Today, I am really pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Ruth Mancini’s new book, In the Blood. Published on May 1st, it has been described as ‘totally gripping and compelling’ and ‘unsettling and compulsive’. It is with great pleasure that I share with you a guest post from Ruth, who gives us a great insight into her writing. Over to Ruth:

Why is it important to tell women’s stories in crime?

Because it’s the most popular genre, because females make up approximately fifty per cent of the population – and because the best jobs in crime stories have traditionally gone to the boys! Fortunately, we’ve evolved from the days when women in crime were either helpless victims, femme fatales or elderly busybodies, and we now have a good range of clever, capable female detectives, lawyers and private eyes – better reflecting real-life professions involving the law. However, women still face huge challenges within these professions – and in life, generally – and if stories are to be realistic then these challenges need to make it onto the page.

Where did you get your inspiration for this book/series?

I’m a criminal defence lawyer as well as a crime fiction writer so, inevitably , I was inspired by my own experiences. The idea for IN THE BLOOD came from a maternal murder case in which I was very fleetingly involved. The love a woman feels for her child is indescribable – and the loss of that child her biggest fear. So, what would it take for her to destroy something so precious? I remain fascinated (in a very dark, bleak way, of course) by the concept.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

Usually the names just appear on the page. Sometimes, I give them the Christian names of people I know, names that suit their character for that reason and make them more real to me as I write.

What are your favourite/least favourite parts/scenes to write?

I love writing all of it, along with all the emotions that come up along the way. I’m never happier than when I’m making myself cry!

Is it important to have a likeable/relatable protagonist?

As a reader, I prefer it. I usually need to recognise and relate to the protagonist in order to go the distance with him or her (to be honest, it’s usually a her͛). But, having said that, I do like most people! I even liked Rachel, ‘The Girl On the Train’. I felt for her and what she’d been through, rather than disliking what she’d become. (I’ve also been known to enjoy a glass of wine, so there but for the grace of God, etc…)

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

Errr… Sarah! Because she’s stronger and braver than me. And cleverer. Or is that more clever?

What came first? A character, the plot, setting?

The plot. I always plot first, write second.

Do you give yourself nightmares/scare yourself?

When I’m dealing with certain crimes in real life, yes. There have been a number of cases over the years that I wish I hadn’t had to deal with – and certain things I wish I’d never seen. They never really leave you.

Does your book draw on your personal experiences?

Very much so – not because I can’t write about anything I don’t know, but because there just seems to be so much for me to draw on. I’ve had a number of difficulties over the years and it was almost inevitable that Sarah, in the story, was going to share some of the load. Crucially, Sarah and I have both gone through the same world-shattering experience of discovering that there is something severely wrong with our first-born child. As you’d expect, that’s added an extra layer to the difficulties all women face in trying to balance career with family. People ask me, ‘How do you do it all?’ and the answer is – I don’t! Not perfectly, anyway, not by any stretch of the imagination. And Sarah slips up, too – she makes mistakes. She’s human, as are we all. There is a notion that women – both as sleuths and as real-life professionals – should be as hard-hitting as men in order to fight their way successfully through a male-dominated culture. Imuch prefer the idea of opening up that culture to embrace femininity, with all its massive strengths – such as empathy, emotional intelligence, the ability to get people to open up and talk, the ability to spot hidden dangers, to multi-task, etc. – strengths which often go hand in hand with the practicalities of raising a family – and that’s what I’ve tried to portray.

How do you research your books?

I write about a world with which I’m very familiar, so that helps. I always do site visits or ask colleagues for help with any scenes that are not so familiar. When I was writing IN THE BLOOD I went along on a case to The Old Bailey with a barrister colleague, so that I could get inside. Otherwise, you can only access the public gallery of an individual court, usually directly from a separate public entrance. I like to be as accurate as I can. And then, of course, there’s the Internet!

What’s next?

The sequel to IN THE BLOOD, which I’m currently writing. Sarah will have a whole new mystery to solve. I am really enjoying this one…

In southeast London, a young mother has been accused of an unthinkable crime: poisoning her own child – and then leaving him to die.

The mother, Ellie, is secretive and challenging – she’s had a troubled upbringing – but does that mean she’s capable of murder?

Balancing the case with raising her disabled five-year-old son, criminal defence lawyer Sarah Kellerman sets out in desperate pursuit of the truth. But when her own child becomes unwell, Sarah realises she’s been drawn into a dangerous game.

With thanks to Ruth Mancini for the fabulous guest post and Melanie Price for organising the blog tour. Take a look at the rest of the tour here: