Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ten facts about … JJ Marsh

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to tell stories as soon as I was capable of sentient expression. Actually, even before sentient expression. My mum recalls me burbling on in my pram, talking to trees, cows and knitted rabbits. As a child, I used to direct performances starring my cousins; as a teenager, I wrote songs and poetry – thankfully all destroyed in the Great Abergavenny Earthquake. As an adult, I acted, directed and told lies (see previous sentence). Finally, I found an outlet for all those urges – writing.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I’m getting quicker. The first two (consigned to a drawer until the next earthquake) took about five years. Now I have learnt a bit about writing, created Beatrice Stubbs and understand (some of) my weaknesses. I can usually produce something halfway decent in eighteen months.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I would love a work schedule. In fact, a work schedule is on my Christmas list. My freelance, unpredictable, stumble-trip-hiccup, overloaded and frankly messy lifestyle tends to sabotage all attempts at organisation. I write in big fat emergency chunks when I can – on the train, in the dentist’s waiting room and in those precious moments when the pugs are asleep. And on Sunday mornings, when housework is forbidden in Switzerland.

How many crime novels have you written?
Three. And three more to come. But then I’m done.

Which is your favourite and why?
The next one, because I’m not yet bored of it.

Where do you get your ideas?
In no particular order: dreams, Grazia magazine, intangible atmosphere, three blokes in a Bristol Post Office, deepest fears, London Review of Books, reflections in a puddle, Brecon High School’s library, overheard conversations, Aphex Twin, the personality of a city, Eddie Izzard, past conditionals, John Knapp Fisher, long journeys, and Celtic gravestones.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Beatrice Stubbs. Her basic insecurity and accidental successes are balanced by a professional, dogged determination. And I love the way she interacts with her sidekicks. She’s a mixture of Columbo and Hong Kong Phooey in a Marks and Spencer twinset.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Of course Hannibal Lecter is one of the best bad guys ever written. But the intellect to challenge such a man? Clarice; the grafter, the grubber, the winner is an absolute classic.

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
Rather than an individual, I’m going to say Social Services. These people have a deeply traumatic, upsetting and stressful job; braving ugly and dangerous situations, trying to protect the most vulnerable, while hamstrung by bureaucracy and politics. They are real heroes, working at the unglamorous end of crime and catching the balls society drops. Sadly, the only publicity they ever get is for the few they miss.

What are you working on now? 
Book Four – Cold Pressed. Shocking murders, beautiful scenery, long-buried secrets and Beatrice Stubbs faces the toughest test of her life. Currently in research mode – Greek figs, feta and flaming Sambuca. Out in 2014, if I ever finish the research.

Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe.

Now based in Switzerland, Jill works as a language trainer, forms part of the Nuance Words project and is a regular columnist for Words with JAM magazine. She lives with her husband and three dogs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

Beatrice is on Facebook

Twitter: @JJMarsh1

Published Works

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