Tell us about your new book STOP DEAD.
STOP DEAD is the fifth novel featuring Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel. The books are standalone murder investigations which don’t have to be read in order. The first three in the series: CUT SHORT, ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END, are set in Kent. In DEATH BED Geraldine moves to London and STOP DEAD is her second case with the Met. “When a successful businessman is brutally murdered, the police suspect his glamorous wife and her young lover. Then the victim’s business partner suffers the same gruesome fate and when yet another body is discovered, seemingly unrelated to the first two, the police are baffled. The only clue is DNA that leads them to two women: one dead, the other in prison.” Peter James describes STOP DEAD as “taut and compelling with a deeply human voice”.
Your books have been an international success so tell us about how this has evolved since your first publication.
The success of my books has arisen largely through word of mouth. Good reviews in the press have helped, as have being shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award, selected as a Top Read on Eurocrime, voted a Best Crime Fiction Book of 2011 by readers, and chosen as a Great Crime Sleuth on Lovereading. All of my books have reached the 50 Bestsellers list on kindle, and been number 1 for detective novels. But the success of the series has evolved, as you rightly say. They weren’t an overnight success, because my books are published by an independent publishing house so there is no huge marketing machinery to promote them.
What do you think the appeal of crime fiction is to a reader?
In common with all fiction, a good crime novel has to keep readers turning the pages. There are three main elements to this: suspense so readers want to know what will happen next, engaging characters so readers actually care about what happens, and good writing that carries the reader effortlessly through the story. Crime Fiction is a popular genre, and its appeal appears to be growing. As the influence of religion is declining in society, people are searching for something to replace it. Crime fiction, like religion, examines issues surrounding our mortality, and seeks to deal with the feelings we all feel about our inevitable death in a controlled and secure ‘other world’. In addition it tackles issues of good and evil, offering us a moral compass that we all look for in life. So often, in the real world, experience seems to make no sense. But however disturbing the narrative, the reader knows that at the end of a work of fiction, some kind of moral order will be restored. So crime fiction is thrilling and terrifying, but ultimately reassuring.
Tell us about the importance of social networking for you as a writer?
I often meet readers in libraries, colleges, bookshops, literary festivals – anywhere readers congregate – and I really value this face to face contact. With computers we are never far from access to the internet, so when I’m on my keyboard, or out and about with my iphone, there are fans and friends on facebook, twitter and blogs who can be supportive and helpful in all sorts of ways. Social networking is increasingly important to a writer, for research, reassurance - and of course interviews like this one. Sometimes the two cross over, like when a BBC Radio producer contacted me on twitter inviting me to the studio for an interview. So social networking sites can be very helpful for a writer in all sorts of ways – although they can also aid procrastination of course!
What is the best feedback you have been given from a reader of your book?
When I am signing a new book, I often meet fans who have read my earlier titles and come to the store especially to buy my latest one. It is such a compliment when someone who has read my previous books buys another one. Discovering that people have enjoyed my books and are waiting for the next title to come out is a wonderful feeling, as is reading good reviews. It was a thrill to see someone reading one of my books at a mainline station! (She kindly agreed to allow me to take a picture.)
Who do you most like to read and why?
I have to mention the devilishly clever Jeffery Deaver, and the brilliant Peter James, both of whom were generous enough to write blurb quotes for my books. Other than that, I try to read widely in the genre: Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Simon Becket, Sophie Hannah, PD James, to mention just a few. There are so many great authors currently writing crime novels. I also read other authors – Dickens, Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, Kazuo Ishiguru – there are so many. One lifetime just isn’t enough!
Do you see yourself venturing into another genre at some point in your writing life?
I never try to predict the future. Five years ago I hadn’t written anything and now here I am with four international bestsellers to my name, and contracted to write two more books – with the probability of many more to follow after that. So who knows what might happen next? But it’s unlikely I’ll jump genre for the time being as I’m my crime novels are keeping me very busy.
Tell us about a normal day in your world.
I could tell you about my ideal day – up late after breakfast in bed, inspiration for my next chapter, and then writing for the rest of the day. I’m not quite sure what ‘normal’ is, every day tends to be so different. I could be teaching in school, lecturing at University, running a writers workshop, doing research – perhaps visiting a police station or Murder Investigation Team, a closed prison or a fire station – or I might spend the day on my keyboard writing. Normal? I’m not sure I know what that is!
What is next for you?
STOP DEAD is available to download in December, so I am working on the sixth Geraldine Steel novel. I am also very excited that my publisher has asked me to write a second series to run in parallel with the Geraldine Steel novels. This will feature Ian Peterson, the detective sergeant Geraldine left behind when she moved from Kent to London. So that’s two series I am writing at the moment, which is keeping me busy!
Femlae First Lucy Walton