5 Questions

E.S. Thomson

15 May 2021

Before she leads the Poison Pen Workshop as part of this year's Writers' Gathering, E.S. Thomson answers some of our questions. There are still spaces available in her workshop. Click here if you would like to find out more. 

1) How did you know that you wanted to write crime novels?

We all love a puzzle.  I think working out the solution to things is part of human nature - we are by nature curious creatures.  "Crime" involves bad behaviour and we are always interested in that too!  And of course, justice must always prevail, so that we can feel reassured that disorder and chaos are not permanent.  So writing crime explores all these elements - bad behaviour, puzzle and mystery, resolution. Who would not want to write about those things?

2) Could you tell us a little about your new book 'Nightshade'?

Nightshade is the 5th novel in the Jem Flockhart medical-historical crime series.  Set in the grimy crowded 1850s city, Jem Flockhart, cross-dressing apothecary, uncovers a body buried beneath the deadly nightshade bush in her physic garden.  As soon as the body is exhumed, the deaths begin, each corpse found with its mouth stuffed with the berries of the deadly nightshade.  The key to the corpse's identity, and to the series of murders that take place, lies in the past, in an ill-fated expedition to the remote regions of India...

3) What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book, and how do you overcome it?

The hardest part is finding the time to write.  I have a full-time job and two sons to look after on my own.  I think I can never overcome this problem.  Lack of time is a constant frustration.  I usually go on a week's writing retreat if i want to make any progress. Also, I think one must trust one's instincts.  Don't over think and just get on with it.  You might be surprised what happens!  In some ways a lack of time really focusses your efforts.

4) Is there one piece of advice that you wish you heard at the start of your writing career?

Don't expect to make any money from this.

5) Without spoiling it, what is your favourite mystery or puzzle from any book, and what makes it great?

I've just read Michelle Paver's Thin Air.  Was it just altitude sickness or was Ward actually there?  (I will never look at an old rucksack in the same way again!). The way she builds suspense and menace is truly masterly.