Interview: Pamela Murray | Living North

Interview: Pamela Murray


We sit down with Boldon-based author Pamela Murray to find out more about her new book, Murderland

Can you tell us a bit about Murderland?
Murderland started off as something entirely different. I felt the original version had to be based in Manchester, but when the only way forward was to kill off one of the two main characters, I knew had to change it. It’s not the best idea to kill off a primary character after only a few chapters of the book! As I’d already researched Manchester I still kept it primarily there, but the North East plays a big part in it.

The story centres around the two main detectives, DI Joe Burton and DS Sally Fielding. Burton is a Londoner and Fielding is from Boldon in the North East but she is estranged from her family and hasn’t been home for over a decade. It opens with a gruesome death in a warehouse in Boldon Colliery, and then the main action takes place in Manchester. However, during the course of the investigation, Fielding is forced to return to her roots. When several elderly people are found murdered, each with a playing card left beside their bodies, Burton and Fielding come to believe that they have a serial killer at large. It then becomes apparent that the killer could be closer to home than anyone ever imagined.

How did you get into writing?
The first time I saw my name on a book was when I was eleven – but I wasn’t published at such a young age! I remember being presented with a book when leaving primary school and there was a special label stuck on the inside page with my name written on it. I remember being thrilled to see my name in print. When I moved to secondary school, I met my now-lifelong friend Heather and we became writing buddies, sharing stories that we’d written for one another. In more recent years she introduced me to South Shields Writers’ Circle where she was already a member. Fellow local writer, A.M. Peacock, was also part of the group at one point.   

I kept writing on and off over the years, but in 2015 I entered a short story competition run by a children’s publisher in Edinburgh. The story took me quite a few months to write and I loved it, thinking that I might have a chance of being shortlisted. But sadly it was not to be, and I didn’t write anything else for a number of years after that.

Despite disbanding, the Writers’ Circle still has a Facebook page for former members, and when Adam Peacock mentioned a short story competition at The Word in South Shields last year, I thought that I would try to see if I still had it in me. When his first novel, Open Grave, was published by Bloodhound Books, I was inspired to try to write crime myself. It came surprisingly easily, and I managed to start and finish Murderland within two months. I sent it off to the same publisher and, much to my shock and surprise, it was accepted as part of a two-book deal.

What do you think of the North East crime writing scene?
We seem to have quite a number of crime writers up here. LJ Ross’ murder mystery books are based on North East landmarks, and are bestsellers, and then of course there’s Ann Cleeves who, although not originally from the area, moved to Northumberland in the 80s. Her Shetland and Vera Stanhope series of novels have both been made into TV series, and I had the pleasure of appearing in the latter on two occasions as a supporting artist. 

Newcastle Noir, the North East crime writing festival which first began in 2014, has now become a big annual event, attracting writers and fans of crime fiction from all over the country – so it’s safe to say that the North East crime writing scene is thriving!

Why are you drawn to writing crime?
I hadn’t tried it before so it’s all new ground for me, but I’m always open to the challenge of writing something in a different genre. But when I read I tend to go for crime novels, so they’ve definitely inspired me. 

Do you have any creative writing rituals?
No, none. I just open the laptop and see where the writing takes me. I’m often surprised by the direction a story takes at times, as they seem to have a mind of their own.

Who are some of your literary inspirations?
I’m a huge fan of Kathy Reichs. I first started reading her books after watching the TV series, Bones. I love her matter-of-fact style, her humour, and the casual writing approach which makes for an easy read despite all the technical terms regarding forensic anthropology. Ellery Queen books may not be as popular today as they once were, but I’ve read many of them over the years, again that started after watching the TV series in the 70s. They have both played a big part in what I’m doing now.

How would you spend an ideal day off?
I’m lucky in that every day is a day off now that I'm retired. However, I do enjoy a weekly visit to the Metrocentre, usually popping into a coffee shop and sometimes taking in a film when I’m there.  But out of everything, I enjoy spending time with my son and my three grandchildren.

What are you currently reading, watching and listening to?
I’m currently reading The Writer’s Guide To Editing Fiction: How To Polish Your Writing by Morgen Bailey, and A.M. Peacock’s Grave Intent.  

I’ve just finished watching series three of Stranger Things. I love anything science-fiction and fantasy, and this is such a great series. I’m also watching The Blacklist with one of my favourite actors, James Spader.

I don’t listen to music as a rule, despite the fact that I can happily watch a musical or a musical biopic – I loved the recent Rocketman.

You can buy Pamela’s book here 

Published in: July 2019

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