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.

June 2015

The paperback of THE DEATH SEASON is now out and it’s earned some great reviews.  I know a lot of my readers like to wait for the paperback so I hope you’re all enjoying the mystery.  I’ve written a piece about the inspiration behind the book on my publisher’s website  It was certainly a fantastic book to write and I found the period of the First World War particularly fascinating to research as the war brought about so many social changes and challenged long held attitudes.


Since I last wrote this diary I’ve been to CrimeFest in Bristol.  This year I was on a panel about Writing the Other (ably moderated by Alison Joseph) – what are the challenges of writing about a character very different from yourself?  This proved to be an interesting subject and one I’d never given much thought to because when you’re working on a book you tend to write about your characters instinctively, almost as if you know them as people.  I also moderated a panel entitled Secrets and Lies with authors Stuart Neville, Jenny Blackhurst, Julia Crouch and Tom Harper.  How do we all deal with secrets and lies in our novels?  As all crime novels deal with secrets and lies (if it wasn’t for hidden secrets my own books would be extremely short!) the subject was a challenging one but we managed to have an interesting and lively discussion about the different ways we tackle the hidden aspects of our characters’ lives.

June is National Crime Reading Month so it’s always a busy one for me.  Last Friday I spoke, along with my fellow members of the Murder Squad (Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe, Martin Edwards, Margaret Murphy and Chris Simms), at the first Carlisle Crime Writing Festival held at the Old Fire Station (Carlisle’s lovely new arts centre).  We spoke about our books and our characters and answered a lot of interesting questions from the audience.  It was my very first visit to Carlisle and I must say I was very impressed.  We stayed at the excellent Crown and Mitre Hotel and it was great to get together with my fellow Squaddies over a convivial dinner after our event and catch up on all the news.  It would be really good if the weekend became an annual feature on the crime writing calendar.


On Saturday I’m off to Devon to do more research and some events including two talks and a book signing.  I’m really looking forward to being in the South West again and when I get home there’s a Murder Mystery Evening in Stockport on 29th June and I’ll be signing copies of THE DEATH SEASON at Stockport Waterstones on 4th July.  I do hope to meet some of you at one or more of these events – please check out my Events page for all the details.


May 2015

Waiting for the paperback of THE DEATH SEASON to come out is a bit like waiting for Christmas.  I’m doing all the preparations – contacting bookshops to arrange signings and sorting out various events, many to coincide with the CWA’s National Crime reading month in June.  The enthusiasm and knowledge of booksellers and library staff never ceases to delight me and I hope to get round to meet a lot of my readers over the summer months.  Please keep an eye on my events page to find out where and when. 

In late April I visited Wrexham Library with two of my fellow Murder Squad members, Margaret Murphy (who writes as A D Garrett) and Martin Edwards and we spent a very enjoyable evening talking about our work and answering questions from the lovely audience. 


Talking of Martin Edwards, I’m very excited about his new book The Golden Age of Murder.  Martin is rapidly becoming an acknowledged expert on the subject and has done a wonderful job of telling the story of crime writing between the two World Wars and the early years of the Detection Club.  I’m pleased to see that the book’s had some fantastic reviews.  I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

I’ve just finished putting the finishing tweaks to my Murder Mystery (to be performed at the Harrogate Festival) entitled Murder in the Lemon Grove.  The setting is Sicily and the atmosphere totally Montalbano.  I’m rather nervous about the challenge but I’m hoping everyone will enjoy it.


April 2015

The great news is that my fifth Joe Plantagenet novel WALKING BY NIGHT was published on 31st March and it’s had some lovely reviews.  I really enjoyed getting back into Joe’s world and, hopefully, there’ll be more mysteries in the series in the future.


I’ve also finished THE HOUSE OF EYES, Wesley Peterson’s twentieth mystery with a Sicilian twist.  I sent it off to my publisher a few days ago and I’m now awaiting my editor’s verdict.  This waiting time is always a little ‘nail-biting’ and all you can do is keep your fingers crossed and hope it meets with the editor’s approval. 

It’s been a busy month.  I enjoyed a lovely visit to Alsager Library where I spoke to a large and enthusiastic audience.  It’s great to meet readers and I’m looking forward to quite a few library visits this year.  The next one will be at Wrexham on April 22nd in the company of two of my friends from the Murder Squad (see Events for more details).

March also saw one of the highlights of the crime writer’s year – the Crime Writers’ Association’s annual conference.  This year it was held in the lovely city of Lincoln and included some fantastic talks on police and legal work as well as a book signing at Waterstones and a talk on new developments in Forensic Science at Lincoln University.  Our hotel was in a fantastic position overlooking the stunning cathedral (pictured below) and it was wonderful to get together with friends and colleagues again.


At present I’m preparing for CrimeFest in Bristol.  I’m taking part in a panel about Writing the Other (now I understand that as a discussion about how an author can get into the head of a main character who is quite unlike themselves – hope I’ve got that right).  I’m also moderating a panel on Secrets and Lies and I’m currently reading the books of my fellow panellists, which is something I’m enjoying very much.  I sometimes find it strange that being an author these days doesn’t just involve writing books.  You also have to speak and do events and other bits and pieces of publicity.  It’s all really interesting but occasionally it’s a little frustrating when you all you want to do is write your book.

And another exciting event is happening in this coming month.  The new CWA Anthology TRULY CRIMINAL is published.  It is my first venture into writing about ‘true crime’ and my contribution is a chapter about the notorious Maybrick case.  In 1889 Florence Maybrick, the American wife of a wealthy Liverpool merchant, was accused of poisoning her husband.  The couple lived in Battlecrease House in Aigburth, a leafy Liverpool suburb, and the case has always interested me because the murder was said to have occurred a short distance from where my father grew up (and from where I went to school).  I found the research particularly fascinating, especially when I delved into the attitudes and prejudices of the day.  But I’d better not say any more.  One of the best parts about being in the anthology is the fact that I’m in such distinguished company - many famous crime writers have contributed to the book (including Peter Lovesey, Catherine Aird, Andrew Taylor and even Margery Allingham).  It’s all very exciting!


March 2015

 Throughout February I’ve been busy working on my next Wesley Peterson novel.  Last year I took part in an auction for CLICSargent (the children’s cancer charity), giving the winner the opportunity to have their name used in my next book (and receive a signed copy on publication) so, if you’d like to take part please go to http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/content/get-character-2015   It’s a really good cause so please be generous!

A recent YouGov poll found that 60% of people saw being an author as their ideal job (24% higher than a TV presenter and 29% higher than a movie star).  Somehow, when I’m sitting in my oldest jeans staring at my computer in search of inspiration that won’t come, hoping that filling the washing machine will provide an exciting distraction, I wonder whether the media’s depiction of the author’s lifestyle is responsible for the poll results.  In films and TV programmes writers are invariably fabulously wealthy.  They always live in beautiful mansions with large swimming pools (I have a small, muddy garden pond – does that count?) and have loyal secretaries and chauffeurs.  Needless to say, this is all far removed from the reality of my own life, and the lives of my writing friends, but the myths still persist (one lady at a talk I gave expressed astonishment that I cleaned my own bathroom).  I found myself wondering whether the job would seem so appealing if the poll respondents knew that only 11% of professional authors can live on the proceeds of writing alone (and only a handful of these could remotely be described as ‘wealthy’).  However, having said all this, there’s no job I’d rather do and the high points certainly more than make up for the hard work of gathering plots together (like herding cats only harder), the hours spent in solitude and the general insecurity that every writer feels whether they admit it or not.

February provided two of the high points I mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Early in the month I travelled to Formby in Merseyside to do a book signing at Formby Books.  I’ve known the manager, Tony Higginson, for many years now and I’ve always admired his enthusiasm for the world of books and bookselling.  I was delighted to learn that he’s just acquired new, much larger premises in Waterloo (North Liverpool) and he’s due to relocate there in June. I’m very much looking forward to visiting his new shop and to many more convivial book signings in the future.

Talking of conviviality, high point number two was attending my second meeting of the Detection Club in London last week.  It was held in the august surroundings of the Garrick Club in London’s theatreland and it was wonderful to dine with so many distinguished colleagues, gazed down upon by portraits of history’s most famous actors.  It was a truly memorable evening (and the Welsh rarebit was divine!). 

While I was in London I visited Charles Dickens’ house http://www.dickensmuseum.com/ where he wrote some of his most famous works (including Oliver Twist) and it was inspirational to stand in the study where he worked.  There can’t be a writer in existence who won’t agree that Dickens was one of the most influential writers in the history of British literature and I have always been a great admirer of his books – and his vivid characters.  He is often said to be one of the first crime writers (think of Inspector Bucket in Bleak House) so visiting his former home was a very special experience for me.

I’m excited to be able to tell you that Joe Plantagenet is back and his new spooky investigation, WALKING BY NIGHT is out at the end of March.  (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Walking-Night-Plantagenet-Procedural-Mystery/dp/178029073X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425224199&sr=1-1)  Hope you enjoy Joe’s latest case...and don’t have nightmares.


January 2015

 May I just start by wishing everyone a very happy New Year (although the Festive Season seems a distant memory now).  2015 got off to a terrific start when THE DEATH SEASON was published (in hardback and e-book) on New Year’s Day itself.  I’m really delighted to learn that readers are enjoying it. 


January means back to work and I’ve just been going through the proofs for the next Joe Plantagenet book WALKING BY NIGHT (out in March)  I’m also working on the next Wesley Peterson novel (provisionally entitled THE HOUSE OF EYES).  One secret I can reveal is that there might be some Sicilian sunshine in the next book – but that’s all I’m saying for the moment.

2015 is shaping up to be a busy one.  My diary’s already getting full and I’ll put all the events I’m taking part in on this website as soon as everything’s confirmed.

A lot of people I meet at events ask me where I get my ideas from.  It should be a simple question to answer but, the fact is, the whole process tends to be rather nebulous.  Ideas can come from anywhere – watching TV, reading the newspaper, talking to friends, overhearing conversations...and all sorts of ideas and thoughts crowd in when I’m half awake first thing in the morning.  I suppose the knack is to know what’ll work in a novel and what won’t.  I always keep loads of notebooks scattered around the house so if I have a likely idea, I can scribble it down before I forget it (and I always do unless it’s written down).

Anyway, hope everyone continues to enjoy THE DEATH SEASON. 

December 2014

Time seems to have rushed by so fast since I last sat down to write this diary.  What with a trip down to London, a reunion with my fellow Murder Squad members and nursing a sick computer while trying to finish the first draft of a novel, it’s been hectic.  Now Christmas is looming with cards to be written and presents to be bought and every time I hear Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody blaring from the speakers in a supermarket, it sounds like the bell of doom!  How am I going to get it all done, especially when there’s 9 for Christmas dinner this year?  And now I’ve come down with a terrible flu bug – but to a writer that’s no excuse for not going into work...you can still write in bed in your dressing gown while supping industrial strength lemsip.  

So what have I been up to since we last met?  Well, the most exciting thing (and it was exciting!) was being initiated into the Detection Club.  I wrote about it in March but for those of you who missed it, here’s a taste of the ceremony http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw1f3


The dinner was held in the Dorchester in Mayfair (never thought I’d end up anywhere quite so posh) and the highlight of the evening came when the lights were doused, the candles lit and the initiates processed in behind Eric the Skull.  Then the time comes for the initiates to swear the oath with their hand on Eric.  It was quite an experience and I’m so honoured to have become a member.  I must confess it’s the history of the Club that I find so thrilling – the fact that I’m following in the illustrious footsteps of so many distinguished writers, past and present.  


The following week I met up with all my fellow Murder Squad members for a lovely evening at Lingham’s Bookshop in Heswall on the Wirral.  As each of us writes a series (some of us more than one) we decided to speak about the pleasures and problems of bringing the same characters back for a new case every year or so.  It was a lively discussion, of course, and it was lovely to see everyone again...and retire to the pub afterwards for a well-earned drink. 

However, don’t think a writer’s life is all glamour and excitement.  Ninety eight per cent of the time it’s far from glamorous – you sit on your own in scruffy jeans, staring at a laptop while a story forms in your head...then the thing you write isn’t good enough so you delete it and write it again, probably about ten times before it’s fit for human consumption.  Then there are the usual household chores to fit in.  I once mentioned during a library talk that I had an idea when I was cleaning the toilet – one lady was amazed that a writer would clean her own toilet...I soon put her right.  Maybe it’s because the majority of our time is spent doing such mundane and solitary work that when we crime writers get together, we tend to make the most of it.  

Anyway, all that remains is for me to wish everybody a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2015.  The year kicks off with the publication (on New Year’s Day itself) of THE DEATH SEASON – hope it’s an auspicious start to the year!

October 2014

This month has been spent writing – working hard on Wesley Peterson’s twentieth investigation.  I couldn’t resist including a little Sicilian sunshine into the new book but you’ll have to wait till 2016 to enjoy it, I’m afraid.  In any prolonged period of writing, there are often times when I become completely stuck...when the plot just isn’t hanging together and I’ve written myself into a corner.  At times like this, I tend to sit staring at my computer in despair.  But then I remembered Raymond Chandler’s advice – when in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns!  So I took the advice of the master (substituting two guns for one crossbow) and now everything’s flowing again.


On the 11th October I took part in a campaign to support local bookshops call Books are My Bag.  I was proud to be one of the authors who backed this worthy cause – bookshops and libraries are so important and they really deserve our support.  Here I am with the special Books are My Bag bag (I bought one and had it specially customised for my daughter in law...but don’t tell her yet – it’s a surprise).

It’s always fun to branch out a little and try something new and I must confess that I enjoy creating a bit of Gothic creepiness, especially in my Joe Plantagenet books.  So when my publisher asked me to take part in a Halloween Blog Tour, I jumped at the chance.  Myself and four other Piatkus authors have written a spooky story for Halloween, each one working on a different section.  I’ve read the finished product and I can tell you it’s very scary!!!  Also there are books to be won.  For details please see http://www.piatkusbooks.net/halloween-blog-tour/ 

I’m very much looking forward to spending the evening of Wednesday 12th November with my fellow members of the Murder Squad at Linghams Bookshop in Heswall on Merseyside (see my Events section for details).  I do hope to meet some of you there.


September 2014

I’ve realised with horror that I didn’t update this diary in August and I can only come to the conclusion that the summer has made me lazy.  But I guess even writers need a rest from time to time.

However, it hasn’t all been idleness and lying in the sun (which was in rather short supply in August after a glorious June and July).  I’ve finished a new Joe Plantagenet novel which my agent has just sent to the publishers and written a couple of short stories for very exciting projects.  I also attended the Crime and Mystery weekend at St Hilda’s as usual in August and it was lovely to meet up with old friends and listen to a series of fascinating talks on the subject of Crime in Times of War.  


Summer is also holiday time and, not to be left out, I have just returned from a week in sunny Sicily.  I have wanted to visit the island for a while (well, ever since I became an avid fan of Inspector Montalbano).  Apparently they’ve now started doing ‘Montalbano tours’ and that’s certainly one to consider for the future.  The town where the series is filmed in called Ragusa and looks gorgeous – however, we didn’t have time to visit it as we had a packed schedule.  We stayed first at Agrigento where I was able to explore the magnificent Valley of the Temples, built by the Ancient Greeks.  Although I’ve done quite a bit of British archaeology it was fantastic to see the classical variety close up.  From Agrigento we visited Palermo, the elegant but edgy capital of the island where we had a chance to look around the impressive Teatro Massimo as well as the cathedrals of Monreale and Palermo.


Then we moved base to Giardini Naxos and en route visited the most breathtaking Roman mosaics I’ve ever seen at the 4th century Roman Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina.  There were even mosaics of girls in bikinis – nothing’s new!  Taormina is a beautiful town with a stunning Greek theatre (still used for productions after 2,500 years!) and we also visited Syracuse (once home to Archimedes) and the lovely island of Ortygia with its Duomo that was originally built as a Greek temple.  My last day was spent wandering around the archaeological remains at Giardini Naxos (the ruins of the first Greek colony on Sicily founded in 735BC). 

Holiday reading always requires a great deal of thought and this year I selected two books that I was guaranteed to enjoy – first of all Ruth Dudley Edwards’ satire on conceptual art, Killing the Emperors, which certainly raised a smile or two, and secondly Reginald Hill’s Pictures of Perfection, a novel I’d never read before but, being familiar with the other books in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, I knew I’d enjoy spending time by the hotel pool in the company of Andy Dalziel (the mind boggles!!). 

With THE DEATH SEASON due to be published in January, I’m now planning my next Wesley Peterson mystery.  So after a rich diet of archaeology (lots of it), pasta (ditto) and wine (ditto) it’s back to earth and back to work.


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?


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.  


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!


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’.


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.


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.


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!!


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.