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Author Interview: Mel Sherratt

The next author in our interview series is Mel Sherratt, whose thirteenth crime novel, Tick Tock, is published today in paperback.

Mel has sold over a million copies to date, has been named as one of Stoke-on-Trent’s 100 most influential people, and was shortlisted for the CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in the Library Award 2014.

What inspired you to write?

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. My first ever short story was about a gobstopper called Gerry who was kidnapped by the Black Jacks and Fruit Salads in a sweet shop.

When I was in my teens, I used to go to the library every week to see which ‘how-to-write’ books on writing were new or available. I borrowed books about writing children’s novels, crime, romance, horror, screenplays, short stories, magazine articles – you name it, I wanted to try it. It was most disappointing when there were no new books to read, and equally exciting when a new one popped up on the shelves. I just wanted to write.

What’s your favourite book/piece of literature?

It often surprises people because I write crime thrillers but my favourite book of all time is Bridget Jones’s Diary. I love it because it broke boundaries at the time and, I think, started off a new genre. I also love Bridget Jones as a character.  She has everything – likeability, angst, friends and family who want her to do well. And two men fighting over her… I loved it. Quirky, fresh and different.

Where do most of your good ideas come to you?

I find ideas for storylines everywhere – in fact, I always have too many. I can hear a song lyric, see an article in a magazine, hear a snippet of conversation or a clip on the news or radio. I also find that once a character gets inside my head, I fit several seeds of ideas I’ve saved together.

Where do you write?

For the first couple of hours every morning, I sit on the settee with my laptop. I find I get my best ideas on waking so I’ll either edit what I’ve done the night before or get 2000 words of a new draft down.

Then for the rest of the day, I’m in my office at home. I love it in there, mainly because it hasn’t got a picture window that I would stare out of all day. I know writers are supposed to daydream but I fear I’d take it to the extreme.

I have lots of positive messages and affirmations scattered around too. It’s my space and I feel when I sit down at my desk, it’s time to work.

What is your writing process?

If I’m drafting a book, after planning for about a month I write fast and furious and get the first draft down in a skeleton form of 50,000 words. Once I’ve done this, I’ll reread and figure out the plot holes, where I need to add more and remove if necessary. This is usually the painful part for me as I lose as much as I add but it’s the only way I can do it. This draft usually comes in around 65,000 words. Once I have my plot sorted as much as I can, I then add layers – description, sense of place, more fear, more emotion – and this takes it up to around 80,000 words. When I have feedback from my editor, my finished books come in at around 90,000 – 100,000 words.

Where did the idea come from for Tick Tock?

I saw a woman out running early one misty morning. My first thought was how dangerous it could be as she was on her own and also how sad that I thought that way too. It may be my crime writer’s mind but really, she was out for a run and why shouldn’t she be? And that’s when I came up with the whole idea of people being killed in broad daylight, quite daring, and then a pattern forming.

Tick Tock is my second novel featuring DS Grace Allendale. The story starts in 2014 with a young woman who is strangled while out running early one morning. Flip back to present day, and another young woman is strangled while out running in broad daylight, and then a second is found two days later. Grace works with her team to link the two present-day murders but they come up with no connections. When there is an attempt on a third woman’s lives, Grace remembers an earlier case, The Manchester Monster, and realises they could have a copycat killer.

How do you relax after a day of writing?

As an author, I keep in touch with a lot of my readers on social media, and sometimes I have to do that in the evening if I’ve been writing all day. It can be a double-edged sword – great to hear people are loving my books but it means I tend to take a long time to switch off.

I love reading women’s fiction, and often I can get addicted to series box sets on the TV. Other than that, I love the simple things, spending time with my family and friends, and walking my dog, Dexter.