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.

The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan blog tour, author interview @Phoebe_A_Morgan @HQstories

I’m thrilled to be talking to Phoebe Morgan today, author of The Girl Next Door as part of the blog tour. I really enjoyed her debut novel The Doll House, so I can’t wait to read it.

The Girl Next Door: a gripping and twisty psychological thriller you don’t want to miss! by [Morgan, Phoebe]


One little lie just became deadly…

Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Jane Goodwin has spent years building her picture-perfect life in the quiet town of Ashdon.

So when the girl next door, sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards, is found murdered, Jane knows she must first protect her family.

Every marriage has a few white lies and hers is no exception. Jane’s worked hard to cover up her dark secret from all those years ago – and she’ll do anything to keep it hidden…


Hi Phoebe. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Firstly can you tell us a little bit about what your new book is about?

Of course! The Girl Next Door is a psychological thriller about a claustrophobic, close-knit community of middle-class people who are hiding secrets behind closed doors. It tells the story of Clare Edwards, a 16 year old girl found dead at the start of the book, and the subsequent police investigation into how and why she was killed.

What is your writing process like? Do you plan everything out before you put pen to paper or do you let the story evolve as you’re writing?

I wish I planned everything out but I don’t think it’s the way my brain works! I tend to have an idea or a few characters in my head and begin writing, and often I have an idea of how I want the book to end as well – and then the middle sections I make up as I go along! I find that once I start writing, new ideas come to me, but I do often go back and rewrite, meaning that the editing process can be a bit painful at times! But my day job is as an editor so I actually quite enjoy that part of it – it’s easier than the gruelling first draft!

How long does it take you to write a novel?

It usually takes me a few months to write the first draft, and then editing could take another month or two on top of that. At the moment, I have one book a year coming out (The Doll House was out last year and there will be a book three in 2020) and that schedule suits me – I’m not sure I could write any faster what with working full time as well!

Have you always been drawn to the crime genre?

When I was younger I read less crime and more what the publishing industry would term ‘women’s fiction’ – people like Jane Green and Sophie Kinsella, but as I grew older I started reading psychological suspense and now I can’t get enough of it! I’d say I read more suspense than straight crime, although if a detective is likeable and believable (something I think Paula Daly does very well) then I can enjoy police procedurals a lot too. I love a good twist and although there is a lot of suspense out there at the moment, I think as long as you’ve got a strong enough plot and a clear, unique voice, there’s still room for more books on the shelves!

Are there any other genres you’d like to explore in your writing?

I’ve always wanted to write short stories, and I do sometimes for magazines or just for fun, so one day I’d love to write a whole book of those although I’m fairly sure nobody would buy it… I’ve also had a historical fiction idea in my head for a few years, which I hope to eventually finish!

Did the process of writing your second book change compared to when you wrote your first?

I suppose it was more pressurised – I had a one book deal for my debut and then a two book deal for books two and three, so I did feel the slight tension there as to whether my publishers would like it and whether it’d be good enough for them to make my agent an offer. But I think I also felt more confident, because I knew I had got to the finishing line of a book before so I just had to keep reminding myself of that and reassure myself that I could probably manage to do it again!

When you published The Doll House how did it feel to have your book out there in the world for the first time?

Oh it was amazing! I was so happy. It’s something I had always wanted to achieve so it was wonderful seeing people reading it and hearing the reader responses. Luckily most of them were positive though of course there’s always the odd one star review from someone who didn’t like it, but because of my day job I think I’m reasonably immune to that now. I was very pleased to be able to give copies of my book to my family and to people who had supported me along the way, that made it all feel worthwhile.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t give up! Everyone says it but it is so true. I never thought my first book would see the light of day but this morning I got the news that it’ll be translated into French, as well as a few other territories – so you honestly never know what will happen in the future if you keep going. And if you don’t sell your first book, you might sell your next one. I know tons of authors who didn’t sell their debut and went on to do brilliant things. Keep writing as long as you still enjoy it, and remember that getting a book published is not the be all and end all. Don’t let it define you, because I think that can start to feel really unhealthy and upsetting if you put all your focus on what is essentially an industry that revolves around luck and timing a lot of the time! Remember to live your life and if you need a break from writing, have one. Just go back to it if you’re serious about getting published – you will get there.

How will you be celebrating publication day?

I’m having a launch party in the evening, the first one I have ever had, so I’m a bit nervous about that! My family and friends are coming as well as some other writers, my agent and my editor, so I’m looking forward to thanking them and having some cake! And the day after that I’m going on holiday for the weekend, which should be nice and might stop me obsessing over Amazon rankings a bit…

And finally, is there anything you can tell us about what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve almost finished my first draft of book three so will send that to my editor soon. The working title is The Babysitter though that might change, and it’s about a couple who go on holiday to France – only for the doorbell to ring and the police to arrest the husband on suspicion of a murder back in the UK. And then a baby disappears… It is out in 2020 and I hope you all like it!

Thank you to Phoebe for taking the time to answer my questions and to Lucy Richardson at HQ for the invitation to join the tour.

If you would like to purchase The Girl Next Door, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Publisher: HQ

Publication date: 21st February 2019

Print length: 384 pages

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


Dead Blind by Rebecca Bradley blog tour @RebeccaJBradley

I’m thrilled to welcome author and former police detective Rebecca Bradley onto my blog today to share her Road to Publication as part of the blog tour for her new stand-alone novel Dead Blind. Rebecca also runs her own successful blog, where she often gives advice to crime writers by talking them through police procedure and she also offers a police fact checking services


How do you identify a ruthless killer when you can’t even recognise your own face in a mirror?

Returning to work following an accident, Detective Inspector Ray Patrick refuses to disclose he now lives with face blindness – an inability to recognise faces.

As Ray deceives his team he is pulled into a police operation that targets an international trade in human organs. And when he attempts to bring the organisation down, Ray is witness to a savage murder.

But it’s a killer he will never remember.

The pressure mounts as Ray attempts to keep his secret and solve the case alone. With only his ex-wife as a confidant he feels progressively isolated.

Can he escape with his career and his life intact?




Do you find that inspiration strikes you in specific places or do ideas come to you everywhere?

I’m quite lucky in that ideas do tend to come to me anywhere. But, I have to write them down or they can float away and be forever gone, so I have an ideas notepad on my phone where I store them all. Ideas can come from overheard snippets of conversations, clips from the television, news or research articles or reading other books. I can read something and my mind will go off on a tangent with an idea.

What do you usually do after you get the first spark of a fresh idea, is it straight to the computer to write the first chapter or straight to a notebook to start planning?

With my first book, Shallow Waters, I was what is called a pantser, where I sat down and typed it straight to the screen without a plan. I knew the beginning and the ending, but I had no idea how it got from one to the other. I just typed my way there. It took me so long and was so arduous that I decided I would train myself to become a plotter and I have. And I much prefer it. The writing process is a much easier process now I have some kind of map to follow.

How long does your first draft usually take to write?

This is quite a difficult question because it seems to be evolving all the time. I finished work as a police officer under a medical retirement and it took some time to adjust to life outside the force as a writer. Ill health meant I found it difficult to find my rhythm for writing. Because I live with a lot of pain, I had to write around it. Books were taking about a year to write, then six months and now I’ve just finished the last one – a first draft only (not for anyone to see!) – in four months. I’m finding my feet, my routine.

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

I don’t celebrate as such, but I do feel a huge sense of achievement. I’ve created a whole new world that didn’t previously exist and now, to me, these characters are living and breathing and have real troubles. I’ll give myself a day or two and then I start work again!

Is it straight to editing or do you leave your manuscript a while before you pick up the red pen?

I’m going to leave this first draft (the one I’ve just finished – Hannah 4 ) for a month before I look at redrafting it. And in that month I am going to start another first draft. Another standalone.

How long do you spend editing before your book is handed over to the printers?

This is also a difficult question. Some first drafts have been in better shape than others. I will do my revisions and edits to get it into the best shape I can get it into. Then I send it to a structural editor who will then send me their advice and I do that work. So, it can take a few months for this process.

At what point, prior to publication do you find the nerves start to kick in or do you not get nervous in the approach to publication?

I’m not a particularly nervous writer. I was in the beginning. But, I’ve settled down and now, I trust in the process. I accept that not all readers will like my work. After all, I don’t enjoy every book I read, doesn’t mean it was a rubbish book. Once it’s out there, it’s no longer my book and anyway, I’m busy getting on with the next one! Saying that, about halfway through the first draft I do hate it and think that I can’t write, if that counts?

How does it feel when the early reviews start to come in?

Having said the above, I don’t read reviews for long, but I do read the early reviews, just to see how it is going to be received in general. And of course, like all writers, I want it to be liked and the good reviews make me feel all warm and fuzzy. But, the negative reviews just roll off my back. I read them and then go back to what I was writing next thing I’m writing. It really is just a part of the process. I know it makes me a little unusual and maybe people don’t believe me. But, I genuinely don’t get upset about it. Now, if the book was completely slated and not a single review was positive, then I might feel differently. That would knock my confidence. I would wonder if I was doing the right thing being a writer. But, having negative reviews as well as positive ones, I can’t complain.

How long do you wait after finishing your book before starting on your next project?

A day or two. I can’t wait. The stories are creating a queue in my head. The ones that are really itching to be written didn’t even need to be written down in my notebook. They stay in my head and needle at me constantly. The next but one, a new series I’m going to write, that has been needling at me for a while now. I’m looking forward to writing that one.

And finally how do you celebrate publication day?

I celebrate by engaging with my readers. If they’re on social media I talk to them and thank them for their support. I wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for them.

Thank you for having me Jacob!


Thank you Rebecca for taking the time to answer my questions and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. If you would like to purchase a copy of Dead Blind you can do so by clicking the link below.


#TheDevilsDice by Roz Watkins blog tour @RozWatkins @HQstories

Source: Netgalley


A white-knuckle crime debut introducing DI Meg Dalton, perfect for fans of Broadchurch and Happy Valley.

This game can only end in murder


A lawyer is found dead in a Peak District cave, his face ribboned with scratches.


Amidst rumours of a local curse, DI Meg Dalton is convinced this is cold-blooded murder. There’s just one catch – chiselled into the cave wall above the body is an image of the grim reaper and the dead man’s initials, and it’s been there for over a century.


As Meg battles to solve the increasingly disturbing case, it’s clear someone knows her secrets. The murderer is playing games with Meg – and the dice are loaded…




Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. To kick things off can you tell us a little bit about what your novel is about?

The Devil’s Dice is the first in a new series set in The Peak District where I live. It features DI Meg Dalton, who’s recently returned to Derbyshire to make a new start. When she’s assigned a suspicious death, it’s her chance to prove to her sceptical colleagues that a slightly chubby vegetarian with a limp can make a great cop. But it’s a sinister case – a poisoned corpse has been found in a cave, and on the wall there’s a centuries-old carving of the Grim Reaper and the dead man’s initials. The man’s relatives blame a curse dating from the times of the witch trials, and locals claim the cave is haunted. Meg’s sure there’s a rational explanation, but with talk of an underground labyrinth where teenage girls go to hang themselves, the case is triggering flashbacks and memories of her dead sister. It takes all her brains and a good bit of brawn (not Meg’s strong suit) to solve the mystery and stop her own family falling victim to the curse.

Some of the themes in your book focus on local folklore and the legends in Derbyshire? Is local folklore something that you have always wanted to write about?

I do love a good creepy folk tale – I suppose they are the urban myths of the past, and some of them are irresistible. I like to make up my own versions of them which tie in with the themes of the book.

And have you always wanted to write a police procedural novel?

Absolutely not! This wasn’t at all what I intended. The book started out more of a psychological thriller, with the detective not being the main viewpoint character. But her voice ended up coming through really strongly and in the end she took over the whole book! This gave me a load of additional problems, because I knew absolutely nothing about police procedure, and I constantly worry about inaccuracies. Luckily I had a friend who was a SOCO and whose husband was a detective, so they helped me out (over large quantities of booze!)

Parts of the novel are set in caves, which can be found in and around the Peak District. Did you ever venture into similar caves as part of your research?

Yes, I went into the caves at the Heights of Abraham, which are quite similar to the Labyrinth in the book, and in the past I’ve been into the caves around Castleton, some of which you have to access by boat. Being trapped in a cave and having to swim out underwater is one of my nightmares! I’ve also explored caves abroad in Thailand and Malaysia (where I’ve encountered cave snakes and spiders, as well as a lot of bats!)

Did your characters surprise you at all when you were writing the book?

Definitely. As I said, Meg took over the whole book without permission. And the murderer changed half way through the story. Also Meg’s mum ended up having a more prominent role than I’d expected. And the character Mark had a few rants that seemed to come out of nowhere!

Did you have the story planned out before you put pen to paper or did the plot evolve during the writing process?

The plot evolved. I had no clue when I started, and I began by just writing a few scenes. Then I realised I didn’t know what I was doing, so I read books on how to write a book, and I analysed successful books (Thank you, Anne Cleeves – I chose one of Vera’s stories to pick apart forensically). As I did this, I started planning a bit more and trying to put structure into my ideas. I read a lot of screenwriting books to learn about character arcs and story progression and I devoured anything I could find by agents and editors about what makes a good, commercial novel.

How long did you spend working on your novel before you started looking for an agent?

I’d been working on it about eighteen months when I went to the York Festival of Writing. The book wasn’t ready to submit but I had a one-to-one with Claire McGowan and she said she liked my first chapter and would pass it on to her agent, Diana Beaumont, to look at. Diana liked it and said to send it to her when it was finished. I did this and she liked it. We talked and clearly saw eye-to-eye about the book (and life in general!) and she offered representation. I realise this is an annoyingly easy path to getting a brilliant agent, and I’m very grateful to Claire and the Festival of Writing!

If there was one piece of advice that you could pass on to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Write something you feel passionate about, but also accept that writing a commercial book is a craft that needs to be learnt, so invest in books and courses and conferences to learn that craft.

If your novel was to be made into a television series, who would you like to see cast as the main characters?

Oh, blimey, I’m rubbish at this. The book has been optioned and when ITV asked me this, I said maybe someone like Katherine Parkinson for Meg, as she’s great with adding humour to serious roles. Jodie Whittaker was also on my list but then she became a mega-star! Carey Mulligan’s another one I like. All these are probably a bit too good-looking, but I suppose you have to hot-up the characters for the screen 🙂

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

The second book in the series is nearly finished. A man is found with this throat cut and it seems to have something to do with the nightmares his daughter’s been having after her recent heart transplant. Again there are aspects which seem a little supernatural, and Meg’s belief system gets challenged big time!


This was such a good debut. I loved that witchcraft was a theme in this book which added a spooky, creepy atmosphere to the writing. This theme, for me, really made the book stand out. The author, Roz Watkins, had me googling the local myths in this book which I was absolutely fascinated by. I’m excited to see that this is the first book in a new series; it’s a series that I’m keen to read more from.

Roz Watkins opens her novel with the discovery of the body of a lawyer in a cave in the Peak District. When Detective Inspector Meg Dalton arrives at the scene, strange markings are found on the stone wall and an eerie tale concerning the caves emerges. As the investigation progresses, unsettling details surface about a curse which has plagued the family. But what makes the case all the more perplexing is when another body is found. Could such a curse really exist?

I really enjoyed getting to know Meg as a character in this novel. She faces many obstacles in her path as she tries to bring the killer to justice but she is absolutely determined to do so, whatever the cost to herself and her career. She isn’t a character without her own problems and Roz explores some interesting themes in her backstory, I won’t go into too much detail here, but these themes I’m sure will prompt plenty of discussion in book groups. Ethical and moral issues do play a huge role in this book.

I also really liked her relationship with her side-kick, Jai. There were times when I did think that perhaps their working relationship wouldn’t work but as the novel progressed I did think that Meg would be lost without him, not as a colleague in particular, but as a friend.

The pace of the novel is excellent and exciting. As I finished each chapter I really wanted to find out what was going to happen next and Roz managed to expertly conceal the final truths in this book. She is an exciting new writer who I can’t wait to read more from. I’m sure her first novel in this series will win her lots of loyal, new fans. She is a talent to watch out for. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of the book to read.

Publisher: HQ

Publication date: 8th March 2018

Print length: 384 pages