Welcome to the official website of the author Kate Ellis

Welcome to the official website of Kate Ellis

Kate Ellis is the author of two exciting series of crime novels, two historical novels and many short stories.

31 July 2014

It hardly seems like a month since I last wrote this diary, probably because time flies when you’re busy writing (and doing everything else, of course – women always manage to multitask somehow).  I must say the weather has been brilliant and it’s great to get out into my writing shed again.

While I’m working in my shed I can see the vegetable beds.  There’s a wonderful crop of broccoli, kale, courgettes, tomatoes and cucumbers (all grown from seed) and we’ve also feasted on our own onions, garlic and strawberries.  It’s very satisfying and I suppose it’s a bit of a creative thing.  It also tastes tremendous.  

They say travel broadens the mind but I know it also provides inspiration for short stories.  I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Lisbon this month and I came back with several ideas.  But there’s no need to go abroad: I’ve recently visited Mr Straw’s House – a suburban house in Worksop in Nottinghamshire that has been unchanged since 1923 (Confession - I actually found this more inspiring than the beauties of Lisbon).  There are so many fantastic places to visit and I must say my National Trust membership has been well used this year.  By the way, did you know that my favourite crime writer, Josephine Tey left her entire estate to the National Trust when she died?

mrstraws

I haven’t done any events this month because I’ve been working hard on my new Joe Plantagenet novel (as well as dealing with the proofs of the next Wesley book that’s due out in January).  As I mentioned earlier, I’m working in my shed again and putting some distance between myself and everything that needs doing in the house certainly helps the concentration.  I’ve also been looking after my younger son’s dog, Fin, while he and his lovely wife have been away visiting Italy (taking in Pompeii and Herculaneum – mum’s jealous!!!)  Fin’s a lively border collie but he’s been a delight to have around the house (I described him as a ‘furry angel’ when asked how he’d behaved).  He’s featured in one of my books (The Shadow Collector) and I’m wondering how I can fit him into another. 

Of course writing doesn’t stop me reading and I’m currently enjoying C J Sansom’s thriller Dominion.  I’ve loved his Shardlake books, set in the reign of Henry VIII but this one is set in 1952, in an England that yielded to Hitler after Dunkirk.  The scenario is convincing and disturbing – a vivid picture of a ‘what if’ world.  I can’t put it down.

Talking of holiday reads, I was thrilled to get an e-mail from my son in Italy with a photo of a copy of The Shadow Collector that he’d found in the bar at his hotel.  It’s fantastic to know that somebody chose it as their holiday book and left it for others to enjoy.  

sorrentobook

I wish all my readers a very happy summer – and happy reading.

30 June 2014

June’s been quite a month.  Not only was it National Crime Reading Month but it also saw the paperback publication of THE SHROUD MAKER.  It’s been so hectic that I feel I’ve only just sat down!

In early June I travelled down to Devon which is always a pleasure.  We stayed in the centre of Dartmouth as usual, which gave me a chance to visit the town’s wonderful Community Bookshop and the library.  I was very upset to hear that the library might be under threat because of budget cuts.  This seems particularly bizarre to me because it only moved into a lovely modern building relatively recently and is remarkably popular and well used; a lifeline for young and old and a real hub of the community.  The value of libraries such as this is tremendous and, as that great benefactor and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie knew, a library is a gateway to education and culture and is a true emblem of a civilised society.  I do hope that the politicians will come to realise this.  In the meantime, we can only try to make our voices heard and hope.

 Another example of libraries bringing the community together was my Murder Mystery Evening at Kingsbridge on 10th.  We had a marvellous fun evening with a team of stalwart librarians taking the parts of the four suspects.  A great time was had by all and many thanks to the cast (who gave performances worthy of the Royal Shakespeare Company) and to Maria Johnson for organising the evening which even included an appearance by Monsieur Poirot himself!

poirots

On the 11th I visited Torbay Books.  This fantastic bookshop is run by Matthew and Sarah Clarke (and as well as books it also sells chocolate – an establishment truly filled with temptation).  The next day I spoke to a lovely audience of readers at the new state-of-the-art library in Totnes.  I love meeting the people who read my books and I really enjoyed talking to the residents of the beautiful and unique town that serves as a model for my fictional ‘Neston’.

torbays

Every year it seems to get harder to leave Devon and come back up north but, after a brief pilgrimage to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s beautiful home overlooking the River Dart, I had to face the inevitable.  However, I will be back there next year, researching for another Wesley novel and, hopefully, meeting more readers.

National Crime Reading Month concluded for me with a book signing at my local Waterstones in Stockport and a Crime Evening at Formby Books in Merseyside where Sheila Quigley, Martin Edwards and I spoke about our work, helped along by wine and a buffet provided by the excellent Tony Higginson.  Tony had toyed with the idea of a barbecue but, unhappily, the weather forecast was against us.  However, that didn’t matter as the enthusiasm of our audience was enough to make up for the lack of sunshine.

Formby14s

Now it’s time to get back to writing.  Hope you enjoy the pictures.

1st June 2014

May means one thing in the crime writing calendar.  CrimeFest.  On the 15th I made my way down to Bristol with my other half in tow (for reasons that will become clear later).  We gave a lift to my fellow author (and Murder Squad Member) Martin Edwards so, with a lot of catching up to do and much crime writing gossip to exchange, the long journey passed quickly. 

As usual CrimeFest was held in the comfortable surroundings of the Bristol Marriot Royal Hotel next to Bristol Cathedral and I regard my stay there as an annual treat (especially going for a swim in the lovely Roman-themed pool – before breakfast).  This year I attended the convention while my husband went off to explore Bristol and on the Saturday I found myself moderating a panel for the first time.  I was a bit nervous about this but the subject was right up my street – Archaeologists and Academics – Digging up the past with a spade or a pen.  Of course I was helped by having four lovely and erudite panellists – Martin Edwards, Elly Griffiths, Tom Harper and Luca Veste – who made my new experience really enjoyable.  In the evenings drinks were drunk, old friends met and new ones made.  It’s always lovely to chat to fans and there were certainly a lot there this year, many from the USA.

cfestpanels

Sunday saw me taking part in the Criminal Mastermind competition.  Last year I was in the audience and I guessed the result which meant I won a free place for two at this year’s CrimeFest (this is why my husband came with me).  However, the penalty was that I had to take part in the Mastermind myself.  There is a black chair (just like on TV) and Maxim Jakubowski took the part of inquisitor.  My specialist subject was Josephine Tey (one of my favourite authors of all time) and my main aim was not to win but to avoid making a complete idiot of myself.  I don’t know how it happened but I ended up coming second (behind the ultra-knowledgeable Paul Johnstone) so things worked out far better than I expected!  I don’t think I’d like to sit in that daunting black chair again but I returned home happy that I had survived with my dignity intact!!

masterminds

The following week I spoke at the Bollington Festival in Cheshire with another fellow Murder Squad member, Margaret Murphy (who now writes as A D Garrett).  Margaret and I did an event back in April at Tickhill Library near Doncaster which was very successful and I think our contrasting styles of writing (my books feature a lot of history and Margaret’s concentrate on forensic science) complement each other well.

In June the paperback of THE SHROUD MAKER will be out and I’ll be travelling down to Devon to take part in three events to celebrate its publication (and celebrate National Crime Reading Month at the same time).  There’s a Murder Mystery evening in Kingsbridge, a book signing in Paignton and a talk in Totnes.  Then later in the month I’ll be signing books in Waterstones in Stockport and taking part at a Crime Writers’ Barbecue in Formby (see my events page for details).  I do hope I’ll see some of you there.

Early May 2014

It’s been a very difficult few weeks because, sadly, my dear father, David Ellis, passed away just before Easter.  I can honestly say that, whereas my mother gave me love of reading and creating mysteries, my father and his life-long interest in literature gave me my passion for writing. 

DCEsmall

                                    David Ellis 1923 - 2014

David was born in Liverpool to an émigré Welsh family in 1923, attending Quarry Bank High School (the alma mater of John Lennon along with a host of other Liverpool notables).  In his younger years he hung round with the city’s artistic set (even having his own tankard in that famed Liverpool pub, The Crack).  He had ambitions to become a writer and had articles published in Punch.  I was touched to receive a letter from his old friend, the famous true crime author (and leading authority on Jack the Ripper) Richard Whittington Egan, telling me how he remembers my dad sitting in Sefton Park with a note pad, scribbling away.  Like me, Richard particularly remembers David’s wit and wonderful sense of humour.  For the last two years of his life my dad endured terrible illness but now I’m trying to remember him as he was...and I know I’ll always be grateful for the inspiration he gave me and proud of the lovely gentleman he was.

After the trauma of my dad’s death, it was good to get away to Guernsey to meet up with my fellow crime writers for the Crime Writers’ Association annual conference.  There was certainly a lot to do to take my mind off things and it was great to meet up with old friends again.  The conference was brilliantly organised by Jason Monaghan who, as well as writing crime novels under the name of Jason Foss, is also an archaeologist and Director of Guernsey Museums. 

Guernsey is an island steeped in history with a rich supply of archaeology from castles to Roman shipwrecks (if you get a chance to go don’t forget to visit Guernsey Museum in Candie Gardens and the Maritime Museum in Castle Cornet).  There’s also much evidence of dramatic events in the more recent past: the Channel Islands were the only parts of Great Britain to be occupied by the Germans during the Second World War and that occupation has left scars both physical (in the form of concrete fortifications and underground tunnels) and psychological.  It was easy to envisage an island living in fear and we had a fascinating talk by Dr Gilly Carr about the oppressive occupation and its effects on the lives of the islanders. 

Guernsey

On my arrival I was asked to take part in a panel event at Guernsey Museum hosted by the Guernsey Literary Festival.  Martin Edwards, Edward Marston and I spent an enjoyable hour discussing our work and crime writing in general.  One of the highlights of the conference for me was a visit to the house where Victor Hugo had lived in exile (and where he’d written Les Miserables – a book I studied for French A level...in French)  I must say his taste in interior design was rather alarming to say the least!  All in all it was a lovely conference and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful island with its fantastic food and hospitality.

I’m pleased to say that the new Crime Writers’ Association short story anthology, Guilty Parties is now out.  My story The Confessions of Edward Prime is set in Liverpool (in the area I grew up) – I hope my dad would have been proud.

    

 

Late March 2014

This month a letter landed on my doormat, totally unexpected and very thrilling.  It told me that I’d been elected ‘by secret ballot’ to become a member of the Detection Club.  The Detection Club is a prestigious club for crime writers and membership is by invitation only.  It was founded in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers (including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers) and the first president was G K Chesterton (the creator of Father Brown).  There is a dramatic initiation ceremony which involves a skull called Eric – I can’t wait to make his acquaintance.  Here’s a link to Lucy Worsley’s encounter with the Club:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw1f3  I must say, I’m very honoured to be invited – when I first started writing, I never thought I’d be in such august company. 

Spring has arrived at last which means that many authors’ thoughts turn to library appearances, conferences and conventions.  For me the past week has been great fun as my Murder Mystery Evening ‘Death at the Dig’ has been performed at two libraries, Flint in North Wales and Wilmslow in Cheshire.  These evenings are tremendous fun and the library staff and (in the case of Wilmslow) local actors who gallantly play the parts of the ‘suspects’ are invariably marvellous.  It’s great to see how much people enjoy themselves and enter into the spirit of the performance.  Another Murder Mystery Evening is currently being arranged for Kingsbridge in Devon in June – keep an eye on my Events page for details. 

Flint

The popularity of Murder Mystery events in general proves that the ‘Golden Age’ type of mystery is still as popular as ever.  A few weeks ago I was amused to learn that Midsomer Murders is one of the most popular programmes in Scandinavia whereas this country’s crime fiction fans go mad for Scandinavian ‘noir’.  Apparently a huge proportion of Scandinavian homes contain a Midsomer Murders DVD – it certainly makes you think! 

I’ve just sent my next Wesley Peterson novel to my editor and I’m awaiting her verdict.  Fingers crossed she enjoys it.

 

Late February 2014

Have you always dreamed of having your name immortalised in a book?  Well now’s your chance.  The children’s cancer charity, CLIC Sargent is holding an on-line auction and the winner will have a character in my next Wesley Peterson novel named after them.  Other authors are also taking part and I think it’s a fantastic way of raising much needed funds for a really good cause.  If you want to take part and support CLIC Sargent go to http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/getincharacter  Good luck!

February’s been a busy month.  I’ve been working on my next Wesley Peterson novel, THE DEATH SEASON as well as organizing various events for later in the year.  I’m very excited that my murder mystery Death at the Dig is due to be performed in three libraries – it’s my tribute to the so called ‘golden age of crime writing’ in the 1920s and 30s and is great fun (and played strictly for laughs).  I feel it’s important to support our libraries at this uncertain time of closures and cuts.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that libraries are a sign of civilization and we lose them at our peril.  If it wasn’t for visiting my local library in Liverpool (Allerton) from an early age, I’d never have become an avid reader - and, as a consequence, I doubt if I’d ever have become a writer.  There must be an awful lot of people in this country with good reason to be grateful to libraries and we really must support them.

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been digging.  Last year I had a great time helping with the excavation of Agatha Christie’s sister’s garden.  There’s a possibility that I might have the opportunity to return there later this year, but in the meantime, I’ve taken part in a dig on our village green, once the location of a grand house.  The archaeology group (The South Manchester Archaeological Research Team, commonly known as SMART) excavated the hall itself a couple of years ago so this time we were concentrating on the outhouses.  It was a fruitful dig, uncovering some interesting floor surfaces, and, fortunately, the weather was kind to us…and in a Manchester February that’s something of a miracle.  Can’t wait to get back there in a couple of weeks.

Findigs

Better get back to work as I’ve left one of my characters in considerable peril!  Don’t forget about CLIC Sargent.

 

January 2014

A rather belated Happy New Year to everyone.  And what a start to the year it’s been. 

The launch of a brand new book is usually a cause for great celebration.  However, the publication of THE SHROUD MAKER at the start of the month was rather overshadowed by a very happy occasion – the wedding of my younger son, Olly to his lovely new wife, Sam, at Peckforton Castle in the wilds of Cheshire.  It was a wonderful, happy day that will stay in my memory for ever.

After the wedding, Olly and Sam took a short holiday and while they were away we found ourselves sharing our house with a character from my last book THE SHADOW COLLECTOR.  No, it wasn’t one of the suspects – it was their sheep dog, Fin.  I don’t often use real people (or in Fin’s case, dogs) in my books but Fin just had to be an exception.  Fortunately, unlike in the book, the only bones he found while he was with us were ones that we gave him!

As you can imagine, our festive season was pretty busy this year but I did find time to watch the latest SHERLOCK series on the BBC (I always find time for Mr Holmes).  Now so far I’ve absolutely loved this new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, starring Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman and I think that bringing Holmes’s world into the present day has worked brilliantly.  However, this third series left me a little disappointed.  Okay, the production was fantastic, together with the special effects...but perhaps that’s what was wrong.  Like some recent Doctor Who episodes, the narrative has been neglected in favour of in jokes, tangled relationships and super-fast back stories.  Sometimes it felt almost like fan-fiction and the strong Holmes stories (which were handled so cleverly and wittily in the first two series) became little more than an afterthought.  Perhaps with the return of Moriarty, things will improve.  I do hope so.

December 2013

First of all, as a festive treat, Wesley Peterson’s first case The Merchant’s House is, for a short time, only £2.07 from Amazon as part of 12 Days of Kindle.  And to think his 18th investigation is about to hit the bookshelves (and your e-books of course).

The publication of a new book is always an exciting event.  There’s nothing quite like that moment when a delivery van screeches to a halt outside and someone hands over a brown cardboard box filled with crisp copies of your latest novel.  This happened to me about a week ago when my author copies of THE SHROUD MAKER arrived.  My publisher, Piatkus, has done me proud with the wonderfully sinister cover – hope you agree.  The official publication date for the hardback and e-book is 2nd January – a new book for a new year.

shroudcopies

As I write this Christmas is approaching fast.  Apart from the usual seasonal goodies such as decorations, food and carol singing, one Christmas traditions I love is sitting by a roaring fire with a good ghost story.  When I was growing up, the reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was an annual fixture in our house.  But soon I moved on to something much more horrifying.  I’ve always eagerly devoured the ghost stories of M R James, which range from the disturbingly sinister to the truly horrifying (Lost Hearts is particularly grisly in my opinion).  I’m very pleased to see that M R James’s story The Tractate Middoth has been adapted by Mark Gatiss for television and will be broadcast on BBC2 on Christmas Day.  For many years the BBC has had a proud tradition of showing supernatural stories each Christmas, either adapted from M R James’s stories or created by other writers.  Many of these, such as Whistle and I’ll Come to You, have become classics but one production that particularly stuck in my memory was The Stone Tape – I know some people complain about repeats on TV but this is really one programme I’d like to see again.

Something else to look forward to over the next couple of weeks is a brand new Sherlock episode on New Year’s Day.  I can’t wait to see the explanation of how Holmes escaped death (in the modern day equivalent of the Reichenbach Falls) – I have my theory, of course, but it’s probably wrong.

Anyway, I hope all of you have a wonderful Festive Season.  All the best for 2014 and Happy Reading.

Late November 2013

I admit I cheated.  I kept an episode of Poirot back (Dead Man’s Folly) so that Curtain wouldn’t be the last I saw of the fantastic David Suchet.  It’s many years since I read Curtain and I sometimes feel a little guilty at not re-reading many of the Agatha Christie books I loved as a teenager.  After all, it was reading them that gave me an appetite for crime and mystery which, in turn led me to become a writer.

The plot of Curtain is certainly original for a crime novel, even though Shakespeare used something very similar in Othello.  It has to be said that Shakespeare himself wasn’t averse to adapting other people’s plots and ideas in his own special way.  They say there are only a certain number of stories in the world (I’m not sure, but I think it might be seven) so true originality, although that’s what most writers (including myself) strive for when they begin a book, is probably more difficult to achieve than most people think.  

Recently all my time has been taken up with writing my next Wesley Peterson novel and I’m pleased to say that I’ve just completed the first draft.  However, this is only the beginning of a long process and my lovely editor won’t be seeing it for a few months yet.  I view the first draft as a sculptor views a block of stone.  It’s the raw material of a book to be shaped and chiselled away until I am happy to allow someone else to read it.  At the moment only I know what’s in the manuscript sitting there on my desk but I can reveal that the title on the front is THE DEATH SEASON. 

I’ve just had the news that the publication date of my next novel THE SHROUD MAKER has been brought forward and the hardback (and e-book) will be available in January – not long to go now – and the paperback in June 2014. 

TheShroudMaker

Another exciting development is that copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR have been put on the London Underground by Books on the Underground.  The idea is that people pick up the books, read them (and possibly blog about them and recommend them to their friends), and then return them to the Underground so that they can be read by someone else.  It’s a great idea and I’m really thrilled that my book has been chosen.  I do hope everyone who picks it up enjoys it!

TheShadowCollector

November 2013

 I’m afraid this diary has been rather delayed but there is a good reason:  I now have a new and much improved website and I have been waiting for it to be ready.  I hope it’s easier to navigate than the old one and will tell you more about me and my books.

I have always thought that autumn is a sad time of the year and for the world of crime writing 2013 has been particularly sad with the loss of a much loved and distinguished author.  CWA Diamond Dagger winner Robert Barnard died on 19th September this year.  Bob was the author of an array of brilliant and witty novels as well as being a leading authority on Agatha Christie and the Brontes. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10340639/Robert-Barnard.html

I have very fond memories of Bob’s kindness to me when I was a new writer.  I was alone at my very first crime convention and even though he was a star author he took a lot of time to speak to me and tell me about the ins and outs of the crime writing world.  RIP, Bob, you’re sadly missed.

Now that the summer is over and autumn is well and truly here it’s back to work.  Sometimes writers just have to take a deep breath, put their heads down and write and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout October.  With THE SHROUD MAKER out in January (not long to go now) you might think I’d have plenty of time to write the next book in the series.  However, books have very long lead times and 2015’s novel has to be ready for printing long before the publication date.  I must say that so far the first draft is going well.  It always seems strange when life follows art but I can reveal that the recent violent storms reflect a major part of the plot I’m working on.

One of the highlights of the year for many crime fans is the return to our TV screens of the wonderful David Suchet in the role of Hercule Poirot.  As I write this I have viewed just one of the final series, The Big Four (Dead Man’s Folly has been recorded because I was at an Archaeology Society meeting and is being looked forward to with great anticipation).  The plot of The Big Four was a little far fetched at times and many aspects wouldn’t get past my own editor, but it made for a deliciously over the top and entertaining two hours of viewing.  The best part, of course is David Suchet’s performance as the Great Detective.  It is well known that Agatha Christie didn’t much like the character she had created and in the books Poirot’s character lacks depth and development.  But in David Suchet’s capable hands, Hercule has matured since the first episodes and, as he ages, we see him increasingly weighed down by his encounters with murder, examining questions of justice and faith in a depth that is lacking in the novels.  The series is an absolute treat.  I can’t wait for the next episode and I will be facing the final Curtain with much sadness.

September 2013

Yate

I love holidays, the chance to sit reading a good book without that nagging feeling of guilt that I should be doing something else (like working on my own book and persuading my characters to do what I want them to do). I’ve just returned from a beautiful week in Devon where I was royally entertained by Peter Lovesey’s latest Diamond mystery, The Tooth Tattoo. It really is a fascinating read, delving into the lives of the varied members of an elite string quartet and probing their connection with a young Japanese girl found dead in the lovely city of Bath. Highly recommended.


On the way down to Devon I stopped off in Gloucestershire to speak at Yate Library, just north of Bristol. It was good to meet everyone there and many thanks to the library staff for making me so welcome.

RegattaThe next day I travelled to Dartmouth, calling in at The Torbay Bookshop en route to sign copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR. The Torbay Bookshop is a lovely independent bookshop, named as one of the three best small bookshops in Britain by Daily Telegraph readers and shortlisted for Independent Bookseller of the Year in 2013.



When I arrived in Dartmouth, the town was packed with revellers celebrating the final day of the Royal Regatta. What with a fly past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a fantastic firework display (as well as excellent weather) it was certainly an evening to remember. I also had an ulterior motive for taking a special interest – my next Wesley Peterson mystery, The Shroud Maker (out in hardback in February) features a regatta-like festival (the big difference being that in my fictional festival, everyone dresses up in medieval costume…and murder is never far away!)

4actorsThe next day Regatta was over and everything suddenly returned to normal. But I had one more engagement before I could put my feet up – on Monday afternoon Dartmouth Library became a hotbed of (light-hearted) crime and murder when four courageous volunteers performed my Murder Mystery, Death at the Dig. They were brilliant and I’d really like to say a big thank you to the actors and to Library Supervisor, Rowena Marshall, for entering into the spirit of the 1920s so enthusiastically. Also congratulations to Alan Leach who won a signed copy of The Shadow Collector.

 

winner
For the rest of the week Dartmouth was bathed in glorious sunshine and I had a wonderful time going for long walks (and getting inspiration for future books). Hope you enjoy the pictures!