Journey to Death: Leigh Russell Interviewed

 

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Leigh Russell’s latest thriller takes readers on a whistle-stop tour of the Seychelles and introduces a new lead character.

The latest book by the bestselling author of the Geraldine Steel psychological thrillers introduces a new character and marks Leigh Russell’s debut with Thomas & Mercer.

Journey to Death is the first Lucy Hall book and it is your debut with Thomas and Mercer. Will we see further Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson novels?

I am currently writing the ninth book in the Geraldine Steel series, and have been signed up to write three more after that. So Geraldine Steel will still be around for a while. Although I may be prolific, I can’t write three series concurrently, so the Ian Peterson will be stopping for now, but he will not disappear. Ian Peterson began his career working as a sergeant in the first three books in the Geraldine Steel series, and the two characters have kept in touch since he embarked on his own spin off series. Each plays a cameo role in the other one’s books, and he will continue to play a role in Geraldine’s books. They may even end up working together again, as they did in the beginning.

Do you have long term plans for Lucy Hall?

As it happens, I do, but the first book in the Lucy Hall series, Journey to Death, has only just been published. It is set in the Seychelles. The second, set in Paris, will be out in September 2016, and the third in the series, set in Rome, will be published in February 2017. When my debut, Cut Short, the first Geraldine Steel book, was published, I had no idea that it would be the start of a long running series. I’m hoping the same will happen with Lucy Hall. But so far all I can say for certain is that Lucy Hall will have at least three adventures. After that, we will have to wait and see!

Is Lucy Hall based on elements of your own personality? If not, what inspired her creation?

My plots are worked out fairly carefully in advance, but I like to allow my characters to develop slowly. In Journey to Death Lucy Hall is twenty-two and quite naive. The events of the novel force her to grow up, preparing her for the adventures that she will face throughout the series. I’d love to tell you that her character is based on my own personality, but I’d have to pretend that I’m brave and resourceful enough to investigate crimes and track down killers. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not in the least adventurous in real life. My challenges take place on the page while I’m sitting at my desk at home. Perhaps Lucy Hall is the woman I would like to be, intelligent, courageous and enterprising.

Your previous books have been set in the UK. Does the tropical paradise of the Seychelles lend itself to a different form of crime novel?

Crimes in fiction are perpetrated by characters who are drawn from human nature which does not change, regardless of setting. That said, location adds to the atmosphere of any novel. Journey to Death is set on a small tropical island which is both an idyllic and a claustrophobic location. The tropical heat inevitably slows the characters down, and this is reflected in the pace of the narrative. The characters are also captivated by the beauty of the island. It would be impossible to set a novel in such a beautiful place without showing how the characters are affected by the scenery. In some ways, the location is an integral part of the story.

How thoroughly do you research your novels?

As soon as Journey to Death was acquired by Thomas and Mercer, I arranged a trip to the Seychelles. I had researched as much as possible remotely, engaging in a lengthy email conversations with local officials, and studying images online. But the sounds and smells of the cloud forest cannot be replicated online, any more than the atmosphere of a place can be experienced from a virtual tour. During my stay on Mahé I visited several police stations and spent an afternoon with a detective inspector at the Central Police Headquarters in the capital, as well as making several visits to the British High Commission. In addition I toured around the island, visiting the beaches, the market, and the cloud forest on the mountain. Of course I could not travel back to the 1970s and live through the political coup where Journey to Death starts. However I was fortunate to be able to work from an eye witness account of the events that took place on the island in 1977, and so the background to the narrative is based on actual events. Only the characters and their story are completely fictitious.

Will you be attending any crime fiction events this year? If so, which authors are you excited about seeing?

I will be at CrimeFest in Bristol and Bouchercon in New Orleans, and probably at Harrogate, as well as appearing at several other literary festivals not specifically dedicated to the crime genre. It is always enjoyable catching up with fellow crime writers, but there are far too many to name them all. I’m very excited about catching up with Lee Child, Peter James, Jeffery Deaver and James Runcie who have all been particularly kind to me. But the list of authors I’m looking forward to seeing is far too long to include here – Mark Billingham, Linda Regan, Rachel Abbott, Mark Edwards, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Martin Edwards, Len Tyler, Mel Sherratt…. I could go on for pages… ! I have been around for a while now, and the crime community is so friendly, that I have many friends among my fellow authors. It’s always fun to see them. In fact, I can’t wait!

Journey to Death is published by Thomas & Mercer

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