JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And what gave you the idea for The Brutal Tide?
KR; I loved reading as a child, without realising I was slowly developing into a writer. My parents were teachers, so I was lucky to grow up with plenty of books lying around. Being a voracious reader helps greatly when you start to write. It’s like taking a crash course in plotting, atmosphere, and character development. The learning just happens by default. I became an English teacher after university but had little confidence in writing. I began with poems, which are nice and short, slowly building my confidence to write something longer. I was 40 by the time I quit teaching to focus on writing, and take the risk that I could pay the mortgage by words alone.
The Brutal Tide came about because I wanted my protagonist’s past to catch up with him at last. DI Ben Kitto is leading a quiet life down in Scilly, with his girlfriend and his dog, when a vicious killer comes looking for him on the islands. She’s incensed that her father is behind bars, thanks to Kitto’s successful work exposing the brutal gang he led in London.
JW; How much research did you have to do for the DI Ben Kitto Series, and indeed for The Brutal Tide, there’s some close attention to being murdered several ways, which seems realistic!
KR; I love researching the Isles of Scilly series. I’ve been visiting them since I was small, but it’s never a hardship to go back. There are just 5 inhabited islands off the southern coast of Cornwall, 40 kilometers from the mainland, in the Atlantic. The smallest islands have less than a hundred permanent residents and they never feel busy. I’m often to be found taking ferries between the islands and interviewing people about subjects like beekeeping, silversmithing, and wildflower cultivation. The internet is a great source of information on ways to kill people. I just hope the police never come calling, because I regularly type questions like ‘how easy is it to drown someone?’ They must think I’m a full-time assassin!
JW; The cast of characters in The Brutal Tide and indeed through the whole Locked Island Mystery series is quite large and complex, how do you keep track! And can we have a list of them all in the next book, please!
KR; That’s such a good question, Jude! I keep a list of thumbnail sketches of each character living on each island. Only a small number of folk get mentioned repeatedly, like Ben’s family, friends, and colleagues, but I try to limit the cast for each book to a manageable number. I loved reading Hilary Mantels’ Wolf Hall but got lost by chapter 3, with so many names to remember. I’d hate to baffle people! I just want to tell a gripping story with the kind of varied characters we meet in real life.
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or watcher of television? Did any part of your childhood make you the writer you are?
KR; I have to be honest and admit that my childhood was scary. My dad was an alcoholic, so I spent plenty of evenings hiding in my room. Books were a great solace. I loved any story with a happy family at its core. I’m lucky that adult life has been far more fun, but back then I used both books and TV as escapism. Maybe I should be grateful for all that time I hid away in my room. It taught me not only the joy of immersing yourself in a story but the catharsis that comes from keeping a diary.
JW; As we are now in November, which book, that you’ve read this year has been your favorite? OR which are you most looking forward to?
KR; The latest book I’ve read is Cruel Acts, by Jane Casey. I love her Maeve Kerrigan series. She used to be an editor, so her writing style is beautifully polished, and she creates characters that are a hundred percent believable. I enjoy a lot of Irish and Scottish crime writers. It seems to me that they are leading the way right now, in detective fiction, but everyone has their own particular taste! I’m currently reading Rose Wilding’s debut crime novel, Speak of the Devil, which is a tremendous page-turner.
JW; Do you have a favourite author or favourite book of all time?
KR; Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene. It’s one of the classiest crime novels ever! I was just twelve when I read it for the first time. He evokes the seedy, rundown glamour of Brighton in the inter-war years, and creates a terrifying crisis. The book also holds the first genuinely convincing teenage psychopath, whose remorseless violence is so chilling it gave me nightmares.
JW; Have you ever been starstruck by meeting one of your heroes in real life?
KR; Yes! I got to meet Lee Childs a few years ago, when I was on a panel at the Harrogate Crime Festival. At the time he was the most successful crime writer in the world, so I was quaking in my boots, but he was lovely to everyone he met. I love it when famous people turn out to be modest, decent folk. He gave me a hug after the event, and I almost fainted, like a very embarrassing super-fan!
JW; What is something you are passionate about aside from writing?
KR; This is probably the worst cliché, but that would be my family. My husband Dave, plus my three stepsons and 4 grandkids mean the world to me. Whenever I see them it’s a salutary reminder that while it’s great fun writing books, spending time with the people you love and supporting them matters more than anything.
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
KR; I’d love to be in St Tropez when Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and all their glamourous pals were down there partying. They’re among my favourite authors of all time, so I’d love to tune in to their conversations, and get swept along to the parties they threw, on a wave of champagne.
JW; Can you share a shelfie (photo of your bookshelf) with us?
KR; No problem. It’s tragically full of my own books right now, which makes me seem like a big ego. I try to give loads away, but the publishers send my boxes full, and I never know quite where to store them.
JW; You can pick 4 famous people, dead or alive, for a dinner party, who would you pick and why?
KR; Patricia Highsmith, Agatha Christie, Anne Cleeve, and Erin Kelly. I’d love to see some brilliant crime writers from the past chatting with some of today’s luminaries!
JW; What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
KR; Keep polishing until every word in your novel glistens. It’s such wise advice! There’s no point in racing to start the next book unless you are a hundred percent happy with the latest, so I do dozens of drafts.
JW; What’s next? Are you writing a new novel?
KR; I’m currently writing book number 8 in the Ben Kitto series. They’ve been optioned for TV, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all the books appear on our screens before too long!
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