Article published on March 9, 2016.
As a child I discovered the magic of stories. Through the back of a wardrobe to a land of talking animals, down a rabbit hole into a world where children could change size, and out of the shire with a wizard in the company of dwarves, hooked on books, I remained an avid reader. While I studied literature at university and then taught English, my whole life centred around books.
Like reading, writing transports us into another existence. Whether an author is taking you into a different world, or you are creating another world for your own readers, the magic is the same.
For many years it never occurred to me that I could write a book myself. With no ambitions to become a writer, one day I simply had an idea and began to write it down. The characters seized my imagination, in a way that only fiction can, and I wrote compulsively until the story was finished.
F Scott FitzGerald said ‘You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.’ That was certainly my experience.
I decided to submit it to a couple of publishers who specialise in crime fiction, with no expectation of hearing back from them. You can imagine my amazement and delight when a publisher contacted me to offer me a three book deal on the strength of my first manuscript. That story, published as Cut Short, became the first in my long running Geraldine Steel series of crime novels.
My books became popular, and five years after my debut was published I was able to give up my day job to become a full-time writer. Three years after that, with a dozen books published, and at least four more commissioned by my original publisher, I have started writing a new series for another publisher, Thomas and Mercer.
The series featuring my heroine Lucy Hall is a new departure for me as she is younger than my other protagonists and, unlike them, she is not a police officer. I’m enjoying following her adventures as she gets herself into all sorts of scrapes while she investigates a series of mysteries in different locations. Journey to Death is set in the Seychelles, the second book in the series sees Lucy living in Paris, and the third in the series will be set in Rome. I’m looking forward to finding out where Lucy goes next!
Unintentionally I’ve become a full-time writer. Books continue to work their magic on my life, in ways I never anticipated.
Read our Quirky Q&A with Leigh and find out more about new novel Journey to Death, published by Thomas & Mercer on 9 February, 2016 in paperback at £8.99
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