Interview: Lesley Thomson

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Photo by Emily Andersen

Lesley Thomson burst onto the literary scene with her breakthrough novel, A Kind of Vanishing, which won the People’s Book prize in 2010. She has since gone on to write two novels featuring accidental detective Stella Darnell – The Detective’s Daughter and Ghost Girl. Set in London, both reached the pinnacle of the Amazon charts having sold in their bucketloads. Here we talk to Lesley about her work…

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I’m a crime writer. My novels explore what precipitates a crime and what the consequences of the action are on those left behind. How does it change them?  What does it make them do?  I try to write the stories I like to read. I hope to have readers on the edge of their seat, caring what happens next.


Commitment is your middle name as a writer. What do you consider to be your breakthrough moment?
The moment at the awards ceremony for the People’s Book Prize when they announced that A Kind of Vanishing had won the Fiction prize was pretty special. When the envelope was opened I was astonished to hear my own name read out. Winning a prize can boost a career, after that The Detective’s Daughter was bought by a mainstream publisher and became a bestseller. Ultimately I’d say that a breakthrough moment is one of those many moments that add up to many hours of graft and discipline. The path to success is often twisting with many ups and downs. The trick is to keep going! So yes, it’s more about that ‘middle name’ than luck.

What was the inspiration behind Stella Darnell, the protagonist in The Detective’s Daughter and Ghost Girl?
I wanted to write about someone who leads a life that we can recognise. An apparently ordinary hero she runs a thriving cleaning company. She doesn’t need to do any cleaning, but she loves it so takes shifts whenever she can. A cleaner, like a detective has the ‘right’ to go into people’s homes and work places. Like a detective, a cleaner restores order. Stella isn’t easy company, being pragmatic, rational and not given to flights of imagination and she can count the number of books she has read on two fingers. However, over the course of the series she changes and develops as she learns from experience. I respect people who do their work well, admit their mistakes and consider doing things differently. Stella is one of those people.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt during your writing career?
Always save and back up your writing – a lesson I’ve had to learn more than once in my life!

And what’s next from the pen of Lesley Thomson?
The Detective’s Secret, the third in the Stella Darnell series, is out next April. In this story Stella teams up with her erstwhile sidekick, Jack to work on a case. Unlike the previous two investigations, Stella doesn’t inherit this case from her late father, it’s brought to her specifically. While still being a cleaner, she becomes a detective. Set by the river at Chiswick there are many night time scenes among grave stones or high up in a water tower overlooking London. And then there’s the secret…

Watch for our review of Ghost Girl soon.

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