10 Questions With Hollie Overton

Good evening folks, I’m made up to welcome American crime writer Hollie Overton to my blog. Here, Hollie chats about writing for TV as well as being a novelist, her favourite music and how her personal experiences helped her create her debut novel, Baby Doll. 

Over to you, Hollie. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now? 

I had TONS of favorite authors. When I was much younger, Shel Silverstein, Ann Martin who wrote the Baby Sitters Club and of course Sweet Valley High were my favorites. As I got older, it was Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz (I’ve always been drawn to darker characters!) Nowadays I read in lots of different genres. I love YA. Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer and storyteller (Eleanor and Park is one of my favorite love stories ever!) I’ve also read the Hunger Games series at least three times. It’s perfect storytelling. I’m also huge Michael Connelly fan but I’m always discovering new writers. Gillian McAllister is a wonderful writer of domestic thrillers and I’m obsessed with John Marrs, who wrote a book I loved called The One. I’m just not able to pick one.

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school?

I’ve always been a writer. I picked up a journal when I was seven or eight kick and filled up book after book for years with random musings about my life, short story ideas and dreams of the future. That love of writing was really nurtured in my English classes. I had incredible teachers who made writing and reading fun. I also worked on the school newspaper and won writing awards in high school, so writing was always a part of my life. It wasn’t something I ever considered doing as a career, but over the years, while I was studying acting, I started to realize I wanted a more active role in the creative process. I took my first TV writing class in 2007 and fell in love with it. 

3) How did being a TV Writer help with planning your debut novel, Baby Doll? 

As a TV writer, you learn so many skills that apply to writing a novel. The most helpful in my mind was how to pace a story and keep it exciting for a reader. In commercial fiction, especially thrillers, you want to keep the audience engaged and make sure they keep turning the pages. Having worked as a TV writer for the last seven years, some of that became intuitive, which in turn made writing my first book a bit easier (not easy, but easier!) TV is also all about creating great characters and that’s what I try and focus on when I’m writing. Who are these people? What makes them tick? It’s the same in TV and in books and I’m very grateful I had that training before I started writing fiction.

4) What inspired Baby Doll, and how did you create Lily and Rick?

The real life story of Ariel Castro and the girls he held captive in Cleveland, Ohio inspired the plot of Baby Doll. But it was my relationship with my twin sister, Heather that was the emotional core of the book. We’re best friends, and I kept imagining what my life would be like as a teenager if I didn’t have my sister, and how it would change the course of our lives. The story evolved from that. Rick Hanson, the villain of the book sprung from the idea that there are lots of monsters hiding in plain sight. He’s a teacher, a loving husband, but he was a sexual deviant and smart enough to know how to hide it. I’ve read a lot about serial sexual predators as well and that’s how Rick’s character was created.

5) When you were an aspiring author, what was the best piece of advice you were given? 

Don’t listen to people who say there isn’t a market for your work. A lot of people heard the premise for Baby Doll and were like, “Have you heard of Room?” I had of course heard of it, but I knew my book was different. I could have started second guessing myself, but I stayed the course. People will also say no one is reading certain types of books, or books about certain subjects. If it’s something you’re passionate about, write it and ignore the haters.

6) How many agents did you submit Baby Doll to before you found a publisher? 

I only submitted Baby Doll to one agent. I was repped for film and TV by WME and they obviously have a huge book department. My TV agent passed the Baby Doll manuscript along to an agent, Eve Atterman, and she really liked it. She did have some edits that required another draft. There wasn’t really a promise of representation, just like these are my thoughts. I thought they were incredibly smart and made the book so much better. It took me about five months to do them (I was getting married at the time and pitching a TV show). When I finally sent it back, she read it and was like, “this is great. We want to submit to to editors,” which is the greatest news a writer can hear. The submission process can be stressful. It’s radio silence while you’re waiting to hear, but if you’re lucky there are all these things are happening behind the scenes. We sold to Goldmann in Germany first and then the UK and then US. It was and still is the most exciting time of my writing life.  

7) What was your writing process for Baby Doll like? How many drafts did you do?

It’s hard to say how many drafts. I’d have hundreds of documents, rewriting constantly. The first half of the book I wrote very quickly. The second half I had to kind of figure out what the rest of the story was, but I wrote a loose outline and it helped keep me on track. Writing Baby Doll wasn’t my full time job. I was working on developing a TV show and going on meetings, so I usually worked on Baby Doll really late at night. But there was no real deadline, no urgency to finish which looking back, now that I have to write on deadline was a really great part of the process.

8) How was the writing process different for The Walls? Did you do much research for both books? 

The Walls process was much faster and furious. I had a little over a year to complete the manuscript and that was including working full-time on my TV show. I finished the first draft in about seven months. Then I did the rewrites over the next three months, while working on the show. I did a lot of research for both books. I talked to experts in the field, FBI consultants, prison consultants, read tons of stuff on death penalty and sexual assault. To me, the research is just as important as the writing because it informs so much of the story.

9) How do you work best – music or silence? Did you have a favourite genre of music growing up and has it changed?

It depends. I know this sounds odd but when I’m at home, I usually write with the TV on. It has to be something I’ve seen before, movie or TV. It’s basically background noise. If I have a really tight deadline, I listen to music. I’m not really a music person, so usually it’s just a singer/songwriter Pandora station that I like. But I never write in silence. I feel like the background noise helps drown out the inner critic that says, “You’re not good enough.”

10) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

The last book I read was Gillian McAllister’s Anything you do Say. She’s a British novelist and it was a really interesting story about a woman who commits a crime and the two outcomes—what happens if she leaves and doesn’t report it and what happens if she stays and does. A Sliding Doors type story with a crime setting.  

Thanks for your time, Hollie. 

10 Questions With Helen Callaghan 

Good morning folks, and Happy Saturday!! I’m delighted to welcome psychological thriller writer Helen Callaghan to my blog. Here, Helen chats about how she gained representation, her favourite authors and studying for her degree as a mature student. 

Over to you, Helen. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? 

Oh yeah – I would glom on to someone, then read everything they’d ever done – then I’d re-read it. Books were expensive then. I loved CS Lewis, Tolkien, and Watership Down by Richard Adams. At home, us kids could watch most things – I saw Jaws, The Exorcist, Alien – all at quite a young age. But I remember being taken to the cinema to see Watership Down the movie and it was the only one that actually gave me nightmares. It was hardcore.

I still love to be scared…

2) Did you enjoy English at school? 

Yes. It was my best subject. I was the weirdo that actually enjoyed the set books for my GCSEs. Very early on I’d become a fanatical reader, and the more you read, the more you end up reading. 
3) Did you go to university and if so, did you enjoy your degree? 

I did indeed! I was a mature student, having spent the best part of ten years mucking around, so when I did go it was because I wanted to. I got my A-levels in night classes and they came out surprisingly well, so someone suggested I have a go at Cambridge and I ended up getting in. My family were thrilled, as I was the first person to go to university. 
I studied archaeology rather than English though. I thought to myself that archaeology would produce more things to write about. Which funnily enough, was true….

4) Are you self published, and if not, do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

I’m not self-published – I went the trad publishing route, as when I was starting out, self-publishing was still finding its feet. I’d been writing on and off for years, but around 2009 I completed a dystopian thriller, which never sold but got me an agent – Judith Murray at Greene and Heaton. Dear Amy was the third book she ended up submitting for me, and there was an auction and it sold in ten days, which felt very peculiar after thirty years of trying!
Most people in such cases advise you to ‘be persistent’ and ‘finish what you start’ and that is all excellent advice, but folk have probably heard it before. I think *my* advice would be, join a writing group. Being in a writing group exposes you to listening to others’ opinions, and teaches you how to accept and deal with criticism. Dealing with criticism, and being able to seperate your book from yourself, is a skill that never goes out of style. And it’s always nice to meet simpatico people. Join a writing group.

5) How did your first review of Dear Amy feel? What did you do to celebrate? 

D’you know, I can’t remember? The thing no-one tells you is, you don’t really remember the good reviews. The bad ones, those you remember. But I do recall my parents had been flipping through lovereading.co.uk (which I had not seen yet) which collated a ton of reader reviews and they were ecstatic, which made me ecstatic. I think we were in Rome, and we celebrated with wine and pasta. But to be honest, I think we would have done that anyway. What else do you do in Rome?
6) Do you have a favourite all time book?

Hmm… I don’t have a single favourite. Some things do different things at different times, but I do have things I love for different reasons. I loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which had a real influence on Dear Amy with its Classical leanings. I love Iain Banks, Angela Carter, and Charlotte Bronte – I have a real Gothic addiction. 
But I like other things too – recently I really enjoyed The Girls by Emma Klein and I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes which is this over-the-top US spy thriller but which was just fantastic, so clever and absolutely raced along…

7) How do you like to work – music or silence?

Ooh, depends. At home it tends to be silence, but every book has a playlist I create for it, with the tunes that put me in mind of what the book is about. The new book, Everything Is Lies, which is coming out in February, was about revelation and disillusionment, so it had things like Big Picture by London Grammar and lots of Florence and the Machine. There were Eighties tracks too, as part of it is set then, so The Smiths and The Cure were happening. 
The one I’m working on at the moment, which doesn’t have a name yet, is about sexual jealousy and betrayal. It’s also about being isolated, both psychically and geographically, and it’s set in Orkney. So it was Mr Brightside by The Killers, Burn For You by Sting, Kings of Leon, PJ Harvey; all much more slow-burning and ballady if you like. 

As a rule, if I am working in public, in a coffee shop say, I’ll have the playlist for that particular book happening on headphones. Elsewise you’re going to be listening to Starbucks’ piped music, which I can never get on with. 

8) Are you a Rod Stewart fan?

No, I missed the Rod Stewart boat, I think. Growing up, I remember my cousin was mad for him, and she was a little older than me. Though my eldest cousin got me into David Bowie. I mean, what’s not to love about David Bowie?
Thanks for your time, Helen. 

An Interview With Camilla Wray

Good afternoon folks, I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Camilla Wray to my blog. Here, Camilla chats about her journey to becoming a literary agent, advice for aspiring authors and her guilty pleasures of genre. 

Over to you, Camilla. 

1) Did you see yourself becoming a literary agent after you left school? Did you actually have any other career plans? 

I never really knew what I wanted to do when I was at school, just what I loved. I was very much an ‘average’ child but I absolutely loved stories. I was a huge reader growing up, but then I also loved fashion and learning about people. My A levels were in English Literature, Psychology and Textiles so this sums me up I guess! I had really low grade predictions though so I didn’t apply for anywhere when I was doing my A Levels, instead my mum and dad told me to give myself some space and to work as hard as I could away from the huge pressure of University applications.

I still had no idea what to do though so after getting my results I just followed my interests and decided to go to Cardiff University where they have an amazing Creative Writing department and you could do it as a Joint Honours with Psychology. I guess in a way I was hedging my bets!

Then in my last year of studying at Cardiff my friend and I decided to start a fashion label and we did this together for two years before my love of words wouldn’t leave me alone. She carried on and is now hugely successful and I decided to look into what I could do to join fashion and writing. This is when I did a Post Grad at the London College of Fashion in lifestyle and Fashion journalism. After this I worked at The Independent for a bit and then got a job as the assistant to the Fashion Editor of ‘S’ magazine. I really loved it there but it was only 4 days a week so I started looking for a job to do on a Friday. There was an advert on the University of Arts website for a admin role one day a week at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency, and this is how I was introduced to the world of being a literary Agent. Ten years on and I’m still at Darley’s and am incredibly thankful I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I am so lucky to have a job I adore and am very passionate about and I am determined to tell my kids to follow what they love, not what they think they should do.

2) Did studying psychology at university pique your interest in the crime genre as a reader? 

I’d say it was actually Patricia Cornwell who got my really intrigued by people and crimes. I was obsessed with her books when I was a teenager and also loved the Point Horror books. Studying psychology at A level and then at university definitely built on this but the interest was always there I think. I’m incredibly nosey and love meeting new people and finding out all about their lives and worlds. Humans are equally fascinating and terrifying.

3) What do you recommend aspiring authors do before querying? 

Read, read, read. This is key I think as when you find a genre / author you love as a reader then you need to sit back and really think about why you love it, what makes you react, what makes you unable to stop and why. Even if you don’t end up writing in this genre, what you’ve learnt as a reader is gold dust. So I’d say read as much as you can. Then once you’ve written your own manuscript go back to the authors and genres you love and read into who represents them, how they find an agent and use them as further inspiration.

4) What was the process involved in setting up Pitch An Agent? 

I was very lucky as Adrian and Myles were instantly keen to set up Pitch An Agent and so it was a very smooth process. I just felt that there was a huge opportunity for new crime writers to have the chance to talk to agents about their work and not just receive a standard ‘no’. As an agent it’s very hard to be able to send personal feedback, I try as much as possible but I get 10-15 submissions a day and only take on average 1-2 authors a year so it is hard. With Pitch An Agent it means that for a couple of days we can meet authors and be fair, honest and hopefully kind about where they could develop their characters, plot, pace.

5) Is there something in the crime genre that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’? 

 What an interesting tricky question! To be honest with the crime genre ideas are so very rarely new, but it’s the characters you use, how you focus a plot, and an author’s own spin that have a big impact. I had been looking for a sliding doors thriller for years but as with anything there are now books with this as a concept coming out. I love high concept ideas though and I think there is something genius about taking classic concepts – such as the locked room mystery – and putting it in a very fresh, contemporary setting. I also have this very odd horrid recurring nightmare where I come home and my husband is asleep in bed so I try and be really quiet and sneak under the covers, only to find it isn’t my husband at all, it’s someone dressed as my husband wearing a weird latex wig (my husband has a shaved head!). It’s horrific as my poor husband is actually tied up under the bed. I guess the only good thing is neither of us is actually dead but it still isn’t overly nice or perhaps slightly worrying!

 6) What is your guilty pleasure genre? 

I love love stories so these are definitely something I adore. THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE is one of my favourite stories. I also love reading most women fiction books. I grew up reading a huge amount of Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper and I’m a huge Jill Mansell, Lianne Moriarty and Jojo Moyes fan. I read HOT MESS over the summer and loved it. Her dad character is genius.

7) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

 The last book I read was THE COWS by Dawn O’Porter and I absolutely loved it. It was fresh, funny, heart-breaking and shocking all in one.

8) Completely random – are you a Rod Stewart fan and do you have a favourite song of his? 

Ha, ha, very sadly I’m not. In fact I couldn’t actually name you any of his songs. I’m so sorry! And it’s not because I’m cool as I am a bit Elton John fan, so maybe that’s why. Because I’d never want to cheat on Elton.

Thanks for taking the time out Camilla. 

10 Questions With Jessie Keane

Morning folks, I’m over the moon to welcome Jessie Keane to my blog. Jessie is the best selling author of crime novels featuring Annie Carter. 

Here, she chats her love of English at school, strong women in crime fiction and how Annie Carter wandered into her head out of nowhere. 

Over to you Jessie. 

1) Did you enjoy English at school?

English was the only subject I enjoyed at school. I didn’t go to university, as I flunked all exams. I also bunked off at school! But I thoroughly enjoyed English. 

2)  How do you find the process from first draft to book on shelf? 

The first draft to bookshelf is always one long plod. It can take me usually 5 drafts on average to complete a book.

3) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

Advice for aspiring authors: persist. That’s all. If you’re good enough, you’ll get there.

4) What are your views on strong women in fiction? 

I love strong women in fiction. 

5) How’s best for you to work – music or silence? Are you a Rod Stewart fan? 

I work best in silence. I don’t mind Rod Stewart but prefer 10cc.

6) What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it? 

Last book read: Marian Keyes The Break. Loved it.

7) I find writing is therapy for me, somewhere I escape to and where I feel I can lose myself in the written word, how do you feel when writing?

I feel in control when writing. At my happiest, really. 

8) I’m a huge fan of Black Widow! What inspired your Annie Carter books? 

Annie Carter just walked into my brain one day when I was watching a gangster film. Don’t know why. But I’m so glad she did! 

Thanks for taking the time out, Jessie. 

10 Questions With Louise Beech

This afternoon, folks, I’m made up to welcome fiction writer Louise Beech to my blog. Here, Louise chats about writing her newspaper column for Hull Daily Mail, her local newspaper, how each of her novels have small parts of factual influences, and her main piece of advice for aspiring authors. 


1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?

I absolutely loved reading the Heidi books by Joanna Spyri. I longed to be her, frolicking in the mountains! In my teen years, I adored Judy Blume (who didn’t?), Paul Zindell, Stephen King, and John Saul. I devoured horror back then but literally don’t read it at all now. I should try it again. Now? I simply couldn’t name a favourite. I read so many books – memoirs, crime, literary, historical. Just about anything. I do love John Irving. The World According to Garp made me want to be a novelist.

2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school? 

As soon as I could. Seriously. At about eight I was writing mini books in notepads, complete with pictures and a contents page. I adored English. It was the only subject I could do. Though I spent half the time sitting outside the classroom because I was a chatterbox.

3) How did you find writing your columns for Hull Daily Mail? 

Very easy. Natural. They were little pieces about being a parent so it was truly a joy. And now I have a diary in print of my son and daughter’s childhood.

4) I’ve read your a panster, that you don’t usually tend to plot. Have you done much plotting for your next book? 

Haha. I actually have. I’m writing novel five. Novel four – The Lion Tamer Who Lost, which will hopefully be out next year – I first wrote back in 2010. So I’ve started my fifth, which is quite crimey. The plot is rather complex and so this time I have had to plan a little more than usual. I’ve had to write chapter outlines before I get to them for the first time. It’s very tricky. But a real lesson.

5) I LOVE ALL three of your books – so much so I can’t pick a favourite! How did you find the process of writing each book – did they all differ? 

Yes. And no. The thing that was the same was the fact that they were all written without a publishing contract and so I was very free to more or less write how and when I liked. The thing that made them similar to write was that they all came from some true aspect of my life – my daughter’s illness, my grandad’s sea survival, my voluntary work, my tough childhood. The next two novels are entirely fictional!

6) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

First of all, just write. You only learn to write by writing. A writer always writes. Second, be a little cheeky. Not rude, always have manners, but be brave. Approach a publisher by whatever means you can. And third, never, ever give up. It took me ten years and four novels and a million rejections.

7) What are your views on strong women in fiction? 

I like real women in fiction. That’s what I like. That’s what strong is to me.

8) How do you work best – music or silence? Did you have a favourite genre of music growing up and has it changed? 

Both. For editing I need silence. For writing I need music. As with my reading habits, I will listen to anything. Always have. Classical, popular, rock, opera, chart stuff…

9) What was the last book you read? Did you enjoy it? 

It was The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, and yes I did, thoroughly.

10) I find writing is therapy for me, somewhere I escape to and where I feel I can lose myself in the written word, how do you feel when writing?

It is absolutely therapy for me too. Writing Maria in the Moon kept me sane after we were flooded in 2007. How to be Brave kept me sane when my daughter was ill. Writing is the place I always go to find my joy.

10 Questions With Graham Smith

This afternoon folks, I’m made up (Scouse terminology meaning utterly delighted!!) to welcome Scottish crime writer Graham Smith to my blog. 

Here, Graham chats all things regarding researching his Harry Evans series, his writing process, advice for writing police procedural to the aspiring author and how he founded crime writing course Crime & Publishment. 

Over to you Graham! 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?

I wouldn’t say I had a favourite author, but I loved the Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton before progressing onto the Adventure series by Willard Price as I got older.

2) Did you enjoy English at school? 

Not at all. I actually failed my English exams twice before the school appealed on my behalf after I’d left. I was subsequently awarded a pass, but the only thing I took pleasure from in those lessons was the time we were give The Hobbit as a required read.

3) Did you go to University and if so, did you enjoy your degree?

I never entertained the idea of university and the day after I left school, I started working for the family business.

 4) Do you do much research for your DI Harry Evans series? How did you find receiving your first reviews for your HE novel and your Jake Boulder book?

I have to do a certain amount of research for every book, but it’s mainly fact checking and visiting locations where events in the stories take place. Those days waiting for the first reviews are the most nerve-wracking part of writing for me. 

Until I see a few positive reviews come in, I can’t relax and be confident in the book. Even with my sixth release, The Kindred Killers, I was still waiting for the review that said I should have my fingers cut off so I could never type again.

5) What advice would you give to writers aspiring to write police procedurals in an authentic manner?

I’d say they need to befriend a cop in their chosen team and location who’s willing to give them information on correct procedure and how that area is policed. I’d also advise them to make sure they didn’t get too bound up with the procedural element as otherwise they’d be in danger or writing a manual. (A lot of police work is collating statements and filing reports, but nobody has yet written an interesting story about someone shuffling paper.)

6) How do you find juggling your crime writing with running a hotel in Gretna Green? 

It can be challenging at times, but I love both jobs and the time away from writing affords me thinking time which means I never get stuck about what to write next.

7) Why did you decide to found Crime & Publishment?

As an aspiring author, I looked at the various writing courses that I could attend and found them all to be really expensive or not focussed on what I wanted to know. Because I had contacts who could be tutors and a hotel which could host C&P, I decided to take the plunge and see if I could create the kind of course I wanted. I’m incredibly proud of the success C&P has enjoyed and the gang who are all so supportive of each other.

8) Did you enjoy a particular genre of music growing up? How has that changed since you’ve got older? Are you a Rod Stewart fan by choice?

I listened to a lot of Eighties hair rock and those same songs still dominate my playlist now, although I will admit that do now listen to a few mellower, less angry, tracks. Regarding Rod Stewart, my favourite song of his is called Rhythm of My Heart. 

9) I find the writing process particularly therapeutic. How do you find yours from first draft to published draft?

I enjoy throwing down the first draft, but never let myself forget that I’m nothing more than a stenographer for the voices in my head. I don’t enjoy the edits as much but I do recognise it’s a vital part of the process.

 10) Do you have an agent, if so, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I don’t have an agent but my advice to aspiring authors would be to read five books in the genre they plan to write in and then write a 500 word review of each book. 

When you know you have to write that review, you pay a lot more attention to things like characters, plotting and the little pieces of tradecraft authors use. I’d also say that writing a novel is about momentum and routine, every day you spend away from writing makes it exponentially harder to go back to that manuscript. 

Therefore, once you start, make damned sure you keep at it.

Thanks for your time Graham. 

Graham Smith – Bio

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

He is the internationally best-selling author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team and two novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

Graham can be found at

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972

Website: http://www.grahamsmithauthor.com


10 Questions With Diane Jeffrey

This morning I’m delighted to welcome psychological thriller writer Diane Jeffrey to my blog. Here, Diane chats about her debut novel, Those Who Lie, her favourite authors, her views on women in crime fiction, whether she has any advice for aspiring authors and her favourite music. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?
 My favourite author was Enid Blyton, closely followed by Roald Dahl. I was a good reader and I was good at English (luckily, as I was pretty hopeless at subjects like maths and geography), so when I was 9, my teacher decided that I should read more widely and banned Enid Blyton! He recommended The Hobbit, which I wouldn’t recommend to any 9 year old!!! It put me off reading Tolkein for life, although I loved the films!
Do I have a favourite author now? Not really, no. But I love Khaled Hosseini, Dennis Lehane, Kate Atkinson…
2) Did you enjoy English at school? 

I loved English at school, especially English literature. I had some excellent English teachers. I also had one – his nickname was “Piggy” — who was absolutely useless, but he made us do a lot of dictations and a lot of grammar, so I benefited from his teaching even so!

3) How do you find teaching English in France? 

I’m fortunate to be in a good school. The pupils are mostly well-behaved and motivated. The 8 am starts are a little difficult by the end of the week (I have to get up at 6:30 every day), but I have a great timetable this year and finish at 1pm at the latest every day, which allows me to write.
4) How did you find the time to write Those Who Lie? How many drafts did you go through before you submitted? 

I wrote Those Who Lie on a year’s paid study leave. I applied for a year off to learn Spanish. I did learn some Spanish, but I also had a lot of free time. So I thought: it’s now or never and decided to write a novel. It was my second novel, actually, although the first was never published.
I think there were about 6 drafts when I finally got a request for the full manuscript – I actually received three requests at the same time! And then I went through another 2 rounds of edits!!! I would cringe if I read the first draft now!
5) What are your views on strong women in crime fiction? 

I like to have a strong female protagonist in my writing. For my two psychological thrillers (Book 2 is on its way…), I wanted resilient main characters, who do their best to come out on top despite everything that is thrown at them.
6) How do you feel they’re different from men in crime fiction? 

In psychological thrillers, the main character is often female, but this is not always true, just as the culprit is not necessarily male. As a woman, I feel more comfortable getting inside the head of a female lead character than I would for a male protagonist, but I don’t think there has to be any gender stereotypes in crime writing.
7) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

Don’t give up. And get in touch with published authors through social media. I would love to have taken a course in creative writing, but with three kids and a full-time job In France, I couldn’t, so I read a lot of ‘how-to’ articles. Check out The Creative Penn and Writers Digest.
8) How’s best for you to work – music or silence? 

Mainly silence, but once or twice a week at the moment while my children are swimming training, instead of getting into the pool myself, I’ve got into the habit of going to the bar opposite. I write in the corner table while drinking a beer for a couple of hours. One of the bartenders watches football. I’m not a fan of football, but I’ve found it to be great background noise for writing!
9) Did you enjoy a particular genre of music growing up? How has that changed since you’ve got older?

I’m a Rock chick at heart but I was born in the early 70s so I listened to some punk, too as I was growing up. 80s music was unbeatable IMO. Still is!!! I play the piano, so I’m also into music from films (Einaudi and Nyman…) and classical music.
10) I find writing is therapy for me, somewhere I escape to and where I feel I can lose myself in the written word, how do you feel when writing? 

That depends. Usually, it’s liberating. I enjoy afternoons typing with the sun coming through the dining room window and the dog at my feet or the fire lit if it’s cold. With my second novel, I set myself goals – deadlines, really – and so occasionally it felt like a bit of a chore. But even then, once I’m sitting down with ‘Mac’ on, I lose track of the time.
Thank you for your time Diane. 

Novel Research – Part Two

23RD JUNE 2017

Heading down to Costa Coffee with my writing kit, I’m more than ready to have a day of churning out words and seeing what comes out of my head onto Scrivener. 

But before that, let me finish telling you about my Crown Court experience! 

Watching from the public gallery on Monday morning, I am unable to put fascinated, enthralled, and in bloody awe into words. It was incredible!! Witnesses were questioned by the defence, then cross examined by the prosecution, and on the Tuesday, this was where it became very interesting – the defendant came into the dock. 

His barrister asked him to describe his background – and what he said during his evidence, when I went home, I’m not ashamed to admit I cried, because I found it so awful. 

After his barrister finished however, the prosecution barrister then interrogated him – and tore his defence to shreds! 

My eyes were darting between the prosecution and the defendant – I was so completely drawn in, I forgot how cold the room was, I forgot what was happening outside – all that mattered was whether the defendant was guilty or not guilty. 

After the prosecuter had finished, and the Judge calls for a lunch break, I head outside and into the warm summer air of Liverpool City Centre. Stick – my ever faithful companion – and I make our way over to Tesco, Stick making his usual repetitive tapping sound and managing to piss just about everyone off around him, as I walk into at least three people, completely unawares until I’m just looking down at the tarmac, muttering, ‘Sorry,’ into Tesco to buy lunch, and then back across to Court. 

Ready for the afternoon session to begin. 

10 Questions With Morgen Bailey

This evening I’m delighted to announce that Crime writing tutor and blogger Morgen Bailey has answered a few questions for me. Here, Morgen chats all things being a crime writing tutor, how she works best, and her all time favourite book.

Over to you, Morgen. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? 

I did. Roald Dahl. And he’s still my favourite. My father had a small chain (four) of photographic shops not that far away from Great Missenden and did some photography for Roald (including Sophie’s fourth birthday party, apparently) but I never got to meet him, which is really sad. They were similar ages so got on really well. And now, still Roald but picking a living author would be Kate Atkinson. I did a three-fortnight course on her first three books at one of my local colleges and was hooked. Her writing is quirky and I love quirk. I’ve been told mine’s quirky which is a real compliment. I had the chance to go to one of Kate’s book signings a while back but when I went to buy a ticket, they’d sold out. 

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I loved it and why I picked creative writing in an evening class programme ten years which brought me to where I am now. English was my favourite subject and the one I did best at. Art (especially pottery) second. I have my English teacher to thank for me liking the dark stuff as did Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, Moonfleet and Jane Eyre.

3) Did you go to university and if so, did you enjoy your degree?

I didn’t as such. Other than English and Art, I didn’t like secondary school – which is a shame as I loved my primary school so worked hard and did well going on to one of the best schools in the area. I did do the first year of a Certificate in Creative Writing degree so I have points to go towards anything else. I’ve been teaching creative writing for the past three years so did a condensed qualification for that.

4) Can you describe your job as a writing tutor – what do you love about it and do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

In person, I teach for Adult Learning (for my local council so all over Northamptonshire) so nineteen plus but most of my learners (they’re not students because they learn rather than study) thirty-something to retirement age (upwards). I currently offer eleven different courses but will be chopping that down to beginners and intermediate from the next academic year to concentrate on my writing. I also have seven online c/w video courses with Udemy and plan to do more of those.

5) How did your first novel review feel? What did you do to celebrate?

Scary but delightful. With the title of ‘A light hearted romp through the perils of online dating’ and five stars, I couldn’t help but be thrilled. I don’t market my books enough so don’t have many reviews but I’ve just joined the KDP Select programme so am doing some free days so hoping that will change.

6) Do you have an all time favourite book? 

I had one prepared should I ever be on Desert Island Discs: Roald Dahl’s Collected Short Stories, which is still my favourite (Kate Atkinson’s Not the End of the World collection comes close). If Kirsty Young (or whoever hosted DID by the time I was famous enough), I’d have the world’s largest picture encyclopaedia as my book and endless supply of wide-lined paper and really nice pens, although someone recently asked for a solar-powered non-internet laptop with a word processor and was allowed so I’d go for one of those, as long as the sun wasn’t so bright that I couldn’t see the screen.
7) How do you like to work – music or silence?

If I’m writing or editing then I have classical music so no words. Otherwise it tends to be shuffled Pink Floyd or ‘Morgen’s Favourites’ playlist (thanks to Alexa, my Amazon Echo).

8) Do you have an all-time favourite song or particular genre of music you enjoy?

Pink Floyd would be amongst my DID selection but the one I’d save from the waves would be Radiohead’s Street Spirit. Despite having heard it hundreds of times, I can never remember how the music begins. Bizarre. Apart from jazz, punk and country and western, I like most things including dance, classical (Eric Satie and Beethoven especially) and modern pop and R&B. The good stuff.

Thank you for inviting me, Elle. 

No problem Morgen, thank you for your time. 

10 Questions With Douglas Skelton 

Over the last week, I was delighted when a crime writer from Glasgow answered my query as to whether he would mind answering a few questions. 

Here, Douglas Skelton (one of Scotland’s finest crime fiction and true crime writers) chats his favourite childhood authors, whether he shares my love of Rod Stewart, tips for any police procedural writers and the difference between writing crime fact and fiction. 

1) As a child, did you have a favourite author?

I read a lot of Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter books, which would be frowned upon now probably. I also liked Mark Twain and Jack London. And I read the westerns of JT Edson and Louis L’Amour. I recall that the book I read and reread was ‘Seventh Cavalry’ by Jeff Jeffries. I wish I still had it. That was until ‘Shane’ came along while I was in secondary school.

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I enjoyed the creative writing. I did not enjoy dissecting Shakespeare and poetry. It killed both for me. I was also introduced to the works of Jack London and, crucially, Jack Schaefer’s ‘Shane’, probably the book that has had the most effect on me.

3) Did you go to university and if so, did you enjoy your degree?

I was too stupid to go to uni. 

4) What are the differences involved with writing true crime and criminal history books as opposed to fiction – how do you find those experiences?

The obvious one is that with fiction you’re free to manipulate the story. Writing non-fiction, no matter how creative you are in the storytelling, necessarily means you have to stick to the facts. There is generally a certain amount of research in writing crime fiction but you only use what you need to further the story. 

5) How did you feel meeting your agent and what was your publication day like?

I don’t have an agent (although if any read this I’m wide open, folks). My first publication day was back in 1992, a book called ‘Blood on the Thistle’, and I hit every bookshop in Glasgow just to see it on the shelves. I still get a thrill when I see a book of mine on sale. Face out, of course, I’ll have none of this spine out malarkey, thanks very much.

6) Is it nerve wracking, knowing that you have someone to impress, but also someone who will champion you and your writing?

Although I don’t have an agent, I do have a publisher and an editor. It is utterly terrifying to finally let the words slip from your fingers and go to them. I’m convinced with every book that no one will like it. After that hurdle, you have to face the readers. They’re the ones you really want to impress.

7) Do you have any tips for the debut writer on creating a police procedural aspect for their novels?

Make sure you get it right, so find a friendly police officer and talk to them. But use only what is necessary for the furtherance of the story.

Do you have an favourite all time book and what book did you last enjoy?

I suppose it really has to be ‘Shane’, although I love the work of Ed McBain, Robert Crais, John Connolly and Dennis Lehane. But ‘Shane’ has influenced me in so many ways, most directly in my Davie McCall series, which I always viewed as westerns set in Glasgow. Davie was a western hero with a Scottish accent, a man alone who has a past he would love to escape from but finds he can’t. I’ve read so many books recently that to pick one out would be unfair. They’ve all been good.

9) How’s best for you to work – music or silence? Coffee shop, home or library?

I generally have music on. I’m a huge fan of film scores so that’s more often than not what’s playing as I write. Sometimes I’ll select certain mood music to underscore what I’m writing. 

I write at home. I have a book strewn office that badly needs to be tidied. Maybe even dusted, but let’s not go crazy here.

10) Last but not least, do you like Rod Stewart and what’s your favourite song of his?

He must be before my time.

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