… or how it didn’t turn out quite how I expected it to.
When writing the first draft of The Women of Heachley Hall (codenamed: a year and a day), I had a good idea where I wanted to end up. The writing unfolded naturally to that conclusion and my congratulatory pat on the back. But, oh, the beginning of the book! It never offered the same sense of satisfaction. The feedback I had from beta readers, agents and editors sent me spiralling in circles of frustrating re-writes. Without spoiling the plot, this is how it went:
1. Opening chapters started in the house (great). However to explain the presence of the house, I needed the back story. Consequently, the poor reader was sent zig-zagging back and forth in time. Where was the grab?
2. Try something completely different – a prologue. Introduce the historical aspect of the story by flinging the reader back in time. It certainly had a hook to it. But… the voice was written from a character who never appeared again the story. Uhm. Scrap that idea.
3. Re-write the opening to follow the chronology of events and introduce the key characters. For a while, I thought that was the draft to work on. Except, I’d created heaps of dialogue and no house. The feedback became more consistent – start in the house.
4. Oh dear. I’m back to square one, but I knew that first version didn’t work. I read, and read, I consulted the wisdom of other authors, attended writing workshops and finally, it slapped me in the face. Take option 1 and 3 and throw half of it out the window and re-write it to be the best of both worlds. I reminded myself I’m in control, I didn’t have to tie myself to one set of chronological events when the most important element of the book is the house, the protagonist’s reaction to the news she’s inherited it and what she does next.
After four years, and not the year and a day I envisaged, the opening settled down and stopped shouting at me to do something.
Have I learnt any lessons? Certainly: planning the intricate details of a book is one thing, writing it is another.
Now my labour of love is live on Amazon and available from pre-order.
Only women can discover Heachley’s secret.
The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.
But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.
Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?
Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?
Miriam has one year to uncover an unimaginable past.
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Advance reader copy for reviewers is available upon request.