With an unconventional route to publication as gripping and twisty as her novels, Jane Isaac’s new release, Beneath the Ashes has just been released, and I was over the moon when she invited me to include this interview as part of her official blog tour. Let’s get stuck into the questions!
Your publishing career seems to have started off a little unusually in that your first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was released by an American publisher – how did that happen for an English author?
Like many writers, I’ve had a rollercoaster ride to publication. When I finished my first book, An Unfamiliar Murder, I was still studying creative writing with the Writers Bureau. My tutor read the sample chapters and recommended that I send it to a small publisher called Crème De La Crime who accepted submissions from unpublished writers. They responded within a week to say that they couldn’t accept new submissions, having just been taken over by a large publisher, but they enjoyed the piece and suggested I send it to a couple of agents who were interested in new crime writers. I really didn’t expect to hear anything, you get so many rejections in this industry, so I was stunned when they both wanted to sign it!
To cut a long story short, after a lovely day at their Kensington offices I signed up with one of the agents and they submitted the novel to the big publishing houses. The result was disappointing: we had lovely feedback, they all seemed to like the work, but nobody offered to sign the novel. My agent suggested I submit to the independent publishers and I signed with US based Rainstorm Press within a month.
Rainstorm Press were only able to distribute books online in the UK, so when I finished my second book, The Truth Will Out, I decided to throw myself back into the slush pile and try for a British publisher. Luckily I signed with Legend Press and Beneath the Ashes will be my third title with them.
“I’ve always loved the twists and turns of a good mystery”
What attracted you about writing crime thrillers in the first place?
I was one of those children who used to read Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven under the bedclothes by torchlight, desperately trying to get to the end of the book before my parents found me. Later I used to sit around the television with my family watching Hercule Poirot on a Sunday evening, trying to guess ‘whodunit’. I’ve always loved the twists and turns of a good mystery, so when I started writing fiction it seemed the obvious genre for me.
You have two series, the DCI Helen Lavery series, and the DI Will Jackson series – when you get a new idea for a story, what factors determine which of your fictional detectives gets the case to solve?
In theory, the themes could relate to either one of the characters as they both head homicide investigations. The progression of the DI Will Jackman series is largely due to my publisher and I’ve already written the third in this series, The Lies Within, which is due to be published in May 2017.
I am also working on an outline for a new DCI Helen Lavery novel though, and very much look forward to working with her again.
After all this time, with four novels under your belt, what writing process do you find works best for you? Do you outline at all, or simply make a start and see where the story takes you?
When I wrote my first book I didn’t outline or plan at all, I just worked through chapter by chapter. It was a completely self-indulgent process (At the time I didn’t know whether it would ever be published or even if I would ever even finish it!), which took me around eighteen months to complete.
I have sped up a bit as I’ve gone along. With my last two books, I’ve had to write to a deadline which rather focuses the mind, and I’ve got into the habit of writing a three/four page outline of the story in advance now, before I jump in, so that the novel does have some sense of direction, although inevitably things do change along the way.
When you’re not writing or promoting your work, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Since I still have a day job and a family to look after, spare time is quite rare. I enjoy trudging over the fields where I live in rural Northamptonshire, UK with my Labrador, Bollo. I also love indulging my other passion of travel and am always daydreaming about what country or city I can visit next. Needless to say, my bucket list is endless!
Beneath the Ashes, the second in the DI Will Jackson series was released on 1 November – can you tell us a bit about this new crime thriller?
Beneath the Ashes is a novel about secrets. You think you know someone really well, but do you ever truly know them? Let me share my blurb with you:
The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.
When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.
Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?