Monday, 11 April 2011
Described as the queen of cosy crime, Lesley’s eighth Libby Sarjeant mystery, Murder to Music, has just been published by Accent Press. Lesley has also written short fiction, magazine features and many pantomimes.
Murder to Music (Libby Sarjeant Mystery Series)
How to Write a Pantomime
Tell us about your proudest writing achievement
I think it was when my first short story was accepted. That signified the switch from writing non-fiction to fiction and was the first speculative piece that was accepted.
What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
I’m lazy and a non-planner. I write by the seat of my pants and don’t consciously follow any rules. I suppose a strength, if I’ve got any, is seeing and hearing my characters as though I’m there with them. Mind you, because I write a series with recurring characters, I know them as well as I know my own family.
Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
No. I try to write every day, but the timing varies. When I’m on holiday, I always go back to my room after breakfast and write for an hour or so, which is the nearest I get to a routine. Writing quirks – I don’t know. I don’t think so. Oh – I tend to make my dialogue a little too realistic sometimes!
Is there a special place you like to write?
My office, which is in an ugly extension to the side of the house. It is appallingly untidy, and tends also to be a bit of a junk store. I occasionally write on the laptop, as on holiday, but not often.
How important is it to you to plot your novels?
I think I’ve already answered that! I plot as I go, which results in some awful muddles sometimes. One story, which I’ve told many times, is that in one book, the editor came back and said I couldn’t have that person as the murderer, he was too nice. I had to go back and put in a whole new character and weave him into the plot.
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Only once, when I included a young friend as a character deliberately, although the character wasn’t actually him. Otherwise, despite what some friends and family believe, there are no real people in the books!
Which is your favourite Libby Sarjeant book and why?
I don’t know. By the time they go off to my editor I hate each one, but a year or so later I think “Oh, well, it wasn’t so bad after all.” Not that I ever read any of them. Or listen, and they’re all on audio.
How much of your own personality is there in Libby?
Quite a lot!
Who is your favourite author?
Too many to mention. Honestly, that’s the truth. If I mentioned one, I would feel guilty about all the others, alive or dead.
What qualities do you think writers should have?
Persistence, and an ability to listen to writing professionals when they give advice. I’ve been to events where the same people ask the same questions every time and never learn. Oh, and adaptability. A writer may be asked to do something out of his or her comfort zone, and if your aim is to get and keep published, do it!
What are you working on at the moment?
The ninth Libby book.
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Read. You’d be surprised how many aspiring writers will say they haven’t got time to read. If you don’t read, particularly in your chosen genre, how do you know what the public and the publishers want? And after that, keep trying. There are many quite famous writers who have eventually been published after years of trying. So don’t give up, and keep learning all the time.
Lesley Cookman was talking to Maureen Vincent-Northam, co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist