What Do You Think?

You know I love you chaps (and chapesses). I love you lots. You are like family to me. And I value your opinions above all others. When it comes to PorterGirl-related matters, certainly. So I turn to you now with open mind and ears to ask your honest advice.

The PorterGirl books have been collected together (along with some bonus new material) into one big old trilogy and will be available just in time for Christmas. Needless to say, it would make the perfect literary gift for your friends, family and enemies and could also serve as a very classy doorstop. Your choice. Anyway, I have been sent the first mock-up of the front cover from my publisher and I’m just not sure.

Portergirl Trilogy Draft ONE.jpg

The image is great and I like the black and white. I think my name in the hat is rather clever, although I’m not sure if such a lovely hat should not remain untouched. But the title – Trilog-Tea’ is the biggest sticking point. It is clever word play, but it sounds awkward to me, somehow. And it looks strange. But it is more imaginative than ‘trilogy’ or ‘collected works’ and such. I have looked and pondered and looked again until the words and image have no meaning and I still can’t decide if I love it or hate it.

So… what do you think?

Interview With The Writer Review

This won’t be published until September, so I thought there was little harm in sharing it with you lovely people now…

Please provide a brief introduction, including your name, the genre(s) you write in, previous work and where you are based. 

My name is Lucy Brazier and I write light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek mysteries, set in a fictional rendition of my home city of Cambridge, UK. I have worked for all kinds of interesting organisations in the past – including the police and the civil service – but it was my role as the first female Deputy Head Porter at a prestigious Cambridge college that led to me becoming a writer.

Which of your books / pieces of writing are you most proud of, and why?

I’m pretty chuffed with all my work to date. My first self-published novel has a special place in my heart and, although the writing style was at best naive and it was riddled with errors, I am proud of the achievement of getting it out there all on my little ownsome. My best work, I would say, is my latest novel, PorterGirl – Sinister Dexter. The third in the series, I feel I’ve got to grips with the dark art of novel writing and it is something I can feel genuinely proud of as a piece of work.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The PorterGirl books take me about six months, although a lot of that time is spent endlessly thinking it all through. Then I have a mad eight or nine weeks of bashing it out on my laptop. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The artistic process isn’t that difficult, it’s all the bits that come after that I struggle with. Marketing, promotion – getting people to actually buy the bloody things is the tricky bit.

What was your hardest scene to write?

There is a scene in Sinister Dexter where the parents of a deceased young man attend the place where his body was found. In a novel that, for the most part, is knockabout humour, capturing the futile and hollow grief of mourning a lost child wasn’t easy.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I don’t read them. It’s easier that way. I read occasional abuse on Twitter, though, and through that I learnt the delightful phrase ‘cock womble’. It is now my go-to term of abuse to use when navigating the North Circular on a Friday afternoon.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I like research and spend extensive periods during the ‘thinking’ time of – ahem – writing the book filling in any blanks of the storyline. In PorterGirl – The Vanishing Lord, part of the plot refers to heraldry and I had a super time reading up on that and making lots of notes with little pictures. An online series on my blog, set in the early 1930s, featured a character with learning difficulties. Although very little about her treatment and condition actually appeared on the page, I spent a long time researching attitudes and treatments at that time. Research gives me a better understanding of my subject matter and enables me to write about things with a greater depth.

What does literary success look like to you?

I’m not going to lie, I’d quite like a big house in country and an old Jaguar so I can roll around the place like Inspector Morse. I was contacted by an American reader about my first book, First Lady Of The Keys. She and her sister read it together during long periods spent at a hospice where their mother was sadly receiving end of life care. The reader told me that the book had made them laugh and smile at one of the darkest times in their lives and thanked me for writing it. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Only one and that will be published later this year.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun by Neil Ruston. It’s not for the faint-hearted and probably too dark in places for most, but I think it’s a work a genius.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? (E.g. software, self-help books, marketing books etc.)

Can’t say I have ever used any of those, I write everything on the standard word processing software on my laptop and I believe the only way to get better is to write, write, write. I advise writers to invest in a good teapot and a comfy chair. That’s all you need.

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?

The PorterGirl series certainly has connections and continuations throughout all the books, but they work well as stand alones too. I personally like to keep up the running jokes and references and the readers seem to enjoy it too.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Taking criticism too personally and underestimating the amount and quality of the competition out there. Writing a good book just isn’t enough these days. You really have to build your own little brand and find a way of standing out from the crowd. Writing is actually only a very small part of being a writer. Which is a pain in the bum.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I think it’s the dialogue, but that’s just me. 

Don’t Tell Me I’m Lucky

“Oh, aren’t you lucky to be doing the thing you love!”

A well-meaning yet slightly irritating woman pronounced this to me the other day and I bristled at her words. Of course, being unfailingly British in my inability to express the more robust of emotions (unless I’ve had a couple of gins, obviously) I simply smiled politely in response. But, actually, inside I was quietly incensed. Luck has played the most minor of roles in the continuing chronicles of my becoming a writer.

Without wishing to delve too far into the more personal aspects of my life, I can assure you that the sacrifices I have made in order to chase my dream have been substantial. In fact, to even give the dream a glimmer of hope of survival, I gave up pretty much everything I had – personally, professionally and materially. For reasons best left in the past, I had to start my life again from scratch if I was to have any chance of achieving my goal. And then I had to work at it. I mean really work at it. There are no short cuts to getting better at writing. Not only are there no short cuts, the long way around often leads you right back to where you started. I worked through the failures, through the dark nights of self-doubt (those never quite go away, but one gets better at ignoring them) and through the feelings of utter futility. This is what I want to do. And I’m going to give it a bloody good go.

For a long time, other than my immediate family there was only one person who seriously believed in what I was doing – the man who would later become Head Porter, Paul Butterworth. There was more than one occasion where his stern words and enthusiasm prevented me from giving up completely. I am forever in his debt for that.


Paul Butterworth. Legend.

Aside from the emotional wrangling – which subsides considerably after a bit and only makes occasional reappearances – there is the sheer number of hours which must be devoted to the cause. Writing is bloody time consuming, which often seems to surprise people, for some reason. Social occasions come and go unnoticed. Romances are abandoned and lovers sacrificed upon the alter of literary pursuit. I don’t actually sacrifice my lovers, of course. Especially not the ones who are any good. (There really are not many lovers. At all. Despite what popular opinion may tell you.)

And it’s not just the actual writing – there is the research, the revision and the rewriting, too. That’s before you even start to think about luring in an audience with blogs, social media and absolutely anything else one can think of to get those precious eyes on your work. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve resorted to a degree of nudity to achieve this in the past. Hey, whatever works.


A couple of times I have resorted to a degree of nudity

(Artwork by Ted Giffin)

But there is little point in attracting people to your wares if the wares themselves are found wanting. So, I have invested enormous amounts of time and effort into producing high quality, regular content not only to keep people coming back for more, but also to prove to myself that I can do it.

So no, I haven’t been especially lucky, at least no more than anyone else. Of course, we all benefit from the seldom smile of the fates from time to time – but fortune favours the brave, so if you want a bit of luck I suggest you put on your fighting pants and get out there and wrestle the bugger to the floor yourself.