Monday, 3 December 2012

Mystery People Interview

Here is an extract from a recent interview on Mystery People

Leigh, your fifth book Stop Dead featuring Geraldine Steel, will be available as an e-book in December 2012, and will be in print May 2013. From where did Geraldine spring? Is she based on any one person or just purely from your imagination?
A Geraldine evolved, rather than sprang to life. In Cut Short the reader learns a little about her, and with each book different facets of her character emerge. She has developed quite a following (much to my surprise) that has grown as the series progresses. Neither Geraldine nor any of the other characters in my books are based on real people. They appear on the page as I write, and are all fictitious.

Q It is frequently said: ‘write what you know’. As your background is in teaching what was the thought process behind your protagonist being a police inspector. Why not an academic, or an amateur detective?
A ‘Write what you know’ always strikes me as very limiting. It hardly makes sense, unless the phrase was dreamed up by someone who writes non-fiction. I have never worked for the police, or conducted a postmortem - I’ve never even killed anyone. What is wrong with imagining events and settings? Isn’t that the meaning of fiction? Does JK Rowling have personal experience of swooping through the skies on a broomstick? As for EL James… on second thoughts, let’s not go there! I do like the idea of writing a crime novel with a private investigator, but the police today have so many resources at their disposal, I don’t think this would work in contemporary crime novels.

Q Do you have to spend much time in researching police procedures? And have any of your readers, particularly those in the police force ever contacted you to point out an error in procedure?
A Since Cut Short came out in 2009 I’ve conducted a lot of research, and finding out about life as a detective is part of that. I talk to police officers and have spent time with a Murder Investigation Team, which was fascinating. I’ve never worked for the police, but have gathered all sorts of information such as which Metropolitan Police station serves home made banana bread. This kind of attention to detail helps the reader believe in the world of my books. I take as much care as I can to make sure all the details are accurate, although it’s not always easy. Procedures can be quite complicated, and of course they are subject to change. So far none of my many fans on the police force have criticised the authenticity of my novels, even though my detectives might receive the results of a DNA test more quickly than would happen in real life, and Geraldine spends less time behind a desk with paperwork than a real detective inspector would. My readers all appreciate that I’m not writing a handbook on police procedure, but a novel. My priority is to serve the story.

Q Not to give too much away, Geraldine is troubled by her origins. Is her area of concern something of which you have experience?
A This is not an area where I have personal experience, but I haven’t killed anyone either! Fiction isn’t writing about what you experience, but about what you understand and imagine. I try to empathise with all my characters, detectives, victims and killers.

You can read the whole interview on


Charles Gramlich said...

I agree with your comments on write what you know. it's write what you can learn.

Leigh Russell said...

What you can learn and also what you can imagine - how else do authors write fantasy? Or did Tolkien meet hobbits and wizards?

Leigh Russell said...

Glad you agree, Charles!

Guillaume said...

Another interview I need to read. And about the "write about what you know" nonsense, it always remind me of what one of my philosophy teachers (the late Pierre Gravel) used to tell us: "Sophocles never met Oedipus".

Leigh Russell said...

Indeed, Guillaume. Nor did Freud. It is a daft piece of advice, isn't it? I'm glad you agree.