Elena Forbes read French and Italian at Bristol
worked in portfolio management for several years before becoming a full
writer. She is the
author of three books
featuring Detective Inspector Mark Tartaglia. She lives in London with her husband and two children.
Evil in Return starts
with the murder of a writer, whose best-selling
novel about five university friends hiding a secret turns out to have
basis in fact. How
many ‘real life
events’ do you put in your novels?
Not sure what
you mean here by ‘real life events’.
Evil in Return has a book within the book but Joe
Logan’s is a lot less
fictional than mine. I
am writing in the
present day so a lot of things I read or hear filter through but for
part it is a fictionalised version of reality.
In the case of this book, thank God!
Q: Mark Tartaglia and Sam
Donovan are both
interesting characters, and it’s clear that we’re
going to see more of how
their relationship develops in later books.
When you created these two, was there anything in
particular you were
trying to do, or did either of them spring fully formed into your mind?
a minor character in a book I never finished and I so liked writing him
made him the main character in Die With Me.
As for Donovan, I’m not sure where she came from. To be honest, I had
nothing planned for
relationship just evolved as
it does in real life with two people who work so closely together, with
complexities and frustrations. As
are both single, there is obviously a sexual dynamic, although
Q: Do you prefer writing men
I don’t mind
either way. I just
treat each as an
individual with motivations and feelings.
I try and ‘get into character’, rather
like an actor does, so that I
know what is driving them at a particular moment, how it feels to be
how they would react in a given situation.
Q: Who’s your
favourite character to write
definitely Tartaglia. He
is very much a
Q: Some would argue that
writing is a life-long
learning process. With
novels under your belt now, is there anything you feel you know now
didn’t know when you wrote the first book?
Life is a
learning curve and I am sure that even a seasoned writer with twenty or
books under their belt would say that they are still learning. All I can say at this
point is that each book
is an adventure, which is what makes it exciting.
Q: Of your published novels,
do you have a
last one Evil in Return. I
the story – how the past can come back to haunt the present
– and the main
characters: Joe, the dead novelist, as well as Alex his friend. I was sad to have to leave
them at the end of
the book. Luckily,
I will move with
Tartaglia and Donovan onto the next story.
Q: How does your novel
work? Do you start
with an idea, or a
character? Do you
plan before you begin
the first draft?
I start with a
basic idea, a situation and a character, but I don’t start
writing until I have
the full shape of the book down on paper.
I like to know roughly where I’m going even
though the story may take
some unexpected turns along the way.
Q: How much re-writing do you
do before your
manuscript is ready to go out into the world?
So far the
re-writing process on all three books has been relatively painless and
more a matter of layering and nuance than large-scale re-jigging. A large part of this is
probably due to the
fact that I do a great deal of the planning and structuring in advance.
Q: Have you always been drawn
to crime novels,
or do you enjoy other genres also?
I have always
loved crime fiction ever since I read my first Nancy Drew, but I read
widely outside the genre when I can.
Q: You used to work in
before becoming a full time writer.
what point in your writing career did you feel ready to give up the day
My father was
a writer and I grew up in a house where that was the norm. I wrote a great deal as a
child and always
knew it was something I would go back to when I had the time.
Q: Which writers inspire you?
crime/thriller writers, Peter Robinson
and Michael Connelly are two of my favourites as well as Ruth Rendell,
as Barbara Vine. I also love the early Le Carré books.
Q: Writing police procedurals
research, to make sure you get your facts right.
How much research do you do before you begin
each new novel?
I do an
enormous amount of research to make sure that the details are as
possible within the fictional limitations.
A lot of it doesn’t get used but hopefully it
still informs the whole.
Q: What’s the
strangest thing you’ve ever done
in the name of research?
very important to me as a writer and I see places as characters in
right. Probably the
most bizarre thing I
have done so far (from the point of view of others!) was for the last
in Return, which opens and more or less closes in the Brompton Cemetery
central London. I
spent quite a lot of
time hanging around there at various times of the day trying to get the
the place, which can be quite sinister and intimidating even in bright
sunshine, let alone at dusk. I also was researching the general lie of
land, the physical security, the general routine, and the Victorian
crypts to work out exactly where the killer would leave Joe
Logan’s body. I
wanted to make what happens in the book as
real as possible.
Q: What do you like to do
when you’re not
I ride a great
deal, which I find a fantastic way to switch off.
Q: Do you have any
forthcoming publicity events
you’d like to tell us about?
I will be
attending the International Festival of Authors in Toronto in October.
first novel, Die
With Me, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood
Award. Catch up
with Mark Tartaglia in
his latest adventure, Evil in Return,
which is now available.