Author Interview: Lorraine Turnbull

Lorraine Turnbull is a Scottish author who now lives in South West France. In 2014 she won Best Individual in the Cornwall Sustainability Awards for her contribution to sustainable living, which she has written many articles and books about. She also writes cosy crime novels and lives with her husband and dogs in idyllic French countryside.,

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Well, I wanted to be a farmer since the age of five, but when I was about ten I fancied being a Vet, but knew I wasn’t clever enough to get the grades to go to Vet School. I always wrote little stories as a child, but never in a million years thought I’d ever be an author.

1Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

Only recently did I actually embark on a trip to do research for a book, and that was a trip back to Scotland, where I was was born and lived until my mid-forties. I wanted a trip back to get rid of a spell of homesickness and it ended up being a research trip for my next book.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Mum’s the Word was an idea that came about as a chance conversation between myself and my husband. As a retired police officer I’ve seen and heard about loads of murders, but whilst we were talking about just how easy it actually is to get away with murder the title just popped into my head and I knew it was perfect for this story.

How do you use social media as an author?

Social media is here to stay and is a useful tool for me as an author to communicate with my readers and potential readers. I write non-fiction as well as fiction, so I’m in a few smallholding and farming groups on Facebook (see my author page @Lorraine Turnbull Author ), and also have a Twitter account (which is more personal and political than used to market my books). I’m also on Instagram (as @lorraineauthor ) and trying to grow this as Twitter is changing, but my new thing is Youtube. I’ve made lots of videos about how we live the sustainable country life here in France and am adding some little videos on my writing too. Go and visit and check out my strong Scottish accent @LorraineTurnbullAuthor

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

As I write this I’ve written eight books; one of which is no longer in print, and one which has been superceded by a second edition. I’m currently writing no nine, which is a murder set in France, and then have plans for another Scottish murder and another non-fiction book. I like to keep busy. My favourite? Oh, that’s hard as I would say it’s the one I’m working on currently; but no, Mum’s the Word has such great characters and the humour is enjoyable, and it was lovely to kill off some really unpleasant characters.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

Ooooh, well, as it is set near Glasgow, I’m sort of limited to actors with realistic Glasgow accents. Brian Cox would have to play Bull, Phyllis Logan would need to play Ann-Marie and Phyllida Law would be the fabulous Isa. As I deliberately made the main characters older any filming team will need to get their skates on to ensure these guys are still alive for filming! 🙂

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

The plot is always first. It can come as a result of a dream or me overhearing a conversation or something I see or read. Mum’s the Word came about as a result of a conversation about how, when I was a policewoman so many people were getting caught for murder (mainly men murdering their wives) when if they had kept their mouths shut they would have gotten away with it. Women are usually much cleverer. Characters, for me are amalgamations of real people, with real habits, faults and personalities. I just change or exaggerate bits of their personalities to fit how I need them to be.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oh gosh – always busy. I live on a smallholding (small farm) here in SW France, so there are animals to feed and clean out, fences to fix, wood to chop and stack. Of course, I don’t work every single day, so tottling about visiting chateaus and walking is a big thing. It’s so beautiful here and the weather makes for a great outdoor life. I also like photography and sometimes I can be found creeping about at night taking starry night photos!

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

In Mum’s the Word, there is a lot of tension and some scenes were hard to convey, but I hope the short sentences helped to convey that. I also find that writing descriptive scenes about murder can be very disturbing, and this isn’t my intention. It’s a hard job to write ‘how’ you physically murder someone without it turning into an off-putting bloodbath, so the scene of the first murder (I dont want to give anything away now) was written with enough description to make the scene alive to the reader without making it gory and gratuitous.

Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?

I have one particular reader who reads, suggests and edits my early versions. He is kind but has the ability to point out stuff that I miss. My daughter is also a pretty good critic and picks me up on repetition or time inconsistencies. My son, who is English and has only lived in Scotland for two years in his early childhood pointed out that I needed to change some of the very Glaswegian language in Mum’s the Word, as non-Scottish readers would have a job understanding it, and so I went through and modified my ‘Scottish’ voice, and as a result it’s perfectly accessible for non-Scots readers.

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