1. How did you get started writing?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m not one of those ‘I have been writing since I was in long socks and short trousers’ kind of people. I originally wanted to be an actress. I loved building characters, and I still do. About fifteen years ago I was on a fan site for a musician/entertainer I follow, and on one of the forums fans were writing fantastical stories about our idol. I thought it would be fun to join in. They loved what I wrote, so I wrote some more content for a different website and slowly realised that I could do this ‘writing’ thing. I have written business books under my own name, but my fiction is published under a pen name. I find it’s more liberating that way. I become Penelope Cress when I write. She has her own persona. Penelope has always wanted to write.
2. Out of all your books, which one is your favourite and why?
Tough question, it’s like saying which one of my four children I love best. I think my least favourite is the one I am currently working on, and I would have said that about all of them when I was working on them. I love the process of writing and hate it with equal measure. If you force me to pick a favourite, it would be Holy Homicide. It is the first in my Isle of Wesberrey series and my first published fiction book. Like with my eldest child, I don’t love the others any less, but I learnt how to be a parent with him – as I learnt so much about being a writer with my first book.
3. If your friends were asked to describe you in one word, what would it be?
4. What is your favorite thing to do outside of writing?
Going to the theatre. I can’t think of anything better than a night out watching a musical or a play. I desperately want to see ‘The Mousetrap’. The longest-running play in the West End, written by my biggest writing influence, Agatha Christie, and a Whodunnit. It’s still on my bucket list and, after lockdown, I will book those tickets as soon as possible.
5. What do you love most about the genre you write?
The characters and their motives. A good cosy mystery is full of interesting characters. In a series, you get to know all the quirky people who make up the sleuth’s world, and then you have the victim and the suspects. Everyone has a secret, but is their secret a motive for murder?
6. What do you want readers to take from your books?
I want my readers to feel like they have helped solve the puzzle, righted a wrong and brought peace and harmony back into this fictitious community. I want them to finish my books with a feeling of hope for a brighter future… until the next murder.
7. Describe yourself in 3 words.
Witty, imaginative and smiley.
8. What made you decide to write in your current genre?
I am always watching murder mysteries and detective series and I love to read cosy mysteries, though my ‘to read’ list is quite eclectic (as is my bookcase). I like to write clean stories with heart. I don’t mind a little swearing and a bit of violence or sex on tv or when I read, but I prefer it to be implied rather than graphically displayed. I love good, quirky, well-formed characters, so writing in cosies seemed an obvious choice.
9. Tell us about your current release/or new release?
My latest release is Pious Poison. It’s the third book in my Wesberrey series. Pious Poison sees my MC, Rev. Jessamy Ward, entangled with sibling rivalry and a rather un-neighbourly competitiveness as three local walking groups prepare to compete in the island’s Walkathon, an entanglement that leads to the poisoning of several of the walkers.
10. What does your writing space look like?
Cluttered. I have a desk area alongside the outer wall of my bedroom. I have a dual monitor tower PC on the main where I do most of my writing and to my left a stand with my laptop, which I use to connect to online sprint calls, work meetings and videos/tutorials etc. I do a lot of my writing on that laptop when I want a change of scenery. I write on Google Docs, so I also edit on my phone.
11. What’s the one piece of technology you can’t live without?
12. Do you find it hard to kill off your characters?
Nope, I really enjoy it. I guess that’s why I write murder mysteries. Every character has an end date, just like we all have in real life. If they are good people, they will have a nicer death.
13. How much of your characters are based on your traits or someone you know personally?
I base most of my characters on people I have known, though they are usually a combination of unique traits from different people. I always have a clear picture of them in my mind before I write. It is the area of my pre-writing I spend the most time working on before I write the story. In fact, the characters write the story. They have a life of their own and often surprise me. I guess there’s a bit of me in there in some characters, that’s inevitable, but as I have always preferred playing other people, they are there accidentally.
14. What are you working on now? Can you share a teaser of it with our readers?
I am working on book four, Divine Death due out later this year. It sees the return of a character from my second book in a different guise, which is a lot of fun. There is a teenage romance, a family feud, and readers will discover more about my MC’s pagan past. In Divine Death, Reverend Jess Ward is forced to explore more deeply the history of her parish church and her family’s ties to the legend of the triple goddess, as she uncovers the surprising legacy of an old archaeological find in the ancient well of St. Bridget’s Church.
15. Is there one genre that you have not written in yet, but would love to try writing?
My Wesberrey series revolves around an English vicar on a quaint island with a mysterious pagan past. She has a limited ability to sense the supernatural world around her, but I would love to write in a genre where I can explore a fantastical or paranormal world, so urban fantasy would be fun.
16. What do you do when a flash of inspiration hits you at an inopportune moment?
I make notes on my phone or in my notebook. I have hundreds of notebooks.
17. What keeps you going while writing?
Deadlines. I am the world’s best procrastinator. Nothing makes me work better than a fast-approaching deadline.
18. What’s next for you?
I have four more books mapped out in the Wesberrey series. I have the full story arc outlined and can’t wait to get the full series out there. I have ideas for at least three more cosy mystery series, then who knows?
19. Where can we find you on the internet?