I’ve always been a storyteller, even as a child - writing my first book at the age of six and insisting it be typed up and bound. After a career writing copy for brochures, direct mail, and company newsletters, I started Plague Land after attending the course in novel writing at literary agents Curtis Brown.
I’ve lived in Somerset, London, Manchester and now in the Weald of Kent. My influences are gothic literature, nature, history and my large and mildly eccentric family.
I’m often asked why I chose to set my books in the medieval period? And this is what I always say. I didn’t choose the Middle Ages – they chose me. Yes, I have an interest in the Romans, Egyptians, Victorians etc – but I have a passion for the Middle Ages. A passion that probably goes back to my early childhood and my love of fairy tales – stories that were always set in a cod-medieval world of castles, moats, turrets, great forests, knights, lords and peasants.
But, of course, the Middle Ages is a long time period, so why the 14th century, and specifically the years between 1348 and 1381? For me, this thirty-year period was irresistible, particularly as I’m a writer of crime thrillers. I was drawn to selecting a dark canvas from history. And these years were very dark indeed – beginning with the Black Death and ending with the failed Peasants Revolt of 1381.
How I write
What am I working on currently?
I’ve just finished writing my third novel in the Somershill series, but this time the novel is set in Venice. Oswald is on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but is delayed for many months while the city is under siege from the Hungarians. When a man is murdered within the very house where Oswald is staying, Oswald is launched into an investigation that takes him deep into the underbelly of Venice – a world of spies, seduction, betrayal and brutality.
How does my work differ from others?
I would say the predominant difference between my novels and many other crime thrillers is the nature of my main character. Unlike many of the hard-boiled and robust detectives we meet in crime fiction, Oswald de Lacy is an intelligent but rather shy young man who is neither a natural leader nor an experienced detective. He struggles with his role as Lord Somershill, he struggles to solve the crimes, but most of all he struggles with his own self-doubt. But I should say Oswald is still every bit a hero – just an unlikely one!
Why do I write?
I write because I see stories everywhere and in everything, and always have done. I love the idea of looking back over the centuries and imaging how people’s lives both differed from our own, and yet were the same. The human nature is to crave love, security, to seek answers, to be bold, to travel, to have children, to be better than the next person, to fight, to defend and to nurture. And so on, and so on. The people of history experienced the same emotions and motivations as ourselves, they just lived in a different environment.
My writing process.
I do a great deal of thinking before starting a draft. I particularly put effort into planning out my story and trying to make sure it has a strong and absorbing plot, an exciting and unexpected climax and then a satisfying resolution.
I also put a lot of effort into research, both desk research – but perhaps more importantly, by visiting as many historic sites as possible, and just imaging how they looked, felt and even smelt, six hundred and fifty years ago.
When my planning and research are as finished as they can be, I then sit in a room and write. I work best in the mornings, and try to write at least one thousand words a day. Once a finished draft has been seen by my agent and editor, I begin the process of re-writes, the additions and the subtractions, the copy-edit, and the proof read. It’s a long and thorough process, but then they do say that to write is to rewrite.