Crime writer, Andrew Taylor speaks at the Hampshire Writers’ Society

Report by Carole Hastings 

Barbara Large welcomed members and guests to the start of the new season of exciting HWS talks with acclaimed authors Andrew Taylor as the main speaker and Lindsay Ashford as special guest and adjudicator for the September competition.

Lindsay is an internationally published crime writer whose book The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen will be dramatised on Radio 4 in February 2014.LindsayAshford She shared her top tip for writer’s block. When she is developing her characters for a novel, she studies photos from papers and a plethora of magazines for people who have features that match those of her characters. She sticks these images on index cards creating a box of faces for each novel. When she’s stuck, she stares at a card and lets the face take on a life of its own. She lets any idea come into her head to unlock her creativity. The Gothic face of the antagonist in her book Where Death Lies came for a teen music magazine. The book is available from September on Kindle for 98p for a limited period only.

Andrew Taylor, author of 40 crime novels, won the Creasey Dagger Award in 1982 with his first book Caroline Miniscule written whilst he worked in a library. It was the first in his eight book Dougal series and he hasn’t looked back.   He has won a number of awards including the prestigious Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2009 for his outstanding contribution to the genre. Most recently in 2013 he won the CWA Ellis Peter Historical Dagger for the third time, this time for The Scent of Death, which was set in Manhattan during the American War of Independence and explored the relativity of loyalty.

Andrew TaylorAndrew writes organically with no defined plot or structure, just some fragments that he wants to feature. He likened it to having a packet of seeds but no idea of how the plant will look when it’s fully grown. He said when faced with writer’s block he forces himself to write, even if he’s not sure where it will go. He stressed the importance of creating a hook at the end of each chapter to keep attention high. His first novel developed into a crime novel but the intention at the outset was purely to write a page turning story that was authentic. His publishers made the point that crime is always popular so this would secure a place on the booksellers’ shelves which is more difficult for mainstream novels. However they asked him to edit it by a third, an act that he said felt like sawing off the legs of his first born, but one that he eventually saw made the book a success. He made the point that professional writers take advice that amateurs won’t…

Crime fiction has had a renaissance over the past thirty years and the market has gone from simple “who dunnit’s” to complex psychological thrillers set in any time. Barbara Vine’s novels that explored moral dilemmas in the 90’s marked a turning point for the genre. The importance of a corpse and a real story that entertains the reader are of paramount importance to Andrew, as is thorough research rather than relying on memory for period fiction. He watches film, listens to music, reads the papers, checks social history records of any era he writes about. His Lydmouth series about a policeman and female journalist in the 1950’s was his first testament to that. There is a final book in the series waiting in the wings. Most of his work includes issues relevant to the day e.g. worries about the Cold War, social mores, class and sexism.

As well as generating his work from scratch, he novelised the TV drama Bergerac on the invitation of Penguin and created four novels in eight months. Some years later The Roth Trilogy, three psychological thrillers inspired by Fred West, were televised as Fallen Angel and starred Charles Dance and Emilia Fox.

Andrew advised everyone to keep their writing simple, not to over-complicate the plot and to avoid too many characters in too many settings.

For more information on Andrew and his books see:

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