Getting Away with Murder - or Not? (Cecilia Peartree)
Most of my novels, even the ones with murders in them, end up being rather lightweight and frothy, no matter how much I try to introduce serious topics. Incidentally, the same kind of thing has always tended to happen on the occasions when I have presented a paper at a work-related conference. In one case, the colleague with whom I co-wrote the paper but who was unable to attend the conference himself, gave me strict instructions not to make people laugh. Needless to say a colleague from another organisation came up to me at the end of the presentation and said, ‘I did enjoy your paper – it was so funny.’
However, I’ve recently realised that during
these dark days of late autumn and winter, my writing has taken a darker turn. It isn’t so much that the murders have become
more gruesome or the peril faced by the main characters is more terrifying, but
that I’ve given the characters moral dilemmas to try and resolve.
This year in particular there seems to be a
theme to the moral dilemmas. In November I published a Christmas mystery novel
in the series that is particularly lightweight, and gave myself the challenge
of wrestling with the fact that a character from a previous story in the series,
already in prison for murder, came under suspicion for a new crime. The question
in my mind, and therefore in the minds of at least some of the characters, was
whether this person was capable of killing again or whether the years in
prison, plus a bit of growing up in the mean-time, had actually reformed them.
The dilemma, I think, was whether any of the other characters would be willing
to help this person despite the events of the past which had affected some of
them more than others. Although the resulting novel turned out just about as
frivolous as all the others in the series, I did take the question seriously
myself, and devoted quite a bit more thought to it than is probably evident in
During December I’ve been working on a
completely different thing, and I feel that the darkness of the days, as well
as the fact that I’ve taken the characters to Yorkshire more or less without
meaning to, when they were supposed to be in Bath, has brought out my inner Brontë.
I apologise for taking that name in vain. There is no resemblance between this
novel and anything written by any of the Brontë family and particularly not ‘Wuthering
This time I have a character who has been on
some kind of a quest for vengeance throughout the whole novel to date, and because I can’t make up my mind whether
to redeem her or not, my writing progress has very nearly stalled altogether towards the end. I’ve
written a few hundred words a day for the past couple of weeks, but I still
haven’t decided what to do with this character so the story is only inching forward.
I suppose one option would be to kill the character off while she’s doing
something heroic, but somehow that seems too easy! The fact that she shares a
name with one of our cats is also relevant here.
Perhaps at this time of year I should
forget about writing and do something else, except that this is also the season
when dark thoughts from the real world begin to intrude if I don’t have a writing
project to occupy my mind. I think I got round this at this time last year by
writing non-fiction – an account of my family history, which very fortunately
did not include very many dark episodes or moral dilemmas.
The days are beginning to get lighter now –
in theory at least, although it was raining so hard here as I wrote this that the
sun might as well not have bothered rising, and one of our cats didn’t even get
out of bed until after eleven – so at least there is the promise of less dark
times to come. I hope this will be the case in other ways too. Best wishes to
all for a better New Year.