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.

August 2013

THE SHADOW COLLECTOR is now out in paperback and it’s been a busy month. It’s been great to meet readers and sign books at Formby Books (I mentioned last time that I was going there) where Sheila Quigley, Martin Edwards and I had a great evening talking about our books and hosting a crime fiction quiz. A fantastic barbecue was also provided by Tony Higginson who runs Formby Books with impressive enthusiasm and expertise – it was pouring with rain but, with true British spirit, we ignored the weather and had a good time anyway! Last Saturday I was signing copies of my books at Waterstones in Stockport and it was really good to chat with my readers, both established and new. Many thanks to Nick, Paul and all the team at the Stockport branch for making me so welcome.

formbyquigleyThis coming weekend I’ll be down in the South West researching for my next Wesley Peterson book. On the way down I’ll be visiting Yate Library in Gloucestershire (see events) and then I’ll be signing books at the Torbay bookshop in Paignton on the afternoon of Saturday 31st August. On Monday 2nd September at 2.30pm Dartmouth Library will be the scene of a Murder Mystery – see my events page for reassurance that it’ll be safe to be in the vicinity!

One of the delights of an author’s life is getting together with other authors and keen readers, and on 16th August I travelled to Oxford for the twentieth Mystery and Crime Weekend at St Hilda’s College. The theme of the weekend was ‘From Here to Eternity: The Present and Future of Crime Fiction’ and the speakers included P D James, Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor and Peter Robinson. Penelope Evans recounted some fascinating (and inspiring) stories of deception, Tom Harper reflected on Plato’s and Aristotle’s influence on detective fiction and Jill Paton Walsh reminded us that the first detective story is to be found in the Old Testament (Daniel’s quest for the truth in the case of Susanna and the elders). Although I really enjoy speaking at St Hilda’s, it was lovely to just sit back, relax and listen this time. In addition, the food was fantastic (likewise the wine) but the main thing I’ll remember about the weekend was the company. Can’t wait for next year.

Late July 2013

viv bwI’m afraid I have some very sad news to impart.  Our lovely cat, Vivaldi, has passed away, aged 20.  She suffered a sudden bleed to the brain and was put to sleep by the vet.  I’m glad she made it to a venerable age and was enjoying life (and ordering her staff about) until the end.  The house seems rather empty without her and once I start my next book, I know I’ll miss her snoozing on the sofa in my office.

Shortly after Vivaldi’s death we went on holiday to Italy (my neighbour, a great cat lover, had been looking forward to caring for her in our absence and was almost as upset as I was).  At least the change of scene took our minds off our loss and we ended up having a busy and enjoyable time.  As an archaeology enthusiast, I’ve always wanted to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum and at last I was able to fulfil this ambition. 

bollardsI’ve visited Roman ruins in this country and in Provence but I was quite unprepared for the scale of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the feeling that I was actually walking through the well paved streets of a bustling town, peeping into people’s houses, stopping at their shops and strolling into their temples and bath houses.  The mosaic floor at the entrance to the house of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii (excavated around 1824) instructed me to Cave Canem (beware of the dog).  In Herculaneum I saw the remains of a bed in an upstairs room, still in place after almost two thousand years along with wooden sliding doors and window frames.  There were even bollards at the entrance to Pompeii’s forum to prevent carts entering the pedestrianised area – I wonder if they even had traffic wardens (wouldn’t surprise me!). 

hercI felt somehow that I’d come close to the lives of the unfortunate inhabitants which, quite possibly, weren’t too far removed from our own hectic urban lives.  I’ve always loved the books of Lindsey Davis and it wasn’t hard to imagine Marcus Didius Falco strutting through the streets, meeting a potential witness at a public drinking fountain and stopping by at one of the many wine bars for some well-earned refreshment.  And then, of course, there was Pompeii’s brothel with its rather explicit menu of services…but perhaps the least said about that the better!

FinsIt’s not long now until THE SHADOW COLLECTOR is out in paperback (7th August) and I’ve just had the pleasure of spending the weekend with one of the characters!  I went to Anglesey to stay with my son and his fiancée and their lovely border collie Fin (who happens to have a starring role in THE SHADOW COLLECTOR).  While I was away I even managed to get hold of an original green Penguin copy to E C Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case in a wonderful second hand bookshop in Beaumaris.  G. K. Chesterton (creator of Father Brown) challenged E. C. Bentley to write a story about a fallible, realistic detective who was the antithesis to Sherlock Holmes.  Trent’s Last Case was extremely popular and is often described as the first modern detective novel.  Dorothy L Sayers herself said that every detective writer owes something, consciously or unconsciously, to its liberating, inspiring influence.

I’m looking forward to visiting Formby this week to take part in a talk, barbecue and quiz at Formby Books with fellow authors Martin Edwards and Sheila Quigley (details on my events page).  Should be great fun!

July 2013

Today is my cat, Vivaldi’s 20th birthday and she’s celebrating in style with some of her favourite treats and a busy afternoon sleeping in the conservatory. I had hoped the occasion might be marked with a telegram from the Queen…or at least the royal corgis (although, as dogs, it might be against their principles to congratulate a cat)…or possibly from the Prime Minister’s cat, Larry.  But nothing’s arrived yet.  Maybe later!

budSince I last wrote this diary I’ve had a break in Budapest with my husband, along with my oldest (not in years I hasten to add) friend and her husband.  We had hoped to do a river trip but the flooding of the (not-so-blue) Danube meant that all river traffic was suspended for the duration.  It was quite disturbing to see the riverside roads and tramways under water and the people with homes and businesses near the river preparing for the deluge with sandbags.  Luckily by the time we were leaving the water had subsided a little but it certainly brought home how destructive flooding can be.  However, in spite of this, we managed to explore the city, taking the funicular railway up to the old town of Buda and even taking the metro to a thermal spa on the outskirts (we didn’t go in, although if we went back we would definitely give it a try).  Apart from that, I can certainly recommend the beer (I think the English translation was Golden Pheasant).

abneyOn my return from Hungary I was in for a treat.  I have joined my local archaeological society SMART (the South Manchester Archaeological Research Team) and we were given permission to excavate in the grounds of Abney Hall, Agatha Christie’s sister’s old home.  The Watts family who lived at Abney had dismantled a medieval chapel and rebuilt it in their grounds as a garden folly (Agatha would certainly have seen it during her many stays at the hall).  When the local council took over the property in the 1960s they demolished the chapel (I know…unbelievable, isn’t it!!!)  Our mission (which we chose to accept) was to uncover anything that might remain of the chapel and this we did, finding the remnants of walls, the burned hinges of what was obviously an ancient door and a beautiful piece of carving which may have been a ceiling boss (or some other sort of decoration).  We’ve had permission to go back and investigate further and I can’t wait to get my trowel dirty again!

Incidentally, I was chatting to John Curran at CrimeFest (John published Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks) and he told me that Agatha went straight to Abney Hall to take refuge with her sister, Madge, immediately after she’d been found in Harrogate following those famous eleven days when she went missing…something I never knew.  It’s a pity the owners of Abney don’t make more of the Christie connection.

Last week I spoke at Wilmslow Library to a lovely audience.  I do enjoy getting out and about to meet the people who read my books.  And this Friday I’m travelling to Blackpool to talk at a lunch at the Central Library along with Martin Edwards.  We’ll be discussing our work and I do hope some of you can come along to meet us.

June 2013

greenhousesWell things have been incredibly busy since I returned from the CWA Conference.  The garden is blooming and all the vegetables we planted seem to be flourishing.  We’ve acquired a greenhouse and the tomatoes, courgettes, lettuces etc are growing well.  It’s very satisfying to eat what you’ve grown from seed.  However, as a crime writer I promise there’ll be no poisonous plants amongst the harvest.

But time in the garden has been limited.  The deadline for my next novel has been moved forward so I’ve been rising at unearthly hours to try and get the final draft finished.  My crime fiction loving friend really loved the book when she read it, which came as a great relief, and now I’ve just sent it off to my publisher and I’m awaiting the verdict with trepidation.  The new novel is called THE SHROUD MAKER.  My fellow Murder Squad member, Martin Edwards, has called his latest book The Frozen Shroud – seems shrouds are all the fashion at the moment!       

crimefest132One particularly welcome distraction was a weekend at CRIMEFEST in Bristol.  It was a great convention with loads of authors and fans from all over the world.  My panel was called Ask a Policeman and my fellow panellists were Kerry Wilkinson, Pauline Rowson and J.C. Martin, ably moderated by Ann Cleeves.  We discussed our detectives and why we chose to use a police officer as our main character rather than a private eye or similar.  I said that I chose a police detective because the chances of anyone in any other occupation (including private eyes these days) dealing with murder after murder were relatively slim and to sustain a crime series with a non-police character might be stretching credibility.  But there are some who might disagree with me and great crime writers in the past have built many a successful series on the deeds of amateur sleuths. 

crimefest13I attended a lot of panels at CRIMEFEST and was really interested to hear Robert Goddard talk about his work as I’ve enjoyed his page-turning books a great deal over the years.  It was really good to meet old friends again at CRIMEFEST and make new ones.  And it was particularly lovely to meet and chat to so many readers.  After all, they’re the people we write for…the people who make everything worthwhile.

I’ll soon be out and about to celebrate the CWA’s CRIME FICTION MONTH with events in Wilmslow and Blackpool and I’ll be arranging book signings to coincide with the paperback publication of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR on 6th August.  Check my events page for details.

Late April 2013

I’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend spent at the annual Crime Writers’ Association conference.  This year was rather special as it’s the 60th anniversary of the founding of the CWA by the renowned and prolific author John Creasy.  John Creasy was a man guaranteed to make authors like me (with my mere 2,000 words a day) feel like an idle slacker as rumour has it that his daily word count approached 26,000…all that and founding the CWA too.  What a man!  Our fantastic conference certainly honoured him in style with fascinating speakers, good food (and drink) and congenial company.

BelsfieldThis significant anniversary in the CWA’s history was celebrated at the lovely Belsfield Hotel on the shore of Lake Windermere and a great time was had by all.  The hotel itself has spectacular views and it was quite an experience to wine and dine overlooking the beauty of the lake and the mountains beyond.  And we didn’t only look at all that water.  When we arrived on the Friday night we were taken on a cruise around the lake and on Saturday afternoon I managed to do something I’ve never had the opportunity to do before – I went sailing.

Research is vital to my books and even though they’re set in a location where yachts are almost as common as cars, I’ve never really included sailing in the stories.  But that couldn’t last for ever.  Sooner or later I’d have to include a scene on board one of those yachts parked (sorry, moored) in Tradmouth harbour and, in the interests of accuracy, I’d have to discover what sailing felt like for myself.

SailingFive of us boarded a 35 foot yacht and set sail under the command of experienced skipper, Neil.  Once the sails were raised we each took a turn at the wheel.  After a while I got used to the way the wind affected the vessel and was soon steering her.  We also learned to tack, the skipper assuring us that however much the boat leaned, she wouldn’t capsize.  Then we went below for a well earned cup of tea before the engine took over and we chugged back to the jetty.  It was great fun and I hope the research will add a touch of authenticity to the book I’m working on now, THE SHROUD MAKER.

I returned home on Sunday, looking forward to meeting up with my writing friends again at CRIMEFEST in Bristol in late May…and I very much hope to meet a lot of my readers there as well.  If you’re a crime fiction fan, CRIMEFEST is highly recommended.

After a busy weekend I put my feet up last night and watched ENDEAVOUR.  I think it’s brilliant…almost as good as the original MORSE. 

April 2013

I do hope you had a lovely Easter.

I have a guilty conscience – I’ve been meaning to update this diary for ages but I’ve been so preoccupied with finishing my next Wesley Peterson novel that I haven’t had a chance.  However the fifth draft is now completed and has just been handed to an honest, crime fiction-loving friend who will read it and give her verdict in due course, so I’m finally catching up.

I must confess that being busy hasn’t stopped me relaxing in the evenings by watching a good detective programme on the TV (with a glass of wine to hand, of course).  And recently there’s been a wonderful crop of home grown crime programmes to enjoy.  My own particular favourite is Broadchurch on ITV.  A boy is found dead on a beach in Broadchurch, a small coastal town in Dorset (which is a working town rather than a pretty holiday destination) and the programme captures perfectly the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small community coming to terms with the fact that one of its own is a child killer.  I particularly like the pairing of David Tennant and Olivia Coleman as the two detectives and I love the awkwardness between the female officer who expected to be in charge of the case and the rather mysterious and damaged man brought in over her head to lead the investigation.  All in all it’s a real treat for crime fiction fans.  Highly recommended.  As is Sunday’s Foyle’s War and Wednesday’s Scott and Bailey – a superb series with great female leads and a gritty northern setting.  I feel I’ve been spoiled!
Last week’s Broadchurch unfortunately clashed with one of my own guilty pleasures, Jonathan Creek…however, it’s recorded and I’ll be watching it over the weekend.  Of course it’s much lighter fare than Broadchurch but sometimes this isn’t necessarily a bad thing after a hard day’s work.  Being a sucker for a good locked room mystery, I’ve really enjoyed Jonathan Creek over the years and I do hope this won’t be his last outing.

I’ve also been busy organising events for the coming months.  At the beginning of March I signed copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR at Formby Books on Merseyside – it was lovely to meet and chat with some of my readers there.  The bookshop has now moved to smart new premises but the marvellous Tony Higginson is still very much in charge.  I hope to be visiting Formby again later in the year when THE SHADOW COLLECTOR is released in paperback. 

They say if you give a monkey a typewriter it will eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare – well here’s me at Formby Books with a new assistant hoping that the same works for crime fiction!

On Saturday 4th May I’m speaking at Poulton Library in Lancashire (billed as a Coffee & Crime morning) which I’m really looking forward to.  Do keep an eye on my events page which I’ll update as soon as all my future engagements are finalised.

February 2013

Well the hardback edition of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR (as well as the Kindle edition) is out on 7th February.  I’ve already received my author copies and they look fantastic.  I was talking to a bookseller about the factors that attract readers to a certain book and without hesitation he said it was the cover.  In the case of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR my publisher, Piatkus, has certainly done me proud.

I do hope everyone enjoys THE SHADOW COLLECTOR and its background of Civil War and seventeenth century witchcraft (as well as a reality TV show called Celebrity Farm)   I certainly enjoyed writing it and found the main character, Lilith Benley, stayed with me long after the book was finished.  Strange how some characters you create can seem so real.

Forgetting writing for the moment, I was very excited on Monday 4th February about the announcement from Leicester that bones found in an uninspiring car park have been confirmed as those of Richard III.  Normally archaeologists labour long and hard and important discoveries can be elusive, but in the case of Richard they just opened up the first trench and there he was.  If I put that in a book, my editor would tell me it wasn’t very believable!!

I first read THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey (one of my favourite crime writers) a long time ago and since then I’ve read a good deal about the Wars of the Roses and the various theories about Richard’s nature.  As far as killing the princes in the Tower is concerned, I consider Henry VII (or maybe loyal Lancastrians in the tower under the orders of Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort) to be a more likely culprit.  After all, Richard had already declared the princes illegitimate (and produced proof that their father Edward IV had already had a wife when he married their mother Elizabeth Woodville).  However, Henry VII intended to marry the prince’s sister, Elizabeth of York so it was important to him that she was legitimate, which in turn would mean her brothers were legitimate and the legal claimants to the throne.  For Henry to become king he had to get rid of the boys whereas Richard had no real reason to dispose of his nephews. 

I was very impressed by the University of Dundee’s reconstruction of Richard’s face – Professor Caroline Wilkinson and artist Janice Aitken did a fantastic job.  Of course Professor Wilkinson is an expert in facial reconstruction and her work has been used in many murder investigations.  It turns out that Richard was very good looking and slightly built with one shoulder a little higher than the other because of a deformity of the spine known as scoliosis which would have developed at puberty.  I suppose I can claim a special interest as my Yorkshire based detective, Joe Plantagenet is reputed to be descended from one of Richard’s illegitimate children.  The Plantagenet name lives on.

I’ve been working very hard on my next Wesley book…but I’m not ready to reveal anything about it yet.  Watch this space.

January 2013


I think I’ll have to apologise again for another long period of silence.  No sooner was my son’s wedding over (and it was a fantastic day, very informal and very happy) than Christmas was upon us…then New Year and my birthday.  All in all, it seemed as if we were lurching from one celebration to another which was lovely. 

However, once the holiday period was over I had to get back to work and I’ve been wrestling with the first draft of the next Wesley novel that I completed in December.  I don’t know whether it was being distracted by my father’s illness or being swept up with the wedding and Christmas celebrations, but I found the draft needed considerably more work than I anticipated.  This has meant the draft has needed to undergo considerable revision (a bit like knitting fog with sheets of paper scattered all over my office).  I’m just waiting for that moment when everything starts falling into place – for every writer it’s the best feeling ever!


It’s good to begin the New Year with something new and my fellow member of The Murder Squad, Cath Staincliffe www.cathstaincliffe.co.uk has asked me to take part in a blog movement called ‘The Next Big Thing Blog Hop’.  In essence an author answers a handful of questions, posts them on their blog or website and then tags two to five other authors. It's a way of highlighting talent and recommending authors to followers.

The Questions are:

What is the working title of your next book? 

The Shadow Collector

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

A visit to Gallants Bower, a Civil War fort above Dartmouth Castle.  I started thinking what the West Country was like in the seventeenth century.  As I researched, I discovered that witchcraft was a major preoccupation at the time. 

What genre does your book fall under? 

Crime with a bit of history thrown in

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

Definitely Adrian Lester as Wesley Peterson

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

An alleged witch is jailed for the brutal murder of two teenage girls and when she is released the killings start again…but when terrible secrets are uncovered, DI Wesley Peterson finds that all is not as it seems.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Represented by Euan Thorneycroft of A M Heath

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Three months to write a rough first draft but a lot of rewriting after that

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I suppose I could say it’s rather like Peter Robinson or Colin Dexter with a historical back story.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The fact that anybody regarded as an outsider can be particularly vulnerable to accusations, something that has been true throughout history. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The blend of a modern day murder case (which even involves a reality TV show!) with a four hundred year old mystery.

One of the aims of the Next Big Thing is to bring attention to other crime writers’ websites and blogs.  Here are a few for you to visit:

Martin Edwards is the award winning author of two series, one set in Liverpool and one in the Lake District.  His next Lake District Book The Frozen Shroud will be published soon.  www.martinedwardsbooks.com

Priscilla Masters is the author of two series, one featuring Joanna Piercy and the other featuring Coroner Martha Gunn as well as a number of stand alone crime novels.  Her website is www.priscillamasters.co.uk

Frances Brody is the author of the Kate Shackleton mysteries set in 1920s Yorkshire.  Her latest novel is A Woman Unknown. www.francesbrody.com