Setting takes pride of place this week.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks on the mean streets of Wigan in the company of DS Lasser in Robin Roughley’s brilliant crime novel, The Way That It Falls. (You can find my 5-star review on my Views page, along with Amazon and Goodreads).
From Wigan I travelled north east to Lindisfarne to read Holy Island, by LJ Ross. I love the cover for this crime novel and have fond memories of visiting the island during a holiday in 2011. My fondest memory, apart from the sheer beauty of the place, is the sea rolling off the causeway as we drove across from the mainland.
Add some mist on a cold winter morning and … wow!
And wow’s the right word for the BBC4 documentary, South Downs: England’s Mountains Green on Tuesday evening. Living on the eastern edge of the South Downs, it’s easy to forget the National Park stretches for 100 miles west to Winchester. Along with the sheer beauty of those hills and villages, the diversity of wildlife and habitats is among the best in the country.
If you want a taster, I’ve posted photos of some of my favourite areas on my website.
And despite the peace and tranquillity of those hills, the crime rate has risen since Kent Fisher started to uncover secrets and murders on his doorstep.
That brings me neatly to No Chance, the provisional title for the latest Kent Fisher mystery. I’m currently planning the novel, making notes everywhere to capture the ideas that began to flow thick and fast this week.
The moments before I start writing are often the most exciting. I’m buzzing with anticipation, eager to start another story, filled with new, and familiar, characters. The plot’s a vague collection of loosely connected thoughts and events, and the only certainty is the victim.
As No Accident and No Bodies were originally started years ago, it’s difficult to remember much about how the stories began and developed. Revisions, rewrites and edits also cloud my recollections, which can be frustrating when readers ask you what inspired the novel and the characters.
No Chance is a completely fresh idea, giving me the chance to explore and talk about the writing process as it happens. Each week I’ll reflect on some of the key points on the journey from idea to completed novel.
I hope it’s interesting. Let me know what you think.
Before I could find a publisher for No Accident I had to discover my voice.
Fisher’s Fables, a humorous blog, loosely based on my experiences as an environmental health manager, ran for seven years. As the characters took centre stage, it morphed from blog to sitcom with some great moments, now captured in an eBook.
This means No Chance is the first new idea for years. Along with the excitement comes apprehension, especially when I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper. Can I write another novel that equals or betters the first two? Where do I start? How do I incorporate the backstory that adds depth to the stories?
Last month, while out running one bitter Sunday morning, I visualised the opening scene in a luxury residential care home. By the time I returned home, I had the first few paragraphs, which I quickly scribbled down.
Consciously, but mainly subconsciously, my brain gathered and processed information, bouncing it around to build a skeleton of ideas for me to explore.
Being a murder mystery, I start with the victim. His name comes to me without prompting, proving the value of the subconscious melting pot. I know his age, his situation, his worth. How did he get rich? What did he do to makes someone want to kill him?
I follow him back in time, getting to know him, his attitudes and the behaviour that antagonised and alienated at least five key suspects for his murder. This inspires more ideas and complications until my pen can’t keep pace with my thoughts.
Then there are the issues left over from No Bodies. How do they impact on the investigation? What clues could they provide? What if … More notes, more ideas, sore fingers.
I’m edging closer to the point where I start to write the first draft.
If you want to read the opening extract from No Chance, or find out more about the characters and stories, please enter your details below to sign up to my monthly newsletter. You’ll have to be quick as the March edition goes out this Sunday.
You’ll also receive a free copy of my Case Files, filled with humorous anecdotes from my early days in environmental health, including how the mayor fell for me during a home safety exhibition.