When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I met with an old school friend recently, having not seen her for 25 years, and she said that on during our first year at secondary school we had each been asked what we wanted to be when we grew up and I’d said “a writer”. So I suppose the answer is 12 years old!
How long does it take you to write a book?
Years. From starting with the first draft to eventual publication has been five years for each of my published novels. And I have been working on my current novel since 2009…But I don’t work on one novel exclusively, so that time will be divided between at least two on-going projects.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
At the beginning, I can be prolific, and set myself a goal of 1000 words a day. But that just gets the first draft done and the journey from that to the finished novel is long (see above!) so I will then go over the draft repeatedly, working in themes or sub-plots or adding in research.
How many crime novels have you written?
Three have been published, but I have written a further two, and two others are in first draft stage.
Which is your favourite and why?
Difficult question. The James Version was my first novel so, like a first child, I made mistakes but I also learned a great deal. The Woman Before Me is my most successful novel, and it is also the most emotional (it concerns motherhood and the death of children, and the first draft was written when I was on maternity leave) and can still make me cry. But I think my best novel is The Sacrificial Man. I like the coolness of Alice, and I feel my writing is strongest with cool and detached characters.
Where do you get your ideas?
From life: cases I’ve worked; stories I’ve read in the newspaper. I was a probation officer and continue to work with Criminal Justice so I come across troubling and bizarre stories often. The ones I write about are the ones that I can’t stop thinking about: why did that happen? How does someone justify that?
Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Alice, my cannibal killer from Lavenham. Because she doesn’t realise she’s the protagonist in a crime novel; she thinks she’s a romantic heroine in a love story.
Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Camille Preaker from Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Edges is a brilliant invention. She is a self-harmer but she writes words on her body.
If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer. I’m attracted to the idea of making a difference.
What are you working on now?
My Sister And Other Liars. It’s a revenge tale, and a coming of age story, about a young girl who has decided to kill the man who attacked her sister.