DEBUT North East author Marrisse Whittaker proves that it’s never too late to follow your dreams, having won a multi-book deal with international publisher Bloodhound Books.

After a long career in TV and film, firstly as a make-up artist and later as a script writer for several soaps and dramas, Marrisse has turned out a crime thriller which earned a place on the shortlist of The Lindisfarne Prize 2020 for Outstanding Debut Crime Fiction.

The Magpie is the first of a series of three Crime Thriller books to be published this year – enabling Marrisse to launch a career as a novelist.

All of the books are set in the North East of England, with many locations being very familiar to Northern Echo readers.

Marrisse had previously worked in TV and film production for many years, including setting up TV production company Orion TV, with husband and former Tyne Tees TV news journalist Bob Whittaker from Shildon.

She has also written scripts for TV drama’s including Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, BBC’s Doctors and CBBC’s Byker Grove. But The Lindisfarne Prize inspired her to try novel writing for the very first time, after seeing an advert for the competition in her local library.

She said: “Writing scripts for TV is a hugely different experience to writing novels, but I’m really lucky to have had the opportunity during lockdown to get involved in a new project and thrilled to have been signed by Bloodhound Books. I’m absolutely over the moon that the Magpie is getting such great reviews!

“As well as being a tale of grisly murders, The Magpie focuses on how early experiences in childhood may have an impact on adult behaviour.

“I’m hoping that eventually the books will be adapted for TV too. There can never be too many ways of telling great stories. If anyone reading has a great tale to tell, don’t ever think that it’s too late to turn your literary dreams into a reality.”

Marrisse started writing The Magpie before the UK was plunged into its first lockdown, when she was on holiday in the Canary Islands.

She said: “We got locked down there before the UK, so I thought it was a good time to start.

“I eventually finished two chapters and synopsis and sent it in, not thinking anymore of it. I was thrilled to be included on the shortlist for the prize.”

Her next step was to seek a publication deal – a process which can be long and dispiriting.

“The winner of the Lindisfarne Prize lives near me, so we kept in touch and she tried to help me find representation.

“I had spent many years writing for TV but the literary world is very different – it seems more formal and tough to get a way in.

“I was pitching ideas but not getting anywhere, so I started sending my manuscript to small publishers.

“Many didn’t even reply, which can get very upsetting.”

But finally, Bloodhound Books came calling and offered a deal.

“When I got their letter I wasn’t really paying attention – I assumed it would be another rejection so it was a fantastic surprise.

“I had a call with them and ended up agreeing to write three books in a year – I’m used to tight schedules from working in TV but it is a challenge! I’m just chained to my desk now writing away, but it is very exciting.

“The second book is finished now and is going through edits.

“I am a planner, but sometimes things go in a different direction to what I’d originally planned. Although when I worked on Hollyoaks, I had to use a certain amount of characters in each scene, and keep on top of how often the characters were being used.

“So that has stayed with me in how I organise the writing. However, I also have notes all over the place, on paper and on my computer, and I don’t always keep track of them all.”

Marrisse’s work has been described as being fast-paced, and readers said they felt like they were in the story.

She said: “It is good to get positive feedback from readers, and to have the physical book in my hands.

“I would love to have the books made into a series, Netflix would be ideal. There can never be too many ways of telling great stories about our fabulous and unique area.”

“It is already a dream come true to have my book deal. I have a core group of the same characters that run through the books, but lots of others do get killed off!”

Here is a teaser for The Magpie, which is available now on Amazon, and in both e-book and paperback versions from major bookstores.

DSI Billie Wilde is on a mission to terminate a series of horrific showcase murders, proving that she’s still at the top of her game.

But when hidden skeletons come hurtling from dark corners, she is forced to confront her past and face the truth – that she is the ultimate target, now firmly in the executioner’s sights.