What do Authors Dread? Guest Post by Harriet Steel

Apart from writers’ block, I suspect one of the things authors most dread is the question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” You probably have a little less than a minute to explain all the ways that your characters and their stories elbow their way into your imagination before your listener’s eyes start to glaze over. So with that in mind, I’ll try to be brief!

Observing everyday life is of course one of the great ways to get inspiration for your writing. I’ve often been doing a mundane activity like walking round the supermarket or weeding the garden when my attention’s been caught by something that sets off a train of thought. That might be start of a short story or it may even be the germ of a novel.

There have been times too when travelling has provided the spark. Separation from everyday concerns and pressures definitely has a liberating effect that can lead to all sorts of exciting new projects. It was certainly the case with my new release, Trouble in Nuala. This is a murder mystery that kicks off my new Inspector de Silva Mysteries series and the idea for it came from a holiday in Sri Lanka, the former British colony of Ceylon. I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit the country last year and fell in love with it straight away. I’d been planning to write a new series of murder mysteries for some time and I decided to set it there. In order to add extra depth and tension, I also chose to set it in the 1930s, a time when British Colonial rule created interesting contrasts, and also conflicts, with the island’s traditional culture.

There are many murder mysteries around, and I’ve been asked more than once what makes Trouble in Nuala stand out? Compelling characters and a good plot with plenty of red herrings and twists are a given in the genre so I would say that it’s largely down to its setting in Ceylon. Quite apart from the colonial aspect, the island was then, as it is now, a fascinating place with a colourful mix of races (who today, thankfully, seem to have recovered extraordinarily well from the tragedies of their recent past) as well as wonderful scenery and wildlife. The variety is mind-boggling from the enormous range of exotic birds and reptiles to Indian elephants and water buffaloes. You may even have the luck to see a leopard basking on a sunny rock or slinking through the undergrowth in pursuit of a spotted deer.

Murder mystery is very plot-driven but nevertheless, with Trouble in Nuala, my main character, Inspector Shanti de Silva, took shape first, inspired by various people I met on my travels around Sri Lanka. He’s pragmatic but principled with a mischievous sense of humour; at times impetuous and occasionally a rebel. As my plots develop though, I usually find that they serve to deepen characterisation and that was certainly the case here as Inspector Shanti de Silva and the other characters revealed themselves.

A second Inspector de Silva mystery is already well advanced and you can read a sample at the end of Trouble in Nuala. After that, there are plenty more adventures for de Silva queueing up to be written.

To find out more and buy a copy, go to Amazon using the short link, viewBook.at/Nuala. For information about Harriet Steel’s other books, go to her Amazon Author page using the short link viewAuthor.at/HarrietSteel. She blogs at harrietsteel.blogspot.co.uk/

Harriet Steel writes historical novels, short stories and murder mysteries. She’s married with two grown-up daughters and lives in England in the beautiful Surrey Hills. She loves to walk there, enjoying the flowers and wildlife and thinking about who to murder next. The exercise is also vital to counteract the effects of all those hours sitting and writing down her ideas when she gets home.


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