Can you firstly tell us about your childhood and when did you first decide that this career was for you?
My childhood was quite happy and uneventful, but I discovered a passion for books and read every novel I could get my hands on.
Can you tell me about your latest book Death Bed and if you had to advertise this book to anyone what would you say?
In Death Bed my detective relocates to North London, adapting to working in the Met after three books in the Kent Constabulary. Once again, she is involved in tracking down a serial killer. In each of my books I consider a different motivation for killing, exploring what drives people to commit murder. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the books!
Death Bed is the fourth in my crime series, following Cut Short (2009), Road Closed (2010) and Dead End (2011). My books have been shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award, reached the Top 50 bestsellers on amazon, been listed in the Top 50 bestsellers chart for WH Smith Travel, voted Best Crime Fiction Book of 2011 by readers in a Crime Time poll, and my detective is a Best Crime Sleuth on Lovereading. After the popularity of the series so far, it’s always a little nerve wracking when a new title comes out but so far Death Bed has received some great reviews, so I’m hoping for the best!
Which writers would you say are your inspirations and if you could have written any book which one would it have been and why?
Many writers have influenced my work. My reading tastes are quite eclectic. There are many brilliant contemporary crime writers like Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, PD James, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Ian Rankin… I could go on for a long time, they are so numerous! I have lots of other favourites too: Dickens, Kazuo Ishiguru, Ian McKewan, Edith Wharton, to name just a few. As for any book I could have written, that’s impossible to say. A few favourites would have to include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Remains of the Day, The Age of Innocence… again, I could go on for ages!
Why did you pick Crime as your genre of books and if you could do a different style what would it be and why?
There was never any conscious decision to write crime. One day I had an idea for a story, and began to write it down. That story turned out to be the first draft of Cut Short, which went on to become the first in a series of bestsellers.
To some extent, writing crime thrillers dictates my style. The books are not about my beautiful prose, they are about stories which I try to write as clearly and simply as I can, writing in lean spare prose, without any flowery imagery. If I was to write a different kind of story my style might change to suit the genre, but I’ve no idea if that will ever happen. Five years ago I hadn’t written a single book, now I have three international bestsellers to my name, so I’ve given up trying to predict the future.
What things do you do when you are away from writing and what TV music etc are you into at the moment?
Eugene Ionesco wrote ‘A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing’ and that is so true! One of the things I like about being an author is that when you’re writing a book you are never bored. There is always a character or a plot twist to be thinking about. I’m never really away from writing for long, because my characters and their stories are always in my head.
I watch a lot of television of all sorts, particularly drama. There are some excellent series, like Foyles War, Sherlock, and Spooks, and comedies like Hustle and Frasier.
As for music, my favourite contemporary band is Southgate and Leigh, of course, as my daughter is the immensely talented lyricist and lead singer!
Describe to everyone what is it like being Leigh Russell?
I love writing, and can genuinely say it has transformed my life. Writing books does involve hard work - it’s not all drinking champagne and going out to lunch with my publisher! – but all in all life has never been better. I’m very grateful to my publisher, reviewers and, of course, my growing host of loyal readers. Fortunately, I like to keep occupied, because life as Leigh Russell is very busy.
What things make you happy and what things annoy you?
What makes me happy? Seeing my family, and writing.
What annoys me? Where do I start! Intolerance, stupidity, lack of consideration, bullies, faulty technology, unsolicited phone calls, greed… and that’s just for starters!
Have you got any plans for a new book if so can you tell us anything about what it might be?
I’m constantly writing the next book, and planning the one after that. Writing a series makes that a necessity, and a thrill. Death Bed has just launched as the fourth in the Geraldine Steel series. The fifth draft has already been delivered to my publisher, and I’m currently writing the one after that. I like to be a book ahead of my publisher’s schedule so that if for some reason I’m out of action, my readers won’t be let down. And I can’t stop writing!
Can you tell me one thing about yourself that people might not already know?
I never cook.
Out of all the Acolades and great things that have been said about you which sticks out for you and have you ever had anything bad said about your work, if so what?
It was amazing to receive such high praise from Jeffery Deaver who is a fan of mine, and great reviews in journals like The Times are very encouraging, but there have been so many highlights, it’s hard to pick out just one. Of course not all reviews of my work have been glowing, although on the whole people have been very generous with their comments.
What does it mean to you to have such a big fan base and what does it mean to you to get to meet your readers?
Of course, I love having such a big fan base. It’s very encouraging to know that so many readers enjoy my books. I’m grateful to every one of them. I meet a lot of fans at literary festivals, at events in bookshops and libraries which I like to support. It’s always a pleasure meeting people who have enjoyed my books, and such a compliment. Readers also contact me on social media sites like facebook, which means I can interact with fans from all over the world, which is fantastic.
What do you think makes a good Crime Novel and why?
There has been a lot of discussion about the appeal of crime fiction. I think the genre is popular because it deals with the conflict between good and evil. Real life is confusing and can be very disturbing; we are beset with petty injustices which are often unresolved. In fiction, the reader has the reassurance of knowing that by the end of the story some kind of moral order will be restored. Like any good book, a good crime novel has to keep readers turning the pages. Good crime novels need a combination of tension and suspense, together with engaging characters so the reader cares about what happens to them. The element of mystery adds to the suspense, as the reader tries to work out how the plot is resolved.
What are you up to at the moment and what’s next for you?
Right now, as well as writing, I have a busy week ahead with events in bookshops. I’ll be signing my books in the main London train stations, as Death Bed is currently at number 50 in the WH Smith Travel Bestseller Chart, as well as signing at a High Street branch of Waterstones - and as if that’s not enough for one week, we also have the launch party for Death Bed which I’m really looking forward to.
Thank you very much for interviewing me here, and with such challenging questions.