Today’s guest blog is by Mel Sherratt who has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. Since successfully publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of #1 bestselling police procedural in the Amazon Kindle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to write three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series and Watching over You, a dark psychological thriller. She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans), and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing.
I don’t have much time for television. That’s not in the sense that my time is precious. I just prefer to have my nose in a book if I can chill during an evening or weekend. But as a writer, of any genre, there are lots of things to be learned from watching one-off dramas and serials. For instance, you can get a feel for how to set up hooks, when to move away from a scene or stay with it, character building, relationships, cliff-hangers, tension, setting scenes, weaving in red herrings and clues. For a little time each week, you can get absorbed in someone else’s life – laugh with them, cry with them, shout at the television when they do something you don’t like, if you so wish.
For me, good drama brings out emotion. In years gone by, I’ve enjoyed watching Shameless, Accused, and The Street – in fact anything written by either Jimmy McGovern or Paul Abbott. Kay Mellor is another great writer – as shown recently in the fantastic Happy Valley. I’ve also enjoyed The Fall and Broadchurch, Law & Order UK and The Line of Duty.
Since I decided to make my police procedural novel, Taunting the Dead, into a series, I’ve been watching programs such as 24 Hours in Police Custody, Crime Stories, and Suspects. I never rely entirely on the procedural elements on television shows though. I always check them with my real-life connections. Accuracy is key in books to keep things realistic, but not so much in some television programs it often seems.
I’m not a fan of too much violence. I turn away at the sound of a punch and even though I often write violent scenes in my books, you’ll never find me watching it favourably. Indeed, two of the scenes in Happy Valley had me sitting on the edge of my seat with a hand covering my mouth - be still my beating heart.
I liked the dark side of Luther too – a program that was unbelievably believable, if you know what I mean. Some of the things that happened didn’t make sense (how did the murderer get into the back of the car unheard when someone was sitting in the front seat!) but it’s just a great show. Well, it was until THAT happened to DS Justin Ripley.
From the US, I love programs such as The Following, Dexter, Stalker, 24, Law & Order SVU and Criminal Minds. There’s a lot of psychology in Criminal Minds too. I think it’s why my DS Allie Shenton series will always be part police procedural and part psychological thriller. If I didn’t add the psychological aspect to the books with multiple viewpoints and plots, I wouldn’t be able to show the emotional impact that crime can have on victims, as well as the suspects.
One final thing. If I had the choice of who to play my main character, Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton, it would be Vicky McClure. Hands down, without a doubt, she is absolutely perfect.
You can find more information about Mel and her books on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @writermels and find her on Facebook.
Follow The Leader by Mel Sherratt (£8.99, Thomas & Mercer)