Famous crime writer Bella Tyson is hired to co-host a Murder Mystery cruise, on a luxury liner sailing from Southampton to New York. She’s expecting an easy ride; fun and games, surrounded by amateur sleuths and fans of her books, all the while staying in a deluxe cabin and enjoying the spa and the amazing restaurants on board, culminating in a visit to one of her favourite cities in the world – the Big Apple.
She’s NOT expecting to be stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with her two least favourite people in the world, her hot but unfaithful bastard ex-husband Joel Quigley and fellow crime writer, bitch goddess and Twitter frenemy, Louise Meyers. And when real live dead bodies start turning up – as well as fake not-really-dead bodies – Bella’s dreams of being pampered on the high seas turn sour.
Accused of a murder she would have liked to commit but didn’t, and helped (or hindered) by a gang of unlikely detectives, can Bella find out who the real murderer is before the ship reaches its destination and New York’s finest drag her off?
When and where do you prefer to write?
I try to treat writing as a proper, 9 to 5 job, although it ends up more like 10 to 3… I’ll get up and do a few chores – wash up the breakfast things, put the washing machine on, take my teenager to college – then sit down for a couple of hours and write. I used to (and occasionally still do) write on the sofa, with my laptop, cup of tea nearby and the TV on for background noise. I’ve written 4 novels and several screenplays with my feet up in front of ‘Homes Under the Hammer’! However these days I’m more likely to have a deadline to hit, so I’ll sit at the dining table and make myself get on with it.
I aim for 2000 words a day, but I’m not anal about it. Somedays I’ll write 3000, but I’ll always try to write at least 1000. It all adds up.
Do you have a certain ritual?
The main ritual is making sure I have a cushion, so my bottom doesn’t go to sleep (I have very hard dining chairs!) and a cup of tea handy! I read back what I wrote the day before, to get myself in the mood again and because I’ll quite often have thought of something to add or change. The other thing I always try to do is stop writing for the day at a point where I still know what is going to happen next. Rather than go on until I run out of steam, I’ll stop at a good point (maybe the end of a chapter) and then spend the evening working out in my head what I’m going to write the next day. I’ll lie in bed and think up some dialogue, so when I sit down the next day I’ve got a way back into the story.
Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Tea and plenty of it! Other than that, I am a snack demon when I’m writing, so I’ll try and keep healthy stuff in the house like hummus and crackers, nuts, dried fruit and bananas, but too often it does end up being chocolate.
What is your favourite book?
I have a few favourites. I love ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; the whole series is perfect, and so evocative. I even went to Barcelona (where it’s set) because I was so obsessed with it. I also love Joanne Harris’s work, particularly ‘Five Quarters of the Orange’; I’d love to write a movie adaptation of it. And finally, Terry Pratchett was an absolute genius. I love the Wyrd Sisters books (I’d like to say I’m Granny Weatherwax but I’m so much more Nanny Ogg), the Watch books and ‘Good Omens’ is fantastic.
Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I have written a few genres. I started out writing screenplays, and the first two scripts I wrote were for a sci-fi movie and a great big Hollywood Marvel blockbuster film! Neither of which ever got made, I hasten to add. I’ve written a Killing Eve-esque spy/crime thriller, but even that has romance and some comedy in it. Everything I write ends up with a romantic subplot and a few gags in it, I just can’t help it.
Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Yes! Move on, just in case they’re reading…
Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
No, I don’t. I know a few writers who do, but honestly, if I come up with an idea and then forget it, it’s not a good idea. The ones to stick with and use are the ones I couldn’t forget if I tried.
Which genre do you not like at all?
I’m not keen on fantasy/sci-fi – not stuff like Terry Pratchett, but big thick epic novels like Game of Thrones, because there’s just so many characters, so much world-building – get on with the story, already! – and they tend to take themselves so seriously. I don’t like po-faced books (or people, for that matter).
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I am planning to co-write a book with an author friend, but I don’t know how I would feel about writing with anyone else. I am a control freak and I like to do it my way! I’m fine with my agent and editor telling me to change things, because it’s still my story, but to have to run stuff past someone else before I even write it…no. The only reason I’m planning to co-write this future book is because it’s with a friend who gets my writing (and I get hers), but even more than that, we’re planning to write it in two halves, so I’ll be more or less left to get on with it (I hope!).
If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
I HAVE done that, and it was wonderful. I went on holiday to Venice, which inspired me to write the first book in the Bella Tyson series, ‘Dead in Venice’. I wrote a rough draft of it and left it to sit, then the next summer I went back to Venice and double checked that what I’d written actually worked against the back drop of the city. I loved it – Venice is my spiritual home. I did also make a note and take pictures of places in Barcelona to use in a novel, which is currently half-written while other stuff takes precedence, and I also went to Paris and was so inspired I wrote something set there, too. So I suppose I’m more likely to go to a country and be inspired by it, than to research it for an idea I already have.
Thank you, Fiona Leitch and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters. Her debut novel and first in the Bella Tyson series, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.