Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An interview with. . .

Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell, is author of the successful debut book Cut Short (published in June 2009), and sequel Road Closed (published in June 2010). The series centres around D.I. Geraldine Steel, a detective seeking answers to both crimes and her personal life. The first book in the thriller series, Cut Short has received great reviews, being stated as "a stylish, top-of-the-line crime tale, a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel" (JEFFERY DEAVER).

Today, Leigh Russel has been kind enough to provide us with an interview:

When did you realise that you wanted to become a writer?

There was no Grand Plan. I had an idea, started writing, and found I couldn’t stop. Six weeks later I’d written about 85,000 words and realised that I’d written a book.

Can you tell us where you got the idea for Cut Short and the story behind how you became published? And how your life has changed since its publication?

The idea for CUT SHORT came into my head quite by chance. I was walking across my local park on a rainy weekday morning and happened to pass a man on the path. There was no one else in the park I began to speculate about him. Suddenly my imagination was racing. 'What if . . . ?' I thought, and the story of a crime thriller began to form in my mind. The story stayed with me and when I went home I began to write. That was three years ago and I haven’t stopped writing since.
I sent my manuscript to a publisher and it’s no secret that I heard from them two weeks later and shortly after that they signed me up for three books. So I became a writer without any planning or forethought. I wrote somewhere that I fell into writing like Alice falling down a rabbit hole.
CUT SHORT was a runaway success with three reprints in under a year, ROAD CLOSED has just been published ahead of schedule as WH Smith’s selected it for a June promotion, and I’ve just finished the first draft of DEAD END which will be published in 2011. In addition to writing I’m busy with book promotion. Meeting an author is an experience readers can’t find online, and I’m passionate about supporting real bookshops in this way, so most weekends I’m out in bookshops signing. I also visit libraries and colleges to talk about my writing, and appear at literary festivals, give radio interviews and online interview like this one. So life has been very busy since my first book was published.

Of all the characters in Cut Short, which do you think resembles you most? And why?

I don’t really think any of my characters resemble me. I’m a workaholic like my detective, but the resemblance ends there. I don’t base any of my characters on people I know, although I suppose they must be composites of people I’ve encountered or read about.

How did you create your character Geraldine Steel? Is there anyone you modelled her on? And if they were to make a TV series of your books, who would you think would best portray her?

When I started writing, I was fascinated by my killer. The villains are so much more fun to write than the good guys! My editor pointed out that my detective needed to engage my readers’ interest so they would want to follow her through the series, so I worked on Geraldine. She is introduced in CUT SHORT and in ROAD CLOSED readers discover more about her as her story begins to unfold.
I think my books would lend themselves very well to being televised as I write in very short chapters, like scenes on television. I do have an idea of who I would like to see playing Geraldine, but if my books were ever televised I doubt if I would have a say in how the series was adapted and produced - and that’s as it should be. Writing books requires a particular set of skills. Writing a screen play and producing a film or television show is quite different.
In Cut Short, Geraldine works for the first time with MIT in Woolsmarsh, in the next books will she continue working with this police station and its staff?

Geraldine works with the same Murder Investigation Team in ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END. In the fourth book in the series there is going to be a huge change for Geraldine which I think will be quite exciting for readers as well as for the character.

In Road Closed, will we see more of Geraldine’s personal life/love life? Specifically in Cut Short we see that Ian Peterson seems to be protective of Geraldine, will there be hints of more between these two in the future?

ROAD CLOSED reveals more about Geraldine with a story line that develops further in DEAD END. I gave my first talk shortly after CUT SHORT came out. At that point I had written Ian Peterson out of the series and introduced a new sergeant in ROAD CLOSED. That first audience had read CUT SHORT and they all said they liked the character of Peterson and wanted to see how his working relationship with Geraldine was going to develop. In response to their comments I wrote Peterson back in and he’s now in ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END. I like the idea of this interaction with my readers.

Perhaps you can tell us a bit about Cut Short’s sequel ‘Road Closed’?

Geraldine’s character is brought out more in ROAD CLOSED but it’s hard to tell you about it without giving too much away. I can tell you what the early reviews have been saying about ROAD CLOSED: “tense and gripping... well-written and absorbing right from the get-go, with just the right amount of guess-work for the reader.” (Eurocrime) “a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative” (New York Journal of Books, reviewed by award winning author Sam Millar) “This novel keeps you guessing until the end and packs some powerful surprises” (Bookersatz) So I think it’s fair to say that it’s a gripping and exciting plot. But I hope you’ll read and make up your own mind about it.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for aspiring [crime] writers?

I always give the same three pieces of advice to aspiring writers: Work hard, be brave, and be lucky.
The more you write the better your writing will become, so keep writing, and don’t be put off by rejections and don’t take them personally. Agents can receive as many as 50 submissions in an average day so they genuinely can’t give much time to any manuscript, and most publishers won’t even look at unsolicited submissions. Being published is a thrill, but the real buzz is writing. So my final piece of advice is: write because you love writing. Anything else is secondary.

Thank you very much for interviewing me here, with such interesting questions.

I hope this interview has been helpful, it was wonderful to interview Leigh Russell, who has been kind enough to offer signed copy of her new book ROAD CLOSED for a COMPETITION here on Book Bundle. . . stay tuned I shall be posting about how to enter later this week!


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