The wonderful crime writer Penny Hancock ( facebook pennyhancockauthor ) has invited me to take part in a blog tour about the writing process. All writers involved answer 4 questions about the writing process then ask 3 writer friends to share their writing process, and so the tour goes on. Here goes!
What am I working on?
Right now I’m completing the fourth book in my crime series, River of Souls. The series is published by Mulholland and focuses on Alice Quentin, a forensic psychologist working in London. Alice works alongside DCI Don Burns, a Scottish detective now living in Southwark. The first novel Crossbones Yard featured a real London location, in Borough, which I stumbled on by accident. It’s London’s only prostitutes’ graveyard, atmospheric but so long neglected it’s easy to ignore. As soon as this one’s done, it’s on to number 5 in the series, Blood Symmetry, which is still in the planning/research phase.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t deliberately set out to make my work different from other novels in the crime genre. I think the responsibility of all thriller writers is quite literally and simply to ‘thrill’. My aim is to provide plenty of twists and turns and tell an exciting tale. For that reason, I choose to write in the first person, for its immediacy and urgency. I’d like to think that the fact I was a poet for 15 years before becoming a novelist shows in my writing, which is sometimes described as lyrical. I aim to write taut, finely honed sentences. It doesn’t always work, but I try my best!
Why do I write what I do?
I write first person narrative, from the perspective of a female psychologist. It feels like an extraordinarily comfortable fit, although I often write short stories from a male perspective, just for variety. I love the shape shifting aspect of writing. I can be whoever I want to be, but Alice Quentin’s mindset isn’t that far from my own. Like her, I’m fascinated by people and constantly second guessing what them. I know it would be more profitable to write James Patterson style action thrillers, or have characters hanging out of helicopters like Lee Childs, but it wouldn’t come over as authentic. I enjoy writing novels set in London, although I live in Cambridge now. I lived there for the first 25 years of my life and often miss it still. Writing this series allows me to be a vicarious Londoner again.
How does your writing process work?
I write one novel per year. At the moment I tend to spend 3 pr 4 months writing a first draft, then another 2 or 3 months redrafting before sending it to my editor. Then the editing and copyediting stage can take a further three months. I’m lucky to have a wonderful editor, Ruth Tross, at Mulholland. She’s a fabulously perceptive reader, able to cut the quick of a story. I enjoy being edited, and it’s a good way to keep your ego in check. There’s no such thing as a perfect manuscript, at least not in my world!
My writing days tend to be quite long. I start at around 10am and am often still working at 5 or 6pm. I look at writing as a job, and if I was doing office work it would be 9 till 5. The difference is that I adore writing. I’d be bereft if I had to stop, and I’m aware that it’s an addiction. Maybe it’s my way of holding the world at bay.
The writers I have chosen to carry on the blogging tour are:
Dave Pescod, www.davepescod.co.uk
Miranda Landgraf www.miranda-landgraf.squarespace.com