I created a website built around novels set in the Anglo-Saxon period and producing ten novels, including a pair of two-book series and two trilogies. Almost exclusively positive reviews have heartened me, why then succumb to the temptation of deviating from a tried and tested genre?
The first signs of this capriciousness came with my time-travel novel Angenga. This waywardness is easy to explain because, of course, my main character Rick Hughes travels back in time to Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire. I’m convinced that this novel has the best ending of all my works. It encouraged me to stray from the ‘straight and narrow’ and logically led to a desire to link the present day with the Anglo-Saxon period that I love so much.
The result was the Jake Conley Series of seven novels (so far). The way-in to the past was through the paranormal. After all, a normal person cannot step through a time portal to acquaint himself with sixth-century England. Jake does that and as the series progresses, acquires further supranormal attributes. Together with his acute detection instincts he is able to intervene on behalf of MI 5 to resolve many a threatening situation. Strictly from the writer’s point of view, being able to write about the twenty-first century was a release from the burden of thorough research implicit in creating historical fiction. It was fun having Jake chase around present-day England.
Somehow, a moment arrived after my seventh Jake Conley novel, The Beast of Exmoor, when I felt a strong desire to return to my Anglo-Saxon author roots. Partly, I felt that I could take Jake no further, but also, after kind reviews for my St Cuthbert Trilogy, I knew that my desire to write another trilogy had to be fulfilled, thus: The Sceapig Chronicles.
I love writing about ordinary characters plunged into historical circumstances that challenge them. By setting the trilogy on the small Isle of Sheppey, I risked limiting my possibilities, but no, the Viking onslaught and the quality of the main characters meant they were brought inevitably into contact with great events and important personages. I enjoy writing my tales, but never more than in this trilogy. It is delightful to create a character and follow his family where each generation is met with a different challenge. How satisfying then, that a faithful reader, in a 5-star review of Sea Wolves (Book 2) wrote: The author's knowledge of the time period and his research into the Anglo-Saxon way of life shines through the pages of the book, so much that at times, I forgot I was reading a fictional novel, the realism was so convincing. In a private message he told me, ‘I think Asculf is my favourite of all your characters that I’ve read so far.’ Hurray! My objective achieved and thanks to him and all those who choose my books.
Why then, having just completed the trilogy so positively, should I change again? Perversity? Caprice? Boredom? No, none of the aforementioned. As a writer, it’s a pleasure to read other authors’ works, even outside my own genre. Also, given that my Publisher brings us together on our own site in Facebook—you are cordially invited to visit the Next Chapter Street Team page—I have made some superb ‘virtual’ author friends. Naturally, I am drawn to read their books. One name only, for now, is Brian L. Porter, whose Mersey Mystery stories I can heartily recommend. Not only did his novels hook me as a reader, but inspired me as a writer, leading me to deviate once more.
I had thrown around an idea for some years, asking myself, ‘wouldn’t this make a great mystery novel?’ Afraid to begin on a genre so far from mine, I approached Brian with it. His encouragement and that of my publisher led to The Quasimodo Killings, currently contracted with Next Chapter and due for publication in the New Year. (Happy 2022 everyone!) This book introduced me to the art of the clever twist, in which Brian so excels. The underlying idea to this mystery is wildly original, but if you are intrigued, please be patient – out soon!
So far, so good. But my next attempt at straying ended on Boxing Day 2021. Believe it or not, my latest work began as a joke with the by now famous Brian. He has a great sense of humour and teased me with why don’t you write a science-fiction novel. I immediately thought, ‘I’ll show you, mate!’ and so, The Remnant was born. In this pestilence-stricken era, it came naturally that aliens might provoke the Apocalypse by means of releasing a deadly virus on humankind. They annihilate the Earth’s inhabitants for the good of humanity. To understand this paradox, you’ll have to read the novel—that is, if my publisher isn’t fed up of his historical novel author being such a delinquent! I submitted it yesterday, so no guarantees that he’ll like it. Watch this space!
A Happy New Year to you all and may 2022 be so much better for everyone!