Welcome to author Isabella Muir who comes from us from England. She has a busy schedule so we appreciate her taking time to chat with us.

Describe your current writing spot or space.

A few months ago we sold our home in southern England and have been travelling around Britain in an American fifth wheel caravan, looking for a new home! So, right now my writing space is a table in the caravan, with my pad and pencil, only moving onto my laptop once the first draft is complete!

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Once I have the story plotted out (roughly) then I can start writing. I must admit that I am not a happy planner. I’m always tempted to start writing before I have really worked out the ending! I like to write my first draft by hand and then when I go to type it up I can do a bit of editing as I go along. Ideally, once I start, I like to write every day. The afternoons seem to be my best time – maybe it’s because by then my brain has woken up! I aim for around 2,000 words a day, so in theory I can get a first draft done in around a month, but then I spend forever editing and fiddling with it before sending it out to my wonderful writing buddies who give me brilliant and useful feedback.

Before I was writing fiction full-time I was a technical editor, working on pharmacy-related materials. So, painstaking checking and amending is second nature to me. Once I get into the editing stages of my own fiction writing, I find it hard to stop. But at some point I just have to let it go, to give me the joy of moving onto the next story!

What comes first for you, the plot or characters?

It’s always characters. I’ve written two crime mystery series now and each time it has been the lead character who has led me into the stories. I love getting to know them and, over time, getting to know their families and friends. It really is as though I have met them all. My first series of Sussex Crimes features amateur sleuth and young librarian, Janie Juke.

Prior to writing the first novel where Janie tracks down a missing friend, I had written a very short story about a young girl who was out with her dad one snowy day. Her dad was hit by a bus and the young girl saw it happen. I got to wondering what might have happened to that little girl and her father, Philip, years after the sad incident. Sadly, Philip was blinded in the accident, but father and daughter have a great bond and he doesn’t let his blindness hold him back. And those thoughts led me to the whole of the Janie Juke series.

I am half-Italian, so Italian characters have always crept into my books. So it seemed inevitable that my second series would feature a retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi. Giuseppe is very charismatic and I know many readers have fallen a little bit in love with him, as have I!

How do you select the names of your characters?

All my books are set in the 1960s, so my names have to fit the era when the characters were born. Then, once I have chosen the names I look online for photos. I browse until I have found the person who most closely matches the image that I have in my head for that character. Having a visual image of the character beside me as I write really helps flesh out the character’s actions and personality.

Can you hear your characters talking?

Oh yes! I have had many conversations with my characters. I’ve spent so much time with them as their stories develop that I definitely feel as though I have met them. On occasion I have tried to take a story in a particular direction and it just won’t go and it’s as though the character is guiding me, which sounds strange to say, but I have heard other authors experiencing the same thing.

What kind of research do you do for a book?

As all my novels are set in the 1960s I have had the advantage of tapping into the memories of my older brothers and sister, who enjoyed their teenage years during that era. The anecdotes they shared provided me with plenty of scope to flesh out the setting and lifestyles of my sixties characters. Aside from this first-hand research I have read widely on life during that time and watched TV series and films set during those years, many of which I have on almost constant repeat as I love them so much!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

We have the most wonderful Scottie dog – six-year-old Bonnie. She has been with us for a year now and is an absolute delight. She makes us laugh every day and snuggles up on my feet while I’m writing. Then, several times a day, Bonnie and I venture out walking. Her favourite pastime is chasing imaginary squirrels and rabbits and if she sees a real one – then watch out!

What is your favorite childhood book(s)?

As a youngster, I adored the Chalet School series by Elinor Brent-Dyer and then, when I was thirteen, I started reading Agatha Christie and went on to read dozens of her books. So it made sense, once I began to write my own fictional crime mysteries, that I should pay homage to the great Queen of Crime. My young librarian protagonist, Janie Juke, is an avid lover of Agatha Christie and models all her amateur sleuthing on the wonderful Hercule Poirot.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t give up and keep writing! There is no such thing as perfection and there are as many types of readers as there are authors, so stay true to yourself and follow your own creative dreams!

Isabella is never happier than when she is immersing herself in the sights, sounds and experiences of the 1960s. Researching all aspects of family life back then formed the perfect launch pad for her works of fiction. Isabella rediscovered her love of writing fiction during two happy years working on and completing her MA in Professional Writing and since then she has gone on to publish six novels, three novellas and two short story collections.

Her love of Italy shines through all her work and, as she is half-Italian, she has enjoyed bringing all her crime novels to an Italian audience with Italian translations, which are very well received.

When Isabella is not writing she is exploring Britain, travelling around in an American fifth wheel caravan with her husband and beloved Scottie dog, Bonnie.

Where to Find Isabella Muir & Her Books:

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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