Tuesday, 17 November 2015

My Interview With... Leigh Russell.

I've been following Leigh Russell's writing career since I first found out about her debut novel, Cut Short, soon after its publication.  I hunted high and low for a copy, and managed to find one at Worcester library. I finished it after about three days or so, and I've been hooked on her books ever since. I am amazed at her ability not only to write two different crime series (the DI Geraldine Steel series and DS (now DI) Ian Peterson series) that also crossover, at the same time, but that she has added a third series, the Lucy Hall Mysteries, the first of which will be published early 2016.

Below is a short bio of the best selling crime author, followed by my interview with her. Enjoy:

#1 Bestselling Author Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent gaining a Masters degree in English and American literature. Her first novel in the Geraldine Steel series, Cut Short, was published in 2009, followed by Road Closed in 2010, Dead End in 2011, Death Bed in 2012, Stop Dead in 2013, Fatal Act in 2014 and Killer Plan in 2015. The eighth novel to feature DI Geraldine Steel will be published in 2016. The series has received glowing reviews and has been so popular with readers around the world that Leigh is now writing a spin off series for DI Ian Peterson. Cold Sacrifice was published in 2013, followed by Race to Death in 2014. The third novel in this series will be published in 2015. As well as writing bestselling crime novels, Leigh runs occasional creative writing courses in different venues across Europe. Leigh Russell is married with two daughters and lives in North West London.
(Taken from Amazon.co.uk)

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

This might sound ridiculous, but I never had any plans to write a book before I had actually written one. One day I had an idea for a story and wrote it down, and that was the beginning of my writing career. It has been a lot of work since then, but that's how it all began. That manuscript attracted the attention of a publisher and here I am, six years after Cut Short was published, with eleven books out and contracts for another seven. Being an author somehow crept up on me and I still can't believe how lucky I've been.

What are you working on right now?

Blood Axe, the third Ian Peterson title, has just been published by No Exit Press, and I'm currently writing the second in my new Lucy Hall series for Thomas and Mercer. The first of these, Journey to Death, will be published in February 2016. Once that's finished, I need to plan the ninth novel in the Geraldine Steel series. The eighth title in that series, Murder Ring, is out as an ebook in December, with the paperback published in 2016. These days when readers ask me when my next book is published, I have to stop and think.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

It's difficult to comment on my own books. Readers tell me they enjoy following the careers of my protagonists, trying to determine who the killers are before my detectives manage to work it out. That's not difficult in some of my books, but readers don't seem to mind spotting the clues before my detectives do. Most reviewers describe my books as page turners, and I think readers like the suspense as much as the mystery in my books. What differentiates each of my books, for me, is the motivation of the killer. Perhaps what makes my books distinct from others in the genre is that all of the detectives are different.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I write whenever I can. Over the past year I've been away from home for a total of about six months, with book tours and research trips taking me all across the UK and overseas. But with two or three books to deliver each year, I also have regular deadlines from publishers, structural editors, copy editors, and proofs. The treadmill of success is demanding, and means I have to write whenever and wherever possible. I write on an ipad which is sync'd with my iPad mini that goes everywhere with me, allowing me to write on train and plane journeys, in the car (not when I'm driving!), in bed before I get up... anywhere, in fact. People often ask me if I'm disciplined about writing, but I have no set routine, no writing schedule. I just write when I can.

How much research do you do before and during a writing project?

The story comes first for me, and I try to make sure that everything is there to serve the story. In common with other crime writers, I spend a lot of time on research. Some of my research is for information, and I find that people who are expert in their field are always very generous with their time and knowledge. Of course I'm happy to accept help, especially from my advisors on the police force, but even with a lot of assistance, many questions can't be answered by other people. My research has taken me all around the world to many diverse locations, from a closed prison in the UK to a beautiful beach in the Seychelles. I like to have my first draft completed before travelling to research a location and when travelling I try to stay focused on finding out what I need. It's so easy to be sidetracked!

How does your writing process work?

For me the process is a mixture of ideas, excitement, and hard work, beginning and ending with panic. To begin with I am anxious that my idea will not work. Once I start writing, excitement takes over, and then the hard work begins, until the conclusion of the editing process. At this point panic returns, as I'm concerned about how my new book will be received. But there is never much time to worry about it, as I need to start working on my next manuscript.

What other authors do you read?

Of course I read a lot of crime. There are so many brilliant crime writers, Peter James, Simon Beckett, Val McDermid, Henning Mankell, Linwood Barclay - there are too many to list. But I don't only read crime. Some of my all time favourites are not classed as crime writers at all, although their books contain crimes, as so much great literature does: Edith Wharton, Harper Lee, F Scott FitzGerald, Dickens, Steinbeck, Kazuo Ishiguru, Jane Austen... again, I could go on. What I look for in an author is an engaging story and characters I can feel some kind of connection with.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Readers contact me daily with messages on social media, as well as emails through my website, telling me how much they enjoy my books. Negative comments are rare, and I have only ever once declined to respond to an email. I sometimes wish people who contact me via my website would post reviews online. I know many authors ask fans to write reviews, and sometimes I wonder if I should start doing that. But it's always lovely to hear from readers, especially when they are fans of my books! 



  1. Great interview about a great author, who writes great books! It's great to be informed about the process from beginning to end. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the first Lucy Hall and the next in the two other series. Something to look forward to.

  2. Thank you Chris and Leigh for a very entertaining and informative interview/blog. The questions and preamble are both spot on and Leigh's responses are excellent, as always. Many thanks to you both.



C.J. Wright's books on Goodreads
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