Crime authors spill their guts about writing...

This week: Tara Lyons

Tell us about yourself.

How do you go about plotting your book?

I am a thirty-something year-old, single mother and self-published my debut novel this year! I always wanted to be a writer, but needed that kick up the backside to take the leap – thank God for my dear friends and family. I have seven tattoos (yes, I want another) and I've lived in London all my life. But I finally have that desire to move somewhere quieter and more "green" (maybe it's my age?).

As a solo writer, I'm notes everywhere – paper, my phone, in my head – because the ideas come to me at different times. I think also because I'm starting out on my writing career, different characters and stories are coming at me thick and fast. I have to get it all down so I can sieve through it and find a gem I can build and take further. 

As a co-writer, the plotting is more structured. For The Caller (and the second book in the series, but shh that's an exclusive) myself and Mel Comley planned in detail. A lot of that was because we were creating a new series, but also because we're miles away from each other. We needed documents we could refer back to while writing different stages. Inevitably, new ideas came to us or the characters took us in a new direction, but we just updated each other and the biographies.

Where do you most like to do your writing?

At home with peace and quiet (although I'm learning to get along with the faint sound of Peppa Pig in the background). I'd love to be the kind of writer who sits in Costa coffee, typing away with constant refills of tea (I can't touch the black stuff), but I'm a people-watcher and would be far too distracted making up stories about strangers.

Research: do you find it fascinating or laborious? How do you conduct your research?

I love research because I'm thrilled with learning new things. Especially when I just assume it's done one way (like reporting a missing person) and then find out the procedures behind that are actually very different. I mention that example because it just happened with one of my WIPs, and luckily I have a contact in the Met police to set me straight. Another close friend of mine is a paramedic and she's a wonderful fountain of knowledge. But most of my research is done via the internet (heaven forbid my browser history is ever uncovered) and I think we're very lucky to have all that information at our fingers tips.

How easy/hard was it to get your first break?

I count myself very lucky to be where I am just one year after beginning my writing journey. Through the power of social media I have met some amazing people who have helped me get where I am and who I now consider dear friends. I have to shout out my writing partner in crime, Mel Comley who has taught me so much about self-publishing and everything that goes with it; my first break would not have happened without her. The various Facebook book clubs and bloggers have been invaluable in helping me become a bestselling author and reach over 100 reviews on Amazon UK in just four months. It hasn't been all smiles and cheers – I have also faced a few rejections and shed a few tears, but I think it's helped shape who I am and the path I'm now on.

What is the best writing tip you have ever been given? How has it influenced you?

Before I began writing In the Shadows I heard "you can't edit a blank page" (or as Nicky Doherty phrased it "Don't get it right, get it written." And it stuck with me. That story had been locked up in my mind for months because I didn't have the confidence to turn it into a novel. And the beauty of that tip has stayed with me since I sat at my computer in June 2015 and let the words flow. Get your thoughts down, write the scenes and characters and twists and turns as they're happening in your head. It's okay to do that because that’s what the mammoth editing process is for. At the moment I have quite a few documents on my computer with a variety of chapters and plots and characters all at different stages. I don't know how they'll all come together at the moment, but I have the fundations to work with.

What/who are your writing influences? Has this changed as your career has developed?

I am inspired by so many people and they influence my work and my way of thinking. To name but a few – My dear mum and some of my close friends, who tackle life and its everyday challenges and troubles with such grace and dignity. Authors such as Mel Comley, Linda Prather, Tammy Robinson, Amanda Prowse and the very creator of Blood Type, Barbara Copperthwaite who share their knowledge and struggles and love and give me the inspiration to continue what I'm doing. I'm also influenced by some of the amazing bloggers I've met in the past year, I admire their passion for books and really value their opinions.

In the Shadows was very emotional for me because I lost my grandfather to cancer at the beginning of last year. He was a very important person in my life and the grief I felt was overpowering at times. I was fascinated by how people deal with death and the knock on effect it has to those in our lives. I took that feeling and created Grace. I

How much do your own life experiences appear in your writing? 

was reading a lot of crime books at the time and so wanted to incorporate how different deaths affect us all and the serial killer of the book was born. 

The theme for The Caller was built around something similar that happened to me – I foolishly gave out my personal details over the phone and panicked like crazy for the next 24 hours. Luckily nothing came of it, but it shows how easily it can happen. I also live in London and see the effects gang life have first hand, Mel and I wanted to weave that into the story. 

Web of Deceit is based on two women interacting on Facebook and then agreeing to meet in person – it's just what happened with myself and Mel. So we created a story about how that can go horribly wrong. 

A slightly long-winded answer, but yes my own life experiences have definitely featured in my writing.

What scene in your latest book did you most enjoy writing? And why?

I loved writing the prologue for In the Shadows because it was actually the very last part of the book I wrote! I hadn't planned to have one and was happy with the "hook" in chapter one. However, by the end of the book I felt it needed something extra, a glimpse into the mind of the murderer before the killing spree began. I think it's quite dark and mysterious and sets the tone of the book from the get go. So it’s been fantastic to read reviews that have mentioned the prologue; one reader even went back to it afterwards and said it blew her mind. As a writer I don't think it gets better than that.

Which book or character are you most proud of creating, and why?

DI Denis Hamilton – he's a mixture of a few people I know in real life and detectives from the TV and at the beginning I never thought he was the "main" character of In the Shadows. But, while writing the book, his character grew and intrigued me, I love that some of the reviewers really "got" him and have said they want to see more of him. It's inspiring me to bring him back :)

Insightful sequel that's surprised me.

Describe your current work in progress in five words.

In The Shadows author Tara Lyons is interviewed byb Barbara Copperthwaite