One of the great things for me about the ‘Pride of Poppies’ anthology project was getting to know Jay. He once did me the inestimable honour in a private chat of saying I was a ridiculous woman. He knows me too well. So pleased to have him back here today, not least because it means he has a new release.
So, old bean, is it still as exciting to publish your umpteenth story as your first?
Fourth as a definition of ‘umpteenth’ isn’t in my dictionary but yes, it is still exciting. For one thing it’s proof that I can still have the odd (sometimes very odd) idea crawling out of my brain cells; and then there is the excitement of hoping that my readers will like this one too. I know that ‘Break of Another Day’ is by no means a full-size book, but I really wanted to explore the questions left hanging in ‘Across Your Dreams’.
When revisiting characters from a previous book, what are the challenges?
When I was writing Lew and Alan I found it relatively easy to drop back into Lew’s point of view and to keep Alan in character; Alan is fairly much as other people see him, whether the reader is in his point of view or someone else’s. With Jack the challenge was that readers have only ever seen him through other characters’ eyes before: I had to get into his point of view and make it distinctive, and perhaps unexpected, while showing that other people would see him as the same exasperating devious git. (Jack is the character I’d like to be when I’m drunk; in my dreams, alas). The other challenge is working out exactly how much time has passed since the characters last appeared – this can be surprisingly difficult.
Have you made any terrible continuity errors? How do you ensure against contradictions?
I’m embarrassed to say that there are at least two minor contradictions even in something that got as much reading and re-reading as ‘Across your Dreams’ – they were addressed in the paperback edition, and I say ‘at least’ because I’m not sure I haven’t left something out of place even now. Very easy when something covers a huge span of time, although I do make myself a chapter list when writing a novel, which effectively works as a continuity check.
‘Intimate Meanings’ takes place during November-February, so not so huge, but – perhaps because of that – I did perpetrate one enormous continuity slip. I wrote that story after ‘Heritage of Heart’, although chronologically it takes place beforehand, and my writing brain implanted a change in the earlier setting that only happened in the later one. It wasn’t until Julie Bozza, my editor at Manifold, pointed it out that I realised. Editors (and proof-readers) are the best insurance – writers take note, and pay attention to what they say!
Do you get bored with your characters? How do you make sure they stay fresh for both author and reader?
I don’t think I could get bored with my characters; at least, I can’t have yet, or I wouldn’t still be writing about them. The trouble is stopping myself from replaying the loop of favourite settings. I have a couple of failed starts for something featuring Lew and Alan in the 1930s which I have had to stop for the moment, as the chaps seem to spend all their time having breakfast. I think the thing about keeping characters fresh is that, while they are also – one hopes – loved as they are, there are only so many new challenges one can put in their way. It’s all about finding the balance.
You’ve taken a minor character and made him the focus of this story. Was that always the intention at the time of writing ‘Across your Dreams’? Will any other characters be cropping up in stories in the future?
Jack’s whole appearance in ‘Across your Dreams’ was unintentional, in a manner of speaking – he was not meant to be like that, but when Russ walked into his shop and Jack shouted from the dark-room, there he was, completely himself without my having to think about it. It was only when people kept commenting about him after ‘Across your Dreams’ was published that I started wondering what would happen to him afterwards.
I may, one day, finish the 1930s stories with Lew and Alan, which will take them close to 1939; so I think readers will be seeing more of the ‘Across your Dreams’ team in 1939-1945, though what form anything will take I can’t tell, right now. I hope there will be an appearance by Celia Vavasour in the not-too-distant future.
Will we be getting a follow up to ‘The Peacock’s Eye’?
It’s possible. (Who spotted the clue in ‘Across your Dreams’?). The year 1613 was very interesting for all sorts of reasons, and I do have an idea. However, whether it’s an idea that will sustain a whole novel, or whether it will be another Espresso Shot, I don’t know.
Finally, I’d like to thank Manifold Press for taking ‘Break of Another Day’ on to the Espresso Shots list, and to wish Manifold’s two new authors, Heloise West and Dorian Dawes, all the very best!