Cath Staincliffe Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Cath Staincliffe to the blog. Cath is the author of the Scott and Bailey novels Dead to Me, Bleed Like Me and Ruthless, and the novels featuring DCI Janine Lewis including Blue Murder and Hit and Run and the Sal Kilkenny mysteries including Looking for Trouble and Bitter Blue. Her latest novel, The Silence Between Breaths was published by Constable on 22 September 2016.

Cath kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Silence Between Breaths.

It’s the story of a group of people taking the train from Manchester to London who are caught up in an extraordinary and terrifying event.

2. What inspired the story?

Like many of my books it’s a response to something that that frightens me. I wanted to look at the impact of terrorism. I’d also been thinking about setting a story in a closed environment – a boat or plane or train – and the two notions came together. 

3. In addition to writing novels you are also a radio playwright and created Blue Murder, the ITV series featuring Caroline Quentin. Do you approach each media in a different manner? What are the similarities to working on written, radio and TV works? 

The difference is that with TV every episode has to be outlined or storylined before you can begin writing a script, also it is very collaborative so lots of people have an input into shaping the story. And with both TV and radio you don’t have any inner monologues or passages of description in the writing, it’s all dialogue and action. 

The similarities between the different media is that in every case you need a coherent story with a satisfying structure and distinctive characters who each have their own voice.

4. Is there more pressure when writing novels featuring established characters, such as when you are writing a Scott and Bailey or DCI Janine Lewis story given they are already formed characters in many readers minds and did it alter how you wrote stories featuring them?

When I began work on the Scott and Bailey prequel (as a big fan of the series) I felt great pressure to do justice to the characters that were already so well loved onscreen. But once I’d shown the material to creator/writer Sally Wainwright and she gave me her blessing then I could relax and enjoy writing them. Sally and Di Taylor had done the hard work of creating the characters in the first place and Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp (and Amelia Bullmore) had brought them to life so vividly, that it was a gift really, they were so clear in my head.

With Blue Murder, I’d created Janine on paper and then Caroline Quentin made the character her own. I loved what she did with it and that was who I imagined as I wrote new stories. So I wouldn’t say there was any more pressure.

5. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

It takes about nine months until the manuscript goes off to my agent and editor for comments. My natural way of working is not to plan much, though I probably do more now than when I started out. I find I can only plan so far and then I have to write and see what fresh ideas emerge in the process. 

6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?  

I love to read, to garden, to go walking in the hills. And holidays when I can manage them – in hot, sunny, seaside places.

7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

That prospect fills me with despair. It would be awful. I rarely ever re-read books, I’m too busy reading all the new ones. How can I answer this? I suppose I’d pick something I’m not very familiar with, and something very, very long, maybe Shakespeare’s Collected Works?

8. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you have done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

Q. What reactions from readers have pleased you the most?

A. When people say they’ve been moved to tears.

About the author:

Cath Staincliffe is an award winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV’s hit series Blue Murder. Her books have been shortlisted for the CWA’s Best First Novel award and for the Dagger in the Library and she won the Short Story Dagger in 2012. In 2014 her novel Letters To My Daughter’s Killer was shortlisted for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club. Cath is also the author of the Scott and Bailey novels based on the popular ITV series. She lives in Manchester with her family and is available for interview. For more see: or follow on Twitter @CathStaincliffe

About the book:


“‘It’s always exciting to see a writer get better and better’ – Val McDermid

‘Staincliffe brilliantly juxtaposes domestic detail with an increasingly desperate investigation into dreadful crime’ – Sunday Times

Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. Onboard customer service assistant, Naz, dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .”

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