Two best-selling crime writers in a fascinating discussion about their latest novels which are both the latest instalments in a long running series. Alex Gray is one of Scotland’s most popular crime writers and Only the Dead Can Tell is the latest adventure for DSI William Lorimer. Leigh Russell is the author of the internationally bestselling Geraldine Steel series of which Class Murder is the latest. The series has sold over a million copies worldwide.
At last #AyeWrite2018 is now underway and the first event for me was “Crime is a Series Business” with Alex Gray and Leigh Russell. Hosted by renowned Scottish author, Douglas Skelton, the event took place in the opulent surroundings of Glasgow University. The Uni is probably my favourite building in Glasgow and it was a fitting venue for an intriguing start to the festival.
The audience packed the room to welcome Alex, Leigh and host, Douglas Skelton. And a warm Glesga welcome was given to Leigh for her first ever event in Scotland, as Alex Gray said, “What kept ye lassie”.
Douglas introduced the two authors before inviting them to give a reading from their latest novels (Alex: “Only The Dead Can Tell & Leigh “Class Murder”). From the gasps coming from the audience it was clear that these are two best-selling novels already!
“Only the Dead Can Tell” is Alex’s 15th novel in the Lorimer series and “Class Murder” is the 10th in Leigh’s Geraldine Steele series and neither author shows any signs of tiring of their characters. Both are clearly prolific writers and Douglas asked how they managed to keep things fresh. Alex told the audience that ideas were constantly coming into her head; the idea for her current book had come to her a long time ago but had to wait for its time to be told. Leigh felt that deadlines were instrumental in ensuring that ideas are never far away! She didn’t want to analyse it too much in fear that over thinking would stop the creative flow!
Both writers believe, that while they are not planners but rather more flying by the seat of their “pantsers”, that writing fiction is more than just “making it up” and that somewhere deep in the creative subconscious there is always something bubbling away!
They spoke about the pressure to write and how this impacts on them, Alex is her own harshest critic and pressures herself constantly whereas Leigh feels that had she achieved success at a much younger age she may have felt more pressure than she does at the moment. Both spoke about their own styles of creativity with Leigh struggling with a visual imagination and seeing things in “words” while Alex experiences the complete opposite.
Both constantly strive to produce work that will intrigue and keep their readers guessing, always looking for twists that won’t be guessed and plots that cannot be worked out by the first few chapters.
When asked if they would write in other genres both admitted that they had attempted a love story and poetry which ended up with dark themes! While neither woman admitted having a kill list they were not denying the fact that they had used their books as a means of enacting some form of revenge: one particularly irritating passenger on a plane ended up as the first victim in one of Alex’s books and Leigh reconsidered her teaching career when she started killing off teaching staff! Of course, in real life while their books are deliciously dark both women are very different in person than their crime life persona!
Fascinating insight into their writing process from rising at dawn to sleeping until the afternoon (I’ll let you guess which one was which!) to writing at set times to anywhere there was time both Alex and Leigh agreed that writing a novel was more than simply putting words on paper, the thinking time, the plotting and the research makes up a huge chunk of their writing lives. Neither set out to write a series but as their characters grew and developed it became inevitable and I would say as a reader for this I am truly grateful! It is clear that both Alex and Leigh are passionate about what they do and I’m sure we have many more books to look forward to from them!
All too soon the event was over, a fascinating and informative event which was a brilliant way to kick off my #AyeWrite2018 journey!
Massive thanks to all the organisers, panelists and volunteers for making this one of the best book festivals in the UK. And a special mention must go to the staff from Waterstones who work like Trojans at these events to get the books out for the audiences!
To check out the rest of the events at Aye Write over the next two weeks then click on the link below!