When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I can remember making little books out of folded paper for my stories when I was fairly young. I can also remember being told off at school for writing compositions so long and involved that the teacher gave up reading half way through. Yes, Mrs Edgecombe, I’ve never forgiven you for that! So, I suppose it’s always been in me though it took a long time for me to get started properly.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Years and years usually. I think the shortest time has been two years and the longest seven or eight years. I really do need to speed up though, as I’m no longer in what could be called the first flush of youth (or even the second).
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
If it’s going well I’ll probably start writing sometime in the morning and continue until I run out of ideas. This can be after 1,000 to 2,000 words when I’m really in the flow. Other times I might only manage 500 words before I concede defeat. Then I’ll usually turn to editing something completely different, or look over previously written chapters of whatever it is I’m working on. If I’ve had enough of sitting at my desk I’ll go for a swim or a walk or, if I can’t put it off any longer, get the dishes washed and the floor vacuumed.
How many crime novels have you written?
I’ve only completed one crime novel – Don’t Look Down – but I’ve started two others. One of these reinvented itself half way through and decided to become a non-crime novel. I rewrote this as Delirium, which I’ve recently finished. The other part-done one is hiding somewhere on my computer and I hope to track it down one day and finish it off. I also have an idea for a series featuring an elderly woman and her granddaughter as amateur sleuths.
Which is your favourite and why?
Since Don’t Look Down is the only one I’ve finished, I suppose I’ll have to nominate that. I am fond of it anyway because it’s set in Nuremberg, Germany, which is a wonderful mediaeval town that I’ve long considered as almost my second home.
Where do you get your ideas?
The idea for Don’t Look Down came to me after a visit to Nuremberg to see some friends. I’d been many times before but this was the first time I’d visited in winter and I fell in love with the town and the surrounding countryside all over again and had to use it as a setting.
Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
My favourite character in Don’t Look Down is a minor character called Axel. He’s mysterious and hypnotic and is actually loosely based on someone I once knew in Nuremberg. I expect if I met the real version again now, I’d be most disappointed.
Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Giles Brandreth writes crime novels starring Oscar Wilde as an amateur investigator. Initially, I thought this was a bizarre concept but I just wish I’d had the idea first as it’s right up my street. I expect poor Oscar is rolling about in his grave at having been used as a fictional detective though – as if the indignities of his life weren’t enough!
If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
I once played Dr Crippen’s wife, Belle Elmore, in an amdram theatre production and have been interested in the case ever since. After murdering her, Crippen and his lover, Ethel le Neve, fled to Canada by ship but were recognised by the captain. The recent invention of the radio telegraph meant he was able to inform Scotland Yard of their presence aboard. Inspector Dew of the Yard got a faster passage to Quebec and arrested the pair as they came ashore—the very first instance of a criminal being captured because of ship to shore communication. I’d like to have been Inspector Dew—that must have been a very satisfying moment.
What are you working on now?
I’m having a short break from new writing as I’ve recently finished Delirium which was a long haul project. I still have tweaks to make to that book, and am also lightly rewriting a previously published non-crime book The Man with the Horn, in order to bring it out as an ebook. I have an idea for a new book based on the discovery of a mysterious dead man on a beach in Australia that I might pursue, or I may start on that series with the grandmother and granddaughter I mentioned earlier. I’m eager to get started on something soon and hopefully this time it won’t take me several years to complete.
Barbara Scott-Emmett lives in Newcastle and writes in a room overlooking the Tyne – a greener view now than in the old industrial days. She shares this writing space with her husband, crime novelist Jimmy Bain, and their cat Gizzie—who has first pick of the available chairs. When not writing she edits the work of others and assists in ebook creation.
Don’t Look Down
The Land Beyond Goodbye
The Man with the Horn currently paperback only – ebook coming soon
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