Introducing Northern Ireland crime writer Kerry Buchanan

GRAEME COUSINS talks to Northern Ireland author Kerry Buchanan – the latest budding crime writer from the Province

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 8:00 am
NI crime writer Kerry Buchanan

Kerry Buchanan used to devour books. That was until her father’s dementia diagnosis in 2014 meant she could longer muster the will or find the concentration to read.

That could have been the end of her relationship with literature but instead that bleak time gave rise to a new career as an author.

The retired vet recalled: “I’ve always enjoyed escaping into books and losing myself in a good story, a good character.

Kerry Buchanan with her family - husband Fraser and children Patrick, Laura and Katrina

“After getting the diagnosis for dad I found I couldn’t lose myself in a book any more so I thought, sod this why don’t I just write a book.

“I sat down with my husband’s iPad, no keyboard, just an iPad at the kitchen table. Over six weeks I wrote a 130,000-word novel which has never been published and probably never will.

“I lost myself in writing instead of reading. It was like turning on a tap. I couldn’t stop writing. It’s my life now.”

Kerry, 56, who is originally from Yorkshire, has been living in Ballynahinch for nearly 24 years. She has written three books set in Northern Ireland about fictional detectives Harvey and Birch, the first of which – Knife Edge – was published by Joffe Books earlier this month.

She said: “Each is a standalone book – you could read any one from the series out of order. I have visions for more Harvey and Birch books. I also have it in mind to write an armchair crime series like Agatha’s Christie’s Miss Marple.”

Explaining her insights into police work, Kerry said: “My father was an ex-policeman over in England. I learnt a lot about the police and how they work. My father’s brother was also in the police. We’re a police family. Police is in my blood in a way.

“I don’t have any close family currently in the police. I’ll run things past friends who are in the police. There will still be things I’ve got wrong. Things that police will look at and say, ‘don’t be ridiculous’.”

Kerry said she’d come to learn that most ideas in fiction is not new: “When I started writing people were very sensitive about sharing their ideas in case somebody stole them. We all go through that phase when we start writing.

“After a while you realise that ideas are ten a penny, it’s how you make them engaging that is the difficult bit, making people want to read on and find out what is happening.

“You could just use an old idea that someone has already used but do something new with it, completely twist it around. I don’t think I’ve done that... not on purpose anyway.”

She is keen to help other writers blossom: “I run a lot of writing groups and do a lot of teaching for free because I believe in paying it forward to other people. I’ve had a lot of help over the years and I believe in helping others.

“The Northern Irish crime fiction community are the most friendly, accepting, wonderful bunch. The sort of things we write – the blood, the gore, the nastiness – in real life they’re the kindest people you’d ever wish to know.”

Kerry retired from her job as a vet due to the pain of psoriatic arthritis, but has found a new lease of life in writing, which allows her to forget about her troubles.

She came to Northern Ireland after she married Fraser, a professor of engineering from Lisburn. They have three grown up children.

Kerry said her father Harold Matthews is responsible for her love of books: “When I was very young my father told me if I learnt to read I could get lost in worlds with dragons, princes and princesses, slimebeasts and I would have a wonderful time. He taught me to read when I was about three or four. I blame him for all this.

“I was reading Charles Dickens and Plato at 10. I’d read anything I could get my hands on.”

She said she reads crime fiction endlessly and recommended several NI authors including Brian McGilloway, Sharon Dempsey, Steve Cavanagh, Kelly Creighton and Adrian McKinty.

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Alistair Bushe