Tell me what inspired you to write crime books?

When I was a kid I lived in Africa. My parents used to go to sleep for an hour or two every afternoon because it was so hot. I never could, so I worked my way through their green-backed Penguins. I think boredom is a great motivator!

What can you tell us about your books currently published?

In paperback I have Salt Lane – it’s the first in a new series featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi, a single mother who’s moved to Dungeness from London to get her daughter out of the city. She was expecting the simple life, but it’s way more complicated and dirty than she expected. She first appeared as a secondary character in a book I wrote called The Birdwatcher, which was also set in Dungeness.

When can we expect your next book & what hints can you give us about it?

Deadland is out in May. It’s a bit different. It’s a chase novel. For a laugh, two teenage boys steal a phone, but don’t understand the value of what they’ve stolen. Cupidi is observing the deadly consequences of this chase trying to work out what is going on.

Is it easier or harder to write stand alone or a series?

Ha. They’re ALL hard but in different ways. A standalone is hard because you have to build an entire world – and convincing characters to people it. A series is hard because you have to keep it fresh, constantly reinvigorating the world you’ve already built, while at the same time leaving room for it to continue to grow.

Have you got plans to write anything other than crime?

In terms of fiction, no; I love writing crime so much. I used to write non-fiction books and I would love the chance to do that again. I spent over a year visiting South Central Los Angeles to write about young men there for a book called Westsiders. I would love the chance to write that kind of big non-fiction book again, but it’s much harder to do these days.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

If we’re talking fiction, it was hard in that it took me a long time to learn what I wanted to write and develop it. I’m really jealous of writers who know exactly what they wanted to do at a young age. But I had been publishing non-fiction books since my early thirties so I was lucky in that I’d already build the connections.

How many publishers turned you down?

I don’t know. My agent sent my first book A Song From Dead Lips out and there was a healthy bidding auction for it, so I never heard about the ones that turned it down. That was from a series set in the 1960s. At the time the series didn’t sell that well and I moved on to writing contemporary books, but I’d love to get back to it

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

I read reviews whenever I can, good or bad, and I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to review a book. I’m not one of those writers who shy away from the bad reviews. I have a thick skin, and very often the thing that some people hate a book for is what makes it unique.

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

I was a journalist. I started out writing for magazines like Smash Hits. I was on the editorial team there for years but I was a hopeless music journalist. I went off and worked for other magazines and newspapers. It taught me to be able to write anywhere and to never be afraid of a blank screen.

Which author inspires you?

Elly Griffiths inspires me massively. It’s not just her great writing, it’s the open-hearted way she approaches the whole thing. Writing can be tough. There are a lot of knock-backs. You have to have the kind of positive approach to it that she has. I got to know Jo Spain a little on our mini-tour and she was remarkable too. Her work-rate is phenomenal. She’s going to be huge.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I read quite a lot of non-fiction, so-called literary fiction and loads of crime. I’m not that big on psychological crime because one of its tropes is that location is often secondary to the tension. I love books that are set in a place I can travel to in my imagination.

What is your biggest motivator?

Enjoyment. Somebody allows me to write EVERY DAY? And sometimes I get paid for it? I feel I have lucked out.

What will always distract you?

News cycles. Watching Michael Cohen’s testimony yesterday in particular.

How much say do you have in your book covers?

Now that’s a paradox. Contractually you have LOTS of say in your covers. But it’s your job to write the books, not to sell them. And selling books is much harder than writing them. You quickly learn there are people who understand the complex world of selling books – to Amazon customers, supermarkets and to real bookshops with booksellers who care about books – is a massively complex one. Supermarkets buy books without even reading them. They just judge them entirely by their covers. My five cents worth is only worth it if it doesn’t get in the way of that.

As a child were you a great reader?

Oh yes. I started reading my parents’ paperbacks early. Loved disappearing into that world.

Which book shop is your favourite?

Do I have to pick just one? I guess it would be Waterstones Brighton because I spent a lot of time in there. I run a crime event The Brighton Crime Wave there with my colleague Julia Crouch and have a great relationship with the booksellers there. If I could pick three I’d include The Steyning Bookshop, which has the loviest booksellers in the world, and City Books Hove because they take the time to send out personalised signed editions of my books.

What can you not resist buying?

Find me an old paperback by Nicholas Freeling that I haven’t read and I’m a sucker for it. He wrote some great books and some very bad ones back in the 1970s. I’ve read all the good ones but I still can’t resist the very bad ones just because I love the good ones so much.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

No. Never. Avoid rituals at all costs. Write anywhere and everywhere and don’t fetishise the process in any way. I can write in any room, on any mode of transport – apart from cars possibly.

How many books in your own to be read pile? Be truthful, we like an accurate count.

Right now? 18. Now you’ve worried me.

What is your current read?

MW Craven’s Black Summer. He’s a superb writer. So continually inventive.

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