Helen Cadbury was born in the Midlands and brought up in Birmingham and Oldham, Lancashire. She writes fiction, poetry and plays and is currently working on a sequel to To Catch a Rabbit. Currently she is a York based writer whose debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, is joint winner of the Northern Crime Award and was launched by Moth Publishing , May 2013.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was five, I wanted to be a writer (although I couldn’t actually write), an actor or an ice cream man’s assistant. I enjoyed writing, once I got the hang of which way round the letters went, but got distracted by an acting career and didn’t really settle down to write until I was 40. I have never sold ice cream, so I have that to look forward too.
Would you say there are writers out there that everyone who wants to write should read?
I think anyone who writes should read good writers, in a range of genres. Occasionally read ‘bad’ writing, but not too often, as it will depress you that such a thing got published and may influence you in the wrong way. In crime, I would recommend Denise Mina, George Pelecanos, Mark Billingham or Louise Welsh for stylish prose, interesting characters and gripping plots.
What made you write a crime novel?
All the best stories are crime stories. Look at Red Riding Hood, for example. I started off trying to write what I thought was a literary novel, but once I began to pursue the idea of someone going missing, then the idea of a crime obviously presented itself.
What sort of research did you have to do to write /To Catch a Rabbit/?
I did most of the research towards the end of the writing process. When I had a full manuscript, I showed to a serving PCSO for feedback. I also went to a very interesting talk on forensics at the Harrogate Crime Festival, which led me to know what else to look for on the internet. I don’t do massive amounts of research but I did find a very useful YouTube video of a burning car, which was obviously more practical than trying it out myself.
What’s your creative process like? Do you need to be alone to write? Coffee shop maybe?
Agh! If only I had a routine or anything I could reliably call a process. I’m a bit nomadic actually, moving from the kitchen table, to my bed, to the library, depending on my mood. I find coffee shops are better for writing poetry, as I can get too distracted by what’s happening around me to stay in the world of a novel.
Was it a surprise to win the Northern Crime Award?
Yes. It was amazing. You hope for something, then it happens. The only other times I have felt quite so happy was finding out I was pregnant with my sons.
Do you think that writers, especially non-prize winners, need to be constantly going to signings and events to publicise their work?
I quite like public events, because I’m an extrovert, and I go quietly bonkers shut up indoors all the time, but some writers find them more difficult. I think it’s very hard to assess how worthwhile they are in terms of book sales, but I’m sure they help with word of mouth. If readers find it interesting to meet authors, then it is valuable. Social media may be more effective, but if you’re not doing any events, what are you talking about on social media? Where are the pictures to prove you exist?
How’s the sequel coming along?
The sequel is with my agent and making it’s way, I hope, towards publication, but it may still need a bit more work, we’ll see…
Do you have any advice for getting published? Such as important things to include in a query.
This is probably a whole different article in itself, but fiction writers need agents. Competitions or awards can really help you to get noticed and get an agent. If you’re writing directly to an agent, talk about the book. Like any exercise in selling, you need to show why it is unique and why they might want to represent your book. Consider small presses, they are more likely to publish an unagented writer.
What about more general advice for aspiring writers?
Writers write. And read other writers. And re-read what they write themselves, to get it right. You may not be able to keep up with all the films, TV series, parties that non-writers are into, especially if you are a fiction writer. It is very, very time consuming, but if you love it, you won’t care. Oh, and if you are not intending to be single for your entire life, fall in love with someone who loves you enough to put up with you being a writer. It will make you extremely anti-social and is very unlikely to make you rich.