As well as talking about new book Who Shot Tony Blair? I share my thoughts on found food, nuns, keeping out of mischief and political predictions for the future…
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.
Ladies, gentleman and wee beasties – excellent news! PorterGirl: First Lady Of The Keys is now available for your enjoyment in paperback, as well as ebook format (click above!) Whilst you take a moment to gather yourselves following this thrilling revelation, I shall tell you about a post I have had sitting in my drafts folder for quite sometime. It has the working title of ‘Forgetting The Truth’ and is a very honest missive about what really happened during my brief (yet eventful) time as Deputy Head Porter at one of Cambridge’s foremost Colleges. I am not sure that I ever intend to publish it, but I feel it had to be written nonetheless.
I have always maintained that I would not personally name that illustrious institution (although its identity has been widely revealed on other platforms – the College’s own Wikipedia page, for starters), nor would I betray the finer details of life inside those ancient walls. This is all sounds dreadfully magnanimous and worthy, but is proving something of a stumbling block now that I come to handling the dreaded promotion of the book. I have turned down a couple of TV interviews now, as the focus of both was to fall firmly in the camp of revealing all about the real Old College. Needless to say, the publisher is none too pleased.
Having fallen foul of the press once or twice before (the notorious Putin interview still makes me wince), I am naturally somewhat averse to speaking on the record with scurrilous scribblers and media types. Whilst my prose might make passable reading, in real life I am scatty, verbose and often unintentionally offensive – my internal editor applies almost exclusively to the written word, leaving my conversational manner colourful to say the least.
There is, perhaps, a ruse that might keep everyone happy. I thought that I might develop a sanitised version of my real College days, carefully practiced and light on scandal, to share with the hacks – enough to sound half interesting but not enough to be spun into something potentially lawsuit-inducing. If (and it’s a big ‘if’) I am to share the truth of the matter with the world, I would much prefer it to be by my own pen and with my own intentions made clear. In other words, I will probably be talking a lot of bollocks in the coming weeks and months. (The first person to say ‘no change there, then’ is going right over my knee for a bloody good spanking).
And as for the actual truth? I tell you what – I shall write it all down somewhere suitably sibylline, to be discovered soon after my no doubt dramatic death.
You see? I’m really getting the hang of this writer lark.