Martin Lee AuthorMartin Lee
Oct 15th, 2017

Let's welcome Martin Lee on the blog today. Martin writes the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, the most recent of which "The American Candidate" released in August to rave reviews.

Hi Terry, thanks for having me on your blog today.

Do you work full-time, or are you a full-time writer?

I've been writing most of my adult life. I spent my early years doing historical research at a University until the money ran out (thank you Mrs. Thatcher).

Then I was a social worker for a short while before realizing I wasn't very good at solving my own problems never mind solving those of other people.

Finally, I discovered a career working in advertising as a copywriter. If companies wanted to pay me to sit and dream all day long and occasionally write a few lines, I was more than happy to oblige. The career took me all over the world finally ending up as the Chief Creative Officer of an agency in China.

About three years ago, I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and write novels. I'd written a couple during my time in advertising, (they're not very good and sit in my drawer at home), but after a year of freelancing, I decided to go into it full time. Almost immediately I secured a contract with HQ and began publishing the Danilov novels set in 1930's Shanghai.

What genre do you write and why did you pick this genre?

I write two series of historical crime fiction. One series set in the Shanghai of the 1930s, featuring a Russian Inspector called Danilov. The second are genealogical mysteries set in a variety of times with a female investigator called Jayne Sinclair.

I think I've always be attracted to the moral element of crime fiction. In an increasingly grey world there's a wonderful sense of right and wrong that we can return to in crime fiction. Plus this genre allows me to tackle some of the outstanding issues of the day -  child abuse, violence against women, guilt, despair, rage, alienation in our society - in a way that doesn't talk down to people but engages them in a story.

Putting it all in the past allows a certain distance, a perspective that is missing from modern police procedurals.

But I also love the history side of it. Bringing a period to life in the mind of the reader. In my latest book, the Somme Legacy, that involved understanding the Suffragette movement and the mores of the day, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the laws of inheritance and the treatment of mental and physical illness in the post WW1 period.

Writing the book as a mystery set in the past, allowed me to tackle all these subjects in an interesting and informative way (I hope) whilst, at the same time, solving a mystery.

Does your particular genre require research? If so, how do you do it?

Because they are set in the past, my books require extensive research. I'm quite methodical about it, probably because of my history degree background. First, I read general books of the period to understand the social and political context of my story. Then I focus on memoirs written by participants of the events of the day. For the Irish Inheritance, this involved reading the witness accounts of the Easter Rising held in the Military Archives in Dublin. Finally, I look at original documents - newspapers, legal documents, government papers. For the Somme Legacy, I discovered some wonderful surveillance pictures taken of the female Suffragette prisoners in Holloway and Strangeways Prisons. This was probably the first time any government had taken covert photographs of activists in order to document and classify them. It shows just how scared the government was by the activities of Mrs. Pankhurst and her hunger strikers.

The latest book, The American Candidate, involved extensive research at the National Archives in London which led me to some fascinating discoveries about Nazi Germany and the British Frei Korps.

Tell us about your current release. What inspired you to write it?

My new book, out on August 30, is the third adventure in the genealogical mystery series featuring Jayne Sinclair.

Here's the blurb:

Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is tasked to research the family history of a potential candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. A man whose grandfather had emigrated to the country seventy years before.

When the politician who commissioned the genealogical research is shot dead in front of her, Jayne is forced to flee for her life. Why was he killed? And who is trying to stop the details of the American Candidate's family past from being revealed?

In her most dangerous case yet, Jayne Sinclair is caught in a deadly race against time to discover the truth, armed only with her own wits and ability to uncover secrets hidden in the past.

I'd been fascinated by the American election process for a long time, particularly with the emphasis placed on the candidate's family backgrounds eg Jack Kennedy being Irish. At the same time, I asked myself what if one of the candidates had a background that was less than savoury, what would happen then? And so, the American Candidate was born. As with many novels, it comes from asking the simple question, what if...?

If you could give advice to a new writer starting out, what would that be?

Three things actually.

But read critically. How has the author plotted this book? How have they created empathy for the character? How have they made you want to read more? Does this character feel real?

The more you read with a critical mind, the more you will understand the technical process behind creating a book. All books have structure, it's what makes them readable.

I love sitting down at my desk every day and writing. When it comes together, it's the best fun you can have with your clothes on.

Thanks for having me today (fully clothed).

You can find out more about M J Lee and his books:
twitter @writermjlee.

His books can be found on Amazon , I books, Kobo and all good retailers (and even some bad ones).