Today I'm pleased to welcome Mel Sherratt to my blog to talk about crime fiction. Over the last couple of years Mel has self-published four novels to date, all of which have made the Amazon bestsellers list, but she's recently announced that she has just signed a book deal with a publisher. Congratulations Mel x
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a crime writer?
I’ve written seven books now - just about to start drafting my eighth. I wrote a crime thriller when I couldn’t get a traditional deal for my gritty women’s fiction novels. It was a police procedural, TAUNTING THE DEAD and I selfpublished it after that was rejected too.
Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t already know?
I have a fear of heights since falling head first down 16 concrete steps - I literally rolled over in mid air!
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
The last book I self-published was FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL, book three of The Estate series - surviving life on the worst street on the estate. It has girl-gangs, self-harm, bullying, debt and repossession, neighbours fighting, murder and mayhem galore.
My new book, out at the end of the year is called WATCHING OVER YOU. It’s a hint of Single White Female with a dash of Panic Room and a liberal sprinkling of Fatal Attraction. Basically it’s about one woman falling in love with a man as another woman falls apart because of it.
Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?
Unfortunately there is always murder and mayhem happening, so they come mostly from what’s going on in the news. But sometimes it can be just a line I hear from a song or a throwaway comment by someone that will send my mind in to a spin.
Percentage-wise, how much time do you spend researching and how much time do you spend writing?
Ooh, that’s a tricky question. Let me think. I mostly write about ordinary people with an extraordinary chain of events leading up to murder. So unless I have to research a certain topic such as sex addiction for WATCHING OVER YOU or self-harm for FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL, I tend to dive right in and write and then research afterwards, when I know what I need to be looking for. If it’s any police procedural elements that I need, I have several police contacts that I go to. So I reckon maybe 80 percent writing and 20 percent ongoing research.
Are there any writers that have influenced you as a writer?
Maybe not so much influenced me, but there are definitely ones who have inspired me. Martina Cole and Mandasue Heller for my grit-lit writing and to some extent TAUNTING THE DEAD. Writers like Ian Rankin and Peter James who write police procedurals. And I loved Elizabeth Haynes, INTO THE DARKEST CORNER.
How hard is it to keep coming up with different/alternative ways to kill someone off?
It depends if you mean killing a character and solving their murder or killing someone and the murderer being arrested but it not being part of the plot to solve. If it’s a murder that needs to be solved, it’s not so much the murder itself but the ‘not-solving-it-too-quickly-to-give-it-away’ that needs to be worked out. I haven’t done that many yet to be fair. I have lots of ideas but forensics and CCTV cameras can often trip me up so I have to rethink.
How do you relax/unwind after writing gruesome scenes?I find I can switch off from them quite well actually - does that mean I’m weird?! I do find however that when I’m writing/editing a scene where I am fearful for someone my heart starts to race as the situation becomes more dangerous.
Are you one of those writers who wake in the middle of the night with ideas for plots, new story etc.?Yes, but most of the time it’s if I’m trying to work through a hole in a plot or trying to twist something, I can be awake for ages. But I’ll let it rattle around inside my head before I get out of bed, if ever!
Have you ever had writer’s block?
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I’d want to be doing something that involved writing, or marketing, creating etc. Writing for magazines, websites, copy writing, I think.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
It was twelve years of trying for a traditional deal with no success that led me to self-publish TAUNTING THE DEAD. Since then, I have self-published three more. Recently, though, I have finally realised my dream and now have a two book deal with Thomas and Mercer.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
When I’m drafting I aim to do 3-4000 words per week day and a 1000 each on Saturday and Sunday - I aim for a draft in six weeks. When I’m editing, I work on a set number of pages per day, usually about ten pages a day to look over and get right. Often on a first draft, I miss scenes out because I want to get to the next one quickly, so I have a lot of blanks to fill in and new things to write on second draft. I always add at least another 20 percent.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I don’t actually write in one genre now. TAUNTING THE DEAD is a crime thriller - police procedural. The books in THE ESTATE series are a cross between women’s fiction and crime - grit-lit, I like to call them. WATCHING OVER YOU is psychological suspense. I also write women’s fiction under a pen name.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the genre you like writing in. Also persevere and learn the trade - writing is a profession. That’s two, isn’t it?
Are there any crime fiction books that you wish you’d written?
BROKEN, Daniel Clay. I just love everything about that book.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Yes, I always read someone else’s. I can’t read when I’m drafting or editing as my eyes need a rest after staring at a screen for long hours. I also can’t concentrate. So if there is a book that is out by one of my favourite writers, or one that everyone is talking about, I save that. Once I’d finished WATCHING OVER YOU at the end of March, I read GONE GIRL. I’d had it since Christmas ready for when I could sit and enjoy it.