I never thought I’d suffer from writers’ block and when it happened I started to panic. Then I realised it wasn’t writers’ block (I still had plenty of ideas for my Wesley Peterson series), rather it was ‘second novel syndrome’. This may seem unusual, after all I’ve clocked up twenty seven books at the last count (with the twenty eighth, The Mechanical Devil, out next February), but when the time came to tackle the second book in my Albert Lincoln trilogy, The Boy who Lived with the Dead, I encountered several false starts when the words just didn’t seem to flow as they normally do.
My problem was finding the right voice. I wrote A High Mortality of Doves partly from the point of view of a young woman who had been a volunteer nurse in the First World War and whose father was now frustrating her career ambitions. In the second novel in the trilogy there is also a young woman, a schoolmistress with a secret, and at first I wrote sections from her point of view. However, I felt uneasy about this and finally realised that it wasn’t working so in the end I followed my initial instincts and started to write some sections from the point of view of the eponymous boy. His name is Peter and he lives in a cemetery lodge and he’s connected to Albert Lincoln by one of his old cases: Peter’s twin was murdered in 1914 (something that’s mentioned briefly in A High Mortality of Doves) but Albert failed to catch his killer. It was a challenge to write from the point of view of a damaged child who lives in a world of fantasy and imagination but as soon as I started the whole thing fell into place and I’m now on the fourth draft, which is a great relief. It just shows you when you write it’s best to obey your instincts and keep scrapping drafts until it feels right. I hope The Boy who Lived with the Dead will shape up to be a worthy successor to A High Mortality of Doves. The cover’s been designed already (publishers are always quick off the mark) and it’s stunning. Hope to reveal all in a future bulletin!
Next week I’m off to Devon where I’m speaking to the Cornworthy WI, signing copies of The Mermaid’s Scream in Dartmouth and Plymouth and meeting readers at Torquay Waterstones. Do join me in Torquay on Friday 8th (11.30 – 1.00) if you’re in the area!
Hello again and many apologies for neglecting this diary over the past month and a half. The truth is, May was hectic because A High Mortality of Doves came out in paperback and this meant I spent a lot of time out and about celebrating.
On publication day itself I visited two libraries in Lancashire – Bolton and Bury – where I spoke to lovely audiences who were happy to celebrate with me! The next few weeks saw me signing copies of my books at two Waterstones stores nearby and then a visit to Didsbury Library and talks to local groups. After all this I attended CrimeFest in Bristol which was very enjoyable. I moderated a panel on historical crime and took part in another on ‘scaring your readers to death’ which was great fun (with sound effects provided by our wonderful moderator Elly Griffiths!).
After CrimeFest came a lovely (crime-free) break in Vienna with friends – it’s a wonderful city and I heartily recommend it to anyone who loves history, music, art . . . and cake!
Then last weekend I took part in Alibis in the Achives at Gladstones Library in Hawarden near Chester. I’ve heard a lot about this fantastic residential library but I’ve never visited before and it turned out to be a real treat. The library itself is beautiful and it was great fun speaking there and presenting a murder mystery which paid tribute to the ‘golden age’ of crime fiction.
There’s just one problem with doing all these events and that is that it’s hard to get any writing done. However, I have managed to begin the follow up to A High Mortality of Doves (the first in a trilogy). At the moment what I’ve written is very much a first draft and not fit for anyone to see but at least I’ve made a start.
Next week I’m returning to my home city of Liverpool to take part in Liverpool Noir at Waterstones, Liverpool One with fellow compatriots Barry Forshaw, Lucca Veste, David Jackson and Robert Ryan. It should be a good night.
One good piece of news is that I’ve made the shortlist for the Dagger in the Library and the winner will be announced shortly. Fingers crossed!
Finding names for characters in my books is always a thorny problem. Like many authors I have nightmares about being contacted by someone who shares the name of one of my more unpleasant characters (and in a crime novels a high proportion of my characters are bound to be creepy, dishonest, murderous or all three) and is threatening legal action. Usually I just pluck names out of thin air with no real knowledge of how they popped into my head. However, I recently discovered an article in the paper listing surnames that have died out in the UK (or are about to die out). I’ve already made use of this by giving one of the nastiest suspects in my next Wesley Peterson novel an obsolete name. Job done.
And talking of names, I was delighted when the children’s cancer charity CLICSargent asked me to take part in their annual Get In Character auction again. A gentleman called Paul Whitcombe won but, rest assured, he’ll be one of the more sympathetic characters in Wesley’s twenty second investigation, The Mechanical Devil – you heard the title here first!
Since I last wrote this diary I’ve visited libraries in Retford, Disley and Hucknall (in Hucknall I also managed to visit to Lord Byron’s tomb which was an experience I’ll never forget). It was really lovely to meet such lovely and enthusiastic readers and I’m looking forward to visiting more libraries in the near future. On May 4th I’m celebrating the paperback publication of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES with a double visit in the Lancashire area – Bolton Library in the afternoon and Bury Library in the evening. Then on May 11th I’m speaking at one of my local libraries, Didsbury in Manchester (where I take my little granddaughter who’s becoming rather obsessed with books – obviously granny’s influence!)
Kate with the staff at Disley Library
I’ve just started writing the second book in the Albert Lincoln trilogy and it’s good to be continuing Albert’s story after the dramatic events described in A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES (no spoilers!) but more about that next time.
Incidentally if anybody is in Edinburgh on Sunday 23rd April (the birthday of a certain Mr Shakespeare) I’ll be at Blackwell’s taking part in Dates with Dangerous Authors at 2.30. If you’re in the area come in and say hello (we authors aren’t that dangerous...honestly) It would be lovely to see you there.
The start of this month saw the publication of THE MERMAID’S SCREAM, Wesley Peterson’s twenty first investigation.
THE MERMAID’S SCREAM begins with an author visit to a library (something very close to my heart!) by a young writer who’s working on the biographer of Wynn Staniland, a reclusive author who took the publishing world by storm back in the 1980s and then cut himself off from the world after his wife’s mysterious death. The young biographer later goes missing and his disappearance appears to be linked to the apparent suicide of a middle aged couple at a caravan park. Then Wesley finds that Wynn Staniland is the connection between his two cases. The historical case lurking in the background is the Victorian cause celebre (acted out by a group of sinister nineteenth century puppets) that inspired Wynn Staniland’s most famous work.
I dedicated the book to ‘all library staff everywhere’ but, unfortunately the dedication was accidentally left out of the hardback. However, it is in the e-book and I’m assured that it will be in the paperback (out in August).
Talking of libraries, a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to receive an email telling me that I’ve been longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library award. This was extremely exciting for me because I’m a great supporter of libraries (I’ve got many library visits lined up already this year – see my events page for details) and to be considered for this particular award is very important to me.
Another piece of good news is that I’ve had the go ahead to write the next two books in the Albert Lincoln trilogy. A lot of you have told me how much they enjoyed A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and it will be satisfying to continue Albert’s story. A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES is out in paperback on 4th May and I’m visiting Bolton and Bury libraries that day to celebrate the occasion.
I was delighted to be asked to take part in CLICSargent’s ‘Get in Character’ auction again this year (in which the winner has a character in my next book named after them). I’ve just sent a signed copy of THE MERMAID’S SCREAM to last year’s winner, Julie Shepherd (who became a very nice librarian for the purposes of the book – I hope she enjoys her ‘role’) If you’d like to see your name in my next book please go to http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/401280842933 and make a bid. CLICSargent is a children’s cancer charity so it’s for a very good cause!
Better get back to Wesley’s next case now.
Happy New Year everyone.
Hope you enjoyed the Festive Season and have now recovered fully from the feasting and enforced sloth. Not sure I have yet but there’s a manuscript squatting on my desk waiting to be rewritten. It’s the fourth draft but I’m still not happy with it. My office is looking extremely tidy (which is unusual and somewhat disconcerting) because my cousin and his partner came to stay so I was forced to clear out all the accumulated rubbish (and scraps of paper with notes on – eg victim was already dead at 4pm so can’t have been seen in pub at 5pm or how does suspect go from being goodie two shoes pain in the neck to femme fatale two pages later with no explanation? – my first few drafts are always a dreadful mess!!!) so they could actually see the spare bed. However, in spite of this strange, unnatural neatness I’m sure I’ve already managed to get some work started.
Christmas was good apart from a serious turkey malfunction (the less said the better but the day was saved by a large ham!) and a Christmas morning visit from The Anti-Santa. On Christmas morning I noticed my car door was ajar. Someone had broken in and searched the car thoroughly (which must have disappointed him because the most valuable thing I keep in there is a rusty half-used can of de-icer). I can only assume he thought there might be presents in the boot (hence the title of The Anti-Santa). My husband (being a bit of a technical wizard) had installed CCTV so we trawled through it and eventually found the culprit – a middle aged man in work clothes who used an electronic device to open the door at 5am on Christmas morning. There was no damage to the car and nothing taken but, being good citizens we captured some clear images of the thief from the footage and sent them to the police by email (just for their information in case there was a pattern of thefts from cars in the area). However, the police didn’t seem particularly interested – so much for using our initiative to ‘help the police with their inquiries’. As someone who writes crime novels for a living I found this sadly disappointing and I resolved that Wesley and Gerry would never be so ungrateful (after all, in one of my books there would almost certainly be a murder in the next street and the thief would be either a suspect or a vital witness – probably later found brutally murdered himself of course). Once a crime writer, always a crime writer!
So what does 2017 have in store? Well, I already have a few talks and conferences booked (see my events page) and Wesley’s 21st case THE MERMAID’S SCREAM is out in hardback in early February. Also A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES will be out in paperback in May. I’m delighted that it’s been so well received and now I need to get my publisher’s go ahead to continue with the intended trilogy. Fingers crossed.
Once again let me wish you all a Happy New Year. I do hope 2017 will be a good year for all of us.
At last I’ve managed to find a moment to write this diary! I assure you my absence hasn’t been due to sloth (although writers are often tempted by that particular deadly sin!) but rather to the fact that it’s been a busy time.
First there was the launch of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES to organise. It was a wonderful event and more than fifty people – family and friends but mostly readers – gathered at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Cheshire, to celebrate. I began by speaking about how I came to write the book (which is a departure from my two crime series) and how the idea had nagged away in the back of my head for a few years before I began to write. After my talk I did a reading before everyone retired upstairs for a convivial get together.
I was joined at the launch by three fellow members of the Murder Squad – Martin Edwards, Margaret Murphy (who writes as AD Garrett) and Chris Simms (see below).
I always find historical research absorbing but researching A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES turned out to be a very moving experience. I discovered how wounded servicemen were treated during the First World War and visited a reconstructed military hospital at Dunham Massey in Cheshire several times. Shortly after this I found a couple of letters amongst my late mother’s belongings. They were from the Matron of a base hospital (a military hospital near the French coast that received casualties from the trenches prior to them being shipped back to England . . . if they survived). The Matron told the soldier’s mother that he was gravely ill and close to death. Fortunately, that soldier miraculously survived to become my grandfather but many weren’t so lucky. I read out these letters at the launch, a tribute to all those brave men who fought and gave their lives or suffered grave injuries.
A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES deals with the aftermath of war – how people came to terms with returning to everyday life after such a traumatic time. The story begins when a small Derbyshire community is still reeling from the losses of war and then a series of bizarre deaths once more throws the village into turmoil. When Inspector Albert Lincoln is called in from Scotland Yard, he uncovers a web of pain and intrigue that leads to a gripping and shocking conclusion. I’m delighted to say that the book has been really well received and has been featured as Book of the Month by the Crime Writers’ Association and also named as ‘In Search of the Classic Mystery’ book of the month
After the excitement of the launch it was back to work again, rewriting Wesley Peterson’s twenty second case (to be published in 2018). I then took a break to visit York for a few days (a great place for Christmas shopping and visiting St Nicholas Fair). While I was there I kept having ideas for a new Joe Plantagenet book – it’s just a matter of finding the time.
THE MERMAID’S SCREAM (Wesley Peterson’s next case) will be published in February and I think it’s one of his most intriguing cases yet. I’ll put all the details on this website nearer the time.
So now I’ve written all my Christmas cards and there are only a few more presents to buy, I can start thinking about 2017. I already have several events and conferences arranged and I was delighted to be invited to speak (and present a Murder Mystery) at a conference at Gladstones Library near Chester to be held in June (watch this space for details).
I hope all my readers have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year – and I look forward to ‘meeting’ you in 2017!
During the past month I’ve been working on 2018’s Wesley Peterson mystery. I’ve completed the first draft but I won’t say too much about it yet as I still need to spend months polishing it into shape. It’s early days but I can reveal that it’s mainly set on Dartmoor and features a sixteenth century robot! However, enough of that for now as THE HOUSE OF EYES hasn’t been out that long and there’ll be another Wesley Peterson novel published in February (entitled THE MERMAID’S SCREAM)
Since I last wrote this diary I’ve spoken at Ashton Libraries Fun Palaces Day (where I met a bee keeper who gave me a brilliant idea for a murder method) and a few days later I visited Chester Lane Library in St Helens. Many thanks to the brilliant library staff who helped to organise the events. In fact I’ve dedicated The Mermaid’s Scream to all library staff everywhere. Libraries really need and deserve our support.
At St Helens Library
Last week I had a break from writing and travelled to Spain to visit Seville, Cordoba and Granada. It’s strange the way memories are triggered – in the Alhambra at Granada (the most spectacular Moorish palace you could ever imagine) I couldn’t help remembering a trilogy of novels I’d absolutely loved as a teenager – Jean Plaidy’s Castile for Isabella, Spain for the Sovereigns and Daughters of Spain – all about Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and their daughters (in particular Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, and her sister, Juana the Mad). Catherine herself played in the stunning gardens of the Alhambra and she was to recall this happy time during her later troubles, something I found incredibly touching. As well as this I was awed to find myself in the very room where Queen Isabella had presented Christopher Columbus with the money that enabled him to discover America. The trip culminated in a visit to the chapel where Ferdinand, Isabella and Juana were buried, along with Juana’s husband Philip the Handsome. After Philip’s death Juana carried his coffin around with her everywhere she went...a juicy fact bound to appeal to a teenage girl who was later to become a crime writer!
So now it’s back to work but there’s still one major event to mention. I am delighted to be launching A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES on Tuesday 15th November at 7.30 at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Bramhall near Stockport, Cheshire. It’s a free event so do come along if you can (but email the bookshop first so they know how many people to expect). I’m really excited about A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and I hope my readers will be too. It would be wonderful to see you at the launch. http://www.simplybooks.info/headline-events/4587367589
According to the weather forecasters summer’s finally over and the last month or so has been incredibly busy.
In August I visited a number of local bookshops to sign copies of my latest paperback THE HOUSE OF EYES and it was really good to have the chance to meet my readers. Then, after attending the annual Crime and Mystery Weekend at St Hilda’s College Oxford, I set off for Devon at the beginning of September.
As well as undertaking research for my next Wesley Peterson book, I presented my Murder Mystery, Murder in the Lemon Grove, at Dartmouth Library and Salcombe Library. I’ve visited Dartmouth Library many times over the years but it was my first time in Salcombe and I hadn’t expected such lovely surroundings – and such an amazing view over Salcombe estuary from the French windows and the balcony at the end of the room. Both evenings were great fun and I had the feeling that I was taking Lemon Grove ‘on tour’. The actors certainly entered into the spirit of the evening – it’s wonderful to know there’s so much talent out there! Many thanks to all the library staff and the casts of both productions – they were brilliant!
While I was in Devon I visited my fellow crime writer Michael Jecks who lives on Dartmoor. Mike interviewed me about my books for BBC Radio Devon and it was great to chat with him over coffee and catch up on the news. On the way back I called in at Dartmoor Prison to have a look at the museum there (fortunately they let me out!) I was surprised to find out it’s been downgraded to Category C (not suitable to house dangerous prisoners) because its listed building status meant that the necessary alterations to maintain its ‘high security’ status couldn’t be made. It was a fascinating visit and I’m always stunned by the beauty of the Dartmoor landscape.
My visit to Devon concluded with a book signing at The Torbay Bookshop in Paignton. It’s always a joy to visit Matthew’s lovely shop and I look forward to returning next year.
After a short time at home I set off again, this time for the North East. I spoke at Newcastle’s beautiful central library on the Wednesday and the next day I was in Gateshead taking Murder in the Lemon Grove ‘on tour’ again. Again the acting was worthy of several Oscars and great fun was had by all! Again many thanks to all involved.
I’m looking forward to speaking at Ashton-under-Lyne and St Helens Libraries over the next few weeks and I’m busy making arrangements for the launch of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES on 15th November at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Bramhall, Cheshire – not far from where A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES in set.
Time’s passed so quickly since I last wrote this diary. I don’t know whether it’s a sign of incipient old age or because I’ve been so busy what with one thing and another.
In the middle of June I visited Middlesbrough Library to present my Murder Mystery, Death at the Dig, and a good time was had by all (with plenty of laughs and some wonderful, Oscar-worthy acting by the library staff). Since then I’ve been busy planning more events, including several book signings at branches of Waterstones to celebrate the paperback launch of THE HOUSE OF EYES – it’s out on 4th August!
An evening of fun at Middlesbrough Library
I’ll be going down to Devon in early September where I’ll be presenting my new Sicilian Murder Mystery, Murder in the Lemon Grove, at Dartmouth and Salcombe libraries. It’s always great fun to do events in the places my books are set. I’m also doing a book signing at the excellent Torbay Bookshop at lunchtime on Friday 9th September so if you’re in the area do pop in to say hello.
After Devon I’m up in the North East for library events in Newcastle and Gateshead. I loved my trip up there last year so I’m really looking forward to it. As well as this I’m arranging more library talks for the autumn so please keep an eye of my events page for the latest news.
As far as writing’s concerned, the copy edit for The Mermaid’s Scream is now complete and the next stage is going through the proofs when they arrive. I’ve already started on my next Wesley Peterson novel (well, why wait if you have a good idea bursting to get out onto the page?) and, so far, it’s going well.
The thing I’m most excited about, however, is the publication of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES in November. My editor has sent proof copies out to several well known authors and I’m delighted to say the verdicts and quotes that have come back are absolutely fantastic. I’m really thrilled with the response and feel that this is a very special book, written from the heart and inspired by some old letters I found when my father died. I’m trying to arrange a book launch at the moment so watch this space for details.
When the weather improves like most people I gravitate toward the outdoors. And for a writer this means my ‘shed’. I suppose some people would call it a ‘summerhouse’ but that seems a little grand. Even so, it’s furnished (with paintings on the wall), carpeted and comfortable and when I work in there I write on the old oak gate leg table I inherited from my parents. That table has been part of my life since I was born (and used to stand in the front room of my home in Liverpool) so it holds many memories, from homework to Christmas dinners. Working on that table seems right somehow and I think I always work best in my shed at the bottom of the garden sealed off from the world (and the Internet). However, our short period of glorious weather has now been replaced by torrential rain so, disappointingly, I’m back indoors.
This diary is rather late this month because I’ve been working flat out trying to get Wesley Peterson’s next case, The Mermaid’s Scream, to my publisher. My fantastic editor sent me his notes a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been rewriting my manuscript, thinking deeply about each character and every twist of the plot, making them as believable and dramatic as I possibly can. As I’ve probably said before, writing is rewriting and my advice to any aspiring writers out there would be to keep going over your work, honing it until it is as good as you can make it. Then put it away for a while, go back to it and work on it again.
Anyway, I sent the finished manuscript off late last Thursday and my editor has given the finished product his thumbs up so now I have to decide on the cover. As The Mermaid’s Scream features a reclusive author who lives by the sea, we’ve already decided on a dramatic seascape and we’re now tweaking the details. An eye-catching cover is important and I’ve been really lucky so far in that I’ve loved the covers to all my books. I think Little, Brown, my publisher do a really good job.
Since I last wrote this diary I’ve attended Crimefest in Bristol, a wonderful convention for anybody who writes or reads crime fiction. I was on two panels; one entitled Sending Shivers down the Spine and another entitled Writing Cops and Robbers. Both panels were right up my street: I love sending shivers down my readers’ spines and I’ve been told that I have a taste for the Gothic (especially in my Joe Plantagenet novels, although it tends to creep into my Wesley books as well) and I’ve been focussing on cops and robbers (or more usually, murderers) since I began writing. I’d certainly recommend CrimeFest to all avid crime fiction fans. It’s a friendly convention with fascinating panels and I always love meeting my readers there.
A couple of weeks ago I visited my local Waterstones in Stockport to celebrate the store’s twentieth anniversary with some other local authors. I hope to be back there soon (and at other bookshops too) when the paperback of THE HOUSE OF EYES comes out at the beginning of August. The way the weather is at the moment, my readers will be glad of the sliver of Sicilian sunshine that features in the book.
Later this week I’m visiting Middlesbrough Library to present a Murder Mystery (with an archaeological theme). It’ll be great fun and I really hope to meet some of you there.
First of all major congratulations to Martin Edwards who has just won an Edgar award for his fantastic history of the Detection Club, The Golden Age of Murder. I know writing The Golden Age of Murder has been a true labour of love for Martin and the resulting book is a comprehensive and fascinating account of the different characters responsible for making crime fiction the popular genre it is today. The award is richly deserved.
In April I was lucky enough to attend the annual Crime Writers’ Association conference in Norwich. I’d never been to Norwich before, an omission I was keen to rectify, and as it’s such a long way from my home we went a day early and stopped off at Stamford in Lincolnshire on the way. Stamford is a beautiful town and I’ve wanted to go there for some time so I was glad the conference gave me the opportunity. Also, before the conference began, my husband was able to fulfil his ambition to sail on the Norfolk Broads. The conference was held in the Maids Head Hotel next to Norwich cathedral. It was great to meet my fellow crime writers there and explore the city (and its gorgeous cathedral). As well as a guided walk around the historic city centre and a visit to the castle (which served as a prison for centuries and was the site of many public executions) we were treated to some fantastic talks by experts in many subjects ranging from forensic science to terrorism.
One talk that particularly fascinated me was author, Lindsay Siviter’s account of the famous Lord Lucan case. The ins and outs of the investigation were certainly intriguing and the ultimate fate of the notorious peer remains uncertain (although it’s possible that he fled to Africa where he later died – his brother even told Lindsay that he knows where he’s buried). There are so many unexplained aspects to the case and what looked like a simple matter of mistaken identity (it appeared the nanny was killed in mistake for Lucan’s estranged wife) might not have been so straightforward after all. One particular treat for me was holding Lord Lucan’s cheque book (something to tell the grandchildren!). It was a perfectly ordinary cheque book (Lloyds Bank as I recall - not the exclusive private bank I would have expected) but it still provided a tantalising link to a case that continues to capture the public imagination.
After the conference it was back to work and I’m about to tackle the final draft of Wesley Peterson’s twenty first case – The Mermaid’s Scream but I won’t say any more about that until nearer the publication date.
One recent treat for me was a visit to Write Blend – a new book shop in Waterloo, Liverpool (my home city) with a lovely cafe attached. In the short time it’s been open Write Blend has become a centre for the arts in the area and I spoke (along with writer Sally-Anne Tapia Bowes) to a lovely and enthusiastic audience at its ‘Blend of Words’ Festival.
I hope to visit Write Blend again soon and, if anybody finds themselves in the Waterloo/Crosby area, I’d certainly recommend a visit...you can even combine it with a trip to see Anthony Gomley’s famous iron men!
Do keep an eye on my events page as I’ll soon be busy celebrating the paperback publication of THE HOUSE OF EYES.