Today in the library I have a very special guest. I happen to be a huge fan of Carol’s Victorian crime series, so I am really pleased to share this interview with you.
Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?
I write Victorian crime fiction. I used to write teenage fiction, until the market got flooded by celebs, and I decided to switch genre. As I read Victorian authors, like Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, etc., and specialized in this era at university, it seemed a natural choice. My series ‘The Victorian Detectives’ is set in 1860s London … mainly because the 1880s is a rather crowded field. I have two main detectives, DI Leo Stride and DS Jack Cully, and a host of other members of Scotland Yard’s Detective Division, plus the populace of London who wander in and out of the books, causing havoc.
Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I don’t think you CAN be a writer unless you are a reader. I always have a couple of books on the go. One is usually a research book on some aspect of the Victorian era (currently a book on Lunatic Asylums). Then, true to my genre, I have a couple of crime novels to read. I enjoy Philip Kerr, Kate Atkinson (the Jackson Brodie books), Robert Harris, Donna Leon, Tobias Hill. I’ll sometimes dip into a writer I’ve never come across, if recommended. I like series best ~ you know if you’ve enjoyed one, there are more to follow.
Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?
I used to be published by Usborne, when I wrote YA. Now, I am entirely self-published, using Amazon as a platform. My publishing name is Little G Books (named after my granddaughter). I publish in ebook and paperback formats, and I use a professional cover artist to do my wonderful covers. It is definitely worth paying out for good covers. The advantages of self-publishing, for me, is that I have control over pricing, platforms and publicity. The disadvantages are that few mainstream bookshops will take Amazon-generated fiction. But then, as most of my sales come via ebooks, that isn’t a big problem. I don’t ‘owe’ an agent 12% of my earnings, nor a publisher 25%! All good as far as I am concerned.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
My English teacher has probably been my greatest influence, which shows how important schooldays are. Mrs Myles, who taught me in Years 7 & 8, loved the writing process. She used to set us ‘compositions’ every week, giving us a title and then seeing what we produced. It stopped me being terrified of the blank page, and made me think in all sorts of directions. I am so upset that the modern curriculum no longer gives space for free creative writing! I wonder how many writers of the future are being stifled.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I am a TERRIBLE procrastinator. Given the choice, I’d rather dust behind the fridge than actually write. I have learned, though, to be disciplined, as I know that as soon as I sit down at my computer to write, I will just get on with it … and time will flash by as I do. I gather, from ‘fessing up’ to this on social media, that I am definitely not alone.
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
I remember reading somewhere that there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’ ~ it is just a fancy excuse for not writing. Yes. Ouch!
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I like writing in the late morning … and then again late afternoon. If I am editing, I can do it at any time, but I seem to be drawn towards those particular times of day. I do NOT set myself any word limits; if I manage a page or five pages, that is enough. Distractions include: cat taking over writing chair, fish cavorting in the pond below my window and the local goldfinch thug-pack visiting the bird feeders.
If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?
I would love to go back to my fictional period: the 1860s. Not sure who I’d be ~ possibly not one of the starving poor, but I’d like to stand in Oxford Street and just watch the passing traffic and people. However much research you do, there is so much more you miss. What did it SMELL like? How did the people SOUND? What were their faces like? We know that any TV/film adaptation of a Victorian novel cannot ever be accurate ~ I find I shout at Ripper Street and The Woman in White, etc., as I know they are presenting a false image. Where are the rotten teeth? The smallpox marks? The clothes are always far too clean, as are the streets. I’d so love to go back, for 24 hours, and see what it was really like. And then come back and write about it!
Please tell us about your latest published work.
Intrigue & Infamy is the 7th book in The Victorian Detectives series. I am currently working on the 8th, Fame & Fortune, to be published later this year.
It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers. Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?
Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?
Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series. Buy Link