New Year, New Novel, New Projects

I know, I know. It  really has been far too long since I added anything to this site. Many times I nearly made a start, and many times I procrastinated. Looking back, I seem to have spent much of last year with an imaginary critter perched on my shoulder (think Jiminy Cricket crossed with Gollum), reminding me with pursed lips and croaky voice that a website update was long overdue. But it turns out Jiminy Gollum was bad at his job because I somehow managed to ignore his repeated urgings. I don’t know what happened to him, he just disappeared sometime in December when the hopelessness of his mission finally became apparent to him. And yet here I am at the start of 2019, sitting down at my computer to type the long overdue update. Hurrah! Maybe he wasn’t a total failure after all.

Pop2018 recap

At the request of my elderly father, I spent hundreds of hours last year researching a family mystery stretching back several generations. Using a variety of sources including census records, DNA tests, old letters, postcards and photographs, I was able to solve the mystery, at the same time uncovering enough fascinating material for a series of novels. So that’s my next project – a trilogy based on three generations of my own family, beginning in the 1860s and finishing one hundred years later. I’m so excited to be writing this story and am immensely grateful to my father (pictured here, visiting ancient family graves) for giving me the idea for it. I’ve just started writing the first book and with good luck and a following wind, hope to have the manuscript finished by the end of 2019.

Lamorna Strange & The Deception of Loveday Orchard

My other project in 2018 was the completion of a novel, Lamorna Strange & The Deception of Loveday Orchard, that I began over ten years ago. The initial idea came to me when I was lounging on a beach on the Lizard Pensinsula in Cornwall, watching my husband and daughter, then aged around eight years old, larking about in the sea. As inspiration hit me I grabbed my ever-present notebook and started scribbling, warming to the story with every stroke of my pen. Yet other projects always took precedence over what I think of as my Young Adult Cornish fantasy timeslip novel, and so it is only now, when my daughter is approaching her 21st birthday, that I have found the time to complete it.

And to be honest I’m more than a little scared of what people are going to think of it. For a start, it’s a new genre for me and even though there is a strong historical element to the story (17th Century Civil War, no less) I don’t know if it will appeal to fans of Francis Cranley or of my non-fiction works. But there’s another reason I am anxious. The story was born partly out of my lifelong fascination with Cornwall and its history, and partly out of uncomfortable memories of being called a ‘weirdo’ when I was a teenager.  I remember having insults hurled at me because I went to the wrong school, spoke with the wrong accent and wore the wrong clothes. Most of all, I remember the burning shame of being called weird for blinking too much, something I still do today when I am tired or stressed. It’s a habit I deplore in myself and have tried and failed to break many times. Even typing the words here brings me out in an embarrassed flush. But at least today I have enough emotional intelligence to know that an over-active blink muscle doesn’t make me a despicable freak which is what I felt I was when I was fifteen.

When I wrote Lamorna, I called up those memories of feeling like a freak to help me create a teenage heroine who is bullied because she is different (no, Lamorna doesn’t over-blink, that would be lazy).  So I’ve put a lot of me into this book and I’m scared it will be found wanting. It’s also a book that is hard to categorise – it starts in present day Cornwall, dabbles in magic, drifts in and out of supernatural territory and spends a fair amount of time in the 17th century. I tried pitching it to an agent but gave up when I realised it didn’t fit neatly into any existing genres so instead I have self-published it on Kindle. It costs £2.32 to download from Amazon (or it’s free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I hope you give it a try, and if you do I hope you like it.