5 June 2014

Guest Post: Confessions of a Mystery Addict by Kate Ellis, Author of 'The Shroud Maker'

A grisly find . . . and a faceless enemy . . .

Could there be a link between two women? One missing, one brutally murdered? Is there a connection to a fantasy website called Shipworld which features a supernatural hero with a sinister, faceless nemesis called 
The Shroud Maker?

Will history repeat itself once again?

Now in Paperback on Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Looking back I guess I’ve always been a writer, scribbling away in secret; poems, short stories; even a couple of very bad and rapidly abandoned novels in my student years.  I always had a vague dream of being published but it wasn’t until my youngest child went to nursery and I had empty hours to fill that I realised that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Ever since childhood I’ve been addicted to mysteries, starting with Enid Blyton’s mystery stories then graduating to Agatha Christie and all the other greats of crime fiction’s golden age.  I always had my nose in some tale of murder and mayhem so when the time came for me to begin writing seriously, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d turn to crime.

Writing became something I felt I had to do; a compulsion if you like.  I needed to get words down on that page and I needed to tell a story that would intrigue people and keep them guessing to the end.  I loved creating suspense and laying false trails.  In short, when I began to write crime fiction I felt as if I was coming home.

The Lure of the Past

I wanted to write about contemporary crime and examine present day preoccupations and people. But I also had a passion for history and a deep interest in archaeology (I’m often to be found in some muddy trench or other) so I couldn’t decide whether to give my first book a purely historical setting or go for a modern day police procedural. 

However, my dilemma was soon solved when I hit of the idea of combining a modern day mystery with one from the past.  This worked so well that in each of my Wesley Peterson books since, a parallel historical mystery runs alongside the present day investigation.  I make life hard for myself by choosing a different historical period in each book but I confess that research is one of my favourite parts of writing.  The only problem is that once I become engrossed in a period, it takes a lot of discipline to put those history books down and start writing.

Waiting for Inspiration

Every book is different.  Sometimes it’s the historical story that comes to me first and sometimes the modern day narrative.  There’s usually something that triggers the idea for a story, such as a chance remark, a newspaper story or the discovery of an intriguing event in history. 

In my latest book The Shroud Maker my trigger was the sight of a young woman walking down a wooden jetty and clambering aboard a sleek white yacht moored on the River Dart in Devon.  An unremarkable event you might think, apart from the fact that she was wearing a long flowing skirt and carrying a violin case.  I began to wonder what she was doing there.  And then my mind wove a whole story around her fictional counterpart and the result was a disturbing tale of murder and obsession.  Add to this Devon’s medieval past, a festival celebrating a privateer from the middle ages (with connections to Chaucer) and a sinister fantasy website and The Shroud Maker came into being.

That’s it really.  Inspiration can be anywhere.  It’s just a case of being ready when it appears!

Kate Ellis

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About the Author

Kate Ellis was born and raised in Liverpool and now lives in north Cheshire. Keenly interested in history and archaeology, she is the author of a crime series featuring DI Wesley Peterson, the latest of which is The Shroud Maker. Her novel, The Plague Maiden was nominated for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year in 2005 and she has twice been shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger and for a Barry Award in the USA. To learn more about Kate and her books visit Kate's website www.kateellis.co.uk and find her on Twitter @kateellisauthor

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