Catching up with Frances di Plino

A warm welcome to fellow Crooked Cat writer, Frances di Plino (Lorraine Mace), author of the D.I. Paolo Storey series, among many other titles.

She's taken time from her hectic schedule to share some fascinating insights into her writing, her family's past and her future plans:

Frances di Plino is a striking name – very powerful. It looks just right on the cover of a psychological crime thriller. How did it come about? Do you have an Italian connection?

My great-grandfather was Italian. He arrived in the UK in the late 1890s without a word of English and a definite whiff of crime in his past. The family legend will make it into my crime series as a mystery for D.I. Paolo Storey to solve one day.

What made you turn to crime, as it were? Was it something you’d always planned?

No, I’d never planned to write crime. My first love is writing for children and I have my debut children’s novel coming out in the USA in April 2014. Bad Moon Rising, the first in the D.I. Paolo Storey crime series, started life as a creative writing assignment way back in 2003. The opening chapters were Commended in the Yeovil Literary Competition a few years later, but then lay neglected on my hard drive for several more years until my daughter nagged me into finishing the book.

It’s funny, for a novel I had no intention of writing, Bad Moon Rising has done rather well. It reached the semi-final of the Kindle Book Review Competition 2012 and has now been nominated in the People’s Book Prize 2013. If any of your lovely readers are interested, voting is open until the end of October. My novel is up against Frederick Forsyth’s latest, so I need all the votes I can get. 

Where do you seek inspiration for your dark Paolo Storey scenarios? Films, newspapers, television, the internet …  Or do you just happen on something and develop the idea?

I have so many ideas in my head that I would need several lifetimes to write them all. I don’t so much seek inspiration as hide from it. If I try to cram any more plots into my already fevered brain I think I’d need locking up in a nice padded cell.

How much research do you have to do to depict police procedures?

I try to keep the police procedural side of things to a minimum. My novels are more about the characters than the technical side of police work. If something technical or scientific needs to be included I research on the internet, or ask experts in the field, but then try to use the lightest of touches to paint the scene realistically.

How do you set about planning out a police thriller? It seems a daunting prospect. Do you go back to pen and paper and draw out timelines and so forth, or do you head straight for the laptop?

I start out by knowing the crime and who the guilty party is. I then build up a cast of suspects, think of reasons why each of them could be seen as guilty and put them into situations where (hopefully) the reader won’t have a clue which is the real villain. I tend to write the first half of the novel with very little planning and then map out the second half to make sure I tie up all the loose ends.

I’m assuming you sometimes get a knot in a plot. If so, how do you go about unravelling it? (I find walking the dogs a tonic, or chatting things over with my husband.)

I do sometimes fall into plot holes so deep I need climbing equipment to pull myself out again. I find long walks listening to music allows my mind to run free and the answers often come to me when I’m thinking about something completely unrelated to the book.

If it’s not giving too much away, can you tell us how many Paolo Storey books you have up your sleeve?

I’m currently writing number three in the series, Call it Pretending, which follows on from Bad Moon Rising and Someday Never Comes. I’ve got another three plotlines ready to write, so I can’t see the series coming to an end any time soon.

In addition to stories, verse and crime novels, I see you work with writers as a tutor and judge. How on earth do you manage your time?

I get up very early and go to bed very late. Seriously, though, I have a wonderful husband whose task in life is to organise my time. Without him I wouldn’t achieve anywhere near as much as I do.

Epublishing has a strong element of PR which most authors seem to find taxing. What are your thoughts on self-promotion?

Honestly? I hate it. I hate it with a passion and I’m really bad at it. However, it is now very much part of an author’s life, so we just have to get on with it.

You’ve so much experience in the writing business. How useful do you find the Crooked Cat author community?

I find it a very supportive environment. The ethos of the publishing company is such that the authors under its umbrella come together as unit.

Your other persona is Lorraine Mace. Do your personas co-exist quite happily and can you switch easily between the two?

Because my working life is so varied, I constantly switch between being an author, creative writing mentor, critique service, running the competitions, writing my columns and articles, that I don’t even think about who I am or what I am at any given moment. I just do the work that is down on my programme to do at that particular hour.

With so much going on, how do you like to wind down?

We live in a lovely part of Spain with a gorgeous marina five minutes’ drive from our apartment. I like to sit with my husband in a waterfront cafĂ© having a drink and people-watching as the sun goes down. At weekends I spend time with my daughter who is expecting her first baby.

I always ask this one: what did you when Crooked Cat said ‘yes’?

The email came in quite late one night, so I only saw it when I opened the computer early the next morning. I woke my husband to tell him. He smiled and said, ‘of course they said yes. It’s a brilliant book.’ For that he got breakfast in bed!

Great story, Frances. Lovely to catch up with you.

Lorraine (as Frances di Plino) is running a book giveaway on Goodreads. To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of Someday Never Comes, simply visit this page and click enter:

Lorraine Mace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer's ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers (link below). She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.

Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of crime/thriller, Bad Moon Rising, featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey. The second in the series, Someday Never Comes, was released on 16 August 2013.

Interview by Pamela Kelt


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