Abaddon Books recently launched their new book series, the Ritual Crime Unit series, with UNDER THE SKIN by EE Richardson, and she was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about it. Please welcome her to the blog!
Under the Skin, your new book in the Ritual Crime Unit series from Abaddon, just came out! Will you tell us a bit about it?
The Ritual Crime Unit series is set in a world subtly different from our own – one where the existence of magic is publicly known, but it’s not widely practised or understood. The RCU is the UK police force’s answer to supernatural crime: underfunded, short-staffed, and frequently working without a map when it comes to the situations they encounter. Under the Skin follows DCI Claire Pierce, head of the RCU’s northern branch, as she becomes embroiled in conspiracy after an attempt to bust a ring of illegal shapeshifters goes very wrong…
You have numerous titles under your belt, but have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve being writing for pretty much as long as I can remember. I was always a huge reader as a child, and I was never short of story ideas of my own. After I wrote a short story for school that was more of a lengthy epic, my teacher suggested that I should try my hand at writing a novel, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
What do you like most about your heroine, DCI Claire Pierce, and why do you think readers will connect with her?
I think Pierce has a strong sense of justice, and she has a very dogged personality – when she believes something isn’t right, she won’t just back down in the face of authority. She’s not a super-cop: she’s middle-aged, she’s overworked, she’s not too thrilled to be climbing over fences or staying up all hours of the night, but she does what it takes to get the job done.
With the many supernatural creature creations out there, what made you decide to write about shapeshifters?
I wanted to write about a world where the magic is ritual-based: where spells aren’t just a case of taking your aim and saying the right words, but take a lot of time and preparation. So there are no packs of natural-born werewolves running about – shapeshifting in this world takes a specially made enchanted pelt, and the skinbinders who can make them are few and far between and much in demand. All the creatures in Under the Skin are human… but of course that doesn’t mean that none of them are monsters.
What is your writing process like?
I’m a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants writer when given the choice: I always want to launch straight in and work the plot out as I go rather than struggle with outlines before I start. I tend to deliberate a lot over the rhythm of my words, and ignore all writing advice about stopping yourself from editing as you go – I don’t think I could stop if I tried. So I’m not someone who pounds out a fantastically huge wordcount every day, but slow and steady wins the race for me.
Your novels have covered lots of terrifying territory, but what is something that truly terrifies you?
I’m not really easily scared! Not by stories of the supernatural or wildly unlikely dangers, anyway. It’s the more realistic fears that have more impact on me. As a young teen I watched my way through The X-Files, and was quite unperturbed by all kinds of nightmare scenes of chills and horrors – the only episode that ever alarmed me was one where a character died of a brain aneurysm from straining too hard on the toilet! So I suppose the things that truly scare me are the real-life lurking killers like terminal illnesses and other kinds of painful suffering. But it’s not something that I’m overly terrified by; I’m basically a very calm and optimistic person.
What are a few of your favorite novels or authors?
I’ve always loved Terry Pratchett’s work – his Discworld books were the first adult novels I ever read, and they’ve more than stood up to the test of time; every time I go back I pick up more details that went over my head before. Other than that I really struggle to pick favourites: I could give you a list and then five minutes later I’d be smacking myself in the forehead, appalled at all the things that I forgot to include.
What are you reading now?
I’m actually reading the latest Discworld book right now, Raising Steam. Only halfway through so far, but greatly enjoying it. Also in progress – because I never have just one book open – a H.P. Lovecraft collection, Spike Milligan’s war diaries, and a copy of Harry Potter in German I’ve been slowly struggling through.
What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Get in the habit of writing regularly, even if it’s not a lot. Consume all kinds of stories, whether they come from books or TV, films, songs, comics, cartoons, news articles… wherever you get them from, words are valuable, and the wider your pool of sources, the more tools you’ll have to write with. And never hesitate to ignore writing advice you don’t agree with, including mine.
When you’re not working on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m quite a solitary sort, so when I’m not shut away on my own writing, I’m often shut away on my own doing something else. Lately I’ve been reading tons of comics and manga, since I only got interested in the medium a few years ago, and there are so many great books to get caught up on. I love retro computer games; I still have all my old consoles from when I was a kid, and I play roguelikes like Nethack and Angband. I go out walking every day and listen to music, which is often the time when I come up with the ideas for my books. …I’m sure my life sounds very boring when described to other people, but I like it that way!
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping to write some more books aimed at adults – perhaps some fantasy or urban fantasy. And I’d love to write more in the Ritual Crime Unit universe: I have plenty of ideas for Pierce’s further adventures.
About UNDER THE SKIN:
A tough, hard-nosed career officer in the male-dominated world of British policing, DCI Claire Pierce of North Yorkshire Police heads Northern England’s underfunded and understaffed Ritual Crime Unit. Unregarded by the traditional police, struggling with an out-sized caseload, Pierce is about to tackle her most shocking case so far.
Following reports of unlicensed shapeshifters running wild in the Dales, DCI Pierce leads a failed raid to capture the skinbinder responsible. While the dust is still settling, a team from Counter Terrorism turns up and takes the case off her.
Pursuing the case off the record, she uncovers something murkier and more terrible than she suspected. Has her quarry achieved the impossible and learned to bind human skin?
About EE RICHARDSON:
E.E. Richardson has been writing books since she was eleven years old, and had her first novel The Devil’s Footsteps picked up for publication at the age of twenty. Since then she’s had seven more young adult horror novels published by Random House and Barrington Stoke. Under the Skin is her first story aimed at adults. She also has a B.Sc. in Cybernetics and Virtual Worlds, which hasn’t been useful for much but does sound impressive.