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Patricia Gibney: On Characters Leading To Plot

Bestselling author Patricia Gibney discusses the surprises along the way of writing her new crime novel, The Guilty Girl.

Patricia Gibney is the million-copy bestselling author of the DI Lottie Parker series. She yearned to be a writer after reading Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene and even wanted to be Nancy Drew when she grew up. She has now grown up (she thinks) but the closest she’s come to Nancy Drew is writing crime!

In 2009, after her husband died, she retired from her job and started writing seriously. Fascinated by people and their quirky characteristics, she always carries a notebook to scribble down observations. Patricia also loves to paint in watercolor and lives in the Irish midlands with her children. Find her at patriciagibney.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Patricia Gibney: On Characters Leading to Plot

Patricia Gibney

In this post, Patricia discusses the surprises along the way of writing her new crime novel, The Guilty Girl, her advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Patricia Gibney
Literary agent: Ger Nichol, The Book Bureau
Book title: The Guilty Girl
Publisher: Bookouture
Release date: June 15, 2022
Genre/category: Crime Fiction
Previous titles: 10 books in The Lottie Parker Detective Series—The Missing Ones; The Stolen Girls; The Lost Child; No Safe Place; Tell Nobody; Final Betrayal; Broken Souls; Buried Angels; Silent Voices; and Little Bones.
Elevator pitch for the book: Two beautiful girls: One is murdered after a teen party, and the other is accused. The accused girl wakes up with blood on her hands and has no memory of the night before. What really happened?

Patricia Gibney: On Characters Leading to Plot

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What prompted you to write this book?

The true crime conviction and acquittal of Amanda Knox, in the Meredith Kercher murder case, provided me with a little inspiration to write The Guilty Girl. After a brainstorming session with my editor, Lydia Vasser Smith, I had the start of an idea on how I would write the story that ended up being The Guilty Girl.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I started writing the story in October 2021. I submitted the first draft in mid-January 2022, and The Guilty Girl will be published June 2022.

The idea for the basis of the story was formed around a girl who appeared to be guilty of murder but had no recollection of what had happened. Once I started to write the story, I created scenes and the main characters. I then found that the characters led the plot and in the process of writing, the story developed into The Guilty Girl.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

While writing my first two or three books, I wasted so much of my writing time trying to come up with a suitable title, only to learn that my publisher, Bookouture, picks the title for each book. Now, I just call my work-in-progress, Book 9, Book 10, and so on. This leaves me with better headspace to write without trying to tie the story to a title. When the title comes after the book is written, I think it relieves some of the pressure from the author.

With this book (11), I was surprised and delighted with The Guilty Girl title. I think it really suits the story. It is encouraging to have a positive surprise in the whole process.

Patricia Gibney: On Characters Leading to Plot

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

With every book I write I get surprises along the way. This happens because I never plot out my books, nor do I designate what will happen in each chapter. And, I have no idea how the story will end. I believe if I can surprise myself, the reader will be surprised too.

It was no different with The Guilty Girl. One of the characters took on a life of their own and brought the story in a different direction to what I had thought it would go. This became a subplot in the story. This happens to me with every book I write, and I find it exciting and helps me keep the story fresh. My characters really do have a life of their own!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

For my series readers, I hope they will be reacquainted with Lottie, her family, and colleagues, and to see what obstacles have landed on their doorstep with a brand new mystery.

For new readers, I hope they will enjoy reading a crime story and while becoming acquainted with the reality of Lottie’s life as a widow, a mother of three, grandmother to one, while she works full time as a detective inspector in the town of Ragmullin, in the midlands of Ireland.

Overall, I hope readers enjoy a few hours escape from reality with a challenging mystery to engage with and to discover whodunnit. I think the allure of crime fiction for readers generally is that they know there will be some sort of justice in the end, which doesn’t always happen in real life.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

You can’t edit a blank page, so finish your first draft. This is especially true if you don’t work to a detailed plan, like me. You need to keep going forward, keep writing to the finish. Then go back into the manuscript to edit and polish it. This is how I now work.

With my first book, The Missing Ones, I was writing then rewriting. I got stuck in the murky middle. For a few years I couldn’t get past thirty thousand words because I kept going back and fixing words here and there. At a writing course, I asked for advice on how to proceed with the novel.

I was told I should stop editing and finish the damn thing, and if I didn’t feel I could finish it I should delete it and start again. Delete it? No way. But that advice motivated to finish “the damn thing.” And scary though it was, I am grateful for it or I might still be polishing that first book and not having book 11, The Guilty Girl, being published.

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