Tag Archives: Anne Tyler

The Intel: Martin Davies

We love authors here, and we love books — so it goes without saying that we love publishers. Which is why it’s always a pleasure to discover that there’s a new kid in town. Canelo is a new digital publisher, which combines book publishing and new media. It’s the brainchild of experienced people from the book trade, developers and marketers and the like — the kind of people who know what they’re doing.

And Canelo has already hit the ground running with a trio of crime titles and authors, which we’re going to feature here, because we’re good like that at Crime Thriller Fella, because we love authors and we love books and — well, you get the message.

Mrs Hudson And The Spirits' CurseSo, let’s talk about Holmes. You may have heard of him. He’s a character that many authors have reinterpreted over the last century, and now Martin Davies has introduced a clever new aspect to the great sleuth — his enigmatic housekeeper. In Mrs Hudson And The Spirits’ Curse, it’s Mrs. Hudson, and her orphaned assistant Flotsam, who is front and centre on crime-fighting duties.

Author Martin Davies grew up in the North West of England and works in broadcasting. He gives us the intel on Hudson, Raffles, our seemingly unquenchable thirst for The World’s Greatest Consulting Detective, and, of course, the best way to get down to the nitty-gritty of writing…

Mrs Hudson’s name seems oddly familiar – tell us about her…

Her name is certainly a lot more familiar now, in the wake of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, than it was when I first sat down to write The Spirits’ Curse. In the Conan Doyle stories, Mrs Hudson is little more than a name and a presence in the background at Baker Street; her own character and history are gloriously neglected – giving us a wonderful opportunity to unleash our imaginations. 

How does your interpretation of Mrs Hudson build on the Conan Doyle character?

With so little to build upon, I’ve had to supply a lot of my own bricks. But it is obvious from the Conan Doyle stories that Holmes and Watson are not domesticated types, and I loved the idea that for all Holmes’ scientific knowledge and deductive powers, there might be crucial gaps in his knowledge of housekeeping matters that Mrs Hudson would find easy to fill. And of course, were she to have had a long career of domestic service in the houses of the rich and famous (and why not?), she might also have powerful contacts of the sort that Holmes and Watson lack.

Do you plan to reinvent any other minor Holmes characters in the series?

Perhaps one or two. I enjoyed including AJ Raffles in the first novel of the series – not a Holmes character, but a character created by Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law – and there may be more, similarly tangential, connections to come.

Martin DaviesWe just can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes – why is that?

I think because he remains a remarkably modern character (just look at how beautifully he was re-imagined for the digital age in the current TV series) and yet there remains a sort of cosiness to the world he inhabits that is a pleasing refuge from the ultra-realism and graphic violence of some modern crime fiction. There may be horrible, violent and gory cases in front of him, but there will still be a fire burning in Baker Street and an honest bobby on patrol just outside.

You say that you can’t work in solitude, and so have to write in cafes, trains and other public places – where’s the oddest place you’ve ever sat down to write?

I wrote the seduction scene of one novel — The Conjuror’s Bird — in the garden of a Spanish monastery.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

It helps to work out some of the basics before you start. I’d like to tell you about the novel that I began in the third person, then rewrote in the first person, then changed back to the third person, then realised that it was all wrong and rewrote again in the first person. I’d like to tell you about it, but I can’t, it’s still too painful.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

Ooo, so many! But to pick a few: Dickens for writing so many remarkable novels; Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa for writing just one; Malcolm Pryce for writing the sort of books I’d love to write; Anne Tyler for writing the sort of books I know I could never write; Shaun Tan for the joyous originality of his genius.

Give me some advice about writing…

Each week, set aside a time and a place for writing, and be realistic: don’t set yourself up to fail. You may only be able to find twenty uninterruptable minutes a week, but if you spend those minutes writing, you will have a novel in the end.

What’s next for Holmes and Mrs Hudson?

A priceless ruby is heading for London, but so is a mysterious magician whose performances coincide with baffling jewellery thefts. Little wonder that Sherlock Holmes is tasked with keeping the famous gem safe… Mrs Hudson and The Malabar Rose will be available in digital format through Canelo very soon.


So, look, Mrs Hudson And The Spirits’ Curse is already out and getting some terrific reviews, and you can buy it at all sorts of digital bookshops, like this one for example.



The Intel: Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths

Photo: Jerry Bauer

We love a bit of synchronicity around here. No sooner had Crime Thriller Fella interviewed Elly Griffiths than the news broke that she’s been long listed for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2014, for her Ruth Galloway novel Dying Fall. This week we were more concerned with her new Galloway novel The Outcast Dead, which we reviewed on Wednesday.

Scroll down a bit and you’ll see that – but not before you get The Intel from Elly on The Outcast Dead, Ruth Galloway and, of course, her writing regime. You will not be disappointed.

In The Outcast Dead you very much explore the anxiety mothers feel when they allow childminders to look after their children – is it important to you that your novels have a theme to power the drama?

In a funny way the theme comes last. I usually start with an archaeological or historical idea, in this case nineteenth century prisoners held under the so-called separate system. Then the prisoner became a woman and a childminder, partly based on the real-life case of Amelia Dyer. This seemed to tie in with the theme of motherhood. Many of my characters seem to be becoming parents. I didn’t plan it this way but it’s one of the benefits of a long series. You can watch the children grow up in real time.

The characters – Ruth, Nelson, Judy and Cathbad among them – have very entangled emotional lives. What comes first character or plot?

As I say, probably the historical idea comes first, then all the other factors come into play. Character, plot and setting are all intermingled in my books. You can’t really separate them.

Norfolk is very much a character in the book – what is it about the county that you find so evocative and mysterious?

So many things! I spent a lot of my childhood in Norfolk and I think there is something magical about places you visited as a child. They retain their sense of awe and wonder. Norfolk also seems very big to me, possibly because I’m still seeing it on a child’s scale. But it’s also because it’s such a rich and varied landscape – and also slightly spooky.

But the main reason I set the books there is because there is such a wealth of archaeology in Norfolk. You have Neolithic flint mines, Bronze and Iron Age relics, Roman remains and a host of other historical sites, right up to the Second World War.

The Outcast DeadYour protagonist Ruth Galloway is both headstrong and insecure – what is it about her that your readers love, do you think?

I’m not really sure but I’m so happy that people love her because I do too! I think people like the fact that Ruth isn’t perfect. She’s shy, overweight and slightly grumpy. She’s insecure about her personal life but very confident in her professional sphere. I think people can relate to that.

Take us through a typical writing day for you?

My children catch the school bus at seven-thirty. Then I make a pot of strong coffee and start work. I try to work from eight to eleven with no interruptions. My mum is housebound and I visit her every day at eleven-thirty so my writing time is quite limited. Having a set time to write works well for me. I’m not easily distracted (certainly not by housework!) and I try to write at least a thousand words a day.

Who are the authors or you love, and why?

My favourite author is Wilkie Collins. I love his sense of place, his humour and his characterization. I think Count Fosco in The Woman in White is the best villain of all time and Marian Halcombe the best heroine. When I was writing The Crossing Places I was very influenced by the description of the Shivering Sands in The Moonstone. I also like David Lodge, Anne Tyler and Alison Lurie.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

That not everyone is pleased for you when you write a book.

How do you deal with feedback?

I honestly think feedback doesn’t help with the creative process. I never show my work to anyone until it’s finished. Then, of course, I get wonderful help and advice from my editor and agent. But they are professionals and it’s their job. Having said that, I love hearing from people who have enjoyed my books. For me that is one of the joys of social media, being able to speak so directly to readers.

How have your own experiences shaped your writing?

I’m sure my life has shaped my writing but, the more I write, the better that is hidden. My early books (published under my real name, Domenica de Rosa) are very raw with personal experience. I’ve learnt to disguise myself now.

Give me some advice about writing…

Write every day and try not to go back on what you’ve written. Press on until you’ve got a final draft. And don’t ask friends and family for feedback!

Dying FallWhat’s your best advice for an author looking to get into the marketplace…

Write to lots of agents and tell them that you’re doing this. The one thing agents can’t stand is the thought that one of their rivals might get their hands on a hot new writer.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a new book out in the autumn. It’s a crime novel but not about Ruth. It’s called The Zig Zag Girl and is set in the theatrical world of the 1950s. The next Ruth book is called The Ghost Fields and will be out early next year.