Friday 26 February 2021

The overlap between real life and crime fiction

Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb, talks to Kings River Life magazine about the way real life weaves itself into her novels, and about the part she played in bringing a serial killer to justice. CLICK HERE for the full article.

Friday 12 February 2021

Madeleine McDonald – Plundering life for literary inspiration

Madeleine McDonald is a writer with a varied portfolio. For many years she was a newspaper columnist contributing regularly to the Family Matters column of the Yorkshire Post.  Her publications include numerous articles, essays and short stories. One of her early radio stories was translated into Mandarin Chinese and broadcast on the BBC World Service. She has also enjoyed competition success, having been a finalist in both The Art of Love poetry competition 2005, judged by Andrew Motion, and the Roswell Award for Science Fiction 2017.

Madeleine is also a novelist, having written both historical and contemporary romances with exotic settings drawn from her own travels.

Her years working as a freelance translator, precis-writer and editor for various United Nations organisations taught her valuable lessons about writing as a discipline. Translation required absolute accuracy, while respecting the style of the original; precis-writing separated the wheat from the chaff; editing meant being mindful of the sensibilities of people writing in a foreign tongue, while tweaking a text to make it readable. The diversity of people she met and her years of travel lie at the heart of much of her writing, lending authenticity to her stories.

She says of Enchantment in Morocco that it was the colour and contrast of the land where Africa meets Europe that she saw would provide a captivating setting for a traditional romance story. The scenes in remote Moroccan villages draw on her travels round North Africa by bus, the need for access to the Atlantic coast for a plotline involving smuggling determining the book’s exact location.


The Rescued Heart, a second-chance romance set against the Basel Art Fair, draws the reader both into everyday Swiss life and the business side of modern art. A chance meeting with an impecunious young artist shatters a widow’s isolation and forces her to confront life again.


Moving both closer to home (her native Scotland) and half way across the world (to the Caribbean) A Shackled Inheritance was inspired by a 200-year-old will in which a Scottish slave owner left his sugar plantation, and slaves, to his natural mixed-race daughter. Madeleine’s research in Jamaica’s online archives led her into the shadow world of the ‘free coloureds’ or free mixed-race community, one legacy of slavery that mainland Britain preferred to ignore.

Articles and short fiction under Madeleine’s by-line have appeared in anthologies and magazines across the globe, including Connecting Nothing With Something - A Coastal Anthology, Verbatim, She's the One, Thresholds, Flash Bang Mysteries, Journal of Compressed Creative ArtsWriters' Forum, and Mslexia.

During the 2020 pandemic, Madeleine has concentrated on fiction editing and short stories for radio, and also published a sonnet which followed the traditional Shakespearean rhythm.

See more of Madeleine’s publications HERE.


Friday 5 February 2021

So you want to write a crime novel Part 2: First Thoughts

 The first thoughts about any new writing project are the most enjoyable. This is where the only limit is your imagination. So give yourself the time and space to let your mind wander down untrodden paths. You need that time to allow your subconscious to fit your disjointed thoughts into some kind of cohesive jigsaw that will form the basis of your story.

With a crime story, there are restraints that other genres do not have. For example, the time in which you set your story will affect what technology is/was/wasn't available. Even a novel set in the 1980s would not have mobile phones unless your detective was happy to carry a brick around with him that took all night to charge and which only had a two-hour battery life. 

Who is your main character? Police officer, amateur sleuth, man, woman, dog? What makes them different? My own sleuth, Georgia Pattison is an early-music soprano. What about your setting? The seaside? A distant planet far, far away? Roman Britain? All will affect how and what you write. Similarly the method of murder you choose will be key. I have never chosen to have a victim with a gunshot wound because the world of ballistics moves forward so quickly. Ditto forensic techniques. Of course, if you set your novel in the future, you can make up your own technology.

The clues you present to the reader must also fit the time in which the novel is set. This is where the golden age of detective fiction was so powerful because the limits of technological knowledge were so limited, authors had to use other ways to present their clues amid a welter of red herrings. Freeman Wills Crofts relied heavily on train timetables. Dorothy L Sayers liked unusual methods of killing her victims.

Writing a crime novel is like putting a jigsaw together and then throwing the pieces up in the air and letting your readers try to put it together without a picture to guide them. I find it immense fun and you might, too. If so, you will find my blog on First Thoughts HERE

 You can read more about me here:

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