Accomplishment: Writer and creator of the Dylan Scott series
"The Wells dame. She looks kinda tough."
Sheri smirked, her lips twisting like worms making love. "Her home's in Lancashire."
"Jeez, that's tough. Crawling with witches and martyrs, last I heard."
"Just don't mention the weather."
Does bestseller mean good writer?
Not necessarily. Sales of Fifty Shades of Grey have been phenomenal but few people are claiming it’s a literary masterpiece. There are well written books that attract high sales thanks to great reviews and word of mouth. In the main though, I believe bestseller means that a big advertising budget has been well spent.
To agent or not to agent? Why or why not?
The relationship between author and agent has often been compared to marriage and it’s true that finding the right partner is essential. When agents and authors are on the same wavelength, everything is rosy and beneficial to both parties but it’s all too easy for misunderstandings to creep in and then the relationship soon hits the rocks and disintegrates.
As writers, we seem to take our work more seriously when we have an agent. We feel validated. What nonsense.
When I signed with an agent, I believed my career would take off. Said agent suggested I write a saga which she then spent a lot of time and effort marketing because she had faith in it. It never did sell. Meanwhile, I’d decided I’d like to write crime novels. She wasn’t keen on the idea, but we decided I’d give it a go. She hated the end result so I floundered in the belief that it wasn’t good enough. She did offer to show the novel to a small publisher with the warning that “they only pay £450”. Had the story taken me a fortnight to write, I might have considered that. As it had taken me many months, I decided (when friends/readers had finally convinced me it was a good story) to sell it myself. The first publisher I approached gave me a contract and an advance and the rest, as they say, is history. Agent and I parted company (amicably) and I’ve since had ten crime novels published.
Some writers are happier with an agent and some, like me, are happier going it alone. I must say here that I’m in the fortunate position of having a fantastic editor who has an eye on my future as an author. We both know what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future and we’re both happy with the situation. Better still, I don’t have to give her 15% of my income.
Has a book every made you angry. If so, which one?
Books are not given a chance to make me angry. I adopt the ‘life’s too short’ mentality and if a book hasn’t gripped me by the end of the first chapter, I give up on it.
Which four literary characters would you like to invite to dinner, and why?
I’d love to gather the great sleuths round the table and have them solve a mystery. Guest of honour would be Sherlock Holmes. Despite his many faults as a person, his analytic mind is fascinating. The man is a genius. Next up would be Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus. I love Rebus’s dogged determination to get to the truth and the way he breaks rules and ignores superiors in his quest. Alongside him would be Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse. Morse is a true gentleman with a penchant for picking up grammatical errors in every document he sees (a bit like me). He also has amazing intuition. Finally, I’d love to chat to Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. Wallander is a social nightmare. He has problems with friends, family and relationships in general. He drinks too much and eats junk food (again, a bit like me). He’s also very disillusioned with his job as a police officer and often thinks about giving it up. For all that, he has a great intellect and does all in his power to solve crimes committed on his patch.
I would really enjoy watching these great characters solve the mystery in their very different ways.
Which four books do you wish you had written?
The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (the funniest book ever), any of the Harry Potter books (think of the royalties), The Trial by Franz Kafka (this is a book I can read over and over again) and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (a bit like Marmite this one in that people either love it or loathe it. I love it.)
Are you ever afraid that one day you will stop enjoying writing?
There are days now, many of them, when I don’t enjoy writing. This is usually when the deadline is approaching and the words are coming very slowly and painfully or when the pile of dross I have on paper is so far removed from the great vision I have in my head that I despair. While I know that I’ll have many more days when I don’t enjoy writing, I can’t believe I’ll ever be able to stop. As an adult who has imaginary friends and constantly hears voices in my head, I either have to write or be labelled insane.
Every writer has a weakness, what is yours?
I have many weaknesses, but I think my biggest is forgetting my readers. When I’m writing, I can see the setting clearly but I forget that my readers need the odd clue or two. I’m often so eager to tell the story that I omit to mention that the action is taking place in the rain-drenched hills of the east Lancashire Pennines or that characters are struggling through three feet of snow. Perversely, I often tell the reader the same thing several times. There’s a fine line between providing readers with enough information and treating them as imbeciles. I sometimes struggle to find that line.
Hell, some of my best friends have been imbeciles, but we were done. Sheri was getting into her stride. It was time to call it a day.
"Thanks, Shirley, you're one swell dame."
"Don't call me surely," Sheri muttered under her breath.
As I said, some of my best friends have been imbeciles, some of them beautiful as hell.