Linda Green’s Scene of the Crime
Crime writer Linda Green shares where she writes her novels. Her latest novel, While My Eyes Were Closed is an ebook bestseller and is out now in paperback.
Posted on May 5, 2016 in Behind the Scenes
Tags: Scene of the Crime, linda green, while my eyes were closed, writing room
The majority of my writing is done in the room I call the ‘office’ (formerly known as a spare bedroom) at the front of our house on a cobbled street in West Yorkshire. My window overlooks the churchyard opposite. This is useful as I have been known to nip over and gather surnames for characters from the gravestones! I like the idea that my characters have the surnames of real people who once lived in the area. I actually started doing this at my previous house, which was part of a converted church which had a graveyard for a garden. The surnames of the main characters from my last two novels can all be found there.
The one thing I can’t imagine is writing in a room without a window, it’s important for me to be able to see out into the world. When I’m not gazing out of the window, I often look at my character board. Early on in the process of devising the idea and plot for the next novel, I make a point of finding photos of my fictional characters. I keep a store of photos from magazines, leaflets and catalogues and look through them when I’m ‘casting’ my novel. Sometimes I don’t find them there and have to spend hours looking elsewhere but occasionally I will even remember a face from the files and have it in mind when I devise a character. I prefer real people if possible rather than models and I have a rule that if I can remember who the person actually is, I can’t use them (all of the photos are cut out without a name on them). Although I have to confess that I broke it for this novel as I know the photo of Vince, Lisa’s father in While My Eyes Were Closed, is that of a former motoring correspondent in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine! He looked so right for the part, I decided to overlook the rule on this occasion.
The photos allow me to fix my characters firmly in my head. I generally sit down and look at them all before I start writing every day. It’s interesting how often some tiny detail from the photo ends up being mentioned in the novel. Matthew’s love of penguins for example, was inspired by the t-shirt in this photo.
I don’t know of any other authors who do this and I completely understand that it might not work for lots of people but it works for me. I actually took things one stage further this time because the dress four-year-old Ella was wearing in the photograph became such an important part of the story when she went missing that I decided to try to find it. Which is how I ended up on ebay, buying the very same dress she was wearing. I kept it next to me while I was writing and occasionally held it when I was writing scenes from the point of view of Lisa, Ella’s mother.
When we came to film the trailer for the novel, I even gave the dress to my friend’s daughter, who was playing Ella. Consequently, seeing her running around in it in the park in it while we filmed the scene where she goes missing was incredibly powerful and emotional for me. It really was as if my character had come to life.
Maybe you would call that ‘method’ writing. Again, it might not work for everyone but as a reader I know how important it is to feel emotionally attached to characters so as a writer, I believe it’s essential that my characters are as real as possible in my head. Occasionally, the line between reality and fiction can blur. I’m rather proud of the fact that I once started to write the names of two characters from my novel And Then It Happened on my Christmas card list!
I suppose the weirdest thing about where I write is what I sit on. I completely forget how weird it is until a visitor comes into the room and stares at it. I write sitting on an active birth ball. I started using it as a computer chair when I was pregnant with my son and couldn’t get comfortable in my old office chair. After the birth (during which I spent the first part of labour sitting on it!) I had bad back pain and my chiropractor told me to carry on using it for as long as possible to allow more movement into my hips and back. My son is now eleven and I’m still using it. I find it very comfortable and it’s good for my posture because you can’t slouch on a birth ball!
The walls above my desk are decorated with the jackets of my previous novels and I have all my novels lined up between my lovely reading man book ends, which I found in a shop in Hebden Bridge. I had 102 rejections from agents, spread over five years, whilst trying to get my first book deal so having the books there is a good reminder that my perseverance paid off and I got there in the end.
On the wall to the side of my desk I have a poster of quotes from Nelson Mandela, who was, and remains, one of my heroes. I joined the anti-apartheid movement and took part in an all-night vigil outside the South African embassy as a teenager. I can still remember working as a journalist in a newsroom in Birmingham and watching the live TV footage of Mandela being released from prison, knowing I was witnessing history.
What you can’t see in the photos is my screen saver of my eleven-year-old son. It’s a photograph taken during rehearsals for his first professional theatre show at West Yorkshire Playhouse last year and I love it because it captures his passion for theatre and is guaranteed to make me smile whenever I look at it.
I have actually done a fair amount of my writing over the past nine months in my alternative office – the coffee shop at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds – while waiting for my son to finish rehearsals or performances. I’ve found that it’s quite conducive to writing and I’ve been able to block out the noises around me and get a lot written without the distractions of working from home.
And I suppose the only thing you can’t see in the photos, which any decent detective will have noted by now, is the mess which usually surrounds my desk at home. I confess that I moved it out of the way first. Proof, if ever it was needed, that photographs do indeed lie!
Linda’s latest novel, While My Eyes Were Closed is out now