Leigh Russell is the author of the Geraldine Steel crime series. The first novel, Cut Short was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Road Closed is currently on an Amazon kindle promotion, and Dead End, the third book in the series, will be released in May. She talks to Crime Time…
Finding ideas has never been a problem. I wrote in an article for Crime Time that I can see dead bodies anywhere, which isn’t as ghoulish as it sounds. Writing crime thrillers is like problem solving, fitting the pieces of a jigsaw together. Start with a body and then the questions follow. Who is the victim and what is their story? How much does the reader need to know about the killer and his or her motivation? Finally, the detective enters the story, to investigate the murder. And there you have it—a crime thriller.
There are lots of advantages to being published. I’ve met so many interesting people through writing—my publisher, editor, agent, staff in bookshops, librarians, organisers of literary festivals, journalists, broadcasters, other authors, and of course readers. And in common with other authors, I have a growing number of anecdotes about people who have helped me with my research: police officers, firemen, a Professor of Forensic Medicine, an expert in human remains at the Natural History Museum, medical practitioners, market traders, you name it! I’ve been bowled over by how helpful people are. As for the downs to being published… no, I haven’t come across any yet. But whatever the benefits, professional and personal, of being published, the real buzz is writing. I absolutely love it.
In his review of Dead End, Mike Stafford discusses the way I explore the effect of murder on those other than the pivotal characters of victim, killer and detective. At the beginning of Dead End I quote Dr Gwen Adshead, Consultant Forensic Psychotherapist Broadmoor Hospital: ‘When you kill someone you change the universe’ and of course that is true for many people. Someone’s death can be so much more than the end of a life. It may herald the beginning of a future filled with grief and loss for the members of the victim’s family, and anyone else who was close to the victim. The effect of a sudden and brutal murder on these characters – who may be extraneous to the plot – is always present in my books.
Apart from the obvious growth in confidence as my books have been well received, I am always keen to tackle new challenges as my skills develop. While I’ve always enjoyed working out my plots and creating characters to people them, location was not a strong point in Cut Short and Road Closed. In Dead End I decided to rise to the challenge and set several scenes in real places around the UK, in Kent and Yorkshire. This adds a new dimension to the book and is an element I am exploring in greater detail in future books.
I love every aspect of the process, but I particularly enjoy exploring characters, which is why I write psychological thrillers. My characters are given a fairly free rein and I enjoy watching them develop. Sometimes a character will say or do something for no apparent reason. Only later do I realise why they behaved in that particular way because they were preparing for a later scene I hadn’t consciously thought about yet. I do my best to ensure my books are realistic, and many reviewers like the fact that my books are plausible – but of course there has to be scope for imagination too. How else could I explain my fathoming ‘the darkest recesses of the human psyche’ (Barry Forshaw, Crimetime) or why my writing is ‘psychologically acute’ (Marcel Berlins, The Times) when some of my key characters are murderers… !
Dead End is publshed by No Exit Press