She is a founder member of Triskele Books, an award-winning author collective founded in 2011. In addition to publishing 21 books, Triskele creates initiatives to support other writers, eg The Indie Author Fair and The Big Five Competition.
Jill is also the Swiss Ambassador for The Alliance of Independent Authors, co-editor of The Woolf, Zürich’s literary ezine and writers’ workshop, a journalist for Words with JAM, the magazine for writers and a reviewer for Bookmuse, the readers’ site with a difference.
Originally from Wales, Jill spent time in Africa, the Middle East, Portugal and France before finally settling in Switzerland with her husband and dogs. Nowadays, in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes crime.
Bad Apples will be the sixth, and final, book in your Beatrice Stubbs detective series. Please tell us about Beatrice and the crimes she investigates. She certainly gets to travel around a lot!
One, to create a real heroine who makes mistakes and has personal problems, who works hard and has an appetite for adventure, not to mention good food and fine wines.
Two, to write intelligent and exciting crime stories while avoiding gratuitous violence, and giving women the full spectrum of roles. I love writing wicked women!
Beatrice remains a constant, developing a little more as the series progresses, but each book is a standalone story set in a different European location.
The uniqueness of the place, its culture, climate and people all add layers of interest to the plot. Plus lots of research for the author – hardly a chore.
Your books are set in various European countries. How do you tackle research and international policing methods?
Ideally, talking to the experts. I’ve been lucky enough to get first-hand advice from police on my books set in Switzerland and Greece, a journalist who writes a factual column on wine crime for Tread Softly, an art fraud insurance expert for Human Rites, and an ex-Europol agent who advised just how much poetic licence I can take.
Areas such as sharing intelligence on terrorism are tough nuts to crack, so I work on the precedence model. If that’s how they handled X, this is how they might handle Y. Like most crime writers, my internet search history is not for the faint-hearted. Weaponry fairs, debilitating drugs, German Expressionism, bullet wounds, surveillance equipment, sniffer dogs, DNA profiling and the toilet system aboard a cruise ship.
What does your creative process look like? How do you get from a blank page to a finished manuscript? Which parts of the process do you enjoy and which, if any, do you find difficult?
Central idea comes first. I mindmap all possible associations and let it percolate a while. First I devise the ‘A’ plot. Once that is roughly sketched, I work on Beatrice’s own journey which becomes the ‘C’ plot. After that, I focus on the characters who populate this novel and the associations mentioned above. From there I weave Plot ‘B’. Then it’s a matter of orchestration. Where the ‘A’ plot has a quiet moment, tension ramps up in plot ‘B’ or ‘C’, for example.
I write according to the Three-Act Structure (you can take the girl out of the theatre, but…) so I make a grid indicating which plot(s) are being developed and where each Act ends. Then I begin the slow and painful process of writing the first draft.
Finally, I edit. The best bit of all! I do at least six edits, for character, location, voice, pace, descriptive passages and eradicating my own bad habits. When I’m happy, I hand over to my Triskele Books team-mates. They never let me get away with anything lazy. When I’ve incorporated their changes, off it goes to the proofreader and I can start getting excited about cover design and launch parties.
As an indie author, what have you found most helpful in terms of marketing your work?
Being part of a collective (Triskele Books) means that what one of us misses, another will spot. Creating a writing community where I live (The Woolf). Joining The Alliance of Independent Authors. Engaging with readers. Carrying postcards everywhere – you never know when a chance conversation might become an opportunity.
Which authors have most influenced you?
In terms of genre, Dorothy L. Sayers and Val McDermid. For style, Thomas Harris and Stephen King. As for voice and dialogue, Armistead Maupin and Patrick Marber. When it comes to sensory description, I worship Lawrence Durrell and Barbara Kingsolver.
But the people who have directly influenced the way I write are my colleagues – Gillian Hamer, Liza Perrat, Jane Dixon Smith and Catriona Troth. They made me raise my game.
Now that the Beatrice Stubbs series has come to an end, what are your future writing plans?
I intended to do something completely different, but sometimes an opportunity arises and you just can’t say no. So I’m planning a co-writing project with an old friend. Can’t say much more at this stage but it will be crime, albeit of a very different ilk.
How do you like to relax when you’re not working?
Walking the pugs, learning languages, making patchwork quilts but most of all, reading. That habit started at an early age and grew into an obsession. I admit it. My name is Jill and I am addicted to words.
Thanks Jill, that was great!
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To find out more about the Beatrice Stubbs series go to http://beatrice-stubbs.com/
To read Jill’s blog go to https://jjmarsh.wordpress.com/
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