Here at Manchester Libraries we’re working as hard as ever (but from our kitchen tables!) to keep our wonderful book loving borrowers happy and fulfilled. We know how popular author sessions are so we’ve racked our brains about how we can maintain these virtually.

Welcome to the first edition of ‘Library Locals’. An occasional chat with our favourite Manchester based authors about their writing process, which books they have turned to during lockdown and what they love about Manchester!

This week we’ve been chatting to local legend Cath Staincliffe, author of 24 ½ novels (!) based in Manchester, about libraries, books and lockdown hair care!

Cath Staincliffe is an award-winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV’s hit series Blue Murder. Cath also writes the Scott & Bailey tie-in books. She has been shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and twice for the Dagger in the Library. She won the Short Story Dagger in 2012 and the WGGB Best Radio Drama Award in 2019.

Cath’s latest title is Quiet Acts of Violence, a story of family and betrayal, injustice and poverty, the ties that bind and those that break us. She lives in Manchester with her family.

Library Locals – An interview with Cath Staincliffe

Hi Cath, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, I know our loyal customers will enjoy finding out a little more about you, your books and whether you’re thriving or just surviving in these strange times!

The first question is, what challenges (or indeed opportunities) if any, has lockdown presented to your writing process?

I’m lucky that writing gives me a way to escape the situation and take myself into a different world (like reading does). So my work has been a comfort. Though I’m probably doing less hours in the day than I might usually. Taking it easy. But I have had to alter the time period in my novel. Originally it was set in April 2020 but I’ve moved it to February before the pandemic hit us. Remember the storms?

So, how has Greater Manchester influenced your writing?

Well, I’ve written 26 novels and 24 ½ are set in Manchester (that other ½ takes place in China and one is set in Yorkshire) so it is a pretty big influence I’d say. The city and the region with its rich variety of different cultures and communities, with our industrial heritage and political history, with the wit and grit of the people gives me so many ideas for stories and characters as well as some atmospheric locations.

What are you reading during lockdown….any recommendations?

I loved Maggie O’Farrell’s latest, Hamnet. It’s about Shakespeare’s son and their family and it was a delight to be transported to a different century. (Though I should warn you that there’s a plague involved). And Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, set in 1980s Atlanta, is the story of a bigamist and the devastating effect his double life has on his teenage daughters and their mothers. Real Tigers the third in Mick Heron’s excellent Jackson Lamb series manages to be both funny and terrifying about the world of espionage.

What can our readers look forward to from you?

July 2nd sees publication of Quiet Acts of Violence. When a dead baby is found the hunt is on for her missing mother. It’s a book about family and betrayal, injustice and poverty, the ties that bind and those that break us.

Obviously we have to ask, what do libraries mean to you?

So much! I grew up going to my local library with my parents and it’s a habit I’ve never lost. (I love the reservations system we have in Manchester Libraries and use that a lot). And most of the events I do (outside of lockdown) are hosted by libraries. Meeting readers and discussing books is one of my favourite things. I once took refuge in a library as an eleven-year-old and was helped by the librarian when I was being chased by ‘mean girls’ who wanted to beat me up!

Any pearls of lockdown wisdom to share with our borrowers?

Not sure about that. Be kind to yourself. One day at a time. I find nature a great solace, whether it’s a walk in the park or watching the birds. And I am very, very lucky to have a garden and to be able to go out for exercise. It must be so hard for people who are shielding and can’t go out.

Preference – eBook or paperback?

I’m happy with either. Slight preference for paperback but I don’t really mind.

Most importantly! Lockdown hair! Are you growing, colouring or cropping?

Colouring most definitely. And I did my first selfie-trim on my fringe last week. It could have been worse…

Many thanks to wonderful Cath Staincliffe for taking the time to answer our questions and share her lockdown tips with us!

Look out for more ‘Library Locals’ chats with Manchester authors very soon.

Author photo by Jill Jennings