Anne Perry (born 28 October 1938 as Juliet Marion Hulme) is an English author of historical detective fiction, best known for her Thomas Pitt and William Monk series. Her publishing career began with The Cater Street Hangman. Published in 1979, this was the first book in the series to feature the Victorian policeman Thomas Pitt and his well-born wife Charlotte.
In this 5On interview, author Anne Perry discusses learning from mistakes and plotting advice.
What mistakes did you make as a new mystery writer that you’ve since mastered (or at least corrected)?
Mistakes in early mystery writing days? I hope, since mastered! Not pacing the plot as well as possible, so losing some of the opportunities for tension, conflict, tying all the ends in without the mechanism showing. I am always delighted if I surprise people at the end, because I don’t expect to. But more than surprise, it must make sense. The mystery is only the vehicle for the real story, which is the moral dilemma, the social ill, the exploration of what went wrong.
What plotting advice would you give someone about to write their first mystery?
Write a very detailed outline so that everything makes sense. No character at all ever does anything without a reason—good or bad. I would give quite a bit of time to the “back story”—everything that happened before your first page. And don’t forget that villains must be “human” and that they keep on reacting, as well.
Did You Know?..
Perry was convicted of participating in the murder of her friend’s mother in 1954. She changed her name after serving her sentence.
In June 1954, at the age of 15, Hulme and her best friend Pauline Parker murdered Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper. Hulme’s parents were in the process of separating and she was supposed to go to South Africa to stay with a relative. The two teenage friends, who had created a rich fantasy life together populated with famous actors such as James Mason and Orson Welles, did not want to be separated.