Describe the plot of your new novel
Almost Love, the second Tim Yates novel, begins with the unexplained disappearance of Dame Claudia McRae, a renowned female archaeologist. Yates is ordered to investigate, which he does with a bad grace, because the discovery of a body in a park in Spalding confirms his growing suspicion that there is a professional drugs ring operating in the area and he would prefer to concentrate on that. The police fear that Claudia has been murdered because a thick daub of blood is discovered on an inside wall in her cottage, but tests reveal that the blood is not hers. It emerges that there are links between the two cases. Tom Tarrant, a social worker trying to help two terrified boys who’ve been persuaded to act as couriers for the drugs ring, is a pivotal figure. He is married to Alex Tarrant, the Secretary of the Archaeological Society, who embarks on an affair with Edmund Baker, the County Heritage Officer. Both Alex and Tom unwittingly get drawn into the crimes, he through his job, she because of the affair.
DI Yates is not middle-aged, paunchy, disappointed, semi-alcoholic or lonely, but young and go-ahead. Did you base him on someone that you know?
None of the characters in my novels is based on a real person, although there are some elements of people that I know in them. I didn’t want Yates to be a cliché, but it’s harder to create a character who is usually very positive (although Tim has his fair share of problems) and not an introvert. Tim can be quite brash, but he’s becoming more self-aware in Almost Love.
Why did you set the Yates novels in Spalding?
It’s the town I grew up in, but the books are in no sense autobiographical. I chose to set them in this area because I am a strong believer in the importance of topography in crime fiction, and the other regions in Britain that I know well – the Pennines, Yorkshire and London – already feature prominently in the work of other modern crime writers.
Is Spalding particularly inspirational for you?
I’ve certainly been inspired by real buildings and places in and around Spalding. The Archaeological Society in Almost Love is very loosely based on my knowledge of Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, a 300-year-old scientific and literary club which still flourishes. The premises in In the Family where the murder of Doris Atkins takes place owe some detail to the house and shop where my grandmother and great uncle lived when I was a child. This house was a time capsule, a monument to the taste of a lower middle class couple (my great-grandparents) when they set up home in the 1890s. That two of their now elderly children still lived there in the 1960s and had barely altered it in three quarters of a century didn’t then strike me as odd. I’m fascinated by the way in which everyone – except very young children – lives partly in the past. We each begin to create a personal myth composed of memories, places and things long before childhood is over. But it is rare today to find people who live so completely in the past as they did. The third Yates novel, which I’m working on at the moment, focuses on an even more extraordinary house that I knew as a child: it contained some nineteenth century artefacts which, in retrospect, were sensational.
You’ve had quite a varied career. Can you tell us a little about it?
I started work as the purchasing manager for a library supplier, becoming the managing director of the company, and then the sales and marketing director of a much larger company. I was the MBA course director at the University of Huddersfield for three years, returning to the book industry to run Waterstones campus bookshops. My last ‘real’ job was business development director at Waterstones. As a bookseller, I’ve organised events for many famous writers, including Roy Hattersley, Jeffrey Archer, Claire Rayner, Sue Townsend and David Baddiel. For the past twelve years I’ve provided freelance business development advice and market research to the publishing and bookselling communities. I still work at this, but I’m now spending more time on events, running writers’ workshops and, of course, the writing itself.
How long have you been writing and how did you come to be published by Salt?
I’ve been writing for most of my life. There are several novels and short stories which I’m unlikely to attempt to get published. I once showed some of my work to Liz Calder, who said that I could write but needed to make my writing more mainstream. I decided that it might help me to try crime: I’ve always been interested in crime novels. I asked Chris Hamilton-Emery, founding director of Salt Publishing, to mentor me and he agreed. In the Family, the first of the DI Yates novels, was the result. It was not a foregone conclusion that Salt would publish the novel, but Chris was delighted with it and chose it as the lead title for the then newly-launched Salt crime list. I still work hard at the quality of the writing. I’ve been described as a literary crime writer.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m trying to ensure that Almost Love finds as many readers as would like to read it. I’ve had several launch events – I’m particularly grateful to Christine Hanson at Bookmark in Spalding, Sam Rahman at Waterstones Gower Street and Alison Cassels at Wakefield One – with more planned for the autumn. If any of your readers would like me to speak at local shops, libraries or book clubs, or just do a signing session, I’d be delighted to hear from them. I appreciate it very much when people read my blog or post comments on it. It is at www.christinajamesblog.com. More about Almost Love can be found there and also at http://www.saltpublishing.com/shop/products.php?cat=114
Christina James can be contacted at email@example.com.