Hello my little chickadees, how is everybody? I haven't done one of these for a while.
I got a writing block at the beginning of the pandemic, nada zilch, nothing, seriously. I found it very depressing because each time I opened one of my W.I.P. the cursor just blinked at me willing me to do something, but I just closed them up again.
When my publishers Wild Wolf released the anthology Another Bloody Christmas, I became excited as one of my short stories was included - A Corpse for Christmas - which was set in Victorian times. It's about a meat pie vendor, body snatchers and Jack the Ripper. One of my readers questioned why I didn't turn it into a novel and then another asked the same question. On a whim, I opened up the document and started to read it again. Hallelujah I suddenly realised that I was starting to expand the story and one thing led to another. I'd started out with 2,000 and by the time I'd finished there were 19,000+, so a bit of a bonus. The first draft is now with my beta readers, whilst I sit with bated breath awaiting their thoughts and unbelievably still tweaking my copy. I'm obviously back!
In the past, I've lectured to students at a local college on creative writing, but on one occasion the tutor of a mechanical engineering course that I'd met over coffee, asked if I would talk to them about my writing regime, as he thought it would help with their report writing to which I agreed. He specified that each of the students could ask me one question and I would respond by email and they could be discussed on my next visit. I was quite amused by some of the questions and I thought I would put them here with my responses. It also gives a background into my writing history.
Q - What car do you drive and do you like it? If so, why?
A. I used to own a silver mini back in the day, that I called Melvin because part of the index was MEL. I don't drive now and prefer to be chauffeured around.
Q - Are you interested in cars?
A - Not really. As long as it's got good brakes and four good tyres, it's good for me.
Q - Do you have any pets?
A - I had a cat that lived to be 23 years old, but he got feline dementia and had to go for a slow walk over the rainbow bridge. I do have a family of squirrels that live in the trees in my garden and they constantly wreck it burying their nuts. They usually have stand up fights with the magpies. They tease them and then fly up just out of reach.
Q - What's your dream of becoming in the book world?
A - Probably writing a book which was considered good enough to turned into a TV series perhaps, or a mega best seller. Having said that, Soulfate reached #3 on Amazon back in 2011. I actually wrote it for YA but it was read mainly by adults, who seemed to enjoy it judging by the ranking. If I wrote it today I would probably write it completely differently.
Q - What made you think about writing books and how do you feel when you have finished a book?
A - I suppose I've always had a story inside of me from way back at college. I loved writing essays, but never seemed to have time to complete them in the allotted 40 minute lesson, which was very frustrating. When I have finished writing a book there is a sense of satisfaction, that I've at least had some input as my characters do tend to take over from me sometimes. I just sit back and go along for the ride. I do have to reign them in though from time to time.
Q - What made you go into writing and what inspires you?
A - I was sitting in my garden at sunset back in 2011 watching a spider spinning a web and I started to think about faeries and the little people. A story began to form in my mind and I got a note pad and biro but I couldn't keep up with the ideas, so I swopped over to a tape recorder. From there, my main characters Shasta and Erasmus were born. They must have been sitting waiting to be written, because I wrote the trilogy in just over six weeks working all day and sometimes at night. I loved reading as a child and I was always the young girl reading in the library. Sadly libraries often take a back seat these days, as we favour the internet in general for information. To me a library is the world at your fingertips, but now of course the world is at the end of your fingertips on screens. There is nothing like the enticing smell of a book in a library though.
Q - Why did you change from fantasy to crime?
A - Actually I didn't choose fantasy, more the other way around! It's a great world to escape into. A point in question would be the HP book series. Ironically my writing style was compared to J.K. Rowling, oh, and C.S. Lewis of the Chronicles of Narnia fame. Sometimes you just need to stretch yourself towards another genre and for me it was a natural progression with crime. My first attempt was called Poison for Two, which seemed quite popular in an online book club I belong to.
Q - If someone wanted to become a writer what advice would you give?
A - The first thing is never ever give up! I would suggest joining a creative writing course, where you will have the chance to get your work critiqued and in turn critique others which can be helpful to a writer as it gives an opportunity to see other writers writing styles. You will get good honest feedback, but you also have to be prepared for it to be pulled apart, which can be soul destroying especially if you think you have written something exceptional. You just have to take it on the chin because they may just be right. I have a draw full of rejections from agents and publishers, but I knew my work was good and refused to give up.
Q - What is your favourite book?
A - One of my favourite books is called Dudes Down Under, written by an Australian author, Suzannah Burke. It's a comedy about a tame crocodile called Cyril, that lives in an 'A' listed hotel frequented by the movie stars and insists on being dressed in dinner suits for dinner. He drinks beer straight from the can and loves swaying to 1940's music and song. He sleeps off his hangovers in whatever bedroom he's closest to, which can be a bit tricky for guests! Unfortunately it's now out of print.
Q - What inspires you to write books?
A - Anything really. I might be sitting in a pub or restaurant and spot a couple drinking or dining. Is he/she showing enough attention to the partner? or maybe he/she is planning a murder. It could be a painting in a shop or gallery window that sparks my interest. Does it talk to me suggesting a story?
Q - Where did you source you information to write about crime?
A - 27 years as a volunteer with Kent Police, working with neighbourhood police officers that knock on doors with their boots. Also helping to train police officers through role plays amongst other things. How to treat an offender or victim for instance. I was usually the 'victim' that had been 'robbed' or playing the part of a missing person, or maybe I was a potential suicide. How would they deal with me, which is where their training came in. I also went with an officer to a sudden death which gives an insight as to what happens next. Going out in patrol cars and yes I have been out with patrol officers back in the day with the sirens etc. As I became more experienced I got drawn further into the 'inner sanctums'. All of the above gave me ideas for stories.
Q - What has been your favourite book that you have written?
A - Oh that's a very tricky one as all my books are my babies. If I have to chose it would be Ghosts of Timeless Cottage which I set in Hastings my home town. I set it in my great grandparents/grandparents cottage. The story of a Houses of Parliament PA, that inherits a cottage, that is haunted by sea faring ghosts that are a 100 years old. She gets to write one of the ghosts life story.
Q - What sort of titles do you think interests readers?
A - This is an exceptional question; thank you! If you were to ask several different authors they would probably each give a different answer. Personally I like short snappy titles, that roll off of the tongue. Usually you know when you have the right title. Mine range from single words, including Soulfate, Merlin, to Sleeping with the Gods, Mirror of Darkness, Poison for Two, Another Bloody Christmas and Police Assassin which is a W.I.P. still. Other authors, may well fill up the cover with a title if they feel it's relevant. It's finally down to the publisher in my case I guess but I have an exceptional graphic designer.
Q - Did your teen years include any crime?
A - This question cracked me up. I would probably say, that's for me to know and you to wonder! However to enable me to work with the police I was vetted and the clearance I hold goes up as far as anti terrorism by Special Branch and the Home Office - I was given to understand when I asked.
Q - What is the worst crime that you had to deal with?
A - An unexpected Domestic Violence situation when I was visiting someone. The husband came in drunk and became violent. I managed to distance myself and the family and called the police. If you mean while I was working with the police I was extremely well protected and they ensured I was never in any danger. In my opinion, probably child abuse of any kind is one of the worst crimes, or DV against either sex. In this day and age, also County Lines where drug dealers entice youngsters into selling drugs for them. They get in so deep they can't see a way out. Fortunately I've never had any experience of that except through training as spoken about above.
Q - How do you identify getaway car?
A - Another question that cracked me up. A driver revving the engine to full capacity, while wearing a ski mask and then burning rubber usually does it for me! OR a car being driven at speed with police cars in pursuit with maybe a stinger.
Q - Who publishes your book and how many have you written?
A - I have written 8 books which are published by Wild Wolf Publishing, including a trilogy and I have 2 W.I.P. I've also written endless short stories that have been published in a private book club and of course endless poems.
Thank you for such interesting and varied questions.
So there you have it. That all seems so long ago now. I'll update you on my current book as it goes through the editing process.