Author Interview: April Taylor

First of all, many thanks to the BookShelf Café for interviewing me today. I am British crime writer, April Taylor. My career began writing contemporary crime, with a jobbing soprano, Georgia Pattison as my main character. I now prefer to write historical crime but have ventured into historical non-fiction with Pen and Sword Publishing. More of that below.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

There is a plethora of advice for writers. My advice would be to be very selective about which you believe and choose to follow. It has to suit the way you work best, down to the hours you devote to your writing, making sure you keep a balance, so you remain a human being and not a human doing. If you have a day job, your writing must fit around that. So, if you function better between, say 6am and 2pm, try to get up earlier and write before you go to your day job. If your brain works better after 5pm, fit that into your schedule.

I always have a means of recording ideas – be that a notepad or the recording function on my phone. Believe me, the fabulous idea you get at 3am that is so wonderful you will never forget it, will have disappeared from your brain when you wake up in the morning.

Do you participate in writing challenges on social media? Do you recommend any?

Yes, I regularly commit to NaNoWriMo because it concentrates on getting words on the page, regardless of their quality. So many writers agonise over every word, but I believe it is best to get it down first. You cannot edit what you haven’t written.

My first drafts are always appalling, but the bones of the story are there. Editing requires a different mindset. That first white-hot heat, getting the story on the page, requires the creative side of your brain. Editing, revising, amending, etc requires the analytical part of your mind. I firmly believe trying to do both at the same time leads to frustration and writers’ block.

Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?

I have a couple of (long) playlists. I play mainly classical, film and choral – traditional and modern. If I am writing, say, a chase scene, I would choose the “Dies Irae” from Karl Jenkins’ “Requiem” or “Billboards on Fire” from the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. If it is a tender scene, Ola Gjeilo’s “Across The Vast Eternal Sky” or Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Mostly, though, I play quiet introspective pieces because they help me to concentrate and block out external noise.

Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

In Tudor times, anything that smacked of magic and sorcery led directly to being burned alive. I had my plot, but not my setting. However, I didn’t work out the setting of the book until I visited the Tudor part of Hampton Court Palace. I walked into the Outer Green. In my mind’s eye, there was my apothecary’s shop, very close to the Tiltyard, so that he was on hand to mend broken heads.

I visited Windsor Castle and The Tower of London, just in case I could see him there, but no. Luke Ballard’s home is Hampton Court Palace. I talked to the Warders there, explained my ideas, and they were unfailingly helpful in showing me the details that some visitors might miss. It is still a must whenever I am close to London.

How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

The short answer is I don’t have to because I never look at them. I know as writers we have to market our books and ourselves, but once a book is out in the world, nobody, least of all me, can force readers to buy it. I can’t force them to like or dislike it. Why would I want to agonise over something I cannot control? Reviews are opinions. Everybody has opinions and they differ.

Writers – indeed most creatives – are easily wounded by harsh words, so why invite that angst? Some people love my books, some have niggles with them, but that is their opinion. My job is to write the best book I can. Of course, it is never as good as my imagination conjures it when the first ideas float in, but it is the best I can do by the time it is published. The rest is up to readers and nothing to do with me.

How do you use social media as an author?

This answer is allied to the previous question. I am rubbish at promotion and find it a complete pain in the proverbial. I do prepare tweets and posts for Facebook and Twitter, which I write when I remember. We live in such an ephemeral world that, in truth, I have better things to do with my time than spend them trying to make people take notice of me. I have always believed the best promotion is when somebody else says “Have you read X; it’s brilliant.” Far, far better than “look, here is my wonderful book, please buy it.”

How much research did you need to do for your book?

Since I have always been fascinated by history, and especially the Tudor dynasty, research has always been the most enjoyable part of the writing experience for me. My Tudor crime fantasy series was originally published by Harlequin. Its inception came directly from my fascination with Queen Anne Boleyn, but in a parallel universe, where she saw off all attempts to overthrow her. But I didn’t want a royal as my main character. So, I chose an apothecary, who is also an elemancer – a magician who uses the elements for his spells and who works in the light and grace of God.

Those books led directly to a commission from Pen and Sword Publishing to write a non-fiction book. “Crime and Punishment in Tudor England: from Alchemists to Zealots” comes out in August 2023 and I now have a contract to write two further books.

The depth of research was, of necessity, fairly gory in places, and soul-destroying in others, but it was still fascinating, but the amount of delving I did for the non-fiction book reignited the spark for the Tudor crime fantasy series.

Now the rights for those books have reverted to me, I have written a new first book in the series. “Dangers of Destiny: Book 1 in the Luke Ballard Chronicles” is now out in the world. You can find it here:

I shall use the original books as the bones for the next three in the series, and I also have 3 more plots ready to go.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

The second book in the Luke Ballard Chronicles has a working title of “Trail of Treachery”. Henry VIII is dead and his son by Anne Boleyn, Henry IX is the new king. But not everybody is happy with Reformer Anne’s son sitting on the throne. They would rather bring back the old days when England was under the yoke of the Pope and firmly in the Roman Catholic fold. Such situations breed treachery. Luke Ballard is ordered to find the traitor who seeks to destroy the new king and his mother.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?

My favourite part of the whole process is, of course, the writing. From finding editing a difficult process, I now find the polishing procedure rewarding. My least favourite part is promoting my books. By a mile. Some writers, of whom I am one, find self-promotion excrutiatingly awkward. I can blow other writers’ trumpets, but never my own.

Would you and your main character get along?

Luke Ballard is unconfident about so many things. His magical talent, his lack of social skills, and whether he can ever measure up to people’s expectations of him. Sometimes I want to shake him because he always second-guesses himself, but that is something he is growing out of. Yes, we would get on, but it would not always be a smooth friendship.     

You can find April Taylor here:

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