“Birds Of A Feather” is the sequel to your “Friend” serial “Who Killed Jock Dobbin?” How much of a challenge was it to revisit Little Billington and its characters?
It was not a challenge at all but a total delight. “Who Killed Jock Dobbin?” was the story of my main character, Jess Langton’s, attempt to find her family. She was orphaned at a very early age and grew up in a series of care homes. The story opens when she inherits a cottage from her grandfather, whom she never knew.
As I reached the end of the story (and solved the mystery surrounding her grandfather’s death), I realised that finding the truth about her mother’s family wasn’t the whole story. That, in fact, she had another family on her father’s side. And this, then, became “Birds of a Feather”.
So, it was sheer joy to return to Little Billington and catch up with some of the other characters there, as well as adding in new ones.
What is it about the mystery genre that appeals to you?
I blame my mother. She introduced me to the works of Agatha Christie when I was 12 years old and I have been hooked on crime fiction ever since. I’m not a big fan of gruesome serial killers or things like that, and prefer to write and read what some people call “cosy crime”.
I set most of my stories in rural areas, usually Somerset, which is where I live, and I like to think that my settings have a touch of St Mary Mead about them. Although Jess’s feisty neighbour, Elsie, is not quite as genteel as Miss Marple.
What other writing projects are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on the fourth book in my Much Winchmoor series of murder mysteries. These, too, are set in a small Somerset village, not unlike the one in which I live – although, as far as I know, none of my friends and neighbours have murderous tendencies.
The books are light-hearted, fun reads, with plenty of humour and a touch of romance.
I have hugely enjoyed writing these two serials for “The People’s Friend” and, whilst there won’t be any more Little Billington stories, I very much hope to write another serial for the magazine in the near future.
Why do you think the West Country is such a popular setting for mystery writers such as yourself?
I have lived most of my life in several small Somerset villages and I love it. The brilliant thing about village life (as Miss Marple herself would testify) is that it is usually a complete cross-section of society where people have long memories and maybe hide old, long-buried secrets and grudges. A fertile ground for a crime writer.
Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?
I write straight on to my laptop, although if a scene requires a bit more careful thinking, then I write by hand in notebooks or on my iPad. I am lucky enough to have a study to work in.
My children have both left home now so there is plenty of room in the house to indulge in what was for me a long-cherished dream – writing in a book-lined study, overlooking the garden.
P.S., What’s your one top tip for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?
I have a sign on my desk that reads: “Many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realise how close to success they were when they gave up”.
And that’s it. Never, ever give up and keep writing!
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