There comes a point in the books I’ve written so far, which I’ve named “the Vera effect” after the detective in the TV series set in Northumberland.
In most episodes, Vera and her sergeant will have spent three quarters of the allotted two hours talking to various people and trying to make connections that will lead them to the killer. Eventually she tells her team to gather round in their very nicely appointed squad room. They sit on the couch and stare at the crime board they’ve built up during the case and Vera will say: “What are we missing here?”
Very often it is a minor detail that they missed early on. One of the detectives will make a comment that seems insignificant or off the wall, and it switches on the light bulb. Vera and her sidekick (it was Joe, now it’s Aiden) charge off to apprehend the right person, finally—usually in the last five minutes.
So, I find this relates to my writing. I’ve set up the situation, the characters and their backgrounds and have gotten a fair way along in the story when it hits me. What am I missing here?
It’s time then to step back and look at the whole picture. This means re-reading what I’ve written so far, checking through any notes I’ve made. And then something will stand out. When I was almost at the finish line with my first novel, Starting Over, I made a discovery that led to writing a sequel, and then a third book to complete the trilogy.
I could keep you all guessing and when there was only the one book this would have been a spoiler. But as anyone can now read the back of the book blurbs and look at the cover of book three, the revelation is out there. (But if you really don’t want to know, stop reading now!)
When two complete skeletons are discovered on Starling Hill Farm in Starting Over along with a lot of quality bling, I decided that my archaeologist, Dr Kathryn Moss, had made the discovery that would be the envy of anyone involved in searching for British antiquities. One of these set of bones had to belong to Cartimandua, leader of the Brigantes tribe at the time when the Romans came back for a second go at adding Britain to its empire. (Her final resting place hasn’t been discovered, so I was able to take some historical liberties here.)
Not a lot has been written about Cartimandua. However, Roman historians, writing a century or so later, clearly had a way of keeping their readers interested. One of the things they do say about the queen of the Brigantes wouldn’t be out of place in a modern soap opera. She, apparently, had an affair with her husband’s armour bearer, Vellocatus. So, it seemed to me, that when she disappears from historical record, she could have gone somewhere with her lover. And then came the light bulb moment. Why couldn’t Vellocatus be a woman?
I’m sure it would have been very difficult to pass as a man in the first century, particularly amongst Britons who had adopted Roman habits, such as communal bathing and bathrooms. However, I’m writing romantic fiction, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to worry about such details.
So, if you like the idea of a lesbian tribal leader in the 1st Century, take a trip into the hills above Huddersfield, West Yorkshire…and read all about it in The Starling Hill Trilogy.
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