I'm chuffed to bits to welcome Mel Sherratt to the blog today, a prolific author of gritty crime fiction and women's fiction. I first discovered Mel through her DS Allie Shenton books, and as the first novel in her new DS Eden Berrisford series, The Girls Next Door, was published last week, I thought it was high time we sat down for a chat...
I started out writing women’s fiction, but my writing became darker. I began to work as a local housing officer, which gave me a great background in community spirit and the daily problems faced by some. So I wrote the first three book in The Estate Series.
When those were rejected, I wrote Taunting the Dead, a British police procedural/psychological thriller. When that took off, I dusted down the three estate books that had been rejected and self-published those too.
Off the back of that success, I signed with Thomas & Mercer, who then asked for more books to follow on from Taunting the Dead. So that was the start of the DS Allie Shenton Series, which is set in my home city of Stoke-on-Trent. There are three of those now and I’m not sure if they will stay as a trilogy or not.
Now, I’m writing a third series featuring another Detective Sergeant, Eden Berrisford. This one is a mixture of all the books I’ve written so far. It’s set in the same fictional city as The Estate Series and a few of those characters pop in and out of the book too.
So in terms of producing so much, it’s the reason why I set the third series, DS Eden Berrisford, in the same fictional city as the first, to make it easier for me to keep on top of everything.
As for my lighter side, I’ve written three novels under the pen name of Marcie Steele, and I’m not sure I’ll ever write any more. But never say never – I suppose if a good storyline pops into my head I’d be off writing it.
Not a short answer to that question, sorry!
How much of your novels do you outline, and how much do you allow the story to develop on its own while you're writing?
My books always have multiple characters and usually three subplots, so I tend to work out beginnings, middles and endings for each subplot, marry them together and then start writing. I’m a fast and furious first draft writer, and I tend to get about 50-60k words down of the whole story, go back and read it and then address plot holes and add in any new things that I have thought of during the first draft. So the book grows organically.
I also know so many crime writers now that I have a ton of information at my hands. My best crime writing buddy, Caroline Mitchell, used to be a serving police officer so she is always my first port of call, and then I have a Facebook group where we can pose questions and others answer them. It’s a wealth of knowledge as there are so many crime writers from all walks of life. I also speak to the local chief constable if I need to.
It's often said that minor characters don't know they're minor characters - all your books have a great supporting cast; is there one in particular that you think you'd like to give his/her own story to, if you had time? (Or if you’ve already done so, why this particular character?)
In The Estate Series, I guess the main conduit is housing officer, Josie Mellor. When I wrote this series, I wanted standalone novels with resolved storylines in each book. It was really the estate that was the main character, if that doesn’t sound weird. On hindsight, as Josie Mellor features in each book, sometimes as a major character or as a minor one, I wish I had created her as the series character.
That said, during that series, I write about a minor character in one book who will then go on to be a major character in the next book
What’s next for you this year?
Hmm… difficult question. I have a few projects lined up but I can’t say much more than that at the moment. I’m sure there will be more from DS Eden Berrisford, possibly another book in The Estate Series, or even a spin off, and then who knows…
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Mel - it's been great to have you here!
Join the Kay Hunter mailing list: