...My novel, Bone Rites!!! I still can't quite believe it. This has been a rollercoaster year of close calls and near misses for this book, which after being chosen for the 2019 Blue Pencil long list, went on to be shortlisted for the 2021 Blue Pencil First Novel Award and long listed for the 2021 Caledonia prize. So this is really the start of a new chapter for this dark story. Watch this space for more updates.
What a lovely week; shortlisted for a story at Retreat West, PLUS I just found out that my last book, Blood Bones, was long listed in 2019 for the prestigious Blue Pencil Agency first novel award. Horah! I'm still not quite sure how this thrilling news escaped my notice until now, let's just say junk mail and lack of faith and leave it at that.
These two signs of recognition have really given me a boost. Sometimes it feels like I'm writing in the dark for no-one, so positive feedback like this is so welcome. On the back of it, I will be giving Blood Bones a final polish and sending it to an agent. Expect a sample on here soon...
Took me a year to realise that there's no such thing as a final edit until your book is printed... I've just started an editing course at Curtis Brown UK, an intense 6 weeks of whipping my grannies into shape. I can't wait.
Meanwhile book seven, 'Blood Bones' is rollicking towards the denouement. Watch this space.
Just completed the final edit on The Secret Life of Grandmothers. It's been the best fun to write. I'm going to miss hanging out with the characters though. May, 87-year-old ex-prostitute and accidental madam, has been a joy. I've attached a sample chapter below if you want to check it out. Now to get cracking on book seven!
I enjoyed the modern day so much writing The Witch Who Saved Paris that I've eschewed my Edwardians yet again. I'm now quite seriously addicted to the lives of my four, very atypical grandmothers and their peculiar situation in a small country town. This book is making me laugh aloud as I write it so I'm hoping you will enjoy it too. Expect delivery around this time next year...!
Raring to get back to my Edwardian adventurers after spending almost a year in the present day.
I've loved writing 'The Witch who Saved Paris'- setting a novel in the here and now presents the opportunity to bang on about everything I'm thinking/concerned about, but I do miss the elegant charm of the Belle Époque. A read-through, edit and proof read of the Witch and then it's back to 1907...
And horah for that. This book took me by far the longest out of the four to write, largely I suspect because I've been editing books 1-3 at the same time.
I really enjoyed this one, partly because the British Raj is such a fascinating time (as can be witnessed by the current popularity of the series 'Indian Summers', but also because this is the book where I finally get to reveal the dark secret of Brooks's past. It's a cracker of a secret too- I knew Brooks wouldn't let me down.
This book was interesting for another reason. The characters are so real now, so three dimensional that I can't boss them about at all. If, for the sake of my silly plot, I want them to do X, they will insist on doing Y instead. I have been very surprised by what they have insisted, but I've learnt to listen.
I'll be proofreading this for the next few months, then it will be available for my select band of merry readers (and any keen agent/publishers) to peruse.
Onwards to Book Five!
I've been very slack at blogging lately, largely because Book Four, Murder on the Delhi Express, is rollicking along at such a cracking pace. It's fun when this happens, when the characters seem to know what they are up to and just get on with it.
Researching the British Raj of 1906 took so long it felt sometimes as if I'd never get the actual story started. It was an amazing time in an amazing place and some of the stories I uncovered actually led the plot in new directions- they were too wonderful to ignore. But then reference books were put away and the fun of weaving fiction around the strands of reality began.
At this stage, I deliberately do NOT check every single fact- I will check the accuracy of my memory at the editing stage. This is vital, otherwise I'll lose myself in an endless maze of knowledge, particularly when researching on the net; the world wide web is well named. Facts are such delicious morsels and having collected them I always want to share them in the text like nibbles, but if they're not relevant to the story or the characters I know I musn't. Not only does an overload of facts irritate the hell out of most readers, it slows the story down. Kate Atkinson pointed this out at the end of Life After Life and I've never forgotten her advice.
Anyway, I should get back to it. I've left Brooks and Lady Rosemary in possession of a new, very important clue. You know what those two are like, they'll be raring at the bit to go and discover more about that Murder on the Dehli Express...
One of my readers described the Lady Lyttle series today as "PG Wodehouse getting roaringly drunk with Agatha Christie on a world cruise…". Whilst delighted to be compared to two of my favourite writers, I asked him what he meant. It always fascinates me how my books are interpreted by the readers. Here's the conversation we had:
"Well, it's like PG Wodehouse because they are so funny and you've got the whole butler and master thing, except in this case the master is a mistress, Lady Lyttle. Then of course, they are murder mysteries and while Lady Lyttle is more "Tuppence" than Miss Marple, Brooks has definite shades of Poirot in how he sets about things."
"But why roaringly drunk on a world cruise?"
"Well, like I said the books are very funny, the sort of thing that might be cooked up on a bender. The world cruise is obvious- you get to travel all over the world in your books. Book One is set in London, but goes to the Carribean, New Orleans and New York, Book Two is a whirlwind tour of Italy while Book Three takes us all the way over to French Indo China, Siam and Hong Kong. That's quite a cruise."
"True! I just thought it would be more interesting if the murders weren't all set in one location. It's a whole different kind of travelling in time I suppose."
"And the rest of the books…"
"...Are still going to feature interesting destinations, yes! Book four is set in British India…"
"I know, all those diamond-collared cheetahs guarding maharajahs. Delicious."
"Do they ever go back to England?"
"Oh yes, Book Five is set in my favourite town of them all, Brighton."
The first three, long-awaited books in the twelve part Lady Lyttle murder mystery series are now ready to publish!
Book four is well underway, due Easter 2016
Book one: About Face
When unconventional aristocrat Lady Lyttle and her resourceful butler Mr Brooks pull a faceless corpse from the River Thames, they have no way of knowing who the dead man could have been.... nothing that is, apart from his clothes....
A rollercoaster of a story from the Belle Époque of 1903-4 that takes us from London High Society to the plantations of St Lucia, the emerging New Orleans Jazz scene, the bustle of New York and the fabulous house parties of the super-wealthy Rhode Island Set.
Book Two: Fountain of Blood
As Lady Rosemary Lyttle travels to Rome on a Grand Tour with young friend Lady Amelia Pearce and butler Mr Brooks, little does she suspect that she will be tipped into a gripping mystery involving the Church, the Mafia and a powerful figure from her own past...
Book three: Spice of Death
Detective team Lady Rosemary Lyttle and her intrepid butler, Mr Brooks, are asked by an eccentric French prince to investigate the disappearance of both manager and money from his pepper farm in Indochina. It seems a simple case but the trail will lead them to the heart of the darkest secrets of South East Asia...
Book four is in production…
working title Murder on the Delhi Express.
When Lady Rosemary Lyttle and her valiant butler-cum-secretary, Mr Brooks, are asked to investigate the mysterious death of an elderly French woman in India they are not keen. Rosemary’s first impressions of the sub-continent were not favourable, and as for Brooks, he has horrifying memories of India, memories he is desperate to forget. What they find, however, is both more incredible and more terrible than they could ever have imagined...
NJ Bayley is author of: