If you’re not a writer, you probably imagine that writing a book becomes easier the more books you’ve written. And I suppose that’s true in a way – but what never becomes any easier is finding the way to write the next book. In the last five years, I’ve completed six novels, and I learned how to write them. Of course I did – they wouldn’t have been written, otherwise. But what I learned was how to write the book I was writing. That didn’t teach me how to write the next one. I didn’t learn any general lessons about how to write a novel. This is in my mind right now because I’m very close to putting the finishing touches to Where is Daisy Howell? When it’s done, it will be 65,000 words (give or take) and that means I only have another 8000 or so to go. If I’ve written that many words of Where is Daisy Howell?, I must know how to do it – right? And I suppose I do. But I had to learn as I went along, because nothing I’d learnt about how to write the previous six was any help. That probably isn’t the same for writers who write the same book over and over again, but I don’t do that. And this book is unlike anything I’ve ever written before. It’s the first in a series, so I suppose the ones that follow it will have some things in common with this one, but it’s been a new departure. One that I’ve loved. The series is called Cindy Williams Mysteries and this is what the cover for this first book in the series looks like:
One of the ways this book is a departure for me is that, instead of taking place in the north-east of England (I grew up in Newcastle), it’s set where I live now, in the north of Shropshire and right up against the border with Wales. (I can cycle into Wales in less than ten minutes). The Scout troop I belonged to had a hut in the wilds of Northumberland. (The troop was the 61st Newcastle, since you ask – it was attached to Saint Francis Church in Heaton and I was a founder member in 1953, though I wasn’t really old enough to join the scouts at that time. Father Jones, who got it going, was keen to attract members and so they ignored the small matter of my age). Scout meetings were on Fridays and three other scouts and I regularly walked to the hut after meetings had ended. We’d leave at nine in the evening and arrive at three in the morning. It was those weekends in a remote hamlet that told me I didn’t want to spend my whole life in a city and I’ve been true to that dream – there are a lot of sheep where I live now, but not many people. And so I’ve set the Cindy Williams Mysteries in an imaginary village that is an amalgam of three north Shropshire villages I’ve lived in. I’ve called the village Futch Mucking, for no good reason except that it entertains me. The central characters are:
Cindy Williams, in her early thirties. Cindy was brought up in Futch but has lived in London for the last six years with a Portuguese boyfriend she really should have steered clear of. Emlyn Davies, 48 and a police constable who knows that at his age he is never going to be promoted, which is just fine because he doesn’t want to be.
Cindy gets drawn into solving mysteries. She does it with her freelance journalist’s hat on, but Emlyn is a neighbour and what more natural than that they should pool their skills and interests? I’ll have a bit more to say in the weeks between now and publication date about the plot of Where is Daisy Howell?, how I came to write it and why I think people who like my other books may also like this one, different though it is. In the meantime, you can learn a little more about it here.