Q&A with TA Belshaw

Today it’s my turn on the blog tour for Death At The Lychgate. I’m sharing my Q&A with the author with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the blog tour.

Have you always wanted to write?

Ever since I can remember. I wrote my first stories when I was about nine. They were mainly Sci-Fi related. I remember one about a giant space octopus that wrapped itself around spaceships and sucked the life out of them. 

Writing had to be pushed to into the background as we struggled to raise a family, spare time was very limited. When the kids had grown up and I found I now had a little extra time to spare, I took it up again but I was in my late forties and working away from home by then. My first attempt at a full-blown novel was a story about a group of kids who found they could travel to a fantasy land via an ancient oak in the middle of a forest. Very Narnia. It wasn’t good enough of course but I did finish it.

The first book I actually published was book one in what turned out to be an eight book kid’s adventure series called, Magic Molly. It was about a trainee witch who struggled to control the ancient, twisted wand she was given by the Magic Council. In the end I wrote fifteen children’s books before embarking on my first adult novel. I now have eleven under my belt including the dual timeline, family saga, Unspoken trilogy and the two Amy Rowlings, Christie era murder mysteries.

What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?

I never had what you would call a career job until I set up my one-man band computer repair business in the late 1990s. Before then I worked away a lot with a shopfitting company. I also spent a few years working in the coal mines. I only really had time to write regularly when I took a part time job delivering medicines for a local chemist. That job gave me the time to think about the plots, the characters and the actual process of getting my thoughts down onto the page.

What was your inspiration for the new book?

Death at the Lychgate is the sequel to Murder at the Mill, the book that first introduced Amy Rowlings’ remarkable sleuthing skills to the reading public. Amy isn’t really based on anyone in particular. She was originally a bit-part character in the first Unspoken novel and I liked her so much I decided to give her a series of her own. The inspiration comes from the times I write about. I have always been fascinated by the 39-45 period, not just for the home front story opportunities the era gives, but also for the characters that could be created. Attitudes towards women in particular were very different back then. They were expected to ‘know their place,’ and act in a subservient manner towards men. I have always liked a strong-willed female lead. The vast majority of my books (including the children’s novels) contain feisty, opinionated female characters and I love all of them. I find writing about women much more interesting and challenging than writing about the heroic deeds of men. Amy and Alice, both see themselves as the equal of any man even though they struggled to get the same life opportunities. I’ve been told I got it about right, which is nice to know.

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

The Tracy character from the Tracy’s Hot Mail series was an amalgamation of a group of gossipy young women I used to share the early morning bus to work with. Characters from the historical novels are mostly built around the people I lived amongst during my childhood.

I was born and grew up in the smoky heart of the industrial town of Ilkeston in Derbyshire which I left at the ripe old age of seventeen. After forty-odd mostly wonderful years living in the neighbouring county of Nottinghamshire with my fabulous wife, Doreen, I moved back to my Ilkeston roots in 2017 and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had missed it. The town is a rather insular place, the locals don’t really stray far. The townsfolk boast a resilience that you always find in such places. The men are hardworking and tend to be fixed in their opinions whichever side of the argument they are on.  The women are, in the main, strong and independent and put family before any other consideration. I grew up among these people, my values tend to chime with theirs, and the majority of the female characters in my novels came straight from the dirty streets of my childhood though they have been transplanted to the clothing factories and farmyards of nineteen thirties Kent.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a pantser. I love the element of surprise you get from giving your characters free reign to express themselves. Most of my plots are discovered in that strange dimension between sleep and wakefulness in the early hours of the morning. When I’m writing I regularly wake up knowing where the characters are about to take me. Strangely, this never happens when I’m having a break and fixing my creative needs by listening to audio books or reading books by my favourite authors on my kindle.

How did you research for the novels? Did you enjoy it?

I’ve had to do a lot of research. It is vital when you write historical novels. I have a handful of nonfiction titles on my bookshelf relating to the nineteen thirties and forties and I regularly consult them for dates, recollections, or the odd unusual fact. I also have two reference books, The Poisoners Handbook and A is for Arsenic, the poisons of Agatha Christie which I found extremely helpful when writing Death at the Lychgate. I can’t tell you why, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. I do use Google for research but I find it extremely annoying how US based the search results are, even when I expressly filter to UK content.

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

Agatha Christie. She wrote in a concise manner; no words were wasted on overlong setting or character descriptions. My books are very similar in that regard. I also used to love Leslie Thomas, the author of the Dangerous Davies books amongst others. He set a lot of his novels in the period that I write about. His humour and pathos left a big mark on me and I think it shows in my writing. Then there’s Tom Sharpe, a writer of outrageously funny novels. The ones set in the apartheid era in South Africa really tore the disgusting system apart and showed it up for exactly what it was.

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

Brian Clough, the ex-manager of my football club, Nottingham Forest. He always had an opinion on everything and would brighten up even the dullest of dinners. John Lennon, the ex-Beatle who, like Clough, had very controversial opinions. Finally, the opera singer, Maria Callas. She wouldn’t have to say a word but if she could be persuaded to sing, I think I would be in heaven.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Any modern-day politician. It wouldn’t matter which party, they’re all in it for themselves. As soon as they open their mouths you know a lie is about to come out.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I watch football. I have a season ticket at Nottingham Forest. I read and I listen to my vast record collection. It used to be mainly rock and blues with some Dvorak and Vaughan Williams thrown in, but then I discovered the joys of opera, Maria Callas in particular. She is to be found on my stereo system most days, even if I’m writing, I must have thirty or forty of her recordings.

What is next for you?

I have begun the third Amy Rowlings mystery. It will be called either, The Murder Awards or Murder Bestowed, the story is about a murder at a civil awards ceremony in the town hall. I’m ten thousand words in but I have parked it up for now as I’m toying with the idea of writing the fifth book in the Unspoken series. Alice is calling across the decades once again.


Book? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Film? The Life of Brian. Monty Python

Band/Singer? Maria Callas. The Faces. Bob Dylan. Leonard Cohen.

TV show? Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Colour? Red

Place? Lyme Regis

Biscuit? Anything dunkable


Death At The Lychgate is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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