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Little Brown
Crime Writers Association


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  • The Night She Died
  • Six Feet Under

Work Method

It took me about a year to write a book. I’m often asked where my ideas came from, but it really is very difficult to say. Occasionally, as in SIX FEET UNDER or SUSPICIOUS DEATH, it was from a newspaper story or headline. Sometimes it was from a theme which had been floating around in my mind for many years before I saw how to use it in a novel, as in LAST SEEN ALIVE or CLOSE HER EYES. But it usually started with an idea of who the victim was, and why he or she had been killed. The victim was almost invariably the central character in my books even though he was dead before the story began, because everything revolved around him.

Once I had an idea of who that victim was I would spend two or three months building up a sound idea of his character, circumstances and past history, then working outwards from him, so to speak, to sort out his relationships with other people, one of which would have resulted in the present tragedy.

At this stage I would also work systematically through the many other decisions I had to make at the beginning of every book, so that by the time I began to write I had a very detailed synopsis to work with. It would then take about five months to write the first draft and I used to revise very heavily, page by page, chapter by chapter, so that by the end of it I had a reasonably polished version. I wrote for three or four hours every morning and considered it a good morning’s work if I produced around a thousand words in that time.

When I finished the first draft I used to put it away for about a month to distance myself from it before reading it straight through as a reader might, noting any alterations or insertions I wanted to make. The final polishing then took me about another month by which time I was ready for a long break before starting another book. I know that many of my fellow crime writers were and are far more prolific than this and I am full of admiration for them.