Sunday 2 November 2014


I'm pleased to be part of the MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR. 
I was nominated by my good friend, the superb writer, Charlie Cochrane.

Charlie and I first met at a RNA Christmas lunch many years ago, but in the last few years we meet up regularly as part of the Deadly Dames panel. I've loved Charlie's Cambridge Fellows series for years and, a couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to get hold of a review copy of her brilliant new contemporary crime/romance, The Best Corpse for the Job, which is out in e-book in November and paperback in December. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is the start of another riveting series.

At the moment I'm writing the last few chapters of The Curse of the Concrete Griffin, a cosy/comedy crime novel set in a retirement village for older people. This is an unusual departure for me as usually I write police procedurals, but I started it at a point when I was recovering from a bad health blip and wanted something a bit lighter to play with. However, I have just finished editing and restructuring The Fragility of Poppies, a cross genre crime/romance novel, and normal service will be resumed in the near future, as I have the outline plots and first chapters ready for the next two police procedurals in the Serious Crimes series, Karma and the Singing Frogs (the next in the Mia Trent Scene of Crimes novels which started with The Terminal Velocity of Cats) and The Tyranny of the Weak, (which will be the next in the series featuring Kev Tyler and Gill Martin, who were introduced in About the Children.)
It is almost impossible to write a fictional police procedural that is totally true to life; describing any major crime would be both dull and confusing, with descriptions of large amounts of paperwork and an unwieldy number of personnel, but I do try to keep the police procedure plausible and reasonably realistic. Although I think it's great if I can keep the reader guessing the identity of the criminal until the end of the book, it's more important to me that, even if they've spotted the perpetrator, they feel involved enough with the investigators to want to follow through and see how it all ties up. I try to write character based books and I got very bored with out-of-control, alcoholic, maverick cops. I prefer my detectives to be fundamentally decent and professional. I like intelligence and integrity in my central characters and it's a bonus if they happen to be witty too.

I come into the category of writers who write what they want to read. I write about crime because it matters, so maybe it's an attempt to make sense of some of the terrible things that happen to ordinary people who don't see it coming. That sounds awfully heavy and pretentious and it's just as true that I like the puzzle aspect and I'm fascinated by why people do the crazy things they do. About the Children was my greatest challenge, because it's about the death of children but it was a book I felt that I had to write. I know a lot of people have been wary of reading it because they were afraid they'd find it too upsetting and I've been very pleased that several people who were worried but plucked up the courage to read it said that they had not found it harrowing. I think this is because it is written through the viewpoints of the detectives investigating the crime, and, although they care, they maintain a professional attitude.

My fiction writing jerks sporadically into life in the gaps between teaching, article writing and helping Home Educate my disabled grandson. When I manage to clear a day for writing I tend to write between 2,000 and 3,000 words, but that doesn't happen as often as I'd like. Regarding the actual writing process: I always know where I'm starting a book and usually I have some idea of the end as well. My detectives are pretty well established in my mind, so it's just a case of checking where they've got to in their lives since the last time I visited them, but of course new characters have to be encountered and explored. The trickiest thing for me is writing a scenario where it's not immediately obvious who has committed the crime; so that even the thickest constable exclaims 'Aha! He dunnit!' I quite often have a final scene in my mind, usually after the crime is solved and explained. In both About the Children and The Fragility of Poppies I knew the end scene, but I didn't know what was going to happen throughout the book until I got there. That's what makes it so much fun. I wouldn't want to write a book that I'd already plotted out; I'd get bored with it long before I reached the end.

I've only got one nominee to continue my next stage of the blog tour, but she's a fantastic writer who will take us to galaxies we've never explored before. My good friend and colleague Wendy Metcalfe writes Science Fiction and Future Crime, both with a strong ecological theme. Her first two books in her Future Crime series are already available: Panthera, Death Spiral and Panthera, Death Song, and the third book will be published early in 2015.

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