MOST people who know me will say I've always wanted to write a book. Over my years of working across the city, I was forever striving to write, my head full of chapter hooks and plotlines. Even now, my friend, Alison Niebieszczanski, and I meet in the café at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery to talk through murder plots and twists. We often cause heads to turn as people catch snippets of our conversation.
I've always enjoyed writing. From my first years at Carmountside Junior and Infant school, where teachers such as Mr Davies, Mrs Jones and Mr Law encouraged me, I've always felt that creative buzz. Words fascinate me.
The ability to use a word such as 'impale' or 'humiliate' as the start for creating an image that no two people will see in the same way is a great thing to do.
It was a similar thing with reading, I always had my nose in a book.
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I read every Enid Blyton book I could, from there then going on to CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before moving on to horror in my teens, then women's fiction as chick-lit took off in the early 2000s.
In 1977, I won a letter-writing competition. I was one of 20 finalists picked from more than 60,000 entries and won an adventure holiday for two and a prize of £10 for my school. I can still clearly remember being honoured by Staffordshire County Council and visiting their offices where I was awarded a Wedgwood plaque.
My mum still has the cutting in her purse from The Sentinel.
Alas, it took several years before I wrote anything else that was picked up. But I never gave up.
When Amazon Kindle was launched, it opened up a huge opportunity for writers like me.
For anyone who has read Taunting the Dead, my crime thriller novel set in Stoke-on-Trent (and I thank you if you have), you will know that I write about a city with a fictional underworld.
In some of the reviews I received, it was noted that Stoke had a criminal underbelly and that I'd captured the essence of the grit within. But I don't see my city like that at all.
And I don't want other people to see it like that either.
That's the main reason why my new series, The Estate, is set in the fictional place of Stockleigh. I believe the Mitchell Estate can be found around the corner in any city. In fact, I've had emails from all over the country to say that my estate is very similar to ones they live nearby. Having said that, there isn't a Mitchell Estate in Stoke-on-Trent – it's fictional for a reason.
So far Taunting the Dead has sold in excess of 50,000 copies. After 12 years of rejection from publishers and agents, it's music to my ears that people are enjoying reading my words. But what is it like as a writer growing up and living in Stoke-on-Trent? Well, I'm often on a train to London, Manchester, or Birmingham, or attending crime writing festivals in Bristol or Harrogate, but most of the time I'm at my desk pounding away getting the words down, or I'm out and about keeping things local. For instance, I had a great meal at Fat Cats, in Hanley, with a literary agent who had travelled up from London. I often meet friends in the coffee shop at Trentham Estates as it's really close to junction 15 of the M6. This week, I took part in The Michelin Inspiring Women Event and on December 12 I'm on a panel at a 'crime and wine' evening at Staffordshire University's Stoke campus, in the new science centre. All in all, it's great fun.
My book of the month: I've just finished The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood. This book was such an ordinary story that got under my skin in a 'what could happen to anyone' sense. It tells of two girls who murder a four-year-old child. They are released from prison with new identities, and told never to contact each other again. Through the book, Marwood teases us with snippets of what actually happened on that fateful day. A chance meeting between the two women brings about a chain of events that, fed and hounded by a story-hungry press, shows how society may never accept that what is told as black and white can, in fact, be very grey.
Mel Sherratt, from Birches Head, is a crime writer whose novel Taunting The Dead helped her to become one of the top 100 best-selling authors on Amazon.