Each Thursday I ask ten questions to authors of mystery, thriller and suspense about their books, their inspirations and how to get away with the perfect murder. In the hot seat this week is... JJ Marsh.
JJ is a wearer of many hats. Now living in Switzerland, she is a journalist, teacher, actor, director, cultural trainer, and the author of the Beatrice Stubbs European Crime Mystery Series. She's also a founder member of Triskele Books, European correspondent for Words with JAM magazine, co-edits Swiss literary hub The Woolf, and is a reviewer for Bookmuse. I suspect JJ may also have superpowers because I'm exhausted from just writing this up...
Q1. Hello JJ! Can You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And Your Books?
I write crime under the pen name JJ Marsh. Having always been a Europhile, I set my books in various locations around Europe, with the same lead character, the eponymous Beatrice Stubbs. I’m also a founder member of Triskele Books, an author collective which operates like a small publisher.
Q2. What Three Things Should Readers Expect From A JJ Marsh Novel?
1. Characters you’ll remember. The one thing readers always say is how much they love the characters and have even made requests as to who they want to see in the next book.
2. A strong sense of place, which is a feature of all of Triskele’s books. I use the setting as fully as possible, with details of cultural habits, local food, architecture and climate all as part of the backdrop.
3. A few laughs. The Beatrice Stubbs books are not excessively violent, but neither are they cosy. There is drama and tension, but also splashes of wit and humour to add some light to the darkness.
Q3. Can You Tell Us About Your Main Character Beatrice Stubbs?
Beatrice is an older woman, who has risen through the ranks at The Met to become a Detective Inspector. She’s fighting her own battles with mental illness while collaborating with others to solve international crimes.
Her aim is to serve justice, but that sometimes clashes with the rule of law. Like many of her readership, she has a penchant for fine food and a large glass of wine.
Q4. If Your Books Were Turned Into Movies, Who Would Play Your Main Characters?
Funny you should ask that. I’ve mentally cast all my bad guys but not Beatrice herself. In my dream world, Joan Plowright, but sadly she’s no longer with us. Someone smart like Juliet Stevenson or Emma Thompson would be ideal.
Q5. How Do You Come Up With The Ideas For Your Stories – What Is Your Inspiration?
Ideas are all over the place. Newspapers, a chance overhearing, my own paranoias or obsessions, finding a story to suit the setting, half-remembered books I read as a child or often extrapolating on a situation and thinking ‘What if...’.
Q6. What Do You Enjoy Most About Writing Crime Fiction?
Research is always fun because I am so enthusiastic about learning new things – the range of sniper rifles, how cruise ships operate, which grapes flourish best in which soil, cognitive behavioural therapy, etc. But the editing phase is my favourite. That’s where the real magic happens.
Q7. What Are You Working On Right Now?
A different kind of crime novel, since I have finished The Beatrice Stubbs Series. I have the plot, the characters, the title and the location. Now I am deep into the research. I hope to have a first draft by the end of the year.
Q8. Who Are Your Favourite Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Authors?
It changes often, but currently Kate Atkinson, Thomas Harris, Val McDermid, Gillian Flynn, Dorothy L. Sayers and Yrsa Sigurdardottir.
Q9. You're Being Sent To A Desert Island. You Can Only Take One Book With You. What Is It?
Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. It took me over a year to read the first time and I knew I had only scratched the surface of the all references and layers and ideas within. That should keep me busy for a decade or two.
Q10. How Do You Get Away With The Perfect Murder?
One perfect murder I always thought was very clever is in a Roald Dahl story. A husband comes home to his pregnant wife and tells her he's leaving her. She can't believe it and goes about the business of preparing dinner.
She get a joint of lamb from the freezer and then a fit of rage overtakes her. He has his back to her, drinking a whisky. She whacks him across the head with the lamb.
Then she puts the joint in the oven and pops to the corner shop for some peas. She comes home, finds her husband in a pool of blood and phones the police.
They arrive comfort the poor distressed creature and search the house and environs for the intruder. By way of thanks, she offers them the by now perfectly cooked roast lamb. They accept and tuck in, before continuing their search for the murder weapon.