Frequently asked questions
Time and again at readings or book launches the same questions come up. Here are ten of them and my answers.
FAQ 1 What made you write crime fiction?
Advice! I'd been writing science fiction that I sent to publishers. An editor at the Women's Press told me it read like crime fiction (a whodunit in another solar system) and advised me to turn to crime. I didn't read much crime fiction at the time but took myself off to the library and got hooked immediately.
FAQ 2 Why did you write a private eye book?
Inspired by other writers, particularly Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller, I wanted to write the same sort of books as those I loved reading but set them in my city (Manchester) and feature a woman P.I. who also had children. I was interested in giving Sal the double shift of both job and childcare to juggle. So many of us have to do it and it's very hard to get the right balance.
FAQ 3 Where do you get your ideas from?
That would be telling! Multiple choice answers for this one: a) Longsight market b) They come to me in my dreams c) I steal them from other writers d) It's all true and happened to someone I know e) I make them up.
FAQ 4 How do you write?
With a pen and paper on lined file paper - has to be narrow margin. And then it gets typed up onto the computer. I write whenever the house is free of children and now they are older and at school and university, I have long stretches which I never used to have.
FAQ 5 How long does it take to write a book?
Used to be 18 months. Now I've just done one in six (see FAQ 4 for explanation).
FAQ 6 Do you work it all out first?
No. I only have the very gist of it to start with and the rest comes in the writing. Every so often I have to stop and jot down ideas for scenes on cards and shuffle them about to work out which order to put them in but new stuff crops up all the time. It’s different for television (see next question).
FAQ 7 How did you get into television?
I was very lucky. I wrote a stand alone thriller which was rejected by several publishers and so eventually I sent it to Granada TV as a proposal. Though at that stage I was happy for someone else to write it - I hadn't a clue about writing for telly. Thankfully, I was persuaded to change my mind and Granada commissioned me to develop a script. Blue Murder, starring Caroline Quentin, was the result. It has been a fascinating, thrilling and at times terrifying experience. I've learnt a huge amount in a short space of time and it has been immensely enjoyable working with cast and crew to see it brought to life. I've also had to face two massive obstacles which are completely contrary to the way I write my novels: working every detail of the story out first (not making it up as I go along) and rewriting, endless rewriting, I hate rewriting and normally I don't have to do much but with telly it's endemic.
FAQ 8 Would you write a different type of book?
Yes. Trio is a real departure - it's not even crime. Rooted in my own experience of being adopted Trio tells the story of three babies given up for adoption in 1960 and the stories of their lives and what happens to their birth and adoptive families. As well as giving me the chance to write about several leading characters (rather than just the one) and to look in depth at issues around adoption, Trio also allowed me to write about the period from 1960-2000, to re-capture what it was like growing up in the 1960s and to cover the social history of my own lifetime.
FAQ 9 Is Sal Kilkenny like you? And Janine Lewis?
Sal is. We moan about the same things and live in the same area. But Sal is braver and bolder than I am. She still rides her bike a lot too and doesn't eat meat. And I'm not a single-parent but we have plenty of similarities. She's my alter ego really. Janine moves in a different world though, not one I know. She’s a professional woman, with a not insubstantial amount of authority and power, working in a hierarchical institution with all the challenges that brings. But she’s also a mother – that reflects how interested I am in the business of work and parenting and how we manage both.
FAQ 10 Who are your favourite writers?
How long have you got? James Lee Burke, Andrea Badenoch, Dennis Lehane, Sue Grafton, Denise Mina, Gianrico Carofiglio, Toni Morrison, Roger Jon Ellory, Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas H. Cook, Minette Walters, Elmore Leonard, Frances Fyefield, George P. Pelecanos, Laura Wilson, Val McDermid, Walter Mosley, Sarah Waters, Ian Rankin, Sarah Paretsky, Ed McBain, Jim Thompson, Alice Walker, Robert Wilson, Marge Piercy, John Harvey, Michael Connelly, Tony Hillerman and then some...and there are new ones appearing all the time. You can see what I am reading by visiting the Tangled Web site where I post reviews.