Following on from Part 1 of my interview with the lovely Val Penny last week, here comes Part 2! I first met Val at the Swanwick Summer Writers’ School in 2016. I’m delighted to say since then Val has come south and discovered the joys of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but more on that a little later.
Val and I share, with Fiona Park and Jennifer C Wilson, the honour of being named characters in Beatrice Fishback’s cosy mystery Winter Writerland. But which one of us committed the murder? No spoilers here… do read the book and find out!
Val writes crime fiction and has launched a new series, set in Edinburgh, based on Detective Hunter Wilson. The blurb for her first novel is:-
Hunter by name – Hunter by nature:
DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.
As well as tackling a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson has to focus on murder, thanks to a corpse being discovered on a golf course. He goes on to witness a second murder but more is to come… and he has to work with the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.
Hunter’s Chase is the first novel in Val’s Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.
How much research do you do?
I did need to do a lot of research for Hunter’s Chase. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed that. When I was choosing places for action to take place in my novel, I needed to check that what I was asking of my characters could actually happen. That was fun. Revisiting and exploring again the beautiful city of Edinburgh is always a joy.
Also, you will not be surprised to know that I do not have first-hand knowledge of drug trafficking! I found the research for that quite exciting: of course it was all theoretical research.
I had to research the roles of Crime Scene Investigators too and received a great deal of assistance with that from my friend Kate Bendelow. Her book, The Real CSI: A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers, is indispensable. I was also lucky to have good support when I was researching police procedures. This came from former Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Gibbon. His book, The Crime Writers’ Casebook, is invaluable to those writing historical or modern day crime stories.
This just goes to confirm research is necessary for fiction writing. Even when writing fantasy as I do, I need knowledge of how our world works to be able to create my own. One huge advantage crime writers have is there are more resources, including talks and courses out there now, often from ex-police people, to help get depictions in crime novels as accurate as possible. (Both Kate Bendelow and DCI Stuart Gibbon have spoken at Swanwick Summer Writers’ School).
For my new book, Hunter’s Revenge, I had to research East Germany during the 1960s and 1970s. I knew very little about the regime and found the research most interesting.
How have you found networking? Why do you think it helpful?
Writing is said to be a solitary occupation and, in one way it is, as you have to work alone. However, meeting other authors and sharing methods of working, elements of research and discussing professional services including editing, publishers and promotion of books is interesting. It takes away any feeling of isolation to know that you are part of a community of writers who are genuinely passionate about their craft.
This is a major plus to going to conferences such as the Winchester Writers’ Festival or Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, but good writing classes can also foster a sense of being part of a community of writers.
One of my issues is getting the balance between writing new material and promoting the current material right! How are you finding this? Any tips to pass on? (I for one would be grateful!).
This s a tricky one. I think you have to organise your week strictly and ensure you have 27 hours in every day and at least 8 days in a week! Beyond that, I do struggle with the juggling act.
It is always good to know, as a writer, you’re not alone with this struggle!
It was great to meet up at Winchester, Val. What were your favourite courses here and what do you think you’ve got out of them? What did you like best about Swanwick?
I thoroughly enjoyed the Winchester Writers’ Festival. It is amazing how much the organisers fit into three days. Our friend, Simon Hall, had recommended the Winchester event to me in order that I could meet with agents and publishers. That was the part of the weekend that was most foreign to me and I found that quite a stressful but useful experience.
Also, I thought the key note speech by Lemn Sissay at Winchester was inspirational. He is a fine poet and a thought provoking speaker.
Lemn Sissay held the audience enthralled. It was also a very good humoured speech. Got the Festival off to an excellent start
When I go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School I most enjoy meeting with writers of all styles and genres who are passionate about their art. The friendliness of the delegates is beyond compare and the setting of the conference centre is beautiful.
I enjoy the wide variety of courses that are offered at Swanwick and the encouragement afforded to writers at all stages of their writing. I also like the fact that there is a strong emphasis on inclusiveness in all aspects of the activities.
It is so important for writers, even experienced authors, to meet with others who are interested in this craft to enhance techniques and explore new methods of working. Meeting with other authors does fire the imagination and fills writers with determination to complete their works in progress.
What are you hoping to achieve with your series?
Each of my characters is part of a family and I hope to explore the dynamics of human social interaction and to do that through the medium of the traditional crime novel.
Hunter’s Chase is available to order from Amazon as well.
Val Penny on social media:
Many thanks for your time, Val. Very best of luck with your series. I think it might be nice to finish with a reminder that all authors appreciate reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc whether it is a one line or one paragraph kind. The only criteria needed? You need to be honest! (A bit ironic when you think about it for reviewing crime fiction but there you go!).
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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