Interrogating the Author: Leigh Redhead
Cherry Pie is the third book in your crime series featuring Simone Kirsch (ex-stripper, sex kitten, private investigator extraordinaire). How did Simone's character initially develop?
I’d been working as a stripper and I really wanted to write about that world because it was often misrepresented in books, movies and on TV. It seemed that strippers were always being portrayed as victims and bimbos, and that wasn’t my experience at all. I’d always loved reading about female crime-fighting characters, but a lot of them were too straight for my liking, too serious, no sense of humour, no sex life, never had a drink, a dance, a bit of a laugh. I started to write what I wanted to read - a character who had adventures and reflected the lives of me and my friends. It took a fair few drafts but Simone’s voice and personality gradually emerged. At one stage I tried to tone her down because she seemed a bit ‘out there’ compared to other female crime protagonists. I begged her to settle down and keep herself tidy or we’d never get published, but she wouldn’t so I just let her get on with it. I still can’t control her!
What are the difficulties, if any, of sustaining a character like Simone Kirsch for a crime series?
I think the main thing is to avoid repeating yourself, but I see that as more of a challenge than a difficulty. I also want her character to develop with each book as different experiences affect her. That’s the fun part of writing a series. What’s hard is that obviously her experiences change her (she’s been through a lot of traumatic stuff that would probably turn me into a complete basket-case) it would be unrealistic if they didn’t, but at the same time I don’t want to turn her into a perpetually gloomy, depressed detective like so many others. It’s a balancing act.
This series is your first experience writing in the crime genre. What advice do you have to other aspiring writers of crime fiction?
You need to constantly raise the stakes for your character. The crime should end up personally affecting them in a life or death manner, even if it doesn’t start out that way. Give them a worthy antagonist to go up against. Don’t make it too easy for your hero and make sure they solve the crime and get themselves out of the terrible trouble you’ve put them in through their own skill and ingenuity. No cavalry riding in to save them at the last minute. If you’re interested in crime writing a great book to read is How to Write Crime, edited by Marele Day.
You describe your readership as women aged between 18 and 60 years. During the writing process, how aware are you of your audience?
Not that much actually. I never thought the first book would be published, so I didn’t write it for anyone but myself and I didn’t know who my audience would be. I thought more men would like it (‘cause of the naughty bits) but quite a few older blokes are put off by Simone. Perhaps they’re used to their strippers being seen and not heard? I’m aware of my audience to the extent that I live in fear of boring them, so constantly strive to keep things entertaining and exciting. I also try to think of what the readers will expect to happen, and then subvert that expectation if I can.