Hi everyone, and this morning I’m delighted to welcome Gina Kirkham to the blog. Gina is a retired police officer, from Merseyside Police and is now the writer of the successful Constable Mavis Upton novels. She was kind enough to answer a quick question or three about her journey to publication.
Over to you, Gina…
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’
Enid Blyton was my favourite author as a child. I loved the Famous Five series, they conjured up such exciting adventures and even now when I read them to my grandchildren, it brings back the cosy glow of my own happy childhood. The one book that was a complete turning point for me was To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I read this as part of my school curriculum for English Literature. I was truly moved by the subject and devoured every word.
2) Did you enjoy English at school?
Absolutely! I loved it, closely followed by Art and History. English Language was fun, I had a great teacher who actively encouraged my imagination and the understanding and use of words.
3) I know that you are retired from Merseyside Police. How did you find that the job helped you in your writing?
I think only from the point of view that I was pretty good at paperwork and in particular statement taking. During my initial training my Tutor Constable was guiding me through the details of how to take a good statement for court purposes. She told me I had to paint a picture, so the court and a jury could see, feel and almost smell the incident I was evidencing. It made perfect sense because frequently I would be trying to put into writing the most horrific details that can sometimes be sanitised by the telling. Many years later they rolled out a new scheme called Victim Impact Statements. These were in addition to the initial evidential statements, where you could describe the emotional aspect and the psychological impact of a crime.
It was all excellent grounding for my writing. When you write, the story and characters are only in your head and you have to turn them into living creatures with a tale to tell. Your readers have to be able to see, hear, feel and smell your characters, to believe that they are actually there with them as the story unfolds. You give them all the senses through your words.
4) What is the best thing about Urbane Publications? Why did you choose them?
I loved their creative, proactive and personal approach to publishing. They are very author focused and encourage us to have a say in the process of getting our work out there. When I initially queried publishing houses with my first manuscript, Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong, I had two acceptances, Urbane being one of them. After speaking to their Publishing Director, Matthew Smith on the telephone, I had no hesitation at all, I loved his enthusiasm and just from reading the manuscript he was excitedly discussing how he could see the book cover. I’ve been with Urbane Publications for almost four years now and they have published all three of the Mavis Upton series.
5) Do you have any plan formed when you come up with ideas? How does your idea generation work?
Oooh, now that’s a bit of an awkward one. I’d love to say that I meticulously plan out a plot, draft chapter ideas, pin notes on boards etc., but I don’t. I’m really spontaneous and quite random in how I write. I’m lucky because I already had an established character in Mavis, and as she was based on me, I knew how she was going to develop and as some of the stories are true, that helped to keep the flow. I tend to sit at my laptop with a beginning a middle and and end scribbled on a jotter and then just write from the heart. I can hear the ‘conversations’ my characters have in my head, as though they are real and I just furiously type until I’m finished.
That’s the first draft……then follows weeks of moving chapters around, editing, rewrites, killing superfluous characters off and identifying spelling bloopers until I’m happy with it. You have to get it down on paper first in order to create it!
6) Can you name one author that you admire, and why you like their particular style of writing? What is it about their stories that you find so intriguing?
Peter James. I find his books extremely well researched and his writing flows. As they’re a series, it’s enjoyable to remain with the main protagonist throughout, to see how they and the storyline develops.
7) What is your approach to planning your novel? Mine consisted of research and note taking (lots of each!)
I’m a terrible people watcher so wherever I am, I study people, their mannerisms, dialect, accents, body language and character. In my latest book, Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes, Cora May Spunge and Agatha Hortensia Winterbourne are both based on two elderly ladies I met at a Women’s Institute talk. I just loved their interaction and innocent wit whilst they sat drinking tea.
8) What was the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?
Highgate by Shani Struthers. Although I write humour, I’m a huge crime and supernatural fan. Shani is one of my favourite authors for tales of ghosts, the supernatural and psychic investigations. I always enjoy her books, so much so I’ve just started her latest, Mandy.
9) When you leave your desk on a Friday, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/on the weekend, what do you do to relax?
Being retired, I don’t have a particular structure to my days (or weeks), working shifts for so long meant I had already adapted to having ‘weekends’ in the middle of the week, so days and weekends just seem to roll along into one. I can just as easily be found in the Butterfly House at Chester Zoo with my grandchildren as I can be behind my desk, I love gardening, reading and I’m a huge Harry Potter addict, so if the weather is bad, I have duvet days watching every film back to back.
10) If you had to choose between Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury, who would it be and why?
I do like them both but I think I’d have to plump for Freddie Mercury. He was such a talented man, his showmanship was exhilarating and that voice!
AUTHOR BIO & BOOKS
Gina Kirkham began her career in front-line policing as a single parent in her early thirties. During her time with Merseyside Police she received several commendations and in 2000 she was awarded Police Officer of the Year.
Her debut novel, the humorous HANDCUFFS, TRUNCHEON AND A POLYESTER THONG, was published in May 2017 by Urbane Publications. July 2018 saw the launch of the second book in the series, WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT, and the third, BLUES, TWOS and BABY SHOES was published in October 2019. The series tells the story of single mum Mavis Upton, as she tackles everything life can throw at her in the funny but poignant account of an everyday woman who one day followed a dream to become a later-life police officer and provide for her child.
Gina is now retired from Policing and lives on the Wirral with her long suffering husband, two wayward, unruly dogs and the welcome distraction of three wonderful grandchildren and a weekly bottle of gin.
HANDCUFFS, TRUNCHEON AND A POLYESTER THONG (Constable Mavis Upton Book 1) Meet Mavis Upton.
As mummy to 7-year old Ella, surrogate to far too many pets and with a failed marriage under her belt, Mavis knows she needs to make some life- changing decisions. It’s time to strike out into the world, to stand on her own two feet … to pursue a lifelong ambition to become a Police Officer. I mean, what could go wrong?
Supported by her quirky, malapropism-suffering mum, Mavis throws herself headlong into a world of uncertainty, self-discovery, fearless escapades, laughter and extra-large knickers. And using her newly discovered investigative skills, she reluctantly embarks on a search to find
her errant dad who was last seen years before, making off with her mum’s much needed coupon for a fabulous foam cup bra all the way from America.
Follow Mavis as she tackles everything life can throw at her, and revel in Gina Kirkham’s humorous, poignant and moving story of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.
WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT (Constable Mavis Upton Book 2)
The laughter continues to flow in Gina Kirkham’s brilliant sequel to the
wonderful Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong.
Our hapless heroine Constable Mavis Upton is preparing to step down the aisle with her fiancé Joe, but has to deal with her temperamental teen daughter, as well as investigate a serial flasher on a push bike.
Throw a diva drag queen into the mix and readers can expect the usual hilarious Mavis mishaps that made the first book such a hit. Revel in Gina Kirkham’s humorous, poignant and moving stories of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.
BLUES, TWOS AND BABY SHOES (Constable Mavis Upton Book 3)
Constable Mavis Upton is back, and this time she’s taking no prisoners –
which is never good for a police officer.
Mavis is pregnant, as is her daughter Ella. Facing the prospect of motherhood and being a grandmother simultaneously the last thing Mavis needs is problems at work. But a new sexist dinosaur of a Sergeant is more bully than mentor, and a mysterious case involving a blackmailer sending poison pen letters is baffling the police and tearing apart the local community.
Can Mavis juggle impending motherhood and her career, maintain a loving relationship with her other half Joe and deal with being a grandmother, all
whilst solving the case?
Well, this is Constable Mavis Upton…literally anything is possible
Thanks for featuring on my blog, Gina. It has been a pleasure to have you!