When she went to a women’s writing group during her maternity leave, crime author Cath Staincliffe had no idea it would lead to writing 27 books as well as radio plays and hit TV series.
Those early days of juggling new motherhood and learning the craft of certainly paid off. Cath, 64, now has a book published every year. She is also the creator of the popular Blue Murder and Scott & Bailey ITV series, and has recently published her latest thriller, Running Out of Road.
The Manchester-based author comes from a drama background, having studied the subject at university in Birmingham and worked at a community drama organisation for around a decade after graduating.
Starting to write
“I had done a bit of playwriting at university and written a bit of poetry, but mainly focused on drama. When I had my first child and took a year’s maternity leave, I decided to start doing more writing”, Cath explains.
“I signed up for a women’s writing workshop run by a community publisher in Manchester and I went once a week while my baby was at crèche. That was the beginning of taking my writing more seriously and things grew from there.
“When I went back to work I carried on writing poetry, short stories, and then a novel, which won the Best Debut Novel by a North West Author prize. I couldn’t believe it! After that I just carried on writing.”
Since then, Cath Staincliffe has had books shortlisted for the CWA Best First Novel award and she was the joint winner of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. One of her thrillers, Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was selected for the Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club on ITV3 in 2014.
A change of scenery
Meanwhile, Running Out of Road marks a departure from Cath’s usual urban crime novels. It is set in the Derbyshire peaks, a brooding landscape where the hills have eyes and has a gritty plot revolving around a missing schoolgirl, an eccentric recluse, a county lines drug dealer and police officers in a race against time.
“I use urban places like Manchester as a setting for most of my novels, but this time I decided to leave the city and go into the hills”, she muses. “I took inspiration from the kind of landscape where I love to walk.”
“I’m really interested in writing about wilder settings, which can be quite bleak. In general I’m attracted to writing about things that disturb me and that are frightening. I think that’s why I was attracted to crime writing.
“I like to explore things from the point of view of ordinary people and how crime impacts them. That’s why I tend to write from the perspective of the victims and their families.
“I’ve done some different things such as short stories and a children’s book, but mainly I’ve stuck with crime writing. It offers so much scope to explore the human emotions that come with things like loss and bereavement.”
These are themes which have featured heavily in Cath Staincliffe’s own life story. She was born to an unmarried Irish mother, who went to England to give birth. It was a time when keeping the baby would have been virtually impossible due to the social stigma in Ireland. Cath was then adopted and brought up in Bradford.
She has previously written candidly about the “grief and anger” she experienced, with one of her books, Fear of Falling, exploring the issues around adoption.
What does the future hold for her? Going forward, Cath says she plans to continue with crime writing, building on her current work in exploring wild landscapes.