I first met Ian Rankin in 2012. That was the summer of Fifty Shades of Grey when, love it or hate it, those books got people reading lots. For me personally, that’s a bonus. We all like different genres. There are no rights or wrongs, good or bad books, as reading is a very individual thing. I just love to see people enjoying books.

It’s the start of Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2024 today, but before the one in 2012 started, after twelve years of rejection from agents, and then publishers, I took a chance and self-published my first crime novel, Taunting the Dead. It was flying high in the kindle charts, eventually getting to number two in the overall UK Kindle chart. A dream come true for me.

One Saturday afternoon, I got a direct message through Twitter from Ian, saying he was reading my book and enjoying it. I nearly fell onto the floor! Wow, Ian Rankin reading my book - and oh my, what will he think?

Well, it was about three weeks before I cracked and decided to ask him what he thought. I mean, he can’t just keep a girl dangling like that. He said - his actual words - ‘I liked it; few rough edges but strong characters and plenty going on. Will read more.’

So when I got to Harrogate that year, I saw him at the bar on his own. I decided to be brave and went over. Him saying ‘Hi, Mel’ as if he knew me, was enough to make me smile. But the next thing he said made me blush to my toes! He said ‘your book is rude. You should market it as an erotic thriller and you’d sell far more, not that you’re not selling lots at the moment!’ Cue even more blushing.

Taunting the Dead was republished by Thomas and Mercer, part of Amazon Publishing and I’m proud to say that it has sold over 250k copies. However, I got the rights back to it, and have re-edited it so if you want a bit of smut, it’s not that kind of book anymore! (To be fair, there were six scenes throughout the book and they were only half pages.) I removed them because I wanted to make the series more generic. It was, after all, a police procedural.

Anyway, since then, I’ve met Ian on several occasions in Harrogate, and every time I still go to pieces. It’s like the embarrassment from that first meeting is still in my head!

Since then, Ian has given me a blurb for one of my books, mentioned Hush Hush in The New York Times as a book he was then reading, and on Desert Island Discs he said he was watching me as an up and coming author. He is such a supporter of other writers too, and I am glad to have met him in person.

A blast from the past – when Mel met Ian Rankin