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Val Penny Answers Some Questions for fellow author John Jackson

It seemed an appropriate way of introducing Val Penny, a fellow Crooked-Cat author, and writer of the very successful Hunter series of detective novels set in and around Edinburgh.

1            What makes a good story? Characters. A good plot is essential, but if the reader doesn’t buy into your characters, all is lost.

2            How have YOU become a better writer? By reading lots of good books in all the different genres. I firmly believe that before you write a word, you should read voraciously.

3            What inspires you? People. I think people are fascinating and a snippet of conversation or interesting outfit can inspire a whole novel.

4            What does your family think of your writing? I am lucky that my whole family is very supportive of my writing endeavours. They turn up at events, tell their friends, share things on Facebook and even buy the books!

5            What were the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books? The amount of bad language I put into them!

6            If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why? I am quite happy writing the novels I write without being envious of those written by others, but I do enjoy the books written by Linwood Barclay and Erin Kelly.

7            How much research do you do? I have to do quite a lot of research into the crimes my characters commit, the language they would use and, at the other end of the scale, I need to research the CSI and forensic expertise and police procedures.

8            How do you relax? I spend time with my family, swim, knit and read. I also love to travel and find much inspiration from ‘people watching’ on my journeys.

9            Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so what?) I suppose we all have quirks, but I had never thought about it until now! I think I am quite organised, I write for promoting my work and write blog posts in the mornings and work on my novel in the afternoons. I am very focused while I am writing, I like to have a quiet writing space so that I can hear the voices of my characters in my head.

10         Why write in your genre? I enjoy reading crime thrillers and I started writing them simply because they are my favourite kind of stories.

11         How is your writing different now from when you started writing? I think it is more sophisticated and the plots are more closely interwoven.

12         What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t? They think crime novels are easy to write! They are not ‘literary pieces’: believe me, they are not a soft option from a writer’s point of view.

13         Your 3 favourite authors? Erin Kelly, Michael Jecks and Katharine Johnson.

14         In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books? I try to share my stories by making author visits in real life and online. Support from other authors and all my readers is terribly important.

15         What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Everybody is entitled to an opinion. It is lovely to read good reviews but no writer will ever produce something everybody enjoys, so bad reviews are inevitable. I view getting good and bad reviews as a right of passage for authors. I think it was Harper Lee (who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird) who said, ‘I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent, he would be wise to develop a thick hide.’ She was right!

16         What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd? One of the things I love about my books is the cover. They are produced by my publishers, Crooked Cat Books, but I think they are fabulous.

17         Tell us something about your road to being published. I began writing my first novel when I was recovering from cancer. I did not have the energy to go out with friends and family, travel and I was not allowed to swim during my treatment. However, I had the energy to read, and subsequently to write.

18         Plotter or Pantser. I was a pantser until I attended a course run by the inimitable Sue Moorcroft. She convinced me of the usefulness of plotting. So now I plot quite thoroughly, except for the very end – I never know who done it until I have finished writing.

19         Your main character. What makes him or her so special? Hunter Wilson is calm, thorough and thoughtful. He is flawed but compassionate and determined to uncover the truth.

20         What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Can I make Hunter’s Chase into a movie? Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University.

She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

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