I am delighted to welcome author, Barbara Scott Emmett to our spotlight today
Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Barbara. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.
My first book, THE MAN WITH THE HORN, was published by a small press many years ago. Around the same time, I wrote several short stories which were accepted by magazines, and two of which won prizes. All this encouraged me to keep writing and I now have five novels out plus a book of short stories.
Dog Leap Stairs is your latest book, without giving too much away what can you tell us about the story?
DOG LEAP STAIRS is set in Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1950s and is told from the point of view of Monica Brown, who hangs around the quayside at night. Men are being murdered in that area and Monica falls under suspicion. Her friend Jan’s husband, who is a policeman, is biased against her as he’s never liked her. When she meets Bobby Wilson, a good looking but down to earth lad, she realises she needs to make some changes to her lifestyle. Secrets from her childhood are gradually revealed as she struggles to put her past behind her and ensure her future with Bobby is trouble-free.
Where do you find your inspiration – are you inspired by people, places or do you draw purely from your imagination??
Very often it is a place I’ve visited that inspires me. My last book, DELIRIUM was set in Charleville, France, the home town of the poet Rimbaud, and previous books have been set in Nuremberg in Germany and the Northern Territory of Australia. DOG LEAP STAIRS is set in my home town of Newcastle upon Tyne. I was initially prompted to write DLS after I read IN A LONELY PLACE by Dorothy B Hughes (which I heartily recommend). This is a dark tale set in California and my book is really nothing like it but it did provide the spark that set me going.
Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you, sort of writer?
I tend to simply set off and see where the writing takes me. Usually, I have an opening sentence or paragraph that comes to me out of nowhere and I follow it through, hoping that the inspiration will keep on coming. I sometimes wish I was a plotter – it might make things easier – but until I get to know the characters, I have no idea what they are going to do.
In researching the background to the story did anything leave a lasting impression on you?
I know Newcastle reasonably well because I was brought up there and, after many years away, now live there again. I already had a good grasp of the locations and the way people speak and live. However, DOG LEAP STAIRS is set in the 1950s, so there was certainly some research to be done. It’s been interesting looking at old maps and seeing what changes have been made in the last 60 years. I also enjoyed looking up the music, films, clothes and current affairs of the time. Reminding myself of the way women were treated and expected to behave in the fifties, has also been eye-opening. Things were very different in those pre-feminist days.
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be? And do you have a favourite character?
DOG LEAP STAIRS almost seemed to write itself. I wrote it during the first lockdown and it poured out of me. The characters arrived fully formed and showed up exactly when they were needed. It is the easiest piece of writing I’ve ever done – it usually takes me years to write a book but this one was pretty much complete in a few months. Some of the characters aren’t very nice, but they are how they should be and I’m happy with them. My favourite from DLS is a minor character, Al Hughes, who doesn’t feature much in this book but comes into his own in the follow up.
What were the challenges you faced whilst writing Dog Leap Stairs and what keeps you motivated as a writer?
To be honest, I had no real challenges while writing DOG LEAP STAIRS – as I say above, it flowed out of its own accord. I wish it was always like this but the follow up I’m currently working on is not flowing nearly as well. My main challenge with DLS was when I came to send it out to publishers and agents. I was told that because it was a mix of crime and psychological realism it would be unlikely to get published as it didn’t conveniently fit one genre. Being shortlisted for, and getting a special second prize in the Lindisfarne Competition gave me the encouragement I needed to push ahead with it and bring it out independently.
And finally …can you share with us anything about your next writing project?
I’m working on a follow up to DOG LEAP STAIRS, also set in fifties’ Newcastle and featuring some of the same characters. Called PINK LANE, this one is more of a police procedural and centres around a series of murders in the gay community. I have ideas for a third one, also named after a real place in Newcastle, but I’d better finish this one before I commit myself to any more.
After many years away, Barbara Scott Emmett is now back living in her home town of Newcastle upon Tyne. She has been writing for many years and has five novels, a book of short stories and a selection of quirky poetry to show for it. She lives in a house overlooking the river with her husband, the writer Jimmy Bain, and their cat, Kitty.
For limited time 29th and 30th April
Dog Leap Stairs is available for 99p/99c
Thank you so much, Barbara. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you as our Author in the Spotlight. Come back and see us again soon 😊