Carol’s ‘Close Up’ today with Author Geraldine Evans!

Carol Bridgestock

I am so lucky today to get the chance to interview the prolific author Geraldine Evans! Let’s see how it’s done shall we?

Geraldine has had twenty novels published–seventeen crime, one contemporary women/suspense, one historical and one romance. She has been plucked from slush piles twice: once by Robert Hale, and once by Macmillan, who took her very first mystery novel, DEAD BEFORE MORNING, and published it in 1993. They sold it in turn to St Martin’s Press in the US and thence on to Worldwide for softcover publication. Not bad for a writer who had endured six long years of rejections for her first six novels. But, admittedly, they had been romances.

 

 

Geraldine Evans

Hello Geraldine! Thank you for agreeing to let our readers to get to know you a little. I am so excited about this interview as I know you also give help and advice to writers too.

What inspired you to write a novel?

Hatred of  the dead-end day jobs. I needed something creatively fulfilling in my life. I’d always been a keen reader, so it seemed as natural as breathing that I’d one day try my hand at writing. Like Colin Dexter, the author of Morse, who one day, during a wet weekend in Wales, read a crime novel that was so bad he thought he could do better. And he did, didn’t he? Well, I had a similar experience, though not until I’d spent years trying to write a romantic novel suitable for the Mills & Boon market. I failed miserably, though Land of Dreams, the last of the six failures, was taken from Robert Hale’s slush pile and published (1991). But then they rejected my next romance.

What’s a girl to do? I felt pretty murderous, so turning to crime seemed the obvious thing. What a difference from my experience of writing romances. Because Dead Before Morning, that very first mystery and the first in my now 15-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn humorous police procedural series, was yet another slush pile pluck. Macmillan published it in 1993. They sold it to St Martin’s Press in the US, who then sold it on to Worldwide for paperback publication.

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

I don’t know that I consider anyone my mentor. Like a lot of new writers, I struggled on alone while the rejections piled up. I felt unsupported for so long in the literary world. Perhaps if I’d been a middle-class woman, the support would have been there. And the education! Mine was pretty basic and ended at sixteen.

As for who I admire, the writers who come under this banner are the crime writers who can make me laugh while they’re killing people. Like Shakespeare, I do like a bit of comedy amidst the tragedy! So, I have  to say that I admire the late Reginald Hill. Love his Andy Dalziel. That man is so real you can practically smell him! The other writers who have my admiration are Ruth Dudley Edwards, Cynthia Harrod Eagles and Christopher Brookmyre. Amongst American writers, I like Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovitch. If I’m talking about crime novels  that don’t go for the funny bone, I have to say a certain pair of writers called  R C Bridgestock (!), Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, P D James, Ruth Rendell (but only her Wexford novels. Didn’t take to her psychological ones), Dorothy Simpson, June Thomson and Margaret Yorke. I also love historicals and adore the novels of Sharon Penman, Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory.

 

Where do you work? Do you have a regular pattern or routine or other?

I used to work in my little office upstairs. But then, when my stepson gave me a second-hand laptop, I moved downstairs (nearer the kettle and the loo). So, as you can imagine, my living room looks a bit of a shambles! Yes, I have a regular pattern. I try to write every day, even if it’s only emails, my blog or comments on some other writer’s blog. At the moment, I’m still concentrating on getting my backlist professionally e-formatted, proofed and uploaded  to Kindle and Smashwords. This has taken some time and my ‘Work in Progress’ (so-called. It’s not ‘progressing’ at all), has had to sit on the back burner for some weeks; a situation compounded by problems with my website. None of my links wanted  to go where they were meant to, but instead went wherever they damn well liked! Nightmare. I was unable to fix the problem and eventually, I knew I had no choice but to abandon my oh-so-carefully created and maintained website of nine years’ standing and hire a professional web site designer.

What are you working on now?

I’m trying to pen another couple of talks. At the moment, I’ve only got one half-hour talk to my name. It was starting to feel lonely, and over-used, hence the attempt to provide it with some company. I’m also still proofing the e-formatting of more of my backlist. Between these two, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time left for anything else. I’ve really been burning the midnight oil lately, trying to get on top of everything, so I can do what I’m meant to be doing and actually write crime novels. My email inbox is currently up to 1,500 (and counting). A lot of it is tiresome crap. But it still takes time to wade through and delete. I can’t seem to get on top of it at all.

Share something with us that nobody else knows about you.

Ha! Ha! I love the smell of tar and creosote. Better than any perfume. My day is made if I come across some road-works. The hunky men are just a bonus.

Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?     

I’d love to meet you and Bob. Watch out. I might just descend on you one day!  As for who I actually do share a coffee with, that would be Chrissie, the neighbour a few doors down, who runs a B and B. We also go out to lunch regularly and go dancing. Altogether, a fun lady.

Oh, bless you! I’m sure one day very soon we will meet in person. :-)

How do you relax?

I’m not one of those people who can just sit and stare into space. I need to do something. Reading’s my usual way to relax. Or watching Mama Mia for the umpteenth time. That’s such a ‘feel good’ film. I love it.

If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

I  was brought up poor, on a south London Council estate, so I have sympathy for the underdog. I certainly wouldn’t need or want all of the millions. So I’d perhaps divide it and give one half to good causes, not necessarily through licensed charities who often seem to pay their top brass quite extraordinary salaries. Then, I’d give generous hand outs to mine and my late husband’s family. And I  suppose (after having a major spending spree) I’d probably invest the rest. Very boring, I know. Very sensible. Not like the ‘Spend! Spend! Spend! lady.

Are you a savoury or sweets girl?

I’m both. I love mature Cheddar, thin, buttered crackers and silverskin pickled onions. But I’m also a Chocaholic. It’s a good job Chrissie has signed this couch potato up for a local social club, so I do a bit of bopping and get some exercise, or God knows how big I’d become.

What’s your earliest memory?

I’ve got a couple, actually. One is of standing on a box so I could wash the dishes. I’d have been about four. And the other is of me, when I was about five. It was Christmas and I had my first umbrella as a present. It was sunshine yellow and I loved it to bits. Unfortunately, no one had explained to me that it was necessary to put the umbrella down when you went through a door (we had an outside toilet at the time) and my brand new, lovely yellow brolly, broke in the door. I was devastated. Something like that is a major tragedy at five.

What has been your favourite year and why?

It was being ten. Before the painful transition into womanhood began. Before we moved house. Before a lot of things. I was carefree. Only interested in playing games of chase, and marbles and French skipping. It was such an innocent time to be ten. I don’t envy youngsters now, with the pressure on them to be sexual beings. God, my eldest brother was still playing with Meccano when he was fifteen. Such innocent times. I often think my generation was the lucky generation. We were born at a time and young at a time when teenagers had just been ‘invented’! We had the best music. Great fashions. And then you could fall out of a job one week and fall into another the next. And we could actually afford to buy a house without placing ourselves impossibly in hock. And those who had the inclination to go to university were actually paid Grants to do so. Not like nowadays where youngsters have to take on a debt larger than our first mortgage.

What was the last thing you laughed & cried at?

I’m quite a happy person, so I laugh a lot. I laugh easily. I don’t cry easily. I didn’t cry at my darling husband’s funeral. I’ve never been a crier. So the last time I laughed was today (Saturday), when I went dancing with my neighbour’s friend. Great band. Great atmosphere. Cheap drinks (it’s a social club). What more do you want? I had a fab time and laughed a lot at probably quite inconsequential things.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

They’re the same. Go the ebook route. It’s been a far better earner for me than the traditional publishing one. Now I can afford to go on holiday. Now I can afford to go to writers’ conferences. Now, I can afford all sorts of things, that I never could before. Okay, the vast majority of my income comes from Amazon, which makes me uneasy. I don’t like having all my eggs in one basket. Of course, I still get royalties from my ex-publisher, as they’ve brought out one of my crime novels as an ebook. And hopefully, will bring out the other two to which they hold the rights as ebooks also. And my earnings through Smashwords are slowly rising as they distribute to Barnes and Noble, Apple and Kobo, etc. And, with Amazon, I get 70% of the sale price of each book (as long as it’s priced between $2.99 and $9.99). All my ex-publisher was offering was 25%, which I gather is pretty common. No contest! So I decided  to part company with my then publisher and go the Indie route. I haven’t regretted it.

What’s your favourite book/film as a child/adult?

I used to love Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. And I liked Tugboat Annie on the television and William Tell. I wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema (though my siblings were. I was the baby of the family). My mother wouldn’t let me go. She said it would ruin my eyesight! Actually, it was getting measles very badly that ruined my eyesight. As an adult, I’m a Harrison Ford fan and loved Frantic and Airforce One. Oh, and I also loved Dirty Dancing. (And Mama Mia, of course). Books, I’ve loved: Sharon Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour. Fabulous book set in the Fifteenth century about the period of the Wars of the Roses. That book still resonates with me. And St Thomas’ Eve by Jean Plaidy, about St Thomas More. The crime novel I still remember vividly is Christopher Brookmyer’s Quite Ugly, One Morning. Oh, how that book made me laugh. Terrific. Heartily recommend all of them.

Who was the most famous person you have worked with and what were they really like?

I don’t actually know any famous people. Until I went the epublishing route, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere. Though I am Twitter friends with Val McDermid, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Mark Billingham. And you and Bob. :-)

Do you think doing the work you did has an impact on what you write and how you write it?

Undoubtedly. As does my working-class background. I couldn’t imagine writing about an educated, middle-class, copper, not ever having lived that lifestyle. That’s why I invented DI Joe Rafferty. I wanted a main character who reflected the reality of the average Joe. Most police officers are still working-class and far from over-educated. I wanted to depict that.

The prized possession valued above all others?

I don’t know if you’d call it a ‘possession’. But I have to say it’s my ability to persist in the face of rejection. It’s that ability that brought me up and enabled me to get twenty novels published (though, admittedly, the last two, Kith and Kill, my fifteenth in the Rafferty series and The Egg Factory, a standalone Contemporary/Suspense novel set in the world of the infertile, I published myself).

The unqualified regret you wish you could amend?

Not realising how important education is. Though, of course, it’s never too late to amend that and, periodically, I have stabs at it. I was a late developer and far more interested in winning Jimmy Smith’s fourer marble  than I was in passing tests, hence the 11+ failure and the Secondary Modern ‘education’ (sic). But I’ve spent my life educating myself. At the moment, I’m re-learning the keyboards, which I originally taught myself about fifteen years ago and let slide. This time I’ve got myself a music teacher. I’m also having a refresher course in driving as I became horribly rusty and lacking in confidence. It’s going well, I’m pleased to say.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24hrs, with no restrictions?

I’d have a pied-ā-terre in London and Paris. And go to see all the shows I’ve never seen. The Mousetrap and Cats and Les Miserables. All of them. And I’d have tea at The Ritz. And an after theatre dinner at The Ivy. With Harrison Ford. And then we’d retire to the plush suite with the four-poster and hot and cold waiter service. And then we’d make mad, passionate love. Hope Harrison is up for it…! Not to mention up to it (as he’s no spring chicken).

Les Mis is our absolute favourite show Geraldine if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must!

The temptation you wish you could resist.

Eating a whole bar of chocolate. I really pig out and am unable to just have a few squares.

The priority activity if you were the invisible woman for a day.

I’d love to sit in on a Cabinet meeting. Just to learn what they talk about and how on earth they come to the decisions they do. Because some of them are unfathomable. I just heard today that they want to scrap The Red Arrows. But what prestige they give our country. God knows, as a nation, we have less and less to be proud of. We invariably feature at the bottom of any European survey. But The Red Arrows are something to make our chests swell. They’re an institution and someone told me they’ve been going since the mid-sixties. It would be criminal to destroy that.

Absolutely! What’s the pet hate that makes your hackles rise?

Idle people who waste their lives living on the State (ie me, the taxpayer). Do they think life’s a rehearsal? To me, life is a precious gift. Not something to be squandered. I tend not to read articles about them and their twenty kids and the outrageous income and accommodation the state provides any more, as it just infuriates me. Not good for the blood pressure. Especially as I can’t do anything about it.

Who is the person who has influenced you the most?

I’m not conscious of any influence. When I came up with the working-class DI Joe Rafferty, I was ploughing my own furrow. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it My Way.

And the figure from history that you’d like to buy a pie and a pint?

There’s so many. But, I think I’d have to plump for Guy Fawkes. I so admire people who take up a worthy cause and pursue it to the bitter end, no matter what the possible consequences. The courage required is awesome.

What is the piece of wisdom you would pass onto a child?

Treat others as you wish to be treated. Such consideration will take you far and make you friends. And we all need friends. And anything worth doing is worth persisting at ‘till you get it right.

Funnily enough that is Bob’s mantra too…

The unlikely interest that engages you curiosity?

Painting. I love doing portraiture. I’m good at getting a likeness, but hopeless at applying the paint. I’m self-taught, you see. But the local Community Centre has advertised art lessons and I’m going to sign up.

Good for you! That sounds amazing. There are so many courses at the local college if only we take the time to seek them out. That’s where we did our ‘Write Your First Novel,’ course.

What is the treasured item you lost and wish you could have again?

My green leather handbag. It was stolen at Streatham ice rink.

The unending quest that drives you on?

To get better at what I do. And to stop ‘telling’, rather than ‘showing’. I’ve been told (by one of my Amazon reviewers), that I’m way too keen on that. And until only the other day, I didn’t know my ‘em’ dash from my ‘en’ dash. Didn’t even know they had names. At school, I was taught about a verb being a ‘doing’ word and nouns being ‘names’. That was about it as far as grammar and sentence construction went.

Which poem touches your soul?

It would have to be the one that goes: ‘…a corner of a foreign field that is forever England.’ I might have got the quote wrong – I haven’t had anything  to do with poetry since I was at school (though the other evening, my writers’ group had a local poet, Phil Barrett, give us a talk, and it was so interesting. An absolute revelation. I didn’t know you could write poetry about everyday things. It was an absolutely marvellous evening and had me sufficiently stimulated to consider ordering the work of some of the poets Phil recommended.

The misapprehension about yourself that you wish you could erase?

I don’t know that there is any misapprehension. Why? What’s the gossip? What have you heard about me?!

Ha ha! No, I’ve never heard any gossip about you Geraldine… but perhaps there is time yet! ;-)

The event that altered the course of your life?

Getting published for the first time. It confirmed for me that I ‘Could do it.’

I agree wholeheartedly. The feeling that someone loves your work as much as you is one to behold.

If you could commit a crime and know you would get away with it what would it be?

I’d probably do a Robin Hood and rob from the rich and give it to the (deserving) poor.

What is the song that means the most to you?

I love sixties’ music. And I love Abba. Sorry. Can’t decide. But somehow, YMCA became me and my late husband’s ‘song’. Can’t remember how that happened!

The happiest moment you cherish?

Going for the first Brighton ‘Dirty Weekend’ with George, my late husband. We had such fun.

How lovely…

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you?

I want to play keyboards like a professional. I’m currently taking lessons. I’ve advanced as far as chord G7. Long way to go yet.

I always wanted to play the piano … my grandad was said to beable to play by ear and the whole of the street used to open their windows on a Sunday morning to hear him play. I tried but my left hand doesn’t ever seem to work with my right! Took me ages to learn the keyboard skill.

What is the  philosophy that underpins your world?

Be kind. And generous. And encouraging. It’s a hard world out there, but we can make life a little easier for each other by caring and showing consideration.

How would you like to be remembered Geraldine?

By God, she tried! She gave it her all. I don’t want to get to my death-bed and have regrets for all the  things I didn’t do.

Bless you! Come on now tell me about your novels as I’m sure this interview has won you many a reader.

If you like crime novels with a few laughs, you might enjoy mine. DI Joe Rafferty comes from a family who think – if he must be a copper – he might at least have the decency to be a bent one. And when you add the educated, middle-class, more moral than the Pope, DS Dafyd Llewellyn… Consequently, my 15-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn police procedurals give poor Rafferty plenty of angst and the rest of us plenty of laughs as he wends his way through the mires his family create, at the same time as trying to solve murders.

And the links to read more about Geradine Evans and her work are here:-

Blog and Website: http://www.geraldineevans.com

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/120xu2b

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/X3xCIj

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/Vishgx

Kobo: http://bit.ly/112vt86

Apple’s iBookstore: http://bit.ly/Wse8B1

Diesel: http://bit.ly/123MePA

Thanks Geraldine you’ve been terrific and I can’t wait to share that drink with you!

C x

 

 

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