Probably because it’s that time of the year, with distant memories of summer ending and thoughts of going back to school to buckle down to work after long, sunlit, carefree days, I’ve been doing a bit of an inventory. I decided to list what I’ve written since the start of 2011 and to see where that suggests I should go with my fiction next. There’s time to write something substantial between now and the year’s end and I needed an overall perspective on what that should be.
This picture was taken at a particularly productive and happy time in my life, in the summer of 2011 when I was living in a Shaftesbury cottage and writing The Colony. This photo was snapped in August and by September, I’d completed that novel. I followed it with The Memory of Trees. Then I wrote The Lazarus Prophecy. Then I wrote Colony sequels Dark Resurrection and Harvest of Scorn. That’s five full-length novels. I’ve also done three novellas over that period; namely An Absence of Natural Light, The Going and the Rise and The Boston Artifact.
I submitted Harvest of Scorn in September of last year. And the Boston Artifact was submitted in January of this year. Since then, all I’ve done creatively is a bit of tinkering with Scorn on the recommendation of a gifted and clever editor. So it’s more than fair to say that I’m creatively fresh. And if I don’t write at least a novel a year, I’m going to feel like the sort of sad navel gazing procrastinator who sits in the bathtub till the water turns cold.
Thus we come to The Lucifer Chord, which examines the enigma of Martin Mear. Martin was the lead singer of the British rock band Ghost Legion until he checked out abruptly when they were at the height of their god-like pomp at the age of 27 in 1973. The exact circumstances surrounding his death are obscure. Martin was heavily into the occult and hardcore fans (known as Legionaries) are convinced he’s coming back. This will be achieved when Ghost Legion songs from their darkest albums are played at a specific time synchronously at chosen locations critical to Martin’s personal history. This process, this ritual, is referred to as The Clamouring.
American impresario Carter Melville first met Martin Mear when they were students at university. He went on to manage Ghost Legion, steering them through their stadium rock and chart success. In the here and now, he wants to put together the definitive Legion box-set. Since the band still shifts 5 million units a year and Carter takes a hefty percentage, this makes commercial sense. The box-set needs a lavish booklet, the booklet needs a considered history and appraisal of the Legion and Carter is lazy and his memory of the period understandably vague. So this is where my researcher heroine steps into the story.
I’ve been cogitating over The Lucifer Chord for about four years. That’s my pattern, though, to ponder for ages and write quickly. One or two familiar characters will feature (at least, familiar if you’re familiar with my fiction); but this is a stand-alone novel I’m determined to complete by Christmas. My ambition is to make it scarier than anything I’ve written since The House of Lost Souls. So naturally, it begins with a seance…
Yesterday on twitter someone reading Dark Resurrection asked me why so much of my fiction is set on the Isle of Wight. She referred specifically to Ventnor. I answered saying that if I’m going to have to describe somewhere, it might as well be somewhere I like. That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. I’m very comfortable at the Spyglass Inn, both in my fiction and from time to time in actuality. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
This is a picture of Brook Hill House, which is located in Brightstone Forest and which I first laid eyes on from a good distance away in 1994, the year the building was Grade 2 listed. I was cycling on the island with my brother at the time. A decade later it became the inspiration for the Fischer House in The House of Lost Souls. I chose Wight for much of the period action in THOLS because in 1927, when that part of the novel is set, the island was remote enough for a decadent metropolitan clique to get up to mischief there in quite plausible seclusion.
More recently, I thought the island a good fit for Ruthie Gillespie, a character I intend to write about more in the future. When she first appeared in my novella The Going and the Rise, I just couldn’t imagine her living anywhere else other than Ventnor. She doesn’t mind a visit to the mainland – and in a story yet to be published quite happily visits London – but she’s an island woman at heart.
Location is really important to me. It helps with atmosphere, which is a crucial consideration in my fiction. I’ve set a lot of stuff in North Lambeth, where I used to live. Whitstable has featured, where I lived as a student an eternity ago. Shaftesbury figures in Dark Resurrection having earned its place because The Colony was written there. One thing I never thought I’d do was write about my home town until I went and did it in Dark Echo. Southport also features in the forthcoming Colony trilogy finale Harvest of Scorn. Plenty of memories and no real research required. And Ruthie likes Southport. She’s partial to a pier, and Ventnor doesn’t have one of those.
Those of you who like your fiction laced with a little dread need not fret about these sometimes picturesque locations. The sun can descend very quickly in my stories leaving only a stumbling darkness behind. And much of Harvest is set in the Outer Hebrides, on New Hope Island, which is is only ever superficially charming and never, ever safe.
Anyway here’s the paperback of the second Colony trilogy novel, out now just as the final revisions to volume #3 are being done. The shortened buying link is amzn.to/2bbLaFX which I hope you don’t mind me mentioning as I’m not exactly into the hard-sell generally and some of you might find useful.
The convenience is fantastic, but I appreciate digital reading isn’t for everyone. And there’s something about a physical book that makes an author proud (this author, anyway).