How much should you lie for the man you love? Can you really know your ex husband? And how can suicide look like murder?
Just three of the questions which confront barrister Sarah Newby, as she struggles to revive her legal career. Shaken by her second divorce and the murder of her former lover, Sarah wonders if all her relationships with men are doomed. Her admirer, Detective Terry Bateson, hopes not, but what if he, too, has a secret he’d prefer to keep hidden?
And if Sarah’s client is innocent of murder, why has he told such obvious lies?
1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
I've never thought of working with another author, but if I did, I think it would be someone whose skills complemented mine. Since I write a series of legal thrillers called The Trials of Sarah Newby about a British barrister (trial lawyer) who faces challenging criminal cases in court, it would be great to work with someone who has actually done that for a living. A British version of Marcia Clark, perhaps. She was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial and now writes a series of her own crime novels. There are lots of fascinating differences between the work of a British barrister and a Californian District Attorney, but the bottom line is the search for justice. I think my fictional barrister, Sarah Newby, would love to meet Marcia.
2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
The hardest part of writing by far, is getting the plot right. The plot is the bones of the story, the skeleton if you like, and if that's not working correctly, the tale just limps along. I try to plan it all out beforehand, but it never completely works because bones, as a doctor once told me, are living things which grow and develop like muscles but more slowly. Time and again what seemed like a good idea at the start either turns into a roadblock, or if I'm lucky, solves the problem by setting off in a whole new fertile direction. For example in my latest book, Broken Alibi, I was getting stuck halfway through when I suddenly remembered that my lawyer Sarah Newby has a student daughter, Emily, who came home from college and started to play a major role. That wasn't in the original plans at all, and as soon as she appeared the story gained a whole new energy.
3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
A typical working day for me is get up, take the dog for a walk, sit down and try to write at least 1,000 words - 1,500 on a good day, snooze or read after lunch and then go through what I have written to correct it, and jot down a few notes about what's supposed to happen in the story tomorrow. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea, so I keep a notebook and pencil by the bed.
4. When and why did you first start writing?
I've always wanted to be a writer but although I had several novels published by reputable publishers like Simon & Shuster they didn't make enough money to live off so I became a schoolteacher and university lecturer instead and wrote in the evenings when I had time. Then I got side-tracked into writing school textbooks and graded readers for foreign learners of English (which did earn a lot of money) but when ebooks and self-publishing appeared I went back to fiction and had a new lease of life.
5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
My latest book, Broken Alibi, is the fourth legal thriller about barrister Sarah Newby. Each book can be read alone but the main characters age and develop throughout the series. Sarah became divorced in the third book, Bold Counsel, so I had to decide where her life was going - did she need a man, could she afford her new flat, would she recover from the trauma of being nearly murdered in the previous story, and so on. Her ex-husband is suddenly arrested on suspicion of historic child abuse - something that allegedly happened twenty five years ago. That's big strand in the book which was prompted by many recent cases in this country. On the one hand many horrific cases have been uncovered, for example serial abuse by the TV presenter Jimmy Savile - but on the other hand several people, mostly men have had their lives and careers ruined by totally false allegations. I read a book called Love, My Year under the Yewtree by Paul Gambuccini which made a big impression on me, so I tried to put Sarah's fictional ex-husband through something similar. Where is the right and wrong in all this? It's a difficult, topical issue.
6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I am a big reader. My house is full of books and so is my kindle. I am currently reading On the Edge of the Abyss, the third volume of Ken Follett's huge historical trilogy about the twentieth century. It's great - I should be planning my new book but it's stopping me working! (See contrast with advice below)
7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Advice for aspiring writers? Just do it, every day if you can, even when you don't want to. A novelist is a person who finishes a novel, and then writes another.