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.

March 2017

Finding names for characters in my books is always a thorny problem. Like many authors I have nightmares about being contacted by someone who shares the name of one of my more unpleasant characters (and in a crime novels a high proportion of my characters are bound to be creepy, dishonest, murderous or all three) and is threatening legal action. Usually I just pluck names out of thin air with no real knowledge of how they popped into my head. However, I recently discovered an article in the paper listing surnames that have died out in the UK (or are about to die out). I’ve already made use of this by giving one of the nastiest suspects in my next Wesley Peterson novel an obsolete name. Job done.

And talking of names, I was delighted when the children’s cancer charity CLICSargent asked me to take part in their annual Get In Character auction again. A gentleman called Paul Whitcombe won but, rest assured, he’ll be one of the more sympathetic characters in Wesley’s twenty second investigation, The Mechanical Devil – you heard the title here first!

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve visited libraries in Retford, Disley and Hucknall (in Hucknall I also managed to visit to Lord Byron’s tomb which was an experience I’ll never forget). It was really lovely to meet such lovely and enthusiastic readers and I’m looking forward to visiting more libraries in the near future. On May 4th I’m celebrating the paperback publication of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES with a double visit in the Lancashire area – Bolton Library in the afternoon and Bury Library in the evening. Then on May 11th I’m speaking at one of my local libraries, Didsbury in Manchester (where I take my little granddaughter who’s becoming rather obsessed with books – obviously granny’s influence!)

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Kate with the staff at Disley Library

I’ve just started writing the second book in the Albert Lincoln trilogy and it’s good to be continuing Albert’s story after the dramatic events described in A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES (no spoilers!) but more about that next time.

Incidentally if anybody is in Edinburgh on Sunday 23rd April (the birthday of a certain Mr Shakespeare) I’ll be at Blackwell’s taking part in Dates with Dangerous Authors at 2.30. If you’re in the area come in and say hello (we authors aren’t that dangerous...honestly) It would be lovely to see you there.

February 2017

The start of this month saw the publication of THE MERMAID’S SCREAM, Wesley Peterson’s twenty first investigation.

THE MERMAID’S SCREAM begins with an author visit to a library (something very close to my heart!) by a young writer who’s working on the biographer of Wynn Staniland, a reclusive author who took the publishing world by storm back in the 1980s and then cut himself off from the world after his wife’s mysterious death. The young biographer later goes missing and his disappearance appears to be linked to the apparent suicide of a middle aged couple at a caravan park. Then Wesley finds that Wynn Staniland is the connection between his two cases. The historical case lurking in the background is the Victorian cause celebre (acted out by a group of sinister nineteenth century puppets) that inspired Wynn Staniland’s most famous work.

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I dedicated the book to ‘all library staff everywhere’ but, unfortunately the dedication was accidentally left out of the hardback. However, it is in the e-book and I’m assured that it will be in the paperback (out in August).

Talking of libraries, a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to receive an email telling me that I’ve been longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library award. This was extremely exciting for me because I’m a great supporter of libraries (I’ve got many library visits lined up already this year – see my events page for details) and to be considered for this particular award is very important to me.

Another piece of good news is that I’ve had the go ahead to write the next two books in the Albert Lincoln trilogy. A lot of you have told me how much they enjoyed A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and it will be satisfying to continue Albert’s story. A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES is out in paperback on 4th May and I’m visiting Bolton and Bury libraries that day to celebrate the occasion.

I was delighted to be asked to take part in CLICSargent’s ‘Get in Character’ auction again this year (in which the winner has a character in my next book named after them). I’ve just sent a signed copy of THE MERMAID’S SCREAM to last year’s winner, Julie Shepherd (who became a very nice librarian for the purposes of the book – I hope she enjoys her ‘role’) If you’d like to see your name in my next book please go to  http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/401280842933 and make a bid. CLICSargent is a children’s cancer charity so it’s for a very good cause!

Better get back to Wesley’s next case now.

January 2017

Happy New Year everyone.

Hope you enjoyed the Festive Season and have now recovered fully from the feasting and enforced sloth. Not sure I have yet but there’s a manuscript squatting on my desk waiting to be rewritten. It’s the fourth draft but I’m still not happy with it. My office is looking extremely tidy (which is unusual and somewhat disconcerting) because my cousin and his partner came to stay so I was forced to clear out all the accumulated rubbish (and scraps of paper with notes on – eg victim was already dead at 4pm so can’t have been seen in pub at 5pm or how does suspect go from being goodie two shoes pain in the neck to femme fatale two pages later with no explanation? – my first few drafts are always a dreadful mess!!!) so they could actually see the spare bed. However, in spite of this strange, unnatural neatness I’m sure I’ve already managed to get some work started.

Christmas was good apart from a serious turkey malfunction (the less said the better but the day was saved by a large ham!) and a Christmas morning visit from The Anti-Santa. On Christmas morning I noticed my car door was ajar. Someone had broken in and searched the car thoroughly (which must have disappointed him because the most valuable thing I keep in there is a rusty half-used can of de-icer). I can only assume he thought there might be presents in the boot (hence the title of The Anti-Santa). My husband (being a bit of a technical wizard) had installed CCTV so we trawled through it and eventually found the culprit – a middle aged man in work clothes who used an electronic device to open the door at 5am on Christmas morning. There was no damage to the car and nothing taken but, being good citizens we captured some clear images of the thief from the footage and sent them to the police by email (just for their information in case there was a pattern of thefts from cars in the area). However, the police didn’t seem particularly interested – so much for using our initiative to ‘help the police with their inquiries’. As someone who writes crime novels for a living I found this sadly disappointing and I resolved that Wesley and Gerry would never be so ungrateful (after all, in one of my books there would almost certainly be a murder in the next street and the thief would be either a suspect or a vital witness – probably later found brutally murdered himself of course). Once a crime writer, always a crime writer!

AHMDhr mermaids scream

So what does 2017 have in store? Well, I already have a few talks and conferences booked (see my events page) and Wesley’s 21st case THE MERMAID’S SCREAM is out in hardback in early February. Also A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES will be out in paperback in May. I’m delighted that it’s been so well received and now I need to get my publisher’s go ahead to continue with the intended trilogy. Fingers crossed.

Once again let me wish you all a Happy New Year. I do hope 2017 will be a good year for all of us.

December 2016

At last I’ve managed to find a moment to write this diary! I assure you my absence hasn’t been due to sloth (although writers are often tempted by that particular deadly sin!) but rather to the fact that it’s been a busy time.

First there was the launch of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES to organise. It was a wonderful event and more than fifty people – family and friends but mostly readers – gathered at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Cheshire, to celebrate. I began by speaking about how I came to write the book (which is a departure from my two crime series) and how the idea had nagged away in the back of my head for a few years before I began to write. After my talk I did a reading before everyone retired upstairs for a convivial get together.

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I was joined at the launch by three fellow members of the Murder Squad – Martin Edwards, Margaret Murphy (who writes as AD Garrett) and Chris Simms (see below).

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I always find historical research absorbing but researching A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES turned out to be a very moving experience. I discovered how wounded servicemen were treated during the First World War and visited a reconstructed military hospital at Dunham Massey in Cheshire several times. Shortly after this I found a couple of letters amongst my late mother’s belongings. They were from the Matron of a base hospital (a military hospital near the French coast that received casualties from the trenches prior to them being shipped back to England . . . if they survived). The Matron told the soldier’s mother that he was gravely ill and close to death. Fortunately, that soldier miraculously survived to become my grandfather but many weren’t so lucky. I read out these letters at the launch, a tribute to all those brave men who fought and gave their lives or suffered grave injuries.

A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES deals with the aftermath of war – how people came to terms with returning to everyday life after such a traumatic time. The story begins when a small Derbyshire community is still reeling from the losses of war and then a series of bizarre deaths once more throws the village into turmoil. When Inspector Albert Lincoln is called in from Scotland Yard, he uncovers a web of pain and intrigue that leads to a gripping and shocking conclusion. I’m delighted to say that the book has been really well received and has been featured as Book of the Month by the Crime Writers’ Association and also named as ‘In Search of the Classic Mystery’ book of the month

After the excitement of the launch it was back to work again, rewriting Wesley Peterson’s twenty second case (to be published in 2018). I then took a break to visit York for a few days (a great place for Christmas shopping and visiting St Nicholas Fair). While I was there I kept having ideas for a new Joe Plantagenet book – it’s just a matter of finding the time.

THE MERMAID’S SCREAM (Wesley Peterson’s next case) will be published in February and I think it’s one of his most intriguing cases yet. I’ll put all the details on this website nearer the time.

So now I’ve written all my Christmas cards and there are only a few more presents to buy, I can start thinking about 2017. I already have several events and conferences arranged and I was delighted to be invited to speak (and present a Murder Mystery) at a conference at Gladstones Library near Chester to be held in June (watch this space for details).

I hope all my readers have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year – and I look forward to ‘meeting’ you in 2017! 

October 2016

During the past month I’ve been working on 2018’s Wesley Peterson mystery. I’ve completed the first draft but I won’t say too much about it yet as I still need to spend months polishing it into shape. It’s early days but I can reveal that it’s mainly set on Dartmoor and features a sixteenth century robot! However, enough of that for now as THE HOUSE OF EYES hasn’t been out that long and there’ll be another Wesley Peterson novel published in February (entitled THE MERMAID’S SCREAM)

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve spoken at Ashton Libraries Fun Palaces Day (where I met a bee keeper who gave me a brilliant idea for a murder method) and a few days later I visited Chester Lane Library in St Helens. Many thanks to the brilliant library staff who helped to organise the events. In fact I’ve dedicated The Mermaid’s Scream to all library staff everywhere. Libraries really need and deserve our support.

StHelensLibys At St Helens Library

Last week I had a break from writing and travelled to Spain to visit Seville, Cordoba and Granada. It’s strange the way memories are triggered – in the Alhambra at Granada (the most spectacular Moorish palace you could ever imagine) I couldn’t help remembering a trilogy of novels I’d absolutely loved as a teenager – Jean Plaidy’s Castile for Isabella, Spain for the Sovereigns and Daughters of Spain – all about Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and their daughters (in particular Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, and her sister, Juana the Mad). Catherine herself played in the stunning gardens of the Alhambra and she was to recall this happy time during her later troubles, something I found incredibly touching. As well as this I was awed to find myself in the very room where Queen Isabella had presented Christopher Columbus with the money that enabled him to discover America. The trip culminated in a visit to the chapel where Ferdinand, Isabella and Juana were buried, along with Juana’s husband Philip the Handsome. After Philip’s death Juana carried his coffin around with her everywhere she went...a juicy fact bound to appeal to a teenage girl who was later to become a crime writer!

Alhambras La Alhambra

So now it’s back to work but there’s still one major event to mention. I am delighted to be launching A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES on Tuesday 15th November at 7.30 at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Bramhall near Stockport, Cheshire. It’s a free event so do come along if you can (but email the bookshop first so they know how many people to expect). I’m really excited about A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and I hope my readers will be too. It would be wonderful to see you at the launch.  http://www.simplybooks.info/headline-events/4587367589

September 2016

According to the weather forecasters summer’s finally over and the last month or so has been incredibly busy.

In August I visited a number of local bookshops to sign copies of my latest paperback THE HOUSE OF EYES and it was really good to have the chance to meet my readers. Then, after attending the annual Crime and Mystery Weekend at St Hilda’s College Oxford, I set off for Devon at the beginning of September.

As well as undertaking research for my next Wesley Peterson book, I presented my Murder Mystery, Murder in the Lemon Grove, at Dartmouth Library and Salcombe Library. I’ve visited Dartmouth Library many times over the years but it was my first time in Salcombe and I hadn’t expected such lovely surroundings – and such an amazing view over Salcombe estuary from the French windows and the balcony at the end of the room. Both evenings were great fun and I had the feeling that I was taking Lemon Grove ‘on tour’. The actors certainly entered into the spirit of the evening – it’s wonderful to know there’s so much talent out there! Many thanks to all the library staff and the casts of both productions – they were brilliant!

DartLiby SalcLiby

While I was in Devon I visited my fellow crime writer Michael Jecks who lives on Dartmoor. Mike interviewed me about my books for BBC Radio Devon and it was great to chat with him over coffee and catch up on the news. On the way back I called in at Dartmoor Prison to have a look at the museum there (fortunately they let me out!) I was surprised to find out it’s been downgraded to Category C (not suitable to house dangerous prisoners) because its listed building status meant that the necessary alterations to maintain its ‘high security’ status couldn’t be made. It was a fascinating visit and I’m always stunned by the beauty of the Dartmoor landscape.

My visit to Devon concluded with a book signing at The Torbay Bookshop in Paignton. It’s always a joy to visit Matthew’s lovely shop and I look forward to returning next year.

TorbayBS

After a short time at home I set off again, this time for the North East. I spoke at Newcastle’s beautiful central library on the Wednesday and the next day I was in Gateshead taking Murder in the Lemon Grove ‘on tour’ again. Again the acting was worthy of several Oscars and great fun was had by all! Again many thanks to all involved.

Gateshead

I’m looking forward to speaking at Ashton-under-Lyne and St Helens Libraries over the next few weeks and I’m busy making arrangements for the launch of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES on 15th November at Simply Books, an award winning independent bookshop in Bramhall, Cheshire – not far from where A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES in set.

July 2016

Time’s passed so quickly since I last wrote this diary. I don’t know whether it’s a sign of incipient old age or because I’ve been so busy what with one thing and another.

In the middle of June I visited Middlesbrough Library to present my Murder Mystery, Death at the Dig, and a good time was had by all (with plenty of laughs and some wonderful, Oscar-worthy acting by the library staff). Since then I’ve been busy planning more events, including several book signings at branches of Waterstones to celebrate the paperback launch of THE HOUSE OF EYES – it’s out on 4th August!

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 An evening of fun at Middlesbrough Library

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I’ll be going down to Devon in early September where I’ll be presenting my new Sicilian Murder Mystery, Murder in the Lemon Grove, at Dartmouth and Salcombe libraries. It’s always great fun to do events in the places my books are set. I’m also doing a book signing at the excellent Torbay Bookshop at lunchtime on Friday 9th September so if you’re in the area do pop in to say hello.

After Devon I’m up in the North East for library events in Newcastle and Gateshead. I loved my trip up there last year so I’m really looking forward to it. As well as this I’m arranging more library talks for the autumn so please keep an eye of my events page for the latest news.

As far as writing’s concerned, the copy edit for The Mermaid’s Scream is now complete and the next stage is going through the proofs when they arrive. I’ve already started on my next Wesley Peterson novel (well, why wait if you have a good idea bursting to get out onto the page?) and, so far, it’s going well.

The thing I’m most excited about, however, is the publication of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES in November. My editor has sent proof copies out to several well known authors and I’m delighted to say the verdicts and quotes that have come back are absolutely fantastic. I’m really thrilled with the response and feel that this is a very special book, written from the heart and inspired by some old letters I found when my father died. I’m trying to arrange a book launch at the moment so watch this space for details.

June 2016

When the weather improves like most people I gravitate toward the outdoors. And for a writer this means my ‘shed’. I suppose some people would call it a ‘summerhouse’ but that seems a little grand. Even so, it’s furnished (with paintings on the wall), carpeted and comfortable and when I work in there I write on the old oak gate leg table I inherited from my parents. That table has been part of my life since I was born (and used to stand in the front room of my home in Liverpool) so it holds many memories, from homework to Christmas dinners. Working on that table seems right somehow and I think I always work best in my shed at the bottom of the garden sealed off from the world (and the Internet). However, our short period of glorious weather has now been replaced by torrential rain so, disappointingly, I’m back indoors.

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This diary is rather late this month because I’ve been working flat out trying to get Wesley Peterson’s next case, The Mermaid’s Scream, to my publisher. My fantastic editor sent me his notes a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been rewriting my manuscript, thinking deeply about each character and every twist of the plot, making them as believable and dramatic as I possibly can. As I’ve probably said before, writing is rewriting and my advice to any aspiring writers out there would be to keep going over your work, honing it until it is as good as you can make it. Then put it away for a while, go back to it and work on it again.

Anyway, I sent the finished manuscript off late last Thursday and my editor has given the finished product his thumbs up so now I have to decide on the cover. As The Mermaid’s Scream features a reclusive author who lives by the sea, we’ve already decided on a dramatic seascape and we’re now tweaking the details. An eye-catching cover is important and I’ve been really lucky so far in that I’ve loved the covers to all my books. I think Little, Brown, my publisher do a really good job.

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve attended Crimefest in Bristol, a wonderful convention for anybody who writes or reads crime fiction. I was on two panels; one entitled Sending Shivers down the Spine and another entitled Writing Cops and Robbers. Both panels were right up my street: I love sending shivers down my readers’ spines and I’ve been told that I have a taste for the Gothic (especially in my Joe Plantagenet novels, although it tends to creep into my Wesley books as well) and I’ve been focussing on cops and robbers (or more usually, murderers) since I began writing. I’d certainly recommend CrimeFest to all avid crime fiction fans. It’s a friendly convention with fascinating panels and I always love meeting my readers there.

A couple of weeks ago I visited my local Waterstones in Stockport to celebrate the store’s twentieth anniversary with some other local authors. I hope to be back there soon (and at other bookshops too) when the paperback of THE HOUSE OF EYES comes out at the beginning of August. The way the weather is at the moment, my readers will be glad of the sliver of Sicilian sunshine that features in the book.

houseofeyes

Later this week I’m visiting Middlesbrough Library to present a Murder Mystery (with an archaeological theme). It’ll be great fun and I really hope to meet some of you there.

May 2016

First of all major congratulations to Martin Edwards who has just won an Edgar award for his fantastic history of the Detection Club, The Golden Age of Murder. I know writing The Golden Age of Murder has been a true labour of love for Martin and the resulting book is a comprehensive and fascinating account of the different characters responsible for making crime fiction the popular genre it is today. The award is richly deserved.

In April I was lucky enough to attend the annual Crime Writers’ Association conference in Norwich. I’d never been to Norwich before, an omission I was keen to rectify, and as it’s such a long way from my home we went a day early and stopped off at Stamford in Lincolnshire on the way. Stamford is a beautiful town and I’ve wanted to go there for some time so I was glad the conference gave me the opportunity. Also, before the conference began, my husband was able to fulfil his ambition to sail on the Norfolk Broads. The conference was held in the Maids Head Hotel next to Norwich cathedral. It was great to meet my fellow crime writers there and explore the city (and its gorgeous cathedral). As well as a guided walk around the historic city centre and a visit to the castle (which served as a prison for centuries and was the site of many public executions) we were treated to some fantastic talks by experts in many subjects ranging from forensic science to terrorism.

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One talk that particularly fascinated me was author, Lindsay Siviter’s account of the famous Lord Lucan case. The ins and outs of the investigation were certainly intriguing and the ultimate fate of the notorious peer remains uncertain (although it’s possible that he fled to Africa where he later died – his brother even told Lindsay that he knows where he’s buried). There are so many unexplained aspects to the case and what looked like a simple matter of mistaken identity (it appeared the nanny was killed in mistake for Lucan’s estranged wife) might not have been so straightforward after all. One particular treat for me was holding Lord Lucan’s cheque book (something to tell the grandchildren!). It was a perfectly ordinary cheque book (Lloyds Bank as I recall - not the exclusive private bank I would have expected) but it still provided a tantalising link to a case that continues to capture the public imagination.

After the conference it was back to work and I’m about to tackle the final draft of Wesley Peterson’s twenty first case – The Mermaid’s Scream but I won’t say any more about that until nearer the publication date.

One recent treat for me was a visit to Write Blend – a new book shop in Waterloo, Liverpool (my home city) with a lovely cafe attached. In the short time it’s been open Write Blend has become a centre for the arts in the area and I spoke (along with writer Sally-Anne Tapia Bowes) to a lovely and enthusiastic audience  at its ‘Blend of Words’ Festival.

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I hope to visit Write Blend again soon and, if anybody finds themselves in the Waterloo/Crosby area, I’d certainly recommend a visit...you can even combine it with a trip to see Anthony Gomley’s famous iron men! 

Do keep an eye on my events page as I’ll soon be busy celebrating the paperback publication of THE HOUSE OF EYES.

April 2016

There’s no rest for the wicked, as the saying goes – which makes me think I must have been very wicked indeed because I’ve been working really hard getting my next Wesley Peterson novel, The Mermaid’s Scream, in a fit condition to be read and commented on by my friend (a great crime fan who can be trusted to tell me if something’s not working or doesn’t seem quite right). She’s given her verdict now and the next stage will be acting upon her criticisms and suggestions. However, in the meantime, I’m giving myself a week’s break which I’ll celebrate by meeting friends for lunch, catching up with some of those little jobs that have been annoying me for ages and attending the Crime Writers’ Association Annual Conference in Norwich at the weekend.

In March I spoke at Bingham Library in Nottinghamshire to a lovely and enthusiastic audience (I even met a lady there who’d been to my old junior school!) I always enjoy getting out and meeting readers so I really enjoyed the day (and many thanks to everyone who helped to organise the event). As well as working on The Mermaid’s Scream as I’ve said, I’ve also been busy arranging events to mark to paperback publication of The House of Eyes in August. There’ll be signings arranged nearer the time but I’ve already fixed up some library events in the North East and Devon – see my events page for details.

I’m very proud to say that my younger son has just had two books published (history text books rather than fiction) with a third in the pipeline. His third is about seventeenth century witchcraft, a subject I dealt with in The Shadow Collector, so he was able to borrow some of my reference books and share some of my original sources. It amused me when he complained with a heavy sigh that I’d never warned him that writing was such hard work!

I’ve taken on one extra job that’s been an absolute pleasure. As a member of the Detection Club I was asked to write a short story in honour of a very special author. An anthology is to be published to mark the eightieth birthday of Peter Lovesey, one of my all time favourite writers and a wonderful man. My story, The Mole Catcher’s Daughter, is set in the reign of Queen Victoria and was inspired by Peter’s fantastic Sergeant Cribb series (many of you will remember it on TV starring Alan Dobie) and I do hope it’s a worthy tribute to his work.

 

March 2016

I’ve just realised I haven’t updated this diary since January and I feel guilty. I’ve just been reading something about writer’s guilt; guilt that you’re not keeping up with your writing output; guilt that you’re not constantly arranging events and guilt that you might be neglecting your duty...which is your writing.

I’m a guilt ridden sort of person, a worrier by nature, and I’m not sure whether this is a good trait in a writer. Okay, it means I sit down dutifully to write every day and I always meet deadlines but the piece I was reading suggests that writers need to be kind to themselves and relax a bit. Now that’s a tricky one because I love writing. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do (although writing has probably made me pretty unemployable in any other field because no employer is going to put up with someone who daydreams about plots and characters all day and thinking up clever ways to murder people!) This means that I’m constantly ‘on duty’ and on the lookout for ideas. Brilliantly constructed sentences often flit through my head when I’m doing something else – the trick is to remember them when you sit down at your computer: not always easy but that’s where notebooks come in. So next time I feel guilty about knocking off early to have a coffee with friends or a cuddle with my new granddaughter, I can try to convince myself I’m still working. But I think a tiny glimmer of our old friend guilt will always be there.

February saw the publication of THE HOUSE OF EYES and it’s been really well received. From all the people who’ve already emailed me saying how much they loved it, the consensus of opinion seems to be that it’s one of the creepiest of my books – which is hardly surprising with its sinister theme stretching back to thirteenth century Sicily. Buy it here 

I’ve just finished the third draft of 2017’s Wesley Peterson mystery. The working title is The Mermaid’s Scream and it centres around a reclusive author. That’s all I can say for the moment but watch this space for  further details. IF YOU GO TO http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/201528081552 YOU CAN BID TO HAVE YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK IN AID OF CLIC SARGENT, THE CHILDREN’S CANCER CHARITY – a really good cause. Who will win? The auction ends on Sunday 6th March!

January 2016

First of all I’d like to wish everyone a very belated Happy New Year.

Now all the festivities are over for another year and the decorations were taken down weeks ago, life seems a little grey and I’m spending every day in my office, working on next year’s Wesley Peterson mystery. All I can say at the moment is that it features a reclusive author and was inspired by a real life Devon ghost story. But watch this space later in the year for more details. I’ve only just finished the first draft which needs an awful lot of work. Writing is re-writing as Ernest Hemingway once said. How right he was. I’m still wrestling with possible titles but as soon as I have a definite one, I’ll let you know.

Over the past couple of weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about writers getting paid for their appearances. Perhaps because I’m polite and British and was brought up never to push myself forward, I’ve always felt awkward about asking for payment. However, I know it’s wrong to feel like this because, as a professional writer, that’s how you make your living and put food on the table. The plumber analogy is used a lot – try asking a plumber to come and mend your boiler solely for the promise that it will raise his (or her) profile in the area and he might (or might not) get more business from your recommendation. I think the plumber’s reply would probably be unprintable! I always prepare for events conscientiously and never like to short change my audience so events tend to take up a lot of working time. Having said that, I love meeting readers and I often don’t charge a fee to speak in libraries that are local or in places I’m visiting anyway (where travel and loss of working time is minimal). Incidentally, I intend to tweet like mad on National Libraries Day on February 6th. We really need to support our libraries.

 houseofeyes

The big event of February will be the launch of THE HOUSE OF EYES, Wesley Peterson’s twentieth mystery (sometimes I can’t believe I’ve written so many books). I’m particularly pleased with THE HOUSE OF EYES and I think my readers will enjoy the dose of Sicilian sunshine I’ve injected into the mix!

I’m about to embark on going through the copy edited version of my stand alone novel, A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES. I’m so pleased with it and I hope everyone will be enthralled when it’s out in November.

Enjoy!  

December 2015

I apologise for neglecting this diary in November – however, the truth is, it was rather an eventful month. 

First of all my wonderful editor asked me to make some changes to A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES. It may be interesting for those of you not involved in the publishing industry to learn that the publication process takes so long. Even though the book won’t be out until next November, everything such as getting the story perfect, copy editing the manuscript, writing the jacket copy, designing the cover and proof reading takes an awfully long time!

 At the same time as I was wrestling with these changes, my son, his wife and their cat and dog came to stay with us as they’d just bought a house that badly needed renovation. It was lovely to have them here (and help them with their work...painting cupboards, cleaning etc) but it proved to be a bit of a distraction from writing. And the one thing you need when you’re writing a book is time to think and concentrate.

Here is one of our house guests (gorgeous apart from the muddy paws!!): 

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The third event that threw me off course was my husband’s accident – he lost part of a finger while he was cutting wood and had to be rushed to hospital. So, all in all November was...er...busy! (Incidentally, he’s making a good recovery.) 

Having said all this, I did manage to fit in a night in London to attend a meeting of the Detection Club where Martin Edwards (author of the Lake District mysteries and the excellent Golden Age of Murder) was inaugurated as President, replacing Simon Brett. With his great knowledge and passion for the traditions of the crime genre, I can’t think of a better person than Martin to take on the role and follow in the footsteps (and don the robe) of G K Chesterton, Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie. Here's one of me at the ceremony:

detclubs

I also took part in a lovely crime evening at York Library with Mari Hannah. It was great to be in York again, the setting for my Joe Plantagenet books, and it was lovely to meet the readers and library staff. I’m also grateful to Chris Titley, editor of York Mix, who interviewed Mari and I so capably. 

Now I have to announce a special treat – a little Christmas present for all my readers. THE CHRISTMAS CARD LIST - a seasonal locked room mystery for Wesley Peterson to solve - can be found at The Crime Vault:  http://www.thecrimevault.com/exclusives/the-christmas-card-list-an-exclusive-short-story-from-kate-ellis/

 Happy reading and may I wish everybody a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

October 2015

At last I’ve got round to catching up with my diary. However, I have an excuse for the delay, the best excuse of all in fact. I’ve finished a new book and started writing another (along with another extremely exciting event that I’ll reveal later).

First of all I’ve been itching to say something about my brand new project but I had to maintain my silence until I received the go ahead from my agent and my publisher. Now everything is definite and my brand new stand alone (well, I say stand alone but it could very well develop into a trilogy) is going to be published, although I haven’t got a date yet. I’m really excited about it as it’s a completely new departure for me, entirely different from both of my regular series. It tells the story of a Scotland Yard detective wounded in the Great War who is summoned to a small Derbyshire village in 1919 to investigate a series of bizarre murders. The book’s called A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and I can promise my readers some stunning surprises! Watch this space.

Even though I’ve branched out, Wesley won’t be neglected. Having finished THE HOUSE OF EYES, I’ve just started work on his next case but, as with all first drafts, it can only be described as terrible ‘pig’s breakfast’ at the moment (full of inconsistencies and dead ends). To all aspiring writers who despair when their work seems to be going wrong, I’d give this piece of advice – don’t worry if your first draft’s rubbish (most people’s are!) because a first draft is only the raw material you can then work on and rewrite until it’s reshaped into a book you’re happy with. Then give it to an honest reader who’ll probably see things you missed...then rewrite it again a couple of times before you finally send it off. I rewrite all my books about five or six times before they’re ‘fit for human consumption’. Ernest Hemingway said ‘writing is rewriting’ and he was absolutely right.

As well as writing I’ve been busy visiting libraries and bookshops. As well as signing copies of THE DEATH SEASON at various local bookshops, I’ve visited wonderful libraries in Mansfield and Thorne where I received a very warm welcome. I also spend a few lovely days up in Northumberland visiting Killingworth and North Shields Libraries. I enjoyed the North East so much (and the fantastic libraries I visited) that I hope to go back next year. While I was up there I managed to visit Alnwick and Bamburgh Castles and Holy Island (where the strange moaning cries of the seals provided a suitably sinister soundtrack). On the way home I treated myself to a visit to Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall where the famous Vindolanda tablets (http://www.vindolanda.com/roman-vindolanda/writing-tablets) were found, giving an insight into the everyday life of the people stationed up there on the edge of the Roman Empire. It was a thrilling visit and a must for any archaeology lover!

Vindolanda 800x600

In November I’m going to speak to students in Crewe about the process of writing on the 18th and on the 24th I’m in York for a discussion on crime fiction with fellow writer Mari Hannah (see my Events page for details). I’m really looking forward to visiting one of my favourite cities again.

In my first paragraph I mentioned exciting events...and I’ve kept the most exciting until last. My first grandchild (a gorgeous little girl called Eloise) was born a couple of weeks ago. Nothing can beat that!!!

August 2015

Last Sunday I became Cinderella. How, you may ask, as I have no ugly sisters (or sisters of any kind, come to that) and I’m not in the habit of going to balls in pumpkins? Well I’ll explain. I went to the annual Crime and Mystery Weekend at St Hilda’s College Oxford and after a pleasant weekend listening to interesting talks, meeting lots of old friends and fans from both this country and the States (and even punting on the Cherwell) I decided to take the healthy option and walk to the station. 

 However, little did I know that the zip on the outside pocket of my case (where I’d packed my shoes) had failed and popped open as I dragged the case behind me. I think you can probably guess the rest. I lost my favourite pair of brown ballerina pumps along with a pair of slippers from a hotel on Lake Garda (tatty but a souvenir of a happy holiday). But worst of all I lost one of my posh platform sole sandals – the ones I last wore for a Detection Club dinner – the ones I’d probably wear to a ball (in the unlikely event that I was ever invited to one).  Oxford was crowded with tourists but nobody alerted me to the fact that I was leaving a trail of shoes behind me (mind you, I had to catch my train so I was probably moving at a fair old pace) so now I’m just waiting for Prince Charming to turn up with my missing shoe...but I think I’ll have a long wait!!! 

Have you noticed that book titles and covers seem to be very prone to fashion? At the moment every successful crime novel seems to have ‘girl’ in the title – The Girl on the Train, The Girl who Wouldn’t Die etc, etc. I suppose Stieg Larssen started it but I’m just hoping that the next fashion is for books to have ‘House’ or ‘Eyes’ in the title, in which case my next book THE HOUSE OF EYES should be a great hit!

 The trouble with being a writer is that you’re never off duty. This year I’ve visited various places but I always find myself assessing the murderous potential of each location, if only for a short story. I always take notebooks with me wherever I go and it’s always great to find one I’ve forgotten about (that’s been left in a case for months) that contains some ideas for plots that went out of my head when I was working on something else.  You just never know when inspiration will strike. I’m away on holiday at the end of the month and looking forward to returning refreshed to tackle the next book.

 Happy holidays and happy reading!

July 2015

Life has been hectic since I last wrote this diary!  In late June I travelled down to Devon, staying in lovely Dartmouth for a week and soaking in the atmosphere.  While I was there I must say I found plenty of new ideas for future Wesley Peterson books...including a long (and steep) walk through some thick woodland on the way to Agatha Christie’s summer home, Greenway.  I signed copies of THE DEATH SEASON at Torbay Bookshop and talked at Totnes Bookshop while I was there as well as paying a visit to Dartmouth Library (where the librarians are plotting another of my Murder Mysteries for 2016 – keep an eye on my events page for details closer to the time).

As soon as I arrived home, I launched into another Murder Mystery evening at a local library and a book signing at Stockport Waterstones.  It was lovely to chat to so many readers there about my books and copies of THE DEATH SEASON were selling fast.

tallinn

Not long after that I had a few days’ break in Tallinn and I must say I fell in love with the city.  The old town was stunning, the people friendly, food and drink excellent...in fact I couldn’t fault it with its Scandinavian atmosphere and its well preserved medieval heart.  There was a medieval festival going on while we were there with early music and a market with everyone in costume.  We discovered a wonderful bar called Hell Hunt and a fantastic little restaurant called Porgu in an ancient cellar which I’d recommend highly to anyone thinking of goingMy first words when we touched down again in Manchester were ‘when can we go back?’  As always I was looking for inspiration (for a short story at least) so you never know, Tallinn might feature in a future work.

One of the most exciting events of the month was my visit to Harrogate for the annual Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival.  It was my job this year to write and present the Murder Mystery Dinner (on a Sicilian theme in honour of Montalbano’s creator, Andrea Camilleri).  As I’m a Montalbano fan, I found this great fun and devised a mystery entitled Murder in the Lemon Grove which featured four potentially murderous characters – a formidable Sicilian widow, her impressionable son, a glamorous archaeologist and a dodgy tourist guide.  I was blessed with four brilliant actors – Daphne Wright (Natasha Cooper) who deserves at least one Oscar for her performance!; Cath Staincliffe who excelled as the glamorous Francesca; Stewart Bain (of Orkney Library) who was wonderful as the Signora’s son; and Jeremy Trevathan (of Pan Macmillan) who gave a bravura performance as Marco, the nefarious guide.  Many thanks to the actors who brought my script to life in such a fantastic way and great thanks to Ann Cleeves for organising the whole weekend!

On 18th August I’ll be repeating Murder in the Lemon Grove at Waterstones in Wilmslow, Cheshire so if you missed Harrogate, tickets will be available soon (see the events page for details).

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.

thedeathseason

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.

MSsmall

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. 

Wrexhams

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.

https://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime/news/festivaltoppicks-2/

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.

WalkingByNight

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.

LincathS

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. 

thedeathseason

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

eric

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.  

squads

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.

booksbags

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.  

sicilykates

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.

sicilybiks

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?

mrstraws

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.  

sorrentobook

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!

poirots

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’.

torbays

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.

Formby14s

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.

cfestpanels

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!!

masterminds

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.

Early May 2014

It’s been a very difficult few weeks because, sadly, my dear father, David Ellis, passed away just before Easter.  I can honestly say that, whereas my mother gave me love of reading and creating mysteries, my father and his life-long interest in literature gave me my passion for writing. 

DCEsmall

                                    David Ellis 1923 - 2014

David was born in Liverpool to an émigré Welsh family in 1923, attending Quarry Bank High School (the alma mater of John Lennon along with a host of other Liverpool notables).  In his younger years he hung round with the city’s artistic set (even having his own tankard in that famed Liverpool pub, The Crack).  He had ambitions to become a writer and had articles published in Punch.  I was touched to receive a letter from his old friend, the famous true crime author (and leading authority on Jack the Ripper) Richard Whittington Egan, telling me how he remembers my dad sitting in Sefton Park with a note pad, scribbling away.  Like me, Richard particularly remembers David’s wit and wonderful sense of humour.  For the last two years of his life my dad endured terrible illness but now I’m trying to remember him as he was...and I know I’ll always be grateful for the inspiration he gave me and proud of the lovely gentleman he was.

After the trauma of my dad’s death, it was good to get away to Guernsey to meet up with my fellow crime writers for the Crime Writers’ Association annual conference.  There was certainly a lot to do to take my mind off things and it was great to meet up with old friends again.  The conference was brilliantly organised by Jason Monaghan who, as well as writing crime novels under the name of Jason Foss, is also an archaeologist and Director of Guernsey Museums. 

Guernsey is an island steeped in history with a rich supply of archaeology from castles to Roman shipwrecks (if you get a chance to go don’t forget to visit Guernsey Museum in Candie Gardens and the Maritime Museum in Castle Cornet).  There’s also much evidence of dramatic events in the more recent past: the Channel Islands were the only parts of Great Britain to be occupied by the Germans during the Second World War and that occupation has left scars both physical (in the form of concrete fortifications and underground tunnels) and psychological.  It was easy to envisage an island living in fear and we had a fascinating talk by Dr Gilly Carr about the oppressive occupation and its effects on the lives of the islanders. 

Guernsey

On my arrival I was asked to take part in a panel event at Guernsey Museum hosted by the Guernsey Literary Festival.  Martin Edwards, Edward Marston and I spent an enjoyable hour discussing our work and crime writing in general.  One of the highlights of the conference for me was a visit to the house where Victor Hugo had lived in exile (and where he’d written Les Miserables – a book I studied for French A level...in French)  I must say his taste in interior design was rather alarming to say the least!  All in all it was a lovely conference and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful island with its fantastic food and hospitality.

I’m pleased to say that the new Crime Writers’ Association short story anthology, Guilty Parties is now out.  My story The Confessions of Edward Prime is set in Liverpool (in the area I grew up) – I hope my dad would have been proud.

    

 

Late March 2014

This month a letter landed on my doormat, totally unexpected and very thrilling.  It told me that I’d been elected ‘by secret ballot’ to become a member of the Detection Club.  The Detection Club is a prestigious club for crime writers and membership is by invitation only.  It was founded in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers (including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers) and the first president was G K Chesterton (the creator of Father Brown).  There is a dramatic initiation ceremony which involves a skull called Eric – I can’t wait to make his acquaintance.  Here’s a link to Lucy Worsley’s encounter with the Club:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw1f3  I must say, I’m very honoured to be invited – when I first started writing, I never thought I’d be in such august company. 

Spring has arrived at last which means that many authors’ thoughts turn to library appearances, conferences and conventions.  For me the past week has been great fun as my Murder Mystery Evening ‘Death at the Dig’ has been performed at two libraries, Flint in North Wales and Wilmslow in Cheshire.  These evenings are tremendous fun and the library staff and (in the case of Wilmslow) local actors who gallantly play the parts of the ‘suspects’ are invariably marvellous.  It’s great to see how much people enjoy themselves and enter into the spirit of the performance.  Another Murder Mystery Evening is currently being arranged for Kingsbridge in Devon in June – keep an eye on my Events page for details. 

Flint

The popularity of Murder Mystery events in general proves that the ‘Golden Age’ type of mystery is still as popular as ever.  A few weeks ago I was amused to learn that Midsomer Murders is one of the most popular programmes in Scandinavia whereas this country’s crime fiction fans go mad for Scandinavian ‘noir’.  Apparently a huge proportion of Scandinavian homes contain a Midsomer Murders DVD – it certainly makes you think! 

I’ve just sent my next Wesley Peterson novel to my editor and I’m awaiting her verdict.  Fingers crossed she enjoys it.

 

Late February 2014

Have you always dreamed of having your name immortalised in a book?  Well now’s your chance.  The children’s cancer charity, CLIC Sargent is holding an on-line auction and the winner will have a character in my next Wesley Peterson novel named after them.  Other authors are also taking part and I think it’s a fantastic way of raising much needed funds for a really good cause.  If you want to take part and support CLIC Sargent go to http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/getincharacter  Good luck!

February’s been a busy month.  I’ve been working on my next Wesley Peterson novel, THE DEATH SEASON as well as organizing various events for later in the year.  I’m very excited that my murder mystery Death at the Dig is due to be performed in three libraries – it’s my tribute to the so called ‘golden age of crime writing’ in the 1920s and 30s and is great fun (and played strictly for laughs).  I feel it’s important to support our libraries at this uncertain time of closures and cuts.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that libraries are a sign of civilization and we lose them at our peril.  If it wasn’t for visiting my local library in Liverpool (Allerton) from an early age, I’d never have become an avid reader - and, as a consequence, I doubt if I’d ever have become a writer.  There must be an awful lot of people in this country with good reason to be grateful to libraries and we really must support them.

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been digging.  Last year I had a great time helping with the excavation of Agatha Christie’s sister’s garden.  There’s a possibility that I might have the opportunity to return there later this year, but in the meantime, I’ve taken part in a dig on our village green, once the location of a grand house.  The archaeology group (The South Manchester Archaeological Research Team, commonly known as SMART) excavated the hall itself a couple of years ago so this time we were concentrating on the outhouses.  It was a fruitful dig, uncovering some interesting floor surfaces, and, fortunately, the weather was kind to us…and in a Manchester February that’s something of a miracle.  Can’t wait to get back there in a couple of weeks.

Findigs

Better get back to work as I’ve left one of my characters in considerable peril!  Don’t forget about CLIC Sargent.

 

January 2014

A rather belated Happy New Year to everyone.  And what a start to the year it’s been. 

The launch of a brand new book is usually a cause for great celebration.  However, the publication of THE SHROUD MAKER at the start of the month was rather overshadowed by a very happy occasion – the wedding of my younger son, Olly to his lovely new wife, Sam, at Peckforton Castle in the wilds of Cheshire.  It was a wonderful, happy day that will stay in my memory for ever.

After the wedding, Olly and Sam took a short holiday and while they were away we found ourselves sharing our house with a character from my last book THE SHADOW COLLECTOR.  No, it wasn’t one of the suspects – it was their sheep dog, Fin.  I don’t often use real people (or in Fin’s case, dogs) in my books but Fin just had to be an exception.  Fortunately, unlike in the book, the only bones he found while he was with us were ones that we gave him!

As you can imagine, our festive season was pretty busy this year but I did find time to watch the latest SHERLOCK series on the BBC (I always find time for Mr Holmes).  Now so far I’ve absolutely loved this new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, starring Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman and I think that bringing Holmes’s world into the present day has worked brilliantly.  However, this third series left me a little disappointed.  Okay, the production was fantastic, together with the special effects...but perhaps that’s what was wrong.  Like some recent Doctor Who episodes, the narrative has been neglected in favour of in jokes, tangled relationships and super-fast back stories.  Sometimes it felt almost like fan-fiction and the strong Holmes stories (which were handled so cleverly and wittily in the first two series) became little more than an afterthought.  Perhaps with the return of Moriarty, things will improve.  I do hope so.

December 2013

First of all, as a festive treat, Wesley Peterson’s first case The Merchant’s House is, for a short time, only £2.07 from Amazon as part of 12 Days of Kindle.  And to think his 18th investigation is about to hit the bookshelves (and your e-books of course).

The publication of a new book is always an exciting event.  There’s nothing quite like that moment when a delivery van screeches to a halt outside and someone hands over a brown cardboard box filled with crisp copies of your latest novel.  This happened to me about a week ago when my author copies of THE SHROUD MAKER arrived.  My publisher, Piatkus, has done me proud with the wonderfully sinister cover – hope you agree.  The official publication date for the hardback and e-book is 2nd January – a new book for a new year.

shroudcopies

As I write this Christmas is approaching fast.  Apart from the usual seasonal goodies such as decorations, food and carol singing, one Christmas traditions I love is sitting by a roaring fire with a good ghost story.  When I was growing up, the reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was an annual fixture in our house.  But soon I moved on to something much more horrifying.  I’ve always eagerly devoured the ghost stories of M R James, which range from the disturbingly sinister to the truly horrifying (Lost Hearts is particularly grisly in my opinion).  I’m very pleased to see that M R James’s story The Tractate Middoth has been adapted by Mark Gatiss for television and will be broadcast on BBC2 on Christmas Day.  For many years the BBC has had a proud tradition of showing supernatural stories each Christmas, either adapted from M R James’s stories or created by other writers.  Many of these, such as Whistle and I’ll Come to You, have become classics but one production that particularly stuck in my memory was The Stone Tape – I know some people complain about repeats on TV but this is really one programme I’d like to see again.

Something else to look forward to over the next couple of weeks is a brand new Sherlock episode on New Year’s Day.  I can’t wait to see the explanation of how Holmes escaped death (in the modern day equivalent of the Reichenbach Falls) – I have my theory, of course, but it’s probably wrong.

Anyway, I hope all of you have a wonderful Festive Season.  All the best for 2014 and Happy Reading.

Late November 2013

I admit I cheated.  I kept an episode of Poirot back (Dead Man’s Folly) so that Curtain wouldn’t be the last I saw of the fantastic David Suchet.  It’s many years since I read Curtain and I sometimes feel a little guilty at not re-reading many of the Agatha Christie books I loved as a teenager.  After all, it was reading them that gave me an appetite for crime and mystery which, in turn led me to become a writer.

The plot of Curtain is certainly original for a crime novel, even though Shakespeare used something very similar in Othello.  It has to be said that Shakespeare himself wasn’t averse to adapting other people’s plots and ideas in his own special way.  They say there are only a certain number of stories in the world (I’m not sure, but I think it might be seven) so true originality, although that’s what most writers (including myself) strive for when they begin a book, is probably more difficult to achieve than most people think.  

Recently all my time has been taken up with writing my next Wesley Peterson novel and I’m pleased to say that I’ve just completed the first draft.  However, this is only the beginning of a long process and my lovely editor won’t be seeing it for a few months yet.  I view the first draft as a sculptor views a block of stone.  It’s the raw material of a book to be shaped and chiselled away until I am happy to allow someone else to read it.  At the moment only I know what’s in the manuscript sitting there on my desk but I can reveal that the title on the front is THE DEATH SEASON. 

I’ve just had the news that the publication date of my next novel THE SHROUD MAKER has been brought forward and the hardback (and e-book) will be available in January – not long to go now – and the paperback in June 2014. 

TheShroudMaker

Another exciting development is that copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR have been put on the London Underground by Books on the Underground.  The idea is that people pick up the books, read them (and possibly blog about them and recommend them to their friends), and then return them to the Underground so that they can be read by someone else.  It’s a great idea and I’m really thrilled that my book has been chosen.  I do hope everyone who picks it up enjoys it!

TheShadowCollector

November 2013

 I’m afraid this diary has been rather delayed but there is a good reason:  I now have a new and much improved website and I have been waiting for it to be ready.  I hope it’s easier to navigate than the old one and will tell you more about me and my books.

I have always thought that autumn is a sad time of the year and for the world of crime writing 2013 has been particularly sad with the loss of a much loved and distinguished author.  CWA Diamond Dagger winner Robert Barnard died on 19th September this year.  Bob was the author of an array of brilliant and witty novels as well as being a leading authority on Agatha Christie and the Brontes. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10340639/Robert-Barnard.html

I have very fond memories of Bob’s kindness to me when I was a new writer.  I was alone at my very first crime convention and even though he was a star author he took a lot of time to speak to me and tell me about the ins and outs of the crime writing world.  RIP, Bob, you’re sadly missed.

Now that the summer is over and autumn is well and truly here it’s back to work.  Sometimes writers just have to take a deep breath, put their heads down and write and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout October.  With THE SHROUD MAKER out in January (not long to go now) you might think I’d have plenty of time to write the next book in the series.  However, books have very long lead times and 2015’s novel has to be ready for printing long before the publication date.  I must say that so far the first draft is going well.  It always seems strange when life follows art but I can reveal that the recent violent storms reflect a major part of the plot I’m working on.

One of the highlights of the year for many crime fans is the return to our TV screens of the wonderful David Suchet in the role of Hercule Poirot.  As I write this I have viewed just one of the final series, The Big Four (Dead Man’s Folly has been recorded because I was at an Archaeology Society meeting and is being looked forward to with great anticipation).  The plot of The Big Four was a little far fetched at times and many aspects wouldn’t get past my own editor, but it made for a deliciously over the top and entertaining two hours of viewing.  The best part, of course is David Suchet’s performance as the Great Detective.  It is well known that Agatha Christie didn’t much like the character she had created and in the books Poirot’s character lacks depth and development.  But in David Suchet’s capable hands, Hercule has matured since the first episodes and, as he ages, we see him increasingly weighed down by his encounters with murder, examining questions of justice and faith in a depth that is lacking in the novels.  The series is an absolute treat.  I can’t wait for the next episode and I will be facing the final Curtain with much sadness.

September 2013

Yate

I love holidays, the chance to sit reading a good book without that nagging feeling of guilt that I should be doing something else (like working on my own book and persuading my characters to do what I want them to do). I’ve just returned from a beautiful week in Devon where I was royally entertained by Peter Lovesey’s latest Diamond mystery, The Tooth Tattoo. It really is a fascinating read, delving into the lives of the varied members of an elite string quartet and probing their connection with a young Japanese girl found dead in the lovely city of Bath. Highly recommended.


On the way down to Devon I stopped off in Gloucestershire to speak at Yate Library, just north of Bristol. It was good to meet everyone there and many thanks to the library staff for making me so welcome.

RegattaThe next day I travelled to Dartmouth, calling in at The Torbay Bookshop en route to sign copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR. The Torbay Bookshop is a lovely independent bookshop, named as one of the three best small bookshops in Britain by Daily Telegraph readers and shortlisted for Independent Bookseller of the Year in 2013.



When I arrived in Dartmouth, the town was packed with revellers celebrating the final day of the Royal Regatta. What with a fly past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a fantastic firework display (as well as excellent weather) it was certainly an evening to remember. I also had an ulterior motive for taking a special interest – my next Wesley Peterson mystery, The Shroud Maker (out in hardback in February) features a regatta-like festival (the big difference being that in my fictional festival, everyone dresses up in medieval costume…and murder is never far away!)

4actorsThe next day Regatta was over and everything suddenly returned to normal. But I had one more engagement before I could put my feet up – on Monday afternoon Dartmouth Library became a hotbed of (light-hearted) crime and murder when four courageous volunteers performed my Murder Mystery, Death at the Dig. They were brilliant and I’d really like to say a big thank you to the actors and to Library Supervisor, Rowena Marshall, for entering into the spirit of the 1920s so enthusiastically. Also congratulations to Alan Leach who won a signed copy of The Shadow Collector.

 

winner
For the rest of the week Dartmouth was bathed in glorious sunshine and I had a wonderful time going for long walks (and getting inspiration for future books). Hope you enjoy the pictures!

 

 

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.

formbyquigley

formbyquigley
This 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

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY READERS

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!

THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

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