Tag Archives: Literature

Guest Blog Post by Cheryl Rees-Price: Creating the protagonist – How Winter Meadows gained the lead role

The inspiration for The Silent Quarry came from walking the dog up a footpath that runs alongside a disused quarry. It can be quiet, shadowy and eerie along this route and more often than not you don’t pass a living soul.  Like most writers I have a vivid imagination and as I walked I would start at every snap of a twig, glancing around to see if anyone was lurking behind a tree. I should have been comforted by the fact that Blue, an enormous Siberian husky was close at heel but he was as much use as a mouse and more likely to run away faster than me from any threat.  As I walked further along the path my mind turned to the murder that occurred in this spot in the 70’s and I wondered what would happen if the dog was to arrive home without me. Would my family know where I was? Would they send out a search party? From this spark of an idea I developed the plot to The Silent Quarry.

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Blue the husky who has his own role in the book.

Ideas for the book came faster than I could write but as I outlined the chapters and built my cast I struggled to find my protagonist.  I wanted a detective that the reader could connect with, full of personality and complete with fears and faults.

I set about naming and creating the main character and built in a background story adding a career history, family and birthday until the profile was complete. Slowly DI Lester came to life, I didn’t have an instant connection to him but thought I would give him a trail run, a bit like a probation period in a new job.  As the story grew I realised that no detective is complete without a side kick. The book was put on hold while I set about creating Lester’s partner.

I wanted a character to contrast with DI Lester and bring a different perspective to the story. To achieve this I started with the character’s background story. I chose an unconventional upbringing, home educated and raised in a commune with a hippy mother and absent father. Next I needed to find the perfect name to sum up the character. After many hours of pondering, Winter Meadows was born, mild mannered, fair and compassionate with a hint of intrigue he was the complete opposite to DI Lester and I felt an instant connection. But rather than complimenting Lester he posed a new problem. Winter Meadows fascinated me and was so much more interesting than DI Lester.

I instantly promoted Winter to lead character. Very quickly he took over the role and came to life, often dictating the direction of the story. It really is true when writers say that a character can take on a life of their own and they don’t always do what you want.

As for DI Lester he still makes an appearance in the book along with Blue the dog.

In 1987 a quiet Welsh village was devastated by a brutal attack on two schoolgirls, Bethan Hopkins and Gwen Collier. Only Gwen survived, with horrific injuries and no memory of the attack. The killer was never caught. Now, nearly thirty years later, Gwen has gone missing and DI Winter Meadows is assigned to the case. Charismatic and intuitive, he has an uncanny gift for finding the truth. But in this small and close-knit community, the past is never far away, and those who have secrets will go to any lengths to keep them. Tensions run high as old feelings and accusations are stirred. And DI Meadows has to battle his own demons as he uncovers a truth he wished had stayed in the past …

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My Writing Journey (plus giveaway!)

Jane Jackson (aka Rachel Ennis)

582550_481083335286771_1409959728_nI believe writers are born not made. We have an extra something in our DNA.  I loved listening to stories when I was very small. But I had a younger sister and my parents had busy lives so to get my story ‘fix’ I learned to read when I was four.  The books were board with brightly coloured pictures and three words to a page. But they fired my imagination. All writing begins with reading and I was on my way.

I made a weekly visit to the children’s section of Falmouth library, read my way through the ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven, ‘Mallory Towers’ ‘Black Beauty’ ‘Children of the New Forest’ then moved on to H Rider Haggard, Dennis Wheatley, The Raj Quartet, and Barbara Erskine, and persuaded my mother to take out extra books for me from the Boots lending library above the shop. (Remember those?)

When I wasn’t reading I was writing my own stories. I loved English Lit lessons and acted in the school plays and our village Am Dram company. This helped me understand character and motive.

In my late-twenties, a single parent with two small children and an ulcer, I read even more.  My marriage had failed but I still believed strongly in love. I read Mills & Boon novels by the hundred, discovered favourite authors and analysed what I liked about their stories, their characters. I didn’t know it then but this was a vital part of my apprenticeship.

Then I thought I’d have a go at writing one – as you do. I knew competition would be fierce, so rather than aim for the contemporary market I decided to write a Dr/Nurse (as they were called then) I had worked in the Medical Records Dept of City hospital so was familiar with the terminology. I also bought a medical dictionary and begged back issues of medical mags from a doctor friend.

I realised I had to make mine different, so I chose to make both my main characters doctors. Back in the early ‘80s a woman doing the same job as a man had to be twice as good to be considered equal – instant conflict, complicated by the powerful attraction between them.  To avoid hospital procedure – there were ex-nurse authors who had far more experience of this world than I could ever achieve – I decided to set my stories in off-the-beaten-track locations without access to high-tech drugs and equipment.  Mine would be make-do-and-mend medicine.

It paid off. ‘Desert Flower’ was set in an oasis clinic in Egypt. It was accepted and I was invited to Richmond to meet Editorial Director, Heather Jeeves.  I wrote three more medicals, set in the Andes in Ecuador, the highlands of Papua New Guinea – in which I invented a vaccine for malaria; and the clinic boats of Hong Kong harbour that treated patients on the outlying islands where leprosy still occurred.

Then Heather told me my stories deserved a wider audience and I was moved onto the Contemporary list as it was then.  I wrote ten more. These were published in 23 countries and 19 languages.  (All have been/are being re-issued as ebooks by Accent Amour)  I had enjoyed every moment and learned a lot but it was time to move on.

I had always loved historical novels, from classics like ‘A Take of Two Cities’ through Emile Zola, the Angelique stories, The Whiteoaks of Jalna series, everything by Mary Stewart and Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, and now Elizabeth Chadwick – you get the picture.

We are advised to ‘write what you know.’ Cornwall is my home and where I grew up. It has a rich history and has produced some remarkable people: artists, inventors, musicians, writers.  After reading all Winston Graham’s Poldark novels I wanted to make mine different. That meant no tin-mining.

I chose sea-trade and the Falmouth-based packet service which carried mail all over the world, dispatches to and from theatres of war, and ransom money to free the wives and daughters of merchants captured by pirates in the Mediterranean.

‘Eye of the Wind’ was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and ‘Heart of Stone’ was shortlisted for the RNA Historical Prize.

I love writing historical romantic fiction as I’m fascinated by the detail of daily life and social structure in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Then last year I contributed to Accent’s Christmas anthology, ‘Wishing on a Star.’  I hadn’t written a short story in over thirty years, and at 11,000 words it was one of the longest! (I’m a novelist. Short is difficult for me.)

Little did I know then that ‘Family Matters’ would turn out to be the start of a whole new venture: Polvellan Cornish Mysteries.  These combine Cornish village life with history as my central character, Jess Trevanion, is a genealogist.

Number three, ‘The Loner’ will be published on 1st October.

I’m currently completing ‘The Master’s Wife’, second in ‘The Captain’s Honour’ series, which picks
up the story of Caseley and Jago Barata seven years after they meet in ‘The Consul’s Daughter.’   I have three more Polvellan Mysteries outlined and am researching background for a new historical trilogy.

My writing journey – like my life – has had its ups and downs. But all my experiences have contributed to making me the writer and person that I am.

The Consul's DaughterMy ambition now is the same as when I started, to make each book better than the last, featuring characters who capture readers on the first page, hold them through the dramatic, tragic, joyful events of the story, then linger in the memory long after the book ends.

 

 

Like or share this post via our social media channels for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Consul’s Daughter!

“A Week at Accent Press” by Rebecca Freese

Me at the Accent office

Me at the Accent office

I have had an interest in writing and English Literature since my GCSE years in school, and so I chose to continue with the subject for my A-levels. Accent Press came to my school one day before the summer holidays for the Young Editor’s Squad meeting, which I attended. Straight away I had an interest in the company and the work that was done there, and so emailed in about the prospect of me taking part in some work experience with them over the summer, to which they welcomed warmly.

Before arriving, I was nervous, thinking of possible tasks they would have me do, excited about the opportunities that awaited me. On Monday morning I was kindly greeted and given a tour of the office, being introduced to the team members along the way. My first day was full of busy tasks that involved helping to prepare to send off the nominations for the RoNA Awards, and being asked to start reading and editing a manuscript, which was amazing as it helped me improve my editorial skills and gave me a taste of what an Editor’s job would be like.

The next morning I was more confident coming into work, now having been shown the ropes on my first day, and I walked into the office ready and eager to start a new day of work. I was really excited when I was asked to write their Top Tip for Top Tip Tuesday’s, which would be posted on their author’s Facebook group page. I decided to write about how to ensure you and your book stands out amongst all the rest, and I thoroughly enjoyed adding my own spin of personality into the mix. That same day, I finished preparing the nominations for the RoNA Awards, sent them off, and was then ready to talk with the Editors at Accent Press. I was able to ask them questions about what the job entails, what universities they went to, and if they had any useful advice for me as a potential incomer to the industry. I found this meeting extremely useful as it helped me gain a clearer understanding of what an Editors job really entails and what to expect if I choose to go on to study English Literature at University. After the meeting, I continued my work on editing the manuscript. After another busy day, I shared stories with my family of my experiences, and was ready to dive into Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, I was asked to work on a spreadsheet providing information on future up and coming books, and then asked to write a blog post of my experience, which I am currently writing. So far, I have really enjoyed myself at Accent Press and can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings.

Thursday brought another action filled day, consisting of Editing, drawing up a spreadsheet of important dates, coming up with interesting questions for an Author Satisfaction Survey and researching competitions and prizes for businesses that Accent Press could be entered into. I also prepared to send off copies of Jodi Taylor’s ‘Just One Damned Thing After Another’, a brilliant book which ten lucky winners from GoodReads were to receive a free copy of.

So now we come to Friday, which is sadly my last day here at Accent Press. Throughout the week, I have been able to gain an insight to the world of Editing and Publishing, and given opportunities and experiences that I would never have expected to have. The team here at Accent Press have been welcoming and helpful, whether it be at lunch were they made me feel at home with a friendly humorous conversation, or when working, showing me the ropes and helping me with any issues or confusion that I had. I found Accent Press to be a professional, friendly company to work for, and I can now take my gained knowledge with me on my way to making decisions about my future career. I can also safely say that I will not be having any difficulty when mailing out post in the future.