AUTHOR Kia Abdullah has gained a strong following of fans for her compelling courtroom dramas.

She may be unafraid to tackle controversial and complex subjects, but at the heart of her storytelling are nuanced characters and addictive plotlines.

Kia, originally from Tower Hamlets, London, but now living in Richmond, North Yorkshire, is currently working on her fourth novel, and getting positive reviews for her third, Next of Kin, which is out in September.

She said: “Storytelling has always been important to be. My mother likes to tell the story about how when I was four, I wouldn’t eat unless she told me a story – so it was definitely something I loved from such a young age!

“When I was ten, my primary school teacher gave me a notebook as a leaving present before heading to secondary school. She told me to listen to conversations I’d hear on the bus or when I was in town and write them down as inspiration for stories.

“It was such a confidence boost for me to know that she believed in my writing. I would urge anyone, if they see a spark of interest or talent in a child to tell them – you never know what it could encourage them to do.”

Despite her love of writing, Kia studied computer science at university and worked in the tech industry for three years.

She said: “I followed the money. When I went to university, I didn’t know any writers or journalists from my background, so it wasn’t something I considered.

“But I started to write a column for Asian Woman magazine, and that reminded me of my love for writing.”

Kia later took a 50 per cent pay cut to take up working full time at the magazine, and never looked back.

She worked as sub-editor and later features editor and interviewed British-Asian luminaries like Riz Ahmed, Meera Syal, Nitin Sawnhey and Anoushka Shankar.

Kia went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House where she helped grow digital readership at Rough Guides to over a million users per month.

She said: “Travelling was my other passion, so Rough Guides was the perfect mix of writing and travel. I was there for two years before my partner Peter and I quit our jobs and went travelling around the world for a year.

“It was then that I started writing my first novel.”

Kia said she is often asked if she has a background in law, such is her attention to detail in her courtroom thrillers.

“I take that as a compliment – but no, I don’t!

“I love a legal thriller because it is a very good way to build tension. It is good for high drama as the stakes are so high, and it is also a great platform for examining social issues.

“They are also good for reader interaction, I’ve found.”

“I am very much a planner, rather than someone who just sees where the writing takes me.

“I also prefer the edit stage to the first draft, even though I always have a clear idea of where the story is going.

“I can get a bit hung up on details though – I have to remind myself that I can leave some details to my imagination. I do find it really fun to work with experts, and have some really good people to ask advice including a barrister, solicitor and in the police.”

Kia’s first novel Take It Back was inspired by real-life events of four Muslim boys accused of raping a disabled white girl.

She said: “I wanted the story to be nuanced. The central message in the book is that we choose to good or bad things as individuals – not because of our race or religion.

“I did get some early criticism from some Muslim readers who felt I was pandering to the ‘white gaze’ – but I really reject that. It’s my job as a writer to consider issues, and not to just paint a falsely positive narrative.

“There was a massive burden on me to write a positive story, but I was passionate about writing from my experiences and telling the story as I wanted to.

“The solution is to have more Muslim or minority writers so we have a range of stories being told, from comedy and romance to thrillers. The more writers we have, the broader the stories we have.”

“One of the things I like most about the book is that my central character, Zara, is not one thing or another – like many immigrant children, we love our culture and traditions but we are assimilated into western culture.”

Her latest novel, Next of Kin, published next month by HarperCollins, is about an architect who makes a terrible mistake – by forgetting to drop her young nephew off at nursery and him tragically dying in her car.

The book explores motherhood and women who are childless, and how society can pit them against one another.

Kia said: “I saw a social media post once about a woman criticising childless people at DisneyLand, making the queues longer. It attracted a lot of hateful comments on both sides of the argument, and it inspired me.

“The main character in my book is painted in court as a cold, ambitious career woman – but the truth is women do not need to be pitted against one another.”

The book is available to pre-order now – with all profits made from the sales being donated to the Trussel Trust, a food bank charity.

She said: “I was inspired by Marcus Rashford and his school dinner campaign. I grew up in Tower Hamlets and needed free school meals, so I understand there are people who need this service.

“For me, it benefits the charity, benefits local bookshops if people order the book, and also benefits me if people buy the book.”

Kia is now looking forward to appearing at Richmond’s Walking and Book Festival in September.

She said: “I love speaking to readers and aspiring writers. It really energises me and I can’t wait to be part of the Richmond festival.”

Kia is currently working on her fourth novel, about warring neighbours – one white family and one Asian.

She said: “It’s about who you would want living next door to you, and having those uncomfortable conversations.”

It is due to be published in 2022.