DI Callanach Series and Author Q&A
The DI Callanach Series is a book series by crime author Helen Fields. It is a series about a detective who comes from France due to personal circumstances and now resides and works in Edinburgh. It follows how he fits in to working in the Scottish police service after having to leave Interpol. There are currently three books in the series: Perfect Remains, Perfect Prey and Perfect Death with a fourth one being released at the end of the year: Perfect Silence. It is one of my all time favourite crime series and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read an extremely well written and engaging book which not only follows a crime and investigation but follows and explains realistic characters. All three books keep you on the edge of your seat and keeps you engaged from the beginning. The series is set in Edinburgh, Scotland and I think being Scottish helped whilst reading as it made me more attached to characters and the story, it helps when you recognise a street name or place. The characters themselves are so realistic and comprehendible that you don’t feel like you are reading fiction, you are a part of their world and that is exciting. You feel as though you are a part of their world. Although these books are about horrible events the way Helen Fields develops the characters and their story around this is seamless. You feel like you are just following their day to day, investigating the crimes in each book, but whilst doing so you get an insight into who they are and why. The characters form relationships whilst doing a job that a lot of people admire and aspire to do. This is the main reason (excluding the story line) that I love these books so much. You feel as though you know these characters and I am truly inspired by how Helen Fields does this.
More about the author:
Helen Fields is a crime novelist and ex-lawyer from the United Kingdom who chose to start pursuing her dream of being a writer after deciding to leave her career as a lawyer. She kindly answered some questions I sent her and so I would like to thank her for taking the time to do so.
I hope this allows you to get a further idea into Helen Fields and the DI Callanach series.
Read and Drink Tea Blog Questions
What made you become an author? I started writing seriously during a career break after having my three children. As a child I’d loved writing, spending whole weekends tucked away with a notebook and filling it with plays, poems and stories. My professional life as a lawyer got in the way for a few years, but writing was my first choice for a new career after that. I think if you have a deep-rooted love of books, your mind is constantly craving that new world to explore. I just got to the stage when I wanted to build my own.
Were you influenced by any other authors? It was definitely Christopher Brookmyre who fired up my love of Scottish crime, but before that I’d been a huge fan of the crime genre, particularly of Patricia Cornwell. I’m a bit of a forensics geek, so I loved all the scientific detail in her books. In terms of world building, you can’t beat JRR Tolkien, and I read his work obsessively as a child. It taught me that what you can create is only defined by the limits of your imagination.
Why did you choose to write in the crime/mystery genre? Writing in the crime/ mystery genre was a natural fit for me with a background as a criminal barrister. I prosecuted and defended, spending a lot of time with police officers, in prisons, with psychiatrists and forensics experts. I met so many interesting characters, and some scary ones, so instilling the sense of those people into my books seemed logical.
Regarding your D.I. Callanach series, why did you choose to set the series in Scotland? Scotland has always felt like a land where anything could happen. It’s a perfect landscape for mysteries, with its remarkable cities steeped in history, its fierce sense of patriotism, and unique identity. Scotland is also a haven for romantics, which I am at heart. I wanted to set the books in a place I loved, and there’s nowhere I love more.
With your upcoming release of your 4th book in the DI Callanach Series, which one would you say was the most enjoyable to write? Actually book 4 in the series – Perfect Silence – has definitely been my favourite to write, although I think probably the most harrowing. It’s a real return to the atmosphere of the first book (Perfect Remains) and I felt a closeness to the characters as I was writing it. A lot of tears were shed as I wrote it.
Do you do any research while writing your book? I research as I go almost continuously, double-checking my facts, reading a medical paper, looking at maps and photos. It’s important to make sure your books are as realistic as possible when you’re writing in the crime genre, so I take my research very seriously. It might be the dosage of a certain poison for the relative bodyweight, or the distance to walk a specific pathway on foot, but it’s always worth the time to make sure what you’re writing is accurate (and yes, I do still make plenty of mistakes. People write and tell me about them!)
If you could be any character in this series which would you be and why? I know it’s awful, but of all of them I’d like to spend a day as Detective Superintendent Overbeck. I’d love to feel liberated and fearless enough to swear that much at anybody and everybody, and she’s as sharp as a pin. I think she gets the best one-liners of the series.
What is your favourite ever book? That would have to be The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It stayed with me such a long time after I’d finished reading. I’ve never known an author create such enduring and powerful characters, good and bad. I felt quite haunted by it.
What process do you go through when writing a new book? I always have a baseline idea I can set out in a single sentence. If it’s more complicated than that, it probably won’t work anyway. I plot quite carefully these days as I can’t afford to spend too much time going off on tangents, so I draft a chapter summary that takes me through the entire book. This changes quite often, but it’s easier to deviate from a plan than to keep chasing around in lots of different directions. Writing is something I feel very disciplined about. I try to write 2,500 words a day, 5 days a week. I set out a complete timetable at the start of writing a book and do my best to stick to it.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors and/or avid reader of crime fiction? Do you have any tips? It’s often repeated advice, but you should read as widely as you can across different genres. Find the voices that best suit the one in your head and work out how other authors create and maintain suspense, or add colour and texture to characters. Also, you’ll make mistakes as you write. You’re supposed to. It’s a creative process. Embrace the mistakes and correct them as you edit. Don’t let them put them off the flow of your first draft. Be bold, be you, and never try to emulate anyone else. You’ll have a natural writing block at about 30,000 words. Don’t worry about it. Force the next 10,000 words out and you’ll get past it. It’s an actual thing. Lastly, enjoy it. If you don’t, none of it will be worthwhile.
Many Thanks, Caitlin x
(PS please feel free to comment about your thought on this series and author)