Guest Post: Mel Sherratt on Writing Inspirations

Monday 9 February 2015
I'm late to the party but I am now a huge Mel Sherratt fan having loved three of her books (and really want to move The Estate Series up my TBR!). Today, on publication week for Mel's latest novel Follow the Leader I am very excited to share a guest post from Mel where she tells us about her writing inspirations which I very much enjoyed reading (and had no idea Mel started out writing Women's Fiction!) I hope you enjoy the guest post, and I will be sharing my review for Follow the Leader tomorrow (10th).

Mel Sherratt on Writing Inspirations

It might come as a shock to some people when they read my gritty books that I actually started out writing women’s fiction. Back then, my inspiration came from authors such as Adele Parks, Lisa Jewell and Dorothy Koomson and it gives me immense pleasure to see them still writing huge bestsellers and enjoying international success.

Just before I self-published my first crime thriller, Taunting the Dead, I self-published two women’s fiction novels on Kindle, more as a guinea pig to try out the system. Without any platform, and using a pen name, the books have gone on to sell over 75,000 copies.

When I wrote The Estate Series, as well as then working as a housing officer for the local authority, I had started to read more crime. Hence my next books began to get a little darker, becoming a cross between women’s fiction and crime thrillers. A few months ago, through social media, I asked my readers what category they would put The Estate Series into, and they said crime or psychological thrillers. Me, I liken them to Shameless meets EastEnders – where even the darkest times have their lighter moments.

I’ve recently made Taunting the Dead into a series – the second book, Follow the Leader, is out this week. It’s different in some ways from standard police procedurals and yet not so different in others. I like to write about fear and emotion. I like to write whydunnits, and I like to be with victims of crime as they go through their fall-outs or comebacks, whatever the outcome. I’m not afraid to touch on strong topics that some people might not be comfortable with, so there’s an element of psychological thriller in some of them too. But by using a female main character, for me, I can show her often getting too emotional as she seeks justice in her role in the police service. Plus having a police officer’s point of view as well as victims and suspects gives me a great way to work in some twisty-turny plots.

There’s a lot of advice out there for writers, one in particular is write what you know. Well… don’t tell anyone but I’ve never actually committed murder… I just write what excites me and that’s rooting for an underdog. When I’m watching television, I like being scared to the point that I’m hiding behind a cushion, or looking through my hands or even, on the odd occasion, shouting ‘don’t go into the basement or if you do at least turn the light on!’

I like getting involved with everyday stories, those situations that spiral out of control and before he or she knows it, they’re in a whole heap of trouble. It makes for some interesting reviews though, as often my characters get under people’s skin a little too much. For instance, in my standalone psychological thriller, Watching over You, Ella is a sex addict. She’s also schizophrenic and is breaking down slowly. It was hard to show that the diary cataloguing her abuse in her earlier years was a figment of her imagination – then again, was it?

Writing what excites me can be done with research but books also have to stay real. So who do I read to inspire me? I started off reading Ian Rankin, (Rebus), Peter James (Roy Grace) and Mark Billingham (Tom Thorne) to study not only the police procedural elements, but also how to hook, set scenes, work in red herrings and give out subtle clues. As well as these authors, I read Martina Cole, Elizabeth Haynes, Mandasue Heller and Lynda la Plante. I found amongst their pages women of courage – strong women who were often knocked down but would rally to get back up again. More recently writers such as Colette McBeth, Clare Mackintosh and C.L. Talyor have given me hours of pleasure.

So, through reading all these genres, I found that I liked to write a mixture – a mash-up of genres, if you like. I hope that readers will feel empathy for some of my characters… and not necessarily just the victims.

About Mel Sherratt


Twitter: @writermels

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Mel Sherratt has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. Since successfully publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of #1 bestselling police procedural in the Amazon Kindle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to write three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series and Watching over You, a dark psychological thriller.

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans), and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing.

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