English Crime Writer
Jane: Is that a flapper costume?
Johnny: Yeah. There’s going to be a Charleston competition later if there’s anyone still standing.
Jane: The drinks are strong.
Johnny: That too.
Jane: I feel under-dressed.
Johnny: You are, but no matter. Drink up. Those olives aren’t going to pickle themselves. Let’s go to the parlor. Tell us first about an Unfamiliar Murder.
Jane: When I started writing psychological thrillers I quickly decided that I wanted to weave the machinations of a police procedural in with the viewpoint of a victim in the case to create suspenseful, page turning storylines with an original twist – something I’d like to read myself.
Although An Unfamiliar Murder is essentially a murder mystery, it’s also the story of two women, one fighting to prove her innocence, the other trying to prove herself in the senior echelons of a competitive profession, whilst juggling the demands of parenting teenage sons. Let me share my blurb with you:
“Is this what it feels like to be buried alive?”
Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…
Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When Anna’s boyfriend is kidnapped and Anna herself disappears, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?
Johnny: And now DCI Helen Lavery lives and is now in The Truth Will Out (SPOILERS - she survives An Unfamiliar Murder!) Tell us about The Truth Will Out.
Jane: The Truth Will Out sees DCI Helen Lavery face her toughest case yet. Here’s the blurb:
“Everything’s going to be okay.”
“What if it’s not?”
Suddenly, she turned. For a split second she halted, her head inclined.
“Naomi, what is it?”
She whisked back to face Eva. “There’s somebody in the house... ”
Eva is horrified when she witnesses an attack on her best friend. She calls an ambulance and forces herself to flee Hampton, fearing for her own safety. DCI Helen Lavery leads the investigation into the murder. With no leads, no further witnesses and no sign of forced entry, the murder enquiry begins.
Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. But as Helen inches towards solving the case, her past becomes caught up in her present.
Someone is after them both. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And as the net starts to close around them, can Helen escape her own demons as well as helping Eva to escape hers?
Johnny: Watch your step.
Jane: There’s a knife in that man’s back!
Johnny: Yeah, that’s probably why he’s on the floor.
Jane: Is he dead?
Johnny: Hope so - I’m going to bury him tomorrow.
Jane: Who killed him?
Johnny: I don’t know. Just like home though right?
Jane: What are you talking about?
Johnny: You’re from England. You write crime thrillers. I’ve seen enough of them to know that if you’re a crime writer in England people are dropping like flies around you. I’ve read my Agatha Christie. I’ve seen Morse and Lewis. It is my objective opinion that England, is the murder capital of the world. No cocktail party is complete without at least one body.
Jane: There’s another.
Johnny: Yep. Looks like someone hit her with a candlestick. If you’ll notice there’re several in every room, all conveniently located for quick bludgeoning access.
Jane: Quick move!
Johnny: A spear. Nice. Old school. So what was the inspiration for DCI Helen Lavery? An actual detective perhaps? One you met in you daily life in body-strewn England?
Jane: I interviewed police officers at many different levels of the UK police force to establish a believable DCI that we can all relate to and to make her feel real, so I guess she is made up of fragments of lots of different people. I wanted to avoid the tired, divorced, alcoholic detective. This role had been delivered many times and very brilliantly by numerous authors. Helen is ambitious, but not in the sense of chasing recognition that comes with rank. Her motivation is to make a difference to society, to follow in her father’s footsteps by managing the homicide and major crime team and putting the really bad guys away. For this reason, occasionally she adopts unorthodox methods in order to achieve her aim.
Johnny: How is she fixed romantically?
Jane: Ha! Now you’ll have to read the books to find that one out.
Johnny: What terrible demons haunt Helen from her past?
Jane: Helen was widowed ten years ago and left to raise two boys whilst carrying out the demands of a responsible job. What makes her unique is the fact that she feels real; most of us know somebody in similar circumstances.
Johnny: You’ve had formal training in writing I see. Being English, you obviously didn’t need any for murder. How was the Writers Bureau and the London School of Journalism? How many students died by foul play every year? On average.
Jane: Was that a gunshot?
Johnny: Sounded more like a grenade. That, that was a gunshot.
Jane: It barely missed us.
Johnny: You, I think. I hope. Anyway don’t change the subject: Writing school.
Jane: I’ve always been a perennial student. Over the years I’ve taken many courses from law to pottery, but when I started the fiction side of my creative writing course I fell in love. Writing school gave me structure, a chance to try out different styles and encouraged me to write my first novel. And if I didn’t like my tutors, I could always kill them off in my work.
Johnny: I always have to ask how it went for you, how you went from writer to author; how you broke through. Tell me about your journey and don’t drink that. Martini’s shouldn’t have bubbles.
Jane: The road has been a little rocky. I used to write freelance articles for newspapers and magazines and gave that up to write my first novel. When I finished An Unfamiliar Murder I was still studying creative writing and it was my tutor who encouraged me to submit it to agents. I didn’t expect a positive response (you get so used to receiving rejections in this industry) so you can imagine my surprise when two literary agents expressed an interest.
I signed with a London agent and we worked on the novel to edit it before he submitted it to the major publishing houses. It was an exciting time but, although the feedback was very positive, nobody signed the book. The rights reverted to me and I decided to try my luck with the independent publishers and very quickly signed with US based Rainstorm Press who published it in February 2012.
For my second book I decided to pursue a UK publisher which meant I had to plunge myself back into the submissions process once again. It’s a strange time when you are waiting to hear, especially as many of them quote reading times of 4-6 months. Luckily it was picked up by the lovely Legend Press team in London.
Johnny: Rainstorm Press brought out your first DCI Helen Lavery book, An Unfamiliar Murder, but Legend Press is handling The Truth Will Out. How and why the change?
Jane: My first book was only made available in my local stores and online, so the main motivation for the change was to help with distribution in the UK. Since I joined Legend Press I have been supported by a lovely publicity team who are so helpful and work tirelessly for their authors which certainly helps on the promotional side.
Jane: My latest work in progress is a thriller based in nearby Stratford upon Avon. I’m presently undertaking lots of research field visits which I am enjoying immensely.
Johnny: Promotion is the real trick. What are you and Legend Press doing to push your book?
Jane: We are working together on a combination of online interviews and guest blogs, and real events like author signings and panels to get the word out there.
Johnny: And the band falls silent.
Jane: Only after that terrible gurgling chorus of choking sounds.
Johnny: Yeah, that was pretty good. Poison or garrote you think?
Jane: What was that?
Johnny: Oh come on. You know the sound of a body falling to the floor. You’re from England. There what about that one.
Jane: It was softer.
Johnny: Duh. It was a woman. You must have jet lag.
Johnny: I need your digits. Give me your links before that lion sees us.
Jane: A lion?! Really?
Johnny: Right there.
Jane: It’s covered in blood.
Johnny: Not it's own I’ll wager.
Johnny: To make you feel at home. Stay with me Jane. Don’t show fear. Links.
Johnny: It’s gotten eerily quiet hasn’t it? Are all English cocktail parties always over this quickly? We didn’t even get to sample the hors d'oeuvres.
Jane: You mean the ones over there by the dead cat?
Jane: No thanks.
Johnny: Do you smell gas?
Jane: That’s it. I’m outta here.