I first met prolific crime writer, Judith Cutler eighteen months ago at a Disney Laureate event in
Birmingham. Since then we’ve kept in touch and I’ve been on the reviewers’ list for her new publications. A few weeks ago I read Guilty as Sinher third novel to be published within the short time we’ve known each other (Judith has written over 40 novels in total).
I asked her about this huge output and how she went about achieving it. This is what she told me:
All my life I’ve worked full-time, for thirty years in the highly challenging world of further education, where there weren’t enough hours in the week to do everything. But even then I had the writing bug, and when it bit hard in my later thirties and forties I managed to scrape together little oases of writing time while still doing my day job.
I gave up full-time teaching at 50 and the only way I could survive financially was to do a variety of other jobs to support my writing addiction – even though I had contracts with two separate publishers and got commissions to write short stories. Gradually I was able to shed the non-writing jobs, but the drive to work at something was still strong.
Nearly twenty years later it still is. The truth is, I suppose that I no longer appreciate the calm of empty hours. Even – especially – in the garden, I get ideas I want to write about. Playing tennis and doing Pilates have given me themes or plots for novels. Church? Plots aplenty there! Voluntary work at the local school? Ballroom dance? Antiques fairs? I’m lucky that I don’t write books about international spies or people living the high life, because I’d have to spend years of research. I simply write about what I know with the magic question, ‘What if?’, always buzzing in my head.
My working day is very flexible, because I’ve got to the age where I must build in regular exercise and regular relaxation times. But I usually produce 1000 – 1500 words a day: much more, and my brain doesn’t work the next day. Like all the writers I know, I start by re-reading the previous day’s efforts, editing as I go. Then I push on. I don’t plan the whole book in detail – I like to explore the situation with my protagonist – but I do need to know the ending. It’s nice to have a title in my head too. The start of a series or a standalone is harder work than the sixth or seventh in a series, because I’ve not yet got to know everything about my characters. Everything? No. They still need to surprise me.
I do work at weekends, but never into the evening, because my head fizzes and I can’t sleep.
I think Judith’s words reinforce a truth that we already know – a LOT of hard work is needed to be a success and a writer is never ‘off duty’.
Guilty as Sin is a crime novel set in the world of valuable antiques. The heroine, Lina, is an expert in restoring old china. The plot revolves around the theft of valuable artefacts from churches and also from a confused old lady. There’s no murder but Lina does find herself in physical danger as she tries to work out who she can and can’t trust.
This book is a gem for fans of cosy crime and those who like solving puzzles. It’s the sixth in Judith’s Lina Townend series but can also be read as a stand-alone novel. However, be warned, it may tempt you to seek out all the rest!
#1 by juliathorley on September 18, 2015 - 4:40 pm
What a powerhouse she sounds.
#2 by Sally Jenkins on September 18, 2015 - 7:04 pm
Exactly, Julia. I think she’s a good writing role model.