Bookpleasures today is pleased to have as our guest, British author Geraldine Evans. Geraldine is the traditional-turned-indie author of the 15-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn British Detective series. In order of publication (but can be read as a stand alone), the series consists of the following: Dead Before Morning, Down Among the Dead Men, Death Line, The Hanging Tree, Absolute Poison, Dying For You, Bad Blood, Love Lies Bleeding, Blood on the Bones, A Thrust to the Vitals, Death Dues, All the Lonely People, Death Dance, Deadly Reunion and Kith and Kill. Her other procedural series is Casey & Catt: Up in Flames and A Killing Karma.
She is also the author of the biographical historical novel: Reluctant Queen: The Story of Mary Rose Tudor, the Little Sister of Infamous English King Henry VIII, a romantic suspense/thriller: The Egg Factory, and several other fiction and non-fiction books, some under pen-names.
Norm: Good day Geraldine and thanks for participating in our interview.
Geraldine: Thanks for the invitation, Norm.
Norm: How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
To answer the second question first: the thought of a return to that succession of dead-end jobs I endured after I foolishly called a halt to my formal education at the age of sixteen. That acts as a big stick when I start to flag. A few whacks around the head with a tabloid scandal-sheet revealing the latest shock-horror story about big business and the way it treats the little guy generally provides sufficient incentive to get fingers to laptop. Also, I love writing. I love being my own boss. I thrive on being in charge of me and able to keep all the decision-making powers for good or ill.
First question: by the time I reached my twenties I felt I needed to do more with my life. The thought that 'this was it' until retirement held no appeal. I'd always been a reader, loved words and putting them together (hopefully) in the right order :-), so I decided to try my hand at writing. Ignorance was bliss.
At least until the first rejections starting arriving. But I'm nothing if not determined. I wrote a book a year for six long, weary years, with nothing but rejections, until finally, the last one was published. These were all romances. But when my follow-up romance was rejected, I decided to make the switch to crime. The match fit with my very first mystery, Dead Before Morning, which was published by Macmillan in the UK and St Martin's Press and Worldwide in the US.
Norm: Where do you see book publishing heading?
Geraldine: Things move so swiftly now that it's difficult to make predictions. But online and digital publishing are here to stay. I think traditional publishers are going to have to accept that and not be dragged, kicking and protesting all the way, into the modern world.
Luddites invariably lose, history tells us that. The Big Five have had things just the way they like them for too long, to the detriment of most authors and their earnings, which is why so many mid-list authors like myself have left them in droves. Who wouldn't prefer to earn 70% of the book's sale price as an indie on Amazon's Kindle as opposed to the 25% (less the agent's 15%) on offer at most traditional publishers? Not me, that's for sure. No contest!
Norm: Why have you been drawn to writing detective novels? As a follow up, are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the detective novel? Does it even have a form?
Geraldine: I write detective fiction because it's one of the genres I prefer to read. When I started, it seemed to me a sound idea to try to write in a genre with which I was familiar. Okay, that didn't work in the romance genre, but I was never a big consumer of romance, which I suppose bears out my theory. My detective, Joe Rafferty, isn't exactly your traditional British detective. He's not middle-class, for a start. He's indifferently educated and comes from a family who think -- if he must be a copper -- he might at least have the decency to be a bent one.
I don't know about aesthetics, but it is a genre with very elastic sub-genres, from cozy to the darkest noir and everything in between. It also has a wide readership. All plus points in any author's decision on what to write.
Norm: Are you a plot or character writer?
Geraldine: Character, definitely. I was influenced by my own preferences as a reader: if I felt no empathy with the main character, I didn't greatly care if he lived, died, or got cheated in a poker game. I probably wouldn't know anyway because I'd be unlikely to finish a book whose characters left me cold. I leave the plot-driven writing to the thriller authors who do it so well; when a thriller is sufficiently fast-paced character empathy is not so important.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write? Do you find it easy reading back your own work?
At the risk of repetition, the thought of a return to those dead-end jobs is a sure-fired way to encourage me to focus! But I'm not one of those writers who needs perfect peace and solitude to write. As I spent so many years writing during lunch breaks in the various day jobs, with other staff chit-chatting all around me, I managed to develop the ability to tune out pretty quickly.
Reading back my own work is not something I find difficult, particularly if I leave it aside for a day or two. Then typos and errors and sentences that lack rhythm leap out and demand attention as do plotting quandaries. Besides, I enjoy re-writing. The first draft is generally written in the white-heat of enthusiasm. The real hard graft comes in the second and third drafts.
Norm: Why did you choose to become an indie author? As a follow up, how difficult or easy was it to make the change?
I turned indie because I wanted -- needed -- to earn a full-time living from my work and traditional publishing wasn't offering that, not even after eighteen years and eighteen books. Once I learned from various authors' blogs about publishing independently, I decided to cut my losses and go all out for indie. I was fortunate in that I was able to get back the rights in all but one of my books, which has been a big help in enabling me to earn a living.
For me, it was the easiest decision in the world. The brain of an Einstein wasn't a requirement fortunately. I had a large back-list that was doing nothing more useful than languishing on a shelf in a darkened room, ignored and unloved by various publishers. But I knew, with indie publishing, I could invest them with new life and earn from them. And I have. I'm hoping the back-list and new works will keep me going until I depart for that internet in the sky.
But, of course, grasping the technical aspects can take a little while especially if, like me, there's no way you'd be allowed to become a signed-up member of the Geek Guild. See my last answer for a good tip on this (no, not about joining the Geek Guild (!) but about where on the internet to find a good source for advice on all aspects of the indie life.
Norm: Could you tell us something about your book Dead Before Morning? What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read the book? What served as the primary inspiration for the book?
Rafferty & Llewellyn series is a character-driven series, each
book in which can be read as a standalone. As an 'Ordinary Josephine'
myself, I wanted to write about a detective who was an 'Ordinary
Joe', a working-class man, rather than the usual educated
middle-class detective that is the norm in British novels.
It involves Joe Rafferty as the Senior Investigating Officer in his first murder case since his promotion to DI. The media has dubbed the murder victim "The Faceless Lady" and has Rafferty and his investigation under a remorseless spotlight. The demands of the job are not made any easier when Rafferty's ma, Kitty Rafferty, employs her usual tactic of emotional blackmail to persuade him to get his distant cousin out of pokey in time for his wedding to ma's niece. As she's not particular how he acomplishes the deed, just as long as he does it, Rafferty knows for sure that a malign fate is about to have some fun and games at his expense. And it does.
I think I was the primary inspiration for Rafferty. I suppose he's basically me as I would be, if I was a man and a police officer. I've added some elements (his law-bending family) and taken away others (I'm a keen reader and love to learn, Rafferty not so much).
It was written to appeal to readers who enjoy mysteries that include a fair amount of humour along with the murders. There's always a funny sub-plot involving Rafferty's family (or sometimes Rafferty himself) getting up to things they shouldn't. So if your readers like the odd chuckle and think they might enjoy pondering how Rafferty's going to get himself out of his latest little family difficulty and at the same time solve the murder/s, maybe they should test the water with this one.
Norm: Did you know the ending of the book at the beginning?
Geraldine: No. I discovered it as I went along. Probably not the best way to go about things, but 'seat of pants' writing felt natural to me when I started. It still does. I try to do a little more planning now, but not a lot. I enjoy that feeling of wondering where I'm going with this. All that panic-stricken thinking can, I find, produce some off-the-wall ideas, which I love.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Norm: What is next for Geraldine Evans?
Geraldine: I'm trying to finish the editing and formatting of the last of my Rafferty back-list, get started on the second draft of #16 in the series, and start the research for the second book in the other string to my bow: biographical historical novels.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you?
Geraldine: Probably if I had any advice for authors just starting out.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Geraldine Thank you, Norm. I've enjoyed it. Thanks for the invitation.