Author Interview with Leigh Russell @LeighRussell

On my blog today, I’m delighted to be sharing an interview about her writing and new novel with bestselling author Leigh Russell, author of the DI Geraldine series. She has just released her first dystopian fiction novel, Rachel’s Story. Let’s take a look at what the book is about.

Rachel's Story: a gripping dystopian saga about the choices we make by [Leigh Russell]


In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness? 

As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, the only person Rachel can rely on is her mother. But when her mother is killed, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. 

Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price and Rachel must navigate through a terrifying landscape of persecution to survive.

What is on the other side of the city wall?

Will the repressive government hunt her down?

One thing is certain. Rachel’s world will never be the same again…

Q&A with Leigh Russell

Hi, Leigh, thank you for answering my questions. To start things off can you tell us a bit about what your new novel is about?

Rachel’s Story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where not only mankind but all life on earth has been threatened with extinction by a pandemic. In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins the outcasts struggling to survive beyond the city walls. And if you want to know more about Rachel, you’ll have to read the book!

You’ve previously written crime fiction and psychological thrillers, what was it that made you want to write dystopian fiction?

It might have been something to do with living in lockdown, which at times probably took us all to dark places, cut off from our families and friends. For many months there seemed to be no hope the situation would ever improve. I made a conscious decision not to mention lockdown in my crime series as, for me, fiction is an escape from reality and I wanted to ignore covid while writing. But our unconscious anxieties and preoccupations bleed our writing, whether we want them to or not. So Rachel arrived and led me into the dystopian world of her story.

Are there any other genres which you would like to try as well?

As a writer, I want to try everything! That said, I don’t see myself ever writing a light romance, although there are love stories embedded in many of my crime novels, and Rachel’s Story has an element of romance. I would really like to be able to write humorously, but my narrative voice is dark. Sadly I just don’t have the skill to write comedy.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Do you plan everything out before you start writing or do you dive straight in?

It’s a combination of the two. To begin with I jump in and see where the characters lead me. I rarely know consciously exactly where the story is going until I’ve written it, and this journey into the unknown can be really exciting, and at times terrifying,  especially if I am writing to a deadline. My stories are mostly worked out on some subconscious level, and are drawn into my conscious mind through the process of writing. I often don’t know what I’m going to write until my fingers type the words. As a writer you have to trust yourself and follow your instincts. But there are also times when I think deliberately about what needs to happen for the story to work.

What books have you really enjoyed so far in 2021?

My reading is wide ranging. Books I have enjoyed this year include The Other Miss Bennett by Janice Hadlow, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, The Monk by Mathew Gregory Lewis, Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake, The Hopkins Manuscript by R C. Sheriff , The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman.

Describe a typical day in your life as a writer?

There is no typical day. Unless there is a reason to be up earlier, I won’t wake up until around ten when my husband brings me tea in bed, my one real indulgence of the day! I spend the morning dealing with emails and social media and doing chores. At around 2pm I start my writing day which can continue, with many breaks, until 2am. If there are edits to work on, I will start work as soon as I wake up. Two days a week I see family, lockdown permitting, and the weeks fly by.

Do you celebrate when you finish a first draft and if so how?

The completion of a first draft always leaves me feeling slightly bereft, and nervous in case I haven’t done the story justice. I celebrated the publication of my first six or so books, and my publisher threw a huge party to celebrate the 10th title in my Geraldine Steel series. I expect we’ll party when the 20th title in the series is published, because that will probably be the final Geraldine Steel. I no longer celebrate the publication of each individual book, because I’m on number 24 and the novelty has slightly worn off. But I am very excited about Rachel’s Story, as this is my first dystopian novel and it feels like a debut all over again. In some ways, this is just my next book, but it’s also my very first in a different genre, and I’m secretly really proud of myself, and absolutely thrilled that initial reviews have been so positive.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That varies. My first historical novel, scheduled for publication at the end of this year, took me three years to research and write. My crime novels are written from multiple points of view, and there are forensics and police procedures to consider, which can be quite complicated, so these books take me at least six months to write. One of my psychological thrillers was completed in three weeks. That one is a straightforward first person narrative and so it was relatively quick to write. The first draft of Rachel’s Story was written in six weeks.

How long is it once you’ve finished writing a book before you start working on the next one?

I am usually on to the next one straight away.

And finally, is there anything that you can tell us about what you’re planning to publish next?

My next book is the 16th in the Geraldine Steel series, Deep Cover, available to preorder on amazon and out in July. Geraldine’s colleague, Ian Peterson, plays a key role in this book, which may please some of Geraldine and Ian’s fans. After that, my first historical novel is due out at the end of this year. I’m really hoping that Rachel’s Story will be followed by a second dystopian novel early next year, but that depends on my publisher – although I might just write one anyway… once I’ve finished writing the next Geraldine Steel.

Thank you to Leigh for taking the time to answer my questions. If you would like to purchase a copy of Rachel’s Story, it is available to buy now.

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