Celia Conrad reads a chapter from Murder in Hand.
AUTHORS UNCOVERED INTERVIEW
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Deciding to write wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t just decide one day that I wanted to be a writer. I always enjoyed writing stories and I was a very imaginative child with lots of ideas, but it wasn’t until a friend said that I had a way of “relaying a story” and that I should write my ideas down that I really thought about writing fiction.
When did you write your first book?
The first book I actually completed was a non-fiction legal handbook Fathers Matter to assist families embroiled in custody battles and I started working on this in 2001. The first edition was published in 2003. The book proved very popular and is now in its third edition.
Why did you decide on your particular genre?
I have a strong sense of justice and that good must overcome evil eventually! Crime fiction seems to work well with that. I like the fact that in the end the “baddies” get their come-uppance and that truth prevails.
How long did it take you to write your latest book?
The actually writing of Murder in Hand (Alicia Allen Investigates Book 3) took about six weeks. It’s the research and plotting that takes me several months. When I’m in writing mode I have a tendency to write from about 8am until midnight day after day as I find I simply must get the story down. It really is all consuming. I have recently completed a children’s book and the writing process was exactly the same. It’s just the way I work.Where did you find the inspiration for your book?
I come from a legal background and my own personal experiences of working within the legal profession have been very influential in the creation of my character Alicia Allen who is a lawyer. I made her a private client lawyer dealing with Wills and Inheritance because where Wills and money are concerned there is plenty of scope for murder. In terms of the subject matter of the books they are legal crime novels and the plots spin upon complex legal issues. I always enjoyed research and unravelling complex legal points when I worked as a solicitor and this is something I’ve definitely carried forward into the books. I have Italian ancestry so Italy is definitely in my blood and I certainly am a complete Italophile. It seemed natural to make Alicia Anglo-Italian and to have a very strong Italian theme running through all the books.
Book Trailer for A Model Murder
I enjoyed writing all of them. They were all very challenging in different ways. A Model Murder because it was the first book; Wilful Murder because as the second book it was the “link” book and Murder in Hand as I needed to finish off the trilogy and tie up any loose ends, but I also wanted to keep Alicia’s option open for returning in future novels.
Which chapter did you enjoy writing the most?
The chapter where justice is done and the murderer or murderers are either captured or killed. Which occurs in each book of the trilogy.
Where and how do you like to write?
I certainly don’t allocate a certain time to write each day; I just write for however long the mood takes me but generally I like to write 2000 words minimum a day. I need a good view when I’m writing so like to place myself near a window. It’s amazing how gazing into the mid-distance can focus your mind and your thoughts. If I’m in writing mode I find that I’m not easily distracted by the sounds around me as I’m not actually conscious of them when I’m concentrating on my story.What motivates you to write?
It’s a compulsion. It’s also very therapeutic.Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Before I start writing I prepare an outline and work out my plots so I have the gist of the story even before I write the first word. Taking regular breaks keeps things fresh and writer’s block at bay.If you had the chance to write it all again, would you change anything in your latest book?
You learn by experience and I think there are always things you can change. I’ve learned the importance of editorial input and why it is probably the most important part of the publishing process for authors.
Do you find anything particularly challenging with your writing?
I create complicated plots (so I’m told!) which means that I really have to check and double check that I have tied up all the loose ends.What are your 3 favourite books and why?
My crime trilogy! I wrote the books back to back so it was a major challenge.Which authors have influenced you?
Agatha Christie, P D James, A K Green, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G K Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers are all writers whose books I read when growing up and they have been inspirational as well as influential. I am inspired by their inventiveness, ingenuity and literary output, which is phenomenal. I am influenced by authors with a legal background such as John Grisham and Teresa Burrell, for exampleWho is your favourite author and why?
Margaret Mitchell. She wrote one amazing book Gone with the Wind which was hugely successful. But she could not be persuaded to write a sequel. I think what makes the book so good is not knowing what Margaret Mitchell would have done had she decided to write a sequel and why the story has enduring appeal.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters the reader can relate to. I know I’m reading a good story when I am feeling great empathy with the characters and really care about what happens to themDoes your book have a message?
Justice will prevail!Did you learn anything from writing your book and if so, what was it?
Much of Alicia’s crime solving is cerebral so she needs to get into the mindset of the individuals she is dealing with. I read a lot about psychology and how people react in certain situations.What are the most important elements of good writing?
A book is well written if it reads easily and no matter how good the plot, the characterization and the setting, poor editing will let an otherwise great book down.Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Think about your audience. If you are a writer then you want your books to be read. Who are your writing for? Write about what you know, keep writing and don’t give up because it really is a marathon and not a sprint.What do your family and friends think of your writing?
They’ve always been very supportive which is great because being a writer can be a very solitary existence.Do you know how your book is going to end before you start writing?
I do, although by the time I reach the end the plot may have dictated that I make certain changes.How do you develop your characters?
The characters are very much a product of my imagination and their creation and development depends upon the plot. When I created Alicia I wanted to create a strong female protagonist but someone who is empathetic and intuitive. In her creation I have used my own background and experiences in the law and my love of all things Italian. I think it is important to give the reader an insight into to a character’s likes and loves and his/her personality and I have endeavoured to portray that with Alicia, and indeed other characters in the books, while leaving much to the reader’s imagination. I have a very clear picture of Alicia in my mind and if I have succeeded at all, then by the end of book 1 the readers will also have a very clear picture of her.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play your lead characters?
With a number of young Australian and Italian characters in the books I would like to see some up and coming actors. Natalie Imbruglia is an Australian actress who certainly has the Alicia look but I think Alec Baldwin would play an excellent Uncle Vico and Antony La Paglia could play Gregorio Pellegrino.Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person and why?
Definitely Alicia. She’s very much on the same wavelength as me. And Alex. He’s so perfect that I’d really need to meet him to see if he’s for real.
Have you ever written anything that you absolutely hate?
Of course. I am my own worst critic!Can you describe your writing room?
It’s the room with the most light. It’s very therapeutic writing on a sunny day with the light pouring in through the window. My desk is generally tidy although it really isn’t big enough as I always have papers everywhere. Boxes and books surround me, although my research files are tidily packed away in a cupboard.Do you have any pets and have they influenced or been included in your writing?
No, but Dorothy’s cat Smoky is based on Persian blue belonging to a friend.
Which do you prefer e-book or printed book?
I still love the feel of a printed book, and I often make notes in a printed reference book. But I read a good many Ebooks, particularly fiction.How do you react to a bad review of one of your books, or a negative reaction from a friend or family member?
It is all very subjective. I am delighted if a reader chooses to read my book and enjoys it but I don’t expect my books to appeal to all readers. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I respect that. The good thing is that if the book is being judged it is being read and authors need readers and reviews.What is the most difficult part of being an author?
It is quite a solitary existence at times and I have had to learn to interact with readers and build an author platform.
Would you ever write your autobiography?
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?
If I wrote it everybody would think it was fiction rather than fact.When writing, do you prefer computer, iPad, laptop or a pen and paper?
I always make notes and scribble down my ideas with a pen and paper. In fact I can only write the outlines of my plots this way for some strange reason. But when it comes to the actual writing that’s on my desktop computer.
What are you working on at the moment?
Due to the fact that I was unable to do any marketing when the crime trilogy was first published, I have spent considerable time this year trying to bring Alicia Allen to readers’ attention. I am currently working on outlines for her potential return.
Thinking of the future, what’s next?
Another legal handbook and more crime novels…What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Reading, pursuing my love of languages, cooking and eating good food, taking long walks and indulging my interest in fashion and design and more besides...
Do you have a dark secret to share with us?
I do all my legal, cultural and geographical research personally. Some of the subject matter is gritty so it was challenging. It’s not a secret exactly, but for A Model Murder I researched several Gentlemen’s Clubs and spoke with the “hostesses” about the inner workings of that life.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?
Being asked to model the diamond anchor brooch given to Lady Hamilton by Lord Nelson for an auction at Sotheby’s on the basis that I was told I looked like Lady Hamilton. That’s the most expensive piece of jewellery I have ever worn.
What is your greatest achievement (whether related to writing or not)?
Writing and publishing the Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy during a time of great personal loss, tragedy and adversity. My mother and then-agent were very supportive and when they suddenly passed away, I felt it was important to honour their belief in Alicia Allen and make the books a reality.
What do you think is the future of the print book?
I can’t think of anything better than browsing through books at a bookstore and, although more and more people are reading Ebooks, I think there will always be a demand for print books.If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?
A continuity expert in films as it appeals to my observant nature!
A somewhat abbreviated version of this interview and my video reading first appeared on the Authors Uncovered website at http://www.authors-uncovered.com/conrad-celia/
I hope you found something of interest in it. Thank you!