I am delighted to welcome crime writer, Margaret Duffy, as my guest this month.
Margaret, your website mentions your Czech granddad. Was he the person who inspired your passion for creating and writing stories began?
Although my lovely Czech Grandad told me spooky stories about castles with corridors where candles suddenly blew out he died after having had several strokes when I was quite young so any connection with him must be in my genes. The Czechs apparently are known to be story-tellers. My Dad had a novel called Many Bridges published in the fifties that was based on truth, the Czech Resistance during the Second World War. My flights of fancy started with writing a play with me acting all the parts, six of them, performed in the living room in front of my parents. I really hope they weren’t too bored.
Your work has been delightfully described as ‘police procedural with a touch of romance’, do you have to keep the balance carefully, as crime is your first love – so to speak?
My characters are married which I suppose is also a bit boring. Twice actually as Ingrid (Langley) found Patrick (Gillard) so insufferable at one stage that she threw him out (of her cottage) and went on to smash his classical guitar. She can be like that sometimes. Later, when he was recovering after being horribly injured serving in Special Services and turned up on her doorstep saying he had to find a working partner for a new job in MI5 she took pity on him. But don’t worry he said, no relationship, no sex, just a socialising job, perhaps at house parties given by the rich and famous. In a word, spy-hunting. They soon threw the sex reservation bit out of the window when the old magic of their original relationship resurfaced.
DCI James Carrick of Bath CID eventually marries his one-time DS Joanna Mackenzie too and the four end up working on cases together when Patrick and Ingrid are recruited by the National Crime Agency.
To date you have had over 20 Patrick Gillards, 4 James Carrick and 3 stand alone novels published. Was it the character, setting, or crime that inspired these?
It’s these characters that inspire me all the time, I’m much more interested in how they get the better of serious criminals than the crimes themselves. And criminals are usually rather stupid.
Do you plan each novel out meticulously before writing a first draft?
No, I never know how the plot will develop or end when I start, I just write until it sort of grabs me. I don’t do drafts either, just make corrections and polish it as I go. I find it helps me to picture exactly what’s going on.
What is the most fascinating piece of research you have stumbled across when researching a novel?
The most interesting piece of research I ever did was to read a paper on the various changes that take place with regard to dead bodies when they’re immersed in water.
When did you fall in love with the beautiful city of Bath?
We lived near Bath for several years and I had a job in the City centre. I was struck how, just behind the tourist-thronged streets, beautiful buildings steeped in history and obvious wealth were slum areas, drunks and the homeless. A good place to set crime stories. It’s changed a lot for the better now though.
You are a member of the Crime Writers’ Association – what does the organisation mean to you?
The CWA is marvellous from the point of view that it’s so rewarding and valuable to mix and talk to people of like mind.
What key advice would you share with aspiring writers?
Aspiring writers should never take no for an answer, just work hard to improve what you’re trying to achieve.
What has been the highlight of your writing career to date?
The highlight of my writing career was getting my first crime novel, A Murder of Crows, published.
What is next for Margaret?
What next? I’m working on number twenty eight, Gillard’s Sting, and also trying to interest an agent, as mine doesn’t handle it, in a sci-fi crime novel, The Killing Mind.
Many thanks for your time in answering my questions and sharing some insight into your writing world. I wish you every success with your new project and hope you let us know when it is published.