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Saturday 1 April 2017

Linda Regan

Carol Westron talks to Linda Regan

Linda Regan is an actor who comes from an acting family. Her father was a performer, her sister is the actor Carol Drinkwater, and her husband the actor Brian Murphy.
Linda has performed – and is still performing – many roles on stage and television, but is probably best remembered for her part as Yellowcoat
April in Hi-di-hi.
Linda is also a crime novelist who has written several gritty novels set in
South London gang territory.
Her latest book is

Carol: You come from a theatrical family and your first career is as an actor. When you were a child did you think of any other careers or did you know you always wanted to be an actor?
Linda: Yes, I come from a theatrical family, and my first career is as an actor. This was a natural progression of life in my house really. Everyone was in show business except my Mum who was a nurse. I always wanted to write, but secretly. I always thought I would be laughed at. I was a problem child and I suffered from dyslexia, so my teachers all thought I was stupid. I wrote in secret, and sent things in when I left school but I met with scores of rejections for my short stories, and poetry, etc. I wrote my first novel in my twenties, but it was appalling, so bad in fact that I buried it.

Carol: You published your first book Dead Like Her in 2007. How long had you been considering adding being an author to your busy acting life and what caused you to take the plunge into writing fiction?
Linda: My first book was called Behind You,  that was published in 2005(I think), and set backstage in a panto, where a serial killer is at large. Everyone said write about what you know, so I did. I actually threw that one away too, but my husband retrieved it, and sent it into a competition with a new publisher, and I won a contract. I went on to write others after that.

Carol: Even when an author has decided to write a crime novel, there are many sub-genres to choose from. Your books are police procedurals but with tough, often gang-related themes. What appealed to you about this sort of detective story?
Linda: I even surprise myself with the kind of book I write, as a child brought up in comedy, the daughter of a comic, and surrounded by them all the time I was growing up, who would have thought I'd get published in dark crime. However, the crime police procedural books that I write came about, firstly, after the fear I felt when I experienced being kidnapped in my car. It was a completely terrifying experience. As an actress we use our emotions as our tools. That experience went very deep with me and I needed an outlet for it. Also, I do my homework, therefore I shadow police, and the kind of people I have met through research, ie gang leaders, hookers, drug-users etc has opened my eyes to so much. The girl gang that leads my latest books Guts for Garters and SisterHoods, are tough young women, and will stop at nothing to protect each other, but they are victims, young girls who took to prostitution as a way of survival. Drugs then, are an easy next step. I met many of these girls and the sadness I felt affected me and I wanted to write about them. But as I saw them,as victims, not criminals.

Carol: Leading on from question three, how do you research in order to produce such gritty, ‘tell-it-as-it -is’ detective novels?
Linda: I think this question  has been answered in the above. Again I say, I shadow police, I go to the areas where my crime happens and I talk to the kind of characters I write about. I love talking to the police too. I think if you write crime, and police procedure, you have to keep it real and right. There are laws and ways in police life that you must know. You have to know about forensics and law. If you get it wrong, your readers will lose faith in you.

Carol: What special skills do you think your training and experience as an actor have brought to your writing?
Linda: My training as an actor has made me a better writer, I hope, in as much as I understand the importance of making characters real. They need to come off the page. If a reader is going to follow their story they have to want to be involved in the characters journey. So the characters have to have flaws as well as many good points- I think. I also believe in putting a bit of fun into a very serious situation. (Is that the comic in me)! As a writer I hope I am a better actor, because I understand the whole picture that the writer is painting, why his, or hers, characters are there, and I never just read my own part. I look at the story and where my character fits in to it, and what the writer wants my character to be in his structure or plot.

Carol:   To turn the last question around, do you think that writing crime novels has altered your approach to interpreting characters when you are acting?
Linda:   Certainly writing crime novels has taught me a lot about another writers work that I have involvement in as an actor. It also has taught me to pace tension in drama, on stage.

Carol:   Your first books featured DCI Paul Banham but in your last few books you have switched to a female lead detective, DI Georgia Johnson and her sergeant, DS Stephanie Green. Was it fun to switch to a strong, Jamaican, female lead? And do you intend to bring Banham back in the future?
Linda: My current books feature a Jamaican DI Georgia Johnson, and her cockney side-kick, Sergeant Stephanie Green. How and why did they come about? They just happened, as I was writing about gang crime, Georgia just sort of popped up. Characters do that to you. I like her and Stephanie together, so I carried them over into other books. Banham and Alison Grainger, who I had previously featured in my first three books, are always there though, even in smaller parts in each book, but feature very strongly in my next book. So yes, they are back, but as this next book is currently being written I won't say too much about it, just yet. Except, I hope my readers enjoy it. I know the characters of Banham and Alison have proved popular which is why I brought them back.

Carol: How do you fit in your acting and writing careers? Do you run them in parallel, fitting in writing around acting, or do you set aside a chunk of time between acting engagements to devote to writing a book?
Linda: How do I balance acting and writing? Well an actor never knows when she will work, or even if she will ever work again. With writing it is a solitary business, no one else involved while you are making it. Different when it is done, and you have to do signings etc. So I always have a writing project, but I have to wait for someone to offer me an acting one. And if I have no acting going on, then I have my writing, and if I have acting, then I take my lap-top and keep my writing up when I have time off. Last year I managed a book and a play and some tele, so I just hope someone will want to employ me as an actor, or read my books. Every day I wonder if I will ever get another days acting work, or sell my next book. One can never be sure of anything in this business.

Carol: Tell us a bit about yourself, your interests and hobbies. That’s assuming you get any time for hobbies between two such time-consuming, creative careers.
Linda: My hobbies and me? Well I have a dog. I totally and utterly adore her, and don't ever want to go away on holiday without her, so I go on holiday with my hubby and dog around England. I love walking. I also read when I can, and catch up with friends who are working in plays or such. I am really, I suppose, quite dull. I have been happily married to my husband (Actor Brian Murphy from George and Mildred fame), for twenty seven years and  we often don't see each other for a while because of working in different places. So, we make the most of it when we are free together. We like seeing family and close friends and we are mad EASTENDERS fans!!!

Behind You (1st) (2006) Passion Killers (2007)
Dead Like Her (2009) Brotherhood of Blades (2011)
Street Girls (2013 Guts for Garters (2015
Sisterhoods (2016)

A review of Linda’s recent book Sisterhoods can be read here.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

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