Julia Chapman – Q&A

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Julia Chapman is the author of the Dales Detective series featuring Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe. Her latest novel, Date with Danger, was published by Pan Macmillan on 2 April 2020.

Julia kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Date With Danger.

Date with Danger is the fifth book in the Dales Detective Series, featuring Samson O’Brien, owner of the Dales Detective Agency, and Delilah Metcalfe, owner of the Dales Dating Agency. In this latest outing, the duo are asked to investigate what appears to have been a fatal accident at the local livestock auction. But it quickly becomes clear that the accident was far from accidental and Samson and Delilah find themselves in the middle of an investigation that will leave them fighting for their lives. Think Midsomer Murders but with fewer murders and more sheep!

2. What inspired the book?

Obviously, with being part of a series, there were aspects to the book that were preordained by the novels that came before. But in terms of the heart of Date with Danger, the inspiration came from my fascination with the role the livestock auction plays in the lives of farming communities like Bruncliffe, the fictional town in the Dales where my books are based. The weekly mart is such a focal point that it seemed the ideal place to set a murder! Plus it gave me the perfect excuse to go and spend a couple of days watching sheep being bought and sold 😊

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

A bit of both. I start out with a plan – I think when you have an evolving series it’s almost essential in order to keep threads straight across a number of novels. But often that plan evolves in a direction I hadn’t originally intended. I even changed the culprit at the last minute in one of the earlier Dales Detective books! So yes, plan but be prepared to be flexible when you see a plot leading in a different direction.

4. Having been through the publishing process, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?

Date with Danger is my tenth published novel in ten years and I still find it surprising that us authors go through the same cycle of despair at our (lack of) talent and then relief at the finished product with every book! On a more serious note, I’ve had two different publishers in that time and have been happily surprised by the amount that I’m included in the overall process. It really is like working with a team rather than the traditional depiction of an author toiling away in isolation in an attic!

5. What are the benefits and downsides to writing a series?

The benefits have to be that you aren’t creating a new world with every book. There are characters ready and waiting to walk out onto the stage, already fully formed. And while you may change the setting of the events – such as the auction mart in this book, or using a suburb of Leeds in a previous novel – there will be locations that you return to again and again, like my fictional town of Bruncliffe. This saves a lot of time and creative energy.

Probably the biggest downside is the amount you have to remember! Instead of having four hundred pages or so to keep on top of, you have a whole string of books with facts and information about a wealth of characters that you need to get right in subsequent novels. Index cards are a godsend for that! You also have to be careful that you don’t write yourself into a cul-de-sac for future books, too, because once a book is published, you can’t go back and change the plot. Do you really want to kill off that character so early in the series? Have you considered the consequences of having this happen to that person? So every book has to be written with the previous ones in mind and the future ones under consideration.

That said, for me the benefits of writing a series far outweigh the negatives. It’s like going home every time I start the next novel 😊

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

As anyone who follows me on social media knows, I ride my bike and I run when I’m not writing. I’m forever posting photos from my excursions in the Dales around the area where the books are set. For me, cycling and running aren’t just exercise, they’re my escape – and often my ‘workspace’ too as I do a lot of my creative thinking when I’m up on the fells all alone. I’m also a huge reader but that should really go without saying for any author!

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

If there was only one book left for me to read, I’d have to sit down and write some more! I’ve never been a repeat reader. There are too many others I want to enjoy!

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

What’s your blood type? 😊 I lived for years in Japan and was constantly asked this question – it’s used to predict personality types over there. At the time, I had no idea what my blood type was so I would always answer ‘red’, much to the frustration of the person asking! Since I became a blood donor and learnt the truth, I’ve never been asked. Not once. The answer? A+ 😊

About the book

In the heart of Yorkshire, the Dales Detective Agency is about to face its biggest challenge.

A fatal accident at Bruncliffe’s livestock auction mart leads auctioneer Harry Furness to call in detective duo Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe, but what starts as a simple health-and-safety investigation soon takes a sinister turn when they discover evidence that suggests murder.

With their enquiries ongoing, Clive Knowles approaches them for help – his sheep are being threatened by the gang of rustlers that is plaguing the Dales. Meanwhile, Poacher Pete Ferris has also decided to play his hand, setting in motion a blackmail plot which will ensure Samson is pulled back into trouble with his nemesis Rick Procter.

With all three cases converging, Samson and Delilah will find that their latest investigation is fraught with danger; a danger that will leave them fighting for their lives.

About the author

Julia Chapman is the pseudonym of Julia Stagg, who has had five novels, the Fogas Chronicles set in the French Pyrenees, published by Hodder. She is also the author of the Dales Detective series which follows the adventures of Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe as they solve cases in the Yorkshire Dales.

Julia Chapman is the pseudonym of Julia Stagg, author of the Fogas Chronicles set in the French Pyrenees.

Born with a wanderlust that keeps her moving, Julia has followed her restless feet to Japan, Australia, the USA and France. She spent the majority of that time as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language but also dabbled in bookselling, pawnbroking, waitressing and was once ‘checkout-chick of the month’ at a supermarket in South Australia. She also ran an auberge in the French Pyrenees for six years with her husband.

Having spent many years wandering, she is now glad to call the Yorkshire Dales home, its distinctive landscape and way of life providing the setting for her latest set of novels, the Dales Detective series.

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