Today I am honoured to host Frances di Plino, a formidable lady with many personas in the literary world. At last she has unearthed for me the secret behind finishing a book.
Would you care to give an order of preference between your many personas – as Frances di Plino, the writer of dark psychological fiction; as Lorraine Mace, the gentler, humorous creature who can turn her hand to women’s fiction, poetry or photo features; and finally as the educator, tutor and adjudicator. Have I missed anything?
Yes, as Lorraine, I am also the author of children’s novels. My debut in this genre will be published in America in April 2014. It’s because I also write for children that I use a pen name for my crime thrillers. I feel it’s important to keep the two personas completely separate.
I also run my own critique service and am the founder of, a competition site with three categories: flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.
I normally shy away from dark thrillers, and the first chapter of Bad Moon Rising nearly sent me cowering into a corner. But I persevered, and even wrote a 5* review. How long did it take you to write the book from conception to the finished product?
Bad Moon Rising was my first attempt at a novel. It was conceived as an idea about ten years ago. I committed the standard mistake of polishing, rewriting and rethinking the opening chapters, instead of getting on and finishing the story. I played around like this for about six years, never getting beyond chapter seven. Then one day I decided enough was enough, it was time to write the rest, which I did in four months!
The second in the DI Paulo Storey series Someday Never Comes, has recently been launched (16th August). Was it easier/quicker to write?
Yes, Someday Never Comes was much easier to write because my main characters were already established. Also, over the intervening years since I started my novel writing career, I have finished several books, so I am better at simply getting on with things instead of trying to perfect the opening chapters.
How many more in the series do you plan to write? Is your “dark side” going to be satiated, or will it feed on itself, do you think?
I have the plots in outline for at least two more. The first of these, Call it Pretending, is already half written. After the next two, who knows? I think I’ll let the characters decide if they want another outing.
Are you going to try any more genres?
I have a literary novel I work on in between my other projects. This one is set partly in the present day and partly in occupied France during World War II.
Would you consider using a short story as the skeleton for a novel?
Funnily enough, that is exactly how the literary novel started out. I wrote a short story from the point of view of a woman whose father had betrayed her Resistance mother to the Gestapo. The story was published in The New Writer magazine and I thought that was it, done and dusted, but Jean-Claude, the father, came to life in my head and demanded that I tell his side of the story.
The novel, working title of La Putain Anglaise, uses two points of view to gradually unfold the truth hidden in the past. At least, it will if I can find time to finish it!
What has been your experience of on-line peer review websites? Would you recommend them?
Yes, absolutely! However, each writer has to find the right site. I have been a member of various sites over the years, moving along as my needs changed. For beginner writers, peer feedback is invaluable, but as writers progress they might find they are more in need of a smaller critique group – one where the feedback is more robust.
What is your most satisfying achievement so far?
In real life? Being a mother. In my writing life? That is so difficult to answer. I am very fortunate in that I have been successful in many writing fields. For poetry, it was flying over to London to attend an awards ceremony at the Canadian Embassy when I won an international competition. For non-fiction: two things, being given my first column and having my first non-fiction book published. For fiction: I’m very proud of my D.I. Paolo Storey novels, but also can’t wait to see my children’s novel in print.
Who is your favourite author?
Terry Pratchett – I love his Discworld series. It’s clever, funny and holds a mirror up to human nature.
How did you find Crooked Cat?
A writing friend told me about Crooked Cat Publishing and suggested I submit Bad Moon Rising. I did and it was accepted. I don’t think I could possibly have found a better place for my debut, as the editorial feedback and support was excellent.
Someday Never Comes – the second in the D.I. Paolo Storey Crime Series
Has Detective Inspector Paolo Storey come up against a criminal he cannot defeat? Paolo is determined to shut down the syndicate flooding Bradchester’s streets with young prostitutes. When a child is murdered, Paolo becomes aware of a sinister network of abusers spread across Europe, and spanning all levels of society. But Joey, the shadowy leader of the gang, always seems to be one step ahead in the chase.
“dark and uncomfortably believable.” JJ Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs Series
Frances di Plino is the pen name of Lorraine Mace, humour columnist for Writing Magazine and competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a tutor for the Writers Bureau, and author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer’s ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers and is founder of the Flash 500 competitions for short fiction, humour verse and novel openings.