I’m delighted to welcome crime novelist Paula Williams to Robservations. The third novel in her Much Winchmoor series, Burying Bad News, is published on 17th March 2020.
Having enjoyed the first book in the series, Murder Served Cold, I thought it would be interesting and fun to learn more about Paula and her writing.
Paula, please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I began my writing career writing short stories and serials for women’s magazines, which I still do sometimes, although it’s now a sadly shrinking market. So I started thinking of a change of direction and decided to dip my toe in the murky waters of my first love, crime fiction.
A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be taken on by Crooked Cat Books and have recently moved across to their Darkstroke imprint, which focusses on crime and all things dark. Darkstroke is about to publish Burying Bad News, the third in my Much Winchmoor Mysteries.
I live in Somerset with my husband and a gorgeous rescue dog, a Dalmatian called Duke. My books are mostly set in Somerset and very much inspired by my friends, neighbours and fellow regulars in my local – although none of them, as far as I know, have murderous tendencies.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?
I wanted to be an author for ever! I started writing stories as soon as I could hold a pencil. Although my mother used to say that I was making up stories long before then, but they were of the ‘It wasn’t me, Mum, it was him’ variety.
Describe the first piece you wrote and what it meant to you?
I can remember writing an essay in school when I was about 12. The topic was to discuss whether it was better to be the eldest or the youngest in the family. I had very strong views about this, as I come from a large family and am firmly in the middle. I got an A for my essay and Mrs Phillips (see, I can still remember her name) read it out to the class and called it an ‘excellent’ piece of writing. I can still feel the glow of pride that gave me and it made me realise that writing isn’t really work when you’re writing something you feel strongly about.
What do you most enjoy about being an author?
Oh my goodness, just about everything. It still gives me a buzz to hear myself described as such. It is the best job in the world. I really love the actual process of writing, especially in the beginning when I’m still sorting things out and the possibilities are endless. I love creating a world that I can control. But most of all, I think, I love it when people take the trouble to read my books. It’s quite humbling that someone will give up a bit of their precious time to sit down and read ‘the book what I wrote!’ And if they leave a review, well, that’s the icing on my happy cake.
What do you least enjoy about being an author?
I know I’m not going to be alone in this when I say the thing I like the least is marketing. Like many writers, I am an introvert and at my happiest when I’m on my own at my desk, talking away to the characters in my head… or, as if often the case, listening to them.
Putting myself ‘out there’ on social media is, quite simply, terrifying. But it’s part of the job so I get on with it and spend a lot of my time studying how the successful authors (like you, Robert) do it.
(I don’t know about successful, Paula, but thank you.)
What type of characters do you love and hate to write? Why?
I love to write about feisty old ladies! My mother in law was one and although she’s no longer with us, she certainly lives on within the pages of my books. They are such fun to write. I don’t have any characters that I hate to write. I enjoy writing them all, especially the villains.
On your Amazon author page you talk about your first success being with short stories. Can you tell us a little more about what you wrote and how it led to writing novels?
The first short story I had published was an only slightly fictionalised account of a pageant I wrote when I was about eight and forced my younger brothers to appear in. It was staged on our front lawn, to celebrate St George’s Day and everything that could do wrong did go wrong. It must have been hilarious for the adults who’d been press-ganged into watching although I don’t remember anyone laughing. So I read this how-to-write book that talked about writing about what you know and wrote about the pageant. And, to my amazement, Woman’s Weekly bought it straight away. When it was published, I bought each of my brothers a bottle of champagne and a copy of Woman’s Weekly. They claim they’re still traumatised by the pageant and haven’t yet forgiven me.
I got into writing novels because I found I enjoyed writing crime as much as I enjoyed reading it. In fact, the first in my Much Winchmoor series, Murder Served Cold, started life as a two part, 8,000 word serial for Woman’s Weekly and I enjoyed the characters so much, I couldn’t let them go. (Or, should that be, they wouldn’t let me go?)
In your blog you ask authors where they get their ideas. Where do you get your ideas?
I have lived most of my life in small communities, apart from a few years when I lived in Bristol. I grew up on a farm in South Somerset and couldn’t wait to get away from the place – which I did when I was 18. I married a Bristolian and thought I was set to live in Bristol for the rest of my life. (I’d become a ‘proper townie’ by then). But five years after we married, he was transferred to Somerset and I ended up living in the same sort of small community I’d been so eager to leave a few years earlier.
That was two children, four dogs and almost a whole lifetime ago now and I’m still here! The difference is that now I love it and wouldn’t live anywhere else. My family, friends and neighbours, even the lady in the queue next to me in the supermarket, are a constant source of inspiration to me. Where would I be without them?
What inspired you to write the Much Winchmoor stories?
I was in my local pub one day and was, as is often the case, more interested in the conversations of others than listening to my husband and his friends bemoaning the sorry state of English rugby/cricket/weather or whatever their current moan was, when a voice rang out across the bar. “Well, everyone knows that Marjorie Hampton (not her real name) killed the Farm Shop”. And that got me thinking. (A) I knew the lady in question and she would never kill anyone or anything, least of all the local farm shop (Tesco’s managed to do that all on their own) and (B) why was that particular man so angry about it. And then I started trying to answer that question. The result was the 2 part serial I was talking about earlier.
How would you describe your books to someone who has never read one before?
Hmm, that’s a tricky one. I suppose the genre is cosy/cozy crime but, I like to think, with a difference. It’s more like what would happen if Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum was transported to rural Somerset. Kat, my main character, is feisty, with an answer for everything. She’s also been likened to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Mahone and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin. So she’s in pretty good company.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your books?
I think the best compliment of all is that someone has taken the trouble to read one of them and I am grateful to each and everyone of my readers, particularly those who are kind enough to leave a review. I treasure every single one.
But one of my most treasured compliments came from a story I wrote for Woman’s Weekly. It was about a widow, struggling to come to terms with her husband’s sudden death, who was persuaded to keep a journal to write down her feelings. She did so quite reluctantly but gradually came to discover just how very therapeutic writing can be. (And there’s a lovely rescue dog in the story as well). The magazine forwarded a letter they’d received from a reader, saying that she too had been recently widowed and that after reading my story, had tried keeping a journal. And it had worked! She found (as all writers know) that writing can be the best therapy. That just blew me away!
In fact, while I’m thinking about it, I am going to put that story on my blog, It can be found here.
Do you have any favourite authors? What is it about them or their work that appeals to you?
I’m going to start with Agatha Christie because my mother introduced her to me when I was 12 and I’ve loved her writing ever since. I also love Charlotte Bronte and reread Jane Eyre every few years.
I’m very lucky to be published by Crooked Cat/Darkstroke and have found some brilliant new to me authors there. Another great way I’ve come across new to me authors is by joining the UK Crime Book Club on Facebook, which is where I came across you, Robert, as well as many other great crime writers. It’s a brilliant group with a good mix of writers and readers of crime fiction.
If you could invite four guests (fictional or real, alive or dead) for dinner, who would you choose and why?
I’d invite Alan Coren (because he was so clever and witty and I miss him, even now, after all this time); Inspector Morse (because I really enjoyed both the books and the TV series and I have never watched or read the last one where he dies! Also because I share his love of choral music and crosswords although I’m not nearly as good at them as he was) ; Mrs Phillips, my English teacher from school to whom I owe so much. I’d love to have met her as an adult – although I’m not sure what she would make of my books! And finally, I’d love my mother to be there. She died many years ago but instilled in me a love of reading that has never left me. I would dearly love to see her face when I place one of my books in her hand. I think she’d have been proud – although she’d probably tell me that Agatha Christie would have tidied things up better – and, of course, she’d be right!
Please tell me about your latest project/plans for the future.
I’ve just finished an 8-part serial for the People’s Friend magazine and am now working through the edits for my third Much Winchmoor book, Burying Bad News, which is to be published on March 17th. I’m really looking forward to getting the edits out of the way, as the fourth book in the series in clamouring to be heard. It’s a bit crowded inside my head at the moment.
Thank you for the glimpse into your world, Paula. It’s always a delight to talk to authors who love what they do as much as you. Your enjoyment and sense of fun shine through in your writing.
Good luck with Burying Bad News.
Social Media Links
Blog – paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com.
Facebook author page – https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author.
Twitter – @paulawilliams44.
Website – paulawilliamswriter.co.uk
Instagram – paulawilliams_author
Amazon links to the Much Winchmoor Mysteries
One severed head, two warring neighbours – and a cold-blooded killer stalks Much Winchmoor. There’s the murder made to look like a tragic accident, and a missing husband. Could he be victim number two?
The tiny Somerset village is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country, and once again, reporter/barmaid/dog walker Kat Latcham finds herself reluctantly dragged into the investigation.
Things are looking bad for Ed Fuller, the husband of one of Kat’s oldest friends. Kat’s convinced he’s innocent – but she’s been wrong before.
Has Kat come across her biggest challenge yet?
Fans of Janet Evanovich could well enjoy this “funky, modern day nosey detective” transported to the English countryside. The third Much Winchmoor mystery is, as always, spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.