Mel Sherratt has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. After winning her first writing competition at the age of eleven, she has rarely been without a pen in her hand or her nose in a book. Since successfully self-publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of number one bestselling police procedural in the Amazon Kindle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to publish three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series. Mel Where art has also written feature articles for The Guardian, the Writers & Artists website, and Writers’ Forum magazine, to name just a few, and regularly speaks at conferences, event, and talks. She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans) and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing.
1. How did you get started writing?
I’ve always wanted to write but I wrote my first book in 1999. Well, I say when I wrote my first book, I mean, I wrote my first attempt…
2. What drew you to write a crime novel?
That first book I wrote was women’s fiction, set around a coffee shop. I was working with my first agent then, back in 2004, and I worked with her on that same book for over two years before she retired without the book going out on submission. It was a real frustrating time – I did eight rewrites with months of waiting in-between. But alongside that I’d started to work as a housing officer. It was also the time when the TV program Shameless became one of my favourites. And as I enjoyed Eastenders too, I wrote a darker book than intended. That book was Somewhere to Hide.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
At that time, I was really into writers such as Martina Cole and Lynda La Plante. More recently, it’s been Mandasue Heller, Jacqui Rose and Elizabeth Haynes. When I started writing police procedurals, I read Ian Rankin, Peter James and Mark Billingham. It’s always best to learn from the pros.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
Erm, yes! I tried for twelve years for a traditional deal before I self-published on Kindle. I had several books go to acquisition meetings but in the end they weren’t right for the publishers lists.
5. There are many interesting characters in your novels, do you have a particular favourite one?
I like Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton in TAUNTING THE DEAD. She has a ruthless side to do the job she does but she is also caring and compassionate. Having a two book deal with Thomas & Mercer meant that TAUNTING THE DEAD was repackaged so I’ve now just written another book with her in it, to follow on from that. I’ve really enjoyed meeting her and other characters again.
6. What kind of research do you have to undertake for your novels?
For my books in THE ESTATE SERIES, it’s more a case of googling to find out about certain topics, or finding a case study on what I’m covering. But my background as a housing officer, having done the job for eight years, gave me authenticity as I knew the policies and procedures. For my police procedural books, I talk to the police and also have a member of the force who reads them for me so that everything is checked.
7. Are the characters in your books based on any real life?
No. I hear news clips or read something interesting online and then give it an extra twist.
8. Since you have started writing have any well-known authors given you any advice?
Well, after reading TAUNTING THE DEAD, Ian Rankin said I should market it as erotic crime fiction…
I’ve had more inspiration than advice from authors who I’ve met, or listened to, at crime festivals and conferences. There is a huge amount of support in the crime genre, I suppose there are in all genres. Authors are really generous with advice too, as we know what it was like to be starting out. But, ultimately a writer needs to find their own path to follow and be happy with their choice.
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
All of them have bits of me in them, I’m sure.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve just finished the first draft of my next book, which is a follow on from TAUNTING THE DEAD. I’m now planning out the third book and will be starting that shortly, if I get good feedback for the draft. I have another novel on THE ESTATE that needs to be written and a couple of ideas for novellas too.
11. Out of all the novels you have written do you gave a favourite one that stands out to you?
I think it would have to be TAUNTING THE DEAD. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I always think it’s not good enough because it was self-published initially – so every time I get a bad review it kind of adds to the self-doubt. But then it has sold so many copies and continues to sell well that I love it too. It contains a lot of sex, violence and murder which I tend to apologize for when anyone asks what genre I write it – yet I am so proud of the story. And, without a doubt, it has been my door-opener, the book that got me noticed.
12. As a well-known crime writer do you have words of advice you can share?
Gosh, that’s a lovely title, thank you! I would say that there is so much advice out there sometimes that for a new writer it must be mind-boggling. But the first thing I would say is to keep on keeping on. To many, I seem to be an overnight success but it took me years behind the scenes before people started to find my books. I’m still learning now – I’m about to start writing my ninth book – and I hope I will continue to learn. The other thing is go with your heart when it comes to how you intend to publish – if that’s with an agent, or self-publishing or even straight to a traditional publisher, do what is best for you. And always makes sure that the book is done to the best of your ability no matter which path you choose.
TAUNTING THE DEAD
WATCHING OVER YOU
SOMEWHERE TO HIDE
BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR
FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL
Amazon Author Page