Hemmie Martin spent has been a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Nurse working with young offenders — she’s now a novelist with four books under her belt.
The latest, Rightful Owner, was published this month by Winter Goose Publishing — just in time for Christmas! It’s the second in her crime series featuring her copper protags DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, and features a murder at an exclusive swingers club!
Hemmie gives us The Intel about mind maps, mango chunks, getting caught slap-bang in the middle of a prison lockdown — and, of course, her writing process!
Tell us about Rightful Owner…
Rightful Owner is the second novel in the DI Wednesday series. The crime takes place in a swinger’s club, when one of the members is found dead. The victim’s rather an enigma to most of the group, so Wednesday and Lennox need to work hard to discover clues and a motive. Wednesday’s personal life continues to be embroiled with her mother’s mental health issues, and Lennox’s personal life takes a nose dive, thanks to his teenage son.
The book is set among an exclusive swinger’s club – how does one go about researching such a setting?!
Wouldn’t it be exciting if the answer was I joined such a club with my husband, and used every experience in my novel? Alas (or perhaps not), neither myself nor my husband have been members of such a club. However, I’ve always had a fascination for the sexual underworld, and over the years have watched any programme exploring scenes such as S&M clubs in America, to dogging in Epping Forest. I don’t want to mock the individuals, but try and understand that world from their point of view, this way, I hope I can write about realistic characters with different backgrounds.
How would you describe your protagonists, DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox?
Eva Wednesday is thirty-seven, and lives in a three bedroom detached Georgian property on the outskirts of Cambridge. She leans towards being passive aggressive, and can appear aloof to colleagues, but only because she likes to keep her personal life private, for good reasons. She is fragile and sensitive, but tries to keeps those traits well hidden. Eva’s method of working is organic, and being aware of her gut feelings, whereas Jacob Lennox works in a regimented and meticulous manner; their partnership works well.
Jacob is thirty-nine, and lives in a bedsit following his divorce. He is handsome, and knows it. He’s a natural flirt around the station, causing fluttering hearts amongst the officers. However, his self-assurance can come across as being arrogant. His personal life is in tatters, and the path is teenage son causes him embarrassment. Jacob is hedonistic, which sometimes jars with those around him.
I worked as a forensic nurse in a Youth Offending Team. My experiences of visiting prisons, police cells and courts, add some (I hope) realism to my novels. I remember vividly the pressure of the job, the claustrophobic feeling of the cells, and the general malaise clinging to the atmosphere in the prisons. I was visiting an offender once, when the prison alarm rang. A fight had broken out, and lock-down was being enforced. Although I was completely safe, adrenaline riddled by body. I also remember taking a group of male adolescents to a male adult prison, with the idea of dissuading them from a life of crime. Walking within the grounds, men were hurling obscenities at myself and my female colleague, which was an uncomfortable experience.
I now liaise with a DI in the major crime unit in the Metropolitan force, who answers my questions with regards to procedures and crime. I reserve the right to use artistic licence, however, as sometimes the police procedure is too long and complex for the purpose of the story.
I am due to attend jury service in the near future, which I hope will add another dimension to my writing.
I have a plethora of books on policing, forensics, poisoning, true crime, and criminal psychology, to name but a few.
Take us through a typical writing day for you…
I’m afraid that to aid my concentration when writing, I drink coffee, eat mango chunks, and chewy sweets (Drumstick Squashies, to be precise for those who are curious to know). I like to write in my chair in the lounge if the house is quiet enough, otherwise I sit on my bed and spread my mind-map across the top of it. I sometimes listen to music, depending on the scenes I’m writing. I like to listen to classical music which I find less distracting, but if I’m writing aggressive scenes, I enjoy bands such as Green Day or Guns ‘N Roses.
I work three days a week, then divide the rest of my time between writing, running a family household, and going to watch bands in local pubs. I write better in the afternoons, after I’ve completed my chores; I hate to write amongst clutter.
What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?
That I’m never satisfied with my writing. I edit at least four or five times prior to sending it to my Editor at Winter Goose Publishing. We then do a couple of edits together, but even as I do the last read-through, I constantly see sentences and words I wish to refine and change, but my Editor stands firm! After my first novel, The Divine Pumpkin, was published, I opened the paperback and glanced at a random chapter. Straight away I saw a sentence that displeased me, so I’ve never opened any of my published novels since, although a copy of each are on a bookshelf.
How do you deal with feedback?
I do read reviews, as any feedback which could help me improve my writing or stories, is most welcome. I always ‘like’ the review on the site, whether that be Amazon or Goodreads. Once, on the latter, a woman gave me three stars for Attic of the Mind, the book she won via a giveaway. After ‘liking’ her review, she moved the rating down to two stars. I wasn’t sure whether she was wanting to engage me in a debate about her thoughts, but I would never comment on a review, even if I’m intrigued by it, as reading a book is an individual experience, and it wouldn’t be professional for me to engage negatively with a reader.
Who are the authors you admire, and why?
The first authors who grabbed my attention as a teenager were Anita Brookner and Vera Brittain. The latter wrote Testament Of Youth, and living near Buxton, where Brittain once lived, the book shaped my adolescence in part. Although it was an autobiography of a young woman facing war, I related to her. Brookner wrote wonderful fiction focusing on people and relationships, something I enjoy writing about myself, perhaps influenced by Brookner.
I, of course, enjoy reading crime fiction. I’m fond of Agatha Christie, P.D. James and Ian Rankin, as they all write in a way that draws the reader in. Rebus, is a genius of a character created by Rankin, and Christie depicted quintessential England with finely penned characters.
Give me some advice about writing…
Read extensively, but don’t imitate other authors. Find your own voice by writing and rewriting. When reading your work, read it out loud, and see how it sounds. Is the speech believable? Do the sentences run easily off the tongue? Vary the length of your sentences to keep the writing alive. Write what you enjoy, even if you need to research it; if you’re enjoying the story, hopefully the reader will too. If you’re bored, chances are the reader will be too. Lastly, I would say, enjoy the process of writing and creating a story. Enjoy!
What’s next for you?
The third DI Wednesday novel, ‘Shadows in the Mind’, comes out in May 2015. The crime in this story takes place in a psychiatric unit. Then in June 2015, a contemporary novel, Garlic & Gauloises, is released. This story takes place mainly in France, in a writing retreat. I like to write both crime and contemporary fiction to keep my mind and writing fresh.
I already have a contract with the publisher for the fourth DI Wednesday novel, What Happens After, which takes place in a hotel, where the guest are all attending a divorce workshop.