Author visit: JS Clerk

Today I’m so pleased to be joined in the coffee shop by JS Clerk, a student of criminology and creative writing, who’s looking for an agent for her crime novel, Night Call. I’ve had a sneaky peek and it’s such a good read! Lovely to see you, JS – what can I get you?

Hi Katy, a Pepsi Max in a glass with ice please, and a chicken & bacon toastie.

Night Call synopsis

Returning to work straight after her sister’s death, Kira Savage is on call as the duty solicitor and finds herself thrown into a traumatic domestic violence case. Lorcan Fisher, a university student, has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his partner Clare. Upon meeting Lorcan, Kira is overwhelmed to discover he has been a victim of domestic violence at Clare’s hands, but even more to discover they share a possible connection. As the evidence is presented in interviews and the stress of her family drama threatens to collide with her workload, Kira is faced with who to put first – the needs of her client, or the needs of her family?

Q&A

If your story was made into a film or television series who would you cast as the main character?

Brilliant question! Before I did my access course that took me to university, I did two years at college studying creative digital media production. Part of the first year, which was the equivalent to GCSE, I was introduced to screenwriting. Screenwriting is more visual than novel writing, but the creativity still applied.

It was through writing scripts that I learned how to craft stories in minimal words, with the dialogue brought to the forefront as the main driving piece. Dialogue really matters in whatever medium, be it film, television, radio, stage etc. Back to the question – I have my whole cast worked out, but I will go with Liverpool’s finest actress Leanne Best for Kira Savage, and James McAvoy for her partner and colleague Richard Leach/Burke.

Can you tell me a bit about your writing process – are you a plotter or a pantser? 

For the first draft of Night Call, I pantsed my way through it completely, with only vague details of a timeline that my research contacts had helped me to create – it’s very useful working part time for a law practice around my degree. It was only when I gave it to Mike, one of the in-house barristers in the office for feedback, that I realised I’d got lots of the legal details wrong.

Through a combination of email exchanges, Esther – the solicitor that I originally pitched Night Call to back in 2017 (hence why the first novel follows that particular timeline) – and Mike have assisted jointly in helping to craft the rewrite. Anything I need, no matter how small, I run past either of them first – Esther is handy with police station and magistrates court scenes that take up the first half of the novel, and Mike equally so with the Crown Court scenes which finish it off.

Taking their really valuable advice on board, I wouldn’t say that I find any of the writing process hard. I had the time of my life researching, which is why it went on for six months instead of six weeks. I hugely enjoyed crafting the first draft, but after getting feedback, I’m now more open to editing and making the idea a lot better than I can ever do on my own.

If you could invite just two authors (alive or dead) to dinner who would they be?

Martina Cole, who is one of my writing heroes. The first crime novel I read was The Runaway when I was too young. I then read The Good Life, another Martina novel, when I was recovering from a two-stage medical procedure. I used the six weeks off work to read it properly, from cover to cover, and I hung onto every word. So, definitely Martina.

Lynda La Plante, who is another writing hero. Her smash hit television series Trial and Retribution inspired not only my love of scriptwriting, which I discovered during a media production course at college but also how to create memorable characters, which hopefully come across in my novels, once they are published. So, dinner with these two women would be a dream come true.

What an amazing dinner party that would be! What’s the best piece of advice on writing you’ve been given?

I am very lucky that I study creative writing at university. Alongside my monthly writing group with the Liverpool NaNoWriMo community, I jumped at the chance to study creative writing at a higher education level. The best piece of writing advice I have been given, is from my tutor. Be careful not to use more words than strictly necessary.

That’s a really useful tip. What’s the story behind your story?

The inspiration for my novel is to pay tribute to my roots. Where I work now, I have been associated with since I was little. So, when the idea hit for a law firm setting for a crime novel, it felt like the right fit. I could pay homage to my roots as well as create fictional characters and cases, carved out of months of research, and hopefully do my colleagues’ job roles the justice that they deserve. I remember reading vaguely a police officer saying we haven’t yet seen a novel about the police shuffling paperwork. My aim is to make the shuffling paper (in reality all of the notes in a case file on the lawyers’ desk) as interesting and as visually rich as possible.

Also throw in the setting of the city of Liverpool – it’s where I was born and still live. I wouldn’t want to ever leave.

I love Liverpool and think it will make a great setting. What was your favourite childhood book?

The Horrid Henry series, when I was very little as I had had the stories read to me by my mum. From the age of 10, even though I now read and write crime fiction, Harry Potter is still on my kindle unlimited. Those are a beautiful set of books! As a consequence, I will be forever in debt to JK Rowling for introducing me to why I wanted to become a writer!

Ah, Horrid Henry has been a huge hit in our family. Our Harry Potter books have also been read so many times they’re falling apart – we listened to Stephen Fry reading them in the car too on several road trips to Italy so I’m pretty much word perfect although not so good at knowing which scene belongs in which book! Thanks so much for dropping in JS and best of luck with the book.

Thank you for having me on your blog! J

About the author

J.S. Clerk has been writing since the age of eleven, but always thought up stories in her childhood. At thirteen she had to take several weeks away from school to undergo spinal surgery. Once at home, she began writing as a strategy to cope with the boredom from school work she had to catch up with. The idea for her debut novel came in June 2016, just before a second two stage spinal operation. It was at this point that the seed of initial planning began and throughout 2017/18 the first draft was written. She is currently working on the second. She still resides in Liverpool with her family, along with Millie and Willow, the new kittens that, when she isn’t writing or working, demand her complete attention. She currently studies a joint degree in criminology and creative writing, along with hunting for an agent for her novel, Night Call.

Follow JS on Twitter @jsclerkauthor


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