#Blog Tour Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell

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As part of her blog tour for the latest in the DI Geraldine Steel novels, Leigh talks to LifeOfCri.me about the ins and outs of writing a serial character.

Writing a series

​I have written elsewhere about my inadvertent and very sudden transformation from an avid reader to a compulsive writer. My career as a writer really arose out of a ‘light bulb’ moment, a flash of inspiration. Having no ambitions to write, when an idea occurred to me one day and I started to write it down, I surprised myself by finding I was unable to drag myself away from it until the story had written itself out. Having completed my story, I sent the manuscript to a publisher, just on the off chance that someone might take a look at it. I didn’t really expect that anyone would, but the first person to read it turned out to be the acquiring editor at my publisher’s.

​There I was, unexpectedly faced with signing a three-book deal, and only one story written. It amazes me now that I wasn’t terrified, but the whole experience was exhilarating and quite surreal. Of course, there was a lot of work to be done on that first rather amateurish manuscript before it was actually published as Cut Short, by which time I was well on my way with the second book in the series, Road Closed. The ninth in the series, Deadly Alibi, is about to come out in paperback, the eleventh is written and currently being edited, and I am about a quarter of the way through the twelfth – just at the stage where I realise what I should have written and am about to rewrite what I’ve done so far… Somehow my plans always seem to go out of the window once the writing begins…

​So what began as a random idea for a story has turned into a fairly substantial series. With three series now to my name, and well on the way to delivering the final title in my sixth, three-book publishing deal, I’ve written quite a few books since the idea for Cut Short occurred to me. My next publishing deal will take us up to fifteen Geraldine Steel books, and I’m hoping the series will run to twenty books.

​A question I’m often asked is, does it become easier as you write more books? Like a politician’s equivocation, my answer isn’t straightforward. It’s a yes and a no. The actual writing process becomes easier as you grow accustomed to the editing process and all the associated stages in finalising the manuscript. At the same time, in some ways the pressure increases. With over a million books sold, there are a lot of people waiting to read the next Geraldine Steel story and with each book I worry that this will be the one that bombs, the book where all my fans say I’ve completely lost the plot. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, and I like to think I’m getting better at this writing lark. But who knows how the next book will be received? With so many readers’ expectations to satisfy, it’s a more daunting prospect than when my first book came out and I wondered whether anyone would actually read it, apart from my acquiring editor. ​

​Fortunately I have a fairly foolproof way of dealing with the pressure. It’s how I cope with any problems that arise in my life in the real world. I can simply retreat into my fictional world and write about the challenges faced by my detective, Geraldine Steel. And she has some tricky situations to deal with in Deadly Alibi. Hopefully her loyal fans are going to enjoy reading this latest story, and readers new to the series will find this an exciting introduction.

A hand gripped her upper arm so suddenly it made her yelp. Biting her lower lip, she spun round, lashing out in terror. As she yanked her arm out of his grasp, her elbow hit the side of his chest. Struggling to cling on to her, he lost his footing. She staggered back and reached out, leaning one hand on the cold wall of the tunnel. Before she had recovered her balance he fell, arms flailing, eyes glaring wildly as he disappeared over the edge of the platform onto the rails below. . .

Two murder victims and a suspect whose alibi appears open to doubt… Geraldine Steel is plunged into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life. And then her previously unknown twin Helena turns up, with problems which are about to make Geraldine’s life turn toxic in more ways than one.

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Mixing It Up with Bonnier Zaffre

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Those fabulous people at Bonnier Zaffre books had a bit of a doo at Harrogate festival this year, to which the lovely Katherine Armstrong invited me along. Once I found the not so secret, ‘Secret Garden’ (there was a big sign pointing to it) These were just a few the lovely people I managed to mix with and snap. There were plenty more there, and a fab couple of hours were passed by.

 

Ooh Look Fizz! (I may have had a tad too much)

David Mark, Katherine Armstrong and LifeOfCri.me’s Kirstie Long

Sarah Hilary looking relaxed 🙂

Susi Holliday

Laura Wilson

Daniel Pembrey and Anya Lipska

As always, ‘Pretty in Purple’, Leigh Russell

The ever lovely Barry Forshaw

Martyn Waites and Alex Marwood showing the differing approaches to unexpected photos. 😉

Martin Edwards, charming as always

The fantastic Laura Lippman.

One of my favourite people in the world.  Zoe Sharp is a great author, and also an amazing cook!

It wouldn’t be Harrogate without Mark Billingham

It isn’t a proper party until you’ve got the dazzling duo, Kevin Wignall (above) and Simon Kernick (below)

CrimeFest 2016 – The Photos.

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David Mark, the man behind DS Aector McAvoy, does the zombie.

Paul Finch, one writer who truly has it in for his lead DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg

 Lucy Cameron, who’s debut novel Night is Watching is out later this year.

Two of *the* most amazing authors out there, check out Sarah Pinborough’s 13 Minutes & The Death House, and look out for Kevin Wignall’s A Death In Sweden & The Traitor’s Story

 Pretty in purple, Leigh Russell, one of the hardest working women in crime fiction.  I don’t think she ever stops…

Aspiring author Andrew Hill who talked to LifeOfCri.me about CrimeFest back in 2014, and pulling faces in the corner, Chris Simms, the man behind DI Jon Spicer


Quentin Bates, writer of the fantastic Detective Gunnhildur of the Reykjavik police force, and translator of Ragnar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series.

The Icelandic Queen of crime Yrsa Sigurdardottir (you have no idea how many attempts it took to spell that right!)

Howard Linskey

James Hilton sees the release of his debut Gunn Brothers novel, Search and Destroy, this month.

Julia Crouch

The fount of all knowledge when it comes to Brit Noir and Nordic Noir, the formidable Barry Forshaw

Mark Billingham.

Everyone’s favourite cheeky chap and the man behind the excellent Tom Thorne novels, as well as his current stand alone Die Of Shame

William Sutton, creator of Victorian Policeman Campbell Lawless

Craig Robertson

Steve Mosby, this man knows how to mess with your head, prepare for a book hangover. Black Flowers and The Nightmare Place, are my particular favourites.

Winner of the 2015 Theakston’s Old peculier Crime Novel of the Year, DI Marnie Rome’s creator, Sarah Hilary

Zoe Sharp, the woman behind Charlie Fox, looking far too gleeful at the opportunity to strangle my fiance.

A grinch-esqe Tom Wood, not sure what Victor the Assassin would make of that!

Mr Crime Fiction Festival himself, Ali Karim, Assistant Editor at Shots e-zine. Simply all shades of awesome.  If you get the chance to sit and chat with him, do,

Ragnar Jonasson, his Dark Iceland series is gripping, and claustrophobic.  Perfect for being snuggled up on the sofa with coffee/wine/gin, on a wet and grey Sunday afternoon.


Martin Edwards

Chris Ewan, The man behind The Good Thief’s Guides, along with a series of standalone novels, including his latest release Long Time Lost

imageWho would have thought he’d spent all weekend drinking?! – The Final Minute (did you see what I did there?) Sunday morning shot of race against time thriller writer Simon Kernick

Generating Geraldine – Leigh Russell Talks About the Inspiration For Murder Ring

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As part of the blog tour for the latest Geraldine Steel novel ‘Murder Ring’ Leigh Russell talks to LifeOfCri.me about where some of her inspiration came from.

 

 

 

 

My inspiration for Murder Ring

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, in various guises. Agatha Christie famously said that the best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. Even though nowadays most of us have dishwashers, we all know what she meant. I can be sitting at home, or out and about, when an idea occurs to me and off I go. Ideas can come from anywhere. It might be a person I’ve noticed who sparks off a story, or an atmosphere in a strange place, or just a large suitcase, large enough to hide a body…

The inspiration for Murder Ring came about in a slightly unusual way for me, more calculated than in my other books. Usually I’m inspired to write about something that interests me, but this time, ironically, my starting point was  a topic that didn’t interest me at all. In the fourth book of the series, Geraldine Steel moved to London. By the time I started to think about Murder Ring, the eighth in the series, I decided I couldn’t continue setting a detective in North London in the present day without ever mentioning guns. The problem was that not only did I know nothing about guns, they aren’t a topic that inspires me at all. Nevertheless, in the interests of authenticity, I decided to bite the bullet, if you’ll excuse the pun. So tackling the issue of gun crime was a conscious choice, rather than an idea that inspired me.

One of my advisors is a police ballistics expert, but his information was not what interested me the most once I began to look into the subject.  My research led me in a different direction, looking into the kind of people who were likely to be in possession of guns in London. Most of them are not criminal masterminds, but dysfunctional people. Older teenagers in gangs frequently give their firearms to young siblings to look after in order to avoid detection, knowing the children are too young to be prosecuted if found in possession of a gun. It was in the news recently that children as young as ten were among fifteen hundred children held over alleged firearm offences in the UK in the three years to January 2016. Such statistics are worrying, and are only likely to worsen as guns are so readily available.

The more I looked into the subject, the more I realised that while guns themselves don’t interest to me, what they represent fascinates me as a writer of crime fiction. People often use self-defence as an excuse for owning guns, but guns are essentially a means of exerting power. And for a crime writer, villains seeking to control or eliminate their victims is always interesting. So although guns in themselves are merely mechanical instruments of death, introducing them into Murder Ring opened up new possibilities for creating villains. Because what makes guns frightening is not the weapons themselves, but the people who use them.

 

Launch with Leigh – Journey To Death

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Click the pic to buy…

So back in September we had #TeaWithLeigh, where a few of us bloggers got to sit around, drink champagne and talk all things Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson.

This time around the character up for discussion was Lucy Hall, and not being one to do things by halves Leigh had several events to celebrate the launch of Journey To Death. Her soirée at The Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street London was the one I was lucky enough to be invited to attend.

It was a fabulous event and there was a great buzz to the whole evening with everyone there to celebrate everything Lucy Hall.

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Cutest most delicious burgers ever!

There was of course wine, but not only that there was some great food too with delicious canapés abound although my favourites, by far, were the mini burgers.

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Sue, Leigh & Me

There was some great company, (yes I know that’s me), but I also got to meet up with some fellow bloggers and writers, many of which were already known to me, but equally and delightfully almost as many who weren’t.  My address book and follow lists have increased to include the intriguing new contacts I made that I look forward to hearing from in the future.

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Leigh with The Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture

On top of that was an amazing guest, the Minister of Tourism & Culture for The Seychelles, who having made a special journey in for the event, gave a great speech and made sure that all of us who want to travel to The Seychelles after reading Journey To Death, now know exactly how friendly the local sharks are.

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And of course there was a fantastic cake, because it’s not an event until there is cake.

Above all the whole evening was one huge success, and I am grateful to Leigh for the invite, it was well worth the effort of a six hour round trip coach ride to attend.

Oh and speaking of coaches, I did at least make it back in time for mine.

Just.