Just finished my latest novel! Hurray!
Except it isn’t quite hurray. I feel almost bereft. It’s been such a large part of my life for several months now. When I woke in the mornings I knew what I had to do. I had a purpose. I felt a real sense of achievement when I finished another chapter; when I developed a character in a different way; when I changed ‘whodunnit’ half way through. And now it’s over.
Becoming an author has been quite a surprise for me. I trained as a scientist, and spent all of my working life in education. It has been a huge privilege working with children, not only teaching them that science can be fun(!) but helping to form their lives; sharing their joy and anguish. I count myself very lucky.
But suddenly I have a new and quite unexpected career. I had the idea for a novel bubbling away for the final few years of my working life. (Although I’m still working I find it hard to believe because I don’t have to get up at some unearthly hour, drive for an hour in murderous motorway traffic and work to a rigid timetable controlled by bells!) The novel remained in my head because I didn’t have the time to do anything about it, and the ideas never quite developed. It was a bit like having a recurring dream and always waking up before the ending.
And when I finally retired I didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. It was all very well telling myself that when I had the time I would write that novel. Actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) meant I was baring my soul. But gradually I did it, and I got such a buzz! But then came the dilemma of what to do with it. The easy answer was ‘nothing’. It stayed locked in my computer for a while.
Friends who knew I had been writing asked about it and I gave evasive replies. It wasn’t quite finished; I still had to proof-read it; I hadn’t managed to print any copies. Because writing for one’s own satisfaction is very different from letting other people read it. But eventually my husband persuaded me to let him read it, and he liked it! Well, I reasoned, he would, wouldn’t he? Unbeknownst to me he lent it to others, and they liked it as well. And so here I am.
Laura Jessop is a character based on several strong women I have come across in my working life. Headmistress of a large girls’ day school in Newcastle, Laura enjoyed her work. When a body is found in the school grounds she meets the local police in the guise of DI Dave Jenkins and is less than impressed. Visually she is reminded of Columbo, the bumbling American detective who never seems quite on top of things until the end when he always caught his man (or woman!). As a woman used to getting her own way, and doing things in her own fashion, Laura decides to get involved.
I suppose it was natural for me to base my novels in a setting I knew. The advice given to would-be authors is to write about what you know. Well, I don’t have firsthand experience of murder(!) but I have read crime novels from an early age. My father’s bookshelves were filled with Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. I especially liked Miss Jane Marple and that has surely influenced my character, Laura.
So, the second novel in the series is finished, and what shall I do now?
Well, two further plots are starting to develop. But more surprisingly, there are other ideas as well, in different genres. It is a great surprise to me that my imagination is so active! All of this creativity has lain dormant for so many years and I can see that I have more than enough to keep me occupied for a few years yet. Maybe I’ll think about retirement sometime!!
If you would like to hear more about Laura you can visit my website www.tanyacarlysle.com. My books are available on Amazon. Please let me know what you think of them.