It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Anna Legat, author of Out of Sight, book 6 in the DI Gillian Marsh series
About Anna Legat:
Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh and The Shires murder mysteries. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from historical fiction, through magic realism to dystopia. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories.
An utterly captivating murder mystery: the sixth book in the addictive DI Gillian Marsh series. Perfect for fans of Matt Brolly, Cara Hunter and J.R. Ellis.
On the morning of his thirtieth wedding anniversary Stewart Harding is found dead. He was an arrogant and thoroughly unpleasant man and there is no shortage of suspects, but all of them have firm alibis. In any case, everything points towards it being an opportunistic killing linked to a robbery.
DI Mark Webber is assigned as the SIO with Gillian Marsh overseeing the investigation. However, when her mother dies, she takes leave of absence and lets Webber continue on his own.
Webber is making good progress until his colleague – and secret lover – DC Erin Macfadyen disappears without trace. Webber’s world falls apart.
DCI Marsh cuts her bereavement leave short to take over the investigation into Harding’s death and to track down her missing officer.
Author Interview with Anna Legat:
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- Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
An interesting question, and upon some reflection, yes, I do think so. The ability to write a good book doesn’t rest on your ability to feel strongly – in other words: one doesn’t have to be an emotional person to be a writer.
In fact, something opposite may be true: you need to be able to observe emotions in action and to analyse them in the cold light of day in order to capture them with any depth and accuracy. Letting raw emotions rip through your books is all good, but you as a writer need to be in control. You are an observer, not a character.
This is especially true for crime writers. Understanding emotions helps with understanding motives and relationships, but understanding emotions doesn’t necessarily mean feeling them. Imagine you’re writing about a serial killer or a psychopath. You can’t possibly feel what they feel, and often they feel nothing, as that is the nature of their condition. As a crime writer, you yourself do kill a good few people. Succumb to emotions and you’ll spend your life weeping for your victims. Yet, you have to move the story forward and discard emotion in favour of cold logic.
My perspective is that of a crime writer. I imagine a romantic novelist may beg to differ. However, as much as I have no problem with an unemotional writer, I would be wary of a writer without the gift of empathy. Empathy, not emotion, is essential.
Finally, a few brilliant writers displayed strong autistic tendencies which include the inability to feel emotions in the conventional sense of the word. Obsession was their version of emotion. They struggled with looking people in the eye, forming relationships or behaving spontaneously – “with feeling”. And yet they created magnificent literature. Think James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Hans Christian Andersen, Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, Janet Frame, and Lewis Carroll.
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Without trying or even thinking about it, I have created a body of work that is interlinked in more ways than one – mainly through reappearing characters and settings. This may be because characters tend to take on lives of their own and won’t simply go away once I have typed THE END.
DI Gillian Marsh (the protagonist of my crime series which Out of Sight belongs to) turns up uninvited in the first book of my cozy series, The Shires Mysteries. She stays there, occasionally attempting to take over the entire plot.
Characters from my debut novel, Life Without Me (which opened the door to traditional publishing for me) have since appeared in my other standalone books, The End of the Road, Broken and Paula Goes to Heaven. Those characters had stories of their own which I felt compelled to tell.
Once we start creating our fictional worlds and characters, they begin to grow on us and we can’t simply shut them down or erase them. They give us continuity. In a way, that familiarity of place and character is what constitutes the distinctiveness of our work.
Having said that, I always endeavour for each of my books to be unique and to stand on its own feet. I find template-write an utter bore.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Crime fiction writing involves only a moderate amount of research. You may occasionally scour the net and libraries to find out about a particular point of law, a method of killing, an effect of a specific poison or medical condition on the human body and mind, but generally speaking most of your writing comes from your head because it is primarily about plotting. No textbook can give you an original storyline.
Last year I delved into historical fiction. That is an entirely different kettle of fish! The amount of research involved is enormous, and it never seems enough. You often find yourself stuck on fundamentals: How old is this saying? What did they use to wash off blood? Would they have travelled on horseback? If, in addition to another distant period in time, you also find yourself in another distant physical location, you risk drowning in research. See how long you can hold your breath!
Historical authenticity can only be assured through robust research while writing contemporary fiction simply requires good observational skills.
- What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Trying to think like them.
In order to achieve that, you have to put any given specimen of the opposite sex at ease and get him to talk. Let him talk freely and without inhibition. Encourage it. Applaud his honesty. This way you will get into his head and once you’re there, you’ve got your character to a tee.
- Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing the story?
Plenty! Most of it boils down to thinking.
Some people may say that thinking isn’t really doing anything, but they will be very, very wrong. Thinking is an extremely intense and exhausting process. When I start imagining a book, its settings and its entire story arc, I fall into some form of a catatonic state. I seem to be functioning on a basic physiological level, but that’s the extent of my existence. Every other life function is absorbed into thinking. I may be listening to people talking to me, but I can assure you, I can’t hear them. I may be looking at them, but I can’t see them. I am somewhere else.
And don’t even mention the process of thinking up characters. It is a cognitive effort equivalent of giving birth, and that takes a lot of doing!
I prefer to do my thinking while walking my dog who never demands my attention. She is my silent plotting partner. Unfortunately, people aren’t as tolerant as dogs.
- Do you have a library membership?
- How many bookshelves are in your house?
I have lost count.