HOW? WHY? WHAT? WHEN? Four perfectly reasonable questions. So here come some answers (but not necessarily in the same order).
My present writing project is called Sisters, and I am around two-thirds of the way through – so with tempus fugit-ing faster than I would like, I thought this Blog might be a useful opportunity to tell you a little more about it.
Okay – let’s start with HOW I came to write it:
My first novel The Murder Tree came about because I had a great idea for a story, but couldn’t find any other way of telling it. I learned some hard lessons turning from script-writing to prose, and I made any number of mistakes in the writing process. But I learned from those mistakes, and the number of sales of that book have at least proved to me that (with a promising debut) I did have a future as a writer. People liked it enough to ask me when there would be a second book. Thank you, people.
I almost started writing Sisters straight away, because I had an idea in my head that I felt would be suitable for my central character (Billie Vane) to get involved in. But something held me back. There was another project I felt had to be completed first: I wanted to tell my mum’s story about Australia. A Kangaroo In My Sideboard kept me busy for another couple of years. I have one more ambition to achieve in that area: to follow in my parents’ footsteps (and maybe track down The Sideboard). In March 2020 I expect to be able to tick that one off the bucket list.
Before that, I intend to publish Sisters.
So – WHAT is it about, and WHY did I want to write it?
Like The Murder Tree, this has a true story at the heart of it: the disaster of the Titanic. But it is not another re-hash of the tragedy that claimed so many lives. Those expecting dramatic re-enactments of survivors’ stories, or yet another conspiracy theory, will be disappointed. Ultimately, Sisters is about Politics – then and now.
We face some incredible events in British, American and European politics today – but that was equally the situation in 1911: Trouble in Ireland, trade disputes and political egos at odds with each other. Nothing has changed! So, I’ve linked the events just before the onset of War in Europe with those in 2016, immediately before the European Referendum. But Sisters begins in 1985, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and when the wreck of Titanic was discovered. I’ve created a fictional member of Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet who carries out her orders to ‘remove a threat’ and by doing so, avoid further trouble in Northern Ireland. The consequences of that action, plus the Minister’s paedophile activities, form the background to a plot where ‘National Security’ is ostensibly more important than accountability. Billie Vane takes up a challenge to research facts around Titanic and debunk anything else, but all is not what it seems. A document comes into his hands, describing events that led up to the sinking, and implicating present day political figures. Then he begins to realise why the body count is still rising…
As for the WHY – like Billie (and many others), I have been fascinated by the Titanic tragedy for many years, and I’ve read all manner of books about it. There are incredible claims made by some authors, including the popular one that Titanic was switched for her sister ship Olympic. I put as much credence in that one as I do in the claim that the moon landing was faked, but I do believe something was going on. There are too many unanswered questions about why certain people behaved as they did, even influencing the two public enquiries into the disaster. Oddly, I came up with my own theory – one that does answer all those questions, if it happens to be true. I felt Billie (and another strong female character) could get their teeth into that particular angle, and pre-supposing my own theory is correct, face the consequences from those still holding political power.
Paedophilia? We all know it goes on, and after the legacies of Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith, I’m convinced there have been many more acts of shameful abuse by past (and possibly present) political figures. It is their very position of power and influence that made it easy to abuse the system to their personal ends. So, while my Cabinet Minister Peter Gris is definitely fictional, and not based on any living person, he does represent a faction of powerful men I believe exist today. As Sisters will demonstrate, the abuse of power was just as self-evident in 1911.
Finally, I used to be a Civil Servant, and in my time I’ve had several occasions to hold members of the government to account, even a high-ranking policeman. Cynical I may be, but they do tell newbie authors to write from experience.
As for the WHEN, I still believe in Democracy in Britain, but I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to see it actually happen.
Need to know:
I don’t just write fiction.