Police, Pressure, And Breakneck Point: Interview With Author Tina Orr Munro

TW: Themes of abuse and violence against women and girls feature in the interview and Breakneck Point.

Tina Orr Munro has always wanted to be a writer. When she was 14 years old she wrote her very first novel, an impressive feat until she admits that it was “completely ripped off a book [she] had literally just read.” But Orr Munro’s new novel, Breakneck Point, is promising to be a much more successful story.

Due out in April 2022, Orr Munro’s book follows CSI Ally Dymond who has been moved to petty crimes after exposing corruption in the ranks. But Ally cannot let her investigative mind rest as she tries to solve the murder of 19-year-old Janie Warren. 

The evidence she finds contradicts the lead detective’s theory and nobody will listen to her, someone who exposed her own colleagues. Ally chases her lead on the killer but little does she know they are watching her, waiting for a chance to strike. 

“I wanted to write a crime novel, and I wanted it to be a strong female lead, I read a lot of crime and I love strong male leads,” she said, mentioning Jack Reacher as a particular favourite. “But I wanted to write something where the woman wasn’t the victim – she was a strong, independent woman. Out there, doing it against the odds”. 

This female-led perspective is refreshing in the crime genre but also ties into wider discussions around women’s safety and a distrust of the police. Tina said: “I’ve been writing against violence against women and girls for 20 years, maybe that’s kind of influenced me.” 

The tone of the novel is in juxtaposition to how warm and inviting Tina is. After a fleeting discussion about whether or not there should be a Muppets’ version of Lord of The Rings, which Tina is rightly intrigued by, she shared the inspiration behind Breakneck Point. 

“I wanted to explore the idea of women being in abusive relationships and how much help they got from police and how that’s dealt with,” and this is not a gratuitous mention or throw away point to add tension: “my protagonist is a survivor of domestic abuse and that’s very relevant to the novel.”

The theme of male-perpetrated violence against women is woven into the story but is not the only driving force behind Breakneck Point. Tina is also bringing attention to her home county.

I wanted to set it in Devon. At that time, I don’t think there were any novels set in North Devon. But it was more that I wanted to explore Devon, not just being that beautiful chocolate box image that you get when you visit as a tourist. But also that it has an underbelly, that was quite dark, and is quite challenging.”

“We have our issues down here. We have issues of poverty, we have issues of drugs. And I wanted to convey that as well,” she says. “More, you know, the reality of living in Devon as well.” 

Devon is no stranger to being written about; with a literary history including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, two greats of crime novels. Tina was not phased by this history but joked “I will probably start to feel the pressure, now you’ve said it!” 

Her love of Devon is evident, she said: “It’s just a wonderful place to set a novel. I absolutely know why people write about it – whether it’s crime or another kind of novel – why you set it in Devon, it’s a beautiful setting.” 

As a journalist, Tina is no stranger to writing but she put her dreams of writing a novel to one side for many years in favour of security: “I couldn’t be a poor novelist and you know live in poverty until I got my breakthrough at the age of 55. I wasn’t prepared to do that.” 

But by no means did her journalistic background make novel-writing easy: “News journalism, in particular, you strip everything back and you just get the facts out.” In print, you may only have 250 words but Breakneck Point is 95,000 words so “to try and put it all back in, in a way that has a little bit of heart was actually really difficult. And it’s still really difficult”. 

“They’re very different. I think people say, well, you know if you’re a journalist, that means writing the book is just kind of writing a very, very long article. It’s not. It is very, very different. And I’ve certainly learned that over the last few years.” 

The most painful part of the writing process for Tina is the structural edits, where an editor will ask you to rewrite a section that could impact, in Tina’s case, 45,000 words in the rest of the novel. But she thinks this collaboration is something that she thrives on: “I thoroughly enjoy it, it gives me confidence. Because you know, I’m producing 95,000 words. I don’t know if they’re any good or worse, a pile of rubbish.” 

Her publisher clearly does not think Breakneck Point is a pile of rubbish as she has already signed a deal for book two. As for sales and popularity, Tina is not thinking about that just yet: “I think I wrote the novel I would like to read. I wanted it to be something that I would pick up and read and enjoy.” 

Breakneck Point is available for pre-order now from Amazon.

Words by Danni Scott

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