We Speak to Leigh Russell about her York-set Crime Fiction
Crime fiction readers will love million-copy-selling and award-winning novelist Leigh Russell’s books
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I taught English in a secondary school and didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties. I’ve now had 25 novels published in just over 10 years, so you could say I’ve been making up for lost time. As well as writing, I chair the panel of judges for the Crime Writers Association’s international Debut Dagger Award, and I’m a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund. As an experienced writer, I use my teaching skills to run online fiction writing courses and I enjoy supporting other writers, and sharing my experience with them. The only activity I enjoy even more than writing is spending time with my family.
How did you get into writing?
After spending many years as an avid reader, one day I was struck by an idea for a story. On starting to write it down, I was surprised to discover that I had a real passion for writing. I was hooked! That was 12 years ago and since then, I have rarely gone a day without writing.
What inspired you to write crime?
Crime is conflict between characters, which creates an opportunity for drama, tension and suspense, all of which helps to keep readers turning the pages of a book. I dislike reading about crime in the real world yet, in fiction, murder investigations become a source of entertainment, focusing on the conflict between good and evil.
What can we expect from Deep Cover?
In Deep Cover, my detective Geraldine Steel and her colleague Ian Peterson are working on separate cases. Although they are experienced police officers, they both face extreme danger in the narratives which are interwoven throughout the book. Geraldine is tasked with hunting for an elusive killer whose victims appear to be selected at random. She pursues several unlikely leads in an attempt to solve the case, inadvertently putting herself at risk when she discovers the truth. Meanwhile, Ian is ostensibly working undercover for the Metropolitan police, but is actually working on a private mission of his own which threatens to cost him his life. So, you can expect plenty of tension and suspense. You will have to read the book to find out whether my detectives survive…
Why set your series in York?
I fell in love with York on my first visit, so when it became necessary to choose a new setting for my murder investigations, there was really only one choice for me. Relocating Geraldine to York has given me an ideal excuse to keep coming back to the city.
What do you love about York?
There is always a wonderful sense of history about a city built on a river. On our first visit I was captivated by the combination of medieval and modern architecture. We also discovered Bettys tea shop, which was a bonus! But above all I was struck by the warmth and friendliness of the locals.
What makes it such a good place to set a crime series?
York, with its atmospheric medieval streets and numerous snickelways, is the perfect setting for murder mysteries. In the real world, York is actually a very safe place to live. Very few murders occur in the city but, of course, in fiction, victims can be killed as many times as the writer chooses.
How does it feel to know your series has been so popular?
After 12 years, and with over a million books sold, I still find it hard to believe that so many people are keenly following my detective’s career. Although I have often been spellbound by the magic of other writers’ stories, it is a thrill to know that I have been able to create that magic for other readers. It’s paradoxical because, while I’m enormously proud of myself for having achieved this success, at the same time, it’s a very humbling experience.
Hopes for the future?
In a general sense, I simply want to keep on writing books, reading, and passing on some of what I’ve learned to new and aspiring writers. It’s important to keep the enchantment of stories alive and I feel privileged to be playing a role, however insignificant, in creating that magic. More specifically, I am waiting – with some trepidation – to see how Deep Cover is received. I’m very pleased with how the story works, and hope that readers will consider it a really exciting addition to the series.
Deep Cover (No Exit Press) is out now and is available from all good bookshops or via noexit.co.uk/deep-cover.