Indie Author Samantha Goodwin, author of the newly released Murder at Macbeth, chats with me about her writing process, writing tips, and publishing.
1. How long have you been interested in writing crime fiction and was
there a particular book, movie, or news story that got you hooked?
I’ve always been drawn to the crime genre, from books and TV shows to murder mystery games! There is such a sense of satisfaction in trying to identify the culprit in an intriguing whodunnit, especially when there are lots of twists and turns as new clues turn up. I’ve always found the best mysteries hook you so well that you end up thinking about solving the crime even when you’re not reading it.
One of the most influential books for me was The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins. I really loved how the story unfolds through different narrators’ perspectives and the mystery is gradually revealed. That writing approach is definitely something that influenced my own novel.
2. Do you prefer to pre-plan your stories or are you able to let them
develop organically as you write?
I always start with a rough one-page outline that details the overall story arc and then from there on I tend to go with the flow and let the story grow naturally. I definitely find the beginnings the hardest, so much so that I actually wrote my novel out of linear order and finished the second half first which was much more exciting to create as there are lots of twists and turns and unexpected revelations. Then I backtracked to write the beginning to set the scene.
3. What would you say is your number one tip for making sure the crime, any clues or foreshadowing, subtext, etc. all hang together in a way that’s satisfying for the reader?
My number one tip would be committing all questions raised and clues introduced to paper in a bullet point format, so you can assess during the editing stage to make sure everything has been resolved by the end of the novel. As a crime author I find that process incredibly valuable as it’s so crucial to make sure that answers are provided to all the questions that occur along the way so the reader is satisfied.
One technique I found helpful was to have the detectives reiterate certain clues and questions to present different sides to the story and make the reader consider which suspect would have the most compelling motive to want the show’s leading lady dead.
4. How do you approach research as a crime writer? Do you have any
Well I am incredibly lucky to have two friends who are police officers so I set up interviews with them in order to pick their brains on how everything would work! Research was really important for the police procedural element of my book, so it was great to hear first-hand how everything would work in practice.
Regarding the rest of the research I scoured the Internet for topics as diverse as how you could commission a bespoke replica dagger and what internal damage a stomach stab wound would cause. I’m sure I’m probably on an FBI watchlist somewhere!
5. Do you have any writing rituals or things you always do before and/or during writing sessions?
I handwrite everything as I find my ideas flow better! It’s great because it means I can write anywhere, my favourite location is outside on those rare sunny English days. It is however, not the most time-efficient way of writing as then I have to spend time typing everything up as I go along and start editing!
6. If you were to ever write in another genre besides crime, what would it be?
I absolutely love reading dystopia books, so it would be interesting to explore that genre. I think it’s so great to have that sense of escapism of experiencing another world.
7. Finally, what is the biggest piece of advice you wish you could go
back and tell yourself prior to starting your writing/publishing journey with Murder at Macbeth?
Believe in yourself, and surround yourself with positive people who will spur you on. Writing groups and online communities are great for when you need advice. I started my author Instagram account quite late during the editing process after I had already finished writing the bulk of my novel and I wish I had connected with other like-minded authors earlier on as I have found them incredibly inspirational.
Also don’t worry about getting it right first time. One of my favourite writing quotes is from Shannon Hale who said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”