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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Interview With Shirley Wells

I'm really thrilled to have Shirley Wells visiting my blog this weekend as part of her blog tour to launch 'Dead Silent'. This is what Shirley had to say ...

Thank you, Helen, for inviting me to your lovely blog. It’s great to be here!

What first inspired you to write?

I was taught to read at the age of 3 and have rarely been seen without a book in my hand since, but it wasn’t until I was 28 and living in Cyprus that I considered writing. Books and magazines were in short supply on the island and after reading one short story in a women’s magazine, I thought “Hey, I could do better than that.” I typed (remember that?) my story, sent it to the editor with a letter that said something along the lines of “I’m not a proper writer but I wondered if you’d like to read this…” and received a lovely reply saying it would be published in the March issue of their magazine and that a cheque would follow. I’d caught the writing bug and haven’t lost it since.

And what particularly appeals about crime writing?

I’ve always been a fan of mysteries, both books and TV programmes. I think it’s the puzzle. I love pitting my wits against police detectives or amateur sleuths and figuring out whodunnit before they do. Also, the darker side of the human psyche fascinates me. I love to play with ‘normal’, respectable characters and see what it takes to push them over the edge.

Tell us about your latest book ‘Dead Silent’.

Dead Silent is the second book to feature reluctant private investigator Dylan Scott. I’m so pleased that my publisher wanted more about Dylan because I love him. My editor said of his first appearance: Dylan is a chauvinist and a terrible husband, but I’ve never rooted harder for a character. He is a chauvinist, and his wife despairs of him, but his heart’s in the right place.

For anyone curious, this is from the back cover:
Ten months ago, Samantha Hunt set off for work… and was never seen again.
Despite the statistics of cold cases, Dylan Scott wants to believe the young woman’s alive – and not just because her father, his client, is desperate to find his missing daughter before he dies of cancer. By all accounts Sam was a lovely girl, devoted to her younger stepsisters, well-liked at her work, in love with her boyfriend.
But as usual not everything is as it seems in sleepy Dawson’s Clough. Sam’s boyfriend has a violent past. She may have been having an affair with her boss. And Dylan can’t shake the feeling that her stepfather is hiding something. Meanwhile, someone is trying to scare Dylan off the case.
Who wanted to silence Sam, and why? The truth turns out to be worse than anyone expected…

What opportunities do you see for authors in the increasing popularity of the e-book format?

As I see it, one of the biggest advantages is that, because production and distribution costs are lower, publishers will take chance on new authors. With traditional publishing suffering the backlash from library cutbacks, debut authors are struggling to find an outlet for their work and published authors need a proven sales record. Also, an e-book is simply a file so it’s always available. One of my books has been out of print for over a year and, although there are plans to republish it soon as an e-book, there are no plans for a reprint unless the publisher receives “significant orders”. I can’t imagine who would order an out-of-print book in significant numbers!

Added to this is the ease with which authors can publish their own work. I know of several well-known authors who are publishing their backlists - long out-of-print books - themselves.

I suppose the downside is that, as it’s so easy - and free - to publish a book, many people are bypassing a good editor and publishing work that is substandard and which gives digital publishing a bad name. I’m lucky in that my e-books are published by Carina Press, the digital-first arm of Harlequin and there’s little Harlequin doesn’t know about the publishing industry. All books at Carina go through three lots of edits - developmental edits, line edits and then a final proof edit - before a marketing strategy is planned. Small e-book presses, however, are opening up with a view to earning a quick buck and putting out books that are poorly presented and need editing. That could be a problem.

What sort of characters do you like to create most – goodies or baddies?

I think the baddies can be more challenging. When a terrible crime is committed we often hear friends and neighbours declaring the perpetrator to be one of the nicest people one could wish to meet. How can such a person be driven to take a life? Is there a dark side to us all? Could we, if pushed, be driven to kill?

What’s the biggest challenge of producing consistently good books over a number of years?

I write books in a series and, while it’s wonderful to meet my characters again and take them on another adventure, my biggest worry is repetition. In the first book, it’s easy to create strong, well-drawn characters and show their relationships with family and friends. I find it difficult in subsequent books to give the reader glimpses of past relationships without repeating myself.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the fourth Dylan Scott mystery. The second, DEAD SILENT, has just released, and the third, SILENT WITNESS, is due for release in March.
What are your writing plans for the future?

I’ll keep writing crime and mystery so long as someone publishes me but, other than that, I don’t think past the next deadline.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is writing a novel and hoping to get it published?

Read it aloud, show it to people whose opinions you value, and pay to have it professionally edited if necessary. In short, make it as good as it can be. Never give up. Ever. Take no notice of prophets of doom who claim it’s impossible to get anything published unless you’re sleeping with the commissioning editor, are built along super-model lines or run your own PR company. I parted company with my agent a few years ago and went it alone. My first ‘Jill and Max’ crime novel was taken off the slush pile by Constable & Robinson and my first Dylan Scott mystery was taken from the slush pile by Carina Press. There will always be a market for good stories. (Wearing a rabbit’s foot and rubbing a four-leaf clover might not go amiss, either.)

Thank you for having me, Helen! It’s been fun.

Having had several hundred short stories, ten serials and ten novels published, Shirley Wells is finally getting the hang of this writing lark. She’s lived in Orkney, Cyprus and the Cotswolds, and now lives in Lancashire, UK, where the Pennines, with their abundance of great places to hide bodies, provide the inspiration for her popular mystery novels. She shares her home with her husband, two dogs, two cats and any other stray animals that fancy being pampered.

For more information, visit her website, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Her latest Dylan Scott mystery, DEAD SILENT, is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book retailers.

You can read a review of 'Dead Silent' on Bookersatz now.


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Great interview, thanks and so true about reading your novel out loud.

It must have been so thrilling when the magazine accepted your first story.

Maureen A. Miller said...

Keep those Dylan Scott mysteries coming, Miss Shirley. We can't get enough!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Terrific post, Helen and Shriley. I just love the story of that first sale.


Unknown said...

Debs - Thanks. I think I was too surprised to be thrilled when I had my first story acceptance. Oh yes, and I was too busy wonderful what I'd do when I was a millionaire. Ha. :)

Maureen - Thank you so much. I'll do my best!

Suzanne - Thanks. As for that first sale, perhaps it's just as well I knew absolutely nothing about market research, editors' requirements, etc. ;)

Karen said...

I'm very impressed that your first ever story was published. I remember typing one years ago and sending it to Woman's Own, but looking back it was totally unsuitable for them!

Looking forward to reading your new novel :o)

Tringyokel said...

I too love that first cover letter. I bet you don't start like that now.

I know you're promoting your new book but I am not buying it yet. Because I've just bought Presumed Dead!

I've a busy day tomorrow so I will not read it tonight. I will not start it tonight. Oh well, perhaps just the first chapter.

Unknown said...

Karen, that first story was a lot more luck than judgement. Following on from that, I probably could had the world record for sending out 'unsuitable' stories. :)
Aw, thank you! I hope you enjoy Dead Silent.

Unknown said...

Tringyokel - LOL, my cover letters are slightly more professional these days.
Thank you so much for buying Presumed Dead! I hope you enjoy Dylan Scott's first outing.

Talli Roland said...

Congrats to Shirley on her new released! Looking forward to having her on my blog this Friday. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks, Talli. I'm looking forward to being there!