Book Review: Dying To Tell Me by Sherryl Clark

Dying To Tell Me Title: Dying To Tell Me
Author: Sherryl Clark
Website: Sherryl Clark
Social Media: Goodreads, Blog and Twitter
Publisher: Kane Miller EDC Publishing

A town that doesn’t want her.
A ghost that won’t leave her alone.
Dreams that mean life or death.

When Sasha’s policeman dad takes up a remote country posting, she falls and hits her head on the very first day. So when their new pet, retired police dog King, starts communicating with her, she puts it down to concussion. But more strange things start to happen. Who is the greasy-haired man she keeps seeing? Why is the local art dealer so nasty? And who killed Mrs Alsopp and set her house on fire?

When Sasha ‘sees’ the burning house in a dream, it’s not enough to save the elderly woman. But the beaten man she sees in the old police cell is already dead – isn’t he? Together, Sasha and King must solve the mysteries of Manna Creek, and save the one person she thought she could rely on.

From popular and award-winning author, Sherryl Clark, comes a fast-paced mystery that will haunt you until the very last page.”

Things I Liked:
-Balanced Story Elements: Plot, Character and Description were all equally represented in the narrative.
-Engaging Characters: Sasha and King are well-developed and interesting, but it’s the secondary characters, such as Tangine, that intrigue me.
-Plot: The plot is well paced and engaging, and while I would have liked for Sasha to be present when the missing Nolan painting was discovered, however I can understand that might not have been practical. Sasha doesn’t want to draw too much attention to herself.

Stray Observations:
-Potential: Dying To Tell Me has a lot of potential, I could easily see it becoming a series.
-Loose Ends: There were a few side-plots that weren’t resolved, which made me think the author would most likely resolve them in a sequel. Fortunately, I was able to contact Sherryl Clark and ask her a few questions.

Interview with Sherryl Clark

What inspired you to write this book?
I have always loved reading crime fiction, and I wanted to write a gritty mystery for middle grade readers that had some spooky elements too. I think the Australian bush can be very scary (especially if you get lost). Out there among the trees, everything looks the same, and in winter it’s very gloomy and dark. I also wanted to write a story that featured a police dog in some way because I had done a lot of research on them for an article.

For this novel, did you research and outline then begin writing or did you research and write at the same time?
They worked together for this one – I did the police dog research and the one-person police station interviews early on, but a lot of the other stuff filtered in through what I already knew and occasional forays into Google when I needed specifics.

How long did it take you to complete the writing, editing and publishing process?
The novel took me about 8 months altogether, and a writer friend critiqued it for me, then I met the publisher from KaneMiller at a conference and she took the manuscript straight away. It was published in the USA in 2011, but KM had most of the rights, except for Aust/NZ print rights and no publishers here were interested, so I decided to publish it myself. It was one of those books I couldn’t let go!

What techniques did you use to market the book for a Young Adult audience?
In the USA they did all the marketing – I contributed with author notes and photos. When I published it here, I did a lot of marketing via my website, Facebook and other social media, plus I did school talks, two launches, and sent out review copies. I spent about two months almost full-time working on all the different kinds of marketing. Also a friend’s son made a book trailer for me, which was terrific – it’s on YouTube.

Do you plan on writing a sequel for Dying To Tell Me?
Already have! It’s called Whispers in the Dark. Will it get published? Who knows?

What style of writing do you prefer to use?
I like prose and poetry equally – I think my poetry feeds into my prose writing through the description and setting. Verse novels tend to be about more emotional topics and stories, whereas prose allows you to develop characters and plot more deeply.

What aspect of Writing do you struggle with?
Getting started! Once I settle down to it, I usually write anything up to 2000 words or more in a day, but it’s getting to the page that is a mental hurdle. I bribe myself with “just one page”, and if that doesn’t work, I go and write in a café. That always works.

What aspect of Writing do you feel positive about?
I love creating characters and worlds and adding ideas. Often I have as much fun with my secondary characters as I do with my main characters.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I don’t have a schedule. I’m working (for wages!) so writing has to fit around that. When I am teaching, it means there are stretches of weeks at a time where I can’t write because I have so much marking to do. It’s very frustrating. I’ve had to learn that when the time is there (especially in the holidays) I have to make the most of it. That’s also when I do deeper reading – tackle the more literary novels that restore my creativity and get my brain working that way again. Now I am studying again, I have to make sure that writing comes first – thankfully my PhD is in creative writing so I know that time is for writing as much as theory.

What do you like to do outside of writing?
Read! I also like movies, and walking (to try and get rid of my computer scrunch), sometimes I like cooking, and I love to travel.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
What a wonderful experience a picture book is – how an illustrator can take your words and create something new and amazing that you could never have imagined.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I’ve written probably about 80 books but not all are published (some are unpublishable in their current state). I don’t really have favourites but there are some I feel closer to – Dying to Tell Me is one, and so is The Too-Tight Tutu. I also really like the Rose books I wrote for the Our Australian Girl series. Maybe Rose is a bit like me when I was that age!

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations on becoming a better writer? If so, what are they?
Read widely and read critically. Learn from what you read. If you can teach yourself to “see” what a writer is doing on the page, and think about how they are doing it, you will improve your own writing day by day. You also have to write. Maybe not every day but regularly, so that you keep the feeling of flow, and stay in the fictional world you have created. If you leave it for too long, you forget it and lose the passion for the story. It’s easy to give up.

Do you often receive reader feedback? What kinds of things do they say?
Not a lot, except when I do school visits. Then I get lots of questions and we have conversations about certain books.

What do you think makes a good story?
I don’t have a recipe – wish I did. It’s a combination of character and story, plus voice, but also authorial confidence. You can always tell when you are in good hands, right from the first page.

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