Author Danuta Reah

About Danuta Reah

Web design by Paul Jackson: Award-winning author Danuta Reah

Danuta Reah is an award-winning British author and academic.

She is perhaps best known for her crime fiction novels set in and around her home city of Sheffield. Of her nine novels so far, eight were published by big name publishers. Many of these were also published in other languages, including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Czech and apparently some others I’m not currently sure of.

She has also written numerous short stories.

All her novels and some of her short stories have won, or been runner-up, shortlisted or nominated for various Crime Writers’ Association CWA Dagger Awards.

Non-fiction, academia and teaching

As well as fiction, she has written or co-authored a number of non-fiction and academic books relating to language and writing.

In addition to writing books and her academic work, she has variously taught English and creative writing to young people and adults, including young offenders, and has also worked with refugees. The Daily Mail will be fuming.

In short, Danuta knows an enormous amount of interesting stuff about the English language, and I’m in awe of her many achievements.

Author Danuta Reah standing among undergrowth
Photo: Richard Harland

How it began

In summer 2023, word reached me that Danuta was on the lookout for a web designer. Armed with the information she wrote under the name Danuta Kot, I found her previous website under this name – a small WordPress site. She appeared to have written two books, published by a major publisher and therefore with professionally designed covers. “Ah, this would be an interesting small project,” I thought.

How wrong I was. (About it being small. It’s definitely been interesting!)

Danuta Reah, Danuta Kot and Carla Banks

This small site included a low-key link to another, much older site, under the name Danuta Reah. How old? At least twenty years. It was a static HTML site, of the kind I made loads of around the millennium. This meant it was of course pretty much unusable for most people today, who are online using their phones.

So still an interesting project, but not as small as I initially thought it would be.

It was becoming clearer to me that Danuta’s career was longer and much more varied than I had initially realised.

Not only had she written a number of other novels, but some of them were also written under a third name, Carla Banks. (Not to be confused with a namesake, a self-published author of erotic fiction whose ebook bears a homemade ’dinosaur-themed’ cover.)

Oh, and there were short stories too – mostly scattered across various collections, but some also seemingly available singly.

And what’s this? Non-fiction and academic books too?

This was like peeling the layers of an onion.

“… Expertise and professionalism”

Author Danuta Reah

Five stars

“Paul’s expertise and professionalism made him very easy to work with. My original website was old and in need of updating, but Paul created a new, modern, accessible site that gave a clear and coherent focus to me as a writer, keeping me informed and making helpful suggestions when he needed material from me. It made me revisit my backlist and gave me ideas for working with this. It’s been an enjoyable process, and I am delighted with the outcome.”

Danuta Reah
Award-winning author

Finding the focus

Anyway, I got the job.

Our challenge was how to best structure and design a website that combines:

  • Crime fiction novels
  • Crime fiction short stories
  • Non-fiction books about writing
  • Academic books about writing and language
  • When the books were written under three different names, not always corresponding 1:1 to genres
  • And where all this information was previously spread across two different websites

To make things even more complicated, one of the Carla Banks novels is now available as a Danuta Reah novel, with the other possibly to follow.

Danuta Reah, crime fiction writer

During my analysis of the starting situation, there was no clear indication that, for instance, Danuta’s novels were more successful than her non-fiction books, or vice versa. And taking into consideration the short story collections featuring her work, plus a true crime collection (something else!), there was no immediately obvious path to take.

After all, websites work best when they have a clear focus (as my graveyard of failed, mothballed websites can attest).

Who is the website aimed at? What are these people looking for? How will we get them to our website? And what do we want them to do when they get there?

We decided the best way would be to focus Danuta’s website on ‘Danuta the crime fiction writer (who also writes other things)’, rather than ‘Danuta the academic writer’, or much worse from a marketing perspective, ‘Danuta who writes all sorts of stuff under a panoply of names’.

Danuta Reah’s website, showing the page background with bloodstain and police crime scene tape
Danuta Reah’s website, showing the page background with bloodstain and police crime scene tape

Danuta’s website

The wonderful, superbly staged photos of Danuta by Richard Harland, who also took the photos of Berlie Doherty for her website, set the (crime) scene perfectly. These are complemented on the page by a thick, congealed bloodstain and police crime scene tape.

Pages specifically for Danuta’s non-fiction books have been toned down a little: forensic cleaners toiled for hours to remove the bloodstain, and the police tape has long since disintegrated and been dispersed on the chill winds.

As we agreed I’d be maintaining Danuta’s website myself, there was no requirement to use any specific content management system (which usually means WordPress). I was free to use the tool I felt best for the job, which by lucky coincidence is my favourite CMS Contao (also used for this website).

However, Danuta’s site is slightly more technically advanced than this one, in that I created some custom elements in order to enter and display certain standardised information, such as the publishing and availability details for her books.

Now the website has been planned, designed, coded, written and put online, all we need to do now is grow the traffic!