Welcome to Graceland – MJ Arlidge talks about the world of DI Grace: 7 books in 7 days.
Who is Helen Grace?: Detective Inspector Helen Grace is the heroine of Arlidge’s series of serial killer thrillers set in and around the English coastal city of Southampton. A tough, determined police officer who rides a motorbike and prefers to travel through life alone, she nevertheless is beset by personal demons. The legacy of a troubled childhood makes itself felt through her mood swings and tendency towards depression. She neither drinks nor takes drugs, so expiates her dark moods through the controlled use of pain, administered to her by her loyal dominator, Jake. She lives alone, takes occasional lovers and is deeply committed to her work. The criminals she pursues are sadistic, violent and determined, meaning Helen has to put her life on the line to bring them in. She is assisted by a number of colleagues at Southampton Central, most notably her loyal friend, DC Charlene “Charlie” Brooks.
Q1. Tell me in your own words the inspiration behind Helen Grace?
When creating a protagonist for my debut thriller Eeny Meeny, I was determined to avoid well worn cliches. You know the sort of thing – male copper, with a drink problem, marital issues etc. I wanted Helen to be different – so I created a tea-total biker chick with an aversion to relationships and a complex, traumatic childhood. I wanted her to be tough and resourceful, but I also knew she needed a pressure release, something to turn to when life became too much. Hence her predilection for BDSM – Helen uses pain to manage her emotions, to dispel those dark moods. Right from the off, I thought it would be interesting if the person Helen is closest to is the person she pays to beat her!
Q2. When you first wrote Eeny Meeny did you plan on writing a series of 7+ books?
Yes, though I knew this was dependent on Penguin’s interest! I pitched the first seven books when I first sat down with my editor in 2013 and I’m delighted to have written that number already. I come from TV, where we are used to thinking in big numbers and besides I just knew Helen, Charlie etc had legs.
Q3. You are taking a Grace Sabbatical for the foreseeable future to concentrate on a new standalone book and the next Grace book isn’t due out until 2019 are you able to give us any clues about the next book and how many more you have planned?
All clues are under wraps I’m afraid, but I can confirm that there will be many more Helen Grace novels. I have great ambitions for her and besides she gets irritable if she spends too much time away from chasing all those dangerous, Southampton-based serial killers.
Q4. To-date which has been the hardest book to write and which has been the easiest and do you have a favourite.
The most difficult was probably Pop Goes the Weasel. I had written my debut, Eeny Meeny, for myself. I had to write Pop for all those people (both publishers and readers) who’d bought Eeny Meeny. So I really felt the pressure. Which was the easiest? Hard to say as I love writing Helen and don’t find writing the novels a chore. But I’d possibly single out Little Boy Blue – the final third of the book is pretty much one big chase, which was so fun to write. A favourite? I’m very fond of Eeny Meeny of course, but I’d probably plump for Hide and Seek. It’s quite a rich, characterful novel with a fab premise – a serial killer on the loose in a prison.
Q5. Finally, Helen has a very dark past and dabbles in BDSM – how much personal research did you have to do for this element of her personality and do you have a “safe” word for the next time I stalk you?
I obviously had to do lots of research – onerous, as you can imagine – and my safe word is ‘Tracy, go home.’
Books in Order:
- Eeny Meeny – Read more about this book here
- Pop Goes the Weasel – Read more about this book here
- The Doll’s House – Read more about this book here
- Liar Liar – Read more about this book here
- Little Boy Blue – Read more about this book here
- Hide and Seek – Read more about this book here
- Love Me Not – NOW AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE IN PAPERBACK – CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE
My favourite book in the series: LOVE ME NOT Read my review here