interviews / Q&A's



Today, we’re delighted to have wonderful Louise Voss with us in The Literary Lounge, talking all things music and writerly.

Louise is the author of 13 books, including The Old You (2018), published by indie press Orenda Books to huge critical acclaim. We loved, loved, loved, loved it and so, of course, are beside ourselves that The Last Stage, Louise’s new novel, is out this month.


LS: First of all, welcome, Louise. Thanks so much for joining us.

What a great photo! Thanks for taking it. You were watching the Kaiser Chiefs, weren’t you?

LV: Thank you – yes, it was a really fun day, the Kaiser Chiefs played in Salisbury as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations the other week. It was such a novelty to see a band like that, plus some excellent local bands, on stage just a 15-minute walk from my house – and all free, even better!


LS: We know music’s really important to you. You worked in the industry for many years and it features in your books – Meredith, in The Last Stage, is a former 80s’ indie musician in hiding. Is music your first love? Where does the writing fit in?

LV:  To quote John Miles, yes, music was my first love. I’ve been passionate about it ever since I was a teenager. I listened to records obsessively in my bedroom in the 80s and went to gigs whenever I could. When I eventually ended up working for Virgin Records, it was like a dream come true. I was 32 before I even thought about writing anything (although I did used to really enjoy it at school …).


LS: What was the first thing you wrote?

LV:  The first book I wrote was when I lived in New York in the 90s and started creative writing at an evening class. It ended up as a novel called Under the Hudson which was never published, but from which I later salvaged quite a few plot elements and characters and it became my second book for Transworld, Are You My Mother?


LS: You’ve had quite a long publishing career, encompassing both traditional and self-publishing, has one proved more successful for you than the other?

LV:  That’s a hard one to answer really, as all the different platforms have benefits and drawbacks. Traditional publishing can be great, when the publisher is really behind the book, and horrible when they aren’t! And obviously you have more control with self-publishing. Although I wouldn’t do it now. Mark (Edwards, my previous co-author) and I successfully did it with our first two novels, Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death, back in 2011, when Kindle self-publishing was very new over here, and it was far easier to get attention for the books than it is in today’s very crowded market. Also, mainstream publishers didn’t really know how best to publicise their ebooks, but they’ve wised up now.


LS: You’d published four books with Transworld/Black Swan before joining forces with writer Mark Edwards. Had you considered collaborating with someone else before that?

LV:  No, I’d never even thought about collaborating with anybody, it was a very sort of organic – and easy – process. We were mates and started out by critiquing each other’s chapters of our respective WIPs (work-in-progress) so we were very familiar with each other’s work. The next logical step seemed to be to write something together, and we both found it easy and enjoyable.


LS: Writing can be a lonely business, especially when the muse isn’t visiting. Is that the attraction of writing with someone else? That there’s someone to share your ideas and writing with?

LV:  Absolutely. And the reassurance you get as you go along.  I never worried about the quality of our joint books during the writing process in the way I do about every single one of my solo ones. … I found it much easier working collaboratively, as those books have a momentum and energy of their own that I sometimes struggle to find in my solo books, although they always turn out fine in the end. They’re just harder to write!

LS: Yet worth it.


LS: You originally wrote women’s/contemporary fiction, what attracted you to crime-fiction? Were you a fan?

LV:  I confess I only starting writing crime because Mark and I had the idea for that first thriller, Killing Cupid, I’m not sure I would have done otherwise – I never used to read crime (and now I read little else – I love it). My influences now are authors like Kate Atkinson, Susie Steiner, Ellie Griffiths and more – far too many to mention now I think about it.


LS: Are you the kind of author who begins a book with a detailed plan in mind? Or do you just let the creative juices flow and see where they take you?

LV:  I’m definitely a pantser rather than a plotter. I start with a vague idea and then see how the story unfolds from there – although I wish I could do it the other way. I think it’s much more reassuring to be able to see how the book is going to pan out. It would prevent the awful ‘getting stuck in the middle’ bit that I usually suffer. That said, I think a happy medium is when you can plan a chunk ahead, get to that point, then plan the next section. So you have a bit of an idea but not a detailed plan. Mark and I used to use E.L. Doctorow’s ‘driving at night’ analogy – you can only see the part of the road that the beam of your headlights on a dark road shows you, yet you’re still moving forward safely.

LS: That’s a great analogy.


LS: You’ve mentioned creative writing courses and you have a masters, do you think it has helped you as a writer? Did the ideas for any of your published books come out of that time?

LV:  It did help. When I did it, it was before Mark and I had our breakout success with Catch Your Death, and I’d been out of a deal for a couple of years. I was out of the habit of writing, and I wanted to regain my love for it, having got a bit jaded.  I don’t think I necessarily learned anything new, but the discipline and challenge of the assignments was great, as was working with other writers.  I wrote a ghost love story for my dissertation, which I never tried to get published, but I did eventually use the setting for it – a university music department housed in a shabby but beautiful Regency building – as the setting for a lot of the action in my novel The Old You. I’m a big fan of recycling words wherever possible – seems a shame to waste them!

LS: Very true.


LS: Talking of the The Old You, which we’ve already made clear we love, it deals with the very difficult subject of dementia. What led you to that subject matter? Were you surprised by the response you got?

LV:  Thank you! The germ of the idea came from my poor mum, who had Alzheimer’s. In the early stages she used to insist on things that obviously weren’t true, like ‘someone took away all the platform numbers at Clapham Junction’, and it made me ponder the elastic nature of truth and our reaction to it. If someone truly believes the truth of what they’re saying, then you can’t possibly accuse them of lying – because they aren’t. And how that could easily be misinterpreted or worse, manipulated.

Yes, I was delighted at the response to it.  It was my first solo novel in many years, after the six I co-wrote with Mark, and it was very hard to plot, because the plot ended up being so complex …


LS: How, if it all, did the response you got to The Old You inform your writing of The Last Stage

LV:  You’d think it would have given me confidence, but what actually happened was it sort of paralysed me with fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it again. I’m SO relieved that The Last Stage eventually turned out fine and people seem to like this one too. But I honestly thought when I was writing it that it was THE worst book in the history of published books (now I’m very happy with it, of course!).


LS: Both of your most recent books have been published with Karen Sullivan’s Orenda Books. How does Orenda differ, if at all, from other publishers you’ve dealt with?

LV:  I’d met Karen at various crime festivals and she very sweetly said on several occasions that she wanted to publish me, so when The Old You was ready my agent sent it to her as part of the general submission to editors, and she was by far the most enthusiastic and passionate about it.  She/Orenda is fantastic at raising an author’s profile, and getting people talking about the books – way better than the bigger traditional publishers I’ve been with in the past. And I love the whole ‘Team Orenda’ ethos. I’ve made some really good friends in the other authors and they are all lovely people who are great fun to hang out with!

LS: It’s a strong list, too.


LS: The protagonist of your new book, The Last Stage, is a former 80s’ indie musician. Did you draw on any musicians in particular in creating her?

LV:  I pictured the band, Cohen, as sort of a more hip version of someone like The Levellers, which kind of came out of the fact that they all met living in a squat in north London in the 80s.


LS: Is the book based on your own experiences of the industry?

LV:  Yes, when the band hit the big time, there’s a scene with a swanky album launch in a recording studio, which was based on many similar events I attended when I worked for Virgin and EMI.


LS: What were you listening to while you were writing?

LV: Spotify playlists, mostly. Popmaster on Radio 2! A mixture of radio and my music.  I like a bit of talk radio in the background but I can’t stand most chart music. It’s my age!

LS: Or the music. That said, we’re quite partial to musicians like Billie Eylish.


LS: Your books are very filmic and a couple of your earlier books were optioned. How influenced by film/TV are you when you’re writing?

LV: Thank you, well, Killing Cupid was, and we had a few bites for From the Cradle. But no, I never think about it when I’m writing.

LS: You don’t imagine certain actors playing your characters? Your perfect Big Screen Meredith?

LV: I honestly have never thought about who would play Meredith, but now you’re making me, I’d love Ruth Wilson. She’d do a brilliant job.

LS: We were channelling Hayley Atwell while reading the book. Perhaps she’s too much Agent Carter though. Ruth Wilson’s interesting. Maybe as the stalker, shades of Luther


LS: Going back to your writing, how long does it take you to write a book? Are you a juggling balls kind of writer, with lots of books on the go?

LV:  On average, about 12–18 months – I’m pretty slow. The Old You was almost three years, on and off!  No, I’ve never done more than one at a time, and I’m not sure if I could. My brain would explode.


LS: What’s next on the horizon?

LV:  Hoping to do a different collaborative venture under a pseudonym, but I can’t say any more about that! And some consultancy work and events for CrimeFictionCoach, hopefully.


LS: Ah, yes, CrimeFictionCoach, another interesting collaboration. Looks great from the site.

LV: [It’s] a new venture … with [fellow writers] Susi Holliday, Steph Broadribb and AK Benedict; we’re a literary consultancy focusing on crime novels.


LV: You’re also the member of the Slice Girls and Killer Women. They look like very supportive female networks. Is that the case?

LV:  The Slice Girls was a cabaret act we used to do at writing festivals. We’re all a bit scattered around now, geographically, so it’s hard to get together these days, but it was so much fun. Hopefully we can resurrect them at some point in the future! Killer Women is great, a collective of 20 female crime writers – we’re currently planning our second festival for March 2020.  The main appeal of both is the enhanced sense of sisterhood and friendships within the crime-writing community (in itself a very friendly supportive community). …

Before I was published, I [also] used to meet for years with a few other women writers for a regular critique session. We (ironically) called ourselves the Girly Writers, and we’ve all subsequently been published. We’re still in touch as good friends. I do think a good critique group is immeasurably helpful when you’re starting out.


LS: Couldn’t agree more.

Louise, you’ve been an absolute star.

Thank you so much for spending time with us in The Literary Lounge and giving us such an insight into your writerly life. We know The Last Stage will go great guns. And may your collaborations lead to wonderful things.

Huge thanks for spending time with us here. It’s been a pleasure.

LV: Thanks so much for having me!





Louise Voss’s The Last Stage is published this month by Orenda Books

| paperback original | £8.99 | ebook | £5.99 | July 2019 |

Please support independent bookshops and libraries.

See also: ‘Remembrance of Things Past: The Old You




Acknowledgements: This Q&A is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to the author for giving up her time and for taking the photo featured specially for this piece. Photo © Louise Voss 2019. Anne Cater, thanks as always, and to the publisher for sending us a book proof. Please check out the other participants on the tour. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.


Also of interest:By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Permission by Saskia Vogel‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘Helga Flatland’s study of A Modern Family’;  ‘The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone’; ‘Call Me Star Girl’; ‘Blood Orange’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Select Q&As/interviews: ‘Charlie Laidlaw’; ‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’; ’Tom Cox’; ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Gunnar Staalesen’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘; Gina Kirkham;John Fairfax’; ‘Ian Ridley’; ‘David Stuart Davies’.

Film: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) – a Billy Wilder classic?; Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956).


This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.