One of the most frequently asked questions, is where do you get the ideas for your books? To which it’s hard to give a definite answer in that it changes. Sometimes, a random comment or event can trigger a seed of an idea which then grows; sometimes inspiration can come from a news story I hear on the radio or TV.
THE BOOK OF EVE
In the case of The Book of Eve, which was the fourth novel I wrote, I had an idea in the back of my mind of starting the story at the funeral of one of the main characters, where a group of very close friends are gathered together to say goodbye to one of their own. Funerals are notoriously emotional events, so, how about if we add to the tension in that one of the friends has been estranged for a year. Why? What happened to drive her away? What has brought her back?
From these starting questions, the plot slowly began to form. How about if she’s desperately in love with one of the friends, but something happened, something terrible, that forced her to run away? Then, into my mind flashed an image of someone slitting their wrists on a marble staircase, of red blood slowly dripping down white steps, a macabre image I know, but, from that scene, the rest of the plot formed itself around it. Why had this woman, because it had to be a woman, been driven to such a desperately awful act? Perhaps, because of a dreadful tragedy in her life, an event which had far-reaching consequences for everyone around her, and au voila, The Book of Eve was born.
Lifesong grew out of two great loves in my life – the world we live in and the world of fantasy – and several years ago, these two loves coalesced into a thought, an image of a story, a niggling whisper that demanded to be heard and would not be silenced. Things came to a head when I read of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future novella competition, the whisper became a shout, the thought expanded until finally it became Lifesong, a novella of exactly 17,000 words as demanded by the competition rules. I honed and polished it for many months before submitting, never expecting to hear anything again. The competition was international, popular, open to all and featured the three popular genres SciFi, Fantasy and Dark Fantasy. To my delighted surprise though, it was placed within the top ten, gaining me an honourable mention, a certificate and a letter from the judges personally commending it and urging me to not give up writing.
Then it lay in a drawer, unread, unloved and barely thought of for several years until my first novel, The Book of Eve was published and I began to look around, thinking, what next? I wanted to try my hand at Kindle self-publishing and it seemed logical to start with something small, like a novella, then I remembered Lifesong, dug it out and read it, realising I’d forgotten just how good it is – I’m not blowing my own trumpet, just letting you know I have one – when I say Lifesong is excellent, well-written, strong and poignant.
As there was no longer a word restriction, I was able to expand it in ways I’d been unable to before, go into more detail and be freer with description and dialogue. Finally, I stopped at 18,500 – it was done and it was perfect.
Although Lifesong is classed as fantasy and SciFi if those are not really your genres still give it a try, because I promise there is not an elf, dragon or wizard in sight, no alien spaceships, no battles beyond the stars. What Lifesong is instead, is a hauntingly beautiful tale of love and despair. The story of an alien girl who comes from a very different world from ours, a place where everyone exists in a state of grace and harmony with the lifesong that flows through each and everything, connecting us all to the great song of the universe. Suddenly, for reasons I won’t go into now, she’s trapped on another world, a planet where greed and self rule supreme, where its inhabitants blindly poison the oceans, spoil the land, destroy the trees and pollute the very air they breathe. Sound familiar? Horrified to discover this world has no lifesong, her burning question is – what kind of a world is this, that can treat itself so?
Lifesong is a story that will make you stop and think, make you question the choices we as a species are making, fear our headlong rush into ecological suicide and wonder, is one woman’s love enough to save a world?
In a lot of ways, Phyllis or Lili as she becomes, is very much drawn from personal experiences. A lonely child, I was bullied quite horrifically at school, withdrawing so much into myself as a consequence, that I relied on my inner resources to cope with life. Perhaps this is where my love of stories and writing stems from. Phyllis longs for friends, to be the centre of a loving group of people who value and care for her, as I did myself. What happens to Phyllis, the long path she has to travel to become Lili, surely has tinges of wish fulfilment on my part.
The story is set mostly in the 1990’s, an era I remember and enjoyed very much. The vibrant music and fashions of that time portrayed vividly in the book, as Lili expands into her new persona and explores everything the world has to offer.
ECLAIRS FOR TEA
When my ebook novella, Lifesong, was published, many people complained they were unable to read it because it was only an ebook, and they didn’t have the facility to download it. So, it was always in the back of my mind to somehow, sometime, get Lifesong out there in paperback format.
A chance remark by a long-time frie
nd, and fellow author, about the sheer amount of short stories, poems and other snippets of writing I had, simply sitting there, doing nothing, sparked the idea to create an anthology of all my back catalogue, including, Lifesong, as the main feature.
From there, it grew, until finally, Eclairs for Tea and other short stories was published, a real pick’n’mix of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. A lovely, quirky book to dip in and out of.
LOST & FOUND
This was sadly a real life lost child case, I saw reported on national TV one evening. Watching the grieving mother, my heart aching for her, thinking how it must be the worst thing that can happen to a parent, a germ of an idea popped into my head. That germ sat there for a couple of years, and I actually started writing what is going to be book two in the Blackwood family saga, when the original idea suddenly sprouted into a book for another family member, so book two was put on hold, whilst I devoted all my time to Lost & Found. Since then, ideas for books for all the family members have floated through my mind, and the complete saga will be released over the next couple of years.
FIXTURES AND FITTINGS
I actually wrote the first chapter of Fixtures & Fittings many years ago, based on a vague idea of a story that was floating around my head at the time. I completed the first chapter, then the whole plot of Lost & Found popped into my mind, fully formed, so I put Fixtures on hold and wrote Lost & Found instead. It wasn’t until many years later, after I’d published Lost & Found, the fast-paced story of Luke Blackwood, I remembered that lone chapter I’d written about Marcus Blackwood. Managing to locate it on an old USB stick, I tweaked it a little and realised it could flow straight on from the end of Lost. Getting excited as an idea for a plot began to form, I then unexpectedly had two weeks off work, sat down, and simply wrote the whole 50,000 word novel in one sitting. The result is Fixtures & Fittings, the story of Marcus Blackwood, which I hope you enjoy reading.
I have always had a great love of fantasy. Starting when I was a child with the magical Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, I then progressed onto the darker novels by Alan Garner and the superb The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. All of this came to a head when I went to see a magnificent stage show production of Lord of the Rings in the West End in London ten years ago. On the way home, it occurred to me how very few fantasy, quest, adventure books actually had girls as the main protagonists and an idea popped into my head of a pair of sisters, very different in their outlooks, being suddenly thrown head first into the most fantastical adventures. By the time I got home that night, the prophecy had been created and hastily scribbled down on a piece of paper kindly given to me by a fellow traveller, and almost the whole of Erinsmore was there in my head.
There’s quite a funny story behind the inspiration for The Forest, in that it was sparked by a snippet of random, overheard conversation at a family party many years ago. A group of very elderly gentlemen were sitting in a corner, pints of beer firmly in hand, reminiscing about the golden years of their youth, when someone uttered the immortal line – “Whatever happened to old Wally Twitchett?” Instantly, my writer senses were on full alert, what an amazing name! Over the next few days my imagination had fleshed out the character of old Wally Twitchett until I knew everything about him, what he looked like, his occupation, the old boneshaker bicycle he wobbled about on. But he needed somewhere wonderful to live. How about a peculiar and isolated village somewhere in a forgotten corner of England? Brilliant. A village full of eccentric characters just like him, all with quirky names and individual personalities. But… these people never leave the village. Ooh, I like it, why not? Because there’s a big, creepy, haunted Forest right next to the village and there’s a curse on them. A curse? Really? Who placed it? And so on, and so on, until the entire wonderful plot of The Forest was laid out before me. Of all my books, I perhaps love this one the most. It is so deliciously dark and unusual, and I’ve always had a weak spot for the Green Man and other such ancient British legends, so being able to use some many of them in this book was amazing.
Ever since I wrote Becoming Lili over thirteen years ago, its sequel Chaining Daisy has been in my mind. When I eventually sat down to write book two in The Perennials Trilogy though, I had no idea of the dark places the story would take me and how sad the story would become.
As we re-join Lili, Jake and all the rest of her friends we first encountered in Becoming Lili, we find them embarking on the road of adulthood and facing the challenges of relationships and parenthood. Yet adulthood can be a scary place and even I was surprised at the twists this tale took. Some may find it a little shocking and even be disturbed by the events that occur in this book, but I refuse to sugar coat any of it. After all, life never sweetens the bitter pills it forces us to swallow, and I always aim for realism in my books.