Angela Marsons is a British author of crime fiction, from the Black Country in the West Midlands. She sold one million novels within a year of publishing her first crime thriller. Angela Marsons is from Brierley Hill in the West Midlands and is a former security guard at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. Having been rejected by numerous publishers over 25 years she has now released seven books in the much loved Kim Stone series, with the latest being Broken Bones. Her books all have a Black Country setting, but Angela Marsons says “I never write about a set group of people or anyone particular I know, all my characters are make believe.” The principal character in the crime series is Detective Kim Stone. The success of the digitally-published Kim Stone books resulted in a print deal with publisher Bonnier Publishing Fiction. Please enjoy my interview with the popular author Angela Marsons.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I actually do respond with the word ‘author’ although it has taken me quite a while to get there without covering my mouth with my hand for fear of disbelieving glances and rolling eyes. It was much easier when I worked full time as a Security Manager.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m not reading anything right now as I rarely read while writing the first draft of my current WIP. Reading the work of others until I have my own story set in my mind fills me with self-doubt that my own idea is hopeless and that my writing is not of the standard of whatever it is I’m reading. I hear-mark books that will be my reward for finishing the next part of the process.
My earliest memory of reading is The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I remember being completely encompassed in every adventure and was always eager to find out what they were going to get up to next.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
I think it would be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. This book fired my imagination as a child and really did make me feel that anything in life was possible. It was on reading it again as an adult that I completely appreciated the journey on which I had been taken.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I can remember the first piece that I ever wrote although it wasn’t a story. I was about nine years old and my homework was to write about my holiday. We hadn’t been on holiday as my parents couldn’t afford it so I pictured the beach and wrote a piece about the relationship between the rocks and the sea. I got my first ever A grade and a Merit Point. I still have the piece in my archives.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
My worst job was working twelve hour night shifts in an alarm monitoring centre. Having your lunch break at 2 am is just unnatural.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
My first piece of advice would be to never forget what you love about the writing process. Once you begin submitting work to publishers and agents it can be difficult to maintain that special relationship with words or the story or the process of writing, unless you’re one of the lucky few that get accepted with your first submission of your first novel. Not sure that happens very much. Rejection can tarnish the passion over a period of time so it’s important to nourish that connection with the writing process.
My second piece of advice would be to share the first draft of your novel with no-one. I made this mistake once and found that any comment whether positive or negative coloured my view of the whole process from that point on. I learned that I needed to bond with the story first before showing it to anyone.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
I have always set myself writing deadlines, even when there was no need to as there was no agent or publisher waiting for my next work in progress. Those early self-imposed deadlines were fluid and if I wanted to interrupt the process to read a few books, I could. Now my deadlines are real and I do have an editor waiting for my next WIP I don’t have that same luxury. As I write two books a year my reading time is very precious to me and although I don’t read as much as I would like I certainly still feel the magic of curling up on the sofa with a good book.
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path and why?
In my early writing days, I read many ‘how to’ books on Creative Writing and Novel Writing and Getting Published etc. I do think these books are important to understand and hone your craft and yet I do believe that too much attention to the technicalities can drown out the writer’s individual voice. I read all the books but continued to write the kind of books I wanted to write. I believe that inspirational books that focus on the spiritual and positive process of getting words down on paper are far more valuable.
Yes, it was Disclosure by Michael Crichton. It was the only book that ever caused me to call in sick for work as I simply could not put the book down until I had all the answers. A few months later I read it again to understand how the author had captivated me so completely and found that it was his timing of questions and answers. By the time he answered one of my burning questions he had already posed another and so I had to keep reading.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I read this series many years ago and it stayed with me for a very long time. The books covered so many facets of human behaviour including selfishness, cruelty, deceit, love, innocence.
Who would you say are the three writers that continue to inspire you?
Renita D’Silva is an incredibly talented writer who pens family dramas that sweep from India to England. Her gift for vivid imagery puts me right there in the book.
I have always been inspired by Val McDermid and continue to be so. For me, her characters are real and immediately recognisable. I appreciate characters who are a bit off and this author has produced one of my favourite ever fictional characters in Doctor Tony Hill.
For a similar reason, I continue to be inspired by Carol O Connell who pens the Kathy Mallory novels. In Mallory, she has created a main character who is borderline sociopathic and yet the reader is completely engaged with her despite her lack of emotion and human interaction. Both of these writers gave me the confidence to stick with the main character that was in my head despite numerous recommendations to soften her up a little.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
My favourite genre of book would be crime and psychological thrillers. I like strong female main characters that needn’t be the nicest people but must be self-aware. I prefer no romance in the crime books I read as I find it a distraction.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
It’s not something I even want to imagine. Every book we read teaches us something and leaves a little bit of itself in our consciousness whether it be an understanding of behaviours or processes or the reasons we do what we do. We are learning and perfecting sentence structure and syntax every time we read a page. The thought of a world with no books simply fills me with horror.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
There are a few – Renita D’Silva, KL Slater, Val McDermid, Karin Slaughter and Carol O’Connell.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
Absolutely not. I am a firm advocate of digital books as my books began on the digital platform and I am still with a fabulous digital publisher. I believe there is room for all mediums. Personally, I love the convenience of an E-reader whilst still enjoying a browse of every bookshop I see. And I never leave empty handed so there is definitely room for both.
Kindness – The Little Thing That Matters Most by Jaime Thurston. This is a wonderful book that is inspiring and heart-warming and explains how it is the small acts of kindness that can have the biggest impact.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
It would be Anybody Can Write by Roberta Jean Bryant. I read this book years and years ago and it inspired me to keep writing. During 25 years of rejection I must have re-read it three or four times and each time it helped me keep the connection to what I love to do and inspired me to keep going. Had I not read this book I feel that I would never have kept going and would not be lucky enough to do what I love and call it my job.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout Ph.D. I used this book to research my second Kim Stone novel – Evil Games – as I had always been interested in the sociopathic personality. I was blown away by the examples, case studies and clarity of this book.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
There will definitely be psychology books in my future. I like to explore motivation deeply in all of my novels and relish trying to understand the human mind and the reasons why we do things.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I would call it Liked but not Loved. Those were the words that haunted my submission attempts for more than two decades. Many rejection slips and letters bore these or similar words.