Thursday 28 November 2013

Leigh Russell - Author Interview

Today we have an interview with crime writer Leigh Russell, author of the Gerald Steel stories Cut Short , Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and now Cold Sacrifice a spin off featuring DI Paterson. Her books have quite a track record:-
Cut Short - CWA Dagger shortlist, #1 iTunes, #1 Women Sleuths
Road Closed - #1 Women Sleuths, Top 20 Kindle, Top Read Eurocrime, Top 50 iTunes
Dead End - #1 Women Sleuths, Top 20 Kindle, Top 20 WH Smith's, Top 10 Miami Examiner
Death Bed - #1 Women Sleuths, Top 20 WH Smith's
Stop Dead - #1 on Amazon Kindle
D.I Geraldine Steel is a Lovereading Great Female Sleuth

The Mole has read, and enjoyed all of these stories so far and had a few questions to ask.

Of all the possible genres you could choose to write in, you chose to write crime - and not comfortable and safe "whodunnits" but gritty and terrifying serial killer thrillers. Why that genre?

When William McIlvanney described writing as 'an inexplicable compulsion'  his words must have struck a chord with most authors. I've never been able to explain why I began writing one day, and haven't been able to stop since. It was like turning on a tap. In the same way, I can't explain why I write crime, except to say that it wasn't a conscious choice. People sometimes say their books, or their characters, chose them. It sounds daft until I think about it and realise that I know exactly what they mean!

Some of the methods of killing are quite horrific - How comfortable are you writing it?

All killing is horrific. My books aren't particularly gory because blood and guts don't inspire me - in fact I'm really very squeamish in 'real' life. It seems to me that anatomically we are all pretty similar. But you are absolutely right to say that some of the methods my killers use are horrific. There is a reason for that. Much of the tension in crime fiction is created by the conflict between 'good' characters working on the side of justice, and killers. It's goodies and baddies. The more evil my villains are, the greater the tension becomes, and the more desperate readers will be to see the fictitious killer stopped. Writing detailed descriptions of bloody corpses doesn't inspire me, but there has been a move towards horror in crime fiction. What interests me is what motivates people to carry out such horrific acts.

"Stop Dead" feels slightly different to the previous 4 stories in the series and while the crime is of
the same nature it is presented with a slight shift towards the "whodunnit". Was this the intent?
Yes! Most of my readers are very sophisticated in the genre, and it is difficult to keep one step ahead of them without resorting to absurd plot twists and surprises that really stretch credibility too far. In Stop Dead I made a deliberate attempt to write a novel closer to a 'whodunnit'. It was a challenge to write, and great fun! I have attempted the same in Fatal Act, the next Geraldine Steel title, which has just been published as an ebook. The print book follows in 2014. Hopefully I have again succeeded in increasing the mystery element, without compromising on suspense, of course!

Geraldine Steel has now been featured in 5 books with the 6th due out in May 2014 - are there plans for more?
Lots of plans for lots more. I am about 20,000 words into the 7th Geraldine Steel book. I hope the series will run for twenty books, but who knows what the future holds? As long as readers keep buying the books, I'll carry on writing them, and my publisher will continue to publish them. I should say my publishers (plural) now, as the books are already translated into French, Italian and Turkish, and were recently acquired by a major German publisher as well, plus Harper Collins are now publishing both my series in the USA.

I've always felt that Steel would suit TV - have there been any moves towards it?
Well, it's funny you should ask that... but unfortunately I can't tell you anything more or I'd have to kill you... But seriously, I can tell you that it's a hugely competitive market, so I'll just keep writing the books and hope for the best. Who knows?

DI Peterson span off from the early series and appears in his own book, "Cold Sacrifice". Are there plans for more from him?
Yes. The 2nd in the Ian Peterson series is finished ready for publication in 2014. As I said in answer to your first question, starting to write was like turning on a tap for me. So there's no sign of either series drawing to a close for a while. At the end of Cold Sacrifice, Ian Peterson learns that he is moving to York and that is where the rest of his series will be set. Once I've finished the 7th Geraldine Steel book, I'll be writing the 3rd Ian Peterson.

Geraldine Steel has proved very popular, with her cerebral tenacity and her *chaotic* private life. How is DI Peterson being received?
The character of Geraldine Steel has evolved through her series. With Cold Sacrifice, the first Ian Peterson novel, I knew his character from his appearance alongside Geraldine Steel in Cut Short, Road Closed and Dead End. In some ways that made writing the book easier for me since I had already introduced him to readers. However, it was nerve wracking seeing the book published as my fans were used to Geraldine Steel. Fortunately they have been open-minded about trying a new series, and of course the Geraldine Steel series is continuing. She has a cameo appearance in each of the Ian Peterson books as well, as they keep in touch.

Peterson or Steel? Which do you prefer as characters and are they both as easy to write about?
This is an impossible question to answer!

And ducking that last question was perfectly reasonable - I wouldn't want either of them on my case for saying the wrong thing! Many thanks to Leigh for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to May and beyond for further from both of these two crime fighters.

You can find out more about Leigh on her website at

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