First Monday bounced back to life last night at City University. The panel was Ann Cleeves, Mark Edwards, Lilja Sigurdardóttir and Caz Frear, with Rod Reynolds moderating. Rod obviously did his job well as I have 22 (small) pages of notes. I’ll give you some of the highlights.
Firstly, the authors told us a bit about their books.
Mark Edwards’ latest book is The Lucky Ones. This is a serial killer with a difference. He likes to make his victims happy before he kills them. He strikes at their happiest moment. Mark got the idea when he heard two women on a café slagging off someone else. He wondered what would happen if there was a twisted guardian angel who would help out. So he created a killer who looks to improve a victim’s life and then kills them with a smile on his/her face. It’s a comedy really.
Ann Cleeves admitted that she’s a pantser. She starts her books without knowing the ending. The Seagull is set in Whitley Bay and is a celebration of faded seaside towns. It’s a Vera novel and this book was triggered by a conversation too. Ann was talking with a former shipyard worker who worked nights. He mentioned how stuff would go ‘missing’. Also, Ann visited the elderly/disabled wing of a prison which provided inspiration. So the book starts with Vera giving a lecture in a prison and bumping into an old colleague who she helped to put away.
Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s book is Snare. Although it’s the third book she’s written, it’s the first to be published in English by Orenda books and is the start of a trilogy. Rather than looking at police procedural, Lilja has turned her attention to a Customs officer and a drug smuggler in a ‘cat and mouse’ story. The Icelandic financial crisis is the backdrop. Lilja knew that it was risky to have her hero as a criminal so she’s done her best to make her female protagonist sympathetic. She has a child and there is a reason for why she smuggles cocaine.
Sweet Little Lies is the debut novel for Caz Frear. It was the winner of The Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller competition but more about that later. The book features DC Cat Kinsella who discovers that her father may be involved with the crime she’s investigating. Caz had the story in her head for years but kept changing it until she finally wrote it down. She wanted to turn a police procedural on its head. She wondered what dilemma she could give her police officer and thought that a father/daughter dynamic was more interesting.
Since all the books have some kind of police/authority voice to them, Rod asked how far the authors have gone with police details or do they just focus on the story?
Ann Cleeves knows a pathologist and a forensic soil specialist. Although she may ask for their help, they realise that it’s fiction she’s writing. Real police and forensic work takes time and isn’t fast paced enough for a novel or TV drama.
Caz Frear bought a police training manual to help with details. But then she realised that she wasn’t training to be a detective! She found someone who could help though.
Mark Edwards just makes it all up!
Lilja Sigurdardóttir knows that she stretches details but the story can’t suffer for reality.
Sometimes, writing can be hard. Rod asked what keeps the authors going?
For Caz Frear, feedback is important. One of the reasons she entered the Richard & Judy competition was to get feedback. She was very excited to be shortlisted – possibly more so than when she actually won. Joining a class or a course is a good way to get feedback.
Ann Cleeves didn’t know any other writers when she started. Her motivation to keep on writing, is to find out how the book is going to end. As she doesn’t plot, there’s a wonderful scariness in writing.
Mark Edwards wrote for 15 years before he got a deal. He then got an agent but things didn’t work out as he had hoped. He then self-published his own work as well as co-authoring with Louise Voss. Writing with Louise was great as they could bounce ideas off of each other.
For Lilja, writing her first book was torture. It was important for her to find her own writing style (she saw an Icelandic publisher advertising for the next Dan Brown). You have to really love writing. As she writes multiple viewpoints, switching between characters is a good way of keeping the story moving.
There were more questions from Rod and also from the audience. But I’m going to end on Rod’s final question – what’s coming up next?
Mark – The Retreat, due out next year, is set at a writers’ retreat in Wales.
Ann – Wild Fire, the last in the Shetland series, will be published next year.
Lilja – is writing a new political thriller series.
Caz – writing the second book in the DC Cat Kinsella series.
If you’d like to find out more about the authors and buy their books then
Ann Cleeves – click here.
Mark Edwards – click here.
Lilja Sigurdardóttir – click here.
Caz Frear – click here.
Rod Reynolds – click here.
First Monday will be back on Monday 6th November. Look out for more details soon.