed group blog,, as well as wittering on Twitter (@AuthorZoeSharp) and fooling around on Facebook.

Not only is Zoë a terrific writer, she is also a talented photographer, a (very) fast driver, a sailor, and a target shooter.  When I first met her she was telling a rapt circle of other writers that she could use any prop they gave her to kill someone.  I’m not sure she noticed the radius of the circle increasing. Zoë writes fiction full time in the beautiful Lake District.
Please welcome Zoë Sharp.

Stan - Thursday

Getting From There to Here
Have you ever stopped and looked around you, and wondered how you got from there to here?
I’m not talking about those momentary lapses during familiar journeys when the autopilot takes over, and you suddenly realise you’ve missed your junction on the motorway. Nor am I indulging in some deep cosmic navel-gazing.

Instead, I’m asking the question on a more down-to-earth level—when you first became aware that there was this nebulous thing called ‘a career’ and that you were expected to have one, what did you imagine you would become?

Caroline Bradley
Being a horse-mad child, I naturally wanted to emulate my show-jumping heroes—or in this case, heroines—and in particular Caroline Bradley, who really set light to the sport until her tragic death in 1983 at the age of only thirty-seven.

Sadly, being jumped up and down rather a lot on by very large horses with very big feet soon proved to me I don’t have the nerve for the really big fences, although being a riding instructor is still more or less my only professional qualification.

Clare Francis
I was brought up on a boat, so naturally sailing featured strongly in my early life. I was fascinated by the achievements of transatlantic yachtswoman Clare Francis, devouring her non-fiction works about her voyages, not only several times across the Atlantic, but in the Round Britain Race, the Azores and Back Singlehanded Race, and the Whitbread Round The World Race. And then her highly successful career as a novelist.

Writing, as well as sailing, was one of the mainstays of my early life. Having opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve (I was a horribly precocious child), I eventually wrote my first full-length novel at fifteen. My father loyally typed it up for me, complete with carbon copies, (cue peals of laughter from anyone under thirty), and it did the rounds of the major publishers, receiving what are known in the trade as “rave rejections”.  Looking back, most fledgling writers today would be incredibly heartened to get the kind of encouraging criticism I received, but at the time I was devastated. I assumed that particular door would remain forever closed to me and looked round for Something Else.

That Something Else included a variety of jobs, some of which I’m not really able to talk about, but suffice to say that during that time I picked up one or two useful skills, including the ability to hit a moving target with a large-calibre rifle at 300 metres with open sights. (No, really—don’t ask.)
Still the writing side of things never quite released its grip on me.

Michele Mouton
As soon as I learned to drive, cars became my passion. I bought an elderly Triumph Spitfire, rebuilt it, resprayed it, and drove it as much in the style of the great Group B World Rally competitor, Michèle Mouton as I was able, considering she had at least ten times the horsepower and four-wheel drive. I would have loved to follow in her footsteps, but elderly British convertibles with no ground clearance were not the most competitive vehicles in which to attempt serious off-roading. 
Change of course

 That passion for cars never faded, though, and almost by accident I fell into writing about classic cars, which combined two loves very nicely. I started doing a few reports for one of the local historic car club magazines. Before I knew it, I was freelancing for the mainstream press, winging it, and praying nobody asked me what qualifications I had for the job. Fortunately, it took one of my commissioning editors four years to do so. By then I was able to tell her, “Well, you’ve been paying me to do it for the past four years. Does that count as qualification enough?”

It did, apparently.

And I might have put aside my fiction ambitions indefinitely, had it not been for the death-threat letters I received in the course of my work, which had two immediate effects. The first of these was that I took a sudden and very keen interest in learning a great deal of self-defence dirty tricks—erm, I mean tactics, and the second was to try to make sense of the whole thing by writing it out of my system.

Now I look back on it, the whole of my life has been useful preparation for getting to this point. Every skill I’ve acquired—every bit of information I’ve picked up, or journey I’ve taken—has informed my writing in some way. No experience, however nasty it might be at the time, is ever wasted.
And I realise that although I may have come to it by a somewhat circuitous route, I am in the incredibly lucky position of having achieved my childhood ambition. 

I am what I’ve always dreamed of being—an author.

What about you? Are you where you hoped you’d be when you first set out? And if you’re doing something completely unexpected (but which you enjoy anyway), how did you stumble onto that path?
And if you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, can you see a way to change course in the near future—a means of getting from here to there?

Good reading,


  1. Hi Zoe - nice post. I never dreamed of being an author. Too many sporting dreams first. Then when the cold gravy of reality was poured on the hot meat of romance there, I dreamed of a being a newspaper journalist. Thankfully, my career in British journalism taught me that my dream was a nightmare before I ended up jail, which is where a few of my former colleagues are now headed. So I sort of stumbled into this lark - it beats working for a living, that's for sure.

    1. Hi Dan. Thanks for that. I was a freelance photojournalist for some years before I turned to crime, and although I was never threatened with jail-time, as well as the death-threats I did have someone promise to take a baseball bat to my kneecaps if I pursued a certain line of enquiry, shall we say. And I discovered many years ago that the bones of my hand squashed down far enough to get out of police handcuffs.

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

  2. Hey Zoe. Great stuff! Since I was 5, I dreamed about being an author. Never wanted to be famous or rich but knew I had to write. Finally, after years of trying, I'm on novel number five due for publication in February of 2013. Love Charlie Fox!!

    1. Hi Carrie Lynn.

      Huge congratulations on achieving your ambition. Go for it!

      You knew when you were five? Wow, I was just loafing back when I was that age. :)

  3. I always wanted to be a forest ranger. But instead became a lawyer, tree farmer, and certified handgun and personal protection instructor. If the time ever comes that I must grow up, I want to be just like you! Loved the story, Zoe, and take fair warning at being within 1000 feet of your sights:)

    1. LOL, Jeffrey. sounds like you've had quite a life. We'll have to get together at Bouchercon and talk gun stuff :)

    2. Looking forward to it, though I'm not authorized to carry in Cleveland...there I am again, alliterating.

    3. Ah, but if you admit to anyone that you're carrying concealed, then technically it's not concealed any longer ...

  4. Zoe, Your job exploits were far more glamorous than mine, but my ambition from age 9 was the same, and I made it, too. Like you I find that writing uses every single thing life has taught me and given me until now and nothing else I ever did filled up my whole skin! Hooray for you! Your joy in it pours out of your words here!

    1. Hi Annamaria. Thank you so much for those kind words. And congratulations on achieving your ambition. You put the feeling of being a writer so succinctly and you are entirely correct - no experience, however joyful or unpleasant, is ever wasted to a writer. Even when I managed to almost remove a finger with an industrial chopsaw a few years ago, I was looking at the blood spatter and thinking, "Ah, so *that's* how it looks ..." :)

  5. Zoe, wonderful story, and what a great life you had and are having. I always wanted to be a writer but the fear of failure (personal failure, not commercial) kept me from trying my hand. when I finally did, I made very sure to keep my 60-hour-per-week job so I had a good excuse for the books to be dreck. Then I accidentally wrote one that actually seemed to me to be good and I got it to an agent and the agent got me a three book contract. And I was terrified. Now it was real. People would actually READ this stuff. As it turned out, not many really did, but I was hooked, and here I am, 24 years later, working on several books at the same time and happy as a pig in, well, in acceptable solid waste.

    1. Hi Tim. Fear of failing, and a collapse of faith in what you're doing is the biggest obstacle to being a writer, I feel. I don't get writer's block as such, I get writer's 'omigod-this-is-such-rubbish-nobody's-going-to-want-to-read-it-EVER'and that's a pretty common state of affairs.

      Even, it seems for a writer of your unarguable talents :)

  6. Could you kill someone with a credit card? I am so intrigued by the first part of your introduction.