Killing State. Click HERE for info sheet.


Epub: November 6th 2017

Paperback pub: March 15th 2018

Where do you find inspiration for your books?

People around me. Life. News. I absolutely love that moment when you think “Ah, Yes I could write about that.”

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

Sometimes with my eyes shut. I hate the on-line reviews which are one-star moans written by people who normally only ever review Sellotape. They never read books. They make a point of saying so. But for some reason which defeats you, they decided to read yours. And, it turns out, they didn’t like it. These are the reviews you can’t get out of your head of course, while the five star ones that say it was great, slip and slide away from you like greased pigs.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

Sex. Just don’t have the right words. ‘He put his bulging thingummy in the gaping, luscious wotsit in front of him, and sobbing, moaning, gasping, she quivered, jelly-like, with delight.’ Nope. Can’t do it. Moving on.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I stared at the blank page.

(Actually, I was a journalist with a national newspaper and before that for TV. Those were the heady days when I had a regular salary coming in. Sigh.)

Which author inspires you?

Barbara Taylor Bradford, because she was born in Armley which is part of Leeds where I was born. Because she created a great heroine – Emma Harte in her definitive A Woman of Substance. Because she lives in New York and is utterly fabulous. Because she wrote me a very kind note when I told her my thriller was finished when she didn’t have to. (By the way, I believe kindness to be of the utmost importance.) Because she says things like – writing isn’t lonely, it is solitary, and ‘for a great book you need a good woman and a bad man’. When I grow up, I want to be Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Everything. Always loved literary fiction. Love political books. Always loved action adventure. Lately, I’ve been reading more crime though I have always loved the classic hardboiled, wise-cracking detectives of old. The ones who wear fedoras, who keep getting “mickey-finned”, and who fall head-over-heels for dangerous “dames” even though they know at the time it’s a really bad idea.

What is your biggest motivator?

I admit I am driven. Don’t think it’s a good thing. Makes me pretty relentless if I want to do something (like publish a book, say). It would be easy to write “fear” or “the need to succeed” or “money”. But actually I’m motivated because I’m motivated. I want to be excellent in whatever I turn my hand to. Not necessarily successful, just to feel that I have done the best possible job, whatever that particular job happens to be.

What will always distract you?

The children. Not easy to write and juggle kids. My heart sinks when I’m intending to work and one of them says “Are you going down town tomorrow? Can you just pick me up…?”

How much say do you have in your book covers?

The first book cover for Wife in the  North was a cartoon of me and my kids and my elderly mother. When it was finalised, they came back to me saying I might not like the spotty wellies my character was wearing. Since my character was blonder, younger and a lot thinner than the real thing (ie me), I said the wellies were fine.

The second cover was very pretty with a tea-cup against a chintz background, and I thought it looked a bit washed out. I asked for the colours to be deepened which they duly did.

I worked on the cover for Killing State with my cover designer who is a mate. It took blood sweat and tears while we figured out what we were going for and where the market was. Luckily she is an artistic and technical genius, so we have ended up with a great cover. Also, when we had worked up a couple of drafts, we asked booksellers (like yourself, as I remember) what they thought worked. Furthermore, we refined the colours and fonts once we’d talked to a very talented young graphic designer. Took a long time to get it right. But I don’t think you should rush it.

As a child were you a great reader?

Yep, weren’t we all? Didn’t do any sport unless I was made to. Did a bit of drama. Didn’t really do play dates in the same way as my kids. I did, however, read till I made myself short-sighted. However, I consider that a reasonable enough sacrifice. My mother has macular degeneration and can only listen to audio books. I find the thought of not being able to read a book myself excruciating.

Which book shop is your favourite?

I don’t see I have much choice about it since you work there. It has to be Waterstone’s in Durham which has this amazing bookseller in there called Fiona Sharp who costs me a small fortune with her recommendations. I may have to move before she bankrupts me. However my other joint favourite bookshop is a second hand bookshop – Barter Books in Alnwick which is an amazing place built as it is in a former railway station with lots of original features, open coal fires, a great café and amazing art installations everywhere.  It’s a fabulous place that owes everything to the creativity and direction of its proprietors Mary and Stuart Manley.

What can you not resist buying?

Yep books. That’s an obvious one. And coffee on a morning once I’ve walked my poodle. (That sounds wrong. I really do have a poodle.)

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

Yep, back to the poodle. I start my day walking Joey the poodle along the Durham riverbanks. If he gets that walk, he is then prepared to sleep at my feet under my desk while I work. If I don’t walk him, because something got in the way like an errand or the need to pop in to check on my elderly mum and dad, then he mooches around disconsolately and takes a lot longer to settle.

How many books in your own to be read pile?

Two by John Connolly (Dark Hollow and The Killing Kind),  No Name Lane by Howard Linskey, Munich by Robert Harris, Logical Family – A Memoir by Armistead Maupin, A Day in the Life of the Brain by Susan Greenfield, The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L Jockers (don’t really want to read about the algorithm for literary success, but feel I should), Match Up edited by Lee Child, A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming, I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen (which is really a gift for my dad, but I may read it first if you don’t tell him), Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. Eleven. That’s pretty normal, isn’t it?

What is your current read?

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Really Happened about the 2016 presidential election. Her shock at the result is evident in every line. The older I get, the more I feel women should be a lot less acquiescent and a great deal bolshier when it comes to fighting for what they want. She relied too much on voters appreciating the fact she was qualified, experienced and immensely capable in the way that women often do when it comes to their career. Look where that got her.

I am cutting between Clinton and Philip Kerr’s March Violets at the minute. (Berlin noir with Bernie Gunther as a private detective in Hitler’s Berlin.) I usually have several books on the go at the same time. It avoids the sensation of acute panic when you settle down to read and you realise you can’t put your hand on your book.

Have you ever considered writing for the young adult or teen market?

My middle son suggested I do that. I did consider doing a spin-off with my teenage geek character Fangfang from Killing State, but I’m just letting that thought sit around in my subconscious for a while. I have another idea as well but it’s a bit early to talk about.

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