Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m welcoming the crime writer Jane Isaac to the clubhouse tearoom. Welcome Jane.
Hi Paula. Thank you so much for inviting me into your clubhouse, it’s great to chat!
What would you like to drink?
I’ll have an Aperol Spritz, if it isn’t too much trouble. A hearty reminder of Italian holidays in the sun😊
No trouble whatsoever. While we are waiting for your drink to arrive I’ll start by asking when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
My love of mysteries started young with Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five! I love the twists and turns of a gripping page-turner, so when I set out to write, crime fiction seemed the obvious genre for me.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
I tend to work on both simultaneously. With the opening chapters, I’m looking for a hook, something to draw the reader in. With the synopsis – mine tend to be 3-4 pages – I’m considering my hook, my character arcs, my plot and how they come together into a story.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Tons! I’m always researching and planning new ideas. Often, I’m unsure of whether an idea has the legs required to make a story until I’ve fleshed it out into an outline and written the first five to ten thousand words – my foundation for a novel. Some work, others don’t, but I don’t throw the ideas away. You never know when they could become useful as part of another project in the future.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Oh, absolutely! I don’t think we’d be human if they didn’t. I also find it can work in reverse too, where the writing affects my mood, especially if I’m working on a sad or poignant passage.
In my genre of detective fiction, some scenes like the delivery of a death message to a loved one can be heart-wrenching and I often find myself in tears afterwards!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Ah, good question! But I’d have to say no, not wholly. My characters are made up of fragments of people – the suited businessman in the café with the five o’clock shadow, the little boy on the climbing frame whose hair spikes around his crown, the gossipy mother at the school gates. I try to make them real with their own individualpersonalities, so thatreaders can relate to them.
In my DCI Helen Lavery series, Helen is single mother parenting teenage boys and managing the Homicide and Serious Crime Squad – juggling the roles of work and home and raising children like many women have to do at some stage in their lives.
What did you learn when writing your book ? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I love research and I probably do far too much. Some of it is only for one line, some of it is edited out, but it all serves to underpin the stories and the characters we write.
In Hush Little Baby, my recent release, I have a body that has been buried in concrete for fifteen years. I discovered that concrete has preserving properties, which means that more evidence and clues are immediately available than would otherwise have been the case – a particularly juicy scenario for a crime fiction writer!
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
When I first gave up my day job to write full time, four years ago, I was quite adamant I would set myself a weekly schedule, but I’ve never actually been able to stick to one. I find myself working most days, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. I’m not always writing new work though, sometimes I’m editing, researching, preparing an event or catching up with admin.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
I’ve never been good at discipling myself to daily word counts, I’m afraid. I write when I have visualised a scene, perhaps visited a location to get a feel for the area,or researched a particular plot point, and the words are set in my head. It is fortunate, I guess, that Iwork from home and can therefore write at any time of the day or night.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I would love to be able to write two books a year and am in awe of authors who can. With the research involved, mine usually take a good eight months to get a reasonably clean first draft down.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Ooh, character names can be tricky, and names follow fashions. It’s unlikely we’d call a twenty-three-year-old estate agent in the UK Sharon or Michelle. But there were plenty of babies given these names in the late sixties and early seventies, so if they were fifty-three the names might seem more appropriate. I find an internet search of popular baby names chosen in the same year as my character is born, helps to place the era. Of course, there will always be people who will fall out of this rule – those named after famous people or members of the family or after someone close – and in those cases we can make reference to the reasons for the differences in our script. Parental choice might form the fabric of your story and help readers to identify with your character. It’s all about believablity.
Thanks again for inviting me to chat with you in the clubhouse, Paula, it’s been great fun!
It’s been lovely chatting to you too. You’re welcome back anytime, Jane.
Jane Isaac lives with her detective husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013’. The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was selected as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.
Jane is author of nine novels. Her latest series is based in Northamptonshire and features Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain.
‘Move over La Plante…’ Susan May, Suspense Magazine.