Since my last book review on Cold Justice, I have had to opportunity to interview Lee Weeks herself.
Lee Weeks is a Sunday Times Bestselling Author, born in Devon, she writes crime novels and has 2 series of detective books, Johnny Mann and Carter/Willis. First published in 2008 her books rose to critical acclaim. She has spent 7 years travelling and worked as an English teacher and a fitness instructor. Visit Lee Week’s website here.
Outside of writing, you are an abstract and landscape painter and an experienced copywriter, is there anything else that you dabble in?
A few years ago I went into business with my son and two others to open a bar and restaurant in Exeter – I now find myself the petit fours and ice-cream maker!
When did you realize that you wanted to become an author?
I always wrote poetry and stories as a kid and through my travelling years. I never dreamt that I could make a living as a writer, or rather that people would want to read what I had written. Only when my marriage was ending did I think that it might be time to give it a shot.
What made you specifically want to write crime novels over other genres?
I did not specifically want to write crime; I first wrote about one of my experiences when I was travelling and living in Hong Kong, and I added a few fight scenes here and there and a detective and, when I sent it off to a company to appraise it, they replied that I had written a thriller and that they really liked my detective in chapter three. When my marriage ended I decided to rejig my book, put the detective in the lead, and send it to an agent and he took me on.
I know it must be difficult choosing out of your own characters, but who is your favourite out of Johnny Man, Ebony Willis or Dan Carter? Mine is defiantly Ebony she is very determined and always has Carter’s back and she follows her initiative.
All my characters are dear to me, they represent qualities I either admire, wish I had, or wish I did not have. Johnny Mann is the most like me.
Your novels are very suspenseful and you keep the reader guessing until the very end, do you struggle with your own suspense when writing? I know that when I’m writing I get a bit overexcited for the action that I find it hard to keep it a secret.
Outlining and plotting is paramount in order to make sure your story develops in the right way and you keep the reader guessing.
I really appreciate the amount of research that must go into your novels, the detail you go into about detective work is just something else. How do you try to keep your novel as factual as you can, whilst it is still a work of fiction?
The Iceberg theory applies here. You have to know an awful lot about your subject but choose just a tiny part to pass on. I choose the detail that I know interests me – that’s all you can go by – what interests me will interest others.
How much of your time is spent researching and how do you go about your research?
Research depends on what I am writing. Most times a book is written in a few months and another couple of months is spent researching and outlining. When I was writing my Johnny Mann books that meant a lot of time going to Asia and hanging about with the police out there. The Willis/Carter books were on more familiar turf and involved spending time with the Murder Squad. I make sure I get the setting right by drawing maps of interiors and areas so that the reader knows where they are all the time.
You’ve been branded in the past as ‘the female James Patterson’, How do you feel about this? Are you a fan of Patterson? I love his Cross series and Hide and Seek.
I am very flattered. You cannot help but be a fan of the Cross series – very slick but also a little disturbing and thought-provoking, great characters and settings. I’ll take it!
Have your life experiences influenced your writing in any way?
Yes, in every way, my own life gets into my books. Writing is a wonderful way of taking an experience you’ve had and giving it to a character in your story and let them live it, change it, resolve it. But, you don’t need to have had the experiences I have had, you need to be a detective, ask questions, be a therapist, a magpie- collect people’s stories and absorb their feelings and write them as if they are your own, then give them to your characters in your stories.
How do you get into the ‘zone’ of writing?
When you are a professional writer you are just full at it all the time. If you are experiencing writer’s block it is because there is something wrong, with your story, the outline, the characters? If you plot well enough you should always be in the zone. Just write all the time – diaries, poems, thoughts, six-word stories, anything – keep writing!
In the 11 years since your first published novel, you’ve written a very impressive 9 books that have been published, how long does it usually take you to write a full novel?
I have ten books out – four Johnny Mann and six Willis/Carter. I am contracted to write one a year but that doesn’t mean I get a year to write one because the editors and proofreaders and printers need time, so six-month max.
Your blog is very helpful for people who are wanting to write a thriller novel, is there any other advice that you would give to aspiring authors?
Write a monologue for each of your main characters: their thoughts, their motivations, what has their life been like for them and what brings them to this point? Know what their darkest desire is and that will help you build conflict between characters.
Check out Lee Week’s blog here.
Which authors inspire you?
Authors are good at specific things – some are incredible story-tellers, others are wonderful at characterisation. I cannot pick one. I was inspired by the Enid Blyton book The Faraway tree when I was young. Alexander Trocchi and John Burdett, Garcia-Marquez and DH Lawrence when I was older. Now I am continually inspired by writers of all kinds.
What is your utmost favourite book and why?
- Fennimore Cooper’s book The Last of the Mohicans – it has everything for me – unrequited love, suspense in bucket loads, tragedy and fight scenes. It is epic!
What is your favourite quote and why?
‘A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.’
It’s a quote by Shakespeare and it sums up the way I feel about people who think they are so clever but not clever enough to realise they have so much more to learn.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only bring 3 things with you, what would you take and why?
I would take a piano to learn – I have always wanted to. I would take a guide to build funky homes in “out of the way” places – a great skill to master. I would take a powerful telescope to make sense of the universe and watch the stars for aliens in case they fancied coming to visit me on my desert island.