An Interview With…Diane Jeffrey

This week sees the start of a new slot on my blog – interviews with lots of lovely authors! My first interviewee is the delightful Diane Jeffrey who I recently met at Harrogate Crime Festival. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about her and her gripping psychological thrillers.

Q. Your third book, The Guilty Mother, has just been released. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

A. It’s the story of Melissa Slade, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of one of her babies, and Jon and Kelly, journalists who investigate her case when new evidence comes to light. Is Melissa guilty or has there been a gross miscarriage of justice? And if she’s innocent, what happened to her babies?

Q. What do you most enjoy about writing psychological thrillers?

A. It allows me to get in touch with my dark side legitimately! No, more seriously, I’ve always liked thrillers. I started reading the crime fiction novels my mum took out of our local library when I was very young. I’m also fascinated with how our minds work, what makes us tick, and the fact that we all have good and bad sides, qualities and flaws. Psychological thrillers explore this, I think.

Q. Where do you get your ideas from?

A. Sometimes real life, but mostly from my warped imagination, although there are chunks of my own experiences in every book or short story I write.

Q. Your publisher is Harper Collins. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

A. I sent off my first novel when I was eight years old. It was entitled The Stowaway and that’s about all I remember about it. I think I might have illustrated it, which is worrying as I’m no artist (huge understatement)! At school and university I wrote a few short stories. When my son was a baby, so about sixteen years ago, I wrote a chick lit novel. It was unanimously rejected, but I did receive a few encouraging comments from some of the literary agents I had sent my submission to. Then, when my kids were little, I wrote some rhyming texts for children’s picture books. They were all rejected, too, although my kids liked them!

It was 2014 before I tried writing another novel, and this time it was a psychological thriller. It took me a year to write and then another year to rewrite about six times! I was very lucky to have been put in touch with two authors: Elizabeth Haynes and Susi Holliday. Without them, I wouldn’t be a published author today. Susi read my whole book and helped immensely. Elizabeth suggested writing the ‘NOW’ chapters in the present tense and alternating with the past tense for the flashbacks. I rewrote the sample chapters and sent them out again. And I got three requests for the full manuscript! I rewrote the whole book one more time while I was on holiday in the Lake District, changing the tenses etc., and two weeks after coming back home to France, I got a phone call from Clio, who is now my editor at HQ, HarperCollins, to say they wanted to publish my book. And that became my debut, Those Who Lie.

Q. You’ve now written three books. Which is your favourite and why?

A. The Guilty Mother is my favourite book, although I enjoyed writing He Will Find You a lot more! I was way out of my comfort zone writing The Guilty Mother and I thought it was an original idea but I wasn’t sure if what I was writing was any good or if it was utter crap! I had to do loads of research and attempt to get into the head of a male character in order to write Jon’s point-of-view. It was really challenging, but my editor was very excited when I sent her the first draft and when I’d finally finished editing it with her feedback and notes, I was really pleased with what I’d created. I just hope my readers will enjoy it!

Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?

A. Juggling. Children, work (I’m an English teacher), sport, writing…

Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?

A. I try to read a wide range of genres, but really most of the books I read are psychological thrillers.

Q. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A. I do a fair bit of sport, mainly swimming, I do DIY around the house and above all, I enjoy spending quality time with my three children, who are my world.

Q. You grew up in Devon and have now moved to France. What do you miss about Devon and England (if anything!)?

A. Lots of things. The beaches. The views. Clotted cream. Cadbury’s chocolate. The language and customs. English Christmases. English pubs. Sunday roasts. Parkrun. Waterstones and WHSmiths. The list goes on… I’m actually very homesick.

Q. Finally, what advice can you give to writers who haven’t yet had the break they’re looking for?

A. Two pieces of advice: Firstly, don’t give up. It has always been my dream to be a published author, but I didn’t manage it until I was 43 years old. I’m still striving to achieve the dream as I see it! Never give up!

Secondly, get in touch with writing communities – authors, bloggers, readers – on social networks (Facebook and Twitter). Most people you meet online are incredibly supportive and helpful. You get to meet some of those people in real life afterwards, and that’s very special.

To buy a copy of Diane’s latest book, The Guilty Mother, click here.

Twitter: @dianefjeffrey

Facebook: DianeJeffreyAuthor

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Funny Of The Week

They’ll be queuing up for this one…

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Bite Size Writing Tips

Thinking about writing an article about a special anniversary date? Some anniversary pieces feature the same information again and again. If you can find a different angle and make a tired theme fresh, then your article is more likely to catch an editor’s eye.

Give yourself plenty of time to write your anniversary piece before the actual anniversary. It may take you a while to research the person/event and then to check all your facts.

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A Fabulous Festival To Remember – Part Two

Last week, I gave some background detail as to how my partner and I first came to attend the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival back in 2017. If you missed it, click here.

Part two follows on from last week. I hinted that there was a little bit of drama meaning we missed the first event we’d booked. You see, we’d decided to have a leisurely drive up to Harrogate. But it wasn’t the relaxing drive we’d anticipated. Normal Friday afternoon traffic, coupled with it being the first day of the school holidays, meant we’d needed to leave earlier, a fact we soon discovered once we were underway.

After being stuck in traffic we decided to stop off for a break at some services. As we were walking in, I noticed a wallet lying on the ground in the carpark. We took it inside and tried to find someone to hand it into, but there didn’t seem anyone obvious. So we quickly flicked through the wallet to try and find a phone number to see if we could call the owner. Nothing. But there was a driver’s licence and address so we decided we’d post it. Whether it was because we were on our way to a crime festival, or I had some sixth sense (I think it was probably just a coincidence), I decided to do a bit of digging; I was going to find a phone number for the owner if it was the last thing I did (well, not really, but it sounds more exciting). I looked through the wallet again and pulled out a receipt for some furniture. There was the owner’s name and address once again – and a phone number! So my partner rang him and back he instantly turned to claim his wallet. We knew waiting for him to make it back to the services would make us even later for the festival, but we knew how important it was to get the wallet back to its owner; we knew how we’d feel in his shoes.

So half-an-hour later, we were on our way again. The traffic cleared a little and the second half of our journey wasn’t so congested.

Once we’d arrived and parked up, we made our way to the beer tent (greeting it like an old friend) and looked around for anyone we knew. We couldn’t see anyone familiar and decided to head into the hotel itself and grab a sandwich. We’d just sat down, when one of our friends, Jill Doyle, and her husband, Vince, joined us. Jill had been to several talks already and was just about to head off to a live podcast on Agatha Christie. It sounded intriguing and when she offered me a spare ticket, and my partner urged me to take it, I jumped at the chance. The podcast centred around three crime writers, known as the Crime Girl Gang who examine mysterious cold cases and then try and ‘solve’ them from a fictional perspective. I’d always been an Agatha Christie fan and read all her books when I was in my teens. Though I hadn’t been aware that she’d been the subject of a mystery herself when she went missing for a few days and turned up in The Old Swan Hotel itself, exactly where the Crime Writing Festival was taking place! So it proved an entertaining start to my festival journey, with various ideas about what really happened bandied about.

At the bar

After the podcast, we didn’t have any more sessions booked until the evening when we were going to the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers gig, featuring authors Stewart Neville, Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid, Doug Johnstone, Mark Billingham and Lucas Veste. They’d played at Glastonbury a few weeks before and we couldn’t wait to hear them.

In the meantime, we spent the time with friends, old and new, including David Evans, Tony Millington, Rachel Dove, Harlan Coben (well, he did say hello to me and ask me how I was!), before heading for our hotel to check in, have a bit of a rest and grab a bite to eat.

Then it was time to head back and to enjoy the gig. We actually missed the first fifteen minutes (there’s a bit of a recurring pattern here…); this time it was down to us meeting and chatting to a lovely author, Barbara Copperthwaite, who’d we’d previously met at another literary festival. When we made it to the gig, we had a fantastic time and it’s something we’d definitely go to again. It was loud, fun and where else would you see First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, pulled on stage to dance and sing along to Sympathy for the Devil?

And that was day one over. We were only meant be coming back for one more day, but things turned out a little differently…  

In the beer tent with authors Chris Brookmyre on the left and Mark Billingham in the middle

    

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Can You Tell A Story In…

Here it is – five-word challenge time again! For this week’s challenge, can you tell a story in five words, using the word Fine in it somewhere?

Last week, your story needed to contain the word Mirror. You sent in some brilliant stories. Here they are:

Christine Mallaband-Brown:

Mirror maketh the woman glam.

He saw the mirror, broken.

Fish in mirror surfaced sea.

Her anger split the mirror.

Sanandi-jacq:

Transatlantic mirror. Messy flaxen hair.

Mirror mirror. Who clowns best?

Cracked mirror. Jagged bleeding edges.

Janus disturbed by mirror image.

Ritu:

The magic mirror never lies.

Mirror image of my mum.

Broken mirror. Seven years… Oops.

Beware. Children mirror every action.

Mirror is not my friend.

Looking good! No, mirror needs cleaning.

Ruth Scribbles:

The mirror lies, she screamed!!

Mirror her behavior, for once!

The lake mirrored the sky.

Old mirrors distort our view.

Keto For Beginners:

Mirror reveals the ugly truth.

Plucking eyebrows requires a mirror!

Paul Mastaglio:

Mirror, can we change places?

Gary Godderidge:

The mirror`s mood was reflective.

Bharul Chhatbar:

Mirror speaks no errors.

Mirror reflects my best buddy!

And the mirror intruded myth!

Mock, oh Mirror, for once!

Sharon Harvey:

Mirror, mirror on the wall.

The face in the mirror.

The Mirror told a story.

Val Fish:

Smoke and Mirrors; Trump’s card.

Hall of Mirrors; Claustrophobic’s nightmare.

Full length mirror; overweight’s nightmare.

The mirror cracked; unlucky break.

***

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Markets For Writers

Wanderlust is a travel magazine ‘for people with a passion for travel’. Destinations the world over are covered. They particularly like ‘off-the-beaten-track destinations, secret corners of the world and unusual angles on well-known places are always of particular interest’.

If you like travel writing and are interested, they provide very comprehensive writers’ guidelines, which include what they look for in a travel article, tips, payment and how to send your script.

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Funny Of The Week

Well, there’s an offer you can’t…have…

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