Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Steve Whitaker
Literary Editor
12:01 AM 4th June 2024

Interview With Crime Novelist Glenda Young

Glenda Young
Glenda Young
Glenda Young is the renowned Sunderland-born author of several novels, whose themes dovetail neatly with the wildly popular genre of 'cosy crime'. Her ongoing venture, a series of narratives set at a fictional hotel in Scarborough and generically entitled The Helen Dexter Mysteries, culminated in the third, but we hope by no means, final instalment, Foul Play at the Seaview Hotel in 2023. A tireless champion of libraries, and the enduring philanthropic service they provide, we caught up with Glenda in a recent interview:

What is your earliest memory of a library?

My grandad was an avid reader and I have inherited his love of reading. I used to visit my local library each Saturday morning in Ryhope, the ex-pit village where I grew up. I'd change grandad's books for him - always Cowboy and Western novels. I always knew which books he'd read and those he hadn't as there was a secret code in the back of the novel, grandad's was a blue cross. If the cross was there, it meant he'd read it. But there were all kinds of secret codes from other readers - red circles, ticks, initials etc. - so I had to hunt for grandad's blue cross! When I started taking out books for myself I went through the whole range of Nancy Drew books, Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and then, when a little older, Agatha Christie books.

Which authors, past or present, do you most admire?

My favourite author has always been Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid's Tale is my all-time favourite book. I love the way she writes and envelopes you in a story. For a long time I tried to write like Margaret Atwood - and failed miserably of course. I think it's probably a stage all writers go through, wanting to write like their favourite writers, before finding their own voice and their own style.

In what way have libraries influenced your writing?

In all kinds of ways, from being a reader when I was a child, and taking out books every single week to devour, as we never had books at home when I was growing up. When I decided to try my hand at writing fiction, I took a book out of Sunderland library called How to write and sell short stories by Della Galton. Thank you, Della! That book changed my life. Now, I use the quiet spaces at Sunderland University library, as an alumni library member, to research and write.

Crime novels are often psychologically or forensically complex. Are you a meticulous planner of plot, or do you roll with instinct and respond to ideas on an ad hoc basis?

My novels are cosy crimes so they're not complex but instead rely on strong female characters to bring the stories to life. There are a lot of red herrings, misdirections and whodunnits... and also a lot of cake! I do plan my novels, very loosely, so that I'm not faced with a blank page when I sit down to write. Once I start writing, that's when the magic happens as characters appear that I'd never planned for, stories twist and turn as they unfold and it really is a wonderful process. I'm not sure how it works, but it does, and I try not to question it too much incase I spoil the magic!

How can libraries support new writers and up-and-coming authors?

For new writers, I think writing workshops and events are crucial as I know I benefitted from many of these; everything from how to write a killer opening paragraph, to how to create suspense, or characters. Sharing work with other writers is important too, as writing is often a lonely process done at home alone.

Do your plotlines ever shadow or disguise real events, or is your work wholly fictional?

The cosy crime novels are purely fiction, with a good sense of humour whilst having a murder to solve. However, I also write historical novels set during WW1 and for those a great deal of research is required.

What are your top tips for anyone wanting to get into reading/writing?

If you're interested in reading, my advice would be to choose a subject or a place (such as Scarborough!) that you're interested in and find novels on the theme or place of your choice. That would be a good way to start getting into new fiction. And if you're interested in writing, there's no shortcut I'm afraid. I wish there was. You simply have to sit down and write, and keep going, and never, ever, give up.

The Helen Dexter Mysteries are published by Headline.

In conjunction with North Yorkshire Libraries, Glenda Young is offering a signed copy of all three of The Helen Dexter Mysteries series of books as a prize to a randomly selected reader.

Closing date for the prize draw is 30th June, 2024. Please email: heading your mail with 'Glenda Young Competition'.

The lucky winner will be contacted by email during the first week of July.