This week Crime Cymru’s Evonne Wareham opens with the one question that always crops up …………
“Where do you get your ideas from?”
This is the question that many authors dread when they make personal appearances – because all too often the only available answer is “I have no idea.”
Having considered this, when not standing in front of an audience giving them my best rabbit-in-the-headlights stare, I have a suggestion. I think the actual answer is probably that the idea for a book is an amalgamation of lots of small things, combined in the writer’s complicated brain to produce a story.
I write romantic suspense – more crime and dead bodies than your regular romance – so I have to make sure that both love and crime are balanced. I have inspiration coming from several directions. The latest book in my “Riviera” series is out as an e-book on 28th March, and I thought it might be fun to see if I could trace some of the bits and pieces that went into it. Note the word “fun”. This series is escapist holiday reading with the emphasis on glamour, sunshine, mystery and, of course, romance. Plus a few murders, here and there.
The first important thing about the book is the location – no surprise that for this series it’s usually the French or Italian Riviera, but other rivieras are available and I’ve wanted for a long time to mix things up and set a book on the English Riviera. This turned out to be the one, and once I had the location – Torquay – then the town’s most famous inhabitant followed pretty fast – Agatha Christie. In my own small homage to the queen of puzzling cosy crime the book opens on the Devon coast, when a varied group of people gather in an eccentric house party to bid for a collection of artefacts that includes the Cleopatra Necklace, an ancient jewel reputed to be cursed. Naturally, someone is out to steal the thing. After all, who doesn’t want to own some cursed jewellery?
The books can be read as stand-alones, but the glue that loosely holds the series together is a detective agency. Heroine Maisie, a minor character from a previous book, is here promoted to centre stage as the detective attempting to thwart the theft. Hero Elliott is the expert who can confirm that the mysterious Necklace with the murky past is the genuine article. Making my hero an academic is fairly easy to explain. I finally completed my PhD a couple of years ago, so I know where the academic background has come from. I’m not sure about the Egyptologist bit, as that is not something I have experience of, and it had to be researched. Possibly it was the Christie connection again, as many of her stories have similar elements. I have to say I had a lot of enjoyment out of creating a slightly creepy Victorian Gothic mansion in Devon to host the house party, complete with gargoyles, sarcophagi, and secret passage. I have a bit of a thing for Victorian Gothic architecture, and I blame the secret passage on Enid Blyton.
Naturally the necklace gets pinched, in mystifying circumstances. Mayhem ensues, during which my protagonists manage to begin an affair – but you know what they say about the course of true love… Not to mention the machinations of the villains. But there’s nothing like someone pointing a gun at you to make you realise that yes, you really are in love …
After the cosy crime set up of Torquay I had to pull out some stops to end the book with the promised sunshine and glamour. If we’re talking glamorous romantic suspense, involving stolen jewels, then the epitome of that for me is the Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief. I’d not previously used Monaco/Monte Carlo as a setting, so the decision was made. With this location I had scope for luxury hotels and villas, vintage cars, yachts and a denouement at a very up-market masked ball.
Having set it all out, it looks quite simple, but hindsight is twenty/twenty. While I was writing it wasn’t half so clear – just writing into the fog and trusting that it would come out alright in the end. As it usually does. The workings of a writer’s brain are as mysterious as the plots it produces. Who knows what’s going on in there? Don’t ask the authors. We have no idea.
Masquerade on the Riviera is available as an e-book for pre-order from Amazon now. https://amzn.to/3XMQLnL
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