10 Questions With Steve Cavanagh

Good evening folks, and I’m delighted to welcome Crime writer Steve Cavanagh to my blog.

Steve is a practicing lawyer in Belfast and is the author of The Defence, The Liar, The Plea and Thirteen, all featuring con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn. Here, Steve discusses his road to publication, how he created Eddie Flynn and his favourite music during the drafting process.

Over to you, Steve.

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

Several. I loved Spike Milligan, Road Dahl, Tolkien, and Conan Doyle.

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

No. I hated school. Occasionally, I would enjoy something that we read, like Steinbeck, but for the most part I hated everything about it.

3) How did you find your experience at university studying Law?
I don’t remember too much about it. It was also at this age that I found the pub. I remember nights out, getting a grant cheque and I have a vague memory of an Equity and Trusts lecture in which I learned that the law recognises the possible existence of precocious toddlers and fertile octogenarians. That’s about it.

4) What was your route to publication? How long did it take you to get your agent?

Probably about six to nine months to find an agent. It was a real slog. I amassed at least forty rejections (even some rejections from agents who have appeared on your blog). I was trying the middle and small sized agencies. Eventually I tried some of the larger UK agencies. I remember on a Monday night receiving a particularly harsh rejection which said the book would never be published and that I should write something else. On the Wednesday I signed with one of the best literary agencies in the world. I am very lucky. Once I had worked on the book with the agent it went smoothly – there were multiple auctions for publications rights.

5) Do you find balancing your writing and your day job difficult?

Yes. It’s very difficult and I don’t think I balance it particularly well. In the end, I don’t sleep much and my health is beginning to suffer.

6) How do you feel when your first draft of your manuscript goes to your editor?

Nervous as all hell.

7) How did you go about creating Eddie Flynn as a character?

The character evolved over a period of months – but once I decided he was a lawyer who used to be a con artist the character simply leapt to life.

8) When writing, do you need music or silence? Do you have a favourite band you listen to?

I change this up regularly. I do listen to music sometimes, especially when I’m doing a first draft. I have a playlist on Spotify. The Black Keys are my go to for getting me in that zone. Their early stuff like Stack Shot Billy, Ten Cent Pistol and The Flame are great mood enhancers.

9) Do you have a favourite all time book?

No, there are just too many that I love and have re-read.

10) Do you like Rod Stewart and do you have a favourite song of his?

I have no view on Mr Stewart or his musical repartee.

Thanks for your time, Steve.

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An Interview With Chris Bardsley

Good afternoon folks, I am delighted to welcome Crime writer Chris Bardsley to my blog. here he chats his experiences at university and as a history teacher in Australia, his favourite between short stories and novels and his favourite music.

Bio:

Born in 1987, Christopher Bardsley was raised in Melbourne, Australia. He undertook his studies at the University of Melbourne, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education. In 2012, Christopher was the recipient of Melbourne  University’s Above Water prize for his short story Little Rock. He also received an honourable mention in the 2011 competition for his story Cripple Creek. Christopher has also published poetry and cultural criticism through Farrago magazine.

Christopher spent the beginning of his career teaching history at independent schools in Melbourne, most notably the Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School. While he is primarily an author of novels, his interests also include modern and ancient history, with a particular focus on interpreting political extremism.

As of 2016, he is taking a year to travel across the Eurasian continent as he completes his next novel.

Over to you, Chris.

1) When you were a child, did you have a favourite author?

It’s hard to go past Roald Dahl, who seemed to understand that children everywhere have a sincere desire to be disgusted and horrified by the stories they read. The real pleasure of reading Dahl was the discovery that his steady commitment to wildly inappropriate subject matter reaches an astonishing pitch in his adult fiction. I distinctly remember reading My Uncle Oswald at the tender age of twelve, and have probably still not recovered completely from the experience. Roald Dahl taught me a powerful lesson; that you can get away with some fantastically unpronounceable things in the name of fiction.

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I suppose this is a bit of a two-part answer, because I make a living as an English teacher myself. The answer is, of course, yes; my academic focus was immediately drawn to the humanities, and there it has remained. I loved English at school. I once had an English teacher, in service of some long-forgotten point, remove his shoes and clamber in a complete lengthwise orbit of the classroom without touching the floor once. Later, I had another English teacher who engaged in a startlingly public affair with a volleyball coach a good decade her junior, much to the delight of the entire institution. The best teachers are massively peculiar, and I do my best to live up to the example set by these fine people.

3) What was your experience like at university in Australia?

Absolutely wonderful. Ah, the heady days of youth. I recall twelve contact hours per week, a significantly more manageable hairline, and that fantastically self-absorbed undergraduate confidence that sets in between the ages of nineteen and twenty-one. I completed an Arts degree, and broke up my punishing schedule of twelve essays per year with frequent voyages of self-discovery abroad. I occupied a series of squalid share-houses, sponsored my vibrant social life by toiling as a dishwasher, and lived as the proverbial pig in mud. These were good years.

4) What was your experience as a history teacher in Australia?

Very educational, actually. I have learned far more about history as a teacher than as a student. I have a habit of becoming diverted by whatever subject it is that I happen to be teaching. At the moment, I’m going through a bit of a WW1 phase, and have just recently finished gobbling up T.E Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This (ahem) ‘memoir’ is epic, entertaining, and very, very creative, as all good autobiographies should be. Lawrence is one of my favourite historical weirdos, actually. He was an asexual, motorcycle-obsessed vegetarian midget who was once posthumously described as the untidiest officer in the British military. He also managed to basically bring down the Ottoman empire single-handedly. I find bizarre historical marginalia of this sort fascinating, and the best thing about teaching history is that I have a literally captive audience to listen to me bang on about all this nonsense.

5) Between short stories and novels, which do you enjoy writing more?

Definitely short stories. Writing a novel is a serious long-term ordeal. Orwell said that it was like battling some terrible disease. Mailer said that each novel killed him a little more than the last. What I think of, though, is the article from The Onion entitled Man Dies after Secret 4-Year Struggle with Gorilla. It’s a bit like that; some hairy, many-legged monster that sits in the corner of your room and demands that you engage in hand-to-hand combat with it for at least an hour a day. In all seriousness, the time-frame of short stories is much more manageable, and I find that they are a nice way to give my imagination a bit of a break from larger projects

6) Did you have a favourite band growing up? How has your music taste changed?

My musical tastes have a vaguely extremist dynamic to them. I either listen to melodramatic, shoe-staring stuff like Radiohead or Bon Iver, or nonstop gangster rap. There’s not much middle ground. I’m particularly enjoying this new generation of melancholy little rappers with face-tattoos and cough-syrup addictions. Donald Trump may be bad for pretty much everything else, but he’s doing great things to hip-hop. Lil Peep and his ilk certainly have plenty to complain about. The only thing about this new wave of morose artistes that gives me pause is the fact that they all seem to be dead from overdoses by the age of twenty-one. Not good. Stay in school, kids.

7) When writing, do you need music or silence?

Absolute silence, of course. I have enough voices in my head as it is.

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

Great question. While I am not a big fan of Rod, I do recall having a female PE teacher who bore a startling resemblance to Stewart in his Vaseline-lensed heyday. I forget this distinctive person’s name, but I do recall her disqualifying me from a mandatory fitness test because the form of my sit-ups was below-par. This humiliating experience still looms large in my imagination. It may serve to prove the old parable right, though; spare the Rod, and spoil the child.

An Interview With David Haviland

Good evening folks, I’m delighted to welcome literary agent and writer David Haviland to my blog. Here, he discusses his experience as a writer and how he is a literary agent alongside, his time in university studying English and Film Studies and when he knows he has connected with a manuscript.

Over to you, David.

1) Did you always plan to be a literary agent after you left school? Did you have any other career plans?

I never planned to become an agent, my goal was always to be a writer. I’ve written six books, with hopefully more to come. But like most writers, I need a day job, and being a literary agent is ideal. To spend my days with writers and other book lovers, working together to try to produce good work, is a real privilege.

2) How did you find studying Film and English at university?

I enjoyed the course, and Norwich is a lovely city, but looking back I wish the course had had a more practical focus. I seem to remember reading that, at that time at least, Film Studies was pretty much the most popular degree subject in the country, despite the fact that we have only a tiny film industry for all those thousands of graduates to try to enter.

3) How do you manage writing your own books with your day job?

At the moment, I’m afraid the answer is that I don’t. My last book was published six years ago, and at the moment agenting and a one-year-old daughter mean I have no time to write.

4) What do you look for in a covering email by an author submitting their work?

I don’t pay much attention to cover emails, to be honest. As long as the cover email is tolerably well written, and the genre is one I’m interested in, I skip straight to the sample chapters, as that’s the important part of the submission, in my view.

5) How do you know that you have connected with a manuscript?

Plenty of people can write competently enough, or construct a scene reasonably well, but it’s a lovely moment when you realise you’re in the hands of someone who can really make it sing. A kind of trust is formed, which opens up much more interesting possibilities for irony, subtlety, suspense, and more. When you don’t trust the writer, and a character does something surprising, you’re likely to just assume the writer has blundered. Whereas when you have a degree of trust in the writer, you’re intrigued – perhaps this surprising moment reveals some new quirk of the character? Or sets up an interesting plot point to be paid off later on…

6) Do you have a guilty pleasure genre?

If you saw my iPod, you’d quickly realise I don’t believe in guilty pleasures.

7) Is there anything that you haven’t seen or read about previously that you think ‘I could see that in a book’?

I’d like to see more crime novels with BAME and other minority protagonists.

8) What do you think of the thriller market currently?

I think there are some excellent writers around. Larry Enmon’s Wormwood is a terrific, dark mystery. Shaun Baines’ debut novel Woodcutter is coming out this summer – and will be the start of a very exciting, gritty crime series set in Newcastle. Christopher Bardsley has just released a remarkable debut thriller set in Thailand and Cambodia called Jack Was Here. Looking beyond my own writers, I’m a big fan of Denise Mina.

9) When you write your own novels, do you need music or silence? Do you have a genre that you like? Did you have a favourite growing up?

Music is too distracting, and silence is too intense. I like a steady background hum – one of my bookmarks is a two-hour youtube video of rainfall. I love crime novels, and hopefully that’s what my next book will be.

10) Do you like Rod Stewart, and if so, do you have a favourite song of his?

Young Turks is a bit of a banger.

Thanks for your time, David.

Bio:

David Haviland studied Film and English at the University of East Anglia, before working in advertising with M&C Saatchi, and moving into television with management roles at Simply Money and Sirius Television, of which he was a co-founder. After the sale of the company, David left Sirius in 2003 to become a freelance writer and journalist, since when he has written regularly for a broad range of publications. He has also worked extensively in script development for film and television companies, theatres, and agents.

He has worked with Andrew Lownie in a number of roles since 2004, and is now actively developing a fiction list within the agency. He is an experienced writer, ghost writer, and editor who has written bestselling books for major publishers including Harper Collins, Penguin, Piatkus and Little, Brown.

His recent books include ‘How to Remove a Brain’, an amusing history of medical science, and a collection of myth-busting stories from history called ‘The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva’

In his role as a literary agent, he has a broad remit covering all genres of commercial and literary fiction.

An Interview With Emma Finn

Good afternoon folks, I’m delighted to welcome literary agent Emma Finn to my blog. Here, she chats what she enjoys most about her job, her guilty pleasure genre and what she looks for in submissions.

Over to you, Emma.

1) Did you always plan to be a literary agent when you left school? Did you have any other career plans?

I had no idea that a literary agent was a job until I was at university… I had always been a bookworm and knew that I was interested in publishing as an industry, but I didn’t have a great sense of the career paths involved. I spent a few days at David Godwin Associates over one summer break and was intrigued, but it was my internship with C&W that really drew me into the agenting world, and I fell in love with the job. As for other career plans, I studied developmental psychology for my Masters and it was fascinating, so I definitely considered my options in that area, but books won out in the end.

2) What do you enjoy most about your role as a literary agent?

Calling an author to let them know that the book they’ve been working away on, often for years, is going to be published is a very special feeling. But day to day I love the process of watching a story take shape – it’s a privilege and a total joy to be able to collaborate with talented writers on the direction their work will take and to see it improving and coming into its own draft by draft. It’s an unusual job in that you can entirely follow your instincts and plough your energies into projects you’re passionate about, however diverse they may be, so the workload is different every day. And that’s three things, so I’ll stop now.

3) I notice that you represent both fiction and non fiction – are there challenges to representing authors of both genres?

I love it! Non-fiction allows me to pursue my interests quite proactively, and it’s a constant learning curve: I’m often working with writers who have fascinating experience in a field I know next-to-nothing about so I get to dive into new subjects all the time. And with both memoir and fiction it’s all about voice, storytelling and emotional insight for me, so my taste in those two areas inform one another quite closely. If anything I find it a useful and much-needed palate cleanser to switch from a literary debut to a crime series to a pop science proposal – it keeps things lively.

4) What do you look for in a covering email by an author looking to submit their manuscript? 

Above all I think I look for thoughtfulness. It’s always great to see that a writer has done their research and knows why they’re submitting to you; it’s hugely helpful to see where they imagine their book might sit on a shelf if they’ve really considered their comparison titles (and not at all helpful if it’s described as THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN meets GONE GIRL…) and then of course I’m hoping for an articulate, enticing, original pitch that will immediately have me printing off their chapters.

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’? 

This is tricky! I don’t think there’s a particular hole in the genre that’s crying out to be plugged because there are so many talented writers working very hard to make sure they’re satisfying the enormous crime readership. That said, on a personal level, veering away from the embittered detective and making sure that there is a really compelling, three-dimensional protagonist at the heart of your novel and that you’re doing something original with the well-trodden – but very fertile! – ground of the crime genre would be the way to catch my eye.

6) What is your guilty pleasure genre? 

It’s not a genre and I feel zero guilt about it but given I’m not generally a huge historical fiction fan (with the notable exception of Sarah Waters, who I adore) I have read the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon more than once and love them. But broadly speaking I don’t think book snobbery benefits anyone – to shamelessly steal from Marie Kondo: if it sparks joy, read it.

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

I’m just finishing up EDUCATED by Tara Westover and yes, I think it’s extraordinary.

8) Completely random – Do you like Rod Stewart and if so, do you have a favourite song of his? 

Great closer. I absorbed quite a lot of his cheesiest songs through osmosis as a kid because my Dad has terrible taste in music (sorry, Dad) and I have a soft spot for Rod’s raspy version of ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’m still scarred from witnessing a particularly enthusiastic karaoke performance of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ once, so that might have prejudiced me.

Thanks for your time, Emma. And for answering my questions and for featuring on my blog.

An Interview With Matthew Smith

Good morning folks, I’m delighted to welcome publisher Matthew Smith to my blog. Here, he answers my questions as to how he got into publishing, his ideal submission and how he met a die hard Rod Stewart fan.

Over to you Matthew.

1) Did you always plan to publish books when you left school? 

Originally I wanted to be a journalist (for magazines, not newspapers) and secured a graduate placing, but the company went bust just as I graduated! I always loved books so ended up working for Waterstones as a bookseller, before applying to start at the VERY bottom with publishers. I eventually got a job as an editorial assistant at Routledge in 1993.

2) Did you have any other career plans?

I once harboured ambitions as a teenager to join the RAF. It lasted about 3 days I think, though now my dream would be to combine Urbane’s publishing output with running our own independent bookshop as well.

3) How did you become involved the publishing industry? 

I think I must have sent out over 200 speculative letters to publishers throughout the UK, and eventually I got to the top of a slush pile and secured an interview. My experience as a bookseller meant that I probably had more commercial knowledge of the industry than the editors interviewing me!  In the early 90s we used to see about 40 reps a month and every store made its own buying decisions, so you became very astute about what books worked and why and market trends. I’d had lunch with the Routledge rep the day before my interview so I was well-prepared to answer questions on the list (and even knew the nicknames of the two people interviewing me!)

4) What inspired you to start up Urbane Publications? 

The publishing industry has become more challenging and competitive than ever before over the last 15 years, and the last ten in particular. Amazon’s rise, the closure of many bookshops, the apparent growing risk-averse nature of publishers and retailers, these are just some of the factors that have impacted on how we commission, publish and sell books. Meanwhile thousands of authors continue to write wonderful books and readers still want to have fantastic, compelling stories, yet as publishers we seemed to forget some of these joyous fundamentals, focusing instead on slashing costs, rehashing the same writers and trends and moaning about Amazon (this is a sweeping statement obviously!). I started Urbane with the hope of giving more debut authors a chance to get their words out there, with the hope they would grow with us – and to continually build an audience of readers who became Urbane advocates, who relished the chance to read new voices and support authors they helped establish. Even after four years it’s still early days, but I genuinely think Urbane is growing into one of the most exciting independent publishers in the UK. Though I would say that wouldn’t !? 😉

5) What advice would you give to authors looking to submit their work? 

To take the time to put together a thoughtful and well thought-out submission package. So many writers finish their novel and then just send it far and wide on spec without the slightest bit of research into who they’re sending the book to, where the market is, who would read it any why etc etc. As a writer if you want a publisher to invest time, expertise and money in your work, and ultimately a reader to invest their hard earned cash in buying and then reading it, you should at least take the time to consider WHY they should. Writing a novel is a tremendous achievement, but that in itself isn’t enough to secure a contract – take the time to put together a good synopsis and target the right agents/publishers to consider your work, showing you have a commercial awareness of your likely audience. You’ll already be steps ahead of most of the competition.

6) More importantly, what do you look for in a covering email?

Interest, passion, energy and commercial awareness. It’s like applying for a job – the first people rejected are those that just send an email saying Dear Sir, I’m interested in the role, my CV is attached, many thanks. Show some passion for your work, knowledge of the market, and interest in the publisher that you’re asking to invest in you as an author.

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

Oh gosh, that happens every day! Many say we just constantly reinvent the same stories, which may be true to some extent, but it’s the innovative finessing of those stories where the magic happens. No obvious examples spring to mind, but I often find myself taking snippets of a day and storing them for future use – perhaps even I’ll write!

8) What is your guilty pleasure genre or book? 

I don’t publish fantasy, but when I’m looking for some joyful escapism I very often turn to a David Gemmell or Joe Abercrombie. And like many readers I have my literary characters and authors I can always rely on to thrill me – such as Charlie Parker (the great character created by John Connolly) or any Stephen King novel. And I can often be found rereading early Christopher Fowler novels, or a Susan Hill ghost story. And favourite classics include Dickens (I do live in Rochester after all which is very much Dickens country) and the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

9) What was the last book you purchased and did you enjoy it? 

My last purchase was An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd – not a new title but I had read some of his other novels and was intrigued by the WW1 setting and the two locations – East Africa and England. It was a fascinating but also entertaining read, and Boyd is wonderful in developing the various foibles of his lead characters.

10) Completely random – Do you like Rod Stewart and if so, do you have a favourite song of his? 

I’m not a huge fan, certainly as a solo artist, though that may be more to do with getting stuck on a flight to New York once next to a rabid Rod Stewart fan. My choice would be a Faces track – Cindy Incidentally.

Thanks for your time, Matthew. And for answering my questions and for featuring on my blog.

An Interview With Stuart Gibbon

This morning folks, I’m very very pleased to welcome my police consultant Stuart Gibbon to my blog to answer my questions. Stuart is a retired police detective who, upon retirement from the police force, set up a business to assist crime writers (including myself) with the police aspect of their crime novels.

In this blog post, he very kindly answers a few questions I’ve asked him.

Over to you, Stuart.

1) How was your interest in the police first piqued when you were growing up?

It sounds a bit corny but for as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a Detective in the police. When I was in my teens, growing up in the north-east of England, I signed up to the police cadets in Northumbria Police and a couple of years later I applied to join the Metropolitan Police cadets. I didn’t want to travel so far away from home but, at that time, they were the only police force recruiting cadets. I managed to pass the selection process and spent the next eighteen months preparing for what would hopefully be a career in the police. This period included law studies, physical training and community work. In May 1982 my police constable training began at Hendon police college and, sixteen weeks later, after an awful lot of hard work, I passed out as Police Constable 727 of the Metropolitan Police.

2) What was the training period like?

The training was quite challenging as there was an awful lot of criminal law and police procedure to learn. We had regular exams which you had to pass in order to continue the course. A fair amount of the law needed to be learnt word-perfect so that you could repeat it back to the instructors if required. There were also a lot of practical role-play scenarios which we used to do at the back of the training school building. The area was set out like a high street with a zebra crossing, a few cars and a double-decker bus to make it more realistic. These role-plays were often good fun as you learnt a lot, particularly if you were the police officer, and if you made mistakes it was in the training environment and all part of the learning process.

3) Do you have any particular highlights from your career?

I have many fond memories from my police career but I suppose one of the highlights was passing the selection process which qualified me to become a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). The course was really tough but getting through it meant that I could then be the lead Detective in charge of Murder and other serious cases. There is no greater responsibility than investigating the Murder of another person and no greater reward than bringing those responsible to justice. I am proud to say that, along with the efforts of my team, I was able to bring just a little comfort to the loved ones of victims at such a tragic time.

4) What prompted you to set up your own consultancy for crime writers and how do you advise authors?

I retired from the police service in 2012 and, having read a number of crime fiction books throughout the years, I recognised that there may be an opportunity to become a writing consultant advising authors on police actions and procedures. If you write a book which has too much procedure in it the reader will probably find it a bit heavy and may give up on it. However, if you are going to include some police procedure then it’s really important that you get the details right or this may also disengage the reader. I set up GIB Consultancy (www.gibconsultancy.co.uk) and now have a number of authors who use my service. In the majority of cases we work via e-mail with the author sending me a list of questions or the relevant section of their work to fact-check. This ensures that we both have a written record which is useful for future reference.

5) What was the writing process like for The Crime Writers Casebook with Stephen Webb?

I first met crime historian Stephen Wade at a literature festival in 2015 when Stephen was part of a panel of crime writers which I chaired. We got chatting and, over the following few months, decided that it would be a good idea to write a book together. We hoped that the combination of Stephen’s encyclopaedic knowledge of crime history and my experience as a Detective would provide an interesting read. A lot of the content from my perspective comes from personal experience together with research where necessary. We drafted the book via e-mail and met up periodically to fine tune. In December 2017 ‘The Crime Writer’s Casebook’ was published. I would describe it as an essential companion for anyone interested in crime, historical or modern-day, whether a reader or writer. It contains true crime case studies and lots of information about police practice and procedures which is invaluable for anyone writing about crime. We are delighted that the book has proved so popular and has received so many positive reviews. At present ‘The Crime Writer’s Casebook’ promotional tour is well underway with talks at Waterstones stores, libraries and other venues.

6) Do you have any more plans to write more books for crime writers?

I certainly wouldn’t rule out a second book as the ‘Crime Writer’s Casebook’ has proved so popular and there are other areas of police procedure and investigation to explore.

I’d just like to finish by thanking you for featuring me and thanks to everyone who has supported and promoted the book.

Thanks for your time, Stuart.

10 Questions With Jackie Baldwin

Good evening folks. How are we all? I’m delighted this evening to welcome crime writer Jackie Baldwin to my blog. Here, she discusses her writing process, her view on the crime and thriller market and her favourite music.

Over to you, Jackie.

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

It was definitely Enid Blyton. I wanted to live in her fictional worlds. There are so many authors that I love now that it is almost impossible to choose one so I will go with Jane Austen who has stood the test of time and also wrote my favourite book, ‘Pride and Prejudice.’

2) Did you enjoy English at school?

I loved it with a passion, particularly stories. They would tend to melodrama with lots of what my English teacher dubbed, ‘purple prose.’ I had to learn to rein it in and tone it down.

3) How did you find studying criminal law helped you to write your debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer?

Although I studied criminal law as part of my law degree I think it was the actual practice of law that helped most. For example, I knew my way around the courts, prison and the police station.

4) What was it like for you, studying hypnotherapy and going back to university?

I’ve always been fascinated by hypnosis. I bought my first book on the subject aged 14 and I used that as a backdrop for a short film script in my thirties. I studied at postgraduate level and it was very different from what I remembered. To give you an idea, first time round, my honours essays were handwritten. If you needed to know something you found it in a book. There was no internet. This was a strange new world. It took me a whole day to register online. I had to wrap my head round The Harvard Referencing System. I never once managed to get into the University online library and had to rely on all the books I could rustle up from Amazon. It was tough but I am so fascinated by the human mind that it was worth it. I love what I do.

5) What is your writing process like – from idea generation to novel?

I usually brainstorm in a hardback A4 Notebook. I note down potential plots and subplots. As for the characters, they start off as shadows in my head and gradually gain substance. I write monologues for the main characters to find their voice. Then I write a two page storyline. After that I take a deep breath and write Chapter One.

6) What do you think of the crime and thriller market currently?

There are some great books out there but I am shocked at the sheer volume being produced. It is a very competitive and fast moving market. Before I was published I was completely unaware of the digital marketplace. If I fancied a new book I would wander into my local bookshop and browse their titles. I never try to surf the wave of ‘the next big thing.’ I just write the book I want to read.

7) How do you find you work best – music or silence?

I was an only child in a quiet house so I need silence to concentrate. Music would completely throw me.

8) What genre of music did you grow up listening to and has your taste changed?

I loved pop music. Every Sunday night I would do the ironing while listening to the top 40 on the radio. I particularly liked soft rock bands like Genesis, Rainbow, Whitesnake and Meat Loaf. The lyrics were so poetic and I did love to headbang! I still like rock but also opera and the kind of stuff my parents’ generation used to listen to like The Platters.

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

It was The Teacher by Katerina Diamond. I enjoyed it so much it kept me up way past my bedtime.

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?

I would say that I am more likely to need therapy after writing. Hearing other writers talk about this makes me feel slightly envious. For some, it’s all rainbows and unicorns. For me, it’s something I’m driven to do like a compulsion. It is hard going and at times hugely frustrating. I am a slow writer which means I sit at my desk gnashing my teeth for hours at a time with very little to show for it. The best times are when you are doing something else or dropping off to sleep and a great idea hits you square between the eyes.

Thanks for your time, Jackie.