This article was first published on The Huffington Post – 6 May 2014
Sheila Quigley is a bestselling crime writer from the North of England. She hit the news in her mid-fifties when she signed her first publishing deal for a six-figure sum with Random House. Since I last interviewed Sheila a couple of years ago, her first book Run for Home has been adapted into a stage play and her sixth Seahills novel Lady in Red has just been published.
Ruth Jacobs: Can you tell me about your new book Lady in Red?
Sheila Quigley: Lady in Red is back to the Seahills and mainly back to the Lumsdon family who had centre stage in book one Run for Home, which has recently been made into a very successful stage play. It’s every writer’s dream to see their work on stage, TV, or film, and the feeling was unexplainable, try laughing and crying at the same time, and it still won’t come close. In Lady in Red, one of the Lumsdon clan goes missing on the same night as two murders happen within Houghton Le Spring.
RJ: What research, if any, was needed to write the Seahills series?
SQ: Because I write about my hometown and a good friend of mine is the local historian, I don’t have to do a lot of research. I just have to bounce something off him and he’ll talk all day.
RJ: Can you share about your writing process – do you plan in advance or write as you go along?
SQ: I have to have the title first, without a title, I can’t do anything. I was sending stuff out for years and it kept coming home. So I wrote a screenplay and sent that off to an agent. The day he got it, he phoned me up and said, “this is brilliant, but instead could you write a crime book set in the North East?” Well of course I could, I told him. Then with no idea at all of what I was going to write, just buzzing at the fact that he wanted me to do it, I headed up the stairs to start. As I did so, the song Run for Home came on the radio. That was it, I had my title, and everything just fell into place. I never plan, I just go with the flow.
RJ: Could you describe a couple of the characters from Lady in Red?
SQ: DI Lorraine Hunt is a strong, gritty woman who shows no mercy, gets out there roughing with the rough and does her job. Her sidekick, Luke Daniels, well five pages after introducing him, I stopped dead and thought, is he black, looked back and yes, he was. I’ve had emails from all over the world from women who’ve fallen in love with him, and he is lovely – calm, kind and understanding. How he puts up with Lorraine I don’t know.
RJ: Is there a particular message in the book you’d like readers to understand?
SQ: That under the surface of this world there is another harsher reality where slave trading really does exist alongside drug dealers and murderers. Traps are there and they’re easily fallen into.