Today, we give a warm Romaniac welcome to bestselling author of murder & mayhem, Mel Sherratt…
Tell us a bit about your novels:Taunting the Dead and the two books in the Mitchell Estate series, Somewhere to Hide, and Behind a Closed Door, the thinking behind them, and their subsequent success; how it feels to watch your creation rise up the UK Amazon kindle chart?
Taunting the Dead was my debut novel. It’s a police procedural and I wrote it because Somewhere to Hide had been turned down by four editors. It seemed to be too cross-genre – a mixture of women’s fiction and crime thriller. So I added a whodunit to my next book. Alas, that seemed to be too similar to authors already out there. Yet even though Taunting the Dead did extremely well, some readers didn’t like the fact that it felt too character-based rather than all police procedural. I’ve always wanted to write about the effects that crime has on people, their feelings, their emotions etc so I decided to bring out three books I had already written as part of a series, the first being Somewhere to Hide. The second, Behind a Closed Door came out yesterday and Fighting for Survival will be out by the end of this year.
Can you give us a few teasers about what you’re working on at the moment?
Now that Behind a Closed Door is finished, I’m working on book three, Fighting for Survival. I’m hoping to get it finished for the end of the year, which is why I have the release date set as January 2013, just in case. Fighting for Survival is about the residents of Stanley Avenue and how their lives entwine. It covers issues such as self-harm, girl gangs, fighting, bullying, infidelity, knife crime – I know, misery lit!
In between, I’m drafting out a psychological thriller… busy, busy, busy.
Apart from thrillers and crime, which other genres interest and inspire you?
I really enjoy women’s fiction – something that I can get lost in with great characters. So authors such as Adele Parks, Dorothy Koomson and Pippa Wright. I also like young adult books – Rook Hastings is a favourite of mine. So too is Tanya Byrne and Tamsin Murray.
Talk us through a typical writing day in the life of Mel Sherratt.
I always get up around 6am during the week so after a cup of coffee or two, when I’m drafting a book I use the first two hours a day to either catch up on emails or go over the plots I’ve thought of overnight, with my laptop on the settee. Once the battery needs recharging, I head to my office. I’ve only recently made a room into an office but I can’t tell you the different it has made. I don’t have Twitter on my PC so from ten until one I write. A quick break for lunch and writing again until four. Then it’s back to the emails, writing blog posts etc for another hour or so. Then that’s me done for the day writing wise – unless I’m nearing the end of the draft. When my brain takes over, I have to work until it’s done so I’ll often write for a few hours extra during the evenings over the last couple of weeks. It’s the same when I’m editing, although I only do this during the day as I need time to switch off.
If you’d had the chance to appear in any TV crime drama, past or present, however big or small the role, which one would you have chosen and why?
Luther – without a doubt. Meeting the creator of the series, Neil Cross, along with some of the cast at Theakston Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in summer was amazing. They were all so friendly, approachable and downright entertaining. I had a chat with Neil Cross about his book and about writing in general and he was so warm, really took time out for me. I loved that!
And that’s without mentioning the show – and Idris Elba, of course. And Warren Brown – who was just as nice as Neil Cross. Anyway, I digress… Luther for me is so unrealistically realistic – that’s what I like about it. It’s dark and so flipping scary. So I’d like to be an extra in that. Any part would do.
Do you have any phobias and if so have you ever worked any of them into any of your novels?
No, none that I know of. I’m not too fond of spiders or things that creep over my skin and I’m a bit scared to go underwater, but luckily nothing debilitating.
Most memorable/unusual piece of research you’ve had to do to date?
Oh, you asked for it. Can DNA be found in vomit? And yes, it can! I often wonder if I get flagged up anywhere for the searches that I do on Google.
How big a part does social media play in your success and what do you consider to be the biggest benefits of it, and downsides, if any?
I was quite well known on Twitter because of a blog I used to run called High Heels and Book Deals. Because of this I had a place to talk about my writing and my struggles to get a traditional deal. So when I made the decision to self-publish, I had a lot of support. I’d given so much of my time for over two years to promote other authors that I think they in turn helped me. I did a few guest blog posts and then the book took off on its own steam. It was great.
I tend to only use Twitter so the benefit for me is that I can get to know other authors and writers plus I can chat about my books with my readers. More importantly I can have a laugh and a giggle and use it as a virtual office. It does get lonely working from home. The downside for me is when authors and writers use social media as a sales point and nothing else – does the word social not explain things to you? It’s meant to be a two-way street. We all need to self-promote on occasions – and why shouldn’t we – but I like to do it within reason.
Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?
Perseverance – look at me. Twelve years of trying for a traditional deal, I self-published and now I have readers. It’s been amazing and if it hadn’t worked out well for me, I would still continue to write book after book until it had. I have written six books now, am writing my seventh and have full plans ready for four more. It’s what I’ll always do, I hope.
Getting it right. Without sounding conceited, online a well-written story can be found at the same time as a poorly written book littered with typos and errors. I know which one I would rather read. It’s the little things that count. And if you’re after an agent, make your work as crisp, clean and concise as you can. Make it stand out. You’re representing yourself at the end of the day.
Listen and learn. I can’t tell you how much I have learned over the past twelve months. Editing wise, although I employ one, I learn about words and grammar as much as I can. I always take on board constructive criticism. If something isn’t working for several readers, I change to suit. It’s great to go with gut instinct but sometimes it isn’t always right. You can be too close to see what’s wrong.
Your love of shoes is no secret, Mel, so tell us, if you could design your own range, what styles, shapes and colours would you veer towards? (And come on, you can whisper it… ) how many pairs do you own?
I think they would have to be either black or really mixed bright and bold colours; definitely with a platform soul and a high heel. I’ve even seen some wacky ones with guns and handcuffs on them! Now they would be fun. But I think for me, sophistication is the key word. And high – who cares if they cripple you.
At the last count, I owned 52 pairs of shoes and boots. I daren’t count again. Will that do!
First Celebrity Crush?
Gosh, I’m not sure. I can remember my first author crush on meeting someone – Peter James. He was such a gentleman. Oh, yes, I can – Chachi out of Happy Days!
Fave Holiday Destination?
I love going to a small place called Kefalos, Kos. I’ve been quite a few times. It’s a place to chill, sunbathe, eat and drink at our leisure – fires up the batteries again.
Cheese and chip sandwiches.
Starsky or Hutch?
Pimms or Budweiser?
Art Gallery or Casino?
Ooh, tricky as I don’t often go to either. Casino.
Strictly or X Factor?
I don’t watch Strictly. Shoot me now but I don’t like it!
And finally, you knew there would be something footwear related, Mel : Doc Martens or Wellies?
You really expect me to choose between two pairs of flat shoes? No, can’t do it. It would be a crime
Thanks so much for calling in, Mel. It’s been fab talking to you
Mel’s latest novel Behind A Closed Door is now available to download : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Behind-Closed-Door-Estate-ebook/dp/B009QOLBPE/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_3
Find Mel on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mel-Sherratt/218120504951096
Follow Mel on Twitter @writermels