Julie Morrigan delving into dark and dangerous world

Agatha Christie she’s not, but one woman is making a living by delving into the darker side of life, as Ian Robson reports.

Julie Lewthwaite (pen name Julie Morrigan) at home with some of her published books

JULIE Morrigan has been a bad girl, a very bad girl, and is loving every minute of it. She has joined the ranks of women writers who relish exploring the dark side of human nature.

The murderous little boy, the psychotic backing singer, the crime writer with a penchant for hands-on research.

All these and more have been created by the North author eager to make her name in a genre which can be described as grimy crime noir with a modern twist and North East flavour.

Gone Bad: Tales About Bad People Doing Bad Things, available in an e-book, contains 18 stories from the up-and-coming writer where no holds are barred and no punches are pulled.

Julie said: “A lot of the writers I like are from the dirty, grimy, crimey end of the market and it seems to me you can write with a very honest voice when you write about things like that.

“I like the challenge of writing about people who in themselves are very often distasteful and trying to make them understandable, not to excuse what they do, ever, but try to have an insight into a life that is very different from the way I am.

“I’m not quite sure where it all comes from but there does seem to be an appetite for writing about violence, very often towards women, by women which I find quite odd. Women are traditionally nurturers and carers. Maybe we have a dark side that we let out occasionally and maybe by writing about it and reading it stops us from doing it.”

Julie hopes to follow in the successful footsteps of Lynda La Plante, who wrote Prime Suspect and Trial and Retribution, and Val McDermid, of Wire in the Blood fame.

It is surprising to find that Julie, 50, from Sunderland, is a very ordinary woman with a background in financial writing and a talent for making her own jewellery.

She is a member of the UK Society of Authors and is also a copy editor and proofreader. She used to work for a development agency and contributed, in one way or another, to titles like Everything You Need To Know For An NVQ In Management.

Losing her job was the catalyst to turn an interest in crime writing into something more.

She said: “I’m going back to 2007 now, I was made redundant and I pottered around for a while, lived off my redundancy, looked after my mother who was ill at the time.

“Then I got back in touch with my publisher and asked if they were interested in doing something with me again and they said yes.”

She has, however, written under four different surnames and admits her many identities can be confusing.

She said: “My proper name, if you like, is Julie Lewthwaite. I had business books published under that name and what I wanted to do was differentiate between the business writing and fiction writing.

“The first stories I had published were as Julie Wright, which was my family name, and then I decided to change it and went with Julie Morgan but it was boring and did not google very well.

“Then Morrigan was suggested to me by someone and I thought it had a ring to it.

“From here on in, it’s dead straightforward, it’s Lewthwaite for business books and Morrigan for fiction books, so everyone can find what they want.”

Julie Lewthwaite (pen name Julie Morrigan) at home with some of her published books

We talk about what inspired her. Some dark secret, perhaps? A mysterious event from the past?

No, nothing like that, just a love of words and slightly different reasons for both types of writing.

She said: “What I am driven by, if I can start with that, is actually writing something on the business side that people find useful, that they can get genuine benefit from. And on the fiction side, something that entertains them, and at the end of it, if they think that was sad, or that was funny, or that made me angry, so there’s some kind of lasting memory, some kind of pay-off for the reader, then I am happy.

“I love this whole grit Brit noir thing that’s going on, there are some absolutely superb writers like Ray Banks, who lives in Newcastle, whose books are very inspiring and that’s what made me want to write in that kind of style.

“My stories are based in the North East so you will get a geographical reference to places.

“I don’t write in a very strong Northern accent because I wanted to be understandable – there are people in the States who read it – and I don’t want them to need an interpreter but at the same time it is distinctly Northern.

“I love the North East, I think the North East is a brilliant place, I was born here.

“My stories have a working-class feel. Generally, if anyone has wealth in money terms, something bad is going to happen to them.”

The decision to publish Gone Bad in an e-book, available on the internet, was something that surprised Julie.

It’s the place to be, she said, and when it happened, it happened quickly.

Her book is available from internet traders Amazon and Smashwords to be downloaded to computers, Kindles and some phones.

She said: “I kind of woke up to e-books, oh gosh, about four weeks ago now, having thought they were not for me, you know, they were for the younger people and gadget fans. But e-publishing is like the Wild West – everyone is piling in there and it will work for some.

“I have a few things on the go after Gone Bad. I have plans to put out within the next year both a series of short business books, probably about 40,000 words, half the size of an average business book, and I also have plans for a couple of novels.

“That sounds terribly ambitious but I have a lot of stuff in my head. It has been a steep learning curve but it has been a lot of fun at the same time. My partner Steven Miscandlon helped create an eye-catching cover and I think the book looks very professional.”

Her love affair with e-writing began with a short blog in which she learned how easy it was, then a few short stories, and now the collection.

She said: “While most of the stories have been previously available, many may no longer be read anywhere else, and this collection is the only place all of these stories may be read together.

“I also wanted to add value for anyone who was already familiar with my writing, so I took the decision to include a previously unpublished story.”

Julie is particularly proud of two of her short stories with the first winning a competition at the Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle.

The Black Dog, and this is perhaps typical of the writer, is about an evil book.

And the other? Ah, yes, the other.

Julie said: “There’s an American magazine called Out of the Gutter which is clearly where I dwell – it’s that end of the market – and they bill themselves as the modern Journal of Pulp Fiction and Degenerate Literature.

“I am absolutely delighted to have had a story accepted there.”

The story, about an ageing veteran taking on young punks, is called Bloody Little Hooligans and appears in an issue comparing British and American styles of fiction.

Gone Bad: Tales About Bad People Doing Bad Things is on Amazon and Smashwords.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer