Rebecca Muddiman is an English Crime fiction writer whose first novel, Stolen, was published in 2013 and was one of the winners of the first Northern Crime Competition. She also won a Northern Writers’ Time to Write Award in 2010 for the same book. Her second novel, Gone, was released in January 2015 and her third, Tell Me Lies in March 2016, both by Mulholland.
She has a degree in Film and Media from the University of Sunderland and an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University. She also has qualifications in Film and TV Production and Music Management, and has done several short courses including Crime Scene Investigation and Criminology.
So that’s my Introduction and here’s the Interview:
Tell me a little about what you enjoy reading, and are there any authors that you like to read?
I’ll give almost anything a go but I particularly enjoy crime novels (which is handy as I write crime!) and biographies. I read a lot of crime fiction but some of my favourites are Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner, and Elizabeth Haynes. Outside of crime I enjoy Raymond Carver, Jon Ronson and Kate Atkinson (who I suppose is a crime novelist sometimes).
What attracted you to writing in the first place?
I remember reading Roald Dahl as a kid and thinking that the made up world was much more exciting than the real world so I started creating my own stories. But it took me until I was about twenty to realise that I really wanted my job to be writing. So I did a course in Film and TV Production because I mostly wanted to write screenplays at the time and took things from there. I didn’t get far with the screenplays but the course gave me a lot of skills I use now even though I’m writing novels. I chose to write crime novels purely because it was what I liked to read most.
Tell me a little about getting your first book published?
I’d been trying the normal route of sending submissions out to agents and getting endless rejections and then I entered my book into the Northern Writers’ Awards run by New Writing North. I thought I had no chance of winning as my book was a crime novel and I thought they were after more literary fare. But I ended up winning a Time to Write Award which gave me time to work on the book. And then nothing happened for a couple of years and I was about to give up and move on when I saw an advert for the Northern Crime Competition run by Moth Publishing. As my book was both northern and crime I thought I might as well give it one last shot and I ended up being one of the four winners. So I’m very thankful for competitions!
Tell me a little about the publisher?
Moth Publishing is a new imprint and a joint enterprise between New Writing North and Business Education Publishers based in Sunderland. They wanted to start a fiction imprint that published northern writers as they felt that there was a lot of talent being ignored by the Londoncentric industry. New Writing North do a lot of work with new writers and found that there was this pool of crime writers based in the north so they decided to focus on crime.
Can you think of a few tips of the top of your head for writing the perfect antagonist/protagonist?
That’s a hard question! I think the best tip I can give is to make both the antagonist and protagonist complicated. By that I mean make sure the protagonist isn’t perfect and make sure the antagonist isn’t a pantomime villain. In my first book, Stolen, the protagonist, Abby, has done some bad things but I still wanted the reader to sympathise with her. And in the second book I’m finding that I quite enjoy the company of my antagonist, Lucas. He’s a horrible man really, but he’s funny at times and I think that draws the reader in so that when the time comes for him to do something terrible the reader feels it that little bit more.
How does it feel just starting out in the creative industry?
It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. You spend years trying to get in and dreaming about being published and then it happens and you’re not quite sure what to make of it. I think when I dreamed about it I saw myself locked away in my room, writing day and night. But in reality I spend a lot more time out doing events in libraries and bookshops, updating blogs and things, and sorting out boring stuff like tax. But on the other hand you get to travel around and meet other writers and readers who are generally lovely. Obviously you never know what’s going to happen next, whether people will like your work or not. So in the end you just have to lock yourself in your room and write and hope for the best!
Do you have tips for an aspiring writer?
I’m sure you’ll have heard it before but reading lots is so important. And reading a wide range too. Competitions have been good to me so I’d say look out for the ones that suit your work and go for it. Lots of competitions give feedback even when you haven’t won so you often get something out of it anyway. And mostly, don’t give up. No one’s writing is liked by everyone so when those agents reject you, just find another one and eventually you’ll find someone who gets you.
Do you have any rules for writing that you think have served you well?
Be brutal with your editing. You know when something isn’t working but it’s tempting to leave it in because you like it or spent time on it. But you have to look at the bigger picture. Also, be open to feedback – especially from editors. Some people can’t bear being edited but I like it. Once you get over the initial indignation you realise they’re usually right and make your work so much better. But if you believe deep down that your way is best then don’t be afraid to fight for it.
My other biggie is just write something. Don’t be afraid to write badly, you can rewrite it later. Just get something down.
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