Ann Bloxwich Interview: “It was after reading a Dick Francis story that I discovered I loved crime thrillers”

Here’s my interview Ann Bloxwich, an up-and-coming author who’s in the process of bringing her new crime fiction novel to readers.

Tell me about how your debut book. Why do you think readers will enjoy it?

My debut novel is called Death on Two Legs. It’s a contemporary police procedural set in the West Midlands; and features Detective Inspector Alex Peachey. I think readers will enjoy the fact that Alex is a normal everyday guy, dealing with normal everyday problems. He has a happy marriage; he likes playing computer games when he’s not working and he’s a decent boss. He has a disabled son at home, which presents its own challenges. I thought it would be interesting to show some of the problems that you face as a parent of a disabled child can impact on all of your life, not just at home.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing?

I’ve been a full-time parent since my son was born. A difficult birth and a negligent nurse led to him having cerebral palsy, so my ex-husband and I didn’t know what sort of care he would need as he grew up. I’ve always been an avid reader, so when my ex was sent to the Falkland Islands for five months, I decided to set myself the challenge of reading the entire collection of Reader’s Digest condensed books that we had sitting on the bookshelf, no matter what the subject matter. It was after reading a Dick Francis story that I discovered I loved crime thrillers. I didn’t know where to start with writing, so forgot about it until years later. I’d become friends with a male stripper (his son was classmates with my youngest son) and he asked me to help him with some promoting. This involved finding venues and putting on shows for him and his colleagues, not just strippers but drag queens too. I spent lots of time backstage, helping guys sort out costumes, etc. – the novelty of being surrounded by naked men soon wears off when you have to pick up discarded clothes, run backwards and forwards getting drinks and so on. I once had to separate two 6ft men who were arguing about who had stolen the other’s hair band. Given that I’m only 4ft 10ins, it could have got nasty, but I had four children by then, so it was like dealing with overgrown toddlers. I put my best mum voice on and told them both off. They stopped immediately, mumbled their apologies, and they never misbehaved again.

I was chatting to one of the guys one night and mentioned I’d always fancied writing a book. He said if anyone ever wrote about the stripping life it would be quite an eye-opener. It sparked an idea in my head, but again I pushed it aside. It wasn’t until my daughter got us tickets for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, that I decided to go for it. My author hero, Jeffery Deaver, was on the stage, and he was so encouraging to new writers that my daughter turned to me and ‘Go for it, mum. You can do this.’ She then paid for me to go to a new crime writing workshop in Gretna Green, run by author and hotel owner, Graham Smith. We lived near Wolverhampton at the time, so I had a long drive up the M6 to get there. I was shaking the whole way! Graham was very warm and friendly, he made myself and my fellow students feel completely at ease. I’ve been back every year since then, and have made some wonderful friends and learned so much. The course has been very successful; with thirteen attendees going on to become published authors. I got so much support from the people I’d met that we upped sticks and moved to Dumfries four years ago, so I could concentrate on my writing.

As a new author who’s trying to get published, what are your thoughts on the industry currently? How can it become more accepting to new authors such as yourself?

The industry has taken a battering this year, with the Covid-19 outbreak affecting every part of it. Writing courses and festivals have all been cancelled or run online, and I think agents and publishers have been hard-pressed to keep established authors afloat, without taking on new ones. One thing that does bother me is the issue of which genre books belong to. I’ve had some rejections that say they don’t know where my book will fit in the current market, which is so frustrating. Why reject a book because it doesn’t fit into a box? Surely, it’s better to publish a book because it’s well written and has a good story than worry about how it should be labelled? I’ve had rejections that said ‘We like the story, characters etc., but we don’t know where it would fit in the current market’. I’m always clear that my book is a police procedural, so it should fit in the crime/police procedural market. I’m not a publisher or an agent though, so maybe I just don’t understand how it works.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers and so on. My all-time favourite is Jeffery Deaver, but there are many authors whose books I buy regardless of the story, because I know it will be brilliant. I tried plotting, like Jeffery does (he does fifty rewrites when he’s writing!) but could not get my head around working from start to finish. I wrote the prologue for my book first, the wrote the scene with the drag queen being interviewed, then wrote the last chapter. Don’t forget I still had a disabled son to look after, so had to work around his needs. With book two I’m trying to at least get a rough draft down so I can see where everything is going to go. I’ve doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, to help me with this. My son has moved into a supported living facility now, so my time is my own. I usually get an idea for a story, and then write a first chapter. Then, depending on whether I think it will carry a story, I’ll set out the characters in a similar format to IMDB. I have a cast list of people who I’d want to play my characters if they ever make it to the big screen – this helps me to ‘see’ them as people

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Ideally, it would be Jeffery Deaver, His attention to detail is incredible, and he’s a nice guy. Alternatively, I’d love to write with Lee Child, but he’s just filled that vacancy.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

I’m currently working on book two of the Alex Peachey series, which is called Goodnight, God Bless.  Someone is torturing and murdering paedophiles in specific ways that only mean something to their past victims. Alex has to figure out who the killer is, while dealing with the fallout from book one. I’ve also got a standalone drafted out, but that may become book four, as I already have an idea for book three. I’m a typical Gemini; I never have just one thing on the go.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I’ve just finished reading Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson. It won the Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2020, and I can see why. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books. Robert Scragg’s books are fantastic, one of the best police procedurals I’ve ever read. I also should mention Rob Parker, his Ben Bracken series is beautifully written, with a real sense of place. There are lots more I could mention, but we’d be here all night.

Anything you’d like to add?

Only to say thank you to everyone who has encouraged, helped, and supported me so far. I hope I won’t let you down.

Thanks for answering my questions; it’s great to hear from up-and-coming authors and I’m looking forward to reading your debut when it’s out.


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