Welcome to Deano’s Grill – Author Interviews.
The only place to be interviewed by fictional hero of the Detective Deans crime thrillers, Detective Andrew ‘Deano’ Deans.
Today, Deano grills Thriller novelist, Elizabeth Ducie.
Before we start, I need to caution you – You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your credentials if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in book sales, and anything you do say may be written about you.
Welcome to Deano’s Grill. Tell us your name, please.
Hello Elizabeth! Describe your writing.
Currently I am working on a series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals. Well, we are told to write about what we know, aren’t we? But the overarching theme of most of my work is a sense of place. I’ve spent 30+ years working in Russia and the Former Soviet Union countries; in Africa; and in the Middle East. Very often I will start with a single trigger related to location and everything else, characters and plot, stems from that.
Intriguing! Tell us how you evolved from working overseas into an award winning UK novelist.
I don’t remember a time when I’ve not enjoyed crafting words into elegant prose. I won a newspaper competition when I was 14, so must have been writing stories at that point. However, throughout my first career, as a pharmaceutical consultant and writer, my work was all factual: audit reports; training manuals; scientific papers; articles for journals; and text books. I must have written millions of words in that time. Then in 2005, after 30 years as a scientist, I decided I wanted to write creatively instead. I had all these stories in my head from my years travelling and wanted to get them written down. I started with memoir, but found I was happier in the realm of fiction, so moved on to short stories. But, like most writers, I really wanted to produce a novel. Twelve years down the line, I have four collections of short stories; several books on business skills for writers; and I am currently finalising novel number three. And what keeps me writing? The thrill of having someone else read my work and enjoy it. I want my stories to be shared.
Tell us about your latest work.
Deception! is the second in the series of Suzanne Jones thrillers. It is set in Brazil and pits Suzanne and Charlie Jones against an old enemy, as well as introducing some new foes. The first in the series, Counterfeit! was set in Southern Africa, and was published in 2016. The third, and probably final, book in the series is called Corruption! Set in Russia, it is due to be published late in 2018.
Will we see anything of ‘you’ in the characters you write about?
Well all my main protagonists are females, working overseas and with technical backgrounds. So I guess there’s something of me in most of them. In fact, when I wrote Gorgito’s Ice Rink I was so scared that people would think it autobiographical that for ages I couldn’t let my narrator, Emma Chambers, have any fun at all. Then my husband pointed out it is called fiction for a reason. I suppose Suzanne Jones is the one who is closest to me; Charlie is the one I would like to be.
Do you have a soft spot for any of your books?
Gorgito’s Ice Rink was my debut novel and the piece of work that proved to me that I could be a novelist rather than sticking with short stories. It took nearly 8 years to produce and I learned a huge amount along the way. It won a Literature Works First Page prize before it was even finished and was Runner Up in the 2015 Self-Published Book of the Year Awards. 8 years well spent!
And what about your author highlights?
Publishing my first collection of short stories in 2011 with Sharon Cook; finishing the first draft of Gorgito’s Ice Rink; ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo for the past four years running; any competition success, even short listing or long listing; every new book I publish; and every time someone tells me they have read and enjoyed one of my books.
So, that’s a little about what you write – now tell us how you write.
I use my mornings for writing, including rewriting or editing, or whatever stage of the production process I am on. I set myself a target of four hours and if I work straight through, I am done well before lunch. But if I keep getting distracted, it might take me to mid-afternoon to reach the target. After that, I move on to the administration, marketing and other aspects of running a small business.
Do you have a favourite place to be creative?
I have a wonderful garden room that I use as an office; in fact I am typing this in there, with the doors and windows wide open and the sun streaming in. But I can equally write at the dining room table; and in fact if it’s cold or wet, I prefer to stay in the house, rather than venture across the garden.
Describe how you begin a new project.
If it’s fiction, I start with a basic idea, which I develop into a scene treatment. That’s a tool I learned during my MA at Exeter University. It’s more commonly used to scripts, but I find it works well for fiction too. It’s a bit like a story board with words. Then I will write the first draft; often this is in November, when I compete in NaNoWriMo. I will make a note of any facts that I need to research, and then use the internet and/or the library to fill in the gaps during subsequent editing stages. If it’s non-fiction, I start with a mind-map of the topic, key themes and as many bullet points as I can think of. Then I start fleshing them out. Again, I would do the research as I go along.
And for budding authors, do you have any sound advice?
Read the leaders in the genre to see what works, and what makes them so popular. Then forget them and write your own story. Get it professionally edited and proofread. Then publish it by whichever route suits you best.
Now, it’s time to dig a little deeper…
Tell us about your proudest day.
It will always be today, whenever you ask me the question. Because I woke up, got up and started work. I am fit and healthy. I have a shelf full of books I have written. And I am still married to the man I fell in love with more than forty years ago at University. No, wait; the word I’m looking for isn’t proud. It’s lucky. And maybe just a little proud as well. That’s just lovely!
Imagine a day or night off from writing. Tell us what you would do to make it special.
A drive in the country with my husband, to a country house hotel where they have a log fire; a Michelin-starred chef; and beautiful rooms to stay in. A glass of fizz, followed by the tasting menu and coffee in front of said log fire. Very self-indulgent and not over-healthy; but so much fun.
Do you have a favourite place in the country?
Gidleigh Park Hotel, near Chagford in Devon. Nestled away in Dartmoor, with wonderful views, beautiful food and really attentive staff.
And if you could take one book along that you have read this year?
I read an average of one book a week and always review them on Amazon and other platforms. My most memorable one so far this year is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I loved it and gave it five stars. I avoided reading this book for years. But that was a mistake. It was witty, funny, poignant and beautifully written. It had me laughing out loud in places. I loved it and wish I’d read it much sooner.
Elizabeth, you have been wonderful company! Thank you for being grilled! Please tell us where we can find your books and how we can join you online.
I have a separate page for each book, with all the distribution links, on my website: www.elizabethducie.co.uk; you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest
Deano’s Grill will be back with another fabulous author interview in the very near future. If you are an author and would like to be interviewed, please leave your details on the contacts page.