Tell me what inspired you to write your debut novel? The characters? The setting?

My debut crime novel, The Three Dahlias, started with the idea of three actresses, all of different generations, who’d all played the same fictional detective in various movies/tv adaptations, having to work together to solve a murder. Obviously I needed a reason to bring them together in the first place, which is how the setting came about – a fan convention at the family home of the author who created the detective.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

While The Three Dahlias is my first crime novel, it’s actually my forty-fifth (or so) published book! So I came into this already with an agent, who worked on the book with me, and then submitted it to publishers, which made everything much easier.

The first time around, with my very first novel, was much, much harder! I wrote several books that I subbed to agents before one took me on, and I had at least two books go out on submission from agents to editors before one sold! It took a lot of work, and determination, and time, but it was worth every minute.

How long did it take to write?

I wrote The Three Dahlias for NaNoWriMo 2020, so that was 50,000 words in 30 days. But since it’s 100,000 words long, as you can imagine, I was still writing in December! And that was just the first draft. When January 2021 came along, I was home-schooling my two kids in lockdown, while also trying to write a book to a deadline for one of my other publishers, so it took me until March to be able to work on it again. I spent a few months revising it, in between other projects, including a couple of rounds of edits from my agent, before it went out on submission. So, all in all, about five months.

How many publishers turned you down?

Most of them! In the end, we had lots of incredible feedback from editors, but only two offers of publication. After so many books, I know that editors can’t take every book – even if they love it – just because it might not fit their catalogue, or their schedule, or it could be too similar to something else they have on the books, or a whole host of other reasons. I absolutely know not to take it personally, and to remember that it only takes one yes, no matter how many nos. (Unfortunately, I always seem to forget this when I have a book out on submission…)

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

The reaction to The Three Dahlias has been fantastic – certainly beyond anything I imagined.

First of all, my family are thrilled I’ve written a murder mystery at last, because they’re all crime fiction fanatics. My publishers, Constable, have been brilliant – just so excited about the book – and they printed these gorgeous, hardback proofs with the cover in red that everyone is crazy for. Booksellers have really got behind it too, which is wonderful.

The reviews have been amazing, too. My first actual review, or blurb, came from one of my favourite writers – Janice Hallett – which was sort of overwhelmingly incredible. Knowing that she loved my book, well. That sort of made me believe anything was possible.

And since then, that seems to be the case! Netgalley reviewers love it (well, most of them, but no book is for everybody, is it?), I’ve had more lovely blurbs from other authors, including SJ Bennett, Frances Brody and LC Tyler, and it’s also starting to get mentioned in the press now we’re heading into launch month. It’s even in Woman & Home’s August Book Club pages, which is fantastic.

So, yeah. Considering the book isn’t even out yet, the reaction has been wonderful. I’m just hoping it continues! 

What can you tell us about your next book? Which of course I’d be happy to read when ready for reviews.

I actually just turned in the manuscript for The Three Dahlias 2 last week! I can’t tell you very much, as most people won’t have read book 1 yet, but it’s probably not spoiling anything to tell you that Rosalind, Caro and Posy will have to team up again to solve another murder or two… only this time, they’re on a film set in deepest, darkest Wales in February! My working title for it is A Rather Lively Murder, but I don’t know if that will stick.

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

I read all my reviews. (My agent constantly tells me not to. This is the one thing I ignore her about.) I’ve had to develop a pretty thick skin over the years, although I’ve been fortunate enough that I have far more good reviews than bad ones! But the good ones give me the confidence to know that I’ve done it once, so I can do it again, whenever I’m in the middle of a book and struggling. And the bad ones… sometimes the book just wasn’t a good fit for the reader. But sometimes there’s something I can learn from them, too.

Would you ever consider writing for children or teens?

I’ve actually written a number of books for kids and teens as Katy Cannon, which is my maiden name. My actual debut novel, Love, Lies & Lemon Pies, was a YA romance set around an after-school bake club.

What did you do before becoming a writer? Or indeed still do?

I was an events organiser, running conferences and events all over the world. It was great fun, and gave me lots of time to write in hotels and airports, but after I had my daughter I was ready to be home more.

Which author inspires you?

So many! Just to name a (very) few, I’d say… Janice Hallett, for the way she’s used innovative formats to tell her stories. Clare Mackintosh, for talking about the business of being an author in today’s publishing reality, and for supporting debut writers (like me!). Oh, and Gillian McAllister, for writing Wrong Place Wrong Time, which was just such a clever idea – and could have been only that – but she took it to another level by making it a deep and meaningful read about people and relationships and what makes us do the things we do.

Which genres do you read yourself?

As many as possible. As a rule, I can’t read the same genre as the book I’m writing or editing, at least not when I’m deep into it. So I read crime when I’m writing romance, romance when I’m writing YA, and YA when I’m writing crime… I also read a lot of fantasy, some sci fi, historical fiction, non-fiction… anything, really!

What is your biggest motivator?

Paying the mortgage! I’m only slightly joking – writing is my full time job, and it’s how I pay my bills, so if I don’t write or edit, I don’t get paid. Which is pretty motivating in itself.

Beyond that, though, I just love telling the stories – and seeing readers enjoy them. So knowing that someone out there is waiting for my next book is massively motivating!

What will always distract you?

Political turmoil and scandals. I get transfixed by the live news feeds and twitter updates. I just can’t look away… So, that, and a really good book I can’t wait to finish reading. And my husband, when he’s working from home. He always has something important to ask me just as I’m trying to write a pivotal scene…

How much say do you have in your book covers? Your current book cover is fantastic!

Very little, which is probably for the best as I’m a writer, not a designer! I always get to see them first, and often a couple of different ideas, so I get to weigh in on what I like and what I don’t like. But in the end, unless I really hate a cover, I’m generally always going to go with what the professionals say works!

As a child were you a great reader?

I was! Well, I was a fairly normal reader until the age of 11, when I was hospitalised with appendicitis. I wasn’t allowed to do anything except sit or lie down for weeks afterwards, and so I just read, and read, and then I never stopped.

Which book shop is your favourite?

I have two. Browsers Bookshop in Porthmadog, North Wales, which I have been going to my whole life, and I always find something new and interesting there. And Waterstones Piccadilly, which brings me joy the moment I walk through the doors. Both shops feel like coming home, to me.

What can you not resist buying?

Books, obviously. But also notebooks, pens and inks. In fairness, I do at least use them all!

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

It varies from book to book and season to season. I like to light a candle when I start working, and I have to have a cup of tea. But beyond that, it’s whatever is working at the time!

How many books in your own to be read pile? (Let’s have an honest count please)

I honestly couldn’t count them all. From where I’m sitting typing this, I can see at least twenty-five without even moving my head. And that’s before I even look at my kindle… There are simply not enough hours in a year for me to read all the books I want to read!

What is your current read?

Right now, I’m reading A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz, and loving it!

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