Today we welcome Ali Carter to Meeting the Authors as we travel to King’s Lynn and uncover how owls, poetry, crime, and two handfuls of dogs and cats add to the list that make up Ali’s crime thriller writer’s life. Let’s hope you’re not on the list …
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Surrey (UK) in 1958, and moved to East Anglia in 2003 spending a few years in Cambridgeshire, but am now settled just outside King’s Lynn with my husband Bruce, 5 dogs and 6 cats. (Yes I know the dog/cat thing is a bit mad!)
I originally found some success in writing poetry in the 80’s and 90’s, but inspiration for my debut thriller came after the Shipman case hit the headlines in 1999/2000, and after a few years pondering, 2006 saw the beginnings of ‘Blood List’ when the dark and deeply psychotic G.P. ‘Charlotte’ was born.
The full story took its time to complete though, as three quarters of the way through there was a very long period of writer’s block between 2008 and 2018. It was an author friend who finally persuaded me to pull it out of the laptop and finish it, for which I’ll be eternally grateful. At the time of writing, the sequel is about a third of the way through, and I sincerely hope it won’t take another twelve years for this one to come to fruition!
Aside from my writing I am a proud mum to two grown up sons, and also a mega proud nanny to an adorable granddaughter – although at only 5 she won’t be reading ‘Blood List’ anytime soon!
My favourite places are Norfolk, Cornwall and Cumbria, I have a major aversion to flying and a bit of an addiction to cake – oh and plotting murder!
In which genre do you write?
Definitely psychological crime thriller. I’ve always had a deep fascination for this area so it felt natural to write in the same genre as the books I love to read. The only problem with this is I tend to constantly compare my work to other more experienced writers, especially my favourite authors, and then the doubting gremlins start rabbiting away inside my head!!
How many published books do you have?
Just the one at the moment – ‘Blood List‘ is my debut thriller which was published by Matador in October 2018.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I’ve always loved writing, even as a child at school I enjoyed writing stories. As a teenager I dabbled a bit with poetry, and in the late 80’s and 90’s had some success with this. Some were published, I won a few competitions and even came runner up in an ITV breakfast show competition back then.
However the book came about after the serial murderer Harold Shipman came to light in 1999/2000 – it shocked me to the core and fascinated me at the same time. I couldn’t get my head around the fact he was a regular G.P., (M.D. for overseas readers), someone you should be able to trust. He murdered over two hundred of his elderly patients. I then wondered ‘What if?’ What if a female G.P. was to be a serial killer, why would she be one and who would her victims be…?
I wanted to flip the gender. The bookshelves are full of aggressive male antagonists, I wanted to write about a mad, bad and dangerous to know anti-heroine, one that was of the coldest and hardest variety. My inspiration was further ignited when I spent a few days in Cumbria’s Lake District in 2003, it’s one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on earth, and I knew it was the perfect setting for my character to wreak havoc!
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
Judging by what I read of other authors on social media, I honestly think I’m the only writer who edits as she goes along, I simply can’t do it any other way and wouldn’t even try. I still do edits at the end of course and proof read like crazy, (I also have a professional editor), but I still have to do it as the story unfolds or I’d lose all my plots, timelines and continuity. (All the authors I know think I’m crazy to work like this by the way!)
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
Oh definitely the owl, the Tawny owl especially – I absolutely adore them. I’m also a night person so they really fit my personality. You’ll often find me tapping away at ridiculous hours because that’s when the house is at it’s most quiet. With five dogs and six cats it can be quite noisy and hectic during the day!
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Well in theory a lovely old fashioned study full of books, a big old oak desk and huge chair, with owls statues everywhere and one or two (sleeping) dogs at my feet. (I do actually have an abundance of varying sized owl statues all over the house!) In reality I tend to sit on the sofa with legs up and my laptop on a cushion across my thighs, although I have treated myself to a new laptop holder thingy which I’m waiting to be delivered.
What are you currently reading?
At the time of writing this I’m just about to start ‘The Killer You Know‘ by S.R. Masters. Looks excellent and has jumped to the top of my TBR list after reading a very exciting blog review.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
Well there’s a lot of grooming going on in our house with all the dogs and cats to keep tidy, plus reading of course. I also like to get together with local author friends. We meet for coffee, cake and booky chat, talk over our current W.I.P., events, marketing and promotion, and of course what we’re reading. I love to see my granddaughter as often as I can as well, and of course her mum and dad!
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Hermione Norris (actress) – she’s amazing! If in my wildest dreams ‘Blood List‘ could ever be dramatised on T.V., my question would be;- “Hermione will you please play Charlotte?!”
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
I’ve learnt to let go of the plot reins, or maybe just not hold them so tightly. No matter how diligent I am about planning out the story, my characters will always take control and change it! Usually at 3.00 a.m.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?
I laid on the floor with my shoulders up against the shower glass in our en suite. I needed to see where my eye line fell in order to create a realistic scene description in the sequel to ‘Blood List.’
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?
No not now. I used to as a teenager.
What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
About thirty five years ago when I was writing poetry I was standing at the sink washing up and looking out of the window at the back garden. My mind was empty, (let’s face it I was bored rigid washing up), and suddenly I saw typewritten words appearing in my head sentence after sentence typed on a traditional typewriter.
These weren’t ‘thoughts’ and the words were nothing like the poetry I was writing at the time, it was much more old fashioned. Virtually a whole poem appeared and I had to dry my hands really quickly to get down on paper what I’d ‘seen,’ and then finish it off in the same period style. It was the quickest poem I’d ‘written’ . . . and it never happened again.
You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?
A lot of deep breathing and walking about.
What do you miss about being a kid?
No responsibilities and lots of free time.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Not a cartoon but if I can change the question slightly . . . I would absolutely love to be trapped in the ‘Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe‘ book by C.S. Lewis. I actually did climb into my mother’s wardrobe and push her fur coats out of the way after watching the T.V. series in 1967. Sadly there was a back to that wardrobe and not one snowflake.
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?
D.I. Fran Taylor from the sequel I’m working on right now. She gets to work with D.C.I. Harry Longbridge again, (from ‘Blood List‘), when she arrives in Kirikdale two years after Harry retires. Their working partnership at Canon Row, (London police station), ended suddenly seven years previously when Harry was transferred to Kirkdale for his last five years of service.
Fran and Harry ‘have history,’ and she calls him back in because the original case was his – but she also wants to see him again. I wanted to be a police officer in my teens, but in the 70’s being 5′ ft 1″ wasn’t acceptable. It would be like a second chance to do some detective work, just a small snapshot – (plus I love Harry!!)
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
I honestly can’t remember the last movie I saw, but recently binge watched all five series of ‘Line of Duty‘ and am now a hopeless addict like millions of other LODites!!
A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
“Time for some fun lady you’ve been working too hard – let’s party!”
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
Yes I definitely do but can’t think of an example right now, maybe invite me back another time?!
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
Well as you know I have 11 so I’ll choose one question each for three of them!
Keelan (Golden Retriever) “Why do you howl all through any T.V. programme’s theme music?”
Lissa (Persian cat) “Why do you insist on sitting on top of the water filter jug?”
Shumi (Shih Tzu) “Why do you ask to go out but when I open the door, run away from it into the lounge and sit in front of the treat tin?”
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Being very detail orientated. I’m a bit of a perfectionist which is probably why I have to edit as I go along. If I’m going to do something it’s got to be to the best of my ability or I won’t do it, and I need to see that all the time in my writing. I think it’s useful because it means my characters and plot are believable, and I won’t skimp on the research. If I can’t find the info, I’ll wait till I can rather than make it up or leave it out which would ruin the book.
This is why ‘Blood List‘ had a ten year delay – and there’s an interesting story here. Some information I needed centred around the detailed abilities of a Cessna light aircraft and an exceptionally long flight. I simply couldn’t find out the nitty gritty detail I needed in 2008 to push on with the story, and had to stop until last year when I was persuaded to dig out the MS and research for weeks until I found the information.
It was only for a couple of paragraphs but it was crucial to the story, and crucial (to me) to get it right. It was a good job I hadn’t been tempted to wing it, (pun intended – haha!!), because at a W.H. Smith book signing, a lady who bought a copy, (and was also an author), asked me if I ever got writer’s block. I told her about the Cessna and she said… “Well I’m very glad you waited until you could find out that specific information.” I said;- “Oh no don’t tell me you’re a pilot?!” She replied;- “No – but my husband is and he’ll probably read it too. He would rubbish your book if it was badly researched or just plain wrong!” You can imagine my relief!
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
Anywhere with lakes or rivers, trees, hills and valleys. The Broadland area in Norfolk and the Lake District in Cumbria where ‘Blood List‘ is set, are my two favourites.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
A luxury river boat trip on a beautiful sunny day, with a butler seeing to lunch, drinks etc. and my current read (plus one spare).
Tell us about your most recent book.
‘Blood List‘ is a psychological crime thriller where you know from the start who the killer is. It’s not a police procedural or a ‘who dunnit?’ It’s a why, where and a how ‘dunnit.’ There’s still a great deal of mystery however as well as plot twists and shocks. The antagonist is the star as opposed to the hero(es), yet my readers tell me they love her character despite how evil she is! Although having said that, maybe some people will feel sorry for her past history, present dilemma and mental health issues. Charlotte is self medicating, ruthless and on a mission – if you’re female, young and attractive you’d better watch out!
I love to keep in touch with my readers, so if you’d like to drop me a line I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you Ali for being a part of Meeting the Authors. It was interesting to learn about the varied aspects of your writer’s life! –Camilla
About the book:
Think the Lake District is a lovely place to visit? Think again. A Psychological & Chilling Thriller set in and around the fictional town of Kirkdale in Cumbria. One by one the young women of Kirkdale are being found grotesquely murdered, with no clues as to why.
Lying between the great lake Kirkwater and the base of Kirkby Pike, although beautiful, Kirkdale isn’t exactly the most exciting place on the planet. But after young reporter Jenny Flood moves into the relaxed Cumbrian town, it sets a catalogue of events in motion that brings this comfortable community to its knees.
When middle aged G.P. Charlotte Peterson discovers Jenny has followed her from Bradenthorpe, six years after a fling with her philandering doctor husband Miles, it stirs deeply buried mental health issues from her youth. In the run up to the Kirkdale country show, the arrival of this third and most recent adversary triggers the already edgy and emotionally scarred Charlotte into finally stepping over the edge. Her longing to destroy Jenny has been on a slow and very resentful burn for years, now the reality of achieving that presents itself as a genuine possibility.
Can journalist Andrew Gale protect new colleague Jenny, girlfriend Gina and her best friend Molly from the psychotic GP’s insane agenda? How will sarcastic ex Met. Officer Harry Longbridge deal with Andrew’s continued interference?
Then there’s the unexpected arrival of an American mystery woman. And just who is on the Blood List?
Find our more about Ali and her book:
Blood List is available in paperback from all good high street stores and the following websites.
Troubador Publishing: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/crime-and-thrillers/blood-list/
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IKuYJ2
If you’d like to keep up with all things ‘Blood List‘ including joining Ali Carter’s book club and advance notification of signing events, visit the website: https://www.alicarterauthor.com/
If it feels right and you have the time (and you enjoy the interview) please like or comment or share it. The nature of the online world … the more eyes that see it the more it will spread and benefit the author and the website! Thank you!
And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …