You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I introduced you to one of my new-found favourite authors, Kristin Gleeson. Today, I have a lovely new author for you to meet. I’ve been very lucky to be given the opportunity to work with this author. I discovered her books shortly after Christmas when I took out a free 3 month subscription to Kindle Unlimited.
Hi Faith, It’s lovely to ‘meet’ you. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Hello – lovely to meet you too! I’ve been writing for over 25 years now (which makes me feel very old.) When I started out there was no self-publishing, so I’ve always been traditionally published. I began writing romance novels as Maxine Barry (great fun – I got to write thriller/love stories set in romantic places, with sexy, good-looking men!) Then modern romance took a dip, so I started writing crime – which was my first ‘love’. I discovered Agatha Christie and other golden age authors when I was about 13, and read them voraciously. And so, as Joyce Cato, I started writing classic-style “proper” whodunits, with clues, red herrings, etc. I have to say though, it’s far easier to read them than to write them! Trying to come up with a fiendishly clever murder method gives me brain ache! But then I created DI Hillary Greene – who is the woman I’d like to be (but haven’t a hope!)
I’ve lived near the Oxford canal all my life, so when I wanted to write a police procedural series, it had to the Oxford area – as I don’t know anywhere else! Alas, Morse (and all the other golden age authors who wrote about Oxford) cast a big shadow. So I deliberately tried to do something different. Creating a female detective was an obvious start. And avoiding the colleges/Oxford acedmia that proliferates in Morse and Lewis was another must. So I created a female detective who worked out of Kidlington Thames Valley and attended crime scenes in the local villages and market towns (and occasionaly Oxford!) Most good detectives have a slightly turbulent home life it seems, but I didn’t want anything too extreme – hence Hillary Greenes circumstances in the first of the series.
Do you have a research process prior to writing? If so, which is your favourite part and why?
I always do my research before starting to write a book. Also a character analysis, a general synopsis and then a chapter-by-chapter time-line. This means the whole book is planned out before I even type in ‘Chapter One’! I find this works best for me. Some books require a lot of research (one of my romances was set in Hawaii, where I’ve never been, and the storyline involved the cultivation of a black orchid! Needless to say, I knew nothing about orchids! That book took me almost as long to research and plot as it did to write!) Other books require no particular research. I have to say, I prefer the latter! I love the actual writing/creating process far more than the very necessary slog-work!
How long, on average, does it take to write your novels?
From the start – when I get the germ of an idea, through research, plotting, and actual writing (including 2nd drafts and re-writes) about 4 months. (ish!)
With regards to your DI Greene series, are there any characters that are (perhaps loosely) based on real people in your life?
Never! I never ever ever do that! To begin with, if people I knew guessed, I’d be mortified. But more than that, all my stories are fictional, and as a consquence I need my characters to behave in ways that I want them to throughout the novel. But knowing real people and their own personal habits and how they would behave in certain circumstances, I’d never get them to fit my storyline character profile! Real people are very hard to judge and tend to ‘do their own thing’ – whereas my own characters do what I tell them because they come out of my own head! (Er…. Does that make sense?)
Meeting DI Greene for the first time while she was under investigation thanks to her dead, corrupt ex-husband was a real will she won’t she experience. The characters have all developed and although some have moved on to new experiences and new characters have taken their places, they are all very memorable.
Do you have a favourite character from the series?
Er, not sure I understood that first sentence!
Actually, Faith neither did I. I think I was trying to say that it was uncertain she would be exonerated. Fortunately, she was.
But as for favourites – no. I tend to like them all for various reasons. Even Frank Ross does his job properly and provides comic relief and makes everybody hate him! I think Marcus Donleavy is my secret heart-throb though! If I was still writing romances, wouldn’t he make a delicious, enigmatic hero?
Oh, he would… you have a knack for describing people. I understand that Murder in the Garden is the 9th book in the DI Greene series that has been revamped by Joffe Books. I haven’t read the books that follow so I’m not sure how the series ends or even if it does. Is there potential for more additions to the series? If not, do you have any other books that crime fiction lovers should add to their list?
Don’t worry – there are 17 in the series! And the last book is a natural ending – but that doesn’t mean I can’t write more if readers want them! But I don’t want to put out spoilers! But as for other books – yes, I’ve written nearly 50! If you like reading the country-house, classic Poirot-like crime stories, then my Joyce Cato series is for you. I have a travelling cook amateur sleuth, and I’ve also written 3 with a vicar’s wife for the sleuth! How quintesentially English is that? And if romance is your thing, then you need to check out THE LYING GAME, IMPOSTERS IN PARADISE, and HEART OF FIRE, at Corazon Books, writen under my pen name Maxine Barry. My romances all have a thriller element, are contemporary, and are usually set on exotic islands or other interesting places. I’ve also just had published, by Crowood Press, a slightly-spooky crime novel called the Lavender Lady Casefile, under the name Jessie Daniels.
(A little different) Do you have any advice for wannabe authors, young and old?
Yes – the best advice I was ever given was simple but vital – and it’s this. DON’T EVER GIVE UP! You can’t expect (unless you’re phenominally lucky) to just write a book and get it published. Like anything else, you probably need to practice. I was writing for nearly 5 years before I got my first book published. Of course, nowadays, with self-publishing, you don’t have to go down the traditonal route. As for advice on self-publishing – sorry, I have no idea! I wouldn’t even known how to go about it!
Thank you for giving me your time. One final question, is there anything else that you want to mention (that hasn’t already been covered above?
Crikey – I don’t think so! I know it sounds a cliché but writing can be a very lonely sort of life. For days on end it’s just you and your (often scaringly blank) screen. But it can also be a lot of fun and rewarding. Other days, you can tear your hair out!