Sunday 4 September 2011

Another Book Finished

The fourth book in the Richard Nottingham series, Come The Fear, is now finished and with the publisher, so it’s breath-holding time as I wait to see if they like it. It’s always a good feeling to complete something, especially when I feel good about it (and I certainly do with this one).
Equally interesting, at least to me, is the process that went into it. When I wrote The Broken Token, I more or less blundered my way through it. I had a story I wanted to tell, but equally, I wanted to evoke the Leeds of the 1730s, in feel if not always absolutely historically accurate; my idea was that if a reader emerged thinking they’d experienced the period, I was successful, and it seems many did. I had my characters, and that was about it. I hadn’t even considered it in terms of a series.
But a series it’s become, and I’d like to think my professionalism as a writer has increased with each book. A series is an odd duck. Characters recur. Some leave, some die, new ones enter, but there must be development, and character has always been a central facet. I’ve come to love Richard Nottingham and those around him. When someone important leaves or dies, I actually grieve a little. I feel I know these people intimately, and their lives expand (or contract) as the books develop.
There’s more planning these days. I still essentially have just a starting point and an ending, and the characters dictate what happens, as if I’m watching a movie, but I’ve come to take on the role of director a little more. I sketch out ideas, which may or may not be used, and I approach each book with a much stronger idea of the focus (For Come The Fear that’s very much the poor and dispossessed, even more than in previous books) and how I want to approach it.
These books have their own tone, often poetic among the dirt and debris and an 18th century city, and I’m not even sure how that came about, but it’s part of the book’s landscape, and something I actively consider as I’m writer. I make note of phrases, which either come to me or are inspired by reading others, and these will be inserted, often during the revision phase.
So, publisher willing, Richard Nottingham will be back (book three is due out early 2012). Meanwhile, I’m working on a couple of other projects, a mystery set in the Seattle music scene of the late 1980s (I spent 20 years in the city, quite a few of them making my living writing about music’; for once I’m writing what I know!) and another mystery, a Leeds setting again, but during the Civil War, in 1645. Quite a while ago I knew I wanted to write novels that covered the history of Leeds, and this is the first step outside my comfort zone, so we’ll see how it pans out…

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