1. How did you get started writing?
The first two books I wrote, I self-published. At that stage I didn’t try to get an agent or explore the traditional publishing route. I was testing myself to see if I enjoyed the process and could start and finish projects. Also, it’s hard to edit and you really have to develop that skill, so it was a great starting point. The books are in the cross-over fantasy genre, and there are still characters in them I think about. After I got an agent, I changed to writing crime fiction which is where my area of expertise is, given my time working as a criminal barrister.
2. What drew you to write a crime novel
Writing crime was an obvious choice for me, but also the genre I love to read. I like thrillers and enjoy police procedurals, so I combined them in Perfect Remains, where you see both the police, and are able to watch the antagonist on his own, following the plight of the women he has abducted. It seemed like the best of both worlds to be able to follow both strands of the story.
3. Which writers past or present have influenced your style of writing?
As a child my first love was Tolkien. I adored his ability to world build, and to create enduring characters whose lives you really cared about. It wasn’t long until I found the dark side, however, and I read and reread everything by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Herbert and any other horror writers I could find. These days I like a good mix of genres, although you can’t beat Christopher Brookmyre for crime as far as I’m concerned. I love Patricia Cornwell for the forensic details, and my most recent discovery was ES Thomson. I do enjoy historical thrillers, which is the other genre I write in these days.
4. When you first started writing did you find it hard to get publisher interest?
I was very lucky finding an agent, but I made sure I did my research and only applied to agents interested in my genre and who were actively looking for new writers to represent. I found my agent through the Winchester Writers’ Conference and can thoroughly recommend such events for networking and getting your name out there. It’s not all plain sailing though. It still took some time to get a publishing deal. There’s no quick fix when it comes to writing. Everything takes ten times longer than you expect. You have to accept that you’re in the business for the long haul and fill those months of no news with words on the page.
5. There are many interesting characters in your Novel, do you have a particular favourite one?
I think my favourite character from Perfect Remains is DI Ava Turner, mainly because she’s the woman I wish I was. She’s funny, keeps her nerve, is unflappable and hard to impress.And she’s the sort of person I’d want as a friend. I think if you can write those people into your work, you add a natural warmth to the narrative. I dislike reading novels where I can’t find any characters I genuinely like because it means I end up not investing in the story fully.
6. What kind of research have you have to undertake for your Novel
The research for Perfect Remains was in two parts. The first was proper locations scouting – I don’t write about places I haven’t personally visited if I can possibly avoid it, down to every bar, street and park. That was blissful of course, because I had excuses to spend plenty of time in Scotland. The second part was the forensics. Whilst I dealt with a lot of forensic evidence as a criminal lawyer, the scenarios in my novel are very specific and required careful reading (particularly the teeth). I don’t recommend anyone to type in “amateur dentistry” to a search engine though. I had nightmares.
7. Are the characters in your book based on any real life?
The characters in my book are not based on any single people who really exist, but aspects of their characters are drawn from a variety of police officers, experts and defendants I met during my career. What brings characters to life are the details – the things they love, their habits, their sense of humour. DI Luc Callanach is not based on anyone though. (If anyone knows a half French half Scottish former model turned policeman I would LOVE to meet him!)
8. What do you think makes your novels stand out from all the other Crime Fiction Novels out there
I hope that Perfect Remains stands out in the crime genre by virtue of opening the door to see inside the head of a psychopath. I like to be scared, and I like crossing the threshold of normality. Some readers have said that Perfect Remains is too much for them, and I sympathise, but that’s really the point. I wanted to explore the deaths of a twisted human psyche and to follow their train of thought. What’s more scary than that?
9. Do you see any of your characters personality in yourself and vice versa?
I don’t really see myself reflected in any of my characters. For me, writing is escapism, so as far as possible I’m trying to create a life well beyond my own experiences and personality.
10. If you can, would you give us a sneaky peak into any future novels you have planned.
Books two and three in the DI Callanach series are already written. Perfect Prey comes out on 27 July this year and I’m really excited about it! Two killers this time, and I wouldn’t want to bump into either of them on a dark night. Ava is going through some tough stuff in her personal life, and it leads her to make some bad choices. Callanach makes a couple of new (if unlikely) friends and is forced to operate under the radar to solve a case. I absolutely loved writing it. But again, I’m afraid, this one’s not for the faint-hearted.
11. What is your favourite scene in your novel and why
I think my favourite scene in Perfect Remains is when Ava gets into a fight in the pub, and handles it with her usual cool head. I took up marital arts a couple of years ago as a way to get actively involved in an activity with my kids, so it was fun to put that knowledge to some use. Also, I love the idea that Luc is sufficiently sure of Ava’s ability to handle herself that he didn’t feel the need to intervene. The feminist in me enjoyed writing it.
12. As a up and coming crime writer do you have words of advice you can share
What would I say to any up and coming writers? It’s all possible. Yes, you need discipline, dedication, and the time and space to write. Also, you need a clear head for editing. But actually there’s no magic to what writers do. You build one sentence after another. Write not what you know, but what you love. Write the book you’d like to read. Write what moves and excites you. If I hurt or kill a character I care about, I’ll do so with tears streaming down my face. If you can’t move yourself, you can’t move anyone else. Create stories that stick in your head long after you’ve turned off the light. Oh, and editing – it can’t be rushed. Never send out a work you haven’t polished.
Books – (Self-published: ‘The Immolation of Eve’ and ‘The Vengeance of Legion’
DI Callanach Thrillers
On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing. In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care. It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes …The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.
The second in the terrifying DI Callanach crime series.
In the midst of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker. The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.
DI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach have no motive and no leads – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.
It’s only when they realise the words are appearing before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.
Twitter – @Helen_Fields
Amazon Author Page