I never thought I’d suffer from writers’ block and when it happened I started to panic. Then I realised it wasn’t writers’ block (I still had plenty of ideas for my Wesley Peterson series), rather it was ‘second novel syndrome’. This may seem unusual, after all I’ve clocked up twenty seven books at the last count (with the twenty eighth, The Mechanical Devil, out next February), but when the time came to tackle the second book in my Albert Lincoln trilogy, The Boy who Lived with the Dead, I encountered several false starts when the words just didn’t seem to flow as they normally do.
My problem was finding the right voice. I wrote A High Mortality of Doves partly from the point of view of a young woman who had been a volunteer nurse in the First World War and whose father was now frustrating her career ambitions. In the second novel in the trilogy there is also a young woman, a schoolmistress with a secret, and at first I wrote sections from her point of view. However, I felt uneasy about this and finally realised that it wasn’t working so in the end I followed my initial instincts and started to write some sections from the point of view of the eponymous boy. His name is Peter and he lives in a cemetery lodge and he’s connected to Albert Lincoln by one of his old cases: Peter’s twin was murdered in 1914 (something that’s mentioned briefly in A High Mortality of Doves) but Albert failed to catch his killer. It was a challenge to write from the point of view of a damaged child who lives in a world of fantasy and imagination but as soon as I started the whole thing fell into place and I’m now on the fourth draft, which is a great relief. It just shows you when you write it’s best to obey your instincts and keep scrapping drafts until it feels right. I hope The Boy who Lived with the Dead will shape up to be a worthy successor to A High Mortality of Doves. The cover’s been designed already (publishers are always quick off the mark) and it’s stunning. Hope to reveal all in a future bulletin!
Next week I’m off to Devon where I’m speaking to the Cornworthy WI, signing copies of The Mermaid’s Scream in Dartmouth and Plymouth and meeting readers at Torquay Waterstones. Do join me in Torquay on Friday 8th (11.30 – 1.00) if you’re in the area!