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23 June 2021

Tina Orr Munro: ‘I wanted to delve deeper into my character’s life and really test her’

by Katie Smart Author Interviews, From Our Students, Writing Tips

Tina Orr Munro studied on our six-month online Writing Your Novel course back in 2017. Tina is a journalist, specialising in writing about policing and security. In another life, she was a police scenes of crime officer. We were thrilled to hear the news earlier this month that her agent Lucy Morris (Curtis Brown) has sold her debut crime novel Breakneck Point to HQ in an exciting two-book deal.

We caught up with Tina to talk about the inspiration behind her novel, her time on our course and the writing friends she made while studying with us…

You studied on our six-month online Writing Your Novel course in 2017. How did your time on the course impact your approach to writing?

It had a huge impact. It was last chance saloon for me. I had years of rejections and my confidence was rock bottom. I had known about the course for two years before I plucked up the courage to apply. I had never done a writing course before nor belonged to a writing group. I finally applied because I knew something was missing from my writing, but I didn’t know what. My tutor Lisa O’Donnell was brilliant in helping me discover what my writing needed which was heart. I learnt to dig deep, really tap into my emotions and channel them into my writing.  It meant that I went into the process with a completed 90,000-word novel and emerged with just my protagonist, my setting, a scene and an entirely new synopsis!

The other impact was meeting my fellow course mates – the September Tribe! I had heard how important it was for writers to read each writers’ work, but I had never really understood why.  Reading my course mates’ stories enhanced my own writing in ways I could not have imagined. I learnt as much from them as I did from my tutor, and I am indebted to each and every one of them.

Many of our students find a real community on our courses – are you still in touch with any of your course mates?

Yes. I’m in regular contact with Kath, Robbie, Charlie, Sarah and Loraine. We catch up via email, WhatsApp and Zoom which I love because it’s one of the few times I talk about my writing without feeling inhibited. We get each other.

Quite a few of the September Tribe are now published and, without  giving too much away, I know there is a lot more to come from this wonderfully supportive and talented group of people.

You’re represented by Curtis Brown literary agent Lucy Morris – how did you know you’d found the right agent?

A couple of things. Lucy told me she was so engrossed in my book, she’d missed her bus stop on the way home (sorry, not sorry!). Secondly, she got it immediately. She understood that I didn’t want to write a police procedural about a Crime Scene Investigator; I wanted to delve deeper into my character’s life and really test her. Also, she told me it would be fun which, after a previous bruising publishing experience, I needed to hear – and it has been!

Your debut Breakneck Point is to be published by HQ in May 2022. Can you tell us more about the book and the inspiration behind it?

I am terrible at describing my book so I’ve stolen my publisher’s words: Breakneck Point follows CSI Ally Dymond, who has been kicked off major crimes and dispatched to the shorelands of North Devon for exposing corruption in the ranks. Her caseload now comprises only the pettiest of crimes until the body of Janie Warren turns up in the seaside town of Bidecombe.  Meanwhile, a killer is lurking in plain sight, about to fire a warning shot into the heart of Ally’s life, forcing her to question the true nature of justice like never before.

I grew up in North Devon where I now live and the juxtaposition of those beautiful rolling hills and golden beaches and areas of quite severe deprivation that visitors don’t see has always fascinated me.  Setting a crime novel in North Devon has given me the opportunity to explore this. I was also a Scenes of Crime Officer in a former life, and I hadn’t read many stories where the CSI was the protagonist so I wondered if I could draw on my experiences to create a fictional CSI.

What advice would you like to share with your fellow crime writers?

I received lots of great writing advice on my course, but there is one particular tip that I have found particularly useful for writing crime. When writing a scene, ‘arrive late and leave early’. I found doing this made my scenes much tighter and more dramatic.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I am incredibly lucky to be able to juggle freelance journalism alongside writing my novel.  At the moment, I write from 9am to 3am-ish, three days a week. The other two days, I am either doing journalism or I’m working on other writing projects – of which there are many!

Finally, what is next for you and your writing journey?

I’m currently working on book two in the Ally Dymond series. Despite suffering ‘difficult second book’ syndrome, I’m really enjoying hanging out with some of the same characters and trying to think up dastardly ways to make their lives as difficult as possible.

I’ve just completed Holly Race’s superb Screenwriting for Authors so I’m also playing with some ideas for a script. Finally, I’ve set myself the task of writing my grandmother’s story. She was orphaned during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Her survival is an incredible tale which I have always felt should be told. I’m just hoping I can do it justice.

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