I received an ARC copy of Graham Smith’s new book – A Body in the Lakes (read my review here). I loved Graham’s amazing female lead character, Beth Young, and with International Women’s Day just around the corner, I thought Graham would be an awesome person to interview and understand why he, as a male author, picked a female as the main character for his incredible detective series.
Firstly, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions in Booked up Girl’s International Women’s Day Special “Fast Five” interview! Graham, could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself.
I am a mid-forties joiner who now works as the general manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue.
When not working or writing, l enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading and watching football.
Before we dive into questions around your female lead character, Beth Young, could you please tell us, in your own words, a little bit about your new book A Body in the Lakes – which comes out next week.
When a walker finds the body of a woman by the shores of Lake Ullswater, the police are put on high alert. Felicia Evans was known to be a tough character, but who would have strangled her?
Detective Beth Young quickly spots the links to three cold cases. Three women strangled and discarded in the stunning, wild hills of the Lake District.
As Beth begins tracking down witnesses, the team receives an anonymous letter claiming the charming Mayor of Carlisle is behind the murders. There’s pressure from the top to clear his name. But Beth is determined to find the truth no matter whose feathers she ruffles in the process.
Beth knows the clock is ticking. The killer is hunting again. And it’s down to her to find who’s responsible before another woman becomes his prey…
1. Being a male author, what was your inspiration behind having a female lead in your novels?
I like to challenge myself and rather than your typically cynical middle-aged DI, I thought it would be interesting to have the hero of my story as a young DC starting out on their police career. To make them as opposite as I could from myself, I chose to have a female lead. Since creating Beth, I’ve had to think about situations I’m writing in a different way. One of the benefits of having a young female lead is that I can introduce a male chauvinist at any time I like just to create a little bit of conflict which is always good for a story.
The other aspect to this is that because I often write from multiple points of view, I have written many female characters before and when I’m writing, for me it’s about inhabiting the characters’ viewpoint rather than their gender.
2. What made you choose a character that has a noticeable scar on their face? What made you want to introduce this aspect?
All lead characters have some kind of backstory which is what makes them the (interesting) person they are. As Beth was so young and at the beginning of her career, I couldn’t fall back on the old staples of a broken relationship or a drink problem due to the broken relationship or the cases the lead hadn’t been able to solve. I also wanted to use this bit of backstory in a couple of ways. First, I wanted it to be something which is relatable to readers (nobody likes the idea of being disfigured) and yet shows Beth’s inner strength and determination. Second, I wanted to create a thread which runs through the entire series of books. It’s my plan that Beth will one day come face to face with both of the men whose fight left her with a scarred cheek. Naturally, I will not make this happen either quickly or easily as the more I can put Beth through the wringer the more interesting she is to both me and hopefully the reader.
3. Your books also focus on another strong female lead, Beth’s boss, Detective Inspector Zoe O’Dowd. Can you give us some insight into her character?
O’Dowd sort of came around by accident. I’d already given Beth two male colleagues and I wanted to keep a natural balance so when I created Beth’s DI, Zoe ‘Dowdy’ O’Dowd was born. She is a character I love, although she’s an errant bugger and I have to continually rein her in as she’s forever threatening to steal Beth’s limelight. O’Dowd is cynical, loyal, dedicated and fantastic fun to write. I feel that she’s like a favourite aunt of Beth’s which is what gives Beth the confidence to get in her DI’s face if the occasion calls for it.
4. Can we expect to see more from Beth and the FMIT Team in the future?
Absolutely you can. I am currently doing the first round of edits on the as yet untitled book three and I have many ideas for further books in the series. I have a fantastic editor who supports me and having started this adventure, I think there is so much more to come from Beth, O’Dowd and of course, the mysterious Neck Kisses.
5. And finally, as it’s International Women’s Day, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s theme #BalanceforBetter (Better the balance, better the world)
I’m not sure what the big issue is here. To my mind people deserve equal pay, respect, opportunity and a thousand other factors. There should be no differences in how people are treated due to gender, race or their sexuality etc; everyone is equal in my eyes. I do though have a caveat to this, there are always those who’ll work harder than others or treat those around them better. These people are the champions of the world and they’ll prosper far more than those who don’t help themselves. In short, I treat others as I’d like to be treated myself and I firmly believe in paying a kindness forward.