I wanted to start by expressing how much I enjoyed reading your books Eye for an Eye, Cut for a Cut, and Truth for a Truth. I believe my readers will also find them engaging.
Your series sets up the major players, including DI Kate and her antagonist, as well as her deceased husband. While Kate’s goal of discovering the truth about her husband’s death is clear, what else motivates her character? Who is DI Kate? If we met her in real life, what would we think?
Ah, poor Kate. I’ve never tormented a character as much as I have Kate Young.
After Kate’s mother passed away, when Kate was a child, she was brought up by her hard-working, police officer father who she adored and with whom she spent every spare moment. Their bond was close, but it also stilted her development, and she became more reclusive than most of her contemporaries, preferring to spend time at home with him than go out with friends. When he remarried, she had to deal with not only a new stepmother but a stepsister, Tilly, an extrovert who fitted in at school far better than the bookish Kate. After Tilly ran off with Kate’s fiancé and her mother split up from Kate’s father, leaving them both distraught, Kate decided to follow in his footsteps and joined the force, mentored by her father’s best friend, William Chase, a man who was like an uncle to her.
The police force became her life; her colleagues her only friends. With Tilly in Australia and her father deceased, work was her sole reason d'être until she met Chris, when she attended an accident in which he was involved. She stayed by his side while he was cut free from a car wreckage and checked up on him at hospital afterwards. It was love at first sight and Kate had finally found somebody who understood her and saw past what others might construe as an evasive and stand-offish attitude.
Kate might come across as disinterested in others, but she certainly isn’t. She is completely driven by upholding the law, maintaining the same lofty standards both her father and William held true.
Kate believes in doing the right thing. Her strong moral code is what drives her. She loves those people who are closest to her: William, her crew and even Tilly. She cares about every one of the victims that she comes across and more importantly believes firmly in justice. You or I might find her distant, shy even, but those who know her also know they can rely on her wholeheartedly and she will never let them down.
It’s interesting how you carefully plot your characters and stories and how you keep the reader engaged by addressing their questions and uncertainties at the exact moment they may be asking them. How closely do you keep the reader in mind when writing? Do you hear their voices as you create the story?
All my novels are carefully plotted in my head, way before I write them. Throughout the whole writing process, I lay awake for hours at night, running each chapter through my mind as if it were a film and, like a film critic, I question every detail, dialogue, plot and character. If I don’t like something, I’ll change it and rerun the reel then make the changes to the script. I find that way, I gain an observer’s point of view.
I have always been a bookworm and especially fond of thrillers, so it is important that I can surprise myself with a twist or red herring. Only if I feel it is gripping enough will I move onto the next reel and so on, until the process is complete. Although I deliberately muddy the waters in the first book and keep the reader guessing as to what is going on, as the series progresses, it becomes apparent that Kate is on a downwards trajectory and is suffering badly from PSTD, a fact she continues to ignore. By the time she learns the truth about Dickson and others who are involved in the syndicate she is a close to a breakdown as is possible and I have huge surprise in store for her in Book 5 - A Soul for a Soul.
The theme of truth is prominent throughout your series, and it’s introduced in the first book. How do you decide on the themes for your novels? Which came first: the plot or the theme?
The first book in this series, An Eye for an Eye, was written after a particularly gruesome nightmare (I suffer from insomnia but when I do sleep, I often have terrible dreams), and the plot grew from that. However, the entire series needed an arc theme, and for that, I focused on a theme. It was clear from the start, after deciding upon Kate’s character, that truth would be the pervading theme. Indeed, my publishers send a detailed questionnaire about each book to each author and details of recurring themes must be entered on it.
With three best-selling series, how do you keep track of each protagonist and storyline without overlapping plots?
It has been a juggle at times; however, I keep notebooks on every novel and notes on each character so that I don’t run the risk of repetition. Although all three series are set in Staffordshire, I make sure they are in different areas/towns/villages within the county and in the DI Natalie Ward series, I invented new placenames based on real towns to ensure there could be no overlapping.
All three protagonists are very different, which I feel is very important, and the same goes for the secondary characters.
A novel launched every year; how do you manage a writing schedule and still have a personal life?
To be honest, writing has encompassed my entire life and encroached upon my personal life, especially during 2018, when I wrote seven novels! That year, I didn’t take any time off, but decided afterwards to slow down. Nobody can keep up that sort of pace without serious repercussions. Since starting the Kate Young series, I’ve focused solely on it and spend more time with my other half, Mr Grumpy. I’m now only writing two novels a year which is much better for my health.
You are also a stand-up comedian and known for writing comedies. How do you balance your different writing styles? It’s actually quite easy. I have a mental switch that automatically flicks on, depending on what I’m writing. Humour has always come very naturally to me, and I began my writing career writing comedies. It was thanks to a non-fiction humorous book, Grumpy Old Menopause that I got into stand-up comedy. I find it relaxing to write a romcom or comedy and my approach to writing it is very different to a thriller or crime novel which usually requires a great deal of research and planning. Comedies seem to flow and can be written even without a plan to follow. I love making people laugh and find humour in all sorts of situations. A sense of humour has seen me through some very dark and difficult times. Having concentrated on crime novels since 2019, I haven’t had to jump from one genre to the other. There is, however, another comedy inside my head that is dying to escape. It is already planned out in a notebook, awaiting it’s turn.
Would you please share your writing schedule for a typical day and how you stay so disciplined?
My writing day begins early around 5-6 am, depending on when Mr Grumpy wakes up. (He’s an early riser.) I’ll start work immediately, sometimes that’s researching or writing but often it is editing. After breakfast, I usually do housework and prepare dinner - invariably a slow cooker meal, so I can spend the rest of the day writing. I stop at 6 pm for dinner and take 2-3 hours off to spend with Mr G. After he goes to bed, I’ll continue until I’m tired but sometimes, I’ll work through until 3 or 4 am and then grab an hour before I begin the whole process again.
I’ve always been very disciplined and won’t stop until I have completed the task. I usually work to very tight schedules so I can’t afford to slacken off, although as I mentioned earlier, I have recently eased off on the number of books I write so I get more time off.
Besides writing, what defines you as a person?
I couldn’t answer this and had to ask Mr Grumpy for help. He said it was my sunny disposition and the fact that I’m always upbeat and positive. His words made my heart swell, so I guess the real answer is Mr Grumpy. Without him I would be a shadow of the person I am. Despite his name, he and I laugh daily and appreciate every minute. Life is short and we try to ensure that we take some enjoyment from every day, however small.
What advice would you give an author who hasn’t made the best-seller list? And how do you feel about indie publishing?
All writers need enormous patience and tenacity. It’s important that an author enjoys writing and I believe, if you enjoy your craft and are prepared to keep going even when you are faced with disappointments, you will ultimately make it.
I began my career by self-publishing my debut novel. I also wrote for a website that helped Indie authors and I know many Indie writers who are excellent writers with fantastic reads out there. Having a publisher behind you is not always the way to be successful and with the ability to publish your own work, comes a freedom that those published by publishers don’t have. I know several authors who publish directly on Amazon and have tremendous sales.
If I came into a coffee shop and saw you, what is it I would immediately observe about you? Yes, I am having you look at yourself as a character.
Definitely my outfit. I tend to wear bright colours and you wouldn’t miss me J
What’s next, Carol?
Book 5 in the DI Kate Young series – A Soul for a Soul is written but is about to undergo an entire month of developmental edits where it will be passed between me and my two editors until it is knocked into shape, ready for copy edits. Once that is completed. I’ll pick up on a new standalone thriller that I began a couple of months ago and submit it along with some new pitches, including one for a new series to my publishers.
It was such a pleasure discovering your work and meeting you as a novelist. I hope we get to meet in person one day.