When did you first start writing? Did a specific event encourage you to start?
When I was six years old, I saw a TV programme about the Blitz, which as you can imagine was pretty alarming. I wrote a poem about it.
How much research do you do?
I am fascinated with the Victorian era and do a lot of research to try and get the details right. I read contemporary newspapers and journal articles, biographies and medical works. I study maps, census returns, directories, legislation, photographs, and art. I have about a hundred books just on the history of spiritualism.
I work from home and have a room which is my office. I don’t work set hours; even when I am doing the household chores, my mind is still working on my latest project or planning a new one.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? Starting, knowing when you’ve done enough research, the ending?
When I begin a project, I know where I am starting from and where I will end up, but I have to link the two in a way that makes sense. Every time I pause in order to find that natural link, I have to remind myself that I found it last time. It’s worked so far.
How real do your characters become and do they ever seem to control their own storyline?
They feel very real to me, and because I let themes develop naturally in my mind often the characters do things that I hadn’t necessarily planned but emerge from their personalities and situations, so sometimes they do take me by surprise.
Neither, but it is sometimes sad. It’s very hard writing about a character who I know is about to become a murder victim.
Do you find it hard to know when to end a story?
No, I know when it feels right to me.
What are you working on?
I am editing a new volume in the Notable British Trials series about the trial of the Mannings in 1849. I am also developing the plot for the fifth Mina Scarletti book, to be entitled His Father’s Ghost.
What are you reading right now?
Munich by Robert Harris.
I have read thousands of books and it is impossible to pick one!
What book do you wish you had written?
Do you love any genres/books that are very different from what you write?
Most of my reading is non-fiction: history, biography, true crime, psychology. In crime fiction, I tend to read books with modern settings or if historical, a very different time period from the one I write about.
Tell us something surprising about you!
I prefer pickles to sweets!