Monthly Archives: February 2013

On Writing Characters – Simon Grant








I write Simon Grant Mysteries series

Originally, I was planning to write only three books

–      Hiding the Elephant

–      Lock Up Your Daughters

and the forthcoming For the Love of Honey.

But just as book three, For the Love of Honey, started approaching its publication date, I had this brilliant new idea for yet another sequel. I don’t know all the details yet, I haven’t even got the title, but I do know why it needs to be written and why everything that will be happening in the story needs to happen.

How I know that?

Why I know that?

These questions brought me to another question: What happens to fictional characters when they’re off page? How well do I need to know my characters to keep them going from one story to another?

Rather well, seems to be the obvious answer. Well enough to make the readers care whether the Main Character lives or dies. Well enough to make the readers care for those that the MC cares about and dislike MC’s pet hates enough to immerse themselves into the next storyline. And therein hides the trap. Once the word ‘care’ comes into play, that’s it. When it happened to me, I was hooked. From that moment on my MC blossomed into Simon Grant, a person in his own right, someone I just had to know everything about if for no other reason than to keep him on side. I really can’t have my characters rebelling against me all over the page, can I? Knowing Simon rather well wasn’t good enough any longer. I had to know him intimately to move on.

By now, readers know that he’s calm on the surface and passionate underneath, occasionally quick tempered, a keen observer who doesn’t get involved unless he needs to, an amateur carver of wooden miniatures, alongside many of his other poignant traits.

On the other hand, I’ve stealthily learned that he doesn’t watch much TV. He enjoys riding, swimming, sailing and skiing but only when he gets a chance to do any of it himself. He’s not a good spectator. He knows that he should go to the gym more often, and he’ll get to address that in the Book 4. (Actually, I think that I’ve just found my working title for it: Book 4. As simple as that. It roils off the tongue rather well, doesn’t it?) On surface, he’s good with people, he can charm birds out of trees, but he’s got very few close personal friends, all of them carefully chosen. He likes to read but not murder mysteries or any other form of crime fiction, something that I find rather rude. Another thing that upsets me about him is that he’s not a foodie. Given chance, he’d live on sandwiches. Also, he’s quite clean, neat and tidy. I like clean. But neat and tidy?! Please?! Where has that come from? Mostly because of his parents’ high political profile, Simon is not political. He’s pragmatic, dealing with the world as it is, not as it should be. But, he’s a romantic. And how!

All those qualities will continue to seep through, meld with the already known ones, and make each new book that much more personal and revealing.

Anyway, why does all that matter?

To me, it’s like a well stocked cupboard at my disposal, full of exquisite ingredients required for production of a sophisticated, unique and intricate product, a.k.a. a genuine human being.

That’s the only way that I can think of to make sure that I won’t let him down and consequently, let myself down.



Posted by on 22/02/2013 in Uncategorized


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Quick Quotes



Amazin UK:

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‘Keep away from it, Emma. It’s not safe.’ Simon was looking at her with his eyes rapt, serious, greyer than usual. That was last Tuesday afternoon. Only five days ago. Five days and a lifetime ago.

‘Don’t patronise me, Simon. I’m a big girl now. Besides, I hear things you don’t. Do you want me to tell you or not?’

He took her to the chippy down the road from the incident room. It had a dining room at the back, deserted at nearly three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. Emma didn’t even know the place existed, but the young man greeted Simon with restrained friendship.

‘I was about to close, but as it’s you…..’

He brought the coffee in fine, gold rimmed white china on a crafted wooden tray. It smelled like real coffee, submerging the oily vapours wafting from the kitchen.

‘My wife’s. She’s French,’ he explained solemnly.

‘The winds of change….’ Simon laughed quietly into her ear as soon as the door closed, and she joined him, thinking of what Father would have to say to French coffee and French women in an English chip shop, and that these days Simon was the only person that she could have a laugh with. Their fingers touched as they passed the milk to each other and again as they wondered over the exquisite silver spoon in the bowl of sparkling crystals of brown sugar.


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Posted by on 22/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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‘The minute I’m gone you’ll sneak into your workshop and start whittling that Deadhead away.’

Simon remained speechless for a moment. It had been months since he’d done any work on the wooden bust he’d started years and years ago. After the Old Mill murder, while he was recovering from concussion, he finished off the hair, the chin and the neckline. Muttering promises all the time, with each scrape of the blade. Promises to himself, to Pippa, to Chloe. To Adam and Eve and to Rudi. To the face emerging slowly and painfully from the yellowish, dry wood. To Emma. Even to Phil. Promises and resolutions. Big thoughts about honesty, love, guilt and absolution.  Redemption. Salvation.

Soon, however, life took over. Life always takes over death.

But, spookily, on his way home he’d been trying to figure out how to go about the eyes. The few pictures he had of the original, all of them old newspaper cuttings, left the eyes in deep shade.

‘No,’ he said, ‘no,’ with a small pain in his stomach and pointed vaguely at the stack of paperwork.

* * *

He made himself a cup of coffee, turned the TV on in the sitting room, locked the patio door and pulled the curtains together, then went to the cloakroom because he thought he could hear the tap running.

Gingerly, furtively, and only because he was passing, he opened the door to his workroom and switched on the light.

Why did Pippa mention the unfinished bust tonight of all nights?


Because she’d always believed it to be a portrait of a former girlfriend, a love of his life, someone he’d never talked about. Well, she was right about the last one. He’d never talked about Nicola Finsbury. Not a word. Not a whisper. Not to anyone.

He was going to tell Emma about her, of course. Tell her everything, just as it happened, nothing left out, nothing embellished. That done, he was going to ask her to forgive, to understand, to leave Philip and marry him before the baby was born. If she would still have him.








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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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It must have been Kevin Corrigan who had told Grant about Alex and Angel getting hitched. Kevin stayed on to do his LPC at Trinity, then got himself a training contract with Carroll and Carroll, Alex’s father and uncle.  Soon to be Carroll, Carroll & Carroll, once Alex completed his own apprenticeship with a distinguished law firm in London. Only, Alex was thinking of going to the bar, and according to Kevin, doing most of his thinking at the bar. Great many bars.  There had even been a small unpleasantness over some cheques, Kevin said in strictest confidence. Apparently, Alex had found one of the partners of the London firm dead at his desk. Dead as a doornail. From too long and too good living. As simple as that. So, remembering just how good that living used to be, Alex quickly helped himself to a couple of the old man’s cheques and, at least temporarily, resolved his current embarrassment over his rent bill and his credit card.

After a great deal of wringing of hands, sighing, pulling of strings and toing and froing, the Carroll brothers managed to save the young rascal’s skin and legal career, but only just, Kevin said.

He used to phone quite a lot in those days, Kevin did. From Spratton, of all places, as it happened. Carroll & Carroll had an office there, barely a mile or two away from Little Manor, their family residence at the time and Kevin wasn’t allowed to have Sean with him while lodging in the flat above the office. Carrolls’ sense of decorum wouldn’t allow such impropriety.  But Alex’s misdemeanour worked to Kevin’s advantage. The reprobate was dragged home by his ear and Kevin, a surplus to requirements but too useful to lose, was moved to the Loughborough branch. The position came with a quaint little cottage and no restrictions on company he kept. Sean, who was taking a long and very expensive route to becoming a specialist in International Law, was immediately installed as a live-in partner. ‘Like a fairy tale,’ Kevin had been happily chuckling down the phone every now and then. ‘Isn’t it just like a fairy tale ending?’ Grant could hear Sean joining in the laugh at the other end.

Kevin had never asked him why, with the first from Trinity and the entire world at his feet, Grant chose to join the police only a week after graduation.  No LPC, no bar exams. No lucrative practice of any sort. The others whispered and wondered among themselves, Grant gathered from Rudi’s occasional hints. There were unmistakable, roundabout signs of whispering and wondering. Of rumours so preposterous that they could have been amusing if they hadn’t been less preposterous than the truth.

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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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To hell with caution! Grant’s anger churns painfully, sweeping over the stinging guilt, drowning the foreboding and reason. Following some half formed plan, quickly abandoned while he was still able to think rationally, he vaults himself half sideways half forward, his arms stretched out toward the only moveable object around, something big, heavy and hideous, a vase, a weapon. He’s there, he’s yanked it …

Dancer’s hands are up, shielding the face, or covering the eyes like someone who can’t bear to watch. The gun, forgotten, is pointed to the ceiling. ‘No! Stay!’

…he’s lifting it, his back muscles already straightening him upwards …

‘Stop it, you bloody idiot!’

… his hands are preparing for aim …


… the upward push from the forearms, the knees still bent …

‘You fucking jerk!’

… and casting him backwards, it’s off,  soaring in a curve towards the chair and the gun, into a blast that swamps the cries, and the crash, the fireworks of earthenware pieces, the chair wheeling away through the acid stench, then the pain, withering, cutting through the side of the head.

‘Moron! You fucking moron!’ Dancer croaks in the silence.

Grant is sitting on the floor, his knees pulled up a little and apart, the soles turned inward. The pain is some dizziness and a sharp sting now, a cut from the terra-cotta debris, blood and sweat trickling slowly down his cheek. He wipes it off with the cuff of his sleeve and at the edge of the warm little light, the stain soaks darkly into the pale blue fabric.

The face of the killer is only a few feet away. Lit from the left, the visible eye is wide open and bright, glistening with tears running down the pain creased cheek.

‘I nearly shot you.’ Incoherent between the sobs, choking on the scare.

‘Why didn’t you?’ Grant averts his eyes from the anguish, as if mere watching is an indecent act of complicity and compassion. His anger is still rumbling, echoing emptily through him. ‘Why didn’t you? What makes me different?’




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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized




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Gently now. ‘C’mon. Let’s go. There’s nothing for us here.’ The ‘us’ will tie them together, clasp their hands and their hearts closely while they walk out into a shared sunset. ‘C’mon.’

The weighted octopus moves still higher, still further out, longing to be caught and unburdened. ‘C’mon.’ Patience cuts sharply through Grant’s middle and hardens his calves and shins into a knot. But his warm, friendly hand is a steady, welcoming beacon.

‘I’m not ready.’  Checked by the whisper the movement stops in mid air.

‘You are. We both are. You’ve said so.’

‘I’m not ready!’  The cry thrusts the arm sharply forward into a blast of noise and sparks.

Grant steps back, quickly and sideways from habit. There is no pain. In the eye-watering acrid silence, worryingly, there is no pain and no sensation. He should have been hit. He was too close not to be hit.

‘I’m not ready. There are still things to be done, places to visit,’ comes ghostlike from the chair. ‘And neither are you, Inspector. You don’t deserve me yet. You’ll have to earn me first.’

Unbelievably, the miss was deliberate. Delivered to warn, to grab and assert. There is nothing Grant can do about the beads of sweat along the hairline, trickling down past his ear. 

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Posted by on 21/02/2013 in Uncategorized


The Spring Thriller Blog Tour 2013 – The Interview

Double Trouble

The Spring Thriller Blog Tour 2013 – The Interview

Q. How long have you been writing and what life skills do you bring to your work?
A. I’ve been writing and getting published since the age of five. At first it was poems, then poems and articles for children magazines, followed by my own regular slot on the radio and a youth magazine, and a regular column in a weekly paper when I was still at high school. I wrote theatre and literary reviews for the Student Magazine in my student years. I also had a drama produced by a national radio station.

What skills? Well, for a start, I’m observant. I prefer watching to taking part. I don’t believe in Good and Evil as discrete entities in their own right, which makes me, in general terms, non-judgemental. I’m a great believer in Terentius’ “Homo sum humani a me nihil alienum puto”, meaning “I am a human being; nothing human is strange to me.” My life experiences are varied. I’ve travelled extensively and not just as a tourist, which means that I’ve seen first hand the slimy and often tragic underbelly of many different societies and social circles.

Q. Do you research content for your work and if so where from?
A. My books are set in the real world and therefore research is essential. While I was in full time work, I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the life and struggles of the less privileged, politics, policies, market forces and human nature. After my early retirement, I’ve been working as an interpreter and translator and that keeps me informed about all sectors of society – public, voluntary and private, as well as commerce, technology and humanities. Particularly relevant is my work with the police, prisons and the courts. That’s a great source of information about systems, procedures, legislation and the way they all work in practice. That also means that if I don’t know something from my own experience, I know where to find it and who to ask.

Q. Tell us about one of your previous publications.
A. I’ve written and published two books in the Simon Grant Mysteries series, Hiding the Elephant and the sequel, Lock Up Your Daughters. They are both murder mysteries/police procedurals. Set in rural Northamptonshire where I used to live, they’re as much about anatomy of crime, human nature and relationships as about ‘whodunit’. I particularly like to explore the ‘why dunit’ side of the subject. Both books are written from two entirely different points of view, something I feel adds depth of perception and enriches the content.

Q. What are you currently writing?
A. I’m working mostly on the third book in the Simon Grant Mysteries series, For the Love of Honey. Like its two predecessors, it’s also written from two opposite points of view. Furthermore, the second POV character’s input is extended by other means. The format isn’t entirely new, Andre Guide and Aldous Huxley have used it before me, but I hope that I have found a fresh way of presenting it. I’m also working on a mainstream/historical, Klara and Her Dragons, a long term project, set in Europe between 1913 and 1975. It follows the fortunes of a woman less than favoured by either nature, birth or social background and her progress through those turbulent times.

Q. What is so special to you about the ‘thriller/mystery/suspense’ genre?
A. Absolutely everything! It offers the ‘grey cells’ challenge, the devil of the detail, the social and legal setup, and heaps and heaps of human nature and frailties. It’s delightful to both write and read.

Q. How do you spend your leisure time?
A. I love my garden, my family and friends, reading, socialising, travel (subject to health restrictions), good food, and healthy, passionate debates.

Q. What is the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to you?
A. OMG! So many things. Coming face to face with a wounded buffalo in the Zambian bush. Finding a way out of Angola in the middle of the night during a tense situation there. Flying through an electric storm over Java. Seeing a pride of lions in their natural habitat for the first time and watching them for an hour from just a few yards away sitting in an ordinary passenger car, or chatting to friends under a fruit tree while a fully grown, male wild elephant is feeding from it. Rearranging a date, originally planned in Rome on my way back home from Libya and his return to the UK from Egypt, with my then boyfriend, later husband, on the very night when Libya broke off all links with Egypt and having to pass the details of the new place and time plus terms of endearment via two embassies and a helpful manager of the Cirque du Soleil show.

And, of course all the family births, deaths, marriages, graduations and other vagaries of that nature.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?
A. I’ll do my best.

My website:

My Amazon UK book page:

My Amazon US book page:

My Facebook page:

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Posted by on 09/02/2013 in Uncategorized


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