What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
As a child I remember going into a library, gazing in awe at shelves and shelves of books, and thinking I wanted to read them all! An avid reader, I went on to study English at university, and taught English at secondary level for years. Despite my lifelong love of books, I didn’t begin writing until I reached my fifties, after my children had grown up. My debut thriller, CUT SHORT, was inspired by an encounter with a stranger in my local park. The first draft of that novel was very rough, completed in just six weeks, because it wasn’t written with publication in mind. It genuinely never occurred to me that anyone else would ever read my narrative, let alone publish it. The story that arose out of that brief encounter in the park went on to be published as CUT SHORT, shortlisted for a 2010 CWA Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel, first in a long running series of bestselling titles which have been number 1 on Kindle, number 1 on iTunes, and in bestseller charts on Amazon, Waterstones and WHSmith. I still find all this hard to believe!
I rarely manage an entire day without writing. The key to a book is not in the physical typing, but the thoughts that go into creating the narrative, and that can happen at any time. Since buying an iPad, I write anywhere, at any time, no longer living surrounded by illegible scribbles. On the down side, it also means there is more distraction from social media sites! I am typing this on a book signing tour in the Midlands, and will probably finish it on the train home. Before my books really took off, I had no idea how much of my time would be spent on promotion. I enjoy interacting with readers, online and at literary festivals and in bookstores and libraries, and occasionally teach creative writing for the Society of Authors. This month I’m teaching a course in fiction writing on a Greel island which will be lovely, but all of that takes time. I’m looking forward to having more time to devote to writing.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
I haven’t written in any genre other than crime fiction. I recently agreed to deliver two books a year, so I doubt there’ll be time to try my hand at anything else for a while.
What draws you to write in that genre?
People fascinate me. Each of my novels explores a different motivation driving a character to kill. In addition to the human interest, crime fiction at its best is very exciting. It deals with the conflict between good and evil. That struggle can be really tense, with characters being killed. In addition, crime fiction is a hugely popular genre because however disturbing the narrative, the reader knows that by the end of the book some kind of moral order will be restored.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
So far five novels have been published in the Geraldine Steel series: CUT SHORT, ROAD CLOSED, DEAD END, DEATH BED, and STOP DEAD. The books have hit bestseller lists on Amazon, WH Smith’s, Waterstones and iTunes, and have been translated into French, Italian and Turkish. The sixth, FATAL ACT, will be available to download at the end of the year, and out in print in 2014. I recently signed a contract for the next three titles in the Geraldine Steel series. In addition, the first in my new spin off series, COLD SACRIFICE, recently came out as an eBook and will be available in print in September. This features Ian Peterson, the detective sergeant in the early Geraldine Steel novels. So my current project is to complete the second Ian Peterson novel, and write the seventh Geraldine Steel novel.
The Geraldine Steel series will run to around twenty titles. If the Ian Peterson series stops at the same time, there will be fifteen books in his spin off series. So I’m planning to be busy with Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson for a while. With my writing taking over, I’ll soon be giving up the day job. After that, who knows? I never expected to become a bestselling crime writer, so I don’t try to predict what might happen next. I’m happy to just enjoy the roller coaster ride of being an author.
Where can people find out more about you?
My website http://leighrussell.co.uk has links to Facebook, Twitter, and my blog, and readers can contact me via the website. I always reply in person to direct approaches, although it may take me a couple of days to respond.