Friday, 16 December 2011


Advice about writing books is proliferating online, in books and at creative writing courses. My workshops for The Society of Authors and Get Writing at the University of Hertfordshire are always rapidly oversubscribed, sometimes within a day, and on my author channel one of the most viewed videos is the discussion on ‘How to Write a Good Book’. These days it seems that everyone wants to write a book.
An often repeated piece of advice is to “write about what you know”. In terms of fiction, that has always struck me as rather odd because part of the joy of writing is to explore the unknown. Stef Penney had never visited Alaska when she wrote ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ which won the Costa ‘Book of the Year’ prize. How many wizards had Tolkien met? Had Shakespeare experienced the frustrations of being a woman in love with a man who thought she was another man? And when did Kafka become a literate beetle? Literature is full of examples because by definition fiction is made up.
An author’s job is to create a credible world for the reader. But if we only wrote about what we knew, either fantasy books would disappear, or we would discover some surprising facts about their authors! I don’t write fantasy, but murder stories. My novels exploring the motivations of different murderers are all bestsellers - but I never felt the need to kill anyone before I could write the stories. It’s all done through the magic of imagination.
Leigh Russell writes the popular bestselling UK crime series featuring Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel. Leigh’s new book Death Bed is one of 35 thrillers on amazon kindle's 12 Days of Christmas promotion @ 99p  also on, and out in print 2012. Details of all Leigh’s books can be found on  

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