Creator of not one but three unique crime fiction series and a myriad of standalone novels Rachel Amphlett talks to me about how she creates the characters that her readers have come to love.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing?
I grew up surrounded by crime fiction and thrillers. I think like a lot of crime writers, I started off with the Famous Five series and went from there, working my way through my parents’ and grandparents’ collections of Ed McBain, Dick Francis, Alistair MacLean – all the greats. A defining moment for me was when my granddad loaned me his copy of Jack Higgins’ The Eagle Has Landed when I was 12 years old – I loved it, and so I think becoming a writer in this genre was a natural progression. It just took me a few years to get around to it
What is your career background and how did you get into writing full time?
Before I became a full-time writer I’d played guitar in bands, helped to run a pub, been a TV/film extra, worked in desktop publishing, project administration and things like that. I started writing on my commute into work by train seven years ago. Every morning I’d plonk myself in a corner of the carriage, open my laptop and make sure I hit my daily word count target by the time the train pulled into the station at the other end. I went full-time last year when I was made redundant – I’ve had so much support from readers around the world that I didn’t need to find another job, for which I’m extremely grateful.
Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular, and what draws readers to them?
I think it’s the characters. That’s why I get hooked on series I like to read – I have an investment in what happens to those people and how they cope with what happens to them.
With the Detective Kay Hunter series, I have a resilient detective who has been through the wringer personally but has a loving partner (Adam, a vet) who supports her and she’s a real team player. I think that’s important, too – she’s not a lone wolf, and her team of detectives are as integral to the stories as Kay herself.
My Dan Taylor series of spy thrillers are similar in that I hope readers are invested in the main character and those around him. The Dan Taylor books are fun to write because I can take those characters anywhere around the world, drop them into a messy situation and see how they get themselves out of it.
That’s very similar in style to my new English Spy Mysteries series featuring Eva Delacourt – here you get to meet a woman who has been hiding for a number of years before suddenly being thrust into the spotlight again with no idea who to trust. You get to go on that journey with this character as she tries to fathom who has betrayed her while attempting to stop a terrorist.
What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?
I’ll read every interview I can get my hands on with Peter James, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Ann Cleeves, Michael Connelly and Jeffery Deaver. That’s how I learned to understand how to write crime fiction – all their interviews are filled with great advice, and of course I love their books, too.
I read outside the genre, too. I think it’s important to listen to different voices and styles to avoid becoming stagnant. Two of my favourite authors on the fringes of crime and another genre are Jim Butcher (the Harry Dresden series) and CJ Sansom (the Shardlake series).
Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?
Well, I’m currently in the process of moving back to the UK after 13 years in Australia so things are a little crazy right now! However, I’m busy plotting and drafting the next Detective Kay Hunter story and I’ve got the first book in a new crime series drafted – that won’t be released until sometime next year. I’ve just got to find somewhere to live first…
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
CJ Sansom’s new one, Tombland in the Shardlake series is out in October so I’ll be snapping that up on publication day. I’m also looking forward to Peter James’ Absolute Proof, out the same month. There are so many good books to look forward to later this year!
It’s been great to hear from you Rachel- thanks for taking the time! You can find out more about Rachel HERE.