A unique insight into the thoughts of leading authors

An Interview with the Talented and Multifaceted Author, Conan Kennedy

by Pete

  by Peter Lihou

Author, Poet, Columnist, the accomplished writer Conan Kennedy shares with us his thoughts and inspirations. Conan was born in Dublin but divides his time between the West of Ireland and Italy.

Conan’s novels include; Here Be Ghosts  –  1982 O’Brien Press,  Ogulla Well – 2002 Morrigan Books, The Colour of Her Eyes – 2011 Kindle. Other works include; Ancient Ireland — Users Guide 1994 Morrigan Books, Places of Mythology in Ireland – 1989 (jointly with Daragh Smyth) Morrigan Books, A Walk on The Southside – 2010 Morrigan Books. He has also written and collaborated on a number of Irish local history and guidebooks, in addition to editing the Diaries of Mary Hayden (1878-1903), National Library of Ireland,  and a selection of her writings.

Conan also contributes articles to The Irish Times and The Irish Catholic newspapers and was a contributor to The Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press/Royal Irish Academy.

Peter: Your latest novel, The Colour of Her Eyes was set in the English seaside town of Bognor Regis.  Apart from being my birthplace :), I’m wondering what inspired you to set your story in this location?

Conan: I left Ireland in my teens, heading for London. Couldn’t find a job there, heard of seasonal work in Butlin’s in Bognor, and so I ended up there. Started work as a kitchen porter and, after about three months, ended up as a commis chef. I suspect this says more about Butlin’s cuisine in those days than my Masterchef potential.  After that summer I got a job on the old Southdown buses and spent a couple of years at that. We covered an area from Worthing to Portsmouth and inland up as far as Horsham. Taking in Chichester and Arundel and Midhurst and places like that. I got to really like Sussex and, living in Bognor Regis, it became one of my favourite places. It’s maybe a bit of a cliché, the charms of faded seaside towns and all that, but I suppose that’s where clichés come from, realities. So, to answer your question, I reckon I was simply setting the book in my adopted home town. And maybe also a more practical reason. Irish writers can really be a pain in the neck banging on about Ireland, and I reckoned it would do me good to get away from all that.

Peter: At the end of this novel you promise us a sequel, when can we expect to see it available?

Conan: Hopefully mid 2012. I’ve a kind of funny way of writing books. Actually do more or less finish the ms, but then sit on it for maybe up to a year. So that sequel is actually finished, but recently I’ve had second thoughts and will be revisiting. I’ve been reading reviews of Colour and interested to see people taking things out of it that I hadn’t known I put in. Wondering whether I should take that on board in revisions. Probably a terrible idea, but I get lots of them. Terrible ideas.

Peter: Will it be on Kindle again?

Conan: Certainly will. I did send Colour to one or two agents, but nothing much happened. So I got the notion that if it did well as an eBook then maybe someone would take it up hardcopy. It did do well and is still doing well and I alerted some agents about it…the response seemed to be ‘well we’d prefer to take mss from scratch and do our own thing’. I have worked in the book business and have no doubt about which wall the writing is on, but still I would like to see my fiction in some form of hardcopy as well as on Kindle. Maybe that’s misplaced snobbery of some sort!

Peter: How do you feel about the rise of eBook formats like Kindle, will you publish most of your future works there first; perhaps even exclusively?

Conan: I never thought I’d say it, but looking at the eBook world one sometimes does miss agents and editors and publishers. Their filtering process I suppose. Because the whole eBook scene is so indiscriminate and arbitrary. And an awful lot of eBooks are written by people who can’t really write. But there again, an awful lot of conventional books are written by people with no talent either.  For myself I see my fiction emerging first as Kindle then migrating in some way to printed. I say ‘fiction’ because that’s text only and seems to work. But I have illustrated non-fiction things going too and am none too sure about them in electronic format. Maybe because I’m old fashioned and snobby, but I do like physical books. I come from  a design (architecture) background and have worked in publishing. I just like books about the place.

Peter: You also conclude The Colour of Her Eyes by saying the sequel will continue Ruth’s story, can you share with us if this will include the other characters, especially Sandra, DI Harris or John Dexter? I will understand if this is asking for too much information!

Conan: Yes they’re all there, but maybe not in the same proportions, so to speak. Ruth is settling down and Sandra is…well…Sandra.

Peter: And could this be a series, or will the story conclude in a sequel?

Conan: There are three books in the series.

Peter: Do you take any aspects of your own personality in drawing your characters? If so, to whom do you most relate?

Conan: I think Harris demonstrates many of my personal characteristics. Not sure if that’s flattering. Actually I think novelists and policemen have a great affinity. Both tend to be grumpy, observant, and share a certain view of the human condition. That noted, I think I mostly ‘relate’ to Ruth. That sculptor Grayson Perry comes to mind, the bloke with a little girl alter ego. Well I reckon Ruth Taylor is mine, alter ego. I don’t actually dress up as her, but she’s in there somewhere!

Peter: What other projects are you working on, can you tell us a little about them?

Conan: Well I have a new novel, The Snake Dancer of Sati Choura, and that’ll be a Kindle book in early 2012. I also have a book called Attic.Stuff.Write, which is a non-fiction, a memoir sort of thing, a printed book. Which will appear just so soon as I can find someone to publish it. And I have a book Connections, which is a collection of my newspaper articles on old photographs. I’m big into early photography. My grandfather Alexander Conan was a pioneer photographer and I inherited a lot of his material. He was cousin of Arthur Conan Doyle, hence my first name. Those projects are complete and ready to go but, as to actual writing over next few months, I’ll be polishing off Ruth Taylor (not literally, she survives) and going back to a book I’ve been working on for years. It’s set in South Africa. Where I lived after Bognor Regis!

Peter: How did you go about researching your location, do you spend time in them or research them on the Internet?

Conan: As mentioned earlier, I do know Bognor and Sussex pretty well. But I did go back there specifically to mooch around when writing the Ruth Taylor books, The Colour of Her Eyes etc. That new book I mentioned, Snake Dancer, that’s partly set in Dublin, which obviously I know well. So location research for that is no bother. The other half of the book is set in India. In Victorian times. Where I’ve never been. So I did research that on the internet. And in books also. Results of internet research can be a bit ‘lite’ I suspect. And now anyway in some kind of peculiar way I suspect the Indian part of the book works better. I’ve seen reviewers describe books as being ‘over researched’ But there again others say ‘only write what you know about’. People who comment on writing and books have a lot in common with economists, all those differing opinions.

Peter: You write in a number of forms including poetry, fiction, factual, and your columns. What do you enjoy to write the most?

Conan: Fiction definitely. I really don’t like writing for newspapers or magazines. I think it’s the deadlines. Must-have-something-for-next-week sort of thing. I only get fits of writing poetry. I find the modern poetry scene pretty grim. I reckon I’m pretty bright but struggle to understand where most modern poets are coming from. But I do know where most of them are going…oblivion! I was thrown off Poetry Ireland’s website for voicing such opinions.

Peter: And what do you like to do with your time when you’re not writing?

Conan: I’ve been building a house in the west of Ireland for the past thirty years. It’s not finished and probably never will be. But I do enjoy the physical aspect of building. I spend a lot of time with my wife. We’re very close. Just as well. Because I first met her when she was a schoolgirl, and she married me when she was eighteen and went to America with me. Being Irish Catholics we’ve had five children, four survive. I wrote about all that in my book A Walk on The Southside. A crazy little book which sells and sells. (Well, in Dublin!) I watch television on Sunday evenings. Strictly, and Antiques Roadshow sort of things. Apart from news programs during the week that’s about it. I’m right out of the TV loop. Though I did once write comedy scripts for Irish TV. I find now if I read TV reviewer columns I don’t recognise any of the shows. I’ve heard of Downton Abbey because the  wife watches it. When visiting Dublin I go to pubs with old mates. In Italy I look at old churches. Life eventually boils down to old mates and old churches.

Peter: You share your time between the West of Ireland and Italy I believe, which do you consider to be your main home, now and how much time do you spend in each?

Conan: Ireland definitely. Spend slightly more time there these days. Probably because I’ve a lot of writing going on and something in me tells me Italy is ‘down time’ or ‘vacation’ or some such.

Peter: Do you seek solitude to write or are you happy to work amongst the distractions of others, as J K Rowling did in her cafes?

Conan: When writing a novel I get up at around half four in the morning and work for about four hours. That time between sleep and wake where paths to dreams are still ajar, best time for fiction. I can write non fiction anywhere/anytime. And often do.

Peter: Are you organised, do you set aside a set amount of time each day, or do you write when and for as long as the fancy takes you?

Conan: As mentioned, very organised, as regards fiction. Both re time of day and deadline to finish, number of words per, etc etc.  I would like to write as fancy takes but find the fiction thing closing up after about those four hours. Thing about fiction writing, in itself it’s going to flow, and you need to be fiercely organised to both keep it flowing and keep it on some kind of track. On the other side of the coin I’m chaotic with non-fiction. Hopeless. Bits and pieces all over the place.

Peter: It’s clear to me that you take great care in ‘filling out’ your characters so the reader becomes intimately familiar with them. One technique I much enjoyed was the way your characters were allowed to drift off subject, I felt we learned almost as much about them from their excursions as we did when they followed the plot. Do you have other techniques you have drawn upon or that you admire in other authors, which similarly contribute to the richness of characters?

Conan: Maybe that question is making a virtue out of a necessity, in that me allowing characters to drift off is just me drifting off myself. Never thought of it as a ‘technique’. I do think however that Irish writers do have this absolute-concentration-with-frilly-edges sort of thing.

Peter: Finally, whom do you most admire as a novelist and what would be your ‘desert island’ book?

Conan: That’s difficult. In all honesty I don’t actually read that much fiction. It strikes me there’s a lot of expertise out there but very little talent. In actual fact I think the talented writers are overlooked in favour of the school-of-creative-writing-variety, probably because there’s an industry of lit crit and education professionals built up around the latter. That said I suppose I do admire novelists generally because it’s a pretty tough job. It’s very competitive and there’s little money in it.

Desert Island book? I’d probably bring along The Diaries of Mary Hayden. It’s in five volumes but that might count as one book. She was an Irish women’s rights campaigner, interested in politics and history and literature, friend of Patrick Pearse and W.B.Yeats and so on. All of Ireland’s history in one book. Well, in five volumes. She also travelled widely, living in Greece and touring India. She was also engaged to my great uncle Arthur Conan. Never married because he died in the Boer War. But there’s a lot about my own family in the diaries and I’m interested in genealogy.

Maybe I spread myself too thin!

Peter: Thank you Conan, it’s been a real pleasure to meet you and I will look forward to following your future work.


The Colour of Her Eyes is currently available from the AB.c shop on Amazon

You can learn more about Conan and follow his work at his website

An Interview with Acclaimed Thriller Author, Stephen Leather

by Michael

  By Michael Parker

If you like your thrillers taut and with pace, your characters hard and well defined, the writing professional, believable and magnetic, then Stephen Leather is your man. Here is a writer who knows his craft and knows his readers, and delivers with amazing skill. I caught up with Stephen during one of his many, overseas trips, and despite his busy schedule, he was happy to set aside some of his valuable time to talk about his work, his life and his thrillers, including his latest novel; FAIR GAME. I don’t know how many words Stephen churns out in a year, but he tends to aim at between 100,000 and 150,000 words for a novel. He recently turned out 250,000 words and discarded 50,000 of them (this was for VETS). I asked him about that.

Stephen Leather

Michael: Did you find it hard ‘throwing away’ 50,000 words (almost a novel)?

Stephen: It was very hard, but at 250,000 words it was just too long. I think it’s a better read because it was tightened up.

Michael:  You’ve written for television. Do you prefer script writing to novels?

Stephen: I prefer the process of writing screenplays because it’s so much simpler than writing a novel. But I hate the fact that so many people in the TV business want to have their input.  Too many cooks, generally….

Michael: How can you know so much detail about your stories, is it all research?

Stephen: Sure, pretty much everything I write is based on reality.

Michael: You move around a great deal. Is this born in you, or are you just a fidget?

Stephen: I enjoy travelling and I enjoy living in different countries. Over the years I’ve lived and worked in England, Scotland, Ireland, Hong Kong, France, the US and Thailand.

Michael: The EYEWITNESS was the first book of yours that I read, and very powerful too. What affect did the research have on you, if any?

Stephen: No affect, really. I spoke to about twenty hookers in the UK and in the former Yugoslavia and visited plenty of brothels, but I wouldn’t say that the process affected me.

Michael: Did anybody in the security services ask you about SOFT TARGET from the point of view of where or how did you come up with such a scenario?

Stephen: The scenario for Soft Target, where suicide bombers targeted the London Tube, came from the security services.  They told me that was one of their biggest fears some two years before it actually happened.  Soft Target was published well before the London Tube bombings and it’s uncanny how accurate it was.

Michael: HOT BLOOD features SAS tactics. This was similar to Hard Landing. Have you worked or trained (not seriously) with the SAS?

Stephen: No, but I have friends/contacts who served in the SAS and SBS.

Michael: Is there any autobiographical content in PRIVATE DANCER?

Stephen: Sure. There is in every book I write.

Michael: Your latest Spider Shepherd thriller, FAIR GAME is about the threat of Somali pirates, and like your other thrillers, extremely well researched. I can’t reveal the ending, that would be a spoiler, but it looked like there could be a follow on perhaps?

Stephen: The Spider Shepherd books will continue and I’ve just started the sequel.  I have a contract with Hodder and Stoughton for three more Shepherd books. I don’t always tie up all the loose ends!

Michael: When researching your work, have you ever been in ‘tricky’ situations without a minder of some sort?

Stephen: Never. And I don’t have minders.  I generally don’t get into tricky situations and when I do I can usually talk my way out of any problem.

Michael: Do you believe that the internet can replace hands on research (the kind that you do) effectively?

Stephen: No, but the internet is a big help.  It can give you lots of information and details and help you check facts, but to write about a place properly you really have to go there and experience it for yourself.

Michael: Do you write for yourself or for your readers?

Stephen: A combination of the two. I write the sort of books that I want to write, but at the end of the day it’s how I make my living so I have to write books that sell.  If I wasn’t enthusiastic about my work then the reader would be able to tell.

Michael: Are you a great believer in sharing the creation of your work with another writer; James Patterson & Howard Roughan for example?

Stephen: I think the fact that Patterson can get other writers to write his books means that his writing isn’t that good in the first place. And I think readers are stupid for buying books that he hasn’t written himself.  He’s a brand, not a writer.

Michael: You have decided to embark on two thrillers a year. The thought of writing two books a year would paralyse some wannabe writers. Do you not think that this will be too much of an imposition and that the quality of your work will suffer?

Stephen: I can comfortably write 1000 words a day.  That’s 360,000 words a year, which is actually three novels. So two a year isn’t a stretch.

Michael:  Quote: “If I get any spare time I’ll be working on a new thriller set in the United States”. Do you eat and sleep during the day?

Stephen: Sure, but I try to sleep as little as possible!

Michael: You made a pretty strong comment a few years against literary agents. I won’t try to quote you, but do you need them now, either in Europe or elsewhere?

Stephen: I have an agent in the UK, Julian Alexander at the LAW agency in London. He’s great.  But yes, I’ve had lots of bad experiences with literary agents, especially the ones in the States. Most of the US agents I’ve met have been arrogant, self-centred and mean-spirited. Horrible people.

Michael:  Do you need an agent?

Stephen: With the arrival of e-publishing, possibly not.

Michael: You’ve advertised BANGKOK BOB on Kindle; a 63,000 word novel. Bit on the short side for you?

Stephen: The beauty of the e-reader is that the length of a book is less important. My Kindle bestseller is The Basement, which is just over 40,000 words long, a novella rather than a novel.  I’m also selling short stories on the Kindle, a series of locked room mysteries featuring a Singaporean detective, Inspector Zhang.  When a reader is in a bookshop looking for a book to buy they might regard the length of a book as important, probably because a longer book appears to be better value for money. But with downloads the reader doesn’t seem so concerned about the number of pages.

Michael: With the explosion of e-books and POD, can you see the major publishing houses trying to restore the status quo that existed in the literary world, and so avoid being undermined by on-line publishers?

Stephen: I’m sure they would like to restore the status quo but I’m not sure if that’s possible.  The advent of e-publishing has changed the rules and publishing houses, and agents, are in heading for tough times.

Michael: Is there any realistic upper age limit after which a publisher or an agent will not consider an unknown writer’s work?

Stephen: I do get the feeling that publishers prefer their new writers to be younger, but the great thing about publishing is that generally people don’t know much about an author.  I’m sure that when Harry Potter first came out most readers assumed that it had been written by a middle-aged man!  I think agents might well be less keen on a 70-year-old who had written their first novel than a 17-year-old, but the beauty of the new phenomenon of e-publishing is that both the 70-year-old and the 17-year-old can publish on a level playing field.

Michael: You live, or have lived in Thailand. Is it your favourite place? Would this be where you would settle if you had to give up your writing career?

Stephen: Ha ha. Probably couldn’t afford to live in Thailand if I had to give up my writing career!  Thailand is a great country but there are pros and cons.  I’m not sure that I have a favourite place, but it’s hard to beat London on a spring day.

Michael: If all this had to stop now, where on the planet would you like to live, bearing in mind you have travelled all over the place?

Stephen: Probably London.

Michael: What reading material would you take with you if you were forced to spend a long period, say one year alone on an island?

Stephen: The complete works of Ed McBain maybe. Or Leslie Charteris (the Saint books).  I have both in my bookcase but can never find the time to read them.

Michael: Judging from your website, you appear to be a very open person. Doesn’t this hinder you at all when so many fans would want a piece of you if they had the chance?

Stephen: Not really. I try to answer all emails that I get and interact with fans on Facebook.  Usually people want to say how much they’ve enjoyed my work, so it’s not a chore.  If I’m having a bad day, an email from a fan saying they loved my new book can really cheer me up!


I found Stephen Leather to be a very accommodating writer. Despite his very busy schedule, he answered my e-mails promptly and with no complaints. I find his thrillers are extremely well written and researched, and would put him among the top thriller writers of today. You can learn more about Stephen, his writing and his travel on his website:

Michael Parker

Readers, today we’re interviewing Melodie Campbell, a Canadian who’s most recent publication is “Rowena Through the Wall”, a fantasy and romance.

by David

By David Coles

David: This is what she tells the world about herself…

“By day, Melodie Campbell is a mild-mannered association executive; by night, she transforms into a fevered scribe of comedy and suspense. Melodie has a Commerce degree from Queen’s University, but it didn’t take well. She has been a banker, marketing director, comedy writer, association executive and college instructor. Not only that, she was probably the worst runway model ever. Melodie got her start as a humour columnist, so it’s no surprise her fiction has been described by editors as ‘wacky’ and ‘laugh out loud funny’. With over 200 publications, and three awards for short fiction, Melodie’s work has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Star Magazine, Canadian Living Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Hamilton Spectator, New Mystery Reader, Mysterical-E and many more. Melodie is now the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada. She lives in Oakville, Ontario with husband, two kids and giant Frankenpoodle.”

We may be fortunate enough to find out a little more…

David: A Frankenpoodle?

Melodie: A standard poodle that didn’t know when to stop growing. He’s 30 inches at the shoulders. We call him a giraffe in a dog suit.

David: You’ve had an interesting career so far, what actually brought you to becoming a novelist?

Melodie: I got my start writing comedy. Didn’t mean to, but somehow every time I tried to write straight, the gremlins took over and twisted the words. Okay, I’ll go back; I was the class clown in high school, always getting in trouble for quipping in class.

I wrote shorts for many years. Had a humour column, wrote standup. In 1993, a producer from fledgling HBO saw my play, ‘Burglar for Coffee,” labeled it “completely nuts” and offered me a spot writing pilots, which I stupidly turned down. This goes on record as one of the worst decisions ever made by a human not officially insane.

In 1999, I was asked to open the Canadian Humour Conference. Was invited into the Toronto Press Club. Drank a lot of scotch there. Then some newspaper guy said, “Why don’t you write a novel? You’ve never written a novel.”

Never one to turn down a dare (did I mention I was not officially insane?) I wrote Rowena.

David: What genres do you find interesting?

Melodie: Mystery, fantasy and sci-fi. I like all of them to have a little romance in them, but I’m not a big “R” romance reader. In my work, romance shouldn’t be the plot, but romance can motivate the plot. Basically, I like a lot of plot.

David: Supposing you were cast away on a desert island, what books would you wish to have with you?


1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams is the kind of wacky I most relate to)
2. The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov – a perfect blend of sci-fi motivated by romance)
3. The entire Stephanie Plum series (Janet Evanovich)
4. The entire Spellman series (Lisa Lutz)

You will notice that 3 out of 4 of these are comic.

David: And who is your favourite hero (of either sex)?

Melodie: Simon from Mary Stewart’s “My Brother Michael”. A sophisticated classics instructor who actually kills a man with his bare hands when the heroine is attacked. The perfect blend of sexy mind and primitive man.

David: Aside from books, what are you most proud of or satisfied with in your publications to date?

Melodie: Probably the humour columns that got me noticed and invited into the Toronto Press Club. Then I was asked to open the 1999 Canadian Humour Conference. That was a big deal to me.

David: Have you had to deal with rejections, was it difficult finding a publisher?

Melodie: No matter how many publications you have, you always have to deal with rejection. It’s the hardest thing about writing – being rejected by people who can’t do what you do. You have to develop a thick skin, and mine is still too thin.

David: You have a number of awards. Have they helped you into public awareness?

Melodie: Oh yes! Awards open many doors in that publishers will actually read your work. It won’t make the sale for you– your current writing has to do that. But it will put you to the top of the slush pile.

David: What sort of marketing have you used?

Melodie: Facebook, twitter, guest blogging, signings…Rowena has only been out in paperback for a month, so I’m just getting started in a big way.

David: Do you see Rowena as ‘chick-lit’?

Melodie: It didn’t start out that way. Rowena was written as a comic fantasy; basically I was trying to do something in the genre of ‘The Princess Bride’, only with a feisty female as protagonist. Then my publisher got hold of it and said: you know, with a little tweaking, we could slide this into the paranormal romance market too.

I don’t like chick-lit, myself. Nothing wrong with it – I just like more plot. Rowena is the sort of book I wish someone else would write so I could read it. A rollicking adventure, and a fast read.

David: Do you think Rowena might establish a new genre, one that will supersede the vampires and werewolves and the angels and demons?

Melodie: I think Vampires will always be here, although maybe more down the erotic line. But boy, I wish there were more fun adventures written today. Pure escape stories with lots of rollicking action, and the spice of romance. Nothing would please me more than to see more of this type of book written. I have asked and asked (on Amazon, Goodreads) for people to tell me about other books like mine so I could read them, and there don’t seem to be many, alas.

David: Would you like to be Rowena… or perhaps you are?

Melodie: I would like to look like Rowena, sure! She is a little spunkier than I am. I grew up in the late 60s/70s, when females were told they had to be good girls. Well darn it, sometimes, we just want to be bad girls! In Rowena, I was able to play with that concept. What if…the morality was taken out of your hands? How would you react? Yes, it’s meant to be a fun book, but there are intellectual concepts I played with in the writing of Rowena. Some people have picked up on it.

David: Rowena is published as an eBook and as a paperback, do you know yet, which is selling best?

Melodie: The ebook. Fantasy and romance are largely ebook now, I hear. Fans in these genres have a strong online presence and they read voraciously.

David: Do you have any thoughts on what the world of books will be like once the competition between eBooks and printed books is over?

Melodie: Scary, David! Oh, can we really live without paper? I decorate with books! I have lovely books in every room in my house. Ebooks are a given now, and make things cheaper to buy, but boy, I love my paper.

David: How many books in a series do you think Rowena might run to?

Melodie: I originally thought three – although other characters could have their own stories. In this biz, your future contracts are based on your current sales. I’m waiting to see if I should wrap Rowena’s story up in the next book, or carry it on to 3. I’ve got plots either way.

David: I know you have family links with Britain, would you like to tell us about them – and how they relate to Rowena?

Melodie: My late cousin Tony was Viscount Clegg-Hill of Shropshire and Shrewsbury. He had that dry British wit I adored, and would regale me with stories about the rakish ancestors. The castle I use in ‘Rowena Through the Wall’ is the original Norman castle that went to ruin in the 1500s. (Hawkstone Park, which still stands, was built to replace it in 1556). The Norman castle, with its rounded turrets, crenellations and merlons, has been in my imaginations for decades. Rowena walks through the wall to her ancestor’s home, and falls in love with it too.

David: Do you think you could write a male lead in future books?

Melodie: No. I’m very firm about that. I don’t think like a man, and I know it. I have a male friend who looks at all my work and gives me pointers. He is always saying to me “Change that. A man wouldn’t act like that. He would be angry.” As a result, some guys have told me that the men sound like real men in my book – not like the ideal characters in a romance novel.

I can almost always tell when a man has written a female viewpoint character. Usually something is off. I wouldn’t presume to write from the head of a man for the length of a novel.

David: Do you listen to music as you write? What are your favourite pieces or songs?

Melodie: With a name like Melodie, you would expect a musical connection, and you’re right. My Dad played sax in a big band. I trained for opera and sang torch. I learned to read music before I read words, so music is my first written language. Like many musicians, when I hear music, I can’t keep it as background; I am fully into it. As a result, I listen to music for breaks only, and not while I am writing.

Classical: Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Gershwin, Gottschalk, Holst, Elgar
Popular: Ella, Manhatten Transfer, any Cole Porter
Rock: Steely Dan, Moody Blues, Doors, Heart, Pat Banatar, Great Big Sea

David: Do you write with a pen or pencil or straight on to your computer?

Melodie: Straight to the computer. I was a newspaper/magazine columnist. We were trained on keyboard.

David: Do you have abandoned projects? If so, what do you do with them?

Melodie: I’m new to the novel, and have been fairly lucky. I’ve sold both that I’ve written. But – remember I wrote professionally for 18 years and had 30 published short stories before I even tried to write a novel.

David: Apart from writing, do you have hobbies or pass-times? Anything adventurous?

Melodie: I love sportscars. My first car was a Triumph Spitfire, and the second was a Lotus Europa (don’t even ask me about repair bills! I’m in Canada, remember.) Now, I drive a white Corvette. There’s something about the lift-off from start…yum. There is no substitute for cubic inches.

Did I mention I started university in mechanical engineering? Switched to Commerce.

David: If not in Canada, where would you like to live? Or perhaps there’s simply no contest?

Melodie: There’s no contest. I love the south of England. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get a British passport when it was possible (through your parents). I get off a plane in GB and feel right at home. My brand of humour is much more British than American. And your beer is great, too.

David: Thank you so much for talking to us Melodie. Your CV is really impressive and interesting, I’m sure our readers will join with me in wishing you every success.

A dangerous lady, folks; those sports cars say it all! Aside from that, a really nice person.
Thank you.

An interview with Geraldine Evans; an extremely prolific writer of crime novels

by Jack

By Jack Everett

Jack: You write about detective teams, a pair of which are Celtic. What gave you the idea?

Geraldine Evans

Geraldine: I suppose I’d read too many books about detectives who were very serious, very middle-class and very English. I’m none of these things, albeit I was born in London. I decided I wanted to write a detective novel that was amusing. One about a policeman who was an ordinary Joe. A working-class guy, one of those who make up the backbone of the British police service. I also decided, given the working-classes’ propensity for a little ducking and diving, that my policeman would come from a family who gave him grief on a regular basis. The Rafferty family are not good at sticking to the letter of the law, which gives my DI, Joe Rafferty, a number of problems. Problems not helped by being partnered by the intellectual moralist Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn. Llewellyn thinks the law should apply to everyone; even the mothers of detective  inspectors..

Jack: What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?

Geraldine: My latest hardback book is Deadly Reunion. And the title was easy. It’s about a school reunion that turns deadly. I’ve never had such an easy title. It came to me pretty well immediately.

On the indie ebook front, my latest books are Absolute Poison and the soon to be published Kith and Kill (also to be published as a Trade Paper Back) Absolute Poison was so named because it’s about the murder of a man who was Absolute Poison. And Kith and Kill is a play on words of kith and kin. This book is centred around the murder of a family matriarch and all her ever loving family are suspects.

Jack: What is Deadly Reunion about?

Geraldine: It’s about the murder by poisoning of a man who attends a school reunion. A man who is, perhaps, reaping what he has sown in the past. Here’s the blurb:

Four weeks back from his honeymoon, and DI Joseph Rafferty not only has a new case. He also has four new lodgers. As far as the former is concerned, a dead man had been found in Deadman Wood and, at first, it is assumed that he had just died from a heart attack after a too-energetic bout of jogging. But the toxicology report gave the lie to that.

The second little difficulty, of course, was down to Ma Rafferty, who had decided to hold her own reunion, a family one. And since she had become a silver surfer the guest list had exploded and, as far as guests are concerned, Rafferty had drawn the short straw.

Drawn the short straw in his murder investigation, too. Because the dead man had been a guest at a school reunion. And a number of the other guests were gradually shown to have reasons to want the victim dead. In fact, if it wasn’t for one of his unwanted lodgers,  Rafferty would have despaired of ever solving the case at all.

Jack: What books have influenced your life most?

Geraldine: The bible, definitely. With its morality. I try to live my life on a ’do as you would be done unto’ principle. I would say also  that Shakespeare has influenced my life. Though I have only actually read a few of the plays, his words permeate our language. Sometimes, it seems we can hardly utter half a dozen sentences without Shakespeare creeping in. And if it’s not Shakespeare, it’s the bible.

Jack: How many books do you have out there now?

Geraldine: It will shortly be nineteen. The first eighteen were all traditionally published, but for the nineteenth, Kith and Kill, my latest Rafferty & Llewellyn mystery, I’m publishing it myself and it will be out as an ebook and paperback sometime in September 2011.The reason I’m publishing it myself is that my print publisher declined to publish when I refused to hand over the e-rights to all my backlist…I thought I could do a better job – at a better price for the reader –than my publisher could. And to judge from the price at which my publisher has e-published Deadly Reunion, I’m right. It’s double the price of my other ebooks.

Jack: What do you consider to be the greatest way to market your books?

Geraldine: I’ve tried various things, doing a blog tour, taking out ads on Kindle Nation Daily and doing a Banner Ad on Kindleboards. I found the latter two didn’t increase sales, though I found all the hard work during my blog tour definitely paid off. My sales (at the very beginning of my ebook adventure) went from 53 a month in January to 215 in February and 316 in March and they’ve been on the rise ever since. I really must think about organising another blog tour as I think the figures speak for themselves.

Jack: Do you believe in having an agent?

Geraldine: Yes, though my agent and I parted company shortly after I started putting out my backlist as ebooks. This was after my publisher declined my latest book. I think she saw no role for herself with me taking the ebook route. But I shall always be grateful to her as she got me published again after I had been in the publishing wilderness for six years after the publication of my first five books when I was dropped by Macmillan. I was really starting to despair and she made all the difference. If it hadn’t been for my agent, I wouldn’t be the proud owner of nineteen published books. I would definitely recommend having an agent. If, like me, you’re in the publishing doldrums, they can shake things up and get you published.

Jack: Have you ever had to deal with rejection? If so, how did you handle it?

Geraldine: Like nearly every writer, I’d been rejected countless times. When I was starting out I wrote a book a year for six years, only the last of which was published. I think, unless you self-publish, you have to be prepared for any number of rejections, often in a standard format that has you questioning whether they’ve even glanced at your book, never mind read it. Believe me, they won’t have read it. How do I handle rejection? I don’t have to handle it any more as I’m self-published. But when I did get rejected, I used to have a little cry. Then I’d grit my teeth and send the bloody book out again for another half dozen times, after which I’d read it through again to see if I couldn’t somehow improve it.

Jack: If you had to choose which author, would you consider a mentor?

Geraldine: Stephen King, I think. But most American authors are in the mentoring major league as they seem to regard their writing and everything connected with it in a thoroughly professional manner. They seem to be born understanding about marketing. I belong to several lists whose membership is predominantly American and I’ve learned so much. But for them, I doubt I would have embarked on e-publishing my backlist.

Jack: What are your current projects?

Geraldine: I’m still in the middle of getting my backlist up on Kindle and Smashwords. I’ve got about another eight to do and then I might just take a holiday before starting a new book. I’ve got a rough (very) idea for another Rafferty novel, but there’s not enough there yet to tell you about it.

Jack: Are you staying with crime fiction or would you like to try other genres?

Geraldine: I’m staying with crime fiction for now. It’s been good to me, and although I have tried other genres (romance and historical), my most financially rewarding novels are my Rafferty books. I’ll have to wait until I get my second mystery series (Casey & Catt) up on Kindle before I see if it does as well. I’d love to write another historical, but as I’m not known for these, the sales aren’t great.

Jack: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Geraldine: The fact that Sergeant Llewellyn is an educated man (I left school at sixteen). Sometimes I have a struggle to make sure the words I put in his mouth are as grammatical as they should be! He corrects Rafferty’s grammar and is given to little educational lectures. I live in fear that I’ll put my foot in it in a big way.

Jack: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Geraldine: Maybe it’s time to give up the struggle with the slush pile, get your book privately edited and put it up on Kindle. If you think it’s good enough. But have it professionally e-formatted.

Jack: Do you have any writing quirks and if so what are they?

Geraldine: I used to have the quirk that I would write in scenes – not necessarily in chronological order – which had then to be put together like a jigsaw puzzle. But I managed to cure myself of it and I don’t write out of order so much now.

Jack: Why should readers want to read your work? What makes it stand out from the rest?

Geraldine: I think they’d find my novels both a fun read and a device for tackling serious issues. I think the families of my principal detectives make my books stand out from other mystery novels. In my Rafferty novels, between Ma and Father Kelly and Nigel Blythe (aka Jerry Kelly), there’s plenty more to entertain the reader than just the actual mystery.

Jack: Do you read other authors writing in your genre to keep up with the latest trends?

Geraldine: I do read other authors writing in my genre, but not particularly in order to keep up with the latest trends. I’ve always gone my own road rather than followed the herd. I read for either entertainment or education. Sometimes I’m lucky and I find both in the same book.

Jack: Well Geraldine that was both rewarding and enjoyable, I hope the readers find it so and you garner even more fans for your writing. Thank you for your time.


Geraldine may be contacted at and at