Wendy Cartmell began writing by penning children’s stories to use in her classroom as a primary school teacher in England. After moving to Spain almost five years ago, she discovered her love of crime writing. Her current credits include two completed novels in her Sergeant Major Crane series, writer and editor of various technical magazines, and presenter at media launches and sales conferences. Welcome Wendy, to the spotlight!
Q) Tell us about your character Sergeant Major Crane. How were you inspired to create him, and where is this series headed?
A) Sgt Major Crane is tenacious. He is constrained by the Army system, hierarchy and protocol, but treats this as a challenge and as a result has become adept at playing the system. He manages to manipulate people into doing what he wants them to do, under the guise of it being their idea. He comes across in his working life as an unemotional character. But this is not the case. When on the job he has to detach himself emotionally and get on with it. As a result he pushes emotional feelings and domestic problems to the back of his mind. The trouble is that sometimes he can’t keep a lid on the box and explodes. Normally Tina his wife takes the brunt of this.
I was inspired to create him by my husband. We were trying to decide how my detective could be different and at the same time write about what you know. As my husband served in the British Army for 22 years, I draw on his invaluable experience to make the novels ‘true to life’. I feel it is very important to draw attention to the wonderful work our armed forces do and hope the systems and history of the British Army are interesting to my readers. I set the books in Aldershot as that is where we lived for many years before leaving the UK.
Where is the series heading? This is a difficult question. For now Crane is still in the Army dealing with the different cases that come his way. But I am conscious that he will have to retire after 22 years or take a commission to Officer rank. We’ve not decided yet, but whatever happens it should be interesting!
Q) When did you begin writing? How would you describe your typical day, and what does your writing space look like?
A) I began writing early in my working life, as I progressed from Secretary to working in PR and Marketing, finally editing a large corporate employee newspaper. I went to university as a mature student reading English and Education and this spurred me into writing for myself rather than work, as there were several Creative Writing strands on the course. During this time I wrote stories for my children and also for the children I taught at school. I had a few disasters trying to write a novel, including romance and historical, until I found the genre I am best at – crime. Another adage is write what you like to read. I read crime and thriller and find other works slow by comparison. So it is natural for me to write crime/thriller books which are fast paced and have a puzzle to solve.
Unfortunately I became ill 5 years ago. After a bout of double pneumonia and a stint in hospital my immune system was very low and I managed to pick up a virus which affected the site where I had pleurisy which has resulted in neuropathic pain in my thorax (chest area). This means I am in constant pain in my upper body which also results in extreme fatigue and ‘brain fog’. I had to take ill health retirement from my job as a teacher and now with help from the Pain Clinic in Malaga I try and manage the pain through drugs whilst still retaining some mental function! So my typical day is restrained by my health, but I try and get up early to write for a while and then do my ‘chores’. An afternoon rest is vital for my wellbeing and so I try to write again after that in the early evening. Some days I am not able to write at all, in fact am unable to get out of bed due to the extreme pain and fatigue, so on good days I write as much as I can.
It has been a real boost to my self esteem to have completed two novels. It has proved to me that I can still do something after all – I’m not ready for the scrap heap just yet, even though my body seems to think I am some days!
My writing space is anywhere I can find! I am good at blocking out what is going on around me. It’s more important that I am in a pain free position rather than where it is. My favourite places are either on the sofa with lots of cushions or on lying on the bed.
Q) On you blog, you share a bit of the process you waded through to publish. What factored in that decision and how might you offer advice to others considering the same path?
A) It is very difficult these days to get any sort of publishing contract. Time and again I was told that the crime market is saturated and agents would have difficulty in selling my work, even though the agents liked it! So I decided to be encouraged by that, rather than discouraged, which gave me the confidence to self publish my novels as eBooks.
But the process of self publishing is very difficult and time consuming. First of all there is the challenge of producing the very best product you can, which means editing, editing, and editing again and making sure your book is formatted correctly. Once the book is published the marketing begins. I spend so much time social networking and publicizing my book, it chips away my writing time. But if you don’t do it no one will ever find your book! The other advice I could give is to produce a series if possible, or if not publish as many books as you can, without compromising on quality, of course. The more books you have out there the more you can build a fan base.
Also self publishing is definitely not a quick process. I am having to learn patience and month by month more people are buying my books, so I must be doing something right!
There are many people who offer editing, proof reading and cover design services, well worth it if you can afford them. However, we have done it all ourselves and so far I haven’t spent any money. So lack of money shouldn’t be an excuse not to publish!
There is no better feeling than seeing your book for sale and then seeing the sales trickle in. You know that people are reading your stories, which is the whole point of writing them. Readers breathe life into books.
Find Wendy’s books in ebook format: