Andrew James Graham: “I want the reader to be taken on a journey”

Andrew James Graham talks me through his writing and the techniques he uses in his work.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing?

I feel my writing style is quite descriptive. I want the reader to be taken on a journey into the world I’ve created. To not only tell them what the characters are doing but also feel, taste and smell the situations they are in. I want the reader to think, almost act like the detective in trying to work out who the killer is, making them laugh along the way. I got into crime fiction writing mainly by watching crime shows on TV. I’ve always been a fan and thought I’d try writing a crime novel myself.

Please tell me about your career background and how you draw on it in your writing.

I worked for many years as a Housing Officer in some of the most economically and socially deprived areas of North Tyneside. I worked closely with Probation Services, Drug and alcohol treatment centres and Homeless charities. I’ve always found that real life people and situations are always far more interesting.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

My inspiration is often the wonderful characters that I have come into contact with over the years, be it through work situations, or on public transport or even the local supermarket. When it comes to writers block I try to think of subplots for my characters. I think about a particular incident or character that I have had to deal with in the past. How would they react to that situation? What would they do? How would it affect their life?

What books do you read yourself and how do they influence your writing?

I love British Crime fiction, in particular, Ian Rankin, Peter James, Martina Cole, Mark Billingham and Peter Robinson. I love the way their characters interact with each other with workplace banter. Ian Rankin is especially good at this in his Rebus Novels.

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

I would love to work on a screenplay with Quentin Tarrantino. I just love his dark humour and how he writes the dialogue between his characters. It would also help me get an insight into how he successfully gets his ideas from paper onto the big screen. Pure genius.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I have started writing my next novel, so finishing that would be good.  I’m also really hoping to improve my website as well as putting together a newsletter and increasing my mailing list. I also hope to be more active on twitter and in the creative writing groups on Facebook.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I would like to get my hands on any new book from my favourite authors. But there is always a new book to read as the first time you pick it up it’s new to you, even though it could have been 20 years since it was first published. I’m also always looking for new authors from my part of the world, as I find Tyneside an excellent backdrop for crime thrillers. Trevor Wood’s new novel, One Way Street is one I would like to read.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I think 2020 has been an awful year for a lot of people, but one positive thing to come from 2020 is that more people have had time to rediscover their love of reading, whether it be through Kindle eBooks or the good old fashioned paperbacks. I hope that as the New Year progresses and this COVID virus is finally controlled, people continue to read, and they will hopefully give my book a try.

It’s been a pleasure Andrew, and thank you very much for answering my questions.

Andrew Puckett Interview: “The British countryside inspires me”

For my first interview of 2021 I speak to Andrew Puckett about his work and how he creates incredible medical thrillers based on his experience working for the NHS.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards medical thrillers?

Books and writing have always fascinated me.  I read Enid Blyton from the age of eight, but the turning point was finding a tatty paperback in the living room when I was 11: Miss Marple and the Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie.  The discovery that I could actually try and guess whodunnit was a revelation…

I worked my way through suspense writers such as Hammond Innes, and then I graduated onto J B Priestly (still my favourite author) Henry Williamson, Laurence Durrell and Winston Graham.  I think the best crime authors at the moment are Andrew Taylor and C J Sansom.  The best was Minette Walters, but she’s stopped now – unfortunately!

How do you draw on your career in the NHS when you’re writing?  

I started writing in my early twenties, but the acquisition of a girlfriend put a stop to that.  I concentrated on my career in Biomedical Science, we moved to Oxford from Taunton and any ambitions to write were subsumed in career and happy marriage.  I worked in the Blood Transfusion Service, testing donations for Hepatitis, Syphilis and Aids.

Then my wife died.  I decided to have a go at writing again.  It took two not very good novels and seven years to publish my first Medical Thriller, Bloodstains, which was published by Collins.  (Two rules: Write about what you know, and Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration).  I had six novels published by Collins, three by Constable.  These days I publish with Sharpe Books.  These are mostly e books, but some paperback.  All 14 of my books are available from them.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

My main inspiration has been my career in Medical Science.  Specific to various books were the emergence of HIV (Bed Of Nails) a trip to the Scottish Highlands (Bloodhound) a visit to Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station (Desolation Point) the ruthlessness of some drug companies (A Life For A Life) and Bioterrorism (Going Viral).

I’ve come across some pretty ruthless characters in the NHS – a tiny minority – but they have an effect way beyond their numbers.  Think Harold Shipman.  And the people jailed some thirty years ago for pinching donated blood and flogging it abroad.  Some are in my books, although heavily disguised.

The British countryside inspires me.  I love it and nearly all my books reflect this.  Nearly all are set in the West Country, several completely or partially in Dorset.

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

Collaboration is difficult – at least it is for me.  I did once with a close friend, and wouldn’t do it again!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

Books I’m looking forward to reading: the latest Andrew Taylor or C J Sansom.

Thanks to Andrew for answering my questions; stay tuned for other exciting interviews throughout the year! Here’s to an awesome 2021 for Andrew and other awesome crime fiction writers.

John Anthony Miller Interview: “I try to use a different style with each book that I write”

John Anthony Miller, writer of historical crime fiction, talks to me about his work and the inspiration that drives it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards historical crime fiction?

I try to use a different style with each book that I write. One of my books, Sinner Saint or Serpent, is about a murder in New Orleans in 1926, and I told the story in first person, using a dialect. Another of my books, Honour the Dead, is about a murder in Lake Como, Italy in 1921. For that book, I used a very different style, since most of the suspects were British aristocrats.

I also write historical fiction, and I was first drawn to historical crime fiction after completing four novels set during WWII. Two of my WWII novels had crime themes.  To Parts Unknown, involved three people trying to escape the Japanese in Singapore after the accidental murder of a Japanese general, and All the King’s Soldiers is about a London intelligence analyst sent to Lisbon, Portugal to find the killer of a British spy. From these efforts, it seemed a natural progression to historical crime, without the military backdrop. I also enjoy Agatha Christie and Anne Perry, two great historical mystery authors who have served as inspirations.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing crime fiction?

My first four books were historical fiction, set during WWII. For my fifth book, Honour the Dead, I wanted to do something different, and migrated to crime fiction. Three of my eight novels are historical mysteries; five are historical fiction. Now I tend to alternate between the two genres.

Talk me through your books. What do you think makes them so popular with readers?  

I think my books are popular because they’re about ordinary people who are compelled to do extraordinary things due to existing circumstances. My historical fiction novels, which usually have military themes, are not about generals or admirals or politicians – but about ordinary people who overcome their own shortcomings to combat adversity. I follow the same themes in my historical crime efforts – murders solved by journalists rather than law enforcement, for example.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I don’t have any specific rituals, but do have a routine. I have an office for my writing, the desk is in the centre of the room and I have bookshelves on every wall. I write every day, rarely take a day off, and just enjoy what I do. I typically start a book with three or four different ideas in mind, gradually whittle them down while I conduct my initial research, and then devote my attention to that topic that interests me the most from my preliminary research.

If there is a driver to any of my novels, it would be the location, which I like to treat like a character, as richly described as the people in the book. I have been to many of the locations where my books take place: Paris, Lake Como, London, Germany, Switzerland – and I enjoy writing about them.

What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I read more non-fiction than fiction – primarily to research books I’m working on or planning to write. But I do have several authors that I enjoy reading, and who have served as an inspiration. Other than Agatha Christie and Anne Perry, who I already mentioned, Ken Follett, James Michener, and Ernest Hemingway are also personal favourites.

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

I think I would choose Agatha Christie. I read an article about her techniques that was very interesting – how she used a confined space like a train or a boat or an island, and had plenty of false clues or red herrings, or confused the reader with multiple suspects, making it difficult to solve the crime. Many of her books were also set in exotic locations.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My next release is called The Drop and its set in Havana, Cuba in 1958 during the Cuban Revolution. It’s about an American businessman who is kidnapped by a brilliant revolutionary named Ariana Rojas and held for ransom. The wrinkle in the story is that, after the businessman’s wife receives the ransom note, she decides she doesn’t want her husband back. The book release is in April of 2021.

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

I’ve just completed a romance/mystery set in Cape May, N.J. in 1976. A woman inherits a historic mansion, built by an old sea captain who was falsely accused of murder. Even though it’s a hundred years later, she’s determined to prove his innocence. I just sent this off to my agent the other day, so no idea when it will be published.

As for new books by other writers, I rely heavily on recommendations. I keep in contact with some of the book clubs that follow me, and I get great suggestion from them.

Anything you’d like to add? 

Yes – thank you so much for having me. I greatly appreciate it.

Thanks to John for answering all of my questions! I love historical crime fiction so it’s great to hear your thoughts.

Lewis Hastings Interview: “I believe I have the skill and flair to create a thriller across many sub-genres”

Lewis Hastings, author of the Seventh Wave crime trilogy and Jack Cade novels talks me through his work and how he draws on his career in law enforcement to help him write compelling novels.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing? 

Good question! I think my style is influenced heavily by my imagination and my life experiences, which provide a continuing stream of stories and certainly kick-started my Jack Cade novels. It’s a long story (I’m a novelist, I know you’ll forgive me!) but the Seventh Wave trilogy actually started as a result of a chance meeting with an Eastern European female – a case of hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I was the interviewer, she told her story, and what a story. It became so compelling that I knew that once I had starting writing the first book Seventh it needed at least one more book to complete the story. In fact, it took three (Seven Degrees and Seven of Swords) and each book is substantial but readers tell me repeatedly that the stories are big enough to warrant it.

My work drew me towards crime fiction, but I believe I have the skill and flair to create a thriller across many sub-genres, for example, there are elements of psychological thrillers in the trilogy, there are police procedural elements and there is good old-fashioned adventure.

The key difference for me and my readers is that the trilogy is based heavily on a true story. My new novel The Angel of Whitehall is heavily based on the life of a wonderful old naval officer called Tom. If you ever get chance to read the book, you’ll see who he was and why he was dear to me.
 

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

I have been very lucky to have an extensive international career in law enforcement and intelligence – I still work in this sector (hence no author photo!) – I have written for many years, but it was a cathartic moment with my dear old dad as he lay in an English hospice in 2014 that drove me to write in a professional capacity. The short story is that as I read a passage of a novel I was writing to him, he said “Son, tell that story to the world, get them to make it into a film too…do it for me…”
 

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular, and what draws readers to them? 

As I mentioned earlier, I think the reason people enjoy the books is that they are more than just police procedurals. Don’t misunderstand me, they contain very detailed and accurate procedural matters because I have ‘worn the T-shirt’ as far as many of the scenes are concerned.

What readers tell me (and it means so very much to hear this) is that they love the atmospheric scenes, the detail, the dark passages and the unexpected humour, the chase, the occasional love story and good old-fashioned, well-drawn characters. I am humbled by the reviews.
 

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

I rarely read. I know authors should in order to learn. But my work is so frantically busy at times that my down time tends to be driven by the urge to write. If I do read it tends to be British thrillers, my favourite being Peter James.
 

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

It would have to be Peter James. For two reasons, the first is that I enjoy his style and the obvious research, the second is that Peter was a rare beacon a few years ago when he replied to a letter I sent to him, asking for advice. He did more than that and allowed the real ‘Roy Grace’ to read my first novel. ‘Roy’ was very kind, really enjoyed the book and offered some advice, which I took. As a result, Seventh and its sequels are much sharper.

One thing I learned from this was that there will be a budding author out there now, desperate for recognition. All I can say is don’t give up; you just haven’t found your publisher yet! I also don’t rule out supporting authors in the future and already do that via a UK forum which offers subject matter expert knowledge to help writers.
 

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

Loads! I have just released The Angel of Whitehall with Hobeck and I am currently working on what was a novella and has now become book five in the Jack Cade series. It brings back an old foe and I am loving how it is unfolding…
 

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

At the moment I am enjoying working with the other members of the Hobeck Books team, so I know I need to read their work! I’m also hoping to be able to do more interviews, to help reviewers, bloggers and podcast hosts such as Robert Daws and Adam Croft on the Partners in Crime podcast which is easily the best example out there.

Anything you’d like to add? 

In closing, I would like to thank you for approaching me, it means a lot. Authors are not the solitary souls that people imagine, we are often gregarious and need some compliments from time to time! I only really started writing novels in earnest a few years ago, so to be picked up by the wonderful Hobeck Books team so quickly was humbling and exciting. That my readers enjoy what I write and can ‘see’ the scenes unfolding is reward enough.

I’m repeatedly told that all of the novels should be made into television dramas or films because of their storylines, and depth and colour. I wouldn’t stop anyone doing that…

Good luck with your work which is so important to authors. Stay safe and well in these interesting times. Thank you.

Thank you for answering my questions, it’s great to speak to a fellow Peter James lover. Also, thank you for offering advice to budding authors; they need all the support and guidance they can get in this competitive market.

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.

John Dean Interview: “As a writer, I am usually inspired by a sense of place”

Following the recent publication of his 20th printed crime novel, I interview revered mystery writer John Dean.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction writing?

I had always written and children’s fiction and humour were my first loves but without much success, so I followed the old adage of ‘write about what you know’. Since my career as a journalist saw me specialise in crime, the synergy was an obvious one.

Please tell me more about your background. How did you become a professional writer?


I worked on newspapers all over the UK for 19 years then spent 21 years as a freelancer, all the time learning from skilled colleagues about the way that words work. At the same time, I was writing novels without being accepted by a publisher. Then I saw that a journalist had secured a crime fiction deal with Robert Hale. Like all writers, I had a novel lying around but one on which I had given up (a DCI John Blizzard story). I sent it off and it did not come back.  I kept having crime novels published then, when Hale ceased publishing a number of years ago, I was picked up by The Book Folks, who have published me ever since. In March 2020, I took retirement from journalism and now focus on my novels.

Talk me through your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?


I think that what success I have enjoyed is down to a mixture of strong plots, realistic characters, well-drawn landscapes and a pace which keeps the story moving. For me, they are the key pillars of successful writing and I also think it is crucial to keep learning and seek to continually improve. I try to learn from everyone, ranging from my editors to readers’ reviews if they make valid points in a constructive manner.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?


Fortunately, I do not experience writer’s block. As a writer, I am usually inspired by a sense of place. Let me take you back a few years to a hillside in the North Pennines in an attempt to show you what I mean.

I was on a family holiday and we were staying in a village on the Durham/Cumbrian border.  There was a play area in the middle of the village and every evening my two children would go for a swing and I would wander out to keep an eye on them – they had gone past the ‘Dad, give me a push’ stage but had not quite reached the stage where they could be left alone. In such circumstances, a person has a lot of time to think and, as they swung, I found myself staring at the hillside opposite.

Something about the hill’s slopes and its late evening shadows, the way the buzzards hunted across the ridge, the sound of the sheep bleating and the distant barking of a farm dog, worked their magic on me. By the end of the week, an idea was born, blending landscape and its effect on the people who live within it with the theme of wildlife crime, something on which I had reported extensively as a journalist. Then came the character; I had been toying with the idea of a disillusioned detective finding his senses re-awakened by the northern hills. Eventually, it turned into Dead Hill, the first in my DCI Jack Harris series, which is published by The Book Folks.

Oh, and the children are both grown-up now!

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

The two writing groups of which I am a member – the Inkerman Writers in Darlington, County Durham, and the Gallery Writers in Kirkcudbright in South West Scotland. Previous collaborations have been very happy ones and both groups are packed with talent.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I have been developing my online crime fiction writing courses. I have already taught several aspiring writers from the UK and abroad and it has been a joy to be exposed to their enthusiasm and talent. I also run weekend courses from my 19th Century hillside home in South West Scotland – Covid wiped out the entire 2020 programme but I hope we can run them again in 2021. Oh, and I’ve had this idea for a novel…!

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

I am looking forward to the careers of the excellent Ian Patrick and Jackie Baldwin continuing to develop (both have strong connections with the area in southern Scotland where I live) Also looking forward to the next steps in the career of new names who have been signed up by the Book Folks – people like Bud Craig with his private detective stories and David Pearson and his popular series of novels set in Ireland.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

The latest DCI Jack Harris book Kill Shot (The Book Folks, published October 25, 2020) is my twentieth crime novel to make it into print.

Thanks John for answering my questions, I’m excited to check out your 20th printed crime fiction novel!

Trish Finnegan Interview: “Sometimes writing was an escape from reality for me”

Today I interview Trish Finnegan about her debut novel, Blue Bird, and how she came to create it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

I’m not sure I have ever defined it. I just write and it comes out as it is. If I look back on earlier writing I did, I can see a difference but it wasn’t deliberate. Now, my writing is “tighter”. By that I mean I try not to write anything that is not relevant to the story. Even stuff that seems irrelevant in the start will be somehow connected to the end. When I’m editing, I cut thousands of words from the work and save them in an offcuts folder. Recycle, recycle. They might be useful in another piece of work.

In first person, I like to write as I would speak, without many of the ums and ahs. That doesn’t mean that Blue Bird is a memoir, it definitely isn’t.  Samantha is not me.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I was a police officer in the 70s and 80s. I left when I had my family (1 girl, 2 boys. No part time working for policewomen in our force in those days). I retrained as a medical secretary. Then my daughter developed serious health problems and I needed to be home, but I also needed to earn, so I became a registered child minder. Once my youngest went to high school, I returned to the police as a civilian, working in the control room.

My husband was also a police officer, reaching the rank of superintendent.  When he completed his service in 2006, we started our own business.  Now my husband freelances part time and I write and wrangle grandchildren.

I have always enjoyed writing; I just didn’t always have time for it. I wrote my own little stories for my children. Sometimes writing was an escape from reality for me. 

I didn’t plan to get into writing professionally. Blue Bird had been buzzing about in my mind for years. When I found I had more time, I started to attend writers’ events, especially those in Winchester and York. I got to speak to agents and book doctors. As my skill developed, I worked on Blue Bird and received a lot of advice. One piece of advice was that in its early form, Blue Bird straddled genres. To make it work I had to decide if it was a crime or a romance or something else. I looked hard at it and I realised that it had become quite dark in places. I lost some characters and rewrote it again (and again), concentrating on crime.

Initially, I got a lot of rejections. You need a thick skin to be a writer. Then I found Si and Pete at Burning Chair and, as they say, the rest is history. Even if you have a decent novel, finding an agent or a publisher is the hard part, but when you do find one, life is good.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I find inspiration everywhere and anywhere.  I might see something on the news or in the paper and I start thinking about how I would handle it, or, if it is crime related, how it would have been handled differently when I was a police officer. Policing has changed a lot over the years. This “what if” thinking often triggers an idea, which I might or might not use.

I tend not to get writers’ block. If anything, I have the opposite problem. I get so many ideas I’m sometimes undecided on which one to run with.  When that happens, I leave the piece I’m working on and do something else. When I go back, I usually find that I have settled on a solution.

When I was writing Blue Bird, I did think back to my days in policing a lot. I had become irritated by the number of protagonists that were high-ranking male officers. I thought back to my days as a young, naïve, bobby who had joined the cadets straight from an all-girl school. Learning the job while trying to find my feet in a male environment, and seeing things I never expected, or wanted, to see. It’s only as I looked back I could appreciate some of the incredible things I did.

This inspired me to make my protagonist a female recruit, with a traumatic past. In the early versions, Sam was a bit childish, so I strengthened her character until she told me what she wanted to be. Sometimes the character takes over and I love it when that happens. Sam is now damaged, but strong and is working on her issues. Also she has developed slight maverick tendencies.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Ian Rankin, because he is the boss. I love his Rebus series and I love his writing. When I read my first Rebus book, I didn’t like the character very much. I felt that if Rebus and I had worked together, we probably wouldn’t have been friends. Then I started to feel a bit sorry for the paedophile character! Now that is great writing. To take control of a reader’s feelings and turn them upside down is incredible.

I would love to see what Ian Rankin would make of my characters.  I would enjoy a novel where Siobhan, Rebus’s sidekick who is now a DI, gets to work with a young recruit like Samantha.

I have to say that as I worked through the series, Rebus grew on me. Now I can’t wait for Ian Rankin’s next book.

What books and authors do you read yourself and how do they influence your writing?

Ian Rankin, obviously. I also enjoy Noelle Holten who writes The Maggie Jamieson series. Also Graham Smith, who is a prolific writer. He also writes as John Ryder. I also enjoyed Neil Lancaster’s Tom Novak series.

Sometimes I take a break from crime and I have enjoyed reading the Chronicles of St Mary’s series by Jodi Taylor. It’s hard to explain those books. They’re about an organisation of disaster-magnet historians. They study historical events in contemporary time. Yes, time travel, but they don’t call it that. It’s a little bit sci-fi and a little bit historical and a good read.

I don’t consciously emulate other writers so I couldn’t say how they influence my writing. The nearest I can think of is that Ian Rankin has Rebus aging as the series progresses. Sam will progress in her service as my series goes on. I didn’t deliberately copy Ian Rankin, but I thought it would be daft to have Sam as a perennial recruit getting into adventures. Life isn’t like that so she has to mature.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m working on the sequel to Blue Bird which should be ready next year. I’m also writing ideas for the third and fourth books in the series.  Most exciting at the moment is our new grandchild that is due in early March 2021.

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

Noelle Holten’s latest Maggie Jamieson book is due out 16th October, the day after Blue Bird. I’m looking forward to reading that. Also, there’s another Jodi Taylor book due out in early 2021 that I want to read.

Do you have anything to add?

Enjoy your writing. Don’t make the mistake of changing your work in progress to suit individuals. At first I was like a pendulum, swinging back and forth with every bit of feedback. Then I realised that I was never going to please everyone. I decided that if I had one or two criticisms, that was fine. However, if I got a lot of feedback that a character or chapter was a problem, then it was a problem that should be addressed.

So, write what makes you happy, what fires your passion. Someone out there will like it; you just have to find them.

Thank you for this interview. I have enjoyed answering your questions.

Huge thanks to Trish for answering my questions. You can find out more about her book HERE.

John Ryder Interview: “I think that having a variety of experiences through life has given me lots of material to draw upon”

Today I talk to former joiner and farmer John Ryder about how he draws on his experience to write intriguing crime fiction stories.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards thrillers and crime fiction?

I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction and thrillers, so it was natural that when I started writing my own stories, they would be in the genres I love the most. I couldn’t write a sci-fi or romance novel for all the money in the world as having not read them, I wouldn’t have a clue how to write them.

How does your background as a farmer and joiner influence your work?

I think that having a variety of experiences through life has given me lots of material to draw upon. Final Second happens in a rural setting so it was easy for me to put myself into the mindset of certain characters. As a joiner, I used many different power tools that were extremely dangerous, so it won’t be a big leap for me to imagine someone using them for nefarious purposes.

Often farmers and construction workers can be looked down upon because their jobs aren’t seen as technical, or requiring much intelligence, but that’s far from the case as anyone who has tried to work out how to get an exact spread of fertiliser onto a field. Joiners make intricate shapes on a regular basis and when it comes to casting concrete, they have to design and build moulds that are the exact opposite of the finished shape.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

My only real ritual is to make sure I have coffee and at least a half hour to write without interruption. I take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. A half-overheard conversation can spark an idea, as can a news story, or a “what if” proposition that nags at my mind.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I love authors who can make their words seem like honey for the eyes and yet write a gripping story that entertains and educates me. There are far too many authors I admire to list them all but books by the following authors always jump to the top of Mount To Be Read. Craig Russell, Zoe Sharp, A.A. Dhand, M.W. Craven, Stuart MacBride and many many others.

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

I’d choose Alistair MacLean as I believe he’s possibly the greatest thriller writer who ever lived. Admittedly his later books weren’t as strong as his early ones, but following stories like HMS Ulysses, Fear is the Key and Ice Station Zebra would find almost any author wanting.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Grant Fletcher 2, Final Second comes out on Monday 5th October, which is always a thrill and I have just completed the first draft of Grant Fletcher 3, and I feel it’s got the bones of a great story hidden beneath all the typos. I’ve also got a book out on submission, which I have high hopes for.

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

Hyde by Craig Russell is one book I’m hugely looking forward to and I read an early draft of Sins of the Father by Sharon Bairden, which is a book, and author I’m tipping for stardom.

Anything you’d like to add?

I’d just like to say thank you for hosting me, and to also thank those who’ve stuck with this interview to the bitter end. As a reward to you all, I’d suggest signing up to my newsletter on www.johnryderauthor.com as that will gain you automatic entry into every competition I run.

Thanks to John for answering my questions; it’s been great to find out more about your work.

Paul Asling Interview: “I think my life in London and my background have influenced my fiction the most”

London crime and romance writer Paul Asling shares a unique insight into his work and why he’s deeply passionate about the UK’s bustling capital city.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and mystery writing?

Good question. I think my writing style has slowly developed over many years. I have read many true-life crime books, along with fictional crime novels and short stories. I try to get a balance between the two in my writing.

I have always enjoyed reading crime fiction, and I thought, as I had the time, I would try my hand at writing a crime fiction novel. It was not a simple task, and it took a lot longer than I thought, but the result was my first book, Love You Till I Die.

What attracts me to crime fiction is I can use gritty imagery to deal with the most dangerous situations that people can find themselves in. It also allows me to enjoy writing about the complexity of people, as well as giving me the chance to explore both the good and bad aspects of my different characters.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?

My background is varied. I started off working in the West End of London as an apprentice Gas Fitter in the 60s and then as a London Taxi Driver in the 70s. I had a complete career change in the 80s when I got into management and then joined the legal profession. 

I think my life in London and my background have influenced my fiction the most. I started off by writing short stories about situations I’d encountered in my life growing up in London, and its characters I’d met on the way. I think this has given my writing an added layer of depth and grit.

What is it about London that makes the city such a central part of your books?

I think London is one of the most exciting and inspiring cities in the world. Day and night, it’s filled with its own smells, tastes and sounds. The city is full of extraordinary history, vitality and diversity. It also displays a remarkably rich and varied tapestry of local characters. Probably the best piece of advice I was given when I started writing was, ‘write about what you know’. And I know London inside out.

What books do you enjoy reading, and how do they influence your work?

Any work from Tony Parsons or Sebastian Faulks. I’m also a big fan of Geoffrey Household novels. I think my biggest influence would be Geoffrey Household and his descriptions of people and places.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

With writer’s block, my list of ideas outweighs the number of stories I complete, or even start. I revisit my old notebooks whenever I’m at a loss for an idea.

For me, inspiration for writing is easy. Mainly it is listening to conversations of friends I have grown up with. I attended a school in Fulham, West London (in the 60s, when is wasn’t posh) to say it was rough would be an understatement- we had our own coroner. And my first job as a teenager was a tail gunner on a milk float. The area has certainly changed from the days I was living there.

A week ago, myself and five old friends met up in a pub in Chichester. During the four-hour period, we were there enough material came out for another ten books!


I’m fascinated by people’s motivations, especially when they seem illogical. Dark, gritty stories allow me to explore what drives people. I also think my experiences of being an ex-boxer, and the various jobs I’ve had in my life, have helped me build the characters in my books.

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

I think for me it would be Tony Parsons. If ever a man wears his heart on his sleeve, it’s him. Coming from a working-class family, as I did myself, he shows what can be done. 

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

My last book, The Carters’ was published three months ago. I have started another book, but over the next year my plan is to write some short stories alongside the new book.  

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

Any new work from Tony Parsons, Sebastian Faulks, or John Grisham.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank you, Hannah, for allowing me space on your fantastic blog.My books can be found at: https://amzn.to/3itO0nF

Thanks to Paul for answering my questions, it’s incredible to hear your thoughts and learn more about your work.