Killer Women are a group of London-based crime writers who curate innovative events, debates, talks, interviews and workshops. Last October, they launched the first ever female-led Crime Writing Festival, spearheaded by award-winning writers and journalists Melanie McGrath and Louise Millar. It featured an exciting range of guest speakers and was a huge success, raising the profile of women who write crime.
Inspired by this initiative, Aliya sought an interview with Melanie to find out more…
I’ve heard so much about Killer Women and am really intrigued by this organisation. To begin with, could you tell me where the inspiration to create such a unique writing collective came from?
Originally it was just me and Louise Millar and a handful of other women crime writers who lived nearby. We would get around my dining room table four times a year and find ways to support one another and to amplify the voices of women writing crime fiction more generally.
The collective itself is made up of a broad selection of female writers working in this genre – how did you all as writers find each other and create Killer Women?
We’ve expanded very slowly and carefully, adding in new members whose writing we really admire and whose skill sets will contribute to the group. We’re keeping the main membership small for administrative reasons and also because we want to retain the unique feel of the group. In the two years we’ve been established we’ve become a ‘brand’ recognised by libraries, bookshops and in the trade as well as among readers.
I imagine that for many people, there is an assumption that crime-writing is a very ‘male’ genre, which surely must influence initial reactions to Killer Women?
Crime writing is surprisingly female, both in terms of writers and even more so in terms of readers. About 70% of all crime fiction is read by women. We are lucky to have had really positive reactions to the group, from publishers and the book trade as well as from writers like Martina Cole, Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham and most of all from readers. We’re really lucky to have some wonderfully supportive readers.
Killer Women launched London’s first ever female-led crime festival last year. Can you tell me a bit more about this event and what’s coming up this year?
Last year we launched the first ever Killer Women crime festival in London. We had an amazing line up of speakers including Martina Cole, Louise Doughty, Paula Hawkins, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves and Mark Billingham and over 400 attendees. We even got on telly – the festival was featured on BBC 1 in Alan Yentob’s Imagine series on women crime writers.
Instead of a festival this year, we are planning an exciting Killer Weekend of workshops, pitch sessions and masterclasses in London in October. To find out more you’ll need to go to our website www.killerwomen.org and join the Killer Women Club
You mentioned Alan Yentob’s programme on women who write crime fiction for BBC One Imagine (Serial Killers – The Women Who Write Crime Fiction), and of course crime fiction is having great success in the film circuit. What do you think is it about the psychology of this genre that makes it so popular?
That’s a huge question, and one we debate all the time at Killer Women, both in public and among ourselves. Sarah Hilary, Erin Kelly, Laura Wilson and myself will be talking about misogyny in crime fiction at the Bath Literature Festival in May. I’d advise anyone reading this who fancies getting stuck into the debate to visit our website, take look at our events list and come along.
And finally, are there any tips that you’ve learnt as a writer whilst working so closely with other female writers within this genre that you’d like to share with aspiring authors?
Every writer is on a different journey. Avoid the temptation to compare yourself and your writing to anyone else. I think it was E.L. Doctorow who said that writing is like driving in a thick fog; at any one time you can only see a few metres ahead but so long as you keep going you’ll reach your destination eventually.
You can join the Killer Women bookclub at www.killerwomen.org. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook @killerwomenorg.