Full days of writing for me are a rarity. I tend to write as and when – not necessarily every day though admittedly I will think about writing in some way every day. I always have a notebook in my handbag (and a multitude of pens – I may have a little pen obsession).
I work for the police part-time as a call taker in the communications department – which is dull way of saying I take non-emergency calls as well as 999 calls, but prior to this I worked as a Crime Scene Investigator. I loved the role – being out and about on my own, processing scenes and gathering evidence. Thinking analytically about scenes and the methods I would use to gather the evidence. This experience features heavily in all my novels – forensics is what I know and something that I’m very passionate about. I would still be doing it today but for the major cuts in the police force that ended up with my job being made non-existent. That said, working in the control room of a busy police force is also challenging and can be hard-work. I’m the first person someone in distress will speak to – it’s my job to gather all of the information needed and grade the job so that officers are dispatched in a timely manner. There are calls where I offer advice, calls I listen to someone sob down the phone hysterically after they’ve been beaten, calls where I offer sympathy and empathy, calls when I take hoax calls from people who think it’s clever to abuse the emergency service system and occasionally, calls I take where people are thanking the police for helping them. No two days are the same, which makes it very non-monotonous and occasionally very stressful.
I’ve always found solace in writing though. As well as getting down these stories that burst into my mind and refuse to leave me alone until they’re written, it can be therapeutic and a release for pent up emotions. I find it a tool that assists me in dealing with depression (something I’ve suffered with for many years). When I was younger, I found writing poetry comforting – I still do occasionally, but much more effective to me is setting characters challenges to overcome and deal with. I love researching too – something I do for pretty much every novel. I love my facts to be accurate and up-to-date and enjoy bringing forensics to life in my novels as it’s not something many people know a great deal about. I think having it in, and focussing on some of the lesser understood parts of policing, helps give my novels that sense of reality.
If I do have a rare full day to write, I start the day off with a cup of coffee. Pretty standard for a writer judging by all the facebook posts I see featuring a steaming cup beside someone’s open laptop! So I’m pretty stereo-typical in that respect I guess. I write chronologically so on opening the laptop, I’ll have a quick peruse of the previous couple of scenes to get my head back in the zone. I usually have my trusty bible by side – not a bible in the traditional sense – my bible is a moleskine notebook that I’ve used since day one. It holds my character profiles, spider-grams for each novel, basic plots for the novel, hints and tips I’ve come across along the way and general ideas of things I might want to write about. I use this notebook alongside a brand new one for each project. The new one is for handwriting scenes, noting down quirks and names etc, and scribbling on if I notice plot holes etc.
Once I’ve read up on the two-three scenes already written, I’ll take a few deep breaths and crack on. This is the time that I hate being disturbed by anyone or anything. Even my husband knows now that if he’s bringing me a fresh cuppa, to just place it down on my table silently and back away. A knock at the front door will boil my blood. It’s not that I mean to be anti-social or act like a bitch, but when I’m in the zone of writing, my head is firmly entrenched in a world that isn’t this one. I’m somewhere else entirely and an interruption will bring me back here with a bump.
On a good day, I can write 6000-7000 words before I stop. On a bad day it might only be a few hundred – which is very frustrating but part of the process. I rarely get writer’s block – if I’m not writing it’s usually because of factors outside of my control, like illness or events that take me out of the house. I do love to sit and write in coffee shops – probably because I don’t get disturbed. I am accustomed to tuning out the machine noises but I can focus easily in on conversations going on around me – be careful what you say over coffee! I have been known to use what I overhear on occasion.
When I am finished writing for the day, I save my progress (do this every half hour religiously but have to ensure it’s saved at end of day as well) – I save to an external hard-drive, the internal hard-drive on my laptop and quite often will email a copy to myself also. Just to ensure I have it and it is safe. There have been odd instances where I’ve lost work so do this pretty religiously nowadays. Then I’ll close my laptop, make another cuppa and take a few deep breaths.
I love these writing days – not just because it’s getting the word count up, but also because as I write, the plot and characters present me with new challenges. Challenges that I then feel obligated to see through the next day, and the one after, and the one after etc. Actual writing is the best part of the whole process for me. I love the surprises my characters leave me with, often have tissues on standby for the heartache they cause me, and always leave my novel in a place where I know I can’t wait to restart from.
Who will save you when the monsters creep…
Antonia Baillie is a true Romani gypsy – she has the gift of foresight and uses this to help people.
When the ghosts of the past come calling, can she put her own fears aside and work with the police to help find out who is torturing and killing young men?
Detective Sergeant Mark McKay has never had a need to solve a case using a psychic. He doesn’t believe in it – pure and simple. But when Antonia tells him the name of a young man and gives him details specific to the case, he can’t help but change his view. Especially when a body matching what she described is found in the vaults deep under the city.
Mark and Antonia race against a spree of monstrous crimes, long-standing grudges and the perils of the darkness in the vaults beneath Edinburgh to try and find a sadistic killer before time runs out.
Can they stop him before he strikes again?
Will they discover who is responsible?
And can they do it without becoming victims themselves?