What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
How did you become interested in writing?
It was storytelling that drew me in first. I was raised in an Irish family that told tales around the dinner table, so I grew up knowing how to spin a good yarn. Turning to writing seemed like a natural next step. Even now, it is the telling of the story that fascinates me.
What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
No two days are the same! Yesterday I wrote for the morning and then spent the afternoon giving a talk to a local book group. Today I’m dealing with publicity (taking part in this interview for the lovely readers of Map your Mystery) and hopefully will get some writing done before the day is out. But on the whole, I’m a morning person so I prefer to do my creative work first thing. However, when the plot starts to come together, it’s like riding an out-of-control steam train – the momentum just keeps me going and I tend to work long days towards the end of a novel.
Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
I like to think I plot well before I start… But then I also like to be open to opportunities that arise as the novel develops, which can lead to some interesting changes. It’s also a real buzz to allow free reign to creativity when inspiration strikes during what is supposed to be a well-plotted scene!
Love the character names. How did you decide to use those names and do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I’ve never used real people as the basis for characters in any of my books – simply because creating them is far more fun! Their names, however, are firmly grounded in the area I write about. For the Samson and Delilah series, set in the Yorkshire Dales, I use old census material for surnames and then cross-reference them with current telephone directories/local newspaper articles to make sure the names haven’t died out. For the first names, I access national data for given names across the decades so that I don’t have a seventy-year-old man carrying the name of a modern teen!
As for places, although Bruncliffe (the community in which the Samson and Delilah novels are set) is fictional, the area around it is entirely real. So if you were suddenly transported to the Yorkshire Dales you could find many of the places I mention. They have such amazing names like Hawes and Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Gargrave that I have no need to embellish them!
Who is your favorite author?
I get asked this a lot and have yet to give an answer! I was raised on a diet of Ed McBain, Dick Francis, Alistair McLean and Hammond Innes with a lot of the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen on the side! So I have a wide range of reading tastes.
How do you promote your books?
Over here in Britain, I do a lot of bookshop events – talks, cream teas (always fun!), signings etc. They are a brilliant way to meet fellow readers (because all writers are readers, after all…) and talk about books, not necessarily just my books. I have a Facebook page for the Dales Detective series (www.facebook.com/dalesdetective) which is a wonderful space for readers to be able to get in touch and to see photographs of the area I write about. I also use Twitter (@DalesWriter) but I find that’s more to keep in contact with the world of publishing than to promote. Overall, however, I limit the amount of self-promotion I do on social media as there’s nothing worse than an author who is only trying to sell! I find that engaging in genuine conversations about books is a far better way to interact with the millions of readers out there. And is far more interesting for me too.