It gleamed – even in the fading light of dusk. It glowed and winked like a star in a dark sky.
With an excited smile, I buffed and polished, savouring the warm glow it gave me before putting it away.
Then, unable to resist another peek, I opened the notepad and read the idea for my next novel, No Smoke, once more. No smoke without fire…
Okay, you get the drift – I was rather excited with the ideas for the fourth Kent Fisher Mystery.
It was the 19th August 2017 in Crouch Corner. I’d completed the first draft of No Remorse, the third novel, and put it to one side for a couple of months. These periods are essential to put some distance between the story and me so I can be more objective when I edit and revise.
Trouble is, when you’re buzzing, you don’t want to forget about it.
Hell, you’ve spent the best part of six months thinking about little else. You’ve lived and breathed this work, marvelling at the ideas and twists that spring from your subconscious like gifts from the gods.
You’ve finished a journey that’s taken you to places you never imagined. (Yeah, I know most of these places were imagined as part of the writing process, but you know what I mean.)
To ease my cravings for No Remorse, I thought about the next novel.
When you write a series, there’s a backstory, filled with characters and all the usual problems you encounter in life. It roots your story in reality, distinguishes it from the countless other crime novels on the market, and offers possibilities for further conflict, challenges and problems to enrich your work.
These further challenges – and there were quite a few, I can tell you – had to be addressed in the next novel.
Or did they?
Did I want the backstory taking away attention from the main plot? I am writing murder mysteries, after all.
What if I addressed the backstory issues and challenges in the interval between the two novels? That would then leave Kent Fisher to deal with the fallout and consequences at the start of the next novel.
And, if I’m lucky, readers will be itching to know what happened (and how) in the interval.
First hurdle cleared, I got creative.
The premise for the fourth novel is the arrival of Detective Inspector Ashley Goodman, who seeks Kent’s professional help as an environmental health officer with a cold case. Naturally, Kent goes on to solve the case because it wouldn’t be much of a story if he didn’t.
This golden nugget of an idea exploded into a treasure trove of possibilities, filling page after page of my notebook. Within days, I had a complex, twisting plot that would test my writing skills, let alone Kent Fisher’s powers of detection. I had backstory fallout wreaking havoc with his plans, and mine.
All I had to do now was discuss my ideas with a detective in Sussex Police to make sure they were feasible.
I come from the Peter James camp, believing accuracy and adherence to actual police procedures makes a better story, adding credibility and authenticity to a novel.
Two weeks later, in the café of a local garden centre, I pitched my idea to a detective sergeant in the Major Crime Unit of Sussex Police. She listened without interrupting, sipping her tea as I explained the premise and plot of my novel.
Then she shifted in her seat. She took a long sip of tea, pursed her lips and looked me in the eye. “Sorry, Robert, but I think I’m going to sink your story before it starts. The police would never reveal that much information about any case, live or cold.”
“Excellent,” I said. Like Kent, I’m great at hiding my true feelings, especially disappointment. But on this occasion I meant what I said. “It means Kent will have to work much harder to find out the information the police won’t reveal. That means a better story.”
She gave me a hesitant smile, no doubt wondering what I had in mind, and then made my afternoon by exchanging ideas on how Kent could do this. She made suggestions on how the plot could develop and how the police would handle the investigation, especially if Kent trod on their toes.
To cut a long story short, I ended up with more than I could have hoped for.
Back home, as the light faded, I wrote reams of notes, determined to remember every detail of the discussion. More ideas flowed until I was sure I had a great story in the making.
So, what went wrong between these heady moments of inspiration and the writing of the first draft, which began in early May this year?
Why did my golden nugget look and feel more like a lump of lead?
That’s a story for the next post…
In the meantime, please visit my Amazon page to discover why blogger, Susan Corcoran, said, ‘Kent Fisher is a wonderful creation, unique in crime literature’. You can also check out the reviews and read samples of the books.
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