I had the privilege of interviewing Leigh and here is what was asked and answered.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
There was never any Grand Plan for me to become an author. A few years ago I had an idea for a story, began to write it down, and found I couldn't stop writing. I was hooked, and have rarely gone a day without writing since then. My whole career as an author evolved from that one idea, that one flash of inspiration. I wrote compulsively in my spare time for six weeks, until the story had written itself out.
What was your journey to being published like?
Once that first manuscript was finished, I realised I had actually written a book! With no expectations of hearing back, I sent out the manuscript to a publishing imprint that specialises in crime fiction. Two weeks later they telephoned me to express interest, and invited me to a meeting. Six weeks after that, we were signing a contract for a three book deal for a crime series featuring Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel. Those few weeks were a whirlwind of excitement.
My first manuscript was published as CUT SHORT, which went on to be shortlisted for a major award. The first three books were duly published as CUT SHORT, ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END. All were well reviewed and went on to become bestsellers on amazon, as well as in the bookshops.
After that success, my publisher signed me up for another three titles in the series, of which DEATH BED and STOP DEAD are now published. This year my publisher has not only commissioned a further three in the Geraldine Steel series, they have also signed me up for the first three in a spin off series featuring Geraldine's sergeant, Ian Peterson, who works with Geraldine in the first three titles in her series.
If you got any rejections, how did you handle them?
I was very lucky to find a publisher as quickly as I did, so I didn't have to deal with any rejection. My experience isn't typical, and my advice to writers seeking publication would be to keep trying. Make sure your manuscript is as good as it possibly can be before you submit to agents and publishers. You only have one chance to impress.
What was your biggest surprise or honor in your career thus far?
There have been quite a few surprises, and a few honours as well, in my writing career so far. It's difficult to pick out one above all the others, but when Cut Short was shortlisted for a Crime Writers Association New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel, that was definitely a highlight.
Do you have a writing ritual?
No. People often ask me if I'm disciplined in my writing. To be honest, discipline doesn't really figure in my life. I'm too disorganised. I write whenever and wherever I can. Technology has made life easier. With an iPad, it's possible to write anywhere, any time, in the car - but only in the passenger seat! - on the train, literally anywhere. But what makes a book is not the physical act of typing words, it's the thought and ideas that direct the words on the page.
What are some of your promotion secrets?
There are no secrets, but I do a fair amount of promotion. These days, I think all authors are expected to take time off from writing to engage with their reading public. I'm fortunate that I enjoy going out meeting people, talking at crime festivals, in libraries, at universities and colleges, and connecting with people online. I suppose my 'secret' is just to enjoy the promotion, and have fun with it.
What's up next for you?
The fifth title in the Geraldine Steel series, STOP DEAD, has just hit the shelves in print. The manuscript for the sixth is with the editor, for publication in 2014, and I'm planning the seventh. Meanwhile, the first title in the Ian Peterson series, COLD SACRIFICE, will be out in print in September, available as an ebook in June, and I'm half way through writing the second in the series.
I do some creative writing teaching, and will be speaking at Bristol University this month. In August, I'm looking forward to running a creative writing retreat on the beautiful Greek island of Skyros, for the prestigious Writers Lab. Together with talks in libraries, panels at literary festivals, and research, life is hectic. But my main focus is writing, research into writing, thinking about writing, and writing.
As for what's next for me - more writing!
Leigh Russell began her writing career with the publication of her debut crime thriller, Cut Short, in 2009. Inspired by an innocuous encounter with a stranger in Leigh's local park, Cut Short went on to be short listed for the prestigious CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel. Since then the series has grown into a string of popular novels translated into several languages, hitting best seller lists on amazon and WH Smith's, and reaching the top 10 downloaded books on iTunes. In addition to glowing reviews in journals as diverse as The Times and Star Magazine, Leigh's books have been included in many lists including Top Read on Eurocrime, Best Crime Novel on Crime Time, Best Fiction Book on the Miami Examiner, and Great Crime Sleuths on Lovereading.
When a successful businessman is brutally murdered, the police suspect his glamorous wife and her young lover. Then the victim's business partner suffers the same gruesome fate. When yet another body is discovered, seemingly unrelated to the first two, the police are baffled. The only clue is DNA that leads them to two women: one dead, the other in prison. With a steady stream of bodies arriving at the morgue, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is desperate to find the killer before there is another deadly attack.
Thank you, Leigh, you are a new to me mystery author, I'm glad to meet you and your books sound great.