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Written by Tony R. Cox



Success has happened very quickly for you. Your debut crime novel has started a career at a speed that will be the envy of many. Has this affected your outlook on writing and being an author?


I feel extremely fortunate! I got a fantastic agent and publisher very quickly and still sometimes have to pinch myself. But of course I do still tackle the daily struggle. I was lucky enough to have the chance to write Book 2 before Book 1 came out. A lot of people said how difficult it must have been having to wait so long before my first book was published, but I enjoyed that time. I had the security of a three-book deal, without yet having the stress of publicity or reviews! It also gave me a chance to make friends with other writers and develop a bit of a community before my book came out.


Do you still tackle the daily struggle?


Dealing with reviews is challenging. Even good reviews can be stressful because you find yourself realising you have no idea how you wrote the book and no faith that you can do it again. So to already have Book 2 finished before Book 1 came out was a huge bonus.


And as for the negative reviews… We all get them and I thought I was prepared, but it really does feel like a complete stranger walking up and punching you in the face, or maybe punching your baby. So it’s good to have a community of writer friends who know how it feels.


You wrote two crime books at school and then went on to a ‘sensible’ life – Cambridge University and a degree in engineering; law school; partner in a firm of Patent Attorneys ... and finally mucking out the toilets in a complex of holiday homes in Derbyshire!  Not the usual career trajectory, and now a successful author. Was there a plan?


I’d like to say there was a plan, but being honest – not really! I was good at maths and science at school so was pushed in that direction and I thought engineering would be creative. I always liked to write, so being a patent attorney seemed to make sense as it combined science and writing. I coped with it for fifteen years, but it was the creative side of writing I really loved so it was never a perfect fit for me. Leaving that career was very difficult, and most people clearly thought I was mad. In a way I was, but you only get one life and I wanted to live it to the full. I realise I was very fortunate that my first career was well-paid and gave me the opportunity to have a second one which is less so! Writing is a very precarious career so it helps to have paid off the mortgage first.


I don’t regret the patent attorney career but I’m very glad I didn’t stick with it. There are so many things in life that interest me, and writing allows me to explore them all. The holiday cottage mucking out wasn’t exactly a dream job, but it provided an income in a beautiful location and still gave me time to do other things. I would never have been able to write a book if I was still a patent attorney, and I’m endlessly impressed by those who combine writing with an intellectually demanding job.


You made the conscious decision to ‘learn’ about becoming a novelist rather than bash away on a laptop until you got it right. Would you recommend this academic approach?


For me, it was just the natural thing to do. I realised rapidly that I had no idea how to write a book. I’d read thousands but I’d also lived in a few houses and yet had no idea how to build one. If ever I can’t do something, my approach is to Google it, and/or read a book on how to do it. I did a huge amount of both of these!


How important is it to pass on learned skills through courses and seminars on creative writing?


I really enjoy sharing any insights I have (although I still feel pretty inexperienced) and local writing courses helped me a lot. But the sheer quantity of information I needed to learn was so vast that the main benefit of courses for me was developing a network of friends and critique partners. Most of the information I learned came from sitting on my own reading books, going on critiquing websites like Scribophile, and looking at websites where queries or first pages etc. were analysed.


Your skills and talent as a writer would allow you to tackle any genre, even non-fiction, what made you choose the highly competitive crime fiction arena?


I didn’t fancy non-fiction as it’s the creative side I love. I thought I might as well go for a genre that tended to sell, and I had a crimey idea. It did all happen a bit randomly though. I never really meant to write a police procedural as I don’t tend to read them and had no police knowledge.


The plot for your debut novel was sparked by your dog finding human remains on a Peak District ramble (it was, in fact, just your very active imagination). Is this sort of ‘lightbulb moment’ an important factor in developing a plot?


Definitely! I get a lot of ideas when walking the dog or clearing up horse manure from the field. If any aspiring writers would like to do this, we have opportunities…



You have a top literary agency, one of the world’s biggest publishers, international book contracts, and the TV rights have been sold successfully. You have also been nominated for awards. Is this unnerving when you have only written one book?


Terrifying! Which is why I’m so relieved that I’d already written Book 2 when Book 1 came out. I had a lot of moments of panic that I couldn’t do it again, and I think if I’d only written one book, I might have had a melt down!


Can you give us a flavour of Book 2 … more human remains from a watery Derbyshire cave system?


The idea for Dead Man’s Daughter came from some reading I was doing about cellular memory – where people have heart transplants and seem to change personality or have memories that seem to come from the heart’s original owner. I found this very creepy. In the book, a ten year old girl is found running through the woods, barefoot and wearing only a blood-soaked nightdress. She has no memory of what happened to her, but her father is found stabbed to death in their nearby house. DI Meg Dalton discovers that the girl's murdered father had been obsessed with his daughter’s recent heart transplant, and that the girl had been having nightmares, and seemed to remember things that happened to her heart donor. Who was the donor child and what happened to her? And does this have anything to do with the murder of the girl's father?


Hardcover, Publisher: HQ; First edition edition (8 Mar. 2018)

Roz Watkins

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