Friday 17 December 2010

Help Needed - Support Bookshops!

December was a busy month - until the snow struck. So far I've had to cancel 5 author events this week, in different branches of Waterstones. I really hope readers in Chichester, Winchester, Guildford and Windsor support their local bookshops which have plenty of Cut Short and Road Closed in stock. Please feel free to contact me for a scanned signature, either for yourself or as a Christmas present, if you can get to Waterstones. They need your support. This week, which should have given them a boost, has been a disaster.
In more positive news, here I am earlier in the month awarding the trophy to John Ward, winner of Watford Writers short story competition, which I was invited to judge. The standard of all the entries was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. I'm delighted to have been invited to judge the 2011 competition!

And here are a few more Watford writers - a very talented bunch.

And of course I've been out and about book signing at least once a week in December - here's a photo taken at Waterstones in Staines

and WH Smith's in Watford (photo courtesy of the Watford Observer)

We braved a blizzard to reach Waterstones in Hemel Hemstead. (If you enlarge the image you can see an unusual 3for2 offer...) We struggled to make it home again, ending up with the front of the car wedged against a kerb at the bottom of a hill. We managed to reverse away from the kerb by putting a pitta bread under each wheel - luckily we'd stopped off for some shopping on the way! While stuck, we met a girl who had abandonned her own car at the foot of the hill. As she as going our way, we were able to offer her a lift home! (We did holding her ransom note but she told us her family had no money to speak of. All they could offer was one small child. Having had two of our own, we reverted to our original offer and dropped her home.)

We made it to Waterstones in Harrow yesterday. Here's an old photo taken there in June 2010 (we forgot to take one today). Add a thick cardy and a fleece to my outfit, and a few more white hairs and wrinkles, and it could have been taken today!

WH Smith's in Harrow today, back to Waterstones tomorrow, and then I'm done!

Apologies to Waterstones in Chichester, Winchester, Guildford and Windsor for being unable to get to you this week. I hope to visit you all early in 2011.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

I'm done - what now?

I've delivered the MS for Dead End to my publisher and am back to polishing my next MS, which is virtually finished.
On paper (sorry!) I've achieved a heck of a lot in 2010 with Cut Short shortlisted for a major award, Road Closed well reviewed and selling as fast as Cut Short, and not one but two more books written.
So as the year draws to a close, I should be feeling pretty pleased with myself.
But (one of the most powerful words in the English language. Like an inconspicuous pivot, almost invisible, it turns everything around) I'm feeling deflated, low, dejected, fed up. (Love blogging where I can repeat, reiterate, witter on in horrendous prose, unlike my 'professional' prose or, as Katie Price allegedly calls it my "book words").
How do other writers react when they reach the end of the monumental (sometimes monstrous) creative effort that goes into writing a book?
Do you party? crawl away and hide? or indulge in rambling on a blog?
This isn't only a question for writers, of course. It applies equally at the conclusion of any task that has required effort. How do we enjoy achievement when the work is done? or do we only feel alive when we're facing challenge? What about the challenge of coping when the challenge is over? (OK, I'll stop now.)

Monday 6 December 2010

A Serious Business

In unusual circumstances, books can be published within weeks. Michael Jackson’s biography was clearly prepared in advance and given regular updates, right up until his death at which point I seem to recall there was a race to be the first to have a book on the shelves.
For most authors, the process takes longer. There is a time lag between delivery of the final manuscript and publication. So the manuscript for Road Closed was delivered in December 2009 for publication in June 2010.
Addicted to writing, I started on Dead End as soon as Road Closed was finished. By writing I refer not only to the secretarial task of committing words to paper or screen, but also to the thinking, research and editing that go into producing a book.
A year has passed and YESTERDAY I sent Dead End to my publisher for the proofs. The story that has dominated my thoughts for the past year is now out of my hands. Finished. Handed over. Delivered. Submitted. Gone.
Am I pleased with what I have achieved? Am I excited about the publication of my next book?
As is so often the case, reality is proving very different to my expectations. I would have expected to feel deliriously happy at submitting my manuscript - but “terrified” might be a more apt way to describe how I’m feeling right now!
True to form, I’m already working on my next book, due with my agent in a month’s time. I’m currently working on final edits for the book that follows Dead End. I’ll have to wait more than a few weeks to see that one in print but, in the meantime, you can guess what I’ll be doing... yes, the killer in my fifth book is already clamouring to be written.
The last thing I want to do right now is think about Dead End, as it prepares to be launched into the public domain, to run the gauntlet of reviews.
While writing is fun, I am beginning to realise that being an author is a serious business.

Thursday 2 December 2010

How to Write Bestselling Crime Fiction

Could you write bestselling crime thrillers? I'll be giving away some of my secrets - I've agreed to run a workshop 'In for the Thrill' about writing bestselling crime fiction, at the GET WRITING CONFERENCE in February 2011 at 10.45am. You can book a place here:

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Pathetic Fallacy

When I was a student (a very long time ago) I remember learning about the Pathetic Fallacy in literature, where natural events reflect human experience: Lear, a former king, naked in the tempest; storms at times of emotional turmoil in Thomas Hardy, and so on. I was thinking about the pathetic fallacy while driving into work this morning in ominous weather. I don’t enjoy driving in the best of conditions and at this time of year I always start to feel a little nervous. What if the roads are icy and my car skids...?
This kind of anxiety may be pathetic in itself, but being a worrier frequently feeds into my writing and I wonder if being subject to Shakespeare’s “horrible imaginings” goes with the territory of being a crime writer. Readers often ask how I think up plots for my crime novels and the answer is simple; I start with a ‘What if...?’ question, imagining a worst case scenario. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a job in an office. One evening you are the last person to leave. Going to bed you remember that you left your mobile phone on your desk at work, so you go in early next morning to arrive before any of your colleagues. Entering the office you discover a dead woman sprawled on the floor. Only a few people have keys to your office, and no one admits to knowing the murder victim.
This raises a number of questions. Who is the unknown victim? Why was she killed? You were last out at the end of the day and first in next morning - does suspicion fall on you? How do the police find the killer? If you write answers to the many questions raised by the body in the office, a basic crime thriller will virtually write itself.
Of course it’s not that simple. It takes a certain type of imagination to develop a starting point like this into a plausible novel with intriguing plot twists and convincing characters, and requires a lot of thought. So life as an author can be hard work, and success has imposed increasing demands on my time until there are times when I watch my life slipping out of control, like my car on an icy road...
As for the road ahead, if anyone had told me eighteen months ago that I would have two bestsellers to my name now, I would’ve laughed. But here I am. So I’m taking my journey as an author one day at a time with no idea what the future might bring. At least my car didn’t skid this morning - although if there was any ice on the road I wouldn’t have seen it through the dense fog up ahead...

Thursday 25 November 2010

Good News and Bad News

I've all but finished the edits for DEAD END and am getting quite excited about publication in May. It's not that far off! In the meantime, ROAD CLOSED is being reprinted, and CUT SHORT will be reprinted in a new format in June.
With all the focus on preparing for publication, the promotion goes on. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I regularly receive invitations to give interviews. Just today I had approaches from journalists on two local papers covering areas where I'll be signing near Christmas, saw a post I'd written go online on the Harrogate Festival website, heard about another guest post going online at the beginning of December, received a PDF from Mystery Women who had asked me to write a Guest Author Post for their online magazine which will be sent out next week and I'm waiting to see a feature about me in the Times Educational Supplement in December.
Here's the link to my post on the Harrogate website:
And links to two other interviews which came online this week, both print copies published a few months ago. This one is from Hertfordshire Life
and In Touch Magazine in Cyprus where not only is the article headed 'An Exclusive Interview with Best Selling Author Leigh Russell' but the type is in a lovely purple font! Love it!
On the down side, I wasn't invited to join a panel at Harrogate Festival - one day, when I've made my name, I hope to be there. In the meantime, it's back to the edits...

Wednesday 17 November 2010


Lately I haven’t posted much about what I’ve been up. It’s not that I’ve become blasé about my life as an author – far from it! - but since Cut Short was shortlisted for a major award I've barely had time to attend all my events, let alone write about them here.
In a typical week I might have two book signings at Waterstones or WH Smith, a panel at a literary festival, online interviews, media interviews, and invitations to guest post on several blogs in addition to the two blogs I regularly post on.
This week, in addition to all my usual promotion, I’ve been invited to judge a short story competition, and was contacted by a photographer wanting to do a photoshoot for a feature about me in The Times Educational Supplement. Yes, a photoshoot… ! Apparently he’s going to spend an hour taking a picture of me, and the whole photoshoot is going to take nearly three hours (including lunch, ahem.) I told you it can get a little crazy! I’ll tell you about the photoshoot next week, if it’s not too embarrassing. (You may have heard me say that it took longer to take a decent photo of me for Road Closed than it did to write the book... I have a feeling this venture into the world of glamour and glitz is going to go horribly wrong… It’s just not me, dahling.)
So (unusually) I’ve been thinking about my appearance and have decided to wear a hat with a wide brim, a mac with the collar turned up and a pair of dark glasses for my photoshoot. Sleuth-like or what? (What do you mean, a cover-up? The thought never entered my head!)
While I’ve been considering my appearance, I’ve also been thinking about the appearance of my next book. First of all I’d like to thank everyone who has commented on the cover design for DEAD END, here and on facebook.
There’s been some discussion about it. The first design chosen was strikingly similar to a book that came out last year. That in itself doesn't matter, except that I happen to know the other author concerned, so I was pleased when my publisher decided to use a different image. It seems that every detail of a book cover is discussed at great length. The designer, my publisher, my agent and I all had strong opinions about whether the title DEAD END should be printed in white or red.
What do YOU think?
And how much does the cover influence your decision to buy a particular book?
As for the photo of this author, I intend to be well disguised as a sleuth for my photoshoot!

Friday 12 November 2010

Constraints of Fiction vs Freedom of Reality

What's coming up for Geraldine? SCENE OF THE CRIME!

On the spur of the moment we once went to visit a public gardens that turned out to be closed. Having travelled so far, we decided to drive on to the nearest town. As we drew level with a sign welcoming us to Milton Keynes, my mobile rang. My daughter was calling because she was bored waiting for a train in... Milton Keynes. I can’t recall the purpose of her visit, but like ours it was an unprecedented trip to Milton Keynes and neither of us had known of the other’s visit beforehand. It was fluke that we chanced to be there at the same time, and discovered we were there together before either of us left.
I could tell you a few more coincidences that have happened to me - although one is so strange that I wouldn’t relate it here for fear of being dismissed as an advocate of impossible supernatural events. It really was that unlikely.
I’m not alone in this. Most people can recall at least one astonishing coincidence they have experienced. How often do we introduce anecdotes with the words, ‘You’ll never believe what happened!’ But of course we do believe the story that follows, because it’s true.
So how is it that real life can throw up such coincidences with impunity when my editor warned me early on to avoid coincidences in my writing because ‘Readers don’t like them’?
When writing my crime thrillers I try to make them believable, researching small details to create a convincing illusion so my readers ‘buy into’ the world of my book. I’m pleased to come across epithets like ‘plausible’ and ‘authentic’ when reviewers comment on my fictional forensic science. (It should be authentic. My advisers range from an experience medical practitioner to a professor of forensic medicine, and even the human remains department of the Natural History Museum!) And I spend time working out how my detective can come across an essential piece of evidence without any unlikely coincidences which my readers might find unbelievable.
So it annoys me intensely that real life can be completely absurd and ridiculously far-fetched when we authors can’t take similar liberties. It’s just not fair!

NEWSFLASH: See it here first
(publication May 2011)\leighrussell

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Libraries and the future of reading

Recent figures show the number of active library users has dropped by over 2% while visits to library websites increased by almost 50 per cent. In 1849 William Ewart introduced a Public Libraries Bill. Conservatives objected, concerned that the middle and upper classes would pay for a service used only by the working classes. One MP announced "people have too much knowledge already: it was much easier to manage them twenty years ago; the more education people get the more difficult they are to manage.” Nevertheless the Public Libraries Act was passed in 1850.
The 19th century MP who complained that reading makes people more difficult to control had a point. Setting aside powerful arguments about the arts, culture and the advancement of knowledge, reading is essential if we are to have a population able to think for themselves. Because reading gives the individual access to all the information (and misinformation) in the world.
Over the past four centuries we have established a largely literate society in the West but literacy is losing its appeal. Today’s children feed their imaginations playing interactive games where their parents’ need for stories was supplied by books. We have the technology to move towards a largely post-literate society. All the text we need can be recorded with voice activated software for a listening audience rather than a readership. It’s easier. Already we access much of our knowledge from the television or online, and we see more stories on the small screen than the page.
But watching or listening to stories or information is a very different experience to reading. Apart from the argument about using imagination, when you’re reading you can speed up, slow down, pause to reflect, reread and refer back to an earlier passage. There is no one else’s voice to influence or interpret the meaning of the words for you. As reader you control how you read and interpret the words for yourself.
All of this makes books not only valuable but “an essential part of having and educated and literate population” as Wikipedia puts it.
So it is worrying that libraries are not mobbed by people wanting to access free books.
When Britain’s first public lending library opened in Manchester in the mid 19th century it was seen as an event so significant for literacy and democracy that Dickens visited, saying this was an institution “knowing no sect, no party and no distinction; nothing but the public want and the public good.” He would surely be turning in his grave to know that libraries are losing their popularity. If enough people lose interest in books, we risk losing our independent access to knowledge and even our ability to think for ourselves.

Monday 1 November 2010

On writing and... writing

Oxford University professor Kathryn Sutherland has thrown doubt over Jane Austen’s authorship of her novels, her scepticism based on an analysis of Austen’s letters. The theory seems to hinge on Sutherland’s expectation that Austen’s letters should be written in the same perfectly polished style as her books. But the letters, according to Sutherland, are “littered with misspelling and grammar errors”. The books are not. Therefore, Sutherland concludes, the books could not have been written by Austen. Sutherland goes on to quote from Austen’s editor, William Gifford, who wrote of a draft of Emma: “It is very carelessly copied… there are many short omissions which must be inserted.” He offers to “readily correct the proof for you.” From which Sutherland presumes that the books were at least in part written by the editor Gifford.
Oh dear.
I hope no one scrutinises my blog posts, emails, facebook comments, and tweets and compares them to my books. My books are by and large grammatically accurate, and my other ramblings aren’t. But would anyone conclude that my books were written by someone else? We don’t expect tweets and emails to be well-written, carefully considered literature. Why should Jane Austen’s private notes and scribblings be judged by different standards to those of today? Jane Austen’s letters weren’t written for publication. They were private. Why should she have written beautifully constructed letters in perfect elegant prose? Her books of course are another matter altogether and I daresay she – and her editor – checked and corrected them carefully.
Any serious author will acknowledge the help of their editor. Why should Jane Austen be any different?

Sunday 31 October 2010


I feel it's time to explain my gripe with the review of Road Closed that has appeared on To begin with, I can't help but wonder why this reviewer didn't post a review of Cut Short - which he admits he liked - but only felt moved to write a review of Road Closed because he enjoyed it less. Are there genuinely reviewers out there who feel they should only review books they don't enjoy ? How is that helpful - or is this just an individual venting his own feelings about life's inevitable disappointments? Well, here's my venting in return!
The second issue I have with all this is that I know I have many fans - including quite a lot in Canada who have contacted me via twitter and facebook. Canadian fans have even complained on facebook and twitter that they were unable to post positive reviews of Road Closed on amazon because they hadn't purchased from there. So the one poor review continues to stand there alone.
Road Closed has received glowing reviews from critics writing for The Times ('confirms her promise as a writer') The New York Journal of Books ('refreshingly compelling and original') even some reviews which prefer Road Closed to Cut Short ('an even better read than Cut Short' to quote The Secret Writer). I could go on, but you can see a host of good reviews for Road Closed on my publisher's website
Of course not everyone is going to enjoy my books and a lot of people may well dismiss them for any number of justified reasons, and that's fair enough.
What I find unfair is that when I wanted to post a list of quotes from reviews in The Times, The New York Journal of Books, etc, on to point out that Road Closed has received some positive reviews, blocked it. As the author it seems I am not allowed to post reviews from journals like The Times - even though the reviews aren't mine. I can't even comment on the review that someone else has posted.
I don't expect everyone to like my books and I'm quite happy to accept some inevitable 2 star reviews among the 5 star ones, but what is happening on does seem to be a complete misrepresentation of how Road Closed has been received.
Is it coincidence that out of Cut Short and Road Closed sales on, and the sales rating of Road Closed on has been consistently poor compared to all the others since that one negative review was posted?
So thanks a lot,, for not allowing me to post anyone else's reviews about my book. Maybe it's time you reviewed your policies.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Reaching the End

How do other writers manage to finish a book? How do you?
The first in my series, CUT SHORT, wasn't planned in advance - I simply ran with an idea. Before writing the second in my series, ROAD CLOSED, I did a detailed plan and went further with DEAD END which is coming out in 2011, and wrote a ten page synopsis before I wrote the first draft. I have done the same for the fourth in my series.
Now, with 63 of the 64 chapters written, the first draft of my fourth book is almost complete. I know what to do and could easily finish the first draft in an hour at the most. So what's stopping me? It can't be described as 'writer's block' (whatever that is) because I know exactly what to do. The words are already there in my head just waiting to appear on the page.
But once they're typed - that's it.
Then, of course, the next stage begins, going over what I've written and checking details - names, dates, etc - editing expression, polishing the wording, thinking about the structure - there will be lots of work to do.
But the first draft will be finished.
So what is stopping me from finishing? Why is it so hard to let go? I'm enjoying writing my current MS so much I just don't want this to stop. If I wasn't writing a series I don't think I would ever reach the end of this book... at least until an idea for what is going to happen to Geraldine in the fifth book starts buzzing about in my brain... and I already have an inkling!

Tuesday 12 October 2010

New York Journal of Books

Check out the new look New York Journal of Books on

"Road Closed is the second crime novel by Leigh Russell, featuring Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel. We were first introduced to Steel in the gritty and totally addictive debut novel, Cut Short, and once again Russell is in top form with this new crime thriller...
Like all good crime and thriller writers, Russell gives us just enough morsels of information in each page-turning chapter to whet our appetites for the bigger banquet at the end of the book. Road Closed is a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative. The rapidly building fan base of Russell and Steel will be on the edge of their seats waiting for the next installment, tentatively titled Dead End."

Thursday 30 September 2010

Being Busy

It’s been a while since I posted here, not because I forgot about my blog, but because I’ve been very busy, as usual, with book signings, interviews and, of course, writing! First, and most important of all, is the writing news.
CUT SHORT has been reprinted (again!) since it was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel (yes, I still get a kick out of typing that.) Next year it is going to reprinted in a larger format complete with inside covers and everything.
ROAD CLOSED – which has been receiving absolutely fantastic reviews! - is currently having its first reprint (yes, already!)
DEAD END is on my publisher’s website with a publication date next June and discussion is ongoing about the cover. A decision has to be made urgently as my publisher is off to the Frankfurt Book Fair next week and wants to take the details of DEAD END with him.
Book 4 – no, I’m not revealing the title yet, although I do have one – is almost finished. I’ve written 80,000 words and have 2 chapters and some polishing to do.
And after that? I’ll be going through edits for DEAD END, and hoping lots of people will like my books and t his crazy brilliant experience will keep on keeping on. I’m loving it!
Here are a few recent photos of what I’ve been up to.
Giving a talk at Watford Writers Circle

An interview for a local paper
And while I’ve been busy travelling around the UK book signing over the past few weeks – York, Newcastle, Guildford, Chichester, Hemel Hempstead - and selling out everywhere I’ve been, my books have been out and about too. Here’s a lovely photo of CUT SHORT in
South Africa!
This week I've been invited to go along to a book club that have been reading CUT SHORT (I hope they liked it!) approached for another interview by a national paper, given my views on the design ideas for DEAD END (which is ultimately a sales decision not an artistic one) and written a few more chapters of my fourth book.
And on top of all that, I’m back at school. It’s certainly a busy life!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Books and Booker

‘I know it sounds pompous,’ I often hear myself say, ‘but I think writers have a duty to at least try to write well.’
Why do I feel I have to apologise for holding that view? If it implies criticism of some of my fellow writers, where does the blame lie?
Just the other day my dentist apologised for extracting the wrong tooth. ‘Sorry’, he said as he wiped my blood from his grubby fingers, ‘I’ve done a shocking job for you. Now I must be off, I’m up for an award as Dentist of the Year.’
Once my gums had stopped bleeding I arranged to meet some friends for supper. I ordered fish. It arrived promptly, quite well cooked on the outside and only slightly frozen in the middle. When I tried to return my dish I learned that the chef was no longer on the premises. ‘He had to dash,’ the waiter explained. ‘He’s off to hear if he’s won Chef of the Year.’
‘The food must be good,’ one of my friends said. ‘The chef’s up for an award!’ The others were too busy chewing to speak.
‘Some of the seasoning could do with severe cutting,’ I muttered. ‘Didn’t the chef taste this before serving it up?’ The only response was the sound of someone choking.

Sir Andrew Motion commented recently that some of the books put forward for the Booker Prize were ‘pretty shocking’ and ‘quite shockingly in want of a decent edit.’ Does the author take no responsibility for the quality of the writing?
My own books have been described as ‘well-written’ (The Times, Marcel Berlins) ‘refreshingly compelling and original’ (The New York Journal of Books, Michael Lipkin) ‘intelligently written’ (Bookersatz, Helen M Hunt) ‘well-written’ (Eurocrime, Amanda Gillies) ‘accomplished’ (Watford Observer, Melanie Dakin). I could go on.

So why do books like mine, well-written though they are, never appear on a long list for a literary prize? Because my books are also described – to quote just a few of many similar reviews - as ‘gritty and addictive… gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end ..’ (New York Journal of Books, Sam Millar) ‘a gritty page-turner from the start’ (Star magazine,) ‘tense… fast-paced twisty narrative’ (US Publishers Weekly starred review)

Yes – well-written they may be, but I write crime fiction.
Sorry about the door slamming. That was just my credibility as a writer leaving the room.

Saturday 11 September 2010


ROAD CLOSED is being reprinted - selling as fast as CUT SHORT!

Thursday 2 September 2010

Northern Tour

Back home after my trip up North. CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED sold out sold out at my first signing at WH Smith's in York. We spent a lovely few days in York before going to BBC Radio York in Scarborough for a live interview with presenter Russell Walker.Russell Walker made us feel very welcome. We met him last year and it was great seeing him again. His friendly personality comes across in his voice on the radio.
We spent a few days in Scarborough, visiting Robin Hood's Bay and walking from there along the cliff top to Whitby where we fell exhausted into the first tea shop we passed. It turned out to be dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and full of fascinating memorabilia, not to mention the fabulous homemade scones. From there we continued on our journey to Newcastle for an interview with Simon Logan on BBC Radio Newcastle. He's a great guy, and was really interested in my writing. With our Southern stereotypical misconceptions about Newcastle, we were thrilled to discover what a great place it is and had a great time walking across the fantastic bridges. Sadly we didn't see the swing bridge or the millenium bridge open! We spent a lovely day in Durham exploring along the river and round the cathedral. After selling out both CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED at Waterstones in Newcastle, it was back home to sort out washing, emails and to type up the 20,000 or so words I'd written while we were away.

Too busy to post

Note to self: Must post soon. I've been so busy...

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Books and Boobs

News: ROAD CLOSED is now available on (link below)
ROAD CLOSED has been reviewed in Star magazine: "DI Geraldine Steel has a tough case on her hands after a series of nasty incidents. On top of the deadly events, Geraldine has a complicated love life to sort out. Leigh Russell's crime thriller is a gritty page-turner from the start and features a host of unappealing characters!" It's the issue with Katie Price on the front cover. Does that narrow it down? No? How about if I tell you she's quoted as telling Pete to "Stop trying to ruin my life!" Still not clear which issue I'm talking about? Oh, never mind. My point is that ROAD CLOSED is reviewed in the magazine. Does this mean I'm a celebrity?

Sunday 25 July 2010

The CWA New Blood Dagger Shortlist

What would induce me to get up at 5.30 in the morning? The mystery grew darker as I hurried to catch the first train up to London. Was I going on holiday? No, although the reason for my excursion begins with the same letter… Sorry, as a crime writer I tend to think in ‘clues’, but without more ado, I’ll come clean and confess: I was travelling to Harrogate as an invited guest at the ITV3 Crime Thriller Season Launch Ceremony sponsored by Specsavers.
The shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger was announced at a lunchtime ceremony at the The Crown Hotel, Harrogate during the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. This award is made in memory of CWA founder John Creasey, for first books by previously unpublished writers.
CWA Chairman Tom Harper said: “The CWA Dagger Awards have always enjoyed huge prestige among crime fiction fans and authors. The shortlists this year are incredibly strong, and that for the John Creasey has some exciting new talents, all working at the top of their game.”
The shortlisted books:
Acts of Violence, Ryan David Jahn (Pan)
Cut Short, Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)
Martyr, Rory Clements (John Murray)
Random, Craig Robertson (Simon & Schuster)
Stop Me, Richard Jay Parker (Allison & Busby)
Rupture, Simon Lelic (Picador)
The Holy Thief, William Ryan (Mantle )
The Pull of the Moon, Diane Janes (Robinson)

And if you haven’t worked it out yet – check the second book on the list.

At the risk of sounding conceited, I'm feeling pleased with myself, as you can see in the photo on the right (courtesy of Ali Karim.)
In this photo (left) from Harrogate I'm flanked by two Giants of Crime Fiction, Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham (and I was wearing my highest heels...) If you've met them, you'll know they are not only brilliant writers but very entertaining company.

The Daggers will be awarded at a televised ceremony in the Autumn, as part of the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, details of which were also announced at the ceremony at Harrogate.
CWA Chairman Tom Harper (pictured) said: “The CWA Dagger Awards have always enjoyed huge prestige among crime fiction fans and authors. The shortlists this year are incredibly strong, from exciting new talents to established masters, all working at the top of their game. We’re thrilled with the way Cactus TV and ITV3 have embraced the Daggers to bring them to the widest possible audience. Together with the retail promotion, more people than ever are now getting the chance to discover the best crime writing in the UK.”
The CWA Dagger Awards are the longest established literary awards in the UK and are internationally recognised as a mark of excellence and achievement.
So I was there to hear my name read out as one of the eight authors shortlisted for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award.
Was I excited? What do you think! Excited, proud, and completely stunned.

I'm very pleased we took some photos, or I don't think I'd believe this is really happening. Here I am with Linda Regan, a fellow Mystery Woman.
And finally, a big thank you to my publisher for opening these doors for me.
Now - back to Geraldine Steel. I have another book to write, and my fictional world seems more believable than my life right now!
But before I go, here's CUT SHORT... Did I mention it's been shortlisted for the CWA 2010 John Creasey New Bloood Dagger Award?

Friday 23 July 2010

CUT SHORT short listed for CWA DAGGER

I'm thrilled to share the news that CUT SHORT has been shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Daggger Award!
I am, for once, at a loss for words! Well, almost...
I'll tell you more about my whirlwind visit to Harrogate, and post some photos of me (yes, me!) rubbing shoulders with some of the greats, very soon. I've even thought of a caption for one of the photos - 'Leigh between two Giants of Crime Fiction' (Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham are both much taller than me... still looking hobbit-like even in my heels, alas) - and there you have a clue as to two of the people I met on my amazing visit to Harrogate. If I wasn't myself, I'd be quite jealous of me... (note to aforementioned self - must rewrite this tomorrow when sober)

Here's what the judges said about CUT SHORT
Judges’ comments: A book that combines psychological writing with police procedural. A police detective in search of sanctuary finds herself involved in a vicious case of murder. Strong story-telling draws the reader in to this disturbing debut novel that uses settings from Christie with a much darker plot line.

I'm off book signing at WH Smith's in Harrow tomorrow (Saturday is book signing day - you know me!) but I will post more over the weekend.

I'm also dreadfully excited (!!) because I now have the outline for my 4th book... I know ROAD CLOSED has just been published and that was only my 2nd, but I've delivered the draft of DEAD END to my publisher (publication 2011)... and whatever else is going on, I can't stop writing...

Tuesday 13 July 2010

A Writer on Holiday

I'm on holiday from school but as Eugene Ionesco said, "A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing." That sounds fair enough to me. So in the first week of my 'holiday' I've signed CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED at Waterstones in Norwich, given a a talk about my writing to a lovely book group at Kenton Library, tomorrow I'm going to Central London to be interviewed about ROAD CLOSED for BFK Books, the following day I'm going to Heffers in Cambridge for their annual Bodies in the Bookshop event, and my book week ends with signing on Saturday at a Mystery Women event at LFCC in Earls Court. Next week begins with a talk about ROAD CLOSED to Watford Writers Circle, then I'm giving a talk at Yiewsley Library, paying a visit to Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate and signing at WH Smith's in Harrow. And so it goes on.

I haven't forgotten about my writing... today I sent my first draft of DEAD END to my publisher (for publication 2011) and I'm already working on the synopsis for the following book. Its title is currently under wraps!

I know I ought to slow down. This is hardly a dignified life for a middle-aged woman, but... I'm having such fun! Ain't no stopping me now.

Seriously, I will be taking a break soon. I'm going on holiday. But you can be sure I'll be packing a few notebooks and pens... and I must finish my synopsis before I go...

And to finish off, here's a photo with some of the book group at Kenton Library, taken by one of the librarians.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

How do you plan your writing?

I haven't posted for a while as I've been recklessly busy. One day I'm going to turn up at the wrong bookstore on the wrong day! In the ten days since my last post, I've signed a lot of books - at Waterstones in Hitchin, Waterstones in Harrow, and WH Smith's in Brent Cross. Tomorrow I'm on a panel of Crime Writers at Gayton Library in Harrow, then off to sign at Waterstones in Norwich on Saturday.
ROAD CLOSED officially launched this week.
DEAD END, which will be published in 2011, is with my small circle of readers who are beginning to feed back comments. There's still a little more work to do on the manuscript - and I really need to sit down for a couple of days and read through it closely but also fast so I have every detail in my head. I'll tackle that task after I've broken up from school next week as I want to give it its due.
I've decided on the title for my fourth book in the series - but you'll have to wait and see what that is. This week I've been working out the plot and am getting very very excited about it. I can't wait to finish the synopsis my agent wisely insists on so I can start writing it. In the meantime, I haven't even finished my plan yet - but my research is under way and my plan is moving forward.
Having completed three books, I feel like quite an old hand now! So this is how I work.
1) make a sketchy plan on A3 paper. I divide the sheet into five columns, one for each part of my book, and I list the chapters down the columns, a chapter name and very brief notes to remind me what the chapter is about.
2) write a chapter by chapter synopsis from my plan, giving details
3) write the book
That should be it, but of course there's more
4) realise something doesn't work - rethink and rewrite
5) have a brainwave - rethink and rewrite
6) notice a dreadful gap (or gaffe) in the plot and have to revise completely...
That's just the initial stages of writing a book. Then come the agent, publisher and editor... and more rethinking and rewriting...
So forgive me if I don't post for a while. You know what I'll be doing, when I'm not at school.
So far I'm at number 1) and have already radically changed the whole idea twice. Now I've come up with an idea that I'm happy with, I need to complete my A3 plan... How will Geraldine solve the mystery? Is there enough suspense in the plan? Who, exactly, is my killer - there are so many possible characters I could create to play the villain here, but who shall I choose? And what is in store for Geraldine in book 4?
I wonder how other people plan their books?

Saturday 26 June 2010

This Weekend

ROAD CLOSED reviewed in The Times
"well-written, soundly plotted, psychologically acute"
Marcel Berlins

Bestseller Chart at Waterstones in Harrow
Not a bad weekend....

Thursday 24 June 2010

National Crime Fiction Week

Is it really over 10 days since I posted here? Life has been busy - I know, I always say that, but it's always true!
National Crime Fiction Week started 14th June so I was kept busy promoting CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED in libraries and bookshops:

On Wednesday 15th I visited Ruislip Manor Library where I met some friendly readers and signed a few books. I'll be returning on 26th July and 20th September to talk to the book groups there.

On Thursday 16th I was invited to give a talk at Ickenham Library to around 20 people. The audience asked so many interesting questions, we barely had time for the refreshments the librarian had provided. My event was part of Ickenham Festival which happened to coincide with National Crime Fiction Week. Appropriately for a visit from an author of murder stories, the librarian managed to kill two birds with one stone...

On Saturday I had a commitment in the morning so couldn't go out book signing. Fortunately I received an invitation to go along for an interview at Harrow Community Radio station which was great fun. The staff there made me very welcome. I'll post the link when I receive it... (Keith - are you reading this?) Harrow Community Radio is a new venture and I was thrilled to be interviewed for one of their pilot programmes.

Sunday saw me back in my usual haunt - signing in a bookshop. I am grateful to Waterstones in Harrow for hosting a signing on Fathers' Day. Needless to say, we sold a lot of books as gifts that day! I was thrilled to find a card (yes, bought at the last minute...) for my father which had a picture of Superman on the front with the message 'Dad of Steel'. A perfect card from the creator of Geraldine Steel!

Two of my events were featured on the CWA website

Like I said... it was a busy week...

Sunday 13 June 2010

What Makes a Book Popular?

Left - Display in Waterstones Watford
I've been posting a lot about my recent activities. Life has been hectic with visits to stimulating writers groups and a host of searching interview questions both online and on various radio stations. I still have quite a few events to blog about. I haven't told you how much I enjoyed talking to Thames Valley Writers, or how I felt being interviewed live on Radio 91.8 FM - link below (another live radio interview coming up next Saturday), or being approached by Woman and Home Magazine (where we talked about blogging!), or spending time signing airside at Heathrow Terminal 5 (where I saw ROAD CLOSED displayed at No. 7 on the WH Smith's Travel Bestseller Charts), hearing that my books are displayed at No. 4 and No. 6 on the Bestseller Chart at Waterstones in Bedford, or the thrill of receiving an email from award winning author Sam Millar who's just read ROAD CLOSED "and really loved it" (Sam won the prestigious Aisling Award for Art and Culture, the Martin Healy Short Story Award, the Brian Moore Award for Short Stories and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition. His best-selling memoir, ON THE BRINKS, has recently been acquired by Warner Brothers... and that's just a taster)

But I thought it was time to return to some serious discussion about writing. Even I can see that there's only so much personal news I can blog about without becoming... how shall I put this?... repetitive... (OK, boring...)

One of the questions I was recently asked (Hayes FM) was:
"CUT SHORT launched in the summer and sold so fast your publisher had to reprint after two months. What elements in the book do you think made it so popular?"

That's a tricky one. What is it that makes some books grab our attention while others leave us unengaged?
For those of you who missed the radio broadcast my answer at the time went something like this.
"My books are plot driven so readers read on to find out what happens. But it is character that interests me. People fascinate me. Perhaps the popularity of my books is due to a combination of exciting plots and convincing characters." I went on to say that of course many authors achieve that, so I can't account for my success with CUT SHORT reprinted 3 times in its first year and ROAD CLOSED already off the starting posts, with its first few reviews pretty positive. So far it's been given a 5 star review from a Top 50 Reviewer on amazon: "The characters are believable and I really like Geraldine... I also liked the way everything dovetailed together so that while you're reading you get those light bulb moments when a piece of the jigsaw slots into place..." Another reviewer says "tense and gripping... with an exhilarating climax that you don’t see coming until it is too late... Geraldine is a gifted, strong and likeable character." Sam Millar wrote of ROAD CLOSED that it is "a gripping, fast-paced read, pulling you in from the very first tense page and keeping you captivated right to the end with its refreshingly compelling and original narrative...Geraldine Steel is a complex and highly driven character, with multifaceted feelings of contradiction and nuance." Jeffery Deaver also mentioned plot and character, now I come to think of it, when he described CUT SHORT as "a seamless blending of psychological sophistication and gritty police procedure. And you're just plain going to love DI Geraldine Steel." In fact most of my reviewers cover both plot and character, so perhaps it is a combination of strong plot and convincing characters that is winning fans for my Geraldine Steel series.

What elements in any book do you think make it popular?
It's an important question for an author - but is it an impossible one to answer?

Link to 91.8 FM - last 20 minutes of where you can listen to an interview plus a reading from ROAD CLOSED

Friday 11 June 2010

Leigh Russell Talks

Live interview on Radio 91.8 FM at 6.30-7 pm today.

Sunday 6 June 2010

The Fun of Being Insignificant

ROAD CLOSED came out two weeks ago and has already started to sell. Of course, I’m a very small scale operator in a world where the big players expect to sell tens of thousands of books every week. Still, there are only 5 copies of ROAD CLOSED left on where it’s had its first amazon review – 5 stars from a Top 50 Reviewer and Vine Voice who concludes the review: “Give Leigh Russell a try - I'm sure you will not be disappointed.”

It’s no secret that I completed the first draft of CUT SHORT in six weeks, and two weeks after I’d sent out the manuscript I received a phone call from a publisher who offered me a three book deal. After editing, rewriting and research, my first book hit the shelves and sold out so fast that it was reprinted three times in under a year. Following that success, ROAD CLOSED has just been published ahead of schedule as WH Smith’s Travel selected it for a promotion. I just received an email from the books manager of one branch where ROAD CLOSED has sold 115 copies in 2 days (OK, I was there signing, but still…)

I wonder if book sales are so exciting for the big names? I suspect not, because they must expect their books to sell in huge numbers. I’m still excited when one person buys one of my books. This has been a thrilling rollercoaster but my publishing deal turned up so suddenly and unexpectedly that I still can’t believe this wildly exciting experience is really happening to me. I only discovered my passion for writing three years ago when an idea for a story popped into my head and I began to write it down. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop writing. As Eugene Ionesco said, “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”

I’ve heard it said that finding a publisher is like climbing a high mountain. Once you reach the summit, you see an even higher mountain ahead – book sales. This week is half term so I’m doing four book signings, giving a talk, appearing on a panel of bestselling crime writers, and completing the first draft of my third book. I enjoy giving talks and going to book signings, getting out and about meeting readers, but all this promotion is another demand on my time.

Sometimes I think I must be slightly insane… but I love writing and everything associated with it, and the pressure of limited time seems to help my creativity almost as much as a deadline from my publisher! Another benefit of being so busy is that I have no time to stress about how my second book will be received, and no time to worry about “writer’s block”. If I have a free hour or two, that’s it – I’m writing!

So my really exciting news is that I’ve just sent the COMPLETED first draft of DEAD END to my agent. Watch out for it in 2011 and, in the meantime, here are the links for CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED in case you want to take a look.

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.