Crime authors spill their guts about writing...
This week: Angela Marsons
Tell us about yourself.
I am a crime writer who lives in the Black Country in the West Midlands. My partner and I have a bouncy diva Labrador and potty-mouthed parrot. My Number 1 best-selling crime series featuring Detective Kim Stone is published by Bookouture.
I first discovered my love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up my own stories about them. My report card invariably read "Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people's".
After years of writing relationship based stories (My Name Is and The Middle Child) I turned to crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.
How do you go about plotting your book?
I normally have a rough idea of the beginning and the end. I’m not a planner as I like the story to grow organically from chapter to chapter. I do have a single sheet of paper which is a vague timeline as I normally have an idea of how many days I want the story to be. As key scenes come to me I note them down on my timeline and then scratch a few details into a notebook and then keep moving forward. I don’t worry about the editor or the critic at this point I just write the story as it forms in my head.
Do you ever get writer's block? How do you tackle it?
For me writer’s block is a sign that something isn’t working. Historically I’ve found it to be that I’m just not into the story or that the characters haven’t properly formed in my mind and that I’m trying to write a story that I’m just not ready to write. I’ll normally give it a couple of days to see if the magic comes back. If not, I move onto an idea that excites me. Nothing is ever wasted as it is all flexing the writing muscle and there may be a day the excitement for that particular project is reignited.
Research: do you find it fascinating or laborious? How do you go about your research?
I love research. I always try and include subjects that fascinate me or that I feel passionate about. For Evil Games I spent a great deal of time researching the true nature of Sociopathy. I couldn’t learn enough about the subject and had to force myself to put the books down and start writing. For research I use a mixture of factual books, PACE regulations and the internet.
How easy/hard was it to get your first break?
What's the best writing tip you've ever been given? How did it influence you?
The best writing tip I was given was ‘don’t write about what you know but write about what you’d like to know’. This piece of advice opened up the world of subject matter for me. The ‘write what you know’ is daunting if you really don’t think you know much about anything. If you write about subjects that interest you then the research is enjoyable and the 90,000 word journey a little less intimidating as you share the knowledge that you’ve gained.
What book do you wish you had written?
I wish I had written Disclosure by Michael Crichton. It is the only book that has ever caused me to call in sick for work. Needless to say the film did not match the skill demonstrated in the book.
Wow, how long have you got? I had been submitting work to publishers for more than 25 years and always seemed to get the same response of ‘we like it but we just don’t love it’. I spent many years writing the books I thought publishers would like, set in places I didn’t know. Eventually I wrote the book that I wanted to with the character that had been chattering in my head for years. Luckily my publishers, Bookouture, loved the stories as much as I did and signed me for a total of 8 Kim Stone crime books.
If you could be a character in any book, including one of your own, who would you be, and why?
I would definitely be Kim Stone, the detective in my crime series. She is confident and assured and is a bit of rule-breaker. She is driven and committed although her social skills do leave a little to be desired.
What's the best and worst thing about being an author?
The best thing about being an author is the privilege of being able to do something that you enjoy for a living. That has always been my dream and most days I don’t actually believe that it has been realised. The worst thing is the self-doubt that accompanies every single project. People may think it lessens with time but the harsh critic on our shoulders still has the loudest voice in the room.
Which book or character are you most proud of creating and why?
I am most proud of creating the character of Alex in the second Kim Stone book, Evil Games. I wanted to portray a sociopath factually and feel this is what I achieved. More worrying is how much I enjoyed writing about a cold, remorseless person with no capacity for empathy. Hmmmm….. will have to give that a bit of thought!!
Describe your current work in progress in five words...
Creepy, twisty body farm shocker.
PLAY DEAD, the fourth book in the Detective Kim Stone series, comes out TOMORROW, May 20th.