Wednesday 21 January 2015


Christina James, author of the DI Yates series of crime fiction books was kind enough to submit herself to some gentle questioning.

I recently read and enjoyed her third book in the series - the fabulously titled Sausage Hall. Review here.

The two previous entries were In the Family and Almost Love

Is the writing a full-time or a sideline-passion-hobby?  What’s the day job?

It’s neither of these.  I don’t write full-time, but it certainly isn't a sideline. I feel most alive when I’m writing.  My day job is carrying out research and business development work for the academic publishing industry. I’m self-employed.

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

Not much can beat holding the print version of that first book in your hand.

The other Christina James!
When I was looking for your website, I found an American author of the same name. She apparently writes adult books of a rather fruity nature, for example Operation: Spank Me, Make a Wish and Blow. Has this caused you any difficulty or confusion in the publishing world? Have people ever mistaken you with the other CJ?   

I only found out about her myself by accident.  Most of my readers seem entirely unaware of her. Personally, I think it’s quite funny that people sometimes find ‘the wrong Christina James’ and if the seekers after porn buy ‘In the Family’, ‘Almost Love’ and ‘Sausage Hall’ for all the wrong reasons, they have only themselves to blame!!!  Seekers after DI Yates are so conversant with dealing with clues that they don’t make the same mistake in reverse.

Sausage Hall is your third crime novel; from start to finish, how long did Sausage Hall take from conception to completion?

I began working on the plot in June 2013 and completed it in June 2014.  Most of my books have taken about a year to write.  However, I did have a big gap in the winter of 2013 – 2014 (approx. Nov – Feb) when I was unable to do any writing because of other commitments, so I might have finished it more quickly if this hadn't happened.  It gave me the opportunity to understand first-hand how detrimental such a break can be.  It took me a long time to get back into the novel afterwards.

Will we see more of DI Yates and some of the supporting characters from Sausage Hall in future books?

Yes.  They also feature in the next novel, which I’m writing now.

What’s your typical writing schedule? 

I try to write 1000 words per day, early in the day if possible, before the day job kicks in.  I’ll then revise later.  Sometimes I write considerably more than this.  I don’t beat myself up if I don’t manage it, as I've found this is counter-productive.

Did Sausage Hall end up as the book you envisaged writing at the beginning? Or did it evolve into something else as you were writing it? I’m just curious if you have the beginning, middle and end and the major occurrences all plotted out before you start, or does the story and its direction unfold as you write it?  

I plan the novels quite carefully.  I think that crime writers have to do this.  If you change the plot later on, you almost invariably find that something earlier in the novel no longer ‘fits’.

Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?

No, but I’m not a sensationalist writer.  I don’t try to shock the reader unduly; for example, with scenes of carnage or graphic accounts of torture.

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

It’s called ‘The Crossing’ (working title) and it’s going quite well, thank you.   I’m also working on quite a different kind of novel – it has a crime element, but it’s principally about group dynamics – which doesn't feature DI Yates and is not set in Lincolnshire.

What are the last five books you've read?

Difficult question, as I always read several books at the same time.  I’m currently reading ‘Entry Island’, by Peter May, ‘The Middle Ages’, an anthology of essays by scholars, published by Cambridge University Press, ‘The A – Z of curious Lincolnshire’, by Stephen Wade, ‘Mr Mac and Me’, by Esther Freud, and ‘The Bull of Mithros’, by Anne Zouroudi.

Who do you read and enjoy?

Contemporary: Gillian Flynn (a recent discovery); Louise Doughty; P.D. James; William Boyd; David Kynaston; Alison Weir.  

Classical: Jane Austen; Anthony Trollope; Barbara Pym; a variety of historians. I could go on.  I have many favourite writers.

Is there one book you love that you wished you had written?

I don’t think I’m envious by nature, but ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’, by Elliot Perlman, blew me away.

What’s the best thing about writing and getting published?

The two things are quite distinct.  Writing is something that a writer has to do, come what may. Getting published is what you aspire to do – it’s more than the icing on the cake, but it’s not the only thing that makes writing worthwhile.   I suppose it is writing come to fruition: getting published makes the act of writing complete.

What’s the worst?

Either being stuck in an impossible turn in the plot that I can’t see my way out of, or trying to create a delicate situation – e.g., one of great pathos – that I just can’t seem to make hang together in the way I envisage it.  I've heard painters say the same about their work: imagination and execution are sometimes difficult to match.

How do you relax away from the writing or day job?
I think they’re pretty complementary!  Each helps the other.  But I enjoy walking my dog and I’m quite a keen amateur cook.  And reading, of course.  There is never a day passes when I don’t read at least a few pages of something.

Many thanks to Christina for her time. 

You can keep track of her and her books at her website here and she's on Twitter @CAJamesWriter 


  1. Col, I like Christina James' measured approach to writing. You might write 1,000 words, more or less, what matters is that you enjoy your writing. I think it's important to be practical about your writing and take it from there. Many thanks for another thoughtful interview.

    1. Prashant glad you enjoyed it - I'm more determined than ever to stick to the reading side of the fence!

  2. Col - Thanks as ever for a really interesting interview. Always good to hear how different authors go about what they do.

    1. Cheers Margot, it is interesting seeing different approaches from different folks.

  3. Really interesting interview - and I was already interested in Sausage Hall after your review.

    1. Moira glad you enjoyed it, I'm hoping you didn't buy Operation Spank Me in error (or on purpose maybe)!

  4. Very nice interview, Col. I think Christina James' books would be well worth trying, but they are not easily gotten here except in ebook, so I will wait awhile. The mix up of the two Christina James is interesting; at Fantastic Fiction, they show the photo and bio of the US Christina, but the books for the UK Christina.

    1. Tracy that's a shame - I'm sure you would enjoy sampling them. Maybe they will appear in the US at some point. Worst case I suppose the digital format is there to fall back on. Glad you enjoyed the interview though.

      I did see the "other" CJ on Fantastic Fiction with our crime lady's books listed. I might tip them off about the error, I wouldn't want US CJ pinching UK CJ's glory!

  5. I've sent a copy of Christina James' first Yates mystery to my Kindle. Looks good.

    1. Mary, oh that's good - I'll be keen to hear how you get on with it.

      On another note - you recommended me a Willeford book many months ago - Pick-Up. I managed to locate my copy the other week, I'm hopeful of re-reading it soon.