An Interview with Laura Shepherd-Robinson
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to ask Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Shortlistee Laura Shepherd-Robinson all of our burning questions.
Read on to find out Laura’s writing quirks and what she’s most looking forward to at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival this year.
And don’t forget to cast your vote to decide who will take home the UK and Ireland’s most coveted crime fiction writing award.
We like to start our interviews by asking our authors to introduce themselves. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I came to writing feeling very jaded after a long career in politics – I thought it would be more fun writing about liars, crooks and psychopaths than working with them! When I left my job, I studied for an MA in Creative Writing at City University on which I wrote the draft of my first novel, BLOOD & SUGAR. I live in London, with my husband, Adrian, and a great many books.
When did you start writing fiction? What made you want to start the long, often arduous, process of writing a book?
I started two books when I was still working in politics, but I never found the time to write more than the first three chapters! Every time I’d read a brilliant book by somebody else, I’d start dreaming about writing again, becoming more and more determined to have a serious crack at it. The scale of the challenge is actually one of the things that attracts me. I never get bored writing a novel, even if there are times when I want to throw my laptop across the room!
What’s the most difficult part of writing a crime book?
For me, it’s plotting. Writing the prose comes fairly instinctively to me now, but plotting is as hard as it ever was. I like books with intricate plots and my own plots are correspondingly quite complicated. It takes a lot of work to get them right. I believe a writer has a duty to the reader never to fudge or compromise on plot. Nothing is more exasperating to me as a reader, than when a writer comes up with some convoluted, silly explanation for a plot twist because they haven’t done the work.
One thing we always love to know, what does your typical writing day look like?
I am ashamed to say I start out writing in bed. I do my best work first thing in the morning, so I just reach for my laptop and turn it on. I only allow myself two cups of tea in bed, though, before I make the arduous move to the sofa. I work from about 9-7, writing or editing (I edit as I go), although I usually have half an hour’s walk in the Paddington Rec or to the Regent’s Park canal. Twitter provides a very welcome distraction and I always spend half an hour over lunch doing the Spelling Bee in the New York Times. My husband is on a career break at the moment, which is great as he makes me lunch, and is always free to go for walks to hear me whinge about my plot.
We’ve heard of some unusual writing habits over the years, what would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I am a crazy, control freak planner. I plan everything before I begin writing my books, and my plans are about 30,000 words long. I think of them as a draft 0.5. Unfortunately, they don’t make me write any quicker, loads always changes along the way. But I think they make my books structurally sound. The main plot, the characters, themes, big twists and the ending rarely changes.
Which writers have influenced your own writing the most?
On prose: John Le Carré, Hilary Mantel and Edith Wharton. On plot: CJ Sansom and Andrew Taylor.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. I am late to the party, but it was fabulous.
What would winning the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Novel of the Year Award mean to you?
It would be a wonderful thing to feel the recognition of the crime writing community, who have been so welcoming to me as an author. Harrogate is one of the highlights of the crime writing calendar and I can’t imagine what it would feel like to win in front of such a lovely crowd. I would love to see a historical crime novel win the Theakstons, even if it isn’t mine! And if it is, I know my 18th century heroine, Caro, would approve – as she always says, she likes to win!
Which event at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival are you most looking forward to?
There are so many brilliant panels, it is very hard to pick just one, but I have to give a shout out to my fellow historical crime writers on the Moments in Crime panel on Sunday morning.