Leigh Russell’s latest book Fatal Act, the sixth DI Geraldine Steel mystery will be published by No Exit Press on the 29th May 2014. I’ve been a huge fan of Leigh Russell’s novels since a friend pressed a copy of her first book Cut Short into my hands and said that I would enjoy this strong new voice in British crime fiction. I am honoured to host the penultimate date of her first ever UK blog tour.
Leigh graciously took time out of her schedule to answer some of my questions about the relationship between literary crime fiction and its small screen counterpart.
* Is the present trend for increased female representation in TV cop series impacting on the writing/publishing process?
This is a hard question to answer, because much of the writing process operates on an unconscious level. Television may have increased readers’ appetites for fast moving, episodic narrative. Certainly many contemporary books have very short chapters to create an effect that events are happening in different places simultaneously, very much as some television works in very short scenes to give that impression. My own writing might have been influenced by television to produce this kind of structure because I write very short chapters, in an attempt to show what different characters are doing at the same time. Although I didn’t deliberately do this to be televisual, it would be a mistake to think authors can escape the influence of television altogether. Even an author who never watches television would be aware of readers’ changing tastes.
In the same way that television influences the contemporary fiction writer, the popularity of female television detectives must be having an impact on the industry as a whole. Publishers are naturally, and rightly, keen to exploit current trends, and female detectives are clearly very popular. But while there are increasing numbers of series featuring female detectives, more male detectives are appearing on our screens as well. So I suspect the impact on the writing and publishing process has more to do with the popularity of crime fiction as a genre, regardless of the gender of the detective.
* Are TV producers drawing from an already existing literary trend or are book writers emulating their small screen counterparts?
That’s a really interesting question. Where do these trends in fiction originate? If it was possible to predict success, Harry Potter would never have been rejected by a bevy of publishers reluctant to take on such an original manuscript. There are hundreds of examples of bestselling authors who struggled to get into print at all because publishers like to ‘play it safe’. This is understandable. They are investing a lot of money in producing a new book, and need to feel confident they are at least in with a chance of seeing a return on their money. When I signed my first three book deal in the UK, my publisher recommended researching police procedure. ‘It’s what readers want,’ they said. At that time, Jane Tennison was popular, and everyone was keen to tap into that trend. Now we’re told readers are no longer interested in police procedure. They want psychological thrillers. But who dictates these fashions? Is it the readers, the publishers, television – or even, dare I say it, authors themselves?
Like publishers, television broadcasters are all looking for the next big hit. They might promote a particular series but viewers, like readers, vote with their feet. The last thing any television broadcaster wants is an expensive failure. Ironically, murder stories are ‘safe’, so it looks as though detective series will be with us for a long time. And that means we’ll be seeing more female detectives on our screens. Changes in crime fiction, to some extent, reflect what is happening in society. With around 30% of senior police posts now held by female officers, the expansion of the female detective on television was inevitable. But whether the television producers or publishers tapped into the current interest in female detectives first is difficult to unpick, as each responds to the successes of the other.
* Do you feel that authors may be thinking about the sale of film and TV rights when drafting a manuscript?
Any author who is earning a living from writing fiction would surely love to see their characters on the small screen. Apart from the kudos and thrill, it offers a whole new and quite generous income stream, for very little time and effort. The work of writing the book has already been done. Even so, I can’t imagine any author seriously considering the elusive the sale of television and film rights when writing a book, because the chances of seeing a book televised are very slim. When I’m writing I might think about my readers, what to tell them and what to keep hidden, and what their expectations might be. Engaging readers must be the priority for any writer. I suspect any author would say that when they’re writing they’re thinking about their readers rather than possible television or film deals. But I don’t suppose any author would complain if they were offered the chance to see their creation on television!
The Sixth and Latest DI Geraldine Steel Mystery
A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives – and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant’s life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues.
All she wanted to do now was get home safely. She drove slowly, looking out for a side road she could turn into. With luck she could slip away before her pursuer realised what she was doing. She passed a turning on the right, displaying a no entry sign. She braked abruptly. Her phone flew off the passenger seat. The van slowed down behind her. Worn out and stressed, she couldn’t even remember why she had been so angry with Piers. It had been a stupid argument in the first place. She wished she was back at home, away from the road at night and its wildness. Leaning forward to retrieve her phone from the floor, she punched Piers’ speed dial key. His phone rang, but there was no answer. She glanced in her mirror and glimpsed the other driver, his face a black mask in the darkness.
Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths; Suspense; Crime
Published by: No Exit Press
Publication Date: 29th May 2014
Number of Pages: 320pp
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #6; Stand Alone
Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.
Stop Dead by Leigh Russell has been nominated for
The People’s Book Prize
Do please take a couple of moments to visit thisPeople’s Book Prize link and cast your vote in support.
Fatal Act by Leigh Russell
Blog Tour 2014!
Monday 24th March -Crime Book Club
Tuesday 25th March -Bookaholic
Wednesday 26th March – Fiction is Stranger than Fact
Thursday 27th March – Crime Time
Friday 28th March – Books, Biscuits & Tea
Monday 31st March – A Lover of Books
Tuesday 1st April – From First Page to Last
Wednesday 2nd April – Euro But Not Trash
Thursday 3rd April – Our Book Reviews