I had a great time taking part in a panel on crime fiction at my local arts festival alongside author William Shaw. I’m a big fan of his books so it was thrilling to share a stage with him and journalist Amanda Holloway. We talked about devious crimes, how to create a scary villain, and why seaside locations in Kent make for particularly good settings for crime novels! There were some excellent questions and I had a lot of fun. This was the first year Deal has had a literary strand to its arts festival, so I hope we can all do it again next year!
Work in progress
I’ve spent November in the fascinating city of Granada, in southern Spain. Not in reality, alas, but in my head. Granada is the wonderfully evocative backdrop for the next Helen Oddfellow adventure.
I visited in January and fell in love with its hidden alleyways, Arab-style architecture and multi-layered history. I couldn’t resist sending Helen there – but she doesn’t get the relaxing break she was hoping for! She’s soon on the trail of the legendary Book of Nothing, hidden at the time of the book-burnings in the medieval city and reputed to hold dangerous, ancient knowledge…
I decided to write the first draft of the novel in a month-long daily writing sprint, which is a new writing method for me. It was a challenge, but I wrote 50,000 words, around 2,000 words a day with two days off. It’s a very messy first draft, but it gives me a great base to work from.
Dickens in Kent
From Helen in Granada, to Charles Dickens in Kent. Dickens inspired my latest novel Folly Ditch, so I spent a lot of time researching his life. This month I’m giving two talks to local history groups about Dickens’ Kent connections.
Did you know Dickens was caught up in one of the first train crashes? He was travelling in the Folkestone to London boat train (the train that met the boat from France) when it derailed on a viaduct in Staplehurst, Kent. Dickens was in a carriage that was stuck half-on, half-off the bridge, and scrambled out to help other passengers. Eight people died and many more were injured. Afterwards Dickens – incredibly – climbed back into the carriage to rescue the manuscript of his work-in-progress, Our Mutual Friend. Even more intriguing, Dickens was not travelling alone, but with Nellie Ternan, now thought been his mistress. Disasters can unmask secrets, however well hidden.
I’ll be talking about Dickens at Deal’s Astor Theatre on Thursday 15 December, as part of the regular The History Project evenings. Tickets here.
Recommendations: what I’m enjoying now
One fictional character that no-one seems to get tired of is Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed the latest outing for Sherlock and friends, Netflix’s Enola Holmes 2, which gives us the further adventures of Sherlock’s younger sister Enola, who wants to beat her big brother at the detecting game.
Enola, daughter of an undercover suffragette with a nice line in pyrotechnics, investigates the disappearance of a match girl from a factory where an outbreak of ‘typhus’ is killing off the workers. The film is great fun if you fancy a winter evening lounging on the sofa.
I’ve also discovered another enjoyable Sherlock spin-off. Liz Hedgecock’s A House of Mirrors puts Holmes’ landlady Mrs Hudson centre stage as a redoubtable sleuth in her own right. But is she really Mrs Hudson? Not everything is as it seems in this clever introduction to the series. I’ll be back for more.
History and Mystery promotion
Talking of series, my Helen Oddfellow series is part of the History Crime And Mystery Series promotion with Bookfunnel this month. The promotion is a great way to discover your new favourite series. Find out more here.
Work in progress
I’ve been plotting out the next Helen Oddfellow mystery – and it’s time to start writing. I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo, the mad month where writers try to complete a 50,000 word novel in November. The idea is to push myself to get a first draft down on paper. Follow me on Twitter @BloomsburyBlue to see how I get on!
Murder, mystery and spies
I had fun guiding 30 enthusiastic visitors around the beautiful city of Canterbury on my Marlowe, Murder and Mystery tour in October. We visited places connected with the playwright Christopher Marlowe, who inspired my novels Unlawful Things and The Crimson Thread. The city centre is full of Elizabethan-era buildings, and we started at the church where Marlowe was baptised in 1564 (number 10, St George’s, on the map below). We also visited the building where Queen Elizabeth I stayed, before Marlowe joined Her Majesty’s Secret Service…
Would you like to join me next time? I know not everyone can get to Canterbury, so I’m offering a free online tour, on Tuesday November 15 at 20:00 GMT. Please register so I know how many to expect.
My walk was part of the excellent Canterbury Festival, which brings together musicians, artists, performers and writers for two weeks of arts events. I enjoyed an entertaining talk on women and espionage, by the spy writer Nigel West. Did you know that the Canterbury playwright Aphra Behn, one of the first women playwrights, was a spy for King Charles II, back in the seventeenth century? There must be something about Canterbury writers that makes them into good spies!
Recommendations: what I’m enjoying now
I heard crime writer Dorothy Koomson talk at the Fatal Shore crime writing festival recently and couldn’t resist her latest novel My Other Husband. It’s tense, twisty and tremendous fun. The heroine is a successful crime writer, author of The Baking Detective series. When people around her start dying in ways that resemble the crimes in her books, she thinks she knows who it is – but how can she clear her name?
I’ve been diving into some old movies recently. I enjoyed the wit and style of the 1960s spy thriller The Ipcress File, starring Michael Caine and based on the Len Deighton book. It’s very much of its time, but just the thing for a dark autumnal evening.
Offer: Christmas book bundles
What could be more Christmassy than a set of signed books by your favourite author? I’ll be signing and sending out a limited number of book bundles in December. If you’d like to buy one, two, three or all four books, signed with a dedication of your choice, drop me an email on email@example.com and let me know which books you’d like. First come will be first served. The cost will be £9 per book plus postage. Sorry, but because of postage costs this offer is UK-only.
Have a great November, and happy reading!
After more than two years of online events, it was lovely to be invited to sign copies of my books at the Deal Bookshop in my home town of Deal, Kent. I had fun chatting to friends and customers who dropped by to pick up a copy of Folly Ditch, my latest Helen Oddfellow mystery thriller. It’s a friendly place and quite the social hub on a Saturday afternoon! Thanks to David for inviting me, and to all the staff for their help.
Join me for the online launch party on Tuesday 23 August at 19:30 BST. I’ll be reading from the book, taking part in a Q&A with journalist Kathy Oxtoby, and answering questions from readers. There will be at least one giveaway during the event. You can access the event with this link.
Christmas is going to be a bit different this year – but there’s still plenty of cheer to be had. I’m delighted to be taking part in Lewisham Libaries’ online Authors Christmas Fair next week, Wednesday 9 December.
Many literary festivals and author events have been cancelled this year, so this is a welcome chance to meet readers, talk about my books and do a short reading. I’ll be joining other south London authors for an evening of bookish fun.
It’ll be broadcast live, but you need to register in advance. Sign up here:
Photo by Lucie Liz from Pexels.