When I gave up smoking in 2006, little did I know it would change my life and my writing.
After failing to interest a publisher or agent with the second novel, I wrote a third. By now, I knew I wanted to write a series of mysteries. My detective was going to be an environmental health officer, who inspected workplaces to make sure they were safe, and restaurant and hotel kitchens to make sure they were hygienic. Short of a chef being murdered over an undercooked burger, it was going to be difficult for Kent Fisher to move from his normal world into crime.
But what if a murder was disguised as an accident at work?
I’d investigated several fatal work accidents already, so I had a good background to work from. It took me a few months to work out the details, but eventually I started to write this new adventure in 2004. In 2005, at about two thirds of the way into the story, I ran into a brick wall. Kent couldn’t solve the murder, the supporting characters were unbelievable, and there were too many subplots. In a moment of irony and despair, that’s the title I gave the story – Too Many Subplots.
At least I retained my sense of humour.
I needed it when I packed up smoking the following year. Writing and smoking were so intrinsic, I couldn’t write without a cigarette on the go. I had to stop writing. In many ways, I needed a break. Despite my best efforts at rewriting, Too Many Subplots had too many faults, So, after too many dead ends, I put it to one side.
In 2007, the UK banned smoking in public places. In the run up to the ban, the local radio station wanted to interview someone from the council. I volunteered as public health was part of my remit and spent an interesting 30 minutes in the studio. When I came out, I was itching to write. Blogging was becoming popular, and after some research, I knew this was how I would start writing again.
I created a cast of characters, loosely based on those in the novels. They worked for the fictional council in the novels, in the fictional landscape in and around the South Downs. The characters developed a life of their own over the coming months and years. The blogs were based on real events, but completely fictionalised, and as funny as I could make them.
I found my voice.
Kent Fisher came alive in those blogs. He wasn’t solving murders at this point, merely dealing with a dysfunctional team in a slightly exaggerated version of local government. With each blog, my confidence grew until it almost became a sitcom.
In 2012, I was ready to have another go at Too Many Subplots. While I hadn’t written anything other than the blog for five years, I’d been thinking about the story. The first change was the title to No Accident. The second change was far more fundamental – I moved from third person/past tense to first person/present tense, which was the viewpoint of Fisher’s Fables. First person is immediate. And immediately, I knew it was right.
It still took me three years to write and rewrite No Accident. When Penmore Press took an interest in the first three chapters in late 2014, I still had no idea how Kent Fisher would solve the murder, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me.