Hello Lesley thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my new book blog. This is my very first author interview!
I’m absolutely thrilled to be here, and overwhelmed to be a pioneer of what will no doubt be a fabulous book blog! Thanks so much for asking me.
Would you mind giving me a little potted bio about yourself and your background?
I’m a ‘Dabber’, born in Nantwich, Cheshire, brought up and educated, after a fashion, in Stockport. I studied and qualified as a journalist after leaving school and did ten years of mainly court and coroners’ court reporting, book and film reviews and various routine things. I was a case tracker for the Crown Prosecution Service for a couple of years. I then took a break to do horse things, including running my own holiday riding centre in Wales, before returning to writing as a freelance copywriter and copy editor, from which I am now retired.
It’s clear that you absolutely love writing but when did you first realise that you could actually write and that other people might enjoy reading your writing?
I grew up in a story-telling family, surrounded by books, with no television. At my junior school, we all had to keep a diary and write in it whatever we did at the weekends. I loved that! Always loved telling stories, all the better if they got a reaction from the listener/reader.
You’ve written a series of successful books in two different genres – memoirs and crime fiction. Do you find that fans of your memoir series also become fans of your crime fiction series, or do your books just tend to attract fans of either genre?
It’s just crossed over into three genres now, with the completion of my first children’s fiction book, The Dog with the Golden Eyes, under the pen-name of L M Kay, although that does have a strong crime element in it, so I suppose it’s junior crime! It will be out later this year. Then there’s the adult crime fiction and the travel memoirs, each under a different pen-name, L M Krier and Tottie Limejuice respectively. Crime is quite a specific genre, not to everyone’s taste, so a lot of the travel memoirs readers don’t go on to read the crime, although I’m happy to say some have done and have enjoyed both. I’m hoping the children’s book will appeal to both sets of readers, either for themselves as it’s quite grown-up in a sense, or for the younger members of their families.
Which books do you enjoy reading yourself for pleasure, research or both?
I love crime, read lots of it, both in English and in French. I belong to a reading circle at my local library and through it I have discovered some very good new French authors of the genre, notably Olivier Norek and Ghislain Gilberti. I’m a big fan of Ian Rankin although goodness knows why, I suspect I would want to slap Rebus if I ever met him in real life. I also love things like The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Alan Garner’s books, although I would not call myself a classical fantasy aficionado. For research, I prefer the Internet, as it’s so easy to be influenced by other books and not to be original. I grew up with Agatha Christie and they are still outstanding examples of the genre which have really stood the test of time.
Are you a people watcher and if so do you use your observations of human behaviour and mentally file away little snippets of information to be used in your crime novels?
Incurably so! To create realistic characters, it’s probably necessary to operate like that. It’s also the perfect foil for anyone who says ‘that could never happen’ to be able to say ‘well, actually, it did, and here’s the link to the newspaper article where it did.’ I often think back to some of the court cases I’ve sat through and the things I’ve heard there, especially in coroners’ courts. They were always fascinating as the only certainty in life is that we are all, one day, going to die. I used to cover a dozen or so inquests a week at one stage of my life as a journalist and they were all fascinating in their own way.
You now live in France and your memoir series chronicle the events of your whole experience in moving to and living there so far. Do you have any feedback from those who read your books and are themselves planning to move to live in France?
Yes, lots, which is wonderful. In fact I’ve become good friends (although we’ve not yet met) with a lady from Wales, quite near to where I used to live, coincidentally, who did a similar thing to me and moved out here with an elderly mother-in-law in tow. She got in contact to say how useful she found a lot of what I had written was to her own circumstances.
The last book in your memoir series has recently been published. How do your fans feel about the series coming to an end? Would you consider continuing the series if your readers really wanted you to carry on?
The trouble is, I can’t continue it as I’m now up to date with everything that’s happened in the past ten years, from choosing house to moving here and settling in. I really would be scratching round for crumbs to try to add any more to it and I wouldn’t want to do that to the readers. They deserve the best, and that’s what I’ve already picked out to present to them. However, that’s only ten years so there’s all the previous 54 still to be talked about, and lots of material there! In particular, there’s the eight years when I ran a holiday riding centre single handedly up a Welsh mountain. Plenty of tales to come out of that period of my life.
DI Ted Darling and his partner Trev from your Crime Fiction series seem to have become very popular characters amongst your readers. Why do you think this is?
I would like to think it’s because they come across as real. I’m really pleased and touched how people have taken them to heart and really seem to relate to them and believe in them. One wonderful example is Betty’s husband, who now drinks green tea because Ted does! But I think the prize must go to my French friend Domi who is using the Teds as her set books to learn English. It’s above her level and they are, of course, full of northern slang which would be no use to her anywhere outside Greater Manchester, but she comes every week and we work doggedly through the books. She’s earned the reward of having the fourth book in the series dedicated to her for her devotion. She never used to text me in English, always in French, but she will happily send English texts to ‘Ted’.
Do you ever feel pressured by readers to hurry up with the next instalment of any book series?
Not pressured, I think more motivated and galvanised and that’s a wonderful thing. To know that people have not only enjoyed what I’ve written to date but are eager to read more of it is very humbling and is what keeps me going. As soon as people stop asking, I’ll stop writing, at least for public consumption, as I will know I’ve reached my sell-by date.
Do you believe in your own talents as a writer and enjoy rave reviews of your books, or do you have any self-doubt?
People who think they know me may be surprised to hear that I am absolutely riddled with self-doubt when it comes to my writing. It’s partly because it was my professions for many years and part of my pitch, as a copywriter, was that if I couldn’t produce copy the client was happy with, after one rewrite if necessary, I wouldn’t invoice them for the work. My good friend and Alpha beta-reader Jill Pennington will tell you how much encouragement she has to give me to press the Publish button each time, for any of my books. I always worry the latest one isn’t up to the right standard, people won’t like it, or I’ve forgotten to tie up some very important loose ends in one of the crime thrillers. It’s also, no doubt, to do with being a Leo – we have to be the best person in the world at everything or it’s simply not good enough!
What would be your ultimate goal for your crime novels?
What I’d really like would be just for more people to get to know Ted and Trev and hopefully to like them as much as my existing readers do. I particularly like it when someone who admits to not being a crime fan starts to read them and gets hooked. For me, the crime is almost incidental to creating a good story with characters who seem to come to life. As I said, I could slap Rebus, because I find him so very real. A lot of crime books I’ve read lately are very ‘samey’ and I can’t seem to invest in the character as it just seems to be an amalgam of everything that’s already out there. At least I can put my hand on my heart and say that Ted is genuinely different from the run of the mill copper in crime fiction.
If your DI Ted Darling crime fiction novels were to be turned into a detective drama series on TV, would you enjoy the fame?
Ted would be mortified! I think I’d cope. I have a pretty realistic take on my importance, or lack of it, in the greater scheme of this. I would love to see Ted on TV though, simply because he is so different from what is currently available. It just needs a brave enough production company to give him a go. My dogs are very good at keeping me grounded and stopping me from getting above myself. I recently decided I ought to try planking (don’t ask!) As soon as I try, they cavort around me giggling and Fleur stars play-bowing to show me how easy it us!
What do you most enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spending time with Mother Nature and my dogs. Discovering the beautiful countryside here, camping, sharing a picnic, anything like that. I’m a big kid for sleeping in a tent. I’ve even been known to pitch one in the garden and sleep out there! Reading, too, also looking at maps and guidebooks to plan our next adventures. Oh and showing friends the beautiful region I live in. Which is why I’m launching something called Tottie’s Tours, where people can come to the region, meet me, if they so wish, and I’ll either take or send them to some of the best sites mentioned in the various Sell the Pig books.
Would you ever consider moving back to live in the UK?
Never in a million years! I haven’t even been back there for a visit since I moved out here in 2007. My life is here, now. I couldn’t afford to do it, anyway, I would never be able to afford somewhere as nice as my little ‘grottage’ at UK prices.
Your dogs seem to be a very important part of your life. Have you always loved dogs?
Always, from as far back as I can remember. I loved westerns on telly (my first big cheque for my writing was for a High Chaparral storyline) so I was always watching stuff like Rin-Tin-Tin, Champion the Wonder Horse with Rebel the dog, and The Littlest Hobo. We didn’t have a telly in those days so I used to go to a friend’s house to watch. I got my first dog, a German Shepherd, when I was about 19, I think. My parents wouldn’t let me have one before that because they always had a cat.
What sort of meals do you enjoy cooking?
Campfire food! Cooked on an open fire or my rocket stove outside, which burns bits of twig. Food here is excellent and affordable. I eat a mostly veggie diet with some poultry and fish. I love things like a veggie curry, channa aloo mutter, for example, or just a great big pile of veggies smothered in melted local Cantal cheese. I like baking, too.
When is your next book due out for release?
I’ve got a busy year coming up! The fourth DI Ted Darling crime thriller, Shut Up and Drive, should be released early in March 2016. Next up will be the children’s book, The Dog with the Golden Eyes. I’m working with a translator at the moment to bring the travel memoir Sell the Pig series out in French as there is quite a demand for those already. There should be time to do another DI Ted Darling by the end of the year, and somewhere in between, I hope to make a start on some of my Sell the Pig memoirs prequel(s).
Thank you very much Lesley for agreeing to be interviewed here, that was very interesting!