Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.
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Q&A with Leigh Russell

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Each of my narratives spins out from a stray idea. The inspiration for my debut novel, Cut Short, occurred to me when I was crossing my local park. It was raining, so the park was deserted. As I approached a tangled copse of trees and shrubs, a man appeared around a bend in the path. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I wondered what I would do if I walked on and saw a body in the bushes. Having seen this man, I would be able to describe him to the police, and identify him as having been in the park that afternoon. The story of the killer, and the girl he had murdered in the park, took hold of me. Six weeks later the initial idea had spilled out into a draft of the first Geraldine Steel crime novel. Cut Short was shortlisted for a major award and went on to become an international bestseller. Completing the book took months of writing, researching and rewriting, but the idea for the story struck me in one brief instant. I suppose it arose from a personal experience, but a very mundane one – passing a stranger on the path in a park.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
When you write a book you are taking your readers on a journey. I always know where the journey starts and ends, but the route from one to the other evolves as the book develops. Something I had in mind at the start might not work, or I might have a brainwave along the way that changes everything.

Your routine when writing?  Any idiosyncrasies?
I’m afraid I don’t have any routine, other than to write whenever I can. Recently I moved from a laptop to an ipad. I like it so much that I now carry an ipad mini with me wherever I go, which means I can write whenever I have any free time. But I would never claim to follow a routine. I’m not that organised! I do have a few personal idiosyncrasies but as far as writing is concerned, I just write.

Is writing your full time job?  If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Until recently I taught English full-time in high school. Now that I am earning a living from my crime novels, I have resigned from teaching in school altogether. I simply don’t have time to carry on. That said, I am committed to occasionally teaching creative writing to adults. I am pleased the prestigious Writers Lab have invited me to return to the lovely Greek island of Skyros to run a two week creative writing course in August 2014. I can’t wait!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have to mention Jeffery Deaver, who is a fan of Geraldine Steel. His books are incredibly clever. As fans of one another’s work, we meet at various literary conventions, and he is not only brilliant, but truly charming, modest and unassuming, as is Lee Child, another author whose work I admire. One of the many perks of writing a popular series is that I meet many fellow authors on the circuit. As well as US crime authors like Tess Gerritsen and Harlan Coben, I have many favourites among British authors, like Peter James – and Conan Doyle, of course, although I’m not old enough to have met him!

What are you reading now?
I have just been reading an out of print author, Julian Cole, who writes about the English city of York where my spin off series for Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson is set. It’s a historical city with medieval churches and cathedral, and shops dating back to the fourteenth century. Before that I was reading Edith Wharton. I don’t read crime exclusively although it us a genre that fascinates me.

Are you working on your next novel?  Can you tell us a little about it?
In Geraldine Steel’s first three books, Cut Short, Road Closed and Dead End, she works with a male colleague, Ian Peterson. He now has his own spin off series which is also being published by Harper Collins in the US. With two series on the go, there are now two manuscripts to deliver each year. So yes, I am always working on my next novel! The sixth Geraldine Steel, Fatal Act, will be available to download in the UK next month. I have just finished writing the second Ian Peterson book, which starts with a death at the horse races in York. Now that is completed and ready for the editor, I have started on the seventh Geraldine Steel mystery, which sees her lose a colleague… no, I can’t tell you any more. You will have to wait and read the book for yourself!

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie.  Who would you cast?
It would have to be actors who are not only brilliant, and perfect for the roles of Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson, but stars famous and popular enough to attract millions of viewers! They would also have to be available for many sequels, as I am planning to write about twenty books in the Geraldine Steel series, and fifteen in the spin off series for Ian Peterson. I have a few ideas for suitable actors but am not going to mention names as I’d hate to put anyone else off! You never know who might be looking at the books… hopefully a wealthy Hollywood director!

Manuscript/Notes: hand written or keyboard?
When I started, I wrote everything long hand in pencil before typing it up. The creative impulse didn’t seem to work so well for me when I was typing. After a while, I found I could create my stories directly on the keyboard, which made the writing process faster. I still sometimes jot down notes, but most of my writing is done on my keyboard these days.  With two books to deliver each year, that’s probably just as well.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Apart from spending time with my family, there is nothing I enjoy more than writing. There are lots of other activities I enjoy – reading, going to the theatre, listening to music… too many to list!

Favorite meal?
I am fortunate enough to live with three people who are all brilliant cooks – unlike me! Anything they make is good. I don’t eat meat, and prefer savoury to sweet, but apart from that I’m not fussy and will eat just about anything, and enjoy it.


The park – a place where children play, friends sit and gossip and people walk their dogs. But in the shadows, a predator watches, waits – and chooses his first victim. But someone has seen the killer and come forward as a witness – someone who the killer must stop at all costs. For detective Geraldine Steele it is a race against time to find the killer as two more bodies are found. A gripping psychological thriller introducing Geraldine Steel, a woman whose past is threatening to collide with her future.


He scrabbled at brittle leaves with clumsy gloved fingers then, crouching low, wriggled through the bushes. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching before he trudged away along the path. He’d been clever, careful to leave no clues. No one would find her in the park. It was his secret, his and hers, and she wouldn’t tell. He had no idea who she was, and that was clever too. It meant she didn’t know who he was.

He hadn’t chosen her because she was pretty. He hadn’t chosen her at all. She was just there. But she was pretty and he liked that. No woman had looked at him since school; she had stared into his eyes. She only said one word, ‘No!’ but she was speaking to him and he knew this was intimacy, just the two of them. It was a pity he wouldn’t see her again, but there would be others. It was raining hard. He sang softly, because you never knew who was listening.

‘Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, like the first dew fall, on the first grass, praise for the sweetness of the wet garden…’

The rain would wash her clean.


Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: Nov 26, 2013
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 9780062325594




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2 thoughts on “Guest Author LEIGH RUSSELL

  1. Thanks for introducing us to this author. It’s always interesting to see where author’s come up with plotlines for their books. Incredible what a “stray idea” can lead to!

  2. I have read Cut Short and the other cover was one of my favourites of the year. I love how Cut Short idea came to her.

    And lucky Leigh, I would love a house filled with amazing cooks.

    Hi Cheryl, its been awhile, I have been a terrible blogger/friend this year, hopes for a better more reading 2014.

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