The news broke last month that Severn House, my publisher for many years, had been sold to Canongate, who publish good fiction. My editor told me that things should go on much as before, which was all very well but I worried that the new bosses wouldn’t like what I write, and that they wouldn’t want me to continue with Bea and Ellie. However, they did send me the copy edit for the next Bea Abbot – FALSE PRIDE – which is due out at the end of the year, and I got on with that . . . Until finally I got a phone call from my agent to say that Canongate are offering me another contract! Hurray! So now I’m happily working away on another Ellie, for delivery probably at the end of the year.
More good news: I’ve had another excellent review from Publishers Weekly, which calls ‘Murder for Nothing’ an enjoyable read. It ends up : ‘Heley’s strength is in creating unpleasant people that the reader loves to hate.’
I find this an acute judgment, but I would argue with the word ‘creating’. I don’t really ‘create’. Once I have the main story-line worked out, I let my mind wander where it will on the subject of the various characters and the parts they are going to play in the storyline. Once the dim outline of a suitable person pops into my head. I spend time thinking about him or her until he/she stops being a cardboard cut-out, and crystallises into something more solid. In the best instances, the character becomes three-dimensional and recognisable as someone you might have met. But let’s be clear about this; once the characters are fully formed, I can’t push them around and tell them what to do. They tell me what they are going to do, and that’s it.
I suppose the character my readers most love to hate is Ellie’s dreadful daughter, Diana, who never gives up on her campaign to get rich. Her rudeness is appalling, and she can’t seem to learn that Ellie can only be pushed so far. Yes, she is a monster, but she does have her good points: she is brave and loyal to her almost equally appalling husband, and she is devoted to her little son. Every now and then I meet someone or hear of someone who is equally self-centred and I allow myself a private grin of recognition.
Meanwhile the short story, titled RECYCLING has just been published by the Methodist Recorder. This story has Leo finding it difficult to pass on his old palm crosses to new owners. If anyone would like to read ‘Recycling’ but can’t get hold of a hard copy, let me know, and I will send it to you free by email. And now I have to start thinking about a story for the Christmas issue.
And finally, a blessing; May the wonderful colours of the trees in autumn fill you with wonder at the beauty of creation.