I recently reviewed Lesley Kelly’s second novel, The Health of Strangers, for Lothian Life. You can read my review here: http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/2017/08/the-health-of-strangers-lesley-kelly/
Being a big fan of the Selkie Moon Mystery series, I was delighted when Virginia offered to let me be involved with the editing of book 3, The Third Note. Of course, I said I’d love to. One of the great pleasures of editing is being able to appreciate a book on a deeper level. Watching the story develop and take flight was a privilege. Getting to read it again later, as a regular reader would, only enhanced the experience.
There’s a pattern here—the losing and the finding take me on incredible journeys of discovery. Things I need to know about myself. It’s what happened when I lost my memory and had to travel across the world to get it back. I mustn’t forget what I discovered then: that the answers are in my own heart.
Virginia King weaves a mystical web of suspense, psychic intuition and self-discovery in The Third Note. With Selkie now attempting to settle in Hawaii, her great-grandmother Bridie’s much delayed parcel comes as a huge surprise to her. Why did Bridie wait until 35 years after her death to send it to her, and what is the significance of her mysterious gift? While Selkie knows that Bridie was Irish, she doesn’t know why she left Ireland nor why she chose Selkie as the recipient.
When Selkie meets up with her old friend Davina, she asks Selkie to accompany her on a trip to Ireland—Davina’s birthplace. Davina has secrets of her own which need investigating. Selkie figures it’s the perfect opportunity to do some research into her own family history. What she finds will both shock her and have far reaching repercussions.
Exploring the idea that our past affects our present far more than we realise, The Third Note is a chilling, yet thoughtful, page turner with a good dose of humour thrown in to lighten things up.
If you enjoyed the first two books in the Selkie Moon Mystery series, then you’ll love The Third Note. In fact, even if you didn’t read the first two books in the series, chances are you’ll be fascinated enough by book 3 that you’ll want to go back and read them too. Oh yes, and, did I mention there’s a free prequel available on Virginia’s website?
The Third Note is available from Amazon.
You can purchase the first two novels in the Selkie Moon Mystery series from Amazon.
Download Laying Ghosts, the free prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery series here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/laying-ghosts/
Check out Virginia’s website to learn more about the series and Virginia’s writing: http://www.selkiemoon.com/
Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries/
Follow her on Twitter: @selkiemoonbooks
For those of you who read my review of Virginia King’s latest story, Laying Ghosts, yesterday, I thought you might be interested to read more about the inspiration behind the story. Of course, even if you missed my review you might still enjoy hearing the story behind the story. 🙂
So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Virginia King:
A Ghost Story Needs … a Ghost
(A version of this post first appeared on ‘Hey Said Renee’ in May 2016.
My psychological mysteries have a mythical twist so I’m into visionary mirrors and mystical graveyards, suspect stalkers and symbolic objects. I’ve never sidled up to a ghost. But the idea to write a ghost story – as the prequel to the Selkie Moon mystery series – crept up on me, especially in the middle of the night – just like a … ghost.
Click here to continue reading: http://www.selkiemoon.com/la-bloguette/a-ghost-story-needs-a-ghost/
Having read and enjoyed both of Virginia King’s novels in her Selkie Moon Mystery Series—The First Lie and The Second Path—I was both excited and flattered when Virginia approached me back in February asking if I’d like to read her 10,000 word short story prequel to the series, now titled Laying Ghosts. Of course I said I’d love to.
At the time that Virginia approached me she was still in the process of developing the manuscript and wanted my honest opinion on what I liked/didn’t like as a fan of the series.
One of the things that instantly struck me about the story was how well-developed Virginia’s characters are—I instantly recognised Selkie from the novels and could picture her friend Rina well. And, of course, the story as a whole was strong and required very little work from an editorial point of view. In fact, my desire to publicly offer my services as a development editor partially arose from my experience of working on Laying Ghosts with Virginia.
When Selkie Moon plays sick in order to get out of attending husband Andrew’s business conference in Vanuatu, she finds herself with a full four days to herself. She decides to settle in with a glass of wine and have an early night. But that all changes when she receives a mysterious text message on her phone, ‘Help me at Crystal Cottage. Rina.’
While Selkie and Rina were once best friends, they’ve not spoken to each other since attending a sinister house party nearly four years ago, at a remote beach house called Crystal Cottage. When Selkie responds to the text, she receives the same message back. ‘Help me at Crystal Cottage. Rina.’ Uncertain as to what’s happening, Selkie decides to drive up to Crystal Cottage to meet her friend, and see if she’s okay.
When Selkie arrives, however, the house appears to be deserted. Or is it?
In Laying Ghosts, Virginia King slowly and tantalisingly reveals the mystery to her readers. As is usual with Virginia’s work, there are many layers to this story. A fantastic tale in its own right, it also provides a fascinating backdrop to Selkie’s later adventures.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the series, enjoying a great (free!) ghost story or have already read the novels but would like to know more about Selkie Moon, you’ll love Laying Ghosts.
“A strange message, a deserted beach house, a shocking incident from the past … Selkie Moon’s life will change forever.
When a text message from a long lost friend lures Selkie Moon to Crystal Cottage, the events from a house-party four years earlier wrap her in ghostly fingers and turn her life upside-down.
A prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery Series plus your bonus first chapter of The First Lie.”
Laying Ghosts is available FREE from Amazon:
It’s also available from Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks:
And from Virginia’s website: http://www.selkiemoon.com/laying-ghosts/
You can follow Virginia King on Twitter: @
Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries/
Check out Virginia’s website where you can also subscribe to her newsletter to be the first to hear about Selkie’s latest adventure: http://www.selkiemoon.com/
Today I’m welcoming Marianne Wheelaghan to the blog. Marianne is the author of The Blue Suitcase and The Scottish Lady Detective series, which includes Food of Ghosts and The Shoeshine Killer. She’s also the director of the excellent writing school, writingclasses.co.uk, which I attended and whose alumni and teachers continue to be an incredible support to me.
Firstly, could you tell us a bit about your writing and books?
I write both crime and historic fiction and am interested in exploring themes to do with “home” and “place” as well as “identity’ in my writing.
Food of Ghosts and The Shoeshine Killer are my first two crime novels in the bestselling Scottish Lady Detective series and are inspired by the time I spent living in the Pacific.
My first non-crime novel is the bestselling The Blue Suitcase. It is inspired by letters and diaries I discovered after my mother’s death and tells the true life story of a Christian girl growing up in Silesia in Nazi Germany.
How did you begin writing?
I have six sisters and two brothers. Growing up with so many siblings meant it was sometimes a bit difficult to get heard. My way of standing out was to tell stories. I suppose I must have been reasonably good at it because telling stories quickly became “my thing”. It was only as an adult I started to write certain stories down and quickly realised there was nothing I’d rather do. I enrolled on a Master’s degree in Creative Writing with Lancaster University to help hone my skills. This changed my life. Not only did I develop my writing skills, but I gained the confidence I needed to take my writing seriously.
Your debut novel, The Blue Suitcase, was loosely based on your mother’s experience of living in Silesia at the time that Hitler came to power. Could you talk a little about how the idea for the novel came about?
Shortly after my mother’s death I was helping my father sort out her personal things. We discovered a scuffed, blue suitcase full of her letters, diary extracts, photos, old postcards and faded documents, written in German, my mother’s first language.
My father wanted me to translate the documents – I’d studied German so it was not as mad as it sounds. I was appalled at the idea, my mother had been a very private person. I thought it a terrible intrusion of her privacy to read her private stuff. But Dad wouldn’t give up. You see, my mother was from Germany but she never talked about her family life before coming to Scotland after the end of WW2. In fact, you could say my mother’s early life was a mystery – we weren’t even sure where she was from in Germany. Dad believed knowing what was written in the letters and documents would bring her closer to him. I resisted doing what he asked, until we discovered this photo of Mum’s family.
Mum is the smiling girl at the front of the photo, next to the older man – I recognised her immediately. The other people in the photo are her family – who knew I had so many aunts and uncles? However, it was not seeing all the family that made me change my mind, it was, rather, seeing the picture of Hitler on the wall behind them: if you look carefully, you can see it above my grandfather’s head. I was totally shocked at the sight of it. My mum was a good, kind, thoughtful person and although I didn’t know her family, I couldn’t believe they were not also good people. So why was there a picture of Hitler, a war criminal, on their living room wall?
Around this time I was also very aware of a book that had been around since 1996 called Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen. In it, he argues that the vast majority of ordinary Germans were “willing executioners” in the Holocaust. The book was scathed by historians, and in the words of Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, “it is totally wrong about everything and worthless”. However, seeing this photo of Hitler on my grandparent’s wall made me wonder if, after all, there could be some truth in Goldhagen’s theory. I decided to translate the documents to see if I could discover the truth once and for all.
The more I read about Mum’s life, the more shocked I was by what I discovered. When I finally finished translating everything I was both astounded and horrified and felt compelled to share my findings. Like thousands and thousands of ordinary Germans, my mother was not one of Hitler’s willing executioners, far from it. Like thousands and thousands of other ordinary Germans, she was a victim of Hitler’s terrible regime. As if that wasn’t enough, after the end of WW2, in peace time, my mother’s family, along with millions of other Silesian Germans, were forcibly expelled from their home. I knew what I had to do. It was time to set the record straight and the idea for The Blue Suitcase was born.
Your Scottish Lady Detective Series is set in the Pacific Islands, specifically Kiribati and Fiji. Why did you choose to set the novels in this region?
When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of money. This meant we never went on holiday like others did and treats were for birthdays and Christmas only. But one thing we had all year round were books, hundreds of them, bought by my mum and dad from second-hand shops and jumble sales. They included, amongst many others, almost all of Agatha Christie’s 66 novels, RL Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Stacpole’s The Blue Lagoon. These books fuelled my imagination and shaped my dreams. When I wasn’t reading, I was travelling around the world in my head, voyaging to faraway, unspoiled places, populated by gentle, innocent people.
Then, one day I was lucky enough to get a job in some of the lesser developed countries in the Pacific, namely Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and later Fiji. I was going to live my dream. The reality, however, was very different from what I expected. Yes, there was unspoiled beauty and traditional culture and kind people, but there was also a dark side to life there. My paradisiacal countries were wonderfully different, but also wonderfully not so different.
It struck me that travelling was not so much about going to new places, as seeing our surroundings with a fresh perspective, and seeing it all: the good and the bad and the ugly. As Marcel Proust once said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in looking with new eyes.” As a writer, I wanted to share this lightbulb moment with others and I did what writers do, I wrote a book, or two. Why a crime novel? I believe a good crime novel can tell us as much about the darker side of society as any literary novel. Plus, I have many fond memories of reading an Agatha Christie or Margery Allingham into the wee hours, riveted until I found out who had done it. I wanted to recreate that feeling of suspense in my readers. So Detective Sergeant Louisa Townsend, AKA The Scottish Lady Detective, was born. Maybe not surprisingly, DS Townsend is a kind of modern day Miss Marple: a tad more gritty than cosy, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly but can also be kind, who is shrewd and intelligent but who can also make mistakes and even behave downright silly sometimes, and who has a dark side of her very own.
What challenges did you encounter when writing your novels and how did you overcome these?
In the Scottish Lady Detective novels, one of the biggest challenges is to bring totally alien peoples and places to life for the reader, and in doing so make the unfamiliar, familiar. I hope to achieve this by using very specific sensory details in the writing, so the reader really sees the magnolia trees, hears the traffic, tastes the overripe mangoes, smells the earthy market smells, and feels the giant drops of warm rain on their skin.
The biggest challenge when writing The Blue Suitcase was distancing myself emotionally from writing about my mother. I struggled with this until I had an epiphany: I would create a fictional family, very much like the true family but not exactly the same. This worked. Much of what happened to my fictional family happened to my real family, but some stuff didn’t, although it could have. Certainly, everything that happened in the novel is based on true historic fact: if didn’t happen to my family, it happened to someone else’s family.
Could you tell readers about writingclasses.co.uk? How did the school come about?
I decided to set up writingclasses for two reasons: I love writing and wanted to share my passion for it with others. I also believe to teach a skill is an honourable way to earn a living and in the words of Hanif Kureishi “I felt if I knew something, I should pass it on.”
How are classes taught?
Today, with massive online open learning courses (MOOCs) becoming a part of everyday life, it is difficult to understand how in 2002 online courses of any kind, but especially short courses, were unusual. As a lover of online learning, I was determined that writingclasses should offer short online creative writing courses, the kind of courses that I would have loved to have attended when I began writing. In my opinion online learning offers a flexibility that face-to-face classes simply cannot. Students can join in at a time that suits them, there is no being early or late and no need to find childminders/babysitters. For those of us juggling work and family life, learning online gives us access to courses that would have otherwise been denied us.
One of my favourite elements of the courses was that tutors read and commented on all assignments (quite often in other courses I’ve taken, tutors leave the critiquing primarily to students and, while peer review is always helpful, it’s the expert guidance of a more experienced writer which is most sought after). Why did you decide on this model?
As all beginner writers know, one of the hardest things to find is an experienced writer who will read your work and give you honest, constructive feedback. This is why attending a course can be so helpful. However, when I was a beginner writer taking short courses, a tutor might give feedback on one piece of writing, possibly two, but never three. In my opinion this is simply not enough. We writers learn by our mistakes. It follows that the more we write, the more mistakes we can potentially make and the greater the opportunity we have to develop our writing skills, always assuming we have an expert at hand to help us recognise what the mistakes are. This is why on all writingclasses courses students are encouraged to write something new every week, why “making mistakes” is obligatory, and why our experienced tutor-writers give helpful constructive feedback on every piece of creative writing the student submits during the course.
Several of your students have gone on to become published writers, myself included. Could you talk a bit about your students and why you think it is that so many have been successful in their writing?
A little bit of encouragement and feedback can go a long way but, ultimately, the students who succeed are, very much like yourself, the ones who do not give up. Determination and staying power are often as important as ability and creativity.
And, finally, are you working on anything at the moment?
I am writing two books – the follow on from The Blue Suitcase and a third Scottish Lady Detective novel set in Edinburgh. I’m not sure if it is a good idea to write two books at the same time. Time will tell ;-).
Thanks so much for coming by to talk with us about your writing and teaching!
Readers can learn more about Marianne and her writing by visiting her website: http://www.mariannewheelaghan.co.uk/
Check out the courses on offer at her writing school: http://www.writingclasses.co.uk/courses.html (Tip: The next semester starts on the 3rd October so do sign up early to guarantee your place– they’re great value!)
Buy her books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marianne-Wheelaghan/e/B004AQKRXA/
I sit down, leaning a bit forward, hoping that my sweater covers the bulge on my belly. I don’t know if anyone told her that I am wearing a stoma bag. It’s not something I can easily ask her.
Firstly, I’d like to say that Carla and I are both members of the Writers, Authors, Readers group on Facebook. It was here that I first learned about Carla’s novel—a detective story set against the beautiful, dramatic scenery of Cornwall. As I was just about to embark on a short holiday to Cornwall, I decided to give it a try. And I’m glad I did as the novel is a compelling and swift read with many interesting components to it.
The story opens with a five-year-old girl discovering that her parents have been brutally murdered. This murder is one of many in the area which has gone unsolved over the years. Meanwhile, back in the present-day, Inspector Andy Tregunna has just taken on his first murder investigation. The body of a woman has been discovered in a car park by two ten-year-old twin boys. Figuring out the identity of this woman and piecing together the various components of her life is hard enough, but Tregunna must also learn how and where she died and, most importantly, who would want to kill her.
Unfortunately, Tregunna’s progress is slow and his increasing stomach pain and worries about his health only make matters worse. When he’s forced off the case due to an emergency operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his colon, he not only has to contend with unsympathetic colleagues while also trying to get to grips with a stoma, but he also realises that the body in the car park is linked to other deaths and disappearances in the area. In order to solve the murders, Tregunna will have to break all the rules and work his sick leave, if his body will allow him.
Inspector Tregunna is a refreshing change from the usual hard-boiled and, sometimes, insensitive male detective. When we first meet him he’s reflecting on how difficult it was to see his first body, that of a young man who’d been hit by a lorry. Later we see him struggling to come to terms with his new disability and the possibility that the doctors may not have been able to remove all of the tumour, meaning he’ll have to undergo further disruptive, complicating and potentially painful treatments. Despite all of this, Tregunna continues his investigation of the case, with some help from a sympathetic and astute female colleague.
I enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading book two in the series, What every body is saying, which was released on the 28th June.
The Tregunna series is available from Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0125J6E1W/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0125J6E1W/
Follow Carla Vermaat on Twitter: @carla_vermaat
Check out her website: http://www.carlavermaat.co.uk/index.html
Today I’m welcoming debut novelist J.A. Corrigan to my blog as part of the Falling Suns blog tour. Her psychological thriller, Falling Suns, is published by Accent Press and will be released on the 14th July. It is available to pre-order on Amazon now.
J.A. Corrigan is holding a book launch for Falling Suns on Thursday 21st July 2016 at Daunt Books, 158-164 Fulham Rd, London SW10 9PR. If any readers would like to pop in for a glass of wine, contact J.A. at firstname.lastname@example.org
My review follows the interview.
Welcome, J.A.! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your writing, especially your debut novel, Falling Suns.
Firstly, could you describe the story for readers?
Thank you for having me on here, Kendra.
The story is essentially a tale centred on the themes of grief, guilt and revenge. Rachel Dune’s son is brutally murdered. She is devastated, and feels some guilt that in part she is somehow to blame. Rachel is an ex-detective; she is mentally strong, and possesses a vigorous sense of what she thinks ‘right.’ Being an ex-policewoman she is endowed with many of the necessary emotional and physical ‘tools’ to carry out her revenge.
However, as Rachel moves closer to her target and begins to remember her own past, reservations emerge about both her actions, and motivation.
Why did you choose to write this story? Your novel contains some very dark, distressing themes which I can imagine would not have been easy to write about!
The idea for this story arose from, I suppose, being a mother, and all the emotional turmoil that comes with being a mother; the real angst and worry that something tragic could happen to your child. How would you cope? Especially when the child is brutally murdered, and as is so often the case, murdered by someone known to the family, or within the family itself. I thought hard about Rachel’s decision and path to revenge. I even did straw polls of mothers! Only a few said that they could not contemplate revenge – that to lose a child would be so devastating that any thoughts of reprisal would be the last thing on their mind. But as I questioned more, more mothers agreed that given a chance, and if they were given the opportunity to do so, they would indeed think about revenge. I carried out a lot of research for this novel, and some of the events are based loosely on that research; but as we all know, fact can be a lot stranger than fiction. I also wanted to explore areas of criminal behavior that are less well-documented and discussed. Parallel with the revenge theme, I set out to explore institutional corruption and the effect it can have on the patients within those institutions. And so the story of Rachel’s revenge became woven into the murderer’s own tale.
Did you carry out any research for the novel? If so, could you describe this for readers?
As I have mentioned in the previous question, I did carry out extensive research for the novel. I read non-fiction books about the United States’ penal system, and many of those books were written by psychiatrists who had spent their life working with inmates on Death Row. I also researched psychiatric hospitals in the UK – looking online at old news reports etc. I am very lucky to know a criminal lawyer, who after years representing many of the people who were subsequently sectioned and sent to one of these institutions, now works as a lawyer sitting on mental health tribunal panels.
I also did substantial research into Method acting, speaking at length with an actress who was great in answering my questions, and generally really helping me understand not only about Method, but acting in general. I researched Chinese Medicine too, although as with some of the medical scenes with Rachel, I did draw upon my own medical background – I am a qualified physiotherapist and have used Chinese acupuncture for pain relief with my patients.
What obstacles, if any, did you encounter when writing Falling Suns?
I think the main obstacles were firstly, achieving the balance with Rachel’s character – she has to be strong and quite hard-nosed, but also emotionally fragile. Secondly, I did find writing the more harrowing scenes difficult and often found it hard-going to write them. In the end I had to take myself away and pretend I was someone else (like an actor) and just write those scenes.
I understand that an early draft of Falling Suns was longlisted for the 2013 Mslexia Novel Competition. How did making the longlist affect you as a writer? Do you think that being longlisted helped you to achieve publication?
I think for any aspiring novelist, being longlisted (and definitely shortlisted) in a prestigious writing competition can only be a motivator. It did give me the impetus to carry on, and rework the novel. I think being longlisted in the Mslexia competition made me realise that with more work I might just make the grade! The bar is set high these days. The standard of writing is towering in these competitions, as there are so many authors out there with talent, and a desire to succeed.
What do you feel you’ve gained through the writing of your novel?
With Falling Suns I honed more my craft both as a writer, and to a large extent – I think – became a ‘nicer’ human being. Writing Falling Suns encouraged me to think a lot about life, and the emotions of grief, loss and anger. About what is important, and what is not so important.
On a more practical level, writing Falling Suns really did hone my skills in writing a coherent story – a story with a beginning, middle and end. I think the novel taught me how to build some tension in the story, which is so important, and something that has taken me years to be able to do … well, I hope I manage to do it!
You’ve chosen to publish under your initials. Why did you choose to do this and what went into this decision?
In many ways, I wanted to be genderless. I wanted the writing and the book to stand-alone – away from my name, and me. I also quite like J.A. Corrigan!
I understand that you’re also a published short story writer. Do you feel that writing a novel was a natural next step for you? How did you make the transition?
I started my writing ‘career’ with the short story form and I think many writers do begin this way. The discipline of making every word count is essential to the novelist. The trick is – not to write the bits that the reader skips over and I truly believe writing shorts assists the aspiring novelist in achieving this.
I decided to write a novel when I realised that each short story I wrote was in fact like a mini-synopsis for a novel! I think I was itching to write a longer length work, although at the time I had no conception of how difficult it would turn out to be, which in retrospect is probably a good thing …
Are there any future novels in the works?
Yes, I am working on my next novel, which is another dark tale and the same genre as Falling Suns.
Many thanks for coming to speak with us today, and best of luck with the publication of Falling Suns!
Falling Suns is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Suns-J-Corrigan/dp/1786152495
Falling Suns is also available from Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/falling-suns/julie-ann-corrigan/j-a-corrigan/9781786152497
The Guardian Bookshop: https://bookshop.theguardian.com/catalog/product/view/id/414323/
Falling Suns is an emotionally intelligent, well-plotted thriller which explores the experience of being a mother, with its unwavering responsibilities and attachments which may not always be understood–or accepted—by others. Rachel and Liam Dune would appear to have a good life, when viewed from the outside. Rachel’s ever-helpful best friend, Charlotte, lives nearby as do her parents and aunt and uncle. Her husband, Liam, works from home as a renowned painter. So when Rachel eventually decides it’s time for her to go back to work as a detective it would seem that their son, seven year old Joe, will be well looked after in her absence.
Of course, appearances can be deceptive and sometimes what is hidden can be more dangerous than what we think we see. When Joe goes missing, his parents fear the worst. Rachel has worked on cases such as this herself, and understands more than she’d like to. How will Rachel’s worst fears compare with the reality of what’s actually happened to Joe? When Joe is later found dead, and Rachel’s cousin Michael Hemmings admits to the crime, will her suffering give way to grief, or will it simply continue on, taking new and ever changing forms?
Four years after Michael Hemmings has been confined to a secure psychiatric unit, Rachel receives notification that he’s being moved to a less-secure unit in order to begin reintegrating him into society. Unable to bear the thought that Hemmings may one day be free, Rachel Dune decides to quit her job on the force in order to make sure that never happens. But to achieve her aim, she’ll have to cut ties with everyone, and everything, she thinks she knows.
Rachel’s character is the antithesis of the distraught, oppressed female heroine who silently suffers while the men in her life go out and right wrongs. Not only is Rachel a character to be reckoned with, but Corrigan does not shy away from showing readers the more disturbing elements of Rachel’s personality, thus turning female stereotypes on their head.
Corrigan explores the layers which make up families, friendship and society as a whole, and the ways in which relationships can go terribly wrong. Falling Suns raises interesting questions about the nature of the mental health institutions we have in place in modern-day Britain and how effective these are at both assisting individuals in need and in containing those few who really are a danger to others. Oh yes, and it’s a gripping read too.
On Thursday evening I was very lucky to be able to attend a screening and Q and A of one of Ann Cleeves latest Vera Stanhope mysteries, The Moth Catcher. I was invited to the event by Islington Libraries as I’m a member of one of their reading groups (yet another benefit of library membership!). For just a £6 entry fee I got entry to a Victorian Grade II listed hotel (The Courthouse Hotel in Soho, London), a free signed copy of the book, entry to the reception, a free drink and–wait, I’m not done yet–access to the film screening and Q and A. They even threw in some popcorn just to top it off! Tremendous value, especially when you consider that a drink alone in certain parts of London might cost you the best part of that.
Anyway, need I say that it was well worth it? Vera is one of my all-time favourite shows, on a par with Krister Henriksson’s Wallander, and I am notoriously picky when it comes to TV programmes. It was so much fun to see which of the actors I–or I should say, we, for I took the hubby along to this one–recognised at the reception. I was planning on trying to interview Ann Cleeves at the event but, alas, she was quite busy talking with other adoring members of the public and I simply did not get up the courage. Maybe next time. 🙂
After the reception we were treated to a private screening of episode three, The Moth Catcher, in the new series 6. I won’t say much about it here except that if you are following the series you won’t be disappointed. This is yet another atmospheric, socially insightful and gripping instalment in this very enjoyable series.
After the credits rolled, Ann Cleeves, Brenda Blethlyn (Vera), Jon Morrison (Kenny Lockhart) and Kenny Doughty (DS Aiden Healy), as well as the director, Jamie Childs, answered a few questions which were asked on behalf of the audience. It was very strange having gone from being absorbed in the show to having the actors there in front of us. 🙂
Brenda Blethlyn is much smaller than Vera, and, of course, far more stylish. The Vera in Cleeves’ stories is much bigger than Brenda Blethlyn (both taller and wider). As they couldn’t make Brenda taller, they decided to make her wider by adding layers of waist-length clothing. Brenda Blethlyn said that she thinks viewers can relate to Vera because she’s ordinary, like someone you might see at the bus stop and never know that they were a high ranking detective. Indeed, this is one of my favourite things about her character.
According to Ann Cleeves, the series would never have been made if it weren’t for her first Vera novel, The Crow Trap, being discovered by producer Elaine Collins in an Oxfam charity shop in North London (a huge stroke of luck for Cleeves as Collins was searching for a new story to make into a series, and a counter to the argument that having your novel sold in a charity shop is a negative experience for the author).
Jamie Childs who is originally from the area, talked about what an honour it has been for him to film in the North East as this is something he’s always wanted to do. He said that he grew up in Durham in the same colliery village where Billy Elliot was filmed and used to fish in the area with his granddad.
Ann Cleeves said that a knock-on effect of the show is that it has brought jobs to the North East again. There are now official Vera tours which sell in 130 countries, and tourism to the area is increasing. From what I’ve seen on the show, this looks like one of the most beautiful parts of the country and it’s somewhere I hope to visit before too long.
When Ann Cleeves was asked what advice she would give her young self that she would also give to a young writer now, she said that young writers should just keep writing. She said you have no idea if any of these things will happen to you, and if they do, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with luck.
I found her advice to be both humble and inspiring, as indeed she was.
I look forward to reading my beautiful signed copy of The Moth Catcher!
You can catch up with Vera via the ITV player: http://www.itv.com/hub/vera/1a7314a0023
Get your copy from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UXKJ0XA Or, your local library.
Catch up with Ann Cleeves via her website: http://www.anncleeves.com/
Follow her on Twitter: @AnnCleeves
You can read the review by visiting the Lothian Life website: http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/2015/11/the-herbal-detective-charles-gray/