I’m delighted to host today’s stop on the blog tour for The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson, the fifth instalment in the bestselling The Detective’s Daughter series. Lesley has kindly agreed to answer some questions about the book, its inspiration and her approach to writing.
About the Book
A haunted house, a broken family and a body that has never been found. Stella and Jack must reawaken the secrets of the past in order to solve the mysteries of the present.
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage. Only her dog returns. Twenty-nine years later, her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her sidekick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.
- Format: Hardcover
- Publisher: Head of Zeus
- No. of pages: 400
- Publication date: 6th April 2017
- Genre: Crime
To purchase The Dog Walker from Amazon.co.uk, click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)
Q&A: Lesley Thomson, author of The Dog Walker
Without giving too much away, can you tell me a bit about The Dog Walker?
It’s a story of a place as much as of people. Five cottages near a dark lonely towpath beside the River Thames. The only people who go there at night are dog walkers and joggers. In 1987 a woman disappears and is presumed murdered. The crime is never solved. 29 years on the woman’s husband asks Jack and Stella to find out what happened to her. The story involves lots of scary scenes and a few dogs.
How did you come up with the idea for The Detective’s Daughter series and, in particular, the character of Stella?
A cleaner and a detective share something in common. Both encounter scenes of relative chaos and restore order. Both have a forensic eye for detail and get to enter a lot of different premises, legitimately. However, it struck me as interesting if the cleaner had a link to a detective yet was in contention with that role. Stella wanted to break away from her father so at eighteen refused to join the police. She struck out on her own as a cleaner. But as the series has progressed she grows closer to her dead father and accepts her ‘investigator’ heritage.
The Dog Walker is the fifth book in The Detective’s Daughter series. What are the challenges of writing a series compared to a standalone novel?
There are not many. It’s a pleasure to revisit characters that develop with each novel. The main challenge is that previous books obviously set ‘facts’ in stone. Then again I like working within some boundaries; I have to dig deeper. Mainly though, a series gives me opportunities to develop less prominent characters, show the changes experience has wrought upon Jack and Stella over a longer story arc. One of these strands is the changing relationship between Stella and Jack and their personal journeys.
Are you a dog walker yourself?
I am. It’s how I came up with the idea. I walk my dog on dark early mornings in empty eerie places. One day it occurred to me that I assumed that the people I’d meet were other dog walkers and that therefore I was safe. But what if I was wrong?
You wrote a short story, The Runaway, about Stella’s childhood. What was the motivation for this?
It was a chance to open a window into Stella’s past that in a novel would be a distraction from the story. I wanted to explore her early years – the seven year old Stella paid dearly for her parents’ break up – it has contributed to who she has become.
When writing, do you like to have the plot fully worked out or see where the story takes you?
Like Stella I’m a Spreadsheet Queen. I plot out the story, chapter by chapter, including who’s in each chapter, what happens and why. This plan will change as I write. I revisit the spreadsheet and add or takeaway proposed chapters. But I need to know the entire story before I start and this includes the final scene. Within the chapters things will happen that I hadn’t planned.
Do you have a special place to write or any writing rituals?
I write in a tiny study overlooking the Sussex Downs. Even when it’s grey and misty outside I have a long view and lots of light. I start at the same time every day, break for coffee at 11, lunch at 1 and a walk with the dog. Back after about an hour and then work until 5.30. I drink from a particular mug that I never use outside work time (you did ask). I could go on, but best that I don’t….
What other writers do you admire?
Many, but here’s a few: Wilkie Collins, The Brontës, Charles Dickens, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell and Ngaio Marsh. Contemporary: Elly Griffiths, Tana French, Michael Connelly, Kate Atkinson and Donna Tartt.
I know you teach creative writing. What is the main piece of advice you give your students?
To get inside the story you’re telling, live and breathe it; believe in its truth. Write the story you want to read, not one you think others would like because how can you cover everyone’s tastes? Above all: keep writing.
What are you working on next? Are there further cases waiting for Stella?
Yes there are. Stella and Jack move to the countryside to try to solve the murder of a young woman forty years ago. Living in a large old house in the middle of nowhere gradually, as the clues fall into place, they see that the murderer is still out there.
Thank you, Lesley, for those fascinating answers – especially the clues about the next The Detective’s Daughter book!
About the Author
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies. Lesley combines writing with teaching creative writing. She lives in Lewes with her partner.
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