Tell me what inspired you to write perfect remains and perfect prey?

I’ve always loved reading crime and thrillers, and given my career as a barrister it was natural ground for me. What I wanted to avoid was rewriting other detectives currently at the top of the genre, and it seemed to me that there was space to make crime a bit sexier again. Hence DI Luc Callanach – incredibly good-looking, French, ex model – and then I gave him some relevant demons and a back story I could write convincingly given some of the cases I handled in the criminal courts. I also have a fascination with being able to see the antagonist in action. For me, that’s where the interest with crime lies. To see the world through a killer’s eyes and walk a mile in their shoes, now that really is disturbing.

 How hard was it to get your first book published?

It was a struggle to get published as a debut author. Very few people get to see their first manuscript in print and I was no exception. I self-published a couple of fantasy novels first just because I enjoyed the process of writing so much, then realised I didn’t want to stop and I made the leap to approaching agents. It’s a long haul though, and not many writers get to give up the day job. It’s also a job that requires a lot of self-discipline. I write best to tight deadlines and have a daily word count. You have to treat it like a nine-to-five.

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say waterstones website?

I read all my reviews, good and bad, on all the websites. When you read them on a professional site like Waterstones it has a serious impact as these are the go-to sites for the industry as well as readers. You have to read the bad reviews as well, and take them seriously, not just cherry pick. Every writer is on a constant learning curve. The good reviews make it easier to get writing on a bad day, and they give you an invaluable insight into readers’ minds. 

 Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

I’d struggle to write about child deaths because I’m a mother of three and there are images I don’t want to dwell on, so that would be tough. Most subjects though simply require a level of sensitivity in the writing when you approach the rough stuff. It’s important to strike a balance between using a crime as a storyline and glamourising dreadful deeds. My writing is rightly describe as not for the faint hearted, but that’s because I see crimes through the victims’ eyes, and I don’t think we have to turn away from that. I always remember however, that there are real crime victims out there.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I was a barrister for 13 years, prosecuting and defending in the criminal courts, and appearing in family law cases. After that, following the birth of my second child, I worked as a producer and script writer in a media firm I still run jointly with my husband. The children are aged 13, 11 and 8 so life is fairly hectic, but I prefer it that way.

Which author inspires you?

The author that inspires me the most, like so many people out there, is Stephen King. It’s not for the horror or suspense, the ability to keep readers enthralled into the small hours, or his extraordinary storylines. It’s that King writes about normal people pushed into situations entirely beyond their control, and he is perhaps the most insightful writer of human emotions living today. Tiny details, that breathe genuine life into his characters. He truly is an amazing observer of the human race.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I read across all fiction genres, although non-fiction and autobiographies don’t hold my attention. If I’m in the middle of writing crime, I like to read other things so I might go back to the classics, or pick up a romance, or an American coming of age story, just to get my head out of my own storyline. I’m an avid horror reader but also love dark historical, so my TBR pile is a pretty mixed bag.

What is your biggest motivator?

My biggest motivator is getting on to tell the next story in my head. At any time I’ll have three book ideas that I’m mulling over, and I often find myself pushing forwards so that I can explore the next book. At a more basic level, I love the idea that a book I’ve written has distracted people from their own lives for a few hours. Alleviated the boredom of a commute, or made people forget a stressful day, or just made them gasp with shock. It’s a small thing, but books have helped me through some difficult times in my own life – the sheer escape of reading. If I can give a little of that back, then I’ll be delighted.

What will always distract you?

I’m easily distracted, but Twitter is a disaster for me (I love being in contact with a whole world of the bizarre and instantaneous). Other than that, my children have endlessly busy lives that need organising, so my day is often punctuated with their needs.

How much say do you have in your book covers?

I have no say in my book covers, and I think such things probably are best left to the designers and publishers who have a better grasp of what’s popular, what works and what’s been done too much already. I loved the cover for Perfect Remains and was really pleased that Avon had been so ready to step away from the norm. And as for Perfect Prey, well, you’re not going to miss that one on the shelves…

As a child were you a great reader?

I read a lot as a child and by about nine had already developed the habit of writing regularly. I used to write plays, poems, songs and long stories, filling notebooks and weekends. My first great literary love was Tolkien and I still marvel at his world-building skills. I lived in the countryside, and yes (shock horror) it was pre-internet, so books were a vital escape. I would cycle the few miles to my local library and change my books, then go to the park and sit and read by the river. Idyllic when it wasn’t raining!

Which book shop is your favourite?

My most regularly visited bookshop in my nearest town is Waterstones. It has a great cafe, and the kids and I can often be found there reading over a cup of hot chocolate. (My guilty pleasure, like many authors, is notebooks so I often spend unnecessary money there buying new ones).

What can you not resist buying?

I can’t resist buying the latest Christopher Brookmyre, have never missed a Stephen King, and have a passion for beautiful book covers – most recently The Essex Serpent, All The Light We Cannot See, and ES Thomson’s Beloved Poison. 

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

No rituals but many cups of tea, and I have to get up regularly to stretch my legs. I do have preferred music to listen to while I write, songs I know well so I don’t  have to concentrate on them, if that makes sense. I can often be found listening to Paul Simon, Mark Knopfler, Crash Test Dummies, The Proclaimers or Peter Gabriel when I’m at a really serious phase in my books.

How many books in your own to be read pile?

About twenty. One of the perks of being a writer is that you get sent a lot of other people’s books to read, so there’s never a shortage at my bedside.

What is your current read?

Right now I’m reading The Dry by Jane Harper and it’s taking all my will power not to ditch what I’m doing and run back to it.  It’s a brilliant book.

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