Hi there everyone,
Today, Anna Legat, author of the DI Marsh Mysteries, is going to tell us about her writing.
Hello, Anna. First of all, how long have you been writing?
Anna: Sometimes it feels like I have been writing since the beginning of time – writing has been with me forever. But I can pinpoint that moment in time when upon devouring Jules Verne’s The Voyage to the Centre of the Earth, I sat down and wrote my first novel (an absolute rip-off of the book I had just read). I was nine, perhaps ten.
Trish: Has your writing style changed much over your adult years?
Anna: Recently, I reverted to one of my early offerings, Migrating Birds (it never made it to publication for reasons that will soon become obvious). I helped myself to long passages from that early manuscript. Elements of that story fitted well with my WIP. When editing, I was struck by how my style had changed over the last fifteen years. The old me wrote with baroque opulence: long, convoluted sentences, strings of adjectives repeating the same thing, only in different ways, repressed language, exulted emotions. My old style stuck out like a sore thumb from the way I write now. Now I save my breath, decimate descriptions and indulge in colloquialisms. My style is evolving. And that is a welcome development – I say that with great relief!
I keep writing because there are endless concepts knocking about inside my head. I am never short of ideas. Sometimes they invade the space of my work in progress. I have to battle them to force them to step back and wait their turn. Writing is a compulsion and a form of therapy for me. I don’t talk that much, I socialise sporadically and I am an inept team player. Writing is my most successful mode of communication with the world outside my head.
Trish: What kind of books do you write? Do you specialise in one genre or do you write a variety of novels?
Anna: Funny thing you should ask that! I have been contemplating my rocky relationships with genre for a while now. Probably, this post on my blog will explain it best and without any further ado:
Trish: In this post you talk about why genre is important – or is it? Mmm, I can see your point. But labels steer readers in the right direction to find the books that are likely to interest them, I suppose. Maybe the best solution is to give a selection of genre categories, as many books do overlap genres.
How do you collect ideas for your novels?
Anna: I would like to say that I go about town with a black notebook in hand, observing, collecting and recording ideas. But it is the other way around. If I could anthropomorphise ideas, I would say that they come after me: they find me and throw themselves at me, demanding immediate attention. The best of them visit me in the early hours of the morning when I should be really getting out of bed and heading to work.
Trish: Many creative people say they have their best ideas in the middle of the night! What about your characters? Is there something of you in them?
Anna: Oh yes! I am very generous with my personality traits and I dish them out to my characters with no reservations. The line between where I end and my characters begin is very indistinct. That’s why perhaps I find it so difficult to stomach when my readers have a problem with my characters. I tend to take it personally.
Trish: And what about settings? Are they places you are familiar with?
Anna: I am lucky to have lived in a number of different countries and experienced diverse cultures. I dip into those personal experiences when I create settings for my stories. I am a firm believer in writing about what I know first-hand. It’s like eating fresh fruit instead of tinned or frozen.
If I have to dive into unfamiliar settings, I research them thoroughly. Even the towns with made-up names and locations are based on real places. That way I can readily conjure them before my mind’s eye without having to memorise their layout or keep notes.
Trish: Are your books purely for entertainment or do you want to get people thinking?
Anna: I write to entertain and hope that my readers enjoy my books first and foremost, but having said that, I do a lot of thinking before I start writing. It isn’t just the plot that I think about, but the themes, the values I believe in and want to defend through my writing. When conceptualising crime fiction, I ponder morality, the rights and the wrongs, and the justification – not just the pure letter of the law. I try to give my perpetrators logical motives and backstories rooted in real places and real events.
I have strong opinions about politics, history and today’s society. As much as those opinions may be evident from my books, I work hard not to let them overpower the storyline. Fiction is about stories, not opinions.
Trish: Do you think a writer must also be a reader?
Anna: Absolutely! Writing and reading are inextricably linked. Writers inspire readers to become writers. Would there be Dumbledore without Gandalf? I doubt it.
I am an avid reader and reviewer. I support new writers by reviewing for Net Galley. I talk (endlessly) about books on my book blog: https://bookmarkedreviewsblog.wordpress.com/
Thank you for having me on your blog, Trish! It was great fun having this chat.
Trish: Thank you for talking to us today!
Anna Legat is the author of the acclaimed DI Marsh Mysteries, published by Accent Press. Sandman is the latest instalment in the series, with Nobody Among Equals due for publication in 2020. Anna is currently writing a cosy crime trilogy The Shires Mysteries. It features West Country sleuths solving murder cases crossing borders and oceans.
A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna Legat has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications from Wellington College of Education (Victoria University, New Zealand). She inhabited far-flung places where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. She writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.
“I love Anna Legat’s writing – it is acerbic at times and peppered with laugh-out-loud moments” L. Beck
“Anna Legat’s authorial voice is barbed, often humorous, and reading it is as much of a pleasure as unravelling the plot.” Tim Stretton, author of The Dog of the North.