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Dear Reader: a letter from Deborah Masson

Little did I know a one-word prompt would lead to my crime fiction debut, Hold Your Tongue.

The word? Sharp. The challenge? To write a 200-word flash fiction piece as a member of an online writing forum.

The thing that came to mind, and refused to leave, was ‘tongue so sharp’. Dabbling in supernatural and horror writing at the time, I wrote about a murderer who killed by removing his victim’s tongue. Macabre. ‘Out there’. But something I wanted to explore.

Afterwards, I thought nothing more of it – until I signed up for Professional Writing Academy’s ‘Introduction to Crime’ course.

The course criteria asked for a detective, a breakfast scene with the detective, a crime scene and an interview between the detective and killer. Those 200 words refused again to go away. I ran with it. The seed was sown, and I was being given the opportunity to let it grow.

I wanted to test myself further so I signed up for another Faber course, ‘Write the first 15,000 words’. I didn’t necessarily see the possibility for a full-blown crime novel, but I wanted to carry the idea forward, if only to see if I could write that 15k.

I wrote and posted a prologue to the forum, stunned to receive the positive feedback, which I continued to receive until I hit my target. Reaching that goal left me wanting more: to get to the end of a first draft.

I joined Faber’s newly launched ‘Work in Progress’ course. It couldn’t have come at a better time. By now I had a clear idea of my story, believing it could be a novel and, going by feedback, a half-decent one. Determined to get there, the journey wasn’t without its struggles. My mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my relationship ended, and I moved to a new town with my kids. A single mum building a new life.

If it wasn’t for my tutor, Tom Bromley, having my back, pushing me to finish what I’d started, I don’t know whether I would have.

I was ecstatic when I had a final draft.

That draft held the prologue I’d posted months earlier. The novel was dark, perhaps a result of my struggles, but life had brightened and the book’s ending reflected that.

I mustered courage to put the book out there, lucky to secure my fabulous agent, Oli Munson of A M Heath in the first round. It was a dream come true when Random House Germany pre-empted Hold Your Tongue, surreal when Transworld followed with a UK offer.

My debut has released to fantastic reader reviews. It’s been described as ‘dark, gritty and graphic’, which surprises me as in ‘real life’ I’m a big softie. But I believe I’ve avoided gratuitous violence – not showing the actual act of murder but describing the aftermath, evoking the senses. Exploring the dark – the evil of murder, what these officers face – from the safety of my writing desk.

That fictional exploration helped me escape my reality at the time and for that I’m grateful.

Deborah Masson, author of From the Ashes
Deborah Masson, author of From the Ashes
Deborah Masson

Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city’s freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie – to name but a few.

Through it all, she always read crime fiction and, when motherhood finally settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy. Her debut novel, Hold Your Tongue, is the result of those courses.

Follow Deborah on Twitter.


    Reading this now, excited to be reading a fellow aberdonians book

    Your book is absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t put it down

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