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.