HAVE you ever dreamed of writing a crime story?

That was my ambition from the time when, as a small boy, I discovered detective fiction through the books of Agatha Christie.

I was hooked – not only as a reader, but also as a would-be storyteller. The only ambition I ever had was to become a published crime novelist.

During this year’s Lymm Festival, the broadcaster Jim Hancock will interview me about the art and craft of crime writing. From talking to crime fans around the world (in the days when we were allowed to travel anywhere we pleased) I know how many people are fascinated by the idea of the writing life.

Many of them would like to write mystery fiction, but aren’t sure how to go about it. I’m keen to encourage would-be writers – whatever their age. Anyone who really has a passion to tell stories of their own.

The trouble is, it’s much easier to dream of seeing your masterpiece in print than to make that dream come true.

This year sees the 30th anniversary of my first published crime novel – but that book, All the Lonely People, only appeared after years spent trying to hone my skills as a writer.

In the meantime, I’d developed a career as a partner in a Liverpool law firm.

The day job helped me to pay the bills and look after a young family and I enjoyed working in the law.

In fact, I still do, and I continue to work as a part-time legal consultant.

But that job – and commuting each day from Lymm – did mean that time for writing was limited.

The crucial thing was to remain motivated. Writing has always been a pastime I love – even when the words don’t flow as easily I’d like.

When I began to meet other authors after my first book was published, I discovered that writing is a tough game.

If your main goal is to make money, believe me, there are many easier ways of getting rich quick.

A major survey in 2018 revealed that the median income for professional authors is just over £10,000 per annum – and it has gone down 42 per cent in real terms since 2005.

Lymm crime author Martin Edwards

Lymm crime author Martin Edwards

While it’s not easy to get published, it is just as much a challenge to stay published.

Over the years I’ve been saddened to see a good many terrific writers giving up because their publisher has dropped them or because the financial pressures become impossible.

In the past, publishers tended to be more willing to give writers time to build up a loyal readership. Now they look for quick returns on their investment. These realities must be faced – but anyone who has a passion for writing should definitely not be discouraged.

Just look at some of the finest and most successful crime writers of today – Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Peter Robinson, Ann Cleeves, and Peter James.

None of them were overnight successes. It took years for them to establish their reputations and for publishers to give their books the level of investment they deserved, and needed in order to make a real impact on the reading public.

What those five writers all have in common, quite apart from terrific storytelling ability, is that they work very hard – and they kept writing and believing in themselves even when it would have been much easier to give up.

Those five superstar writers are among the contributors to a book I edited, which was published a few months ago by HarperCollins.

Howdunit discusses the ups and downs of the crime writing life, as well as giving wonderful insights into making a story come alive.

The book has so far won one major literary award and been nominated for five more, reflecting the expertise of the contributors – 90 leading authors in all – as well as the practicality of their advice.

In the Lymm Festival interview, I hope to distil some of their collective wisdom as well as offering practical tips to would-be writers.

  • The interview will be pre-recorded on Tuesday, so if you have any question about writing, please send them to volunteer@lymmfestival.org.uk by the end of the day this Saturday.
  • The virtual event will take place on June 30. Tickets are £5. Visit lymmfestival.org.uk/event/howdunit-virtual-event-with-martin-edwards . Martin will be interviewed by former Lymm resident Jim Hancock who has been a broadcaster and writer on politics for decades.