Hi everyone, and today I’m honoured to have the opportunity to interview crime writer Mari Hannah. I attended my first ever Harrogate festival for crime writers in July 2019, and when I got in touch with Mari to ask whether she would like to be featured, I thought I would get a polite rejection.
I was astounded when she said yes. Read on for my questions on her WOW moment with a book, her great advice to authors looking for publication and our shared love of the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Over to you, Mari…
1) Did you always want to be a writer? Was there a turning point with any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’
I had no aspirations to be a writer as a child. I came to it by accident rather than design. More of this in question 3.
In terms of reading crime fiction, Michael Connelly’s debut was my WOW moment. (I may have mentioned this a few thousand times before!)The Black Echo blew me away. I loved everything about it: the authenticity, the dialogue and, of course, meeting LAPD detective Harry Bosch.
2) Did you enjoy English at school?
Not really. I was a maths girl.
3) Are you a full time writer? If so, what was your ‘life’ before turning to writing full time?
I am. I used to be a probation officer. I loved my job until an assault by an offender put me out of action and eventually led to early retirement. My background in criminal justice provided me with insight into law, psychology and the motivation of criminals, all useful tools when I turned to writing as a hobby. Then I got the bug and decided to pursue a second career as a professional writer.
4) What advice would you give to the unpublished author?
Write what makes you happy.
Edit, edit and repeat. When your manuscript is as good as you can possibly make it, crack on withyour search for a literary agent. They have all the contacts and knowledge to help you progress to the next stage. The minimum time it takes for busy agents to read submissions and get back to writers is six weeks – some take many months. If an agent turns you down, chin up and move on to the next. Every rejection represents just one person’s opinion. Patience, belief and perseverance are key.
5) Did you dream about being an author as a child? Did you often wander round bookshops thinking ‘That will be me one day’?
No, I honestly didn’t. I dreamed of being an Olympic swimmer. A motorcycle accident put paid to that. I was thirteen and had been picked for an ‘All England’ trial. My fault I missed out. It was drummed into me never to accept a lift and still I climbed on as pillion and woke up in the middle of the road! Swimming dreams over.
6) Outside crime fiction, what other genre do you enjoy reading?
Non-fiction biographies mostly. I’m usually researching real cases or areas of science that are linked to the book I’m writing. I love research.
7) Through lockdown, what have you been watching on television? Do you have a favourite drama that you watch religiously?
My mother died during lockdown. I couldn’t read for weeks afterwards. Ozark and Schitt’s Creek got me through the darkest of times.
It’s a dream of mine to see my characters realised on screen. Screenplays were my first love. As it happens, my crime debut The Murder Wall was adapted from a crime pilot I created for the BBC. There are now seven books in the Kate Daniels series which are now in development with Sprout Pictures.
I also write two other series: Stone and Oliver; Ryan and O’Neil. All my books are based in and around Northumberland where I live with the odd trip to foreign shores if the plots take me there.
8) Through lockdown, have you found that your reading habits have changed at all?
I’ve partly answered this above. Bereavement hit me hard. Life as I knew it stopped and I was unable to concentrate for long enough to get stuck in. Instead, I listened to a lot of audiobooks, new and backlist titles. There’s a lot to be said for being read to.
9) Can you name one fiction author that you admire, and why you like their particular style of writing? Why are their stories intriguing?
I’m currently working my way through Mick Herron’s brilliant Slough House series on Audible. Mick is a very skilled writer. He has a wonderful way with words and a dry sense of humour that hits the spot for me, enough to keep me reading about spooks rather than coppers. Seán Barrett is a fabulous narrator who makes the stories come live.
10) If you could only listen to Rod Stewart, Freddie Mercury or Brian Johnson (AC/DC), who would you choose and why?
Freddie every time. He was such an entertainer. I adored the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Rami Malek did a great job. Highly recommend it if you’ve not seen it.
Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Ellie. Thank you for your time today Mari and for allowing me to interview you. I can’t wait to read Without a Trace!
Bio: Multi-award winning Mari Hannah is the author of the Kate Daniels series of police procedurals, the Ryan and O’Neil crime series and the Stone and Oliver series. She lives in a small Northumberland village with her partner, a former murder detective.
Her career as a Probation Officer was cut short following an assault on duty. It was then that the idea that she might one day become a writer began to form in her head.
She first pitched her idea for a crime series to the BBC, winning a place on their North East Voices Drama Development Scheme. When it ended, she adapted the screenplay of The Murder Wall into a book she had started years before but somehow never finished.
In 2010, she won the Northern Writers’ Award for Settled Blood before she had found an agent, let alone a publisher. Three years later, she won the Polari First Book Prize for her debut, The Murder Wall. Fast forward a few years and her body of work won her the CWA Dagger in the Library 2017.
In 2019 she was honoured to follow Lee Child as Programming Chair for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the biggest of its type in the world. Also in 2019, she was awarded DIVA Wordsmith of the Year.
Her Kate Daniels series is in development for TV with Sprout Pictures, a production company owned by Gina Carter and Stephen Fry.