Last month’s visit to Bloody Scotland reminded me how much I enjoy having the opportunity to hear authors chatting about their books. Having grown up in the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, I am very aware that not everyone has the opportunity to get to festivals or book launches – I hate the thought that readers may miss out on the chance to hear their favourite authors discussing their writing.
In a few short weeks Caroline Mitchell and Angela Marsons will both release their new novels. Caroline is introducing a new lead character, DS Ruby Preston, in Love You To Death. Angela is bringing us the next instalment in the Kim Stone series: Blood Lines. It is fair to say that I am more than a little excited about having the chance to read both books.
I asked Angela and Caroline if they would be willing to let me listen in while they discussed their new books, I was thrilled that they agreed. I also had a burning question that I wanted to put to them both, I just had to find a way to get a word in edgeways….
C – I’m very curious to know if Kim is based on anyone in particular, or is she your alter-ego Angie?
A – Kim Stone isn’t based on anyone in particular but she had been in my ear for years. I didn’t let her out because even in my own head she sounded rude and abrasive and I didn’t think anyone would like her. Even I didn’t like her all that much. But once I gave her control of the pencil I did realise she had some redeeming qualities. I gave her free reign after trying to write about characters I thought publishers would like and after years of rejection just decided to write the book I wanted to write. Even after five books I still feel as though I’m getting to know her.
On that same note I absolutely adored Jennifer Knight. I loved her dedication and strength but also her flaws and idiosyncrasies. I devoured all three Jennifer books and hope there might come a time when you bring her back. Is that a possibility and how long had she been living with you before you put her to paper?
C – Thanks Angie, I’m so glad that Kim Stone hung around for her story to be told. It’s amazing how our characters take on a life of their own. Jennifer had been living in my head since my own real life paranormal experiences while working in the police. I’d love to write another book one day, and I’ve left it open for her to return. At the moment I’m concentrating hard on my new DS Ruby Preston series. Brought up in the East End of London, she’s a real tough cookie. In a scene in book two, she learns how to shoot a gun. I’ve been itching to visit a firing range and try it out for real. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done in the name of research? And don’t worry about the gun, you’re safe for now!
A – Well, I must say that Ruby Preston already sounds like my kind of main character and imagining you with a gun makes me happy (for once) that we live so many miles away from each other. I’m not sure about the most interesting thing I’ve done but certainly one of the funniest was only the other day when Julie and I were standing out on the decking with a piece of plastic roughly the same size as a shotgun trying to see how practical it would be to shoot yourself in the back of the neck. I must say that research is one of my favourite parts of the process as I love to learn about things that interest and intrigue me. Some writers hate the research part. How do you feel about it and how long do you normally take to research each book?
C – Ha! That made me laugh out loud. My husband sleeps with one eye open as it is, without me throwing a gun into the mix! It’s no stretch of the imagination to picture you and Julie on the decking play acting with your plastic gun. 🙂 Yes, I love research too, it’s so much fun. As we write for digital publishers, time is of the essence, so I’m limited with the amount of time I can spend on research for each book. I do spend a lot of time thinking about my characters though, they practically move in to my head for the duration of the book. I think that’s what’s nice about series; I get to spend time with the same characters that I’ve invested in. With stand alones, it can be hard to get them to move out when I’m done. You’ve written two stand alones prior to Kim, would you like to write any more, and if so, what genre?
A – My two published stand alone novels (and others that shall never see the light of day) were stories that burned inside me. They were subjects that I wanted to explore to see where they went and what I could learn about the subject matter. I really enjoy analysing the mechanics of human relationships and the psychology behind what makes us act in certain ways. With the Kim Stone schedule of two books per year it would have to be a subject matter that I just couldn’t let go of or I might be tempted to introduce the odd crime scene where it would be totally inappropriate. Talking of different genres I recently read your psychological thriller Witness to be released later this year and absolutely LOVED it. The crossover from your previous work appears seamless to me but did you experience any problems while writing it?
C – The thought of some of your manuscripts languishing under your bed never seeing the light of day is a travesty. I think we need to start a petition to have them freed! I’ve heard such great things about Dear Mother and The Forgotten Woman. Thank you for your lovely words about Witness. I loved writing it. It was meant to be a straight thriller but as I began writing, stories of domestic abuse just flowed onto the page. I used to safeguard high risk victims of domestic abuse in the police, helping victims leave their abusive partners and begin their lives again. As the story formed, it portrayed that domestic abuse is as much about coercive control as it is violence, and it takes enormous strength to break away from such a relationship when someone has control of every facet of your life. It’s set between Frinton where I live, and Wales – near where you live. I see that many of your readers love your Black Country setting. What inspired you to use it as a setting for your Kim Stone books, and do you get many messages from readers about particular places that you use?
A – Before I wrote Silent Scream I had always tried to use both characters and settings that I thought publishers and agents would like even though they weren’t too familiar to me. It was in a post-rejection fit of rage that I wrote the character I wanted to and used the area I know well. Traditional publishers rejected Silent Scream and said the setting and main character would never work. I get so many messages from local people thrilled at seeing places they know in the books but I also get messages from people wanting to know more about the Black Country. I think the dark, industrial past of the area works well with Kim Stone’s character. She would not do well in the Cotswolds, I fear!! It sounds to me that Ruby Preston is well represented by the setting you have chosen too. Was that deliberate?
C – I love this response, I can’t imagine Kim Stone anywhere else either. The dark broodiness of the Black Country setting suits her perfectly. I’ve gobbled up every one of your thrillers and it’s been a pleasure to watch her character progress throughout the series. As for me, well London has always been a source of fascination. Every time I visit I’m like a child, eyes wide in wonderment as I take in the sounds and smells of this amazing city. Such a diverse place makes for rich pickings when it comes to describing characters and scenery. Like you, my character seems to fit in with the setting and I can’t imagine them being based anywhere else. Fair play to you for having the dogged determination to keep going with your manuscript and writing the setting that struck a chord with you. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to writers still trying to make it?
A – I also love visiting London but I find the roads around Covent Garden can be quite hazardous!! I think my one piece of advice above all else would be to trust your own instinct. Once you enter the world of submissions there will be advice, comments, directions, improvements from a variety of sources and you have to know when to follow that advice. There is no-one closer to the characters, story and journey than the writer and it can be easy to take everyone else’s opinions on board but you have to keep hold of the story that you wanted to tell in the first place. Given your journey, what would you say to anyone following your path?
C – Ha! You wouldn’t be referring to the time we met in Covent Garden and I almost got you and Julie run over by a car would you? I blame Siri myself! I love your advice above and totally agree. It takes time to find your voice. I started off writing paranormal, then crime and now thrillers too. My advice is that it can be hard, so you’ll need to grow a thick hide, but just remember that this is meant to be fun too. Always try to keep your writing as an enjoyable process. It’s all about perspective. I count my blessings every day. Now Gordon I must apologise as we’ve not allowed you to get a word in edgeways! I hear you have a question for us …
G – There didn’t seem a good point to interrupt! But thanks Caroline…given that Jennifer’s investigations can take somewhat mysterious and supernatural twists, how do you think Jennifer and Kim would get on were their paths to cross on a case?
C – That’s a really good question Gordon. Kim does not suffer fools gladly and I believe in past books she’s been skeptical when it comes to the paranormal. I think at first they would clash, but if they came together over the course of an investigation Jennifer would admire her investigative abilities and win her around. Things always seem to happen when Jennifer is near so if the evidence was right before Kim’s eyes, I think Kim would rub her hands together and say to Jennifer ‘right, what are we dealing with?’ Then crack on with the investigation as calm as you like.
Tell me if I’m wrong Angie, what does Kim say?
A – I absolutely agree with Caroline’s assessment of how the two of them would respond to each other. Admittedly, Kim is definitely a ‘don’t believe it until I see it’ kind of girl but once someone has proven their ability or understanding of a subject about which she knows very little she would give them the benefit of the doubt and work with it. Like Jennifer she is all about moving forwards and doing everything necessary to solve a case so I think they would work it very well. I can even imagine Kim giving her a good-natured nickname like ‘mystic meg’ and Jennifer would probably do the same back. Now, here’s a little secret – when I first wrote Silent Scream I wrote Kim with hint of unexplained intuition which I took out later as by that time I knew it didn’t fit with the rest of her sceptical character.
Intuition is good and Kim has it in bucket loads. I think most good investigators have that initial gut feeling and put it to good use. It’s when the CPS is demanding evidence that it gets frustrating. I suppose it’s a matter of finding a balance. Here’s to a long a fruitful investigative career for our fictional characters. May they continue their crime busting efforts for long to come. *Raises glass. Cheers!
I cannot thank Caroline and Angela enough for letting me eavesdrop on their conversation, I got the feeling that it had been running long before I joined them and will continue even longer.
Love You to Death is published on 11 November and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-You-Death-Absolutely-Detective-ebook/dp/B01LYPU1MW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1476308879&sr=8-3&keywords=caroline+mitchell
You can find all of Caroline’s books through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Caroline-Mitchell/e/B00GUUATPU/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Blood Lines is published on 4 November and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Lines-Angela-Marsons/dp/1786810999/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476309070&sr=1-1&keywords=angela+marsons
Angela’s books can be ordered on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angela-Marsons/e/B00J6D3914/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1