Friday, 28 May 2010

Interviews & Praise from One of the Greats

I have begun to give interviews about writing ROAD CLOSED. Here are links to the first ones - (Noir Journal) (CrimeTime) I am pleased to learn that Jeffery Deaver has been chosen to write the new James Bond story. His interview on BBC Radio this morning can be heard on iplayer. Jeffery Deaver was kind enough to email me to say he "loved" Cut Short. Here's what he said: "CUT SHORT is a stylish, top-of-the-line crime tale, a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel."

Monday, 24 May 2010


It's hard to know where to begin writing about CrimeFest 2010. was a fantastic experience for a debut author, rubbing shoulders with so many fellow crime writers under one roof. I met Colin Dexter in the lift and asked him a question! (OK, it was "Which floor do you want?" - but he was gracious enough to say it was the most interesting question he'd been asked all day. We had just come from breakfast...)
Name dropping aside, it was an opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people, established successful writers and aspiring authors alike, and to hook up with familiar faces. Here are The Curzon Group, behind the scenes in the Green Room before our panel on Friday. From the left, Richard Parker, Zoe Sharp, me, Tom Cain and Matt Lynn. Zoe moderated our panel, which was just as well. She did a grand job keeping us all in check. The audience asked probing questions and we had some lively discussion about character vs plot, among other topics.
On Saturday I was invited to participate in the Debut Authors Panel, chaired by Marcel Berlins. I was pretty nervous about meeting him, but he put us all at our ease within seconds, and made the panel feel like a relaxed chat between friends. Here we are, after the panel.

Also on the debut panel was Mike Hodges, who wrote and directed the original film of Get Carter. Mike has just written his first novel, Watching the Wheels Come Off. It was thrilling and surreal to find myself on a panel alongside such an iconic film maker.

Discussion included the pros and cons for an author of being signed for a series or for one stand alone book. I have to say, I'm really happy I was offered a three book deal - with a subsequent offer for a fourth in the series.
I also gave a talk on writing a series, and was pleased to have a decent audience. Once again, the questions were searching and challenging, and I discussed the development of Geraldine Steel and the balance between offering the reader something familiar, and the need to avoid becoming formulaic.
The icing on the cake was seeing - and signing! - sale copies of ROAD CLOSED for the first time. Publication wasn't due for a few weeks but WH Smith's Travel wanted to do a promotion in June so the printing was brought forward to meet their deadline. A box of books was delivered to the convention venue in Bristol, literally hot off the press. The books vanished somewhere in the hotel but my publisher was able to tell me exactly when and by whom the delivery had been signed for and the Blackwells bookseller went out of his way to track the books down. If you read this, Blackwells in Bristol, thank you!
I also spent time with fellow authors I'd only 'met' online before, and caught up with Mystery Women.
The convention was a tour de force of organisation, with panels, talks and interviews running constantly and concurrently throughout the event.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Travelling Book

I've just come home from CRIMEFEST where I had a wonderful time appearing on two panels and giving an individual talk, and signing ROAD CLOSED for the first time! I arrived home to discover someone had emailed me a picture of CUT SHORT in South Africa. So before I share my experiences and pictures from CRIMEFEST, here are a few pictures sent to me by readers around the world.
I'll start with the picture of Bongiwa in South Africa. Isn't that a lovely picture? It's followed by a picture of CUT SHORT on a bookshop shelf in Bangkok.

Here's CUT SHORT at the Eiffel Tower.
And here it is in Tennessee and at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Please keep sending me your photos of CUT SHORT being read around the world and I'll post them on my bl0g!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

No Longer New

I have just heard from my publisher that a box of ROAD CLOSED has been sent from the printers direct to CrimeFest. Tomorrow I will see a copy of my second book. I am so excited! I wouldn't have thought the publication of a second book would be so exciting. After all, I've been here before. Been there, done that, and yes, I've even got the Tshirt... (In a mad moment I bought a white Tshirt with the cover of CUT SHORT printed on the front. I thought I might wear it to book signings... And no! I've never worn it!) But I am really excited about ROAD CLOSED. I'm surprised how excited I am. I can't wait to see it in its final form! There aren't enough italics and exclamation marks to express how I feel. ROAD CLOSED is larger than CUT SHORT, with printing inside the cover. I tried to post the full cover images here, front and back, but can't upload pdf images here. Inside the front cover is a picture of CUT SHORT. Inside the back cover is with a photo of - well, me, looking like... Are you still awake?

The manager at WH Smith's in Watford told me today they ordered the last 48 copies of CUT SHORT for my visit to sign at the end of May. No Exit are now out of stock of CUT SHORT. But don't panic! (?) CUT SHORT is being reprinted for the THIRD time in its first year, so more copies will be out very soon.
Please check the schedule on my publisher's website if you'd like to come along and have a chat when I'm out touring around. Between now and the end of 2010 I'll be signing in bookshops, appearing at festivals or giving talks in libraries in these areas: Bristol, Watford, Reading, Shepherds Bush, Bedford, Ickenham, Ruislip, Hitchin, Harrow, Brent Cross, Norwich, Kenton, Cambridge, Earls Court, Yiewsley, St Albans, Tunbridge Wells, London, York, Newcastle, Heathrow T5, Heathrow T1, Chichester, Havant, Pinner, Hatfield, Guildford, Southampton, Winchester, Windsor, Basingstoke... for details.
I think that's probably enough for the rest of the year... although I do still have a few more stores that would like me to return in the autumn... So please come in and say hello if I'm in your area. I'll be wearing purple, and if I'm not already chatting to someone, I'll be scribbling under the table...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Personal Contact vs Technology

ROAD CLOSED is being printed & CUT SHORT is having its third reprint in June. I can't believe it!
I have SO MUCH to say about ROAD CLOSED - the last minute panics and alarms, my surprising feelings about it, the last minute photo taken in a rush before I'd had my morning coffee (oh, the nightmare of having my photograph taken)... but that will have to wait for another post.

Today I want to share some of my recent personal experiences. Those of you who follow my blog know that I enjoy getting out and about meeting booklovers. I believe it's important for authors to spend meeting their readers. I place a premium on face to face meeting with people. So much of our modern lives seems to be spent gazing at screens, reading text and email or watching television, rather than communicating with real people, with eye to eye contact, listening to live voices.

Last week I was invited to talk to Verulam Writers Circle, a lively and stimulating group of writers, many of them successful in their own right. It was a very enjoyable evening. Here's a photo taken on the evening. One of the members has posted on his blog about my visit

Kevin writes: "Reinventing yourself at the age of 55 might be a dream to so many, but for Leigh Russell it became a reality. By day, Leigh is a mild-mannered secondary school English teacher, but by night she miraculously transforms into a bestselling crime novelist.
Wednesday 5 May 2010 saw Leigh speaking at the
Verulam Writers’ Circle meeting in St Albans, covering topics such as how she managed the transformation and how she markets her work. It was while walking in her local park one day that Leigh saw a man walking past a set of bushes. Realising she was the only person around, Leigh had one of those ‘what if’ moments: ‘What if I walked around the corner behind those bushes, and found a body?’
Many people have these flashes, but not many transform them into life changing moments. Leigh spent the next few weeks writing a story with no particular aim of publication, but when she completed it she realised it was actually quite good. Using the
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook as a guide, Leigh selected three publishers and posted off her manuscript. With two weeks – yes, TWO WEEKS – she received a call from No Exit Press and the rest, as they say, is history.
Leigh’s debut novel, Cut Short, soon sold out and is about to commence its third reprint. Her second novel, Road Closed, is due for release in June.
Leigh is a regular blogger, an avid signer of books (her own), and a great speaker

There are times, of course, when technology allows personal contact that couldn't otherwise take place. For example, a reader in the US has just sent me a photo of CUT SHORT in Tennessee. Here it is.
Next week I will post about the publication of ROAD CLOSED... perhaps with a brief extract to whet your appetite...!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Waterstones Chart

The dye is cast... ROAD CLOSED goes into production tomorrow!
Nearly time to post a sneak preview here...? What do you think?

I was very pleased this week when a fan emailed me a photo she took in Waterstones in Harrow, with my own debut thriller CUT SHORT displayed at number 3 on their bestsellers chart. You can see it here on the third shelf down (click on the image to see it enlarged).

CUT SHORT has been selling so fast that my publisher reprinted twice in six months, and a third reprint is scheduled this year. That makes four print runs in a year - not too shabby for a new author. As if that's not enough excitement for one author, ROAD CLOSED, the second in my series, has gone into production for publication this June. The B format books look fantastic. Here is the new cover for CUT SHORT and the cover for ROAD CLOSED. You may notice the quantity of blood growing. Some of my fans have joked that the cover of the next in the series, DEAD END, will be all blood...

Personally, I'm happy if my name is slightly larger on each cover. That's when you know you've 'arrived' as an author, when your name alone can be relied on to sell books.

Monday, 3 May 2010

An Interview with Joyanna

I met Joyanna Lovelock when she bought a copy of CUT SHORT at one of my book signings. As a radio presenter, Joyanna interviewed me a couple of times on Radio Northwick Park, which was great fun and excellent preparation for my BBC Radio interviews. Joyanna has recently moved into television and kindly agreed to be interviewed about this exciting development in her media career.

1. You’ve been on Radio Northwick Park for just over a year. How did you first become involved with it?
I joined RNP in June 2008. I came across them after surfing the net for hospital radios. I completed an application form and a few weeks later I was invited in for an induction. After 6 months I was offered my own show, which I presented for just over a year.

2. You obviously really enjoy working on the radio station and I’m sure everyone in the hospital is going to miss you. How do you feel now that you are moving on?
I feel very sad. It’s nice to know I will be missed but I am really missing the place and get quite emotional when I think about it.

3. I know you are leaving Radio Northwick Park for a career in television. You must be very excited. Can you tell us how you found work on television? How long did it take, and how difficult was it to break in?
The funny thing about the move into television is that although I fancied the idea of doing some television, I thought that would be further down the line once I had established a radio career. So, I am just as surprised as anyone that it has materialized now. And it was amazingly easy! I think I really was at the right place at the right time.

4. Tell us about the audition process.
For the audition I had to prepare a 2-minute piece to camera on my chosen subject. I spoke on ‘Happiness and how to find it’. (Don’t ask!). That went down very well. Then I was asked to interview a studio guest about her traumatic childhood of drink and drugs. The ‘judges’ liked that too.

5. How did you feel when you made your first television broadcast? Was it very different to broadcasting on radio?
I felt great. I wasn’t nervous (which surprised everyone). I suppose I just pretended I was speaking on the radio and ignore all those people and cameras around me. I’d forgotten about them but at the end I heard applause and realized they were there.

6. What does the future hold for the presenter of Radio Northwick Park’s Sweet Inspiration programme?
Oh gosh! I hope to really build on television presenting and also to get on to national radio. I am working on it. And perhaps do some writing as well. An all-rounder!

7. Finally, media studies is a very popular subject. Do you have any advice for people who would like to work in the media?
They say in this business luck is ‘preparation meeting opportunity’ and I fully endorse this. For students wishing to make it in the media in whatever genre – be prepared. Do all that you need to do: study and work hard. Also try and get some experience. Do not be afraid to ask every and anybody for a chance. My first journalistic experience came after I contacted the editor of a local newspaper and asked if I could sit-in and observe for a day. Whilst there, he asked me to write a couple of articles. He liked what I did and offered me a job! You never know from where the opportunity will come, so be prepared and you will be ready to take up the opportunity.

Thank you very much for taking the time to chat about yourself here, Joyanna, and good luck with your work on television. We’ll be looking out for you!