New Talent November is all about introducing you to new, up-and-coming crime authors and Liz Mistry fits firmly into that category. Although she and her novel, Unquiet Souls, are based in Bradford, Liz herself is a native of Scotland, the country that punches in the heavyweight league when it comes to high quality crime writing. Unquiet Souls is a hard-hitting piece that we reviewed right here. We’re pleased to have Liz here on the site today to ask her about her writing and her inspiration…
So, what is Unquiet Souls all about?
Unquiet Souls is a gritty polioce procedural set in Bradford. It features DI Gus McGuire, who despite his personal physical and emotional traumas had to discover the identity of the ringleader of an international, child trafficking ring and rescue the daughter of this man’s nemesis.
It’s a pretty harrowing story, what was your inspiration?
I taught in Bradford schools for a number of years and, although not a regular occurrence, the occasions when I encountered abuse of children made my skin crawl. So, I suppose you could say that the seed for Unquiet Souls was sown years ago. For me, an idea takes hold and gnaws away inside my head until it eventually becomes a viable idea for a novel
You’ve been very open in the press and on your blog regarding your issues with depression and how writing has helped you overcome this. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
When my depression was at its worst, I was unable to do anything, far less write. However, with medication tweaks and the help of an extremely supportive family and dynamic therapy counsellor I was able to gradually extend my concentration levels. Unquiet Souls took a long time to write. Organising it into a semblance of a narrative was so difficult. However, writing for short spells regularly was my salvation. The fact that I could write when I felt well enough and, perhaps more importantly, not having to leave the house to do so, made me able to achieve a little bit more as time went on. A few months into my therapy, with my thoughts being clearer, on one of those university open day visits with my daughter, I saw a flyer advertising the MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University. It seemed a bit like karma because I recognised the main lecturer’s name, having read his book Houdini Girl many years earlier. I applied and, despite a catastrophic coffee spillage right down my front at the interview, I was offered a place.
I’m so glad I did it, though. It took a lot of support from my family, but the MA created a whole new supportive network of people who made it so much easier for me to write. All of this was a huge confidence boost and I’m sure I wouldn’t have completed Unquiet Souls, far less have it published, without the MA and my MA buddies.
At this point I was still very unsure if I could actually commit to the course. I had, and still do have, debilitating bouts of depression. I was unsure whether I could cope with the concentration needed to filfill the academic part of the course and then of course there was the huge obstacle of getting to the Uni for lectures and meeting all those strangers.
Unquiet Souls has proven to be a success for you and your publisher, Bloodhound Books. What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
To be honest I’m still pinching myself. I had loads of rejections from agents and publishers in the process of writing Unquiet Souls and it was just a chance Facebook comment about yet another rejection letter that led to Betsy Reavley of Bloodhound Books suggesting I send the manuscript to her. The moral has to be: keep going. Often the bigger publishing houses have very tight parameters and, even the best-selling books sometimes fall through the net – think JK Rowling.
You signed a two book deal with your publisher, so what’s next for you?
Well, at the minute I’m just finishing my second novel, which I think will be called Uncoiled Lies in the hope of getting it out early next year. After that… Well, I’ve got a wealth of devious crimes sitting in my head just waiting for DI Gus McGuire and his team to solve.