Author Marnie Riches has had a varied and interesting past – she grew up on a rough estate in Manchester, gain a Masters degree from Cambridge University, been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist and professional fundraiser.
I first came across Marnie’s writing with her debut crime thriller novel, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, which introduced readers to criminologist, Georgie McKenzie. Now, with her new novel out, Born Bad, I’m very happy to welcome Marnie to the blog.
Marnie, welcome to the blog. After a successful career as a children’s author, what attracted you to writing in the crime/thriller genre? Was there a particular author that inspired you to do so?
I had been a fan of Thomas Harris’ “The Silence of the Lambs” for decades and was an avid reader of all things Scandi-Noir. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole books were particular favourites of mine too.
After having the “Time-Hunters” series for HarperCollins Children’s published under the pseudonym, Chris Blake, I had a much more grown-up story idea that simply had to be written – “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die”.
My lead protagonist, George McKenzie was intended to be my answer to Lisbeth Salander. She would be mouthy, brainy and kickass, and the story itself would be as complex and satisfying as “The Silence of the Lambs”, with a great serial killer and intriguing mystery at its heart. Or at least, those were my hopes. At first, the novel was intended as a new-adult thriller, as George is at University in Amsterdam when a killer strikes, but over the series she has grown into a fully-fledged criminologist and the action is very adult indeed!
What sort of research did you undertake for your latest novel, Born Bad?
“Born Bad” is set in Manchester – officially the UK’s most violent city – and follows the lives and tribulations of local crime-lords and their acolytes. It’s a perfect read for those who are fans of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers. Dark, gritty and gripping, or so I’m told by those who’ve reviewed, and with a dash of black humour.
For inspiration, I read through the “Manchester Evening News” (our local paper) to see what sort of crimes had been happened upon by the police. I have a particular interest in trafficking of all kinds and sure enough, a lot of crime stems from trafficking in Manchester. The reports gave me food for thought when creating my characters’ worlds.
The rest came purely from my imagination and experience, however. I’ve spent more than 30 of my 45 years living in Manchester, so I know the city like the back of my hand. The George McKenzie series takes an awful lot of research but “Born Bad” really is a case of writing what you know – although obviously, my criminals all come straight from my fevered imagination!
Do you outline/plot, or do you prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story takes you? Why do you prefer this method of writing?
As I have two series running, I write two books per year. This means that deadlines are tight and I have to be certain the editorial team at Avon are happy with my storyline before I start to write. I simply don’t have the luxury of producing something only to find it needs a complete rewrite. So, I come up with a two-to-six page synopsis first, outlining the story in full: plot, subplots, main characters, high points and the end. I write from this. It’s brief enough to know where the book will take me but allows for a little magic to happen on the way!
What does your writing space look like? Do you have any pre-writing rituals to get you “in the zone”?
I currently work at the end of my dining table in the living room of my horrible bungalow. I’m hoping to extend the house to give myself an office and then I’ll get back to an arrangement where I have my favourite old table and a view of the garden. I use a laptop which is placed on top of a box-set of Roald Dahl books in order to put the screen in my eyeline. I have a separate keyboard and a proper mouse. I sit on a high-backed 1930s dining chair. No doubt, the set-up is terrible for my posture. One day, I’ll actually buy a proper typing chair!
I don’t have any pre-writing rituals. I just sit down almost every day and write until I’ve met my word count. Sometimes, I’ll be finished in three hours. Other times, I’ll sit from 8am to 10.30pm taking time off only to look after my kids and eat. The latter is the most frequent state of affairs! The perspiration takes precedence over the inspiration! I do, however, floss at my “desk”.
How do you structure a typical day to ensure you avoid distractions and hit your word count targets?
I simply start in the morning and keep going until I’ve finished. I have no music on. I try to avoid social media, except just after meal times.
We all occasionally hit a brick wall with our creative endeavours – what do you do to overcome any stumbling blocks?
In the past, when I’ve not had deadlines, I’ve switched project. While I was waiting for my contract for “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die” and subsequent books to be negotiated, I had been writing a young adult high-concept thriller. I got writer’s block 30,000 words in. I left the manuscript and started writing a women’s novel that just poured out of me in three or four months. Now that I’m six thrillers in and will soon be starting my seventh, I simply have to overcome a block.
A friend recommended pre-planning chapters by making a page of notes in a pad first thing in the morning. I find this works a treat. There is also a group of crime-writers who have a place on Facebook where we meet on a “sprint” thread and gee each other on to get a body of work written in thirty minute or hour-long blocks. This works very well.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2017?
I’m about to embark on the line-edits for the second book in my Manchester series – “The Cover-Up”. This will be out in early November. After that, I’m contracted to write a fifth George McKenzie thriller but I have some other ideas that I’m going to be working up into synopses before I start! Watch this space!
Finally, where can we buy your books?
The lovely paperback of “Born Bad” (I adore the cover!) can be bought in the UK from most branches of Tesco and Asda. I think WHSmith is still carrying stock and you can order copies from Waterstones, your local indie bookstore and Amazon too! Obviously, you can get the e-book or excellently-narrated audiobook from Amazon, Kobo and other e-tailers.
The best-selling, award-winning George McKenzie series is currently still only available digitally (though I hope that will change and we’ll see it in print soon), so you can get that from Amazon and all good e-tailers.
I often engage with readers on social media, which is great fun. Do catch me on Twitter – @Marnie_Riches or Facebook. Readers can also sign up to my mailing list for exclusive giveaways, competitions and news. The registration page can be accessed via my website: www.marnieriches.com.