How Deborah Masson crushed the first-time novelist myths

Sarah Thomas
5 min readApr 9, 2023
Deborah Masson

Deborah Masson meets me with a giant bosie and loads of warmth, a typical Aberdonian greeting. She is glowing with light for someone who spends so much time conjuring up nasty events for her novels.

Her first of three published novels in the DI Eve Hunter series, Hold Your Tongue, was written while she attended an online Faber Academy course, looked after young children. The finished draft scooped her an agent, multiple publishing deals and a Bloody Scotland literary award.

While the road to getting published is haunted by belligerent advice like ‘an author’s first novel never gets published’, or ‘you need a gazillion Twitter followers to catch the attention of an agent’, Deborah’s story proves that the most important thing for a writer to have is a superb story.

We met at the Ferryhill Hotel for lunch and a chat about her first blood moments with writing and where she’s at with her journey now.

Where did it all start?

When I had my first child and my husband was away offshore for half the year, I needed something to stop me from cracking up. So I thought, ‘what did I really used to enjoy but lost sight of because life gets in the way?’ I liked writing as a child, so I bought a writing magazine that set competition stories. You had a hook, a deadline, and a word count, which made it easy to try. So when my eldest was napping in the afternoon, I started scribbling. And then, I sent the first short story I wrote to the competition, and I got second place.

And then, I started writing flash fiction and joined an online chat group as a way of socialising with like-minded people, from home. I saw an opening for a six-week introductory course to crime writing through the Professional Writing Academy. It was manageable around the child, so I signed up for it and absolutely loved it because of the exercises that they set. I followed it with a Faber Academy course to write the first 10 000 words of your novel, and I was lucky enough financially at that time. So I did it.

What I really loved about that course was being supported by the tutor and fellow students who were teaching you how to give constructive criticism because you had to keep their stuff on top form too.

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Sarah Thomas

Storyteller, ex playwright (produced), award winning screenwriter, always writing. Creating story-based content for businesses. Based in Aberdeen.