I began by asking her: You write for both the teen/Young Adult and the Adult market. I'm interested in the creative process: When a story comes into your head, do you know immediately which market you will be aiming at? Or does it take some time for the story to develop and then you decide?
They are entirely different genres, and, to be truthful, I have largely stopped writing for the teenage market now. My decision was 'forced' on me: in 2008 the financial crash meant that publishers started eyeing their mid-lists and weeding them out ruthlessly. Usborne decided to get rid of me, so the 5th SPY GIRL** book never saw the light of day. Five novels went the rounds and didn't get picked up. So I changed genre and have never regretted it.
Another reason I decided to quit was that teens tend to buy books in shops rather than Ebooks and it is very hard to break into the market if you are self-published or with a small Indie as few bookshops will stock your books. Also, the teen market has been kidnapped by 'celebs' who are ruthlessly pushed. I pity the poor writer starting out in this genre today.
So I now write adult histfic. However, if you DO write in both genres, you have to 'put on the right hat' and leave it on until the tale is told. Your thinking has to be in one or the other. I don't know of many writers who have 2 books going in both. If they are out there, maybe they'll leave a comment and say how they do it. I am full of admiration for them!
** All the SPY GIRL novels are being republished by Accent Press in 2017, including the fifth one. I am excited!
That's wonderful news. Tell us more about the Spy Girl series. Where did the original idea come from?
When I wrote them, there were a lot of 'boy heroes' ~ Alex Rider and copycat books. Or gangs of teens who solved crimes. I wanted to create a rather flawed teenager (Jazmin Dawson wants to be a size 8, but there are just too many size 10 cakes around!). Also, many of the books showed the protagonists 'hating' their parents, who were universally vile to them. I didn't like that, and tried to show how close Jazmin and Assia are ~ even though they fight like cat and dog, as teens and their mums do.
As someone who is part 'foreign', I also wanted to set part of the books abroad. Thus The Dark Side Of Midnight is set in Prague, a city I love. Dead Man Talking uses some Italian locations. Nobody was doing this when I wrote them. I'm not sure they are now. There's still a temptation to write big stories on a small canvas. Once you decide to move outwards in your thinking, all sorts of possibilities open up.
Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal (congratulations, by the way!) How much does your work with young people inform your writing?
All the time! Jigsaw was based on a true event: when I was on teaching practice (aged 46, a career change) a year 10 boy committed suicide. The events around Grant's death and the way the school handled it are based on what I saw going on in my own school. Annie is based on a very 'street~smart Year 11 I had in my Year 11 English class. She had a BIG issue with 'respect' which, she told me all too often, she was never shown by teachers.
She had a soft side though. On my last day at that school, as I dismissed the class, she casually dropped an envelope on my desk as she passed. Nothing said, no eye contact. When I opened it, there was a lovely card. Inside, one word: Respect.
For your current series of crime novels, you chose Victorian England as the setting. What drew you to that period, particularly?
I LOVE the Victorians! Especially the 1860s ~ a period that hasn't been mined by modern writers, unlike the 1880s. It was the time of Wilkie Collins, Dickens and Mrs Gaskell. Trains, drains and the beginning of 'women's right'. What's not to love? I studied the Victorian period at University, and I lived in London for years ...so much of the architecture is still there to view, and I mine it extensively in the books.
Also, the historicity can be researched, as so many contemporary documents exist. I don't know how people who write fiction in a 14th century or earlier setting cope! Where do they go to check on things? How do they know they are being authentic? I do COPIOUS amounts of research, though I probably discard 93% of it. I'd be very nervous of striking out without the knowledge that I was writing 'correctly'.
Thanks for popping by to chat. Before you go though, tell us about your new release ...
Murder & Mayhem is the 4th in the series of 'Stride & Cully, Victorian Detectives' novels. Set in London in 1863, it focuses on a Bow Street officer, Inspector Lachlan Greig, and deals with the awful crime of 'baby-farming' where poor or unexpectedly rich young women turned their offspring over to other women to 'mind' on the tacit understanding that the poor babe would never be seen again.
The crime wasn't made illegal until much later. The LAW blamed the woman every time, and exonerated the man who'd raped her, or deserted her. Dreadful. I shed many a tear as I wrote, as I have two tiny grandchildren and it broke my heart to think of babies being drugged and starved.
Though it isn't all doom and gloom! There are some utterly mad anarchists, and two lovely 18 year old friends, Daisy and Letitia. The book came out at the end of September and has, to date, ten 5 Star Reviews on Amazon. Not bad for a series that nearly got consigned to the cyber-bin when my then agent told me the first book, Diamonds & Dust was ''unpublishable''!
Thanks so much Carol and best of luck with the new release.
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