11th Jun2013

Interview with Cath Staincliffe

by Lloyd Paige


Cath Staincliffe is a radio playwright and a novelist. She also created the hit ITV series Blue Murder and gave us Dead To Me, a prequel to the popular detective show Scott & Bailey. She has now followed it up with Bleed Like Me and I was pleased that Cath managed to carve time out of her busy schedule so that she could be the latest addition to Today’s Paige.

1. Hi Cath, in what ways do the characters and their experiences in the books, differ to the actual Scott & Bailey TV series?

Hi. The characters and their histories are the same but I write about personal stories that we might not have seen on screen and invent new murder investigations for the team. My books act as prequels to each series – they take place in the gap between one series and the next.

2. In Bleed Like Me, why did you choose the setting of Journeys which is an old coaching inn, as the actual scene for the macabre crime?

I can’t quite remember but I think I’d heard something about coaching inns on the radio and there are several old inns near where I live which are now just pubs (or derelict pubs). I thought it would make for an atmospheric location, up by the moors. I could see it so clearly in my head.

3. What level of research did you conduct before writing the initial ‘murder’ scene and did you find yourself being able to rely on any previous research at all?

I must have absorbed quite a lot of information over the years but what I did here was write the scene and then get feedback from Keith Dillon who is the police advisor on the series. With his comments I changed some of what I’d written to make it authentic in terms of police procedure.

4. Owen Cottam is the ‘villain’ of the piece which is pretty much an important role for any story of crime fiction. What are the most important ingredients do you think a bad guy or girl should have?

Personally I like credible villains who are three dimensional, who are human beings not just evil ‘baddies’. The book is written from the viewpoint of the three detectives (Rachel, Janet and Gill) so we only get to see Owen Cottam through their eyes.

5. If we take a look at Janet Scott, as well as the shadow of Geoff Hastings, the married mother to two teenage daughters develops health concerns. Were you relatively sure from the start what the nature of her specific problem would be?

Yes. When I was casting about for personal stories for Bleed Like Me, I wanted some fresh drama for Janet (not about her affair with Andy or her marriage) and came up with it then.

6. How much do you think Janet’s attraction to Andy is due solely to her mundane relationship with her husband Ade and were you ever tempted to meddle with that in the book?

That has a lot to do with it. And, no – I’m not allowed to meddle. It’s important to keep continuity between the TV and the novels.

7. In the story, Rachel’s relationship with her sister is an interesting and very real one which mixes in well with the bad news which comes her way. Why where you determined that Rachel would face a stiff emotional test in this story?

The most interesting stories come from putting characters through hard times. Rachel as a character has a very troubled emotional life and I was interested in giving her a real bombshell to deal with.

8. Rachel’s tenacious spirit serves her well and makes her likeable, but she’s still unable to open up to those closest. Do you think that’s something which should change for her going forward?

Not for me to say, that would be up to Sally Wainwright. If I were developing Rachel’s story I wouldn’t change her to that degree.

9. In the book do you think Gill’s relationship with her son Sammy and her lover Chris has helped to portray her softer side and is that a good thing when we consider what she represents, i.e. the tough no nonsense boss of the Syndicate?

Yes, I hope so. What I loved about the series was that the three women are rounded characters. They are good at what they do but they also function outside of work and have important relationships and responsibilities. They are not just married to the job.

10. About half way through the story, Gill has a tense face to face to face exchange with her husband which also involves his partner Emma. It’s a very entertaining and believable scene. Did you get a sense of that when writing it?

I’m glad it came across like that. When I’m writing I try to make the scenes believable and hope that readers will have the same response as I have when I’m writing – whether that is laughing or crying or feeling uneasy or angry.

11. Have there been any aspects of the writing process which you have found to be more fluid this time around compared to when you wrote Dead To Me?

I don’t think there has been any difference.

12. The relationships between the characters play a big part in your Scott & Bailey books without taking away from the actual investigation of the crimes. How have you managed to achieve that?

It’s a feature of the TV series which I was very happy to emulate in the books but in my other work I have always tried to give my central characters fully rounded lives – so their relationships outside work, their ‘other lives’ are a significant part of who they are.

13. Writing can be an emotional and personal experience so where do you draw the line at injecting your own emotions and experiences into your work?

I don’t. For me writing is about telling a good story and in doing that I am exploring and unpicking my emotions and experiences, or imagining what an experience might be like if it’s unfamiliar territory. For me writing is an emotional process – as is reading.

14. Finally, what projects are you working on?

I’m just writing the final chapters of a standalone novel called Unforgiven about a grandmother who writes to the man convicted of killing her daughter in a bid to try and get beyond the devastation she feels, and the desire for vengeance that still haunts her.

Click Here To Read The ‘Bleed Like Me’ Review