Full Transcription of Podcast Episode #13 with Theresa Talbot
Paul: 00:00:00 Hello and welcome to the crime fiction lounge. You’re listening to the first episode of 2019, so Happy New Year to you. In this episode, episode 13, we’ll be talking to Theresa Talbot about her book, “Keep Her Silent”
Intro: 00:00:18 Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the Crime Fiction Lounge, the place for crime fiction lovers. Sit back, relax and unwind, while you listen to some of your favourite crime fiction and thriller authors, and here’s your host, Paul Stretton- Stephens
Paul: 00:00:43 In this episode, I’ll be chatting with Theresa Talbot about her latest thriller, Keep Her Silent. Keep Her Silent is the second book in the Oonagh O’neil Series, which again is set in Glasgow and it’s based on the contaminated blood scandal of years gone by, one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the NHS, and for those not in the UK, that is the UK National Health Service. Theresa is also known as a BBC Radio Scotland presenter, and best known as the voice of traffic and travel as well as the presenter of the Beech Grove Potting Shed.
Paul: 00:01:11 Theresa studied economic history at Glasgow University and after graduating tried numerous careers including library assistant and Pepsi Challenge Girl, before an eavesdropped conversation on the 66 bus, led her into a career in radio. I invite you to relax and listen to this intriguing podcast episode. Enjoy.
Paul: 00:01:27 Hi Teresa. Welcome to the Crime Fiction Lounge. How are you today?
Theresa: 00:01:39 Oh, Hello Paul. I’m fine, Thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me along.
Paul: 00:01:44 No, you’re welcome. It’s good to have you here.
Theresa: 00:01:47 Thank you.
Paul: 00:01:48 Can you tell our listeners a little bit about your background, who you are?
Theresa: 00:01:55 Well, I’m a crime writer and I do have a day job because I think most writers do have day jobs. So I’m a broadcast journalist and I work for BBC Radio Scotland, I’m freelance and I’ve been doing that for about 15 years I think, with the BBC, but my first love is crime, so I’m a crime writer and my books are mainly based in Glasgow, so Glasgow crime
Paul: 00:02:21 And that’s where you are is it. Glasgow?
Theresa: 00:02:23 Yeah, I’m based. I’m based in Glasgow. So it just seemed natural, to set the books in Glasgow because I love the city so much and funny enough, I was talking to and being interviewed by a journalist last night and she was asking about the setting of novels. Do they almost become characters in themselves and I think, that’s true, you know, the city of Glasgow almost is as much a character as the characters in the books, Ian Rankin uses Edinburgh, for Rebus and, and I don’t think Rebus could be set anywhere else other than Edinburgh, but my books, my main characters, a female journalist called Oonagh O Neil and I don’t think it Oonagh could be anywhere other than Glasgow. It’s just such a particular. It just seems so particular to the books.
Paul: 00:03:20 What do you do in your spare time?
Theresa: 00:03:22 Oh crikey, what time! I like to travel, if I can, I’m having to rein that in a bit. just now because I have some deadlines to meet, I love to garden looking out in the garden. Yoga, now I’m putting myself to shame now because I’m naming all the things I love to do and I haven’t had a chance to do them for a while. I don’t do yoga as much. I love hill walking. So really being fit. I love making soups, soups, my thing. I make loads of soup and I used to keep chickens. I used to keep hens, ex-battery rescue hens. But at the moment I live in a hen free house so I don’t have any hens just now. So basically keeping fit, being out and about listening to music and of course reading, readings by my big thing.
Paul: 00:04:17 When did you start writing and why?
Theresa: 00:04:22 That’s a difficult one because, because of the job I do, I’m a broadcast journalist so I’m either reading the news or I read traffic reports, or I write the news. So I’d been writing every day of my professional life for 25 years and I think a lot of journalists then do go into crime writing But I remember years ago as a child, I didn’t write a lot as a child, but I loved telling stories. And for me, I can’t remember when I stopped telling the stories and started writing them down, it just seemed to naturally merge into each other. So I’ve been writing as long as I can remember and didn’t really know what I wanted to write. I would write little vignettes, little snippets of stories. Never really, I can’t even call it a short story because, I absolutely admire people who write short stories. I find them the hardest things to do. And being a journalist and looking at so much true crime and real-life stories coming through court reporting and seeing some of the things that happened in real life, crime writing just seemed to be the natural progression. So as I say, I write a lot anyway, are they every day of my professional life. And then I had written, gardening articles for gardening magazines. So I’m writing fiction just seem to be the next stage. So I can’t actually remember when I started
Paul: 00:05:58 Okay. And which writers particularly inspire you?
Theresa: 00:06:04 The main one that inspired me to be a crime writer was another Glasgow crime writer called Denise Mina and I read her first book Garnet Hill and that was set in Glasgow. That was the first time a crime book really spoke to me and I could relate to the places I knew the streets she was talking about. I could identify with the characters they were, you know, working-class Glaswegian characters. And I thought, crikey, she’s talking about people I know she’s writing about events I can relate to. I mean some of the murder and mayhem no I couldn’t relate to it, but I could, I could visualise it and I could visualise the setting and I thought, wow, this is, this is something I’d like to do. So, so from that point of view, Denise really inspired me. And then when I met Denise, she was so, so encouraging to other crime writers. I love Douglas Skelton and he’s another Scottish crime writer. He is Glaswegian but he’s moved to the dark south of Ayrshire, he’s thirty miles south now, but also, John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, I loved that book and I love the Magos. I love the Brontes, Dickens, you know, really. I have such an eclectic taste when it comes to writing, or reading, I love them.
Paul: 00:07:33 I talk to a lot of authors with the podcast. It’s interesting where you’ve chosen Glasgow. Glasgow is the setting of people can relate to that. That’s quite powerful. Whereas other writers decided to have a fictitious town or a fictitious city based on something
Theresa: 00:07:53 That’s such an interesting question and I admire writers that can do that, but there’s such a rich seam of real towns, places, cities, villages. I always think why would you make something up? But I do admire the fact that they can make it up because it seems like a lot of hard work to make up a fictitious town when there is such a rich seam to choose from and to me, I think even the ones that do have fictitious places that they’re based on real places. Now when I read the Magos by John Fowles, I’m going to get this wrong. I think it’s it in Spetses , which is a Greek island, and he calls it Phraxos or it really Phraxos and he calls it Spetses, I can’t remember it, it’s based, he’s used a fictitious name, but it was inspired by his time as an English teacher over on the Greek Islands and I didn’t know this at the time I’d never heard of John Fowles, reading the Magos was my first foray into his works and this is years and years ago and I was going on a holiday to Greece at the time and we went across over a few islands and just random, it wasn’t planned.
Theresa: 00:09:17 We didn’t know which islands we were going to go to .and I was reading a section of the Magos, reading a chapter and it was set on a boys’ school on this little island, I’m sitting on the beach. The beach was deserted. It was a tiny, wee island with hardly anything on it. And I looked across and thought that building over there is almost identical to what I’m reading, the description of the boys school. And it was a government building or a council building or something. And , it turned out it was the same place, the exact same place and nothing had changed, he’d written this, you know, 50 years previous and I’ve walked down the road, it described the bakery was still there, the bakery been there for 100 years and the little bakery making it’s own bread, and I thought, oh my goodness, what are the chances of me being on that island, reading that exact chapter, and it was just a book that my friend had given me the night before.I left to go on holidays this year. You might like this it’s set in Greece, Greece. I thought, wow, you know, Paul, that has resonated. It’s always been one of my favorite books and I don’t know whether it’s because of the story or because it resonated so much with me, but the Magos has just always struck a cord with me. And so yeah, he did use a fictitious place. It was very much based on, on real life. I do admire writers that go to all that trouble to make stuff up when you can just go out and copy what’s on your high st
Paul: 00:10:47 I suppose it gives you artistic licence
Theresa: 00:10:52 Yeah, I mean, the books that I’m writing, I my main character Oonagh, she works at a radio and television station. No, it’s not the BBC, but I’ve made it in the West End of Glasgow so I can have a bit of poetic licence, bit of dramatic licence, but a chap I know messaged me and said, I don’t actually know this chap, he is a reader. And he emailed me and said, you do know that there’s no production office at the end of Byres Road where you described your, your main protagonists going and I’m thinking, I made that up, it’s a book. Glasgow is real but I’ve put in fictitious, you know, a production studio and made a fictitious office so you can, you know, tweak it slightly. But I think he was adhearing so strongly to it that he was quite cross. I didn’t want to use office or an existing a radio station in case they came back and said, oh my goodness that’s me you’re writing about.
Theresa: 00:11:59 So I thought it was okay to invent the radio station, he came back saying oh no there is no such radio station and I messaged him back saying yeah, I used a bit of dramatic licence, but everything else is true.
Paul: 00:12:19 What makes you decide on the issues you tackle in your books?
Theresa: 00:12:19 Well, the first one, it was almost by accident rather than design and the Lost Children is based on the Magdalene Institutions. For anyone that doesn’t know about the Magdalene Institutions, it’s easy to find out you can google them and there’s just a wealth of information on the Internet and basically they were homes were so-called fallen women or unmarried, mothers were incarcerated and it was but all different, all different reasons and they’re mainly associated with Ireland but I found out there had been one in Glasgow and it closed down in 1958 and I thought, oh that’s interesting. So I started looking into the history of it because I’m born and bred in Glasgow.
Theresa: 00:13:03 I’ve never heard of this before, and my parents were still alive at the time and I’d ask them and my parents were from Ireland, but they’ve lived in Glasgow for years and my mother said, oh yeah, yeah, I remember there was a Magdalene Institution here, and I thought was just the oddest things that yeah, it was before my time, but it was, it was still fairly recent history in 1958. And asking friends and you know, various, you know, colleagues, very, very few people had known about it and it turns out that it closed in 1958 after the girls staged a riot, it was more like a breakout. And I thought, okay, he bought what caused them to do that, that, that institution had been standing there in one form or another had existed for over 100 years. What happened that night? They just said enough is enough.
Theresa: 00:13:57 So I started writing a bit of a narrative around that, initially intending for it to be maybe a short radio item, a five minute piece. And, thankfully for me, it wasn’t accepted as the production team that I handed it to said there’s no appetite for this now. So I turned it into a book and then the more I looked into it, the more, the bigger the issue grew in the looked into it and thought, do you know something? This is a crime. What happened to these women was criminal, and it’s deplorable that within our lifetime people were being treated like this, someone had asked me if it was a feminist issue and I said no, certainly not because this was during a time where, you know, men could be chemically castrated for being gay and it was just a different time, but I couldn’t write about all the ills of the world.
Theresa: 00:14:53 This was just the one that I that I picked up on I’m really interested in crimes that are committed by society where, the establishment is, you know, kind of colludes, because it was criminal, these women were put away without any trial, nothing, they hadn’t done anything wrong, they just didn’t fit in. So that’s, how the Lost Children grew and then Keep Her Silent, is the follow on book and that’s based on the tainted blood scandal and again, the tainted blood or contaminated blood, listeners you can google contaminated blood scandal in the UK and find out so much more than I could tell you just now but basically haemophiliacs and others needing blood transfusion or blood products were infected by contaminated blood and at the time in the seventies and eighties, it was just thought it was a bit of a raw deal
Theresa: 00:15:55 It was just a bad story for days because the health checks were not the same, we didn’t know to heat treat blood products and blah, blah blah. But as it’s transpired, the pharmaceutical companies knew that the blood was contaminated and again, there’s never been any criminal convictions. That to me, again, that’s a crime and Sir Robert Winston described it as one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the NHS and I thought, you know you’ve got someone as respected as Sir Robert Winston saying this and yet still it’s not a crime. It’s not. There’s been no criminal activity but people have died. Lives had been ruined and the people infected have Hep C or HIV and these were people whose kids were thrown out of school because of this fear and social stigma, who lost their jobs , who were run out villages
Theresa: 00:16:53 Some. I’ve spoken to people who ended up homeless, destitute. I’m thinking, crikey, this is, this is deplorable, and yet nothing’s really ever been done about it. So to me that’s, I’m not saying it’s a worse crime than someone being murdered or whatever, but you know, with a typical crime like a murder, it’s investigated by the police and hopefully someone’s caught and brought to justice. But these kinds of social claims, no one will ever be brought to justice for this. No one will ever be jailed in this country for the contaminated blood scandal. And I don’t know, I just think you giving it the setting of a crime book, if maybe not a typical crime it’s, but that to me was, you know, it was important to get these issues out there.
Paul: 00:17:51 Yeah, yeah. I mean the big issues. So what kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching?
Theresa: 00:17:59 A lot longer than it took me to try and get the Skype set up Oh goodness, well the Magdalen institutions, that I’d written that book quite a long time ago then just buried it and brought it out and we edited it because I didn’t know what to do with it when I first wrote it about 15 years ago. And I found myself getting really, really wrapped. Mainly the research I did, I’ve spent half my life in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which is one of the biggest reference libraries in Europe. So we’re so lucky to have that on our doorstep. And they’ve got something called the Glasgow rooms so they have so much, so much archive and information going back years. And I also looked into because I didn’t, I wanted to tweak it slightly because the Glasgow Magdalen strangely enough when I found out it actually wasn’t owned by the Catholic Church and it wasn’t run by nuns and a few on the mainland were but that was mainly an Irish anomaly that it was run by nuns and run by the Catholic Church. So I was quite surprised to find that. But there was still a lot of church involvement, whether it be Presbyterian, Church of Scotland or wherever, so I did a lot of research as well into the way women are treated by the mental health industry, is that the right word? profession, so I looked at a lot of interviews with people who have been incarcerated for fairly minor, generally hysteria, things that just wouldn’t be deemed mental health issues now, certainly not enough to lock someone up without limit of time. The tainted blood/ contaminated blood for research for Keep Her Silent, I got friendly with a chap who’d been infected. He was infected when he was seven. He is now in his fifties and I spent a lot of time with him. He gave him a lot of his information and told me where to find the information as well because what I did want to be aware is that I’m writing or making a documentary. I’m not writing a factual book, I’m writing a crime book and it is a piece of fiction. So I had to make sure that I knew what research not to use as well. And it’s tempting to include every piece of research.
Paul: 00:20:31 There must have been tons of information for you?
Theresa: 00:20:36 They was too much and, and really I could have written like five books on each, but I have to be aware as well that my obligation as a writer is to tell a story and it’s a piece of fiction and yeah, there’s a huge responsibility to get the facts right, of course, but it’s not an essay and it’s not a lecture and it’s not to tell the reader what’s right or wrong. It’s to put it out there as a story and let the reader decide for themselves what they think. But what I do find is with huge issues like this, tieing it in with fiction, it’s so powerful. I write the news, I read the new, we can all listen to news bulletins, we can all read news stories and, and it almost gets it, you know, even the most horrific horror stories in the news.
Theresa: 00:21:34 The next week they’ll be something to surpass that, there will be another horrific story, but with a piece of fiction, a reader is investing in a character and that are attaching to character and they will come away with a huge amount of sympathy and a huge amount of empathy for that character and the situation, and I think in some ways fiction can hit home more than a factual news item. Have you ever left the cinema thinking WOW. And it can be about an issue that you hadn’t really been aware of before. And you think wow that’s really hit home. So hopefully I’m not in business to browbeat readers and say, right, this is a terrible issue, you must pay attention. But within the storyline if they can have empathy for that character and I think this is wrong, this should not have happened then, you know, that’s it. Yeah, you’re right. There’s so much information I couldn’t possibly use it all.
Paul: 00:22:42 Both of your books feature the same main character. Oona O’neil?
Theresa: 00:22:44 Yes
Paul: 00:22:45 Yeah. Could you tell our listeners who have yet to discover your writing? Can you describe the main protagonists?
Theresa: 00:22:51 Well, physically, strangely enough, I described her physically in the very first book and I now wish I hadn’t, but I was fairly new to writing and that description, never came out and I wish the book was being edited now. I would like the, the physical description of Oona. It’s just that she has dark brown hair, and blue eyes and she’s fairly smallish, quite Irish looking. and I wish now I hadn’t, I wish I’d allowed the reader to decide for themselves what Oona looked like, but character wise she is a television journalist. She started off as a bit of a media darling. She was, she’s quite a popular TV journalists, but for popularity is waning and she’s getting a slightly older and she’s been a bit more maverick and she’s not toeing the line. The media is a very, very fickle world and rather than kind of keep her up there in the limelight, I’m giving her a lot of challenges where she’s realising that this isn’t a job for life.
Theresa: 00:24:00 There’s younger people coming in much, much cheaper. And that’s the way it is the media. Character-wise she has loads of flaws and that was very important to me. I didn’t want to write a superwoman. I didn’t want to write someone who can jump into a helicopter and put the world to rights. I wanted a flesh and blood character. She doesn’t have a lot of money worries, she’s fairly well off. So that was something as well. I thought, you know, something, I wanted to give her a fairly decent life. I wanted her challenges to be something else. I didn’t want her to be worrying about money and I wanted her challenges to bore slightly deeper within. So she’s got a, she’s got a decent job, but the more we uncover, about Oona we realise she doesn’t really have a lot of real friends.
Theresa: 00:24:50 She’s getting to a stage in her life and she’s looking back and thinking she doesn’t have as many real friends as she should have at this age if she had maybe a more normal job. And although on the surface, she looks quite nice and sweet. She has her flaws, but she’s really got razor-sharp tongue, but she always sticks up for the underdog always. And that gets into a lot of trouble. She tries to keep on the right side of the law, and doesn’t do anything deliberately illegal, but she may bend the rules slightly but her saving grace is she always sticks up for the underdog. But she drinks too much Paul. She drinks, she drinks far too much and that gets her into trouble as well. So yeah, she, she, I like to think that she is a bit of flesh and blood character with flaws.
Theresa: 00:25:46 I feel that as a female character. I don’t know if people are as forgiving, with the flaws, you know, we can have. There’s a lot of male protagonists and they can be really, you know, they can be drunk, they can be knocking the furniture over, they can be a bit aggressive and it’s so that’s what he is like. Female characters, if they have a bit of chaos going on in their lives, people and readers can sometimes be a bit taken aback by that. But so far I’ve had a lot of positive response and that’s, that, that’s been good, and I think it is because she’s quite natural and she makes mistakes, but she knows her mistakes and she does try. She’ll pick fights with the bullies rather than someone under her So I think that’s her saving grace, that will get her out of a lot of scapes.
Paul: 00:26:45 What about the other protagonist? DI Alec Davis? What, is he like?
Theresa: 00:26:49 Oh, well I’ve never described him physically and I’m glad I haven’t now, because I like when readers contact me and if there’s anyone listening that has read him I’d like them to contact me and let me know what they think about him, I think I said he had a blue anorak on one day. So that’s fine. I can say what his jacket looks like, but I don’t know what he looks like. And he started off, he was quite grumpy and I’d only actually intended him to be in the initial couple of chapters and he grew on me. I now wish I hadn’t made him so grumpy, because I really like him now and he’s straight down the line. There’s no, there’s no messing with him. And again, you don’t see him, he doesn’t beat anyone up or although he can be really tempted. I’m in the middle of book three and he’s really tempted now Paul and I don’t know if I can stop him because he’s quite angry about something. You don’t see him kind of wading in and fighting and he kind of sticks to the letter of the law. And and he’s, just an ordinary copper and he’s just going about his business. There’s no, you know, there’s no mad helicopter chases, theres no mad car chases. He kind of plods along, but he gets the job done. I think he’s got a wee fancy for Oona, I definitely think it’s a soft spot for her.
Theresa: 00:28:21 She may have left it too late Paul! He’s just a nice character and he and Oona go back they were friends a long time ago and they are friends now and he kind of lets us have little bits of information, but that does happen with the police and journalists. Police and journalists work together a lot, lot more than the public would believe they do. The ones that they trust and the ones they know that they can trust the information to put out there in a sensible way. So yeah. So Alex Davis, as I say, is a bit grumpy, um, but he’s sort of a bit tired, tired of life, but not always something that will make him laugh, but he’s quite a straight guy.
Paul: 00:29:13 A lot of writers say a good villain can be hard to write. But in your case you’ve got like society, you’ve got an organization. How did you find that?
Theresa: 00:29:25 The thing was with me and my writing and this made me quite and still does make me quite insecure and anxious that talking to other most other writers will find insecurities and angst about some things. I think I am in ok company, and I do have any Glasgow hardman, I don’t really have a villain. Well, there was a bit of a villain in the first one, but I took care of him. but I don’t have the Glasgow hardmen, I don’t have the gangsters, I don’t have the baddies with the black hats coming in and, you know, knocking the place about and so as you say it, society and it really is society they we have to look at and think why are you allowing this to happen? But it’s not, you know, and it’s, it’s easy to look at a villain and think, right, he’s the baddy.
Theresa: 00:30:15 But when it’s society it’s as if we are all colluding and I am a journalist and with the contaminated blood scandal, I’ve read stories about the contaminated blood scandal. I’ve never written them but I’ve certainly read them and they’ve maybe been forced down in a news bulletin. And yeah, it’s just been another story, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m ashamed I didn’t know more about it, but I’m, I’m going to be quite open about saying it and it was only when I started looking into it and I’m thinking, why was that allowed to happen? But I have to be, I have to hold myself responsible as well. Why did, why did we all allow those things to happen? And there’s terrible things, you know, Grenfell Tower should never have been allowed to happen, but who’s responsible and when you have to have a public enquiry because there’s not one person to blame and that you can’t say you’re the one at fault. And if we do something about you, we can stop this happening again. Well there has been a public enquiry, that will cost five times as much as it would have to put, you know, a decent cladding on a building that wouldn’t have resulted in 72 people dying. You think, wow, why are we allowing this to happen all the time? And so that’s why society is I think on the whole people are very, very good. I think there are more good people than bad people. But I think our world is so big that we find it hard to stop bad things happening on a social level because when the world was a little village, when our world was a village. People were held accountable, but now, we don’t know who’s responsible. It could be big business, it could be corporate.
Theresa: 00:32:10 I worked for one freelance, I worked for the BBC, that’s a huge corporation. I mean look at Jimmy Saville, you know, I’m not certain. It’s not that I’m in a cottage industry and I’m thinking I’m okay and you know, I’m, part of we’re all part of something and it’s really, really difficult. And you find, oh, that company may have been responsible for that terrible tragedy. Oh, but then that politician, actually, his wife owns part of that company and there’s this huge spiders web. We cannot see a clear picture of who’s responsible anymore. So we have this collective responsibility that it’s like, well that’s terrible, but what can we do about it? And the truth is, that sounds really defeatist, but I don’t know. I don’t know what we can do about it
Theresa: 00:33:02 I’m sure you know, next year there’ll be another, maybe not another Grenfell, but something similar. There’ll be another, contaminated blood, maybe not. That will be some other medical negligence of huge proportions. The Magdalene Institution that may not happen again with women. Is it happening with refugees and children? I have no idea. You know, so in 50 year’s time will someone be looking back and writing fiction around this and thinking, wow, how was that allowed to happen. So yeah, writing the rating the villain as a society, as being the villain. It’s, I’m careful as well, not to try and make it a black and white thing, a goody and a baddy because, you know, it’s, too easy to say that big business, blah, blah blah. Or the church aren’t they bad because they do so much good. And with the pharmaceutical industry, you know, it’s, there are so many great breakthroughs and medicine and you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but certainly it would do, us all good just to sit up and be aware of what can happen
Paul: 00:34:16 I think it is good coming through in fiction like you said earlier, it comes out in a slightly different way and it becomes more acceptable, palatable for people to sort of tackle the issue that they wouldn’t have wrestled with probably before.
Theresa: 00:34:29 Well I hope so Paul, thanks for saying that. I had lovely messages after, especially after Keep Her Silent came out back in August. And I’ve had so many lovely messages from people who were affected by the contaminated blood scandal. And I made sure that, I’ve dedicated the book to Bruce Norval. He was the, chap who helped me with it, and I let him read it before I gave it to my editor, which is really unusual. I never ever let anyone read things before I hand it to the editor and he gave it the OK and I genuinely mean I would have pulled it, had he not given it the OK. I was very aware that for me it’s a profession. I’m a writer, I also have a responsibility, but I want to put things down that people can read but also it’s a piece of entertainment as well and it’s a piece of escapism and it’s crime and it’s fiction, but I wanted to make sure I had the responsibility to the people affected by it
Theresa: 00:35:29 It did invite lovely, lovely messages from people, campaigners from the contaminated blood groups. But I’ve also had messages and thankfully little reviews on Amazon saying I knew nothing about this thought it was complete fiction until I Googled it, because again, a lot of us don’t watch the news or don’t read news in the way that we used to. News is presented and we gather news from so many different sources now that it’s easy to miss stories. So I got a huge pleasure if pleasure is the right word, when people contact me and say, I knew nothing about this and I’ve just started looking more into it and I’m horrified and you know, then they’re lending their support to the campaign and that’s good. So if that heightened awareness, then yeah, that’s all for the good.
Paul: 00:36:23 Without giving away any spoilers here. Which scene did you most enjoy writing?
Theresa: 00:36:30 Oh, for the Keep Her Silent? I think the last one, the last one was the, I need this. I’m kind of stuttering. I’m trying to think back how it, how I did this. With Keep Her Silent. It’s based on the contaminated blood scandal, but, there’s no happy ending to that. The people that were affected and infected years ago, and the people who were infected by it continue to be affected by it, and you know. I know there’s a public inquiry and but there will be no happy ending. I wanted a resolution. I needed to give the readers something and I needed to give myself something. I really struggled, tearing my heart out and tearing my hair out as well. Thinking how can I have a resolution It’s not like a crime book no one can be jailed for this because it’s real life.
Theresa: 00:37:32 No one can be jailed. So I finished the book anyway and I let Bruce read it, as I say, he said you’ve made a good job of it and I felt really humbled by that, let the editor read it and that was fine, but it knawed away at me I and I thought, I need something more. So I said, what can we, can we just need to add something? So I created a final scene that, for me gave m resolution and Bruce hadn’t read the final scene and when he read it, when he read the complete book, when, when it had been edited and it was finally published and he got back to me, he said Wow, that’s just what it needed. So that was my favourite scene to write because for me it gave a bit of resolution and it gave a bit of a punch in the air to those, the campaigners.
Paul: 00:38:27 Was that the most challenging scene to write?
Theresa: 00:38:31 Well, I think once I started it, I tore through it, but it was the most challenging scene as in it only came to me once I handed the book in. And once I handed the book over I thought, right, so I had to tweak a few other wee bits because the book was all finished and edited and I then thought, this needs something. So, I think it was because I had to make it realistic. I had to make it quite, I wanted it to really pack a punch, but it couldn’t be ridiculous, you know, there were no superheroes. No one was going to come in. There’s nobody been, you know, no knight in shining armour coming in on the white horse, saving the day. But it had to be something that packed a punch.
Theresa: 00:39:21 I found that really challenging. There was another, there was another scene in the book and I deliberately kind of kept that to the end and really I struggled with it, and it was quite a horrific scene and I toyed with not fitting it in. And that to me was the last thing. And that one other scene in the book and a woman’s in a mental institution and that there was nothing very graphic in it, but the readers in no doubt what happens to her and I toyed with not doing that, but that again is based on something that actually happened and I thought, no, I’m putting this in. So that was quite a challenge as well. I don’t have an appetite for real gore. I can read it and I can watch it, but when I’m writing my books aren’t actually gory. There’s not a lot of blood and guts and things, you know, there’s no horrific crime that you’re, you know, you’re not kind of curling your toes. Um, it’s, it’s in a different way. So, I don’t really like writing anything that’s overly graphic.
Paul: 00:40:34 One of your reviewers actually mentioned, this is a book you can’t put down, it’s filled with heart-wrenching chapters that will evoke many feelings, that sums up what you have just been saying, doesn’t it?
Theresa: 00:40:44 Oh, that’s lovely, I like that, that’s nice. And I’m not sure if there would be many crime books that would maybe have that response and to be honest maybe with a different publisher, this wouldn’t be a crime book, it would be, crimes have been committed, but there are crimes, I’ve deliberately kind of peppered it that with certain crimes Um, but yeah, that’s, that’s the response I would like. You’ve pleased me saying that.
Paul: 00:41:21 That’s not uncommon, I review reviews when I do a podcast obviously because I’d like to get a feel of what the readers think about the books as well. That’s not an uncommon comment from, from the reviewers, which I think is really quite heart-warming for you and complimentary. Um, and just sort of sums up what you’ve been saying.
Theresa: 00:41:41 Oh, thank you. And that are scenes that I cry when I’m writing it. I don’t know if the readers will cry but I, know myself what I’m trying to get across and when I’m writing sometimes I go down to the Mitchell Library or sometimes my local library to write and bring my laptop. then I start getting a bit tearful and I have to go out for a walk. One time I had a lady come up and she patted me on the shoulder and she said, are you okay? I realised I had tears streaming down my face, I thought oh goodness, I’m in public and I’m crying. I’m trying to get inside the character so much and I’m thinking, oh goodness, this is, you know, in The Last Children, this isn’t giving any plot lines away, but you know, someone that has a baby and she only lives for a few hours and she’s so heartbroken, but as I’m writing I’m crying. And I’m thinking, oh goodness, pull yourself together.
Theresa: 00:42:39 I don’t want it to be tugging the heartstrings for the sake of it. I don’t want to put it in, thinking, will tweak that emotion. I want it to drive the narrative. I want it to be completely integral to the plot I want to be, look, the reason that the reason this woman has behaved in this way is because that happened to her 20 years ago, you know, the reason, this guy’s doing what he’s doing is because, you know, two hours ago someone said that to him. I want everything that happens, I want it to drive the narrative. I don’t want it to be, you know, and the way that some people will put a sex scene in a book, or sexualise violence to make it slightly voyeuristic I don’t want to do that with heartbreak either. I want to make sure wherever I put in drives the narrative, and it’s, and it’s not too kind of tug the heartstrings, and if it does tug the heartstrings we want to emphasise with these characters, we want to understand what’s really happened to them. You know, it’s very easy to read a news item and to forget about it, hopefully with a book, we do attach yourself to these characters more.
Paul: 00:43:50 Yeah. We invest a little more don’t we
Theresa: 00:43:53 Yeah, I think we do. I have just read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I don’t know if you’ve read that book yourself. Well, to advertise someone else’s book. I knew the book was coming to an end because obviously, you know, I was getting to the last final piece. I didn’t want it to end and it’s, it’s really a slice of life about a very troubled woman, but it is such an unusual book. And again, it’s, it was one of those things that really evoked so many emotions and I looked up different reviews for it and people were saying that as well, but it evoked so many emotions in the bad things that had happened to Eleanor Oliphant as a child and as a young woman she uses them, is such a matter of fact. She says it in a matter of fact way, but the reader it’s not put there to be salacious. It’s put there to drive the narrative and then you think, ah, that’s why she’s a bit odd. That’s why she’s doing things that isn’t the social norm. So I think if you’re putting in anything that’s heartbreaking or unusual, do it in a way that, that drives the narrative of, you know, don’t, don’t use the reader’s emotions, give them, give them a bit of payback for it if possible.
Paul: 00:45:17 I know you are busy writing your third crime novel, can you tell us a little bit about it yet?
Theresa: 00:45:21 I’m stuck, I’m at the muddle in the middle. I was chatting to another writer, my friend Douglas Skelton who I’d mentioned at the beginning of, this interview, he’s a very good writer. And I said, Douglas, I’m stuck, I’m at the middle, I’m at the 40,000 words, I have to give up. And he said, no, he said you were exact same with the last one. I said, was I? And he said yes, as was I, as was everyone. And we do phone each other and say we’re stuck. But when you’re in the eye of the storm, you can’t remember this happening before. So, this one, again, it’s a part of the Oonagh O’neil trilogy or series, it started off as a trilogy, but it may turn into a longer series, and again, it’s going back over a cold case. Something that happened a long time ago and it opens with the death of a very prominent businessman, a very, very popular philanthropic person who is loved by many people. And it’s quite a shocking murder and it’s not particularly horrific, but it’s shocking because who would kill this lovely, you know, middle-aged/ elderly man. And as you know, Oonagh looks further into the death and the, you know, who could have killed him, it emerges maybe he wasn’t quite as lovely as he would led us to believe.
Paul: 00:47:09 Oh, I see, when is it due?
Theresa: 00:47:18 It’s due out on April 1st, if I can get it finished, which I’m setting myself the deadline that the publisher said, if I can get it into her early December she will guarantee an April publication.
Paul: 00:47:30 You’ll have to let us know.
Theresa: 00:47:32 Oh yes. And crikey, I’m just, at that stage now, I’m thinking like that is it. Can I be like, like my last one. I’m thinking like this is more a social thing that there’s so many things going on with it, but it’s, I’m not saying, it’s based on any real person. I’m sure there are enough people out there that we could attach this on to, you know, the really nice face in public, but they are not all they seem
Paul: 00:48:02 Well yes, a few of those around.
Theresa: 00:48:05 Yep, absolutely. I’ll certainly let you know. Paul, of course,
Paul: 00:48:09 We are at that point in the interview now where I ask rapid-fire questions and answers.
Theresa: 00:48:13 Oh, goody, goody. I love these, I hope I get them right
Paul: 00:48:17 Well the will not, there’s no right or wrong to these. It’s just so the audience get to know you a little bit better. So if you could chat with any crime fiction author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Theresa: 00:48:30 Oh, Conan Doyle, I’ll tell you, Arthur Conan Doyle, because his Sherlock Holmes books may seem a bit old fashioned, a bit old hat. No, but he just paved the way I think for modern fiction and he was so clever and he just, he just got it right. I’d love to pick his brain and I like to find out, you know, I’d love to ask him as well, the fact now we have DNI, we have CCTV, we have so many ways of catching criminals. What his take would be on modern crime writing.
Paul: 00:49:09 Yeah, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it? Mm. Mm. Okay. So that’s every chapter. Okay, next question. Can you name a tool, App or product you can’t live without and why?
Theresa: 00:49:23 My kettle, that’s because if I didn’t have endless cups of tea, I wouldn’t be able to write. I’m probably one of the few writers that can’t stand coffee, but I just write using a work document and a simple, a simple word document, laptop, and a word document. But I heard rumour that for Christmas I’m getting a Samsung notebook. I thought they were too small, to write on, another chap at work, in the office, in the BBC office and he has one and I have a little shot of it, a little go. I’m in Glasgow, I don’t know if that’s what you say down south, a little shot of something. I had a little shot with the little notebook and it’s only about the size of an iPad, it’s smashing. So, it means I can take my notebook on the go because now I lug the lap tap around with me, but it’s a 17-inch laptop because I also do sound editing and I have to lug this thing around with me and crikey it’s too heavy. So, well I couldn’t live without is my kettle and my Microsoft word document.
Paul: 00:50:28 Okay. What number one tip would you give for a new author?
Theresa: 00:50:34 Write, just write, keep writing, and don’t stop writing. I was saying for years I wanted to be a writer and I then realised I wasn’t actually writing anything. And, I thought oh, I mean, apart from, you know, writing every day in work and I’m thinking, oh, I should have to write and that sounds daft, but people have a notion that they want to be a writer, but they don’t actually sit down and physically write. Don’t be put off by what other people say about your writing. And that’s not to say don’t take advice, do seek advice. But if people will say, oh, there’s no market for that, or you know, a little bit negative, or they’ll tell you, oh, there’s no money in writing. Or do you realise how difficult it is to make a living as a writer to it? Of course, it’s difficult. It’s almost impossible.
Theresa: 00:51:22 Um, but write, just keep writing, decide what’s best for you. You may want to go to writer’s workshops. You may want to go to creative writing classes, that may not suit you that’s fine. Mix with other writers Use your local library. Go to reading groups. Read as much as possible. Just read, keep reading and don’t be afraid, don’t copy ideas, but don’t be afraid to be influenced by other writers. But I just say reads, don’t be afraid to send your work out but also I go to or used to go to, I now deliver writer’s workshops, but I remember going to a creative writing course and people were around the table saying you know, I sent an article out to such and such publication and that was about a year and a half ago and I haven’t heard back and no, I do understand that, you know as a new writer you don’t want to be pushy, you don’t want to be bolshy but value, value what you have. And if someone uses your product, ask them to pay for it. Now yeah, you do have to write for nothing to start with, you’re not going to write a best seller, but if people are, are asking you to do things for exposure, do that for a certain amount of time, but then value what you do. Make sure you value. And if other people don’t, people will spend three quid on a cup of coffee, but wouldn’t spend 99p on a download. So value your work and value other writers works.
Theresa: 00:53:07 Definitely, you know, if you’re offered a website that has free downloads, if it’s legal and that’s fine. But, if you’re, stealing work from writers go to your library, libraries have a wealth of books, you don’t have to pay, not everyone can afford books, but value your work and value the work of other writers. And don’t be snobby about your writing and don’t let other people be sniffy and snobby about your writing If you are writing a romance or crime or whatever, you know, and you know, people say, but what you know, that doesn’t mean to see that you have to go to the moon to write a story about an astronaut. But you know if you are a gardener and you decide right? I’m going to write a book about going to the moon. You really need to know a wee bit about rocket science.
Theresa: 00:54:01 And likewise, if you are a rocket scientist and you write a book about a gardener you need t to know your subject matter. I think just know your subject matter, write as much as possible and even if you’re, you’re, you’re stuck. I’m saying this more for myself today than anyone else folks, if you’re stuck just write because you can’t edit a blank page, write, and then you can edit it and even if it’s nonsense that’s fine just write. Don’t let other people steal your dream and then start and again when you started, when you start putting your work as well, you’re pitching it to agents or other publishers or wherever know your market Don’t just use a scatter gun approach. Don’t send to every single agent in every single publication or every single publisher. Don’t send a crime novel to someone that only does maths textbooks. Target who you are sending it to and be wary of someone who offers you a publishing deal for money up front
Theresa: 00:55:01 Just don’t go near them name and shame them on social media, but also be wary, if someone comes along and offers. If an independent publisher offers to publish your book without anything, any editing. I mean it took me 15 years to get a publishing deal. My book was then republished by a new publisher and there were 237 edits in that book that got past a major initial edit. So it’s almost like people think that they have a god given, right to a publishing deal and there’s a lot of unscrupulous publishers that will exploit that. There are small independent publishers who are fantastic and they are turning the publishing world on its head and it’s brilliant, but on the back of that, there are a few unscrupulous ones piggybacking. Make sure you do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask what their editing process is like and be prepared, even if you are with the big boys, unless you’re the top author you have to do your marketing yourself, but the most important thing is to write. Enjoy what you’re writing and read. Read as much as possible and support each other. Support other writers.
Paul: 00:56:21 Good advice.
Paul: 00:56:24 Really good advice. A couple more questions. What’s your favorite book and why?
Theresa: 00:56:32 Oh, crikey. It depends what mood I’m in. It should either be the Magos for the reasons I told you before because I read that I was reading that actual chapter on the island where it was set, so the Magos by John Fowles, but the book is 600 pages, it’s not one that I would go back to very often, I have read it twice both times really exhausted me. I think Jane Eyre has to be my favourite book. Jane Eyre I have read several times and I get something out each time, or no crikey Rebecca, I love Rebecca, oh goodness it’s going to depend what mood, I’m going to stick with Jane Eyre just now, because of the time it was written I think Bronte did such a tremendous job and when you think the way it was physically written that would be written in longhand with a quill and ink and you know, when you think what was available to writers then but also it was quite dangerous subject matter. You know, we had the child who was neglected, she was shunned by her stepfamily, she was put into care, so it’s so much, you know, that was a book with a lot of social responsibility that. We saw the way that kids in care were treated and the way that they were made to fear god. And then when she met Mr Rochester and she’s fell in love and realised that the, you know, the mad wife in the attic and oh, there was so much, there was so much going on in that book. So I, I just, I loved it because of the time that it was written and also she certainly wasn’t afraid to tackle really quite dangerous topics for the time because if had everything, madwoman in the attic and illicit love affairs with Mr Rochester even a dog called Pilot, what’s not to, like I said, I think I’m Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier would come really hot on the heels of that.
Paul: 00:58:32 Okay. Okay.
Theresa: 00:58:34 If you asked me next week it will be changed
Paul: 00:58:37 What’s your favorite movie at the moment and why?
Theresa: 00:58:41 Am I allowed to say Rebecca and Jane Eyre? You know, I’m not very good with, The Jane Eyre my favourite is the Orson Wells one, and Rebecca with Laurence Olivier and not Olivia de Havilland it is Olivia de Havilland sister who I can’t remember her name, is it Joan Simms? I loved those films. Modern day films are fairly interchangeable. One of the last films I saw at the movies was Three Billboards with Frances McDormand and it was really, really hard hitting. That was really a difficult one to watch. But for favorite films, um, I, I can’t think of any modern films. So, I would go back to the to the old classics and I’d probably say, Rebecca, if I cannot get Jane Eyre in I’ll say Rececca.
Paul: 00:59:46 Okay, well we’ll let you do that then. What’s your favorite piece of music or song?
Theresa: 00:59:54 Oh, I love La Vie en rose by Edith Piaf and I got married recently and I walked down the aisle to that and I think the lyrics, I love Edith Piaf and I think the lyrics are so beautiful. Um, they’re, they’re just give your heart and soul to me and life will always be La Vie en rose and when you speak angel sing from above, everyday words seem to turn into love songs. I mean, you just don’t get lyrics like that. Certainly not by rappers and the likes. And I, I love, I just love that song. But I was horrified to find my new husband, he doesn’t really like Edith Piaf. He thinks that she sounds like a sheep that someone’s just jammed their tail in the door and he doesn’t like it at all. But he loved the song. And we had a compromise for the wedding I chose the Louis Armstrong version because the trumpet solo is fantastic, absolutely brilliant. So, I think today my favourite song is La Vie en rose because it just means so much. But again, oh crikey, it was songs I love so many songs they evoke so many emotions. I love music. I think Edith Piaf definitely, La Vie en rose
Paul: 01:01:23 It can be different depending on the day, depending on the mood.
Theresa: 01:01:28 Yeah, it really can be because it’s, you’re right and it depends what mood you’re in and because yeah, the wedding was fairly recent. I’m thinking, that’s definitely, that’s still the one that I’m still so close to my heart but next week I, a couple of month’s time. It may be something else. I also love Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, oh crikey I could be here all day with a playlist and never let you finish the interview.
Paul: 01:02:01 Well, talking about that as it comes to the end now, how can our listeners get in touch with you and your books?
Theresa: 01:02:07 Well, they can get me via my website which is www.theresatalbot.com. It is Theresa with an H. You can find my books on Amazon and they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and they can find me on Facebook, Twitter
Paul: 01:02:49 What format are your books currently available in
Theresa: 01:02:53 They are currently available digitally and coming out on audio very shortly. Now readers can access a paperback. I wouldn’t recommend that, they may be coming out in paperback soon and you can buy paperbacks on Amazon, but they do have print on demand and maybe I shouldn’t say this. I think that a bit too expensive. Just know the print on demand on his own, but they can be downloaded and it will be on audio very shortly.
Paul: 01:03:22 Well Theresa. I need to call us the time here in the Crime Fiction Lounge. And I want to thank you for a fascinating chat. Thank you for being here with us.
Theresa: 01:03:30 Oh, thank you for inviting me, Paul. This was absolutely wonderful. I’ve loved being in the Crime Fiction Lounge, it’s lovely.
Paul: 01:03:35 Oh, you’re welcome to have to come back again when your new book is out.
Theresa: 01:03:38 Oh yes, please. If I’m invited, I’ll be there. Thank you so much. Okay.
Paul: 01:03:41 Thank you very much.
Theresa: 01:03:46 You to and enjoy the rest of your day.
Paul: 01:03:47 Yeah, and you. Listen for all our listeners out there for Theresa’s details and the details of her books are on our website at The Crime Fiction Lounge and that’s at www.crimefictionlounge.club (now www.pstretton-stephens.com/podcast ). I want to thank you for listening and let you know that our next guest will be author Alison Belsham and we’ll talking about her latest book, The Tattoo Thief. I’ll see you then. Bye for now.
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