Did you know as a child that you wanted to be a writer?
I only ever wanted to be a writer.
What type of articles did you write when you worked for various magazines?
I graduated from university, I joined IPC Magazines as a sub-editor
on a romantic fiction magazine, writing articles, short stories and
30,000 word novelettes to help pay the mortgage. After a period as editor,
I decided it was time to go freelance and so I started writing full-time
for women’s magazines.
When I turned 40, I suddenly realised I wanted to be a published writer.
Did the same happen to you, too?
really, no, because as I mentioned, I always knew I wanted to be a writer.
I started being published in magazines when I was 22 and it was real
buzz, because, suddenly, everybody was prepared to pay me for something
I’d created. But I wrote a lot of unpublished and unpublishable
material before I got there!
How did you come up with the idea for “The Ice House”?
book had its roots in my profound interest in two themes: the damage
that families can do to themselves and the nature of truth. I have always
been fascinated by crime and what drives people to commit murder, so
I took that interest and decided to run with it. My recollection is
that I simply sat down at wrote those first four pages, I hadn’t
You took about two years to finish this book. How did the process go?
wrote the book as soon as my second son had gone to school. Children
are so noisy, so I think I just needed the peace and quiet! I have always
been fascinated by the challenge that crime fiction represents to an
author, and I wanted to know if I could carry an intricate plot for
100,000 words, and keep readers guessing, while I was portraying characters
under considerable tension. It takes me about a year to write a thriller
Now, so many books later, you must have more confidence in you abilities.
Is that right?
necessarily! The main difference between published an unpublished authors
is stamina – most people give up at 10,000 words. However, self-doubt
is every author’s friend. Without it, you will never be able to
edit your own work successfully.
Was having your first book published difficult?
It took a year for my agent to sell it and a year before it was published.
How do you handle criticism?
is appallingly hard work, you need skin like a rhinoceros to take the
knocks, but when someone says – ‘I really like your work’.
WOW! The whole exercise is one long ego trip.
As you show a deep psychological insight in the characters you invent,
it would interest us to know if you have studied that subject?
I didn’t. I read French at the university of Durham, but I rather
regret that now. Psychology or politics would have been a better choice.
However, at the time, I took the advice of my teachers who told me to
read what I was good at, and I happened to be good at French. The trouble
was I wasn’t interested in it and only stuck it out to gain a
degree! I spent more time on extra-mural activities than I ever did
in the French department, but I gained a broader education as a result,
which I think has helped me gain insights into people’s psyches…
Would you care to tell us who your favourite authors are? Or books?
at all. I read a great number of books – fact and fiction –
although my favourites are crime and thriller novels because they’re
always the most exciting! I do read other crime authors, although not
in the same way as I did before I was published. Sadly, when you understand
how a plot is constructed, there’s less surprise. But I love great
characters… which is why “Hannibal Lecter’ stands
out like a beacon from the last 20 years. I guarantee Thomas Harris’s
startling and original creation will be as long-lasting, and spawn as
many derivatives, as Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.