First Monday Crime – July

L-R Claire McGowan, Anna Mazzola, Beth Lewis, Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth and William Ryan

The 4th of July served up a box of delights – 2 debut authors and 2 very established ones; 2 historical books, 1 Dystopian and 1 police crime series set in the Peak District. It was great to see how crime genre is being stretched across sub genres – but more about that later!

Our authors were Andrew Taylor, Stephen Booth, Anna Mazzola and Beth Lewis. Claire McGowan, author and lecturer at City University for the MA in Crime & Thriller Writing, chaired.

Claire’s first question was where has the inspiration for your book come from.

Anna Mazzola’s debut novel is The Unseeing and is based on a real case from Victorian times. She discovered it in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and as it took place in the area she lives in, she wanted to find out more. In particular, she wanted to know why the woman, Sarah Gale, who was accused of aiding and abetting a murderer, lied and didn’t challenge the accusation.

For Beth Lewis, our second debut author, her inspiration for The Wolf Road came originally from a scene in a TV programme but she wouldn’t tell us which one! Elka lives in the wilderness of post-apocalyptic Canada. Life is hard enough as it is but when she finds out that her adopted father is wanted for murder, she sets out to find her real parents.

Andrew Taylor finds that ideas come from almost anywhere but it’s setting that really gets him going. A picture in a book of London in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London kick-started his idea for The Ashes of London –  a devastated London with a crumbling medieval St Paul’s Cathedral and a body in the ruins.

Stephen Booth is also inspired by setting and the Peak District has plenty of locations to fire his imagination. His latest book, Secrets of Death, pays homage to the beauty spots of Derbyshire but not in the way you think it would. A spate of suicides at well known tourist areas has DI Ben Cooper and his team wondering what’s going on and begs the question – are they all suicides? [I’m going to Derbyshire for my holiday. I’m trying to decide if this is a good book to read while I’m there or not?!]

Claire then asked about genre. Did the authors have a particular genre in mind when they started writing?

Anna’s short answer was ‘no’. She was just fascinated by the case but quickly realised that she loves to read crime and as a criminal justice lawyer, crime genre made perfect sense.

Beth didn’t set out to write crime either as there is a strong dystopian/sci-fi element to her book. She did think about writing historical but didn’t wanted to be hindered by facts and gender roles. Also she didn’t want to do huge amounts of research!

Andrew just wanted to tell stories but he was influenced by Patricia Highsmith novels. Soon he had an idea for a title and a main character who would find a body and just went from there.

Stephen wrote his first novel aged 12 and he dreamt of being a writer from that time on. He worked as a journalist for 25 years and has now been writing novels full time for 16. He enjoyed reading crime so wrote the kind of book that he would like to read. It became his first novel – Black Dog.

And is there one top tip that they would give for aspiring writers?

Stephen – there’s no such thing as writer’s block! It’s your job – just do it.

Andrew – write at least one line a day. Writers write.

Beth – you need discipline – finish that book!

Anna – think about your book at night just before you go to sleep. It allows your subconscious mind to work out any problems overnight.


First Monday Crime is taking a break over the summer but should be back in September!

If you want to follow any of the authors on Twitter then

Anna Mazzola – @Anna_Mazz

Beth Lewis – @bethklewis

Andrew Taylor – @AndrewJRTaylor

Stephen Booth – @stephenbooth

First Monday Crime – @1stMondayCrime

If hearing about all these crime writers is making you think about writing your own crime novel but not sure where to start, then you may want to check out City’s MA course

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