I often think about this. For me, there’s a fine line between an integral truth to your writing, and entertainment. I have picked up books and, frankly, been bored by how credible they are. After all, isn’t genre fiction about escapism? What strikes me as slightly ironic about people who bang on about ‘credibility’ is that I, quite often, watch the news and realise that the world really is an odd place. Strange things happen, strange people with strange habits exist. Sometimes the real world is more bizarre than the written one.

However, I do get credibility. I do get why we need it. At the other end of the spectrum is a writer whose protagonist (normally a car salesman from Hounslow, enjoys drinking beer and eating TV dinners) is given access to AK47s, Russian intelligence and did I forget his ability to conjure up a six-pack and karate skills? I know, who knew?

I’d argue that credibility in literature has its place. For me, it’s about defining credibility. At the core of your novel, there needs to be a universal truth. For example, is your protagonist recently widowed? Did her husband get killed by a local youth when out clubbing? Does she want to find out who did it? Of course she does. Credibly speaking, we therefore expect her to get angry, cry, get frustrated and be filled with a burning desire to find out who the offender is. How is she going to do this? Well, let’s say she lives in Birmingham and her day job is working at the Bull Ring; her resources are limited. But what she does have is that hunger to find out who did it. Take her on a journey, put her in compromising situations, set up those obstacles. She becomes your own Sherlock Holmes. Not any old Sherlock, though. This one has raw emotion feeding her, making her act quickly and desperately. What are her resources? In this day and age, I’m guessing she has the internet, a phone, a car, maybe her husband hid away some secret papers. The list is endless but, most importantly, it’s real. Credible, even.

So, take your woman from Birmingham and put her through her paces. Entertain us.

Just don’t give her a red cape and dress her in lycra. That wouldn’t be credible. Incredible, yes. Credible? No.

In an ideal world, the answer to the above would be categorically ‘no’. However, writing is a hard game which requires an extraordinary amount of patience and self-belief. Anyone who says it’s easy, might not be going about the whole business in the right way. Or they are kidding themselves.

Rejection is tough. God knows I’ve cried, I’ve thrown pillows across the room, I’ve drunk one too many vinos and then cried even harder the next day because my head hurts so much. There is, however, such a thing as good rejection. If an agent/an editor gives you feedback (it is a precious resource – don’t dismiss it with a wave of a hand and a ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about’) grab it and use it. Rejection can arrive in the form of a standard, generic letter – stash this away. If you receive an email or anything with a few nuggets of why the answer was ‘no’, take it on board. You’ve been handed a gift. Sure, the temptation is to think you’re above it all – no need for any help here, thank you – but, frankly, you’re not. We all need help. We are all always learning.

If the advice doesn’t make sense then go to an editorial consultancy. My favourite is The Writers’ Workshop. Honest advice that will really help to shape and hone your work. You can’t beat it. An editorial consultancy (a good one) can decode agent/editor speak. You might be told the issue is one thing and start changing the structure, only to find out that all you needed to do was flesh out some of the back story.

So, yes, we’d all prefer we weren’t rejected but, in actual fact (as most of us are, at some point anyway), take it on the chin and, in turn, become the better writer.

Writing is a funny business. I’ve written two books over the last year (one being a rewrite). A month or so ago, I stopped writing. It was as if I had run out of steam and I managed to convince myself that I couldn’t do it anymore. The irony? The past month has left me feeling somewhat lost. As I embark on a new project, I realise that I should never have stopped. There are three reasons for this:

a) Good writing is all about practice.

b) The only thing stopping myself from writing is myself.

c) I am basically a nicer person when writing.

So here’s to better writing, a positive frame of mind and a happier home.

A few months ago, I decided to re-write an existing novel and move away from police procedural. It was an interesting exercise and one that I approached with some trepidation. It had always been my intention to write a series of detective novels; was this really going to work?

Yes.

It worked because I had already been writing from my main character’s point of view but I could now focus on her entirely and, although you do hear from another character, neither of them are involved in the police force. I found it liberating and I know I have produced a much stronger novel as a result. I guess what I’ve learnt from this exercise is:

Be prepared to change if it’s not working.

As as writer, I never stop learning.

I need to have the courage to understand my strengths and comfort zone and embrace them fully.

A Closer Evil is a book I’m very proud of and, the long journey it’s been on, only makes me prouder.

Love in books and in life exists in a multitude of forms: adoration, obsession, lust, jealousy and even, or especially, friendship – plus many more. When I write, I aim to push the boundaries of the ‘ordinary’ and perhaps what people expect from a married couple, partners or a boyfriend and girlfriend and reveal some truth about that relationship. Sometimes the most unlikely characters will ‘fall in love’ and develop a tenderness toward each other and, in other cases, two people (or more!) will resist being stereotyped and their relationship might do the opposite to what we’ve come to expect . I can think of the man and wife in my latest book – their marriage is on the rocks and it is, in fact, the woman’s obsession with her husband’s behaviour and what is happening inside her home, that ultimately leads her to ignore the danger just outside her door.

Love is a wonderfully diverse emotion to write and explore, though DI Ward wouldn’t agree.

She is in a foul mood today: Valentine’s Day. It’s not that she wants to put a dampener on proceedings but since love has never appeared on her doorstep wrapped in ribbon, pink paper and ‘all that fluffy stuff’, she can’t wait for this day to be over. DS Franklin bought her flowers, not as a romantic gesture but because, ‘They were going cheap at the petrol station.’ DS Franklin will not miss out on a bargain. So with a pile of reports to get through and no chocolates in sight, DI Ward has bought the largest Fruit and Nut bar she could find in the local newsagent, and is currently munching her way through it, by herself, in the meeting room. DS Franklin is keeping well out of her way.

Whether you celebrate or not: Happy Valentine’s Day and enjoy – in whatever way you do.

I know it’s an absolute cliché but I do live, breathe, sleep and eat my work. In fact, I’m not sure what I’d do if the ability to write was ever taken away from me. I have always been writing – be it short stories, diaries, poetry and more recently, novels – it has become my life.

The big question is why am I trying to get published? Is it for the money? No. Which is probably a good thing when you think how small advances can be today. Don’t even talk about royalties! So, is it to be ‘famous’? No. Because, again, I’d unlikely ever be properly famous. What does that even mean anyway? No, I want to be published because I think there would be nothing more wonderful than sharing your characters and their journeys with others. (Oi, you, at the back, shouting, ‘Cheesy!’ Quiet down!). But he’s right, it is a bit cheesy. Though, I think if you’re really serious about your writing and in love with the process, you’ll be nodding right now and also shooting evils at said rowdy audience member.

In the last few months, I have read quite a few debut novels and so many have been excellent. But beyond the wonderful writing, they are also the product of a new author’s sheer hard work. They will have undergone the most fantastic creative process: captured their own imaginations, scribbled and scribbled – most likely for months  – and then honed until their words have shone.

So, yes, I dream. All the time. Much to the annoyance of everyone around me (must remember to talk about other things and not just my writing and D.I. Ward – though, if I don’t say so myself, I think she’s rather cool).

The last couple of years  – since I started writing novels – have had their ups and downs. But one thing I hold on to is my dream of being published.

Who knows, one day that dream might come true. Until then, I’m happy tapping away on my keyboard, coffee by my side, country music playing out of my rather big (retro) headphones and listening to my characters as they leap about the page.

 

If my books are a reflection of ‘what I know’ then I really should be locked up, quite frankly, and doing life. But it is important to get inside the bad guy’s head as well as the good guy’s. So, no, hand on heart I know nothing about murder but what I do know is that my character still needs to have very human qualities. He or she might be ‘unfeeling’ in regards to the way they go about killing someone or abducting a child but, ultimately, even they are affected by life. Perhaps just in a different way to the rest of us.

Then, in terms of the good guys, am I writing what I know? No. Because, thankfully, these things have never happened to me. But, again – just like the bad guy – I am writing emotions. Emotions are universal, whether we are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Writing will always require research to make it feel credible. But, at the end of the day, I write to entertain an audience. So that, hopefully, readers will lose themselves in my words and forget their everyday lives.

The most amazing effect any writer can hope to have on a reader is that wonderful, ‘Ah, yes, so sad. I would feel that too.’ Or, ‘I kind of feel sorry for that guy. Even though I shouldn’t.’

You’ve given the reader the great gift of emotion. Albeit the tears might be for the ‘wrong’ person.

After all, characters – like humans – don’t exist in a black and white world. Thankfully, we have grey.

When I started writing my first book I didn’t think a title was of any importance. In fact, I was three-quarters of the way through before a very wise owl told me, ‘I’ve got a title for you. Try it on for size.’

I did and never looked back.

A title, you have to realise, can be changed. It’s not set in stone. So, I started on the last quarter of the novel, now entitled A Closer Evil, and would you believe, the themes gradually came into focus, the characters cheered because they knew what they had to do. Simply put: I was focused.

With my second book, the title was the spark behind all my ideas. I wrote it, with one title in mind, reached the end and knew it wasn’t quite right. Its initial title would have been fine, only it felt a little like a slightly baggy jumper. But the difference between the second novel and my first is that it was already so much more focused because I started off with a title.

Don’t forget you’re in control and if your title doesn’t fit, it’s up to you to change that. Ultimately as a writer you want that title to shout, ‘READ ME! I’M ENTERTAINING!’ And then to have written a manuscript that delivers.

So, my second book is called The Killing Diary: it is about just that.