How I Write – The Return by Leslie Scase

I’ve already used the topic in a blog earlier this year, but this time, with the publication of ‘Sabrina’s Teardrop’ as an example, I can give more practical detail.

I thought I would take this topic on for a second time as last month saw the publication of the third Inspector Chard mystery. As we shall see, Sabrina’s Teardrop needed a change in approach to the first two novels, mainly due to the setting.

My intention when embarking on this series was that there would be six or seven novels with at least five set in Wales, and one in my adopted town of Shrewsbury where I’ve lived for over thirty years. It was also my aim to try and make each of the novels slightly different in style and content, to avoid them becoming predictable.

I am without doubt a meticulous planner, and as usual I thought out the main plot with various twists and turns, and of course red herrings, before I started writing the narrative.  

However, this book would be different for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow and Fatal Solution both had an historical event which kicked them off, and the storyline developed from there. In the case of Sabrina’s Teardrop, I would be working from scratch, inventing a theft from a stately home. From there it was pure imagination, including a number of wonderful ingredients from vengeful husbands to monstrous hounds and even a gang of Birmingham’s “peaky blinders”. I didn’t want to lose touch with Chard’s supporting characters so two of them play a key part, but there are some new additions which I hope readers will like.

Secondly, the first two books were set in Pontypridd where I grew up. I remember some of the Victorian buildings that were demolished decades ago and have a sound knowledge of the town’s history. Setting something in Shrewsbury was incredibly difficult. It’s a medieval town which has changed considerably since the 1890s. Which brings us on to the thing which goes hand-in-hand with planning i.e. research.

Even ‘modern’ crime novels need research to a degree, but historic fiction requires a lot more. For me it meant time spent in Shrewsbury Reference Library, looking at old newspapers and ordinance survey maps. I also found an excellent book on the history of policing in Shropshire and invested in an illustrated book by a local historian showing photographs of buildings long-since demolished. Researching the centre of Birmingham was done on-line. I know the city centre well, but it has changed out of all recognition from Victorian times.

So, I’ve set out a plan and done my historical research. What next? I find it very important to get the feel of a location I’m writing about. I started writing Sabrina’s Teardrop during the first year of Covid and with travelling restrictions it would have been hard to visit any key sites had they been set over the border in Wales. Fortunately, the storyline provided a number of atmospheric locations in Shropshire which I could visit. Amongst them, the ruins of the Roman city of Viriconium, Haughmond Abbey and Moreton Corbet Castle.

All that remained was the business of writing. I am not a full-time writer, nor a quick one. I never write more than four pages in a session (usually only two) and I find this slow method a blessing. It gives me time to rethink the plot and build in changes as I go along. I prefer that to rushing through a draft in a few weeks and then having to redo huge chunks because I’ve thought of something better.

All in all this third Inspector Chard Mystery was a joy to write. It’s as much a historical crime thriller as a whodunnit and I hope readers will enjoy reading it.

Leslie Scase is the Shropshire-based author of  the Inspector Chard Mysteries, crime thrillers set in the heyday of Victorian Britain. The first novel Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow was published in 2020. The second, Fatal Solution, was published in May 2021. Sabrina’s Teardrop, a thriller set mainly in Shropshire and Birmingham was published on 10th October 2022. An advocate of the ‘classic’ murder mystery genre, Leslie is also a keen historian, which is reflected in the authenticity of his novels.

Born and educated in South Wales, Leslie worked in local industry before travelling widely across the UK during a career in the Civil Service. His first novel was inspired in part by his Italian and English ancestors having settled in South Wales in the late nineteenth century. A keen fly fisherman and real ale enthusiast, he lives close to the Welsh border, in the county town of Shrewsbury.

Read more about Leslie Scase at Seren Books

and Crime Cymru pages

and on Facebook

Twitter  @InspectorChard

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