Sunday, 8 April 2012

Interrogating Cecilia Peartree

My 9th interview is with Cecilia Peartree, one of my favourite new authors.  Cecilia writes about the world of Pitkirtly and the 4th book in that series is just out.  These are Scottish cosy mysteries and I just adore them

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I only write things I want to write, otherwise I just wouldn't be able to write them at all. The only compromise I make now that I have a publishing outlet is that I don't leave things lying around for years on my computer, but try and get them completed!

 What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

 I've always enjoyed reading mystery novels. My father was a great mystery reader too, and we used to share library books when I was a teenager and watch programmes like 'Perry Mason' together (sorry, this probably gives away my age!). I think it started out as being about the puzzle element, and now it is more about the characters.

 Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them? 

I have notebooks - I'm a stationery junkie, always buying new notebooks wherever I go. Usually there's a notebook for each thing that's in progress and one of them will also have my current writing plan in it which usually covers about a year ahead. I make odd notes on spare pages in one of the notebooks. Sometimes the ideas come along at really annoying times - I remember last year being really cross because I had just finished NaNoWriMo and I woke up the next morning with an idea for a completely different novel. Character names, everything.
I used to lose notebooks but I've bought a new storage thing from IKEA to keep them in now!

 How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ? 

I've thought about this a lot, particularly with the Pitkirtly characters from my mystery series who are now so familiar to me, and I think all of them probably represent different aspects of me. I do have some of Amaryllis's ruthlessness and lack of feminine 'caring' qualities, but I can also be irritatingly vague like Christopher, grumpy like Jock McLean and obsessed with family history like Jemima.
In 'The Mountain and the Flood' I tried hard to make the characters come from a different generation from me because it's set in the future, so they are based more on my sons and their friends, although of course every character is part of me really, even the bad ones.

 Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

This isn't really relevant as I mostly lead a separate life from my spouse - the details are too complicated to go into! However I don't tend to become completely wrapped up in my writing as I fit it into odd half hours and have to be able to switch on and off - at work in the lunch-hour, for instance.

 What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

 Yes, I do read a lot of mysteries but some of them are more hard-boiled than mine. I am finding I don't have the same tolerance for violence or suspense as I get older, though - I sometimes read chick-lit now instead, though I find some of it really annoying.
I like lightweight travel books and history sometimes too.

 What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

 I'm the world's worst salesperson, in fact I tried to talk someone out of even downloading 'Crime in the Community' for free last week because I thought she might not like it. I really want to get a good match between books and readers. I love it when a reviewer 'gets' what I've written. So I suppose in a sense quality is more important than quantity. I like just to try and make my books visible and then let people judge for themselves whether they like them.

 How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

 Ha ha! - very topical! - grateful, I think! Annoyed with myself for missing them, but glad to have the chance to put it right.

 What do you like most about visiting KUF?

I like the friendliness - it's the best forum I've come across from that point of view.

 What is on your near horizon?

Now that 'Death at the Happiness Club' is published, I have returned to a historical novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2008 (!) with a view to trying to finish it at last. Unfortunately this means writing a few extra chapters (groan). This month I will also do some work on my short story for the KUF summer anthology.

 Where can we find you for more information?

 I have three Wordpress blogs - [main blog, lots of rambling about my life, cats, theatre group etc], [Cecilia Peartree - woman of mystery] and [Sheila Perry predicts Scotland's Future - rants about Scottish independence etc, vaguely related to 'The Mountain and the Flood'].


  1. Another great interview! I enjoyed Cecilia's short story A Romantic Quest, a nice blend of historical, mystery, romance and characterisation.

  2. I've never done NaNoWriMo, but I once did the "One Day Novel Cup" -an event where you had 24 hours to write a book split over two shifts of 12 hours each locked up in the Groucho Club in London...
    usually it takes me nine months to write a book, so needless to say I did not win!

    Good interview series, glad to have discovered it.