When drawing up my list of favourite books of 2017 I knew that Jacqueline Chadwick was going to feature. I knew that from half-way through her debut novel In The Still.
There was actually only one point where I contemplated not including In The Still in the list and that was when I finished her second book: Briefly Maiden (how to choose between two cracking reads?)
It has been far too long since I had the opportunity to chat with any of the authors who have featured on my blog so I was thrilled that Jackie agreed to join me for a natter about her writing and all things Ali Dalglish…
First Question is never a question — this is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give your books a plug.
Well, first and foremost, I’m a mother of two, wife of a firefighter and a dog lover. I’m originally from Stirling in Scotland and I grew up in Birmingham England. I was a child actor and during my career I played a couple of well known bitch roles on TV. I left acting when I was 25, homeschooled my kids and found some time for writing here and there. When I turned 40, I bought a secondhand desk and decided to write novels. I haven’t looked back since.
Published by Fahrenheit Press in July 2017, my debut novel is In The Still where we meet Ali Dalglish living a life she resents. Having stepped away from her career and having immigrated to Canada, Ali’s marriage is crumbling, she is lonely and depressed. When the body of a young woman is discovered on a trail near her home, Ali finds herself embroiled in the case and, given her expertise and experience, is left with no option but to embark upon the hunt for the killer alongside her accidental sidekick, the loveable Marlene McKean. It is a dark and twisted tale and I hope it entertains the reader from the first page to the last.
Briefly Maiden, the sequel to In The Still, is also published by Fahrenheit Press and finds Ali back in the role she loves. This time she is working alongside the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Incident Squad investigating a series of murders in the otherwise charming town of Cedar River. Ali and her partner, Inspector Rey Cuzzocrea, discover the victims are all linked to a paedophile ring and, as a result, the line dividing good and bad becomes blurred as they are tasked with apprehending a perpetrator they suspect to be a victim intent upon vigilante justice. There is a blossoming romance for recently divorced Ali, the introduction of a couple of key characters in the series and an ending that should leave the reader eager for book 3.
Tell us about Ali Dalglish – how would you describe her to someone yet to read In The Still and Briefly Maiden?
Ali Dalglish is bloody fantastic. She’s intelligent, funny, caring and driven by a need to protect the vulnerable. She’s Scottish, mouthy and not afraid to pepper her superior vocabulary with inventive swear words. Her marriage is a disaster, she frequently struggles to maintain a healthy work/life balance. She has fought — and continues to fight — a long, arduous battle with severe mental illness. Ali is the kind of woman we all either want to be or want by our side. She’s forthright and takes no shit, she refuses to be bracketed, objectified or intimidated and she is blessed with a mind that makes her a formidable foe to anyone daring enough to wander into her arena.
How much of Jacqueline Chadwick is mirrored in Ali?
Too much. I swear as much and fit into polite society just as well as she does. I suppose Ali is my way of ranting about everything that pisses me off. She’s a gazillion times more learned than I (I know that because of everything I have to research just to fit her wealth of knowledge as seamlessly as possible into her dialogue and also because I use words like gazillion).
We know that Ali had a very successful career in the UK prior to her decision to relocate to Canada – is there any chance we may one day see a story featuring a younger Ali – one based in the UK?
Ha! I’m writing book 4 in the series right now. It is set in Britain, but it’s not a prequel. Over the course of the series, I’m excited to drop in morsels of information about Ali’s past since it was less than functional and, perhaps, not dissimilar to the kind of childhood that could just as easily have set her on a darker path, the kind of path chosen by the predators she hunts. The great thing about having a character that had established herself professionally in Britain and then later in Canada, is that I am able to cross the pond to write and that is a satisfying and more affordable alternative to actually jumping on a flight myself whenever I’m homesick.
I need to ask about the old day jobs…how does appearing in two of the UK’s most watched TV shows prepare you for writing dark and gritty crime thrillers?
I’m having a giggle as I answer that one because being in British soap was no preparation whatsoever for anything at all in life. Wow, that was a weird trip. I can’t imagine what it would take to stay sane in that industry longterm. I stuck it out for a decade and a half but I just wasn’t the kind of puppet an actor is expected to be. I’m not very good at shutting my mouth and being what someone else tells me to be. It’s simply not in my nature and I never did feel very comfortable with it all. Honestly, I barely remember that time now, it’s just something I did as a child and as a young woman. I would have nightmares — actual wake-up-sweating-and-shaking nightmares — for the first few years after I left because I’d dream of being back in front of the camera. Give me a quiet room, some paper and a pen and I’m me.
Can I ask about your “Path to Publication”? (it gets capitals). Does Chez Chadwick have a drawer crammed full of rejection letters or did you ace it and get picked up in record time?
I’ve had a few false starts in writing. It has always been my goal to write for a living and so I do have a healthy amount of rejection slips although I’d never keep the buggers so, no, there isn’t a drawer stuffed with them. Rejections get deleted or binned as soon as they are received so that I can go on deluding myself into thinking I have something to offer. I was lucky with Ali Dalglish, I wrote the first three novels in the series before I let anyone read them and I sent them off to the publisher who terrified me most and felt out of reach: Chris McVeigh at Fahrenheit Press. I knew that if my work was shit, he’d tell me. Thankfully, he liked the books (all except the original ending to In The Still which he told me, in his own inimitable way, to scrap) and I’ve been lucky enough to join the Fahrenheit Press family and get on that particular thrill ride.
Rumour has it that there may be a third Ali Dalglish book on the horizon — can you share any sneaky hints?
I Loooove book 3 in the series. It’s called Silent Sisters and it addresses a problem I care about very much. It takes place in and around an Aboriginal reserve on Vancouver Island and, I hope, will bring attention to the very real issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls and the indifference the subject seems to inspire in political leaders. But there are two major elements to the story and so it satisfies the insatiable itch that Briefly Maiden left me with. It is gruesome and dark, twisted and grim because, in my humble opinion, murder and abuse should be nothing but those things, we should feel sickened and touched by the telling of stories that, no matter how bleak, are nothing close to the horrors of the real world.
And to wrap up, some quickfire questions:
What was the last book you read?
I reread ‘It’ by Stephen King after I went to see the movie (I forgot how long that sucker is).
City Break or Beach Holiday? (and where is the dream destination)
Definitely city, I would love to take my family on a European tour before they’re so grown that it would be sad to go away for a month with Mum and Dad.
Did you ever get “star-struck” when meeting someone famous?
I’ve been to two Billy Connelly concerts and finding myself in the same room as ‘the big yin’ takes some beating.
Favourite pizza topping (and be warned that answering ‘pineapple’ will probably spark some twitter carnage)
I’m like Kevin in Home Alone; I want a plain cheese just for me.
What do you miss most about the UK?
Irn Bru, tattie scones, square sausage, not having to explain my humour and Sunday lunch over a pint in a proper pub.
Huge thanks to Jackie for taking time to answer my questions. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I have enjoyed her books and it is a real thrill to be able to share our chat.
In The Still and Briefly Maiden are published by Fahrenheit Press and you can order both books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacqueline-Chadwick/e/B074JCXLRD/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1513554879&sr=8-1