Crime and cre­ativ­ity

From pleas­ing her friends with play­ground sto­ries to creat­ing best-sell­ing crime thrillers, au­thor El­iz­a­beth Haynes tells RACHEL BULLER why ev­ery­one should have a go at writ­ing a novel

EDP Norfolk - - Books - El­iz­a­beth Haynes will be ap­pear­ing at Book­fest, at Bri­arfields Ho­tel on March 13, see www.bri­arfield­shotel­nor­folk.co.uk For in­for­ma­tion about Na­tional Novel Writ­ing Month, see www.nanow­rimo.org

EVER SINCE buy­ing a type­writer from the free ads of her lo­cal news­pa­per, El­iz­a­beth Haynes has been writ­ing sto­ries. While some have never been read by any­one other than her and some still re­main very much works in progress, she is now a best-sell­ing au­thor of six crime nov­els which are de­voured by fans all over the world.

She moved to Nor­folk with her fam­ily two years ago and is al­ready firmly en­sconced in county life. This month she will be talk­ing about her lat­est thriller, Never Alone, at Bri­arfields in Titch­well for the first Book­fest event of the year; she was a judge in the 2016 East An­glian Book Awards and is start­ing to use the county’s land­scape and rich his­tory as cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion.

“We lived in Kent but wanted to find some­where with an an­nex so my mum could live with us – and be­cause my hus­band and I both worked from home, it meant we could pretty much live any­where,” she says.

“Quite by ac­ci­dent, we came on hol­i­day to Nor­folk and com­pletely fell in love with it. We found the per­fect house in a lit­tle vil­lage near North Wal­sham. My son goes to school in Cromer and gets to en­joy things he would never have ex­pe­ri­enced back in Kent and we just love liv­ing here. It is a county full of sur­prises and un­usual things to dis­cover. There is nowhere like it in Eng­land. It’s like it has got per­mis­sion to be ev­ery so slightly mad and as a county it seems to ab­so­lutely rel­ish that,” she laughs.

Her writ­ing ca­reer be­gan while at school, creat­ing mag­i­cal tales for her own en­joy­ment and then sto­ries to share with class­mates.

“I was about 13 when I got my type­writer and used it to write my first novel around that time - The Year Book. Not the best ti­tle, it was a win­try, Christ­massy story about a mys­ti­cal book a girl has dis­cov­ered in an at­tic. It has never seen the light of day,” she says.

“But I also wrote se­ri­alised ro­mances in my note­book like you would see in girl’s mag­a­zines. I would pass them round my friends at school and then they would get me to write an­other chap­ter to bring in the next day. That’s where I learned the im­por­tance of creat­ing a good hook for my end­ing, how im­por­tant it was to keep peo­ple want­ing more.”

Her writ­ing re­mained largely un­der wraps and an oc­ca­sional hobby un­til she was per­suaded by a friend to take part in Na­tional Novel Writ­ing Month - and she is now a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of its ben­e­fits.

“It is an an­nual chal­lenge to write 50,000 words in the month of Novem­ber. It doesn’t have to be award­win­ning, it doesn’t mean you have to carry it on and send it off to a pub­lisher, it is just a great rea­son to sit down and write. It is for all those peo­ple who have al­ways said, just like I did, ‘I have got a novel in me.’ It is very lib­er­at­ing. It takes away the pres­sure to pro­duce a mas­ter­piece, it is about learn­ing the dis­ci­pline of writ­ing.”

El­iz­a­beth has done ‘nanow­rimo’, as it is af­fec­tion­ately known, ev­ery year since 2005. In 2008 her project was the start of her first novel – Into the Dark­est Cor­ner - and she has pro­duced a book a year ever since.

“I al­ways wrote for fun but it en­abled me to re­ally ex­pand my writ­ing mus­cles. Writ­ing at speed can some­times gen­er­ate some re­ally great ideas. You have to put it out of your head that any­one is go­ing to see it. I would en­cour­age any­one to join in.”

El­iz­a­beth was work­ing as a po­lice in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst in Kent when she be­gan to take part in ‘nanow­rimo’ and, she says, the two things com­bined per­fectly, giv­ing her the con­fi­dence to write about crime.

“I al­ways read crime nov­els grow­ing up, start­ing with Agatha Christie. But I never had the con­fi­dence to ap­proach any­one to re­search my own crime story. I think say­ing it out loud, ac­tu­ally ask­ing ‘ex­perts’, would have meant ad­mit­ting to my­self I was re­search­ing a book and there­fore try­ing to be a se­ri­ous crime novelist. I wasn’t ready for that,” she laughs.

“But af­ter work­ing with the po­lice I felt I could start to write about it with some au­then­tic­ity. I had the jar­gon and acronyms to make it re­al­is­tic and, most im­por­tantly, the ban­ter.”

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