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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Leigh Russell - Fatal Act Blog Tour

Fatal Act by Leigh Russell

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a big fan of Leigh Russell's writing and I always look forward to her latest releases. This time around, I'm really pleased to be able to take part in her blog tour, and today she is here to talk to us about her writing. I've been thinking for a while about the addictive nature of crime series such as Leigh's, so that's what I decided to interview her about. I hope you find her answers as interesting as I did.


Tell us a little bit about your latest Geraldine Steel book, Fatal Act.
Fatal Act opens with a car crash in the streets of London. A glamorous TV actress is killed, but the other driver miraculously survives - and vanishes. When CCTV footage suggests the collision was deliberate, the police suspect murder. When a second victim is killed, the murderer again effects an impossible escape. Geraldine is baffled by a killer who mysteriously vanishes.
And if you want to find out how it happens, you know what to do!

One of the things that spans the series of Geraldine Steel books so far is the story of her personal life. Do you think the careful balance of information about Geraldines personal life, as opposed to the case she is investigating, is crucial in keeping readers addicted to the series?
When the series started with Cut Short, I wasn't particularly interested in my detective. The killer was the character who fascinated me. The motivation of my killers drives my stories, 'taking the reader into the darkest recesses of the human psyche', according to Barry Forshaw, writing in Crime Time. Geraldine has emerged through the series to become the focal point of interest. She has a huge following, but readers' interest in her developed before mine. When readers began inundating me with emails about her, I realised I would have to give her some attention as a character, and she has just developed from there.

How far ahead have you plotted Geraldines personal story?
When I start a book, I know where the story begins and ends but the pathway from beginning to end evolves as I write. It's the same with Geraldine. She's on her 'journey'. With six books published in her series, and the seventh in progress, we are nearly half way through the series. I have the final chapter of the last book in my head, but the details of how she will arrive there have yet to be worked out.

At what point did you decide that Geraldines DS, Ian Peterson, was a well-loved enough character to carry his own series and create the same kind of interest and loyalty that Geraldine has done?
When I was writing the second Geraldine Steel book, Road Closed, I gave my first library talk to a group who had read Cut Short. I mentioned that I had written Ian Peterson out, and was giving Geraldine a new sergeant. The whole group protested, 'but we like Ian Peterson.' So I kept him in. He works alongside Geraldine in her first three titles, Cut Short, Road Closed and Dead End. She relocates to London in Death Bed, staying there for Stop Dead and Fatal Act, leaving Ian behind. So when my publisher approached me to write more for him, a spin off series for Ian Peterson was the obvious choice. I'm now delivering two books a year, and earning enough to focus on writing fiction full-time. Ian Peterson is a popular character - women have told me they are 'in love' with him! But whether his series will create as much interest and loyalty as Geraldine's remains to be seen. All I can ever say about any of this is, so far so good. 

Have you had to change your approach to writing Ian in his own books to ensure this happens?
That's such an interesting question. I suppose he's having to become more of a 'hero' - but he was always quite good looking, and strong, and immensely kind. So I'm not sure I have changed my approach really. The books are written mainly from his point of view, so readers find out more about what makes him tick, but otherwise he's much the same as he always was... I think.    

How important is it for the endurance of both series to have Geraldine appearing in Ians stories and Ian appearing in Geraldines stories?
I started this for fun, but I like the idea so much that I'm going to continue with it. Each series can be read independent of the other - indeed any of the titles can be read as standalone books. But Geraldine and Ian will both continue to make an appearance in each other's books.

In Geraldines own books youve replaced Ian with another DS, Sam. How did you go about giving her as much appeal for readers as Ian has in the earlier books?
As an author you cannot deliberately set out to make your characters appeal to readers. You can only write what seems to you to work, and hope other people like what you produce. I like Sam as a character. She's young, and feisty, and incidentally gay. Having same gender characters working together does make the writing more complex as I can no longer indicate which character is meant by simply using 'he' and 'she'.  

How do you balance the transient characters in your books victims, criminals, relatives etc with Geraldine and the other regulars in order to keep readers gripped as strongly as possible.
Main characters who only appear in one book can be just as important in that one book as the regulars who continue through the series. Readers who pick up any one of the books without knowing the series don't want to be shortchanged by an unbalanced narrative. At the same time, fans of the series will want to read more about Geraldine. It's a constant juggling act, trying to get the balance right. Minor characters also sometimes cause me problems. I can get carried away! My editor pointed out in one manuscript that readers don't need a detailed insight into the life of a character who only appears in one chapter. I had to decide whether to trim the description, or give that character a more important role in the book

Is there anything else that you do make sure readers keep coming back and stay addicted to your books?
I just keep doing my best to write gripping stories with engaging characters. I do pay attention to criticism, as long as it makes sense and is justified. Sadly that isn't always the case but there are always going to be spurious reviews. I recently had a spate of one star reviews on amazon immediately after announcing one of my successes. It's best to ignore those sorts of reviews. But I take on board genuine criticism from reviewers whose judgement I trust. Of course I'm much happier about good reviews! Luckily I've had more than my fair share of those, from reviewers like Marcel Berlins, crime critic in The Times, and Barry Forshaw editor of Crime Time, and many other excellent independent reviews. The Miami Examiner recently described Geraldine as 'one of the most interesting detectives of all time'. I can live with that!

Thank you for interviewing me.

Thanks to Leigh for a great interview.

You can contact Leigh and find links to all her books, her facebook page, blog and twitter account here.

And don't forget to join the next date on Leigh's blog tour Thursday 27th March - at Crime Time

You'll be able to see my review of Fatal Act here next Thursday.

More about Fatal Act! 



Fatal Act

The Sixth and Latest DI Geraldine Steel Mystery

A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives - and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant's life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues.


All she wanted to do now was get home safely. She drove slowly, looking out for a side road she could turn into. With luck she could slip away before her pursuer realised what she was doing. She passed a turning on the right, displaying a no entry sign. She braked abruptly. Her phone flew off the passenger seat. The van slowed down behind her. Worn out and stressed, she couldn’t even remember why she had been so angry with Piers. It had been a stupid argument in the first place. She wished she was back at home, away from the road at night and its wildness. Leaning forward to retrieve her phone from the floor, she punched Piers’ speed dial key. His phone rang, but there was no answer. She glanced in her mirror and glimpsed the other driver, his face a black mask in the darkness.


Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths; Suspense; Crime
Published by: No Exit Press
Publication Date: 29th May 2014
Number of Pages: 320pp
ISBN: 978-1-84344-204-2
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #6; Stand Alone

Fatal Act by Leigh Russell
Blog Tour 2014!

Monday 24th March -Crime Book Club

Tuesday 25th March -Bookaholic

Wednesday 26th March - Fiction is Stranger than Fact

Thursday 27th March - Crime Time

Friday 28th March - Books, Biscuits & Tea

Monday 31st March - A Lover of Books

Tuesday 1st April - From First Page to Last

Wednesday 2nd April - Euro But Not Trash

Thursday 3rd April - Our Book Reviews



Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel's sergeant, Ian Peterson.







Stop Dead by Leigh Russell has been nominated for
The People's Book Prize
Do please take a couple of moments to visit this People's Book Prize link and cast your vote in support.


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