1) Tell us about your current/novel collection.
I’ve written over twenty, beginning with ‘A Question of Guilt’ and ending with the current ‘Casting the First Stone.’ Most of these are Witness titles. Roughly five of these feature Lawyer and Crown Prosecutor Helen West, while another five or so feature Sarah Fortune, a Tart with a heart and legal qualifications. The rest are stand alones, loosely described as psychological thrillers rather than detection. They are all novels of suspense, because even the author does not know.
2) Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now?
Right now, I’m beginning to work on the third novel of a trilogy, which began with GOLD DIGGER in 2012, (soon to be published by Witness,) and was followed in 2013 by CASTING THE FIRST STONE. The novels feature Diana Quigley, who, as a teenager, robbed the house of one Thomas Porteous, a rich art Collector forty years her senior. She finds herself mesmerised by the Art and cannot follow through with the theft, so she goes to prison. When she emerges, she goes back to his house; he takes her in; they become collaborators in their passion for paintings. They marry; he dies and she inherits the lot as well as the hatred of his ghastly daughters who wish her dead. It is a genuine love affair, and she is a genuine Collector. She fends off his avaricious children, preserves his inheritance and rescues his grandson. Book Two, CASTING THE FIRST STONE, begins a year after Thomas’s death. What is a grief stricken widow to do? Will she go to the bad or the good? She does both, while remembering her skill as a thief who was very, very good at throwing stones and breaking windows.
Now I’m carrying her further, although I don’t quite now where, yet. In the meantime, she has joined forces with Sarah Fortune. Together they make a highly moral and amoral team, who believe that Theft is universally Bad, but not always.
(I do all this because I’m a passionate Collector myself, and I want to write about it.)
3) What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Two that I can think of ….When someone comes up to you and says, you know that book of yours? I couldn’t put it down. That’s the point when you know you’ve done your job, which is to take someone out of their own world and bring them into the one you’ve created.
The other, great pleasure is when you write the words, THE END.
4) What is the greatest DISpleasure?
When THE END is a very long way off and you’re stuck in a blind alleyway, beating your head against a wall and thinking, this is just such a load of bollocks.
5) If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Listen to the real readers, rather than telling them what they should like. They know a helluva lot more than you do.
6) Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you’d like to see in print again?
No one entirely forgotten. I love the writers of the Golden Age of English detective fiction. If Edmund Campion, Margery Allingham and Gladys Mitchell ever go out of print, (the latter recently revived.. wonderfully eccentric,) I’ll have a fit of the vapours. Eric Ambler, likewise.
7) Tell us about selling your first novel.
Do I ever remember it? I was a criminal lawyer working in a big office, where the joke going around was that I was trying to write a book, ha ha. (I’d kept the already published, romantic short stories very secret, but I was still teased.) So, one afternoon, an Editor from Heinemann, big publisher, phoned me at my desk and said, we’d like to publish your book, I yelled at her, something like, bugger off Sylvia, you B, I’ve had enough of these jokes. Slammed the phone down and went off to cry. Thank God the editor phoned back.
Then I went round the building and told everyone, likewise everyone in the bus queue on the way home. And on the bus. Everyone, whether they wanted to know or not.
Then I phoned my bookish Dad, who made me read in the first place. He was a doctor, at that point in hospital himself. He said ‘Oh jesus,’ put the phone down and went off to tell everyone on the ward, whether they wanted to know or not.
It was perfectly wonderful. I felt, at last, as if I existed.
Other people had babies: I had a book.