Keeping track of the family #familysagas

I created a family. It began with a name, one that I discovered using census data. The website provides details of the popular surnames of English counties. I picked two – one for each of the families that feature in my book, The Women of Heachley Hall.

Dates became crucial to plotting the story. Who lived in the house and for how long?

Since the story spans over a hundred years, I needed a tool to help me.

Using My Heritage website I constructed a family tree for both families and ensured the relevant characters lived to suitable ages – nothing more embarrassing in having somebody give birth at the age of five or marry in their nineties. My Heritage think it’s a real family. They kept emailing me to ask if I wanted to trace more of my ancestors. Part of me wishes it was real because in writing this book my characters felt very real to me. It must be an author’s affliction to want to turn fantasy into reality.

Now there is only one way to find out who is who and that is to read the book. My Heritage have deleted my tree!

 

I touched each gravestone in turn and tried to make some connection to my family. Hubert had been buried in India, so I’d no grave to visit for him. John Marsters, my grandfather, rested in a London cemetery. Felicity, cremated in Norwich, my mother likewise in Colchester, and my father’s ashes had been scattered on a Greek island with his lover. Only one other Marsters – Mary, my mentally fractured grandmother – had been buried and she lay next to John, squeezed into his grave. Her only dying wish was to be with her husband. My attempt at sensing a connection, some kind of energy conduit between me and my deceased ancestors didn’t happen. I smirked. What did I expect? I’d known nothing about them, nor cared to until Felicity’s will brought me here.

Only women can discover Heachley’s secret.

5* “The story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying.” – Goodreads reviewer

5* “This beautifully written mystery weaves a spell around the house and the people connected to it.” – Goodreads reviewer

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.

Available for on Amazon – Print, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

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The evolution of a book…

… 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.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

Want to know when? Then sign up for my newsletter – Rachel’s Readers!

Advance reader copy for reviewers is available upon request.

Sh – don’t tell anyone!

The biggest challenge I face in publishing The Women of Heachley Hall is keeping quiet. When you want to sell your book, have it read by countless millions (or realistically a few thousand!), then they want to know what they’re getting, don’t they?

When I sought feedback on the draft manuscripts, my friendly readers fell into two camps: those whom I gave some indication of the story, others, including my editor, to whom I gave next to nothing away. The outcome was quite clear. The less said the better!

So, shush, don’t tell anyone Heachley’s secret. Let everyone else find out for themselves.

hush