You Couldn't Make It Up...

If you go down to the woods today...
When I started writing my new series, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, and set myself the ambitious target of publishing a cycle of seven novels over two years, I had no idea how much I would come to enjoy escaping into its fictitious Cotswold village of Wendlebury Barrow.

Having now drafted the first three in the series - Best Murder in Show was published in April, Trick or Murder? will launch in August, and Murder in the Manger will be my 2017 Christmas special (no surprises there) I feel as if the characters are old friends. I feel entirely at home with them.

My second home...
That shouldn't really come as a surprise, because in real life, I've  resided in the small Cotswold village of Hawkesbury Upton for over a quarter of a century. 
Both the fictitious and the real village are safe, fun but eccentric places to live. Frequently heard in response to Hawkesbury Upton events is the phrase "You couldn't make that up!" There are probably more implausible events happening in the actual village than in the pretend one.

The long and winding road to Wendlebury Barrow - I mean, Hawkesbury Upton

I love living in Hawkesbury Upton, and although I've been careful to make all my characters and events fictitious, I write about Wendlebury Barrow in celebration of the kind of village life that surrounds me.
I've only once so far caught myself writing "Wendlebury Upton."

Of Darker Places

Which leads me to wonder whether authors who write much grittier crime books than mine feel the same about the grimmer worlds that they have conjured up. Do they live in places like that? Do they want to visit them? I don't think so.

Yes, I do know about catharsis, but the closest I get to enjoying it in fiction is in the likes of Alice in Wonderland, with its classic "oh thank goodness it was only a dream" moment.
As for me, I'd rather feel safe all the time, whether weaving stories in my fictional world or walking the streets of my home village.
Not for me the more violent books, films or television programmes that my husband enjoys. You probably know the sort of thing I mean: where the soundtrack consists almost entirely of the physical impact of violence (fists on flesh breaking bones, bullets sinking into fleshy targets) and the dialogue would be half the length if all the swear words were omitted.
Or maybe that's why he watches them - precisely because they make me swiftly leave the room. Perhaps straight afterwads, he channel-hops to "Strictly".

Incitement to Murder

However, I must admit that writing the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries is also in part a response to his previous complaint that "nothing happened" in my three volumes of short stories - well, nothing violent, anyway.
My pre-planned series of titles commits me to at least one murder per book. My only problem now is that I'm getting so attached to the characters that I don't want to kill any of them off. 
Which my neighbours in Hawkesbury Upton will probably be very glad to know...


Available to pre-order now
The first Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, Best Murder in Show, is set in the summer months, at the time of the traditional village show, so it makes the perfect summer read. It's now available to order Amazon in paperback or ebook here, or from your local neighbourhood bookshop by quoting ISBN 978-1911223139

The second in the series, Trick or Murder?, an autumnal story set around Halloween and Guy Fawkes' Night, will be launched at the Hawkesbury Upton Village Show on Saturday 26th August. (No wonder I'm getting the real world mixed up with my fictional one!) Meanwhile you can pre-order the ebook on Amazon here


Chris Longmuir said…
I'm impressed by your output, Debbie. As for living in the worlds we create, I worked on the dark side for a lot of years although I didn't live in it, and I'm more comfortable writing dark and gritty because it was part of my experience of working life. Maybe that's why I'm rubbish at writing romance!
Bill Kirton said…
The problem I find is that some (fortunately quite few) readers make assumptions about the writer's character which are based on the content of his/her books. I've written two nasty scenes. The first was in my first crime novel; it was necessary to the plot but also I thought it was the sort of thing crime readers wanted. (I've toned it down in a more recent edition). The second was in the following book and the late Susanna Yager, in her review in the Sunday Telegraph, acknowledged that it was brutal but also that it was not gratuitous but essential for the denouement. Two Amazon reviewers, however, were less perceptive, one saying it made her 'question the writers psyche', the other admitting that 'The fact that this author also writes children's books, "creeps me out."'
I've found my tolerance for 'dark' crime has diminished a lot over the years. I don't watch things I think are going to be too violent on television now, and I had to give up reading the works of a couple of my favourite crime writers because they made me feel ill. I think your novels would be just up my street! (not literally as I live in Edinburgh)
Debbie Young said…
Chris Longmuir, I must admit I've never worked "on the dark side" nor lived in it - maybe that's one reason why it feels so alien to me.

Bill, when violence or other dark stuff is justified by the story, I don't have a problem with it - there are times when it would feel wrong NOT to go that route. And readers should definitely not judge the author's character on that basis!

Cecilia, maybe one day Sophie Sayers will travel north of the border - my husband is Scottish and we spend a lot of time up there in summer. I have made Sophie's parents resident of Inverness (they're academics who have moved around a lot) which gives me licence to set a book there in future, should I decide to. We will be heading that way this summer - I will be taking notes, just in case!

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