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 next 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!

Today we welcome fab crime writer Heather Burnside.

Heather Burnside grew up in Gorton, a working-class area of Manchester famed as the original location for the TV series, Shameless. She moved from Gorton to Longsight and spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester.

During the 1990s the estate became the headquarters for one of Manchester’s predominant gangs. It regularly featured in the local press due to shootings and drug-related problems. Heather draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels.

After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. During that time she had many articles published in well-known magazines and went on to run a writing services business before focusing on her novels.

Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester which she shares with her two grown-up children.

Hi Heather, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today. How have you been coping? What challenges has lockdown presented to your writing process?

Because I work full-time from home, my writing process has stayed virtually the same. However, lockdown has affected my frame of mind at times, which can be difficult. I find that writing is the ultimate escapism though and a good day’s writing always leaves me feeling upbeat.

How has growing up and still living in Manchester influenced your writing?

Manchester is probably the main influence in my writing. I have always lived in Manchester and all my novels are based there. In many of my books I have drawn on my upbringing in the inner-city suburbs. Thinking about the people that I have known or come across over the years has helped me form the basis of many of my characters. I have also featured events that have taken place in the city such as the 90s gang wars, the plight of the homeless and the 1996 Manchester bombing.

What are you reading during lockdown…..any recommendations?

Currently, I am reading a Ruth Hamilton novel called The Bell House. I’m finding it a bit harder to get into this particular novel than some of her others but I’m sure she’ll have some surprises in store as she is a very good author. Generally, I enjoy thrillers and sagas. I’m currently trying to discover new (to me) thriller authors, and some of the recent ones I’ve discovered are Dreda Say Mitchell, Mark Edwards and Liz Mistry.

What do libraries mean to you?

Libraries are essential both for readers and authors not only because of the joy of reading but also as a community hub and a lifeline for people who would otherwise be isolated. Because I work from home, it’s sometimes difficult to self-motivate. Having switched from a desktop to a laptop I was about to explore the possibility of doing some of my work in local libraries as a change to working from home but then lockdown struck.

What can our readers look forward to from you?

I have recently published my ninth novel, Crystal, which is also the third book in my Working Girls series. It tells the story of Crystal, a working girl who embarks on a mission to blackmail and expose some of her most depraved clients after she has suffered a vicious assault. Her scheme is also a bid to earn money so she can turn her life around but it’s risky as a lot of these clients are ruthless.

I’m currently working on the fourth book in the series, which will run to five books. The last two books will be published at the beginning and end of next year.

What’s your preference – eBook or paperback?

I like both for different reasons. A Kindle is easier to read in bed, but a paperback is easier to read in the bath. Plus, it means I can indulge myself both indoors and outdoors by buying both online and in the shops (once they reopen).

Any pearls of lockdown wisdom to share with our borrowers?

I cope with lockdown by retaining some discipline. So, I try to go to bed early in the week when I work, and I save the late nights and alcohol for the weekends. I always take weekends off from writing even when we’re not in lockdown as I think it’s good to give the brain a rest.

Also, I try to get some exercise most days either by taking a walk or through online video exercise classes as it’s good for lifting mood as well as keeping fit. Another thing I’ve found good during lockdown is having video chats with family and friends either one on one or in a group.

Most importantly! Lockdown hair….are you growing, colouring or cropping?

I always colour my own hair so that hasn’t really changed. Not being able to have my hair cut professionally is a challenge though. I’ve got naturally wavy hair so cutting helps to keep it in condition. I don’t think I would chance cutting it myself, so I’ll probably be wearing it up more as it becomes increasingly difficult to manage.

Massive thanks again to Heather for supporting Manchester Libraries. If the interview has tempted you to read more of Heather’s novels you can borrow her e books here for free!