Today Fiona Leitch talks about her lead characters not being anything at all like her.
When did you start writing, and why?
I wrote my first ‘novel’ (with chapters!) when I was at primary school. I would have been about 8, I think, and it was about ponies. I write for the same reason that I read: I love the chance to experience someone else’s life for a while, or travel to another place. Writing lets me immerse myself in another person’s life and get to know them intimately, without attracting a restraining order!
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
I write both, although having said that, one of my earlier series, the Bella Tyson books, originally started out as a standalone. It was only after I’d thought I was finished with her that I realised she wasn’t quite done yet, and when readers loved her, I knew I had to keep going. My novels for One More Chapter were always written to be a series (hopefully a long running one!), so I did approach them in a slightly different way. With a standalone I wouldn’t be so cautious about killing characters off or making them unlikeable or whatever (as long as you could still root for them while reading the book), as I wouldn’t be planning to ever use them again. In a series, there’s room for so much more character development, across the whole series rather than in just one book; I don’t want my characters to appear so clearly defined in book one that you don’t learn anything more about them in further outings. Like real people, you discover things about them as you get to know them better. I also spend more time world-building in a series, not just in terms of location but also with secondary or minor characters, because I’m going to be coming back to this place and these people time and again, so they have to be interesting.
Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?
I have written about some pretty dark subjects, although I’ve handled them (hopefully) with a light but sensitive touch. Child abuse, gaslighting – I’ve written about them, but without being too detailed or graphic; I’ve touched on the aftermath of them, rather than the actual abuse itself. I don’t particularly like reading really gruesome or graphic stuff, and sometimes it feels like it’s there for the sole purpose of being shocking. There are some fairly gruesome murders in the first Bella Tyson book, but they’re described fleetingly and with dark humour, so I don’t think they’re terribly disturbing. I would never want to write something so graphic that it really shocked anyone, or upset anyone that had been through similar themselves.
Who is your most / least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
I can answer your second category very easily: I don’t really have a ‘least favourite’ character, I love all of them, even the horrible ones! There’s a character in ‘Murder Ahoy!’ (Bella Tyson book 2) who is a fellow crime writer, and she is a complete self-obsessed MONSTER, but I love her for it.
My favourite character… well, as I said before, I love them all, but if I have to I can whittle it down to two: Bella Tyson and Jodie Parker, from the Nosey Parker mysteries. Bella is a crime writer in her late 40s/early 50s, a South London girl with a foul mouth and a chocolate biscuit addiction. She cares about people, but at the same time she won’t take any shit. And she is a bit saucy as well. I’m a crime writer from South London in my early 50s, and no chocolate biscuit is safe when I’m around, and I do have the type of vocabulary that would make a sailor blush, but other than that there are absolutely NO similarities between me and Bella. Honest… Bella appears in ‘Dead in Venice’ (mybook.to/DeadInVenice) and the follow up, ‘Murder Ahoy!’ (mybook.to/Ahoy)
Jodie is cut from the same cloth, but she’s much more in control. She’s me being a responsible(ish) adult. She’s warm and funny, but very, very nosey. She loves her daughter and her mum, has lots of friends, and she is the sort of person you would want on your side in a crisis; calm and capable, and fiercely loyal.
Tell us about your last book…
The first two books in the Nosey Parker series were recently released, book one, ‘Murder on the Menu’ (mybook.to/MurderMenu) in January, and book two, ‘A Brush With Death’ (mybook.to/Brush) in February. They’ve been getting great reviews and have been compared to Agatha Christie and Midsomer Murders! The series follows ex-copper turned caterer Jodie, as she turns her back on a twenty-year career in the Metropolitan Police and returns to her childhood town back in Cornwall, hoping for a quieter, safer life with her teenage daughter Daisy. But (of course), the seaside town of Penstowan is not as sleepy as she remembers it. In book one, when a dead body gatecrashes her best friend Tony’s wedding and he’s in the frame for it, she can’t resist getting involved in the case to clear his name. Much to the dismay of DCI Withers, the new (and rather handsome) CID detective in town…
What’s coming next…
Book three in the series, A Sprinkle of Sabotage (mybook.to/Sprinkle) is coming out on 11th March. And I’m hoping there will be more adventures to come for Jodie and her friends soon after! I’m also working on a couple of romcom ideas.
Fiona Leitch is a woman with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s settled in sunny New Zealand, where she spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.
Thank you Fiona, not sure if you’ll get the in the morning or evening, only know I kind of wish I was in sunny New Zealand rather than rainy Wales at the moment.
Tomorrow Graham Smith will be taking the spot light.