A (very belated) Happy New Year to everyone.
It’s always hard to start work again after all the excitement of the Christmas break but I needed to continue writing the first draft of my next Wesley book so I got to work as soon as New Year was over. I’m pleased to say that the first draft is now finished but that’s only the beginning of the process. There’ll be at least five more drafts of the book before I allow anybody to see it and the whole thing will probably change drastically between now and then. I’ve already changed my murderer once and, who knows, the guilty party may change again if I think it’ll make the book more intriguing and enjoyable. I have a golden rule of crime writing – if I begin to be bored with a book it’s a fair bet my readers will be too which means everything must be altered and polished until I’m happy that it’s going to keep everyone guessing to the end.
Keeping track of the plot and characters and making everything believable takes a lot of concentration and it’s always good to take a break – the trouble is it’s too easy to be lured away by the temptation of socialising. Probably one of the main characteristics a writer needs is self discipline!
When I haven’t been writing I’ve been busy organising events for later in the year. I’m looking forward to speaking in Warrington on 13th March and I’ll be at CrimeFest in Bristol in May. I’m on two panels there this year (one of which I’m moderating) and it’s always great fun to meet both readers and fellow authors there. To see what I’m going to be up to in 2019, please look at my events page.
I’ve kept my big news till last – on 4th February my 23rd Wesley Peterson mystery DEAD MAN’S LANE was published. I’ve just realised it’s my 30th published novel which is cause for great celebration. It certainly doesn’t seem twenty years since THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE was released into the world and I still enjoy writing as much now as I did then!
I celebrated the hardback release of DEAD MAN’S LANE with a book signing at Altrincham Waterstones and I’d like to thank Nick, Jarred and the staff there for making me so welcome. I do hope all my readers enjoy Wesley’s latest case which features the former home of an artist turned murderer and a strange tale of the ‘walking dead’.
Welcome to the last Kate’s Diary of 2018. The year has flown by and I can’t believe the Festive Season is upon us already.
November is always a busy month and this year was no exception. I hosted a Murder Mystery evening at Halton Lea Library which everyone enjoyed, so much so that I’ve been invited to present another next year at Norton Priory Museum.
I visited Norton Priory (near Runcorn, just over the River Mersey from my native Liverpool) some years ago and I’ve been longing for an excuse to return ever since (something, alas, I just haven’t got round to) so I was particularly pleased to be asked. Before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 1530s, Norton was a community of Augustinian Canons, priests who served the local community rather than lived as an enclosed order of monks. Norton is remarkably well preserved and is home to a rare (and rather large) statue of St Christopher, patron saint of travellers (probably to provide protection for those crossing the Mersey!) It’ll be lovely to present a Murder Mystery in such historic surroundings and I’m really looking forward to my visit next June. I’ll be putting the details on my website as soon as I have them.
As well as Halton I visited Ashton Library (Tameside). It’s always good to talk to readers about my books and I think it’s so important for authors to support libraries in this way if at all possible. Another event I enjoyed was my first Society of Authors meeting at Chethams in central Manchester. I’d heard all about Chethams (built in the fourteenth century to house priests from the neighbouring Manchester parish church – now the cathedral – and, since 1969, a famous specialist music school) but had never visited before, in spite of having been a student in Manchester. This shameful omission was put right when I (along with my fellow SoA members) was given a guided tour – the highlight being a visit to England’s very first public library. I looked rather different from the welcoming public libraries of today but it was great to see where the idea began.
Talking of books, the 6th December welcomed another addition to my list of titles. For ages it never occurred to me to throw a party when a book was launched but when A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES came out friends persuaded me that its birth was a particular cause for celebration. So it was that I came to hold a launch party at a local award winning bookshop, attended by family, friends and readers. The party was such a success that when the second book in the Albert Lincoln trilogy was due to come out, I thought I’d host another party in the same location. I’m pleased to say that the publication of THE BOY WHO LIVED WITH THE DEAD, was properly celebrated and on the evening I spoke about how it came to be written as well as mentioning the unusual setting (a thinly disguised Alderley Edge – now home to premiership footballers but back in 1920 when the action takes place, the haunt of wealthy cotton manufacturers from nearby Manchester). After a reading from the book’s dramatic introduction, wine and nibble consumption was resumed and a great time was had by all.
I believe a lot of people are going to find THE BOY WHO LIVED WITH THE DEAD in their stockings this Christmas. I hope Santa brings you everything you wish for and I’d like to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and a lovely and peaceful New Year.
See you in 2019
Many apologies for the delay in writing this diary. As well as being out and about doing a lot of events, I’ve had my new editor’s changes to my next Wesley Peterson mystery to deal with on a strict deadline. But never fear, it’s all done now and DEAD MAN’S LANE will be out in February.
The first week in September saw me back in lovely Dartmouth, one of my favourite places in the world, seeing old friends and new. My book signings in the Waterstones stores in Plymouth and Torquay were most enjoyable and it was lovely to visit The Dartmouth Bookseller to sign books there and meet a lot of lovely readers (who didn’t seem to mind at all that I’d transformed their beautiful town into the murder capital of the South West – fictional, of course). While I was in Devon I also travelled up to the north of the county to speak at South Molton Library and it was great to meet everyone there.
No trip to Devon is complete without a pilgrimage to Agatha Christie’s home at Greenway (a tough but rewarding walk there from Kingswear and the steam train back). This year I even had the privilege of sitting in Dame Agatha’s chair in the boathouse (where David Suchet’s excellent version of Dead Man’s Folly was filmed), an honour bestowed because I said I was a crime writer!
It seems to be the season for Murder Mysteries and earlier this month I travelled to Nottinghamshire to present my mystery ‘Death at the Dig’ (a lighthearted tribute to the Golden Age of crime fiction, played strictly for laughs, usually by brave library staff). It was put on at Mansfield library in the afternoon and Worksop library in the evening so it felt as though I was ‘on tour’. It was great fun. The same week I presented my other mystery ‘Murder in the Lemon Grove’ at my local library and then it was back to the nineteen twenties again for ‘Death at the Dig’ at Northwich’s lovely half timbered library in Cheshire – where they even had the ‘victim’s’ outline on the library floor and the murder weapon for the audience to examine. A good time was had by all!
At the moment I’m busy organising a launch for the second novel in my new Albert Lincoln trilogy which is out on 6th December (just in time for Christmas). THE BOY WHO LIVED WITH THE DEAD sees Albert travel up to the North West of England again, eighteen months after the traumatic events described in A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES. But I’ll say more about that next time.
The paperback of THE MECHANICAL DEVIL was published at the start of this month and I spent some time in my local Waterstones stores (Stockport and Wilmslow) chatting to readers and signing books. It’s so lovely to meet the people who enjoy my books and talk about writing and crime fiction in general. Writing can be an isolated occupation so it’s great to get out and about meeting readers from time to time.
After a busy couple of weeks I enjoyed a five day break in Germany, a country I’d never visited before. We stayed in Wurzburg and saw a variety of stunning medieval towns including the lovely university town of Heidelberg. I was particularly amused by the ‘student prison’ where drunken and unruly students were incarcerated (leaving a lot of interesting graffiti on the walls).
A particular highlight for me was a visit to Bamberg, the scene of infamous witch trials in the seventeenth century (although, unlike Pendle and Salem, this part of the town’s history tends to be played down). The reason for my particular interest was that my younger son has written an academic text book on the subject of seventeenth century witch hunts and when I read it (as a dutiful mother should!) I found it fascinating. Of course I’ve already covered the subject briefly in my Wesley Peterson novel THE SHADOW COLLECTOR, but my visit to Bamberg inspired me to write a short story about the Bamberg witches which I’m hoping will be published in an anthology next year.
The heatwave appears to be over just as I’m getting ready to travel to Devon for a week of book signings, a library talk, some research and (hopefully) a spot of relaxation in the stunning Devon landscape. I’ll be signing books at The Dartmouth Bookshop on Tuesday 4th September at 2pm http://dartmouthbookseller.co.uk/category/events/ and at Waterstones, Torquay https://www.waterstones.com/events/search/author/7474/shop/torquay on Wednesday 5th from 11am to 12.30pm. I’m also travelling up to North Devon to speak at South Molton Library on Thursday 6th at 6.30pm. If you can make it to any of these events it would be fantastic to meet you. I’m so looking forward to being in Devon again – with the added bonus that I’ll catch the final day of Dartmouth Royal Regatta which is always great fun. https://www.dartmouthregatta.co.uk/
Do hope to meet you in Devon!
Who feels like working in a heatwave? Well I don’t for a start but when you’ve got to get a book finished and sent off to your publisher you have to grit your teeth and put the electric fan on! The good news is that I’ve now sent off my twenty third Wesley Peterson novel today (entitled Dead Man’s Lane) so now it’s time to catch up with a few of the things I’ve been neglecting . . . like this diary.
A few days after returning from a marvellous trip to Granada in June (I think I must have brought the weather back in my suitcase!) I travelled to Neston on the Wirral to present my Murder Mystery, Murder in the Lemon Grove (set in sunny Sicily and originally written to celebrate my Sicily based Wesley Peterson novel The House of Eyes). It was a fantastic evening, mainly due to the talents of Ian Anstice and his fellow actors who entered into the spirit of things with gusto (as you can see below). For the first time the library even provided a victim (shrouded under sinister sheets) which caused great hilarity all round. Many thanks to all who took part and made it such a memorable evening.
The week after that I was on a (more serious) panel at Lymm Festival in Cheshire with the excellent Sarah Ward and Martin Edwards, discussing crime fiction both past and present. We each spoke about our favourite Golden Age crime writer and I opted for Josephine Tey whose brilliant and very individual novels (unfortunately there were only eight) are still among my favourite reads.
Speaking of crime fiction and Josephine Tey, leads me on to a production I saw recently of Shakespeare’s Richard III (The Daughter of Time, seeking the truth about Richard’s reputation, is probably Tey’s most famous book) at the new ‘pop-up’ Rose theatre in York (http://www.shakespearesrosetheatre.com/). As soon as I heard about the reconstructed Elizabethan theatre I had to get tickets so I went and thoroughly enjoyed the modern-dress performance. It was a warm evening and a lovely atmosphere (there was even a Shakespeare village surrounding the theatre). The theatre’s there till 2nd September so do go along if you can. Myself, I grab every opportunity to visit lovely, historic York (where my Joe Plantagenet books are set) and I must add that York Waterstones has some early paperback copies of THE MECHANICAL DEVIL, signed by me. Grab them if you can.
THE MECHANICAL DEVIL paperback is officially out on 2nd August and I’ll be at Stockport Waterstones signing copies on Saturday 4th August (11am – 1.30pm) and at Wilmslow Waterstones on Saturday 11th August (11am – 3pm). Do come along and say hello! You can find a review of THE MECHANICAL DEVIL at https://promotingcrime.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-mechanical-devil-by-kate-ellis.html.
Summer seems to have arrived at last and I’ve now moved into my writing shed at the bottom of the garden (my daily commute has doubled but it’s well worth it!) I’m not sure why but I find it easier to write in the shed with its view of greenery rather than my office overlooking the street (too many distractions there probably with all the comings and goings). I suppose writers are naturally curious creatures so any unusual arrival at a neighbour’s sets the imagination running. ‘What if?’ is the eternal question a crime writer asks him (or her) self.
Anyway, the next Wesley novel (entitled Dead Man’s Lane) is on its fifth draft now and will soon be ready to send to the publisher. The other good news is that THE MECHANICAL DEVIL will be out in paperback on 2nd August and I’m hoping to arrange a series of book signings to celebrate the occasion. Keep an eye on my website to find out when and where (https://www.kateellis.co.uk/events)
For those of you waiting for the follow up to A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES I’m pleased to confirm that THE BOY WHO LIVED WITH THE DEAD, the second book in the Albert Lincoln Trilogy, will be published at the beginning of December – just in time for Christmas.
It was lovely to meet readers at Waterstones in Shrewsbury in April when I visited that lovely historic town for the annual Crime Writers’ Association conference. I’ve visited Shrewsbury a number of times and I have happy memories of taking my sons to the Brother Cadfael Experience (where they could dress up as little monks and practise their calligraphy in the scriptorum!!!) Sadly the Brother Cadfael Experience is no longer open but being in the town reminded me of those Ellis Peters mysteries that I’ve enjoyed so much. Unexpectedly I was asked to do a radio interview for BBC Radio Shropshire while I was there which was great fun.
Since then I’ve spoken at Sale Library in Manchester for National Crime Reading Month and attended CrimeFest in Bristol where I moderated a panel (on bringing a supernatural element into crime fiction) and took part in another panel on ‘Historical Noir’ (moderated by my fellow Liverpudlian, the excellent Barry Forshaw). I was delighted to have a short story in CrimeFest’s tenth anniversary anthology Ten Year Stretch(mine is called Crime Scene and is set at a Crime Writing Festival in Paris) and it was an honour to see my story alongside those of such crime writing greats as Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver and Ann Cleeves.
At the end of May I travelled to Ilfracombe in North Devon for the wedding of my late friend, Ruth’s, son which was a lovely occasion blessed by Mediterranean sunshine. While I was there I spoke at Ilfracombe Library. It was lovely to meet lots of readers there and afterwards to have dinner with my friend and fellow writer Ruth Downie who writes the fantastic Russo series set in Roman Britannia.
June will be busy with a Detection Club dinner in London followed closely by a (non-writing) visit to Granada – although I can’t guarantee I won’t get a few ideas while I’m there. After I get back I’m looking forward to presenting a Murder Mystery Evening at Neston Library (in the Wirral – not my fictional Neston in Devon!) on 21st and to taking part in Lymm Festival with my fellow writers Martin Edwards and Sarah Ward on the 28th. Do come along if you can.
I’ve been so delighted with the reaction to THE MECHANICAL DEVIL and all the five star reviews it’s received on Amazon. Also many thanks for the wonderful review posted by the Puzzle Doctor, a gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting at the Dagger in the Library presentation at the British Library last June when I had the honour of being shortlisted for the award.
March has found me working hard, hunkered down against the Beast from the East and its little brother the Minibeast who came to make a nuisance of himself last week. As a matter of fact I was taking part in an archaeological dig during the blizzard on Saturday 17th March. Lots of layers and double gloves were the answer to the problem of freezing to death but, in spite of the weather, it was an enjoyable experience and we found the wall of a seventeenth century farmhouse (according to the ancient maps of the site) in the trench where I was working. Can’t wait to return to the site to see what else we can find.
I’ve now finished the copyedits for The Boy who lived with the Dead and that will be published in December, just in time for Christmas. I hope to arrange another launch for this second book in the Albert Lincoln Trilogy but more about that nearer the time.
More recently I’ve been working on Wesley Peterson’s 23rd case and, although the present draft is very rough indeed and it has no title as yet, things are going quite well. All I can say at this stage is that it features the ‘undead’ and ancient superstitions about the dead returning to haunt their communities.
On 7th March I visited Nottinghamshire again to speak at Arnold and Newark Libraries. I always enjoy going to Nottinghamshire and this trip was no exception. It was lovely to meet the enthusiastic readers and library staff and many thanks to Chris Jones for inviting me again. It was my first visit to Newark and I was thrilled to find that it’s such an interesting, historic place. The church there is most impressive and I was particularly fascinated to see a couple of panels from a medieval ‘Dance of Death’ there, depicting the living and the dead – very appropriate for the book I’m working on at the moment.
I’m busy at the moment organising some events, including an appearance at the Lymm Festival in Cheshire and a Murder Mystery at Neston in the Wirral (not to be confused with Neston in my Wesley Peterson books!). I’ll be at Waterstones Shrewsbury on Sunday 15th April (2pm – 3.30pm) Do come along if you can – it would be great to meet you!
I’d like to begin by wishing everybody a belated Happy New Year. I hope you all had a good Christmas with lots of lovely crime novels in your Christmas stockings.
I can’t believe time passes so quickly these days. I finish a novel and before I know it, it’s out there on the shelves of bookshops and libraries. I received my author copies of THE MECHANICAL DEVIL about ten days ago – and very fine they look too.
It’s hard now to believe that the entire book began with a newspaper article about the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC loaning a sixteenth century robot to the Science Museum in London for an exhibition (alongside a photograph of a small wooden figure with the most sinister face I’ve ever seen). This began a process of research that was to end with the creation of Wesley Peterson’s twenty second investigation.
The ancient robot whose photograph caught my attention was just fifteen inches high, made of wood and iron and dressed in the robes of a friar. It had been made by a Spanish clockmaker on the orders of King Philip II of Spain (of Armada fame) to provide instant prayer at the turn of a key and, once wound up, the ‘little friar’ as it was known walked forward moving its lips in prayer and raising and lowering its arms as its eyes followed the movement. Its purpose was to ‘pray’ for Philip’s son, Don Carlos (the subject of Verdi’s famous opera), who had suffered a life threatening fall. Incidentally, Carlos did recover on that occasion but the ‘little miracle worker’s’ effect didn’t last; the prince was later imprisoned by his father and died in solitary confinement.
My first impression was that its painted wooden face, with its hooked nose and articulated mouth reminiscent of one of those creepy ventriloquist’s dummies, looked very creepy. Although it was designed to provide comfort to the sick Don Carlos, I felt there was something distinctly evil about it and the image of its face stuck in my mind as I started to write THE MECHANICAL DEVIL.
The story begins when a small lead coffin is found by workmen digging up the road near a medieval church on Dartmoor; a coffin that turns out to contain a small robot (not unlike King Philip’s). But what is it doing buried there in an isolated Dartmoor village? And could this strange find have a connection to a manor house destroyed by fire during the reign of King Henry VIII; a house that once stood in the very field where two strangers have just been found dead, possibly the victims of a professional killer? With the disappearance of an MP’s teenage daughter and a series of disturbing events at Wesley’s home, the police have to deal with a case that’s both sensitive and baffling. And as the investigation continues things turn very dark and the lives of those close to Wesley are put in danger.
I do hope you enjoy THE MECHANICAL DEVIL – and that you don’t have nightmares about fifteen inch high robots taking over the world!
And I’d like to finish by thanking everyone who’s borrowed my books from libraries this year. It’s so good to know that my work’s been enjoyed so much. THANK YOU.
I can’t believe Christmas has come round again so soon; the time when I spend more time writing Christmas cards (and the accompanying letters to friends I only manage to catch up with once a year) than I do writing crime fiction.
Much of the month has been taken up with things that make it difficult to concentrate on writing – I’ve had a horrible infection in one of my teeth which has resulted in a lot of pain, root canal work and the consumption of some particularly nasty antibiotics which bear a dire warning that under no circumstances must you consume any alcohol (it makes you violently ill apparently). This means no drinks over the Christmas period and for a crime writer – we’re known as a convivial bunch – this isn’t good. In fact I can feel my inner Scrooge emerging already! However, I’ll try and fix a smile to my (swollen) face at the festivities as I sip my alcohol free wine and plot some nice cheerful (purely fictional) murders...I think Agatha Christie killed off a dentist in One Two Buckle my Shoe, didn’t she?
A good piece of news is that my editor loved The Boy who lived with the Dead and his changes won’t prove very daunting. That’s something I’ll tackle in the New Year, along with constructing Wesley Peterson’s next case, and I must say I’m looking forward to it.
A lot of people have said that The Mermaid’s Scream is on their Christmas list and I’m pleased to say that it won’t be long before The Mechanical Devil is published at the beginning of February. More about that next time.
In the meantime I’d like to wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. Cheers!!!
There’s always a feeling of relief when I finish a book and press the key which will send it whizzing off through the ether to my editor. When I first started writing sending a manuscript to my publisher involved traipsing down to the post office with a heavy parcel, weighing it and then paying a fortune in postage. Now the process couldn’t be simpler but there’s still the same feeling of euphoria and fear (until my editor gets back to me with his changes, of course, then the work starts again). I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll like The Boy Who Lived with the Dead, the second in my Albert Lincoln trilogy.
During the period between letting go of the book and having to work on it again, I always take the opportunity to write a short story or two and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. I’ve also started to plan my next Wesley novel but it’s far too early to say much about it yet as I’ve only just started working out plot strands (and doing some historical research into the diaries of Samuel Pepys and the medieval belief that the restless dead have to be prevented from ‘walking’ – enough said for the moment!).
Talking of short stories, I was delighted when mine was selected for the latest Crime Writers’ Association Anthology Mystery Tour. My story’s entitled The Naked Lady of Prague and is based on something I actually witnessed when I was visiting Prague a few years ago. I was having a meal outside in a little square with my husband and some friends when a woman appeared, prancing through the square without a stitch of clothing on (it even silenced a Welsh rugby club who were sitting on a table nearby!) I’ve no idea what she was doing there but in my story I’ve imagined a rather sinister story behind her escapade.
Since I last wrote this diary I’ve had the good fortune to visit several libraries including Poynton, West Kirby and York. At York I presented my murder mystery Death at the Dig and I must say the brave library staff who acted the parts with such aplomb deserved Oscars. It was great fun.
Wirral Bookfest at West Kirby Library
"Death At The Dig" York Library Big City Read
I haven’t written this diary for a while because there’s been a lot happening, good and very bad.
Ruth Smith 1954 - 2017
I’ll begin with the very bad. My close friend, Ruth Smith tragically died of pancreatic cancer shortly before I was due to set off for Devon. Ruth was a wonderful, talented person, loved by all who knew her (the crowds at her funeral bore witness to that). She always read through all my manuscripts and at the start of my writing career she was the person who encouraged me to carry on even when I was on the verge of giving up. I happen to be a bell ringer and, as Ruth was a great crime fiction fan I rang ‘the nine tailors’ before her funeral (as in Dorothy L Sayers’ famous novel) - six tolls of the bell plus one for each year of her age - in her honour. I’ll miss her wisdom and her friendship so much and the book I’m writing at the moment with be dedicated to her memory.
As a result of this my subsequent visit to Devon was rather clouded by sadness. However if was lovely to meet the staff and readers at Waterstones Plymouth and the new Waterstones Torquay as well as speaking to a great audience from the WI at Cornworthy (although there were some gentlemen there too). I’ve used a thinly disguised Cornworthy (blended with a couple of nearby villages) in a few of my books so it was good to meet everyone and spend some time there.
Once home I took part in a wonderful panel in my home city of Liverpool discussing the role of women in crime fiction with Sarah Ward, Cath Staincliffe and Margaret Murphy (aka AD Garratt). Our panel was called ‘Deadlier than the male’ and we enjoyed a lively discussion about our influences and favourite authors as well as the role of women in our own books. I’m glad that my own personal favourite, Josephine Tey, got a good mention.
With recent events I’ve found it quite hard to concentrate on writing but I’m pleased to say that The Boy Who Lived with the Dead is on its fifth draft now and coming on nicely. Watch this space.