Isn’t she nice?

I’m facing a bit of a dilemma.

I’m not very good at writing about nice characters.

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Nice.

I tried. I tried really hard to make Alice, the heroine of “The Manor on the Moors”, a thoroughly nice person, her one flaw being an ever-so-slight (but utterly endearing) lack of confidence. She would develop confidence in spectacular style throughout the book to make her, by the end, practically perfect.  And then along came Caroline. She was meant to be the opposite of Alice’s niceness, throwing just what a lovely person Alice was into stark relief. She was meant to be mean, domineering and constantly cross to make Alice seem utterly lovely.

But the problem I found was – if your characters begin the book being thoroughly nice (or nasty) where have they got to go? If your main character is already beloved by all, pretty, intelligent and sweet, how can she grow?

Authors often say that when writing the characters take over, and this is what I allowed to happen. Flawed characters are much more interesting to write about than well rounded, happy characters, so Alice’s lack of confidence grew to be not just a tiny little flaw in her all-round general niceness, but a crippling problem that was going to ruin her life if she didn’t deal with it. I found I warmed to Caroline because of her awkwardness. I had to explain it, develop it and then show that there was more to her than a grumpy middle-aged woman constantly trying to tell other people what to do, but I couldn’t stop her being awkward. And I couldn’t stop her trying to take over ever scene she entered.

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Utterly lovely.

Instead of Caroline’s attitude making Alice seem more attractive by comparison, Caroline’s sometimes harsh judgement rang a bell of truth. When Caroline wonders ‘if it was legal to shake a visiting PhD student into some semblance of common sense and  [she] concluded that probably it wasn’t …’ I couldn’t help but sympathise with Caroline’s judgement. Alice’s niceness was diminished by Caroline’s attitude to her.

I ended up with two very different heroines with very different issues – but neither of them was practically perfect, or even close to it.

And there’s the dilemma. Because, especially in the genre of cupcakes and cafes that my books inhabit, readers in general warm to a sympathetic main character with whom they can empathise, not a flawed one who can be (let’s be honest about this) a bit irritating at times. I’m no longer even sure whether I’m capable of creating someone nice enough to carry the weight of genre expectations – and crucially, I’m not sure if I want to.

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Practically perfect

 

The Manor on the Moors is now available in both e-book and paperback form here if you want to read about two not entirely lovely ladies …

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An Evening at Misterley Manor

For a little bit of fun on the publication day of The Manor on the Moors I thought that I’d share with you what life might be like on a typical September day at Misterley Manor, the setting for the book, just as the novel begins.

It’s evening. Caroline has finally left her desk, and Emily and Marjorie are cooking some salmon for tea in the family kitchen. Caroline offers to take some up for her father. He complains that fish doesn’t agree with him, but Caroline knows to ignore all that by now. She trudges slowly down the stairs; Marjorie and Emily have gone off to do their own thing and the kitchen is empty. Sometimes, Caroline feels very isolated, even surrounded by her own family.

manor night

Alice has walked back home to Rawscar along the clifftop path. The smell from the fish and chip shop has been too much for her again, and for the third time this week she’s had fish and chips for tea. Sebastian wouldn’t approve … but he’s not here, is he? Although now it’s getting dark, he’ll probably be getting in touch with her very soon, just before bedtime, like he does most evenings. She’d better make sure she’s finished her fish-and-chips before then …

Tom’s exhausted after a hard day of physical labour. He’s having a nice cool shower. I’ll just leave that image with you.

Emily is texting Mikey. If anybody asks, she’s doing her homework. She’s certainly not going to share the contents of those messages.

Marjorie goes out to the summer house by herself for a bit of fresh air and solitude. She watches the sunset and remembers that time, long ago, when she and Anton spent the night half way up the mountain. They watched the sun set over the Alps that night … Aaah, those were the days.

Duncan’s working hard, marking essays while he listens to Radio 3. Sometimes the house feels very empty.

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Image from Pixabay. 

 

Tom’s still in the shower, by the way …

An Afternoon at Misterley Manor

For a little bit of fun on the publication day of The Manor on the Moors I thought that I’d share with you what life might be like on a typical September day at Misterley Manor, the setting for the book, just as the novel begins.

This afternoon, Caroline is at her desk, hard at work, after that altercation with That Man this morning. How was she to know that Emily hadn’t gone to college? She never checks personal messages on her phone when she’s working, he should know that by now … She’s worked right through lunchtime again, but now she’s hungry. Perhaps Sarah in the tea room will have some soup left over?

Alice has had lunch, she took some sandwiches out into the gardens where she sat on a bench in the sunshine appreciating the sunshine and the birdsong and the scent of the heather moors …. and the view of the assistant gardener cutting the box hedge … She’s disappointed by her afternoon’s work. Lots of detail about stonemasons, but no clues about what might have happened to Fox-Travers. She checks her watch – about time for a cup of tea, perhaps she’ll join Caroline in the tea rooms.

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Image from Pixabay.

Emily eventually made it into college. Mikey, the young builder checks his watch. She should be back soon, if he can schedule his break for later on, he might manage to see her again. They’ve got a favourite meeting spot, hidden away near the library, and if anybody asks, he was just helping her with her homework …

Sir Henry listens to the world outside his window. Somebody is walking along the gravel path – he can tell from the way she walks slowly and painfully that it’s Marjorie – she should be using her walking stick, foolish old bat! At least it’s not that meddling young PhD student again. She was hanging around outside his window at lunchtime; he can’t abide her. No right to be in his house, he should never have listened to Caroline. They don’t need help from people like her – meddling academics – no better than that one that Caroline used to be married to. Good riddance to him! And the sooner they can get shot of Alice, the better.

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Tom has finished cutting the box hedge; he’s heading back to the shed where George, the head gardener, will hopefully have the kettle on, when he bumps into Marjorie. What on earth is she wearing today! A lime green cardigan, a pink denim skirt and a pair of boots with stripy socks. He says hello, politely, and she asks if he’s seen her walking stick, she seems to have lost it somewhere. He found it yesterday, propped up beside the garden door, but he hasn’t seen it today.

Marjorie heads inside to take Sir Henry a cup of tea. He doesn’t say thank you.

 

 

A morning at Misterley Manor

For a little bit of fun on the publication day of The Manor on the Moors I thought that I’d share with you what life might be like on a typical September day at Misterley Manor, the setting for the book, just as the novel begins.

Caroline is in her office. She’s been there since seven o’clock this morning. Her cup of coffee went cold long ago, and she’s considering that it might be time to get another one. The coffee shop should be open by now, it’s closer than the family kitchen, and she might pick up something to eat as well, she hasn’t had any breakfast.

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She walks past Alice, hard at work in the Octagon Library. She’s digitising some of the Fox-Travers’ letters this morning. Alice has just turned her phone off and stuffed it into her bag – sometimes, when she just wants to get on with her work and Sebastian’s phone calls are very persistent she pretends that she can’t get any phone reception and just turns it off for the day. Peace and quiet to get on with her work …

Outside, Tom’s cutting the grass. In Alice’s imagination he’s cutting the grass, shirtless, with a scythe, even though it’s 2019. Let’s just leave that there for a few moments …

Duncan has just got a text from his daughter Emily’s sixth-form college, asking why she hasn’t arrived at college this morning. He’s on the road to Misterley, driving over before his first lecture at 10.30 to see if he can find out what’s going on. He likes to do these things in person.

Emily should be at college. She missed the bus, and she’s come back to wait for the next one (in an isolated place like Langbarnby there isn’t another bus for two hours) and she’s hanging round in the courtyard, hoping to bump into Mikey, the attractive builder’s apprentice with the big muscles. She dodges into a doorway when she sees her mother leave the office

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Sir Henry is in his rooms. Since losing his sight he never leaves them but somehow he still knows everything that goes on in the house. The slightest whisper can reach him through his open window. He’s the only person in the house who has noticed that Emily has missed the bus this morning.

Aunty Marjorie has put her boots on and gone for a walk in the shrubbery. She has walked right past Emily and hasn’t noticed her. She was too distracted by the sight of Tom cutting the grass. If she was only twenty … all right thirty … or forty years younger … She sighs. Life has never been the same for Marjorie since that summer with Pedro all those years ago …

marjorie boots

 

 

Publication day!

It’s a great day in the life of any author. Today is the day that my new work hits the shelves (well, the Kindles) of my readers. The paperback should be available in another couple of weeks, rest assured that I’ll be shouting about it when it does!

Manor cover

So, while I drink Buck’s Fizz for breakfast and throw a lavish party to celebrate, and everyone I know takes the day off work to read the new book, just in case you’ve missed them, here are the details:

Alice has landed her dream job, searching the Misterley Manor archives for tales of the elusive Gilbert Fox-Travers – life should be perfect, if only she could untangle her complicated love life…

Caroline is desperately trying to keep Misterley from falling down around her ears, and it’s a tough enough job without throwing a stroppy teenager, a difficult ex-husband and a cantankerous father into the mix.

When disaster strikes, Caroline and her family must pull together to save her beloved family home…Can Alice uncover the mystery of Gilbert Fox-Travers in time to save the Manor?

Now available on Amazon Kindle for £1.99 at:  goo.gl/z49ziX

 

Is there a vicar in this one?

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read The Little Church by the Sea don’t read on!

Several people have asked me whether my new novel, The Manor on the Moors is a sequel to The Little Church by the Sea. It’s not a direct sequel – I felt that Cass and Hal’s story was complete at the end of Little Church and I wanted to create some new characters rather than give my existing ones new problems to face. But it is set in the same place, so you will find some familiar faces appearing, but more than that, you’ll recognise some of the settings.

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A corner of the village, Runswick Bay. (My photo).

In Manor Alice lives half way down the main street in Rawscar, the main setting for Little Church. She’s hiring a flat above a holiday cottage agency and the eagle eyed among you may remember that in Little Church Hal, the hero, ran a holiday cottage firm and lived in the flat above the office. Now, of course, Hal lives in the new vicarage (which has been built in the grounds of the former Old Vicarage)  with his wife. That makes him Alice’s landlord.

Cass in Little Church had four churches in her combined parish. One of them was the church at Langbarnby, the village where Misterley Manor was based. So when a major disaster strikes, the vicar is sure to be on hand to help out.

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Image from Pixabay.

But most importantly, when I was asked “So, are there any knickers in this one?”  I instantly replied, “No, Alice doesn’t have any knickers …” which didn’t come out quite how I meant it. One of the running jokes in Little Church was the vicar’s underwear – largely because I had used The Vicar’s Knickers as a working title for the novel, and so they crept in all over the place. This novel is different. And I should point out that yes, Alice and Caroline do both have knickers on (most of the time …)

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Image from Pixabay

Blog tour

 

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I’m on (virtual) tour of all these lovely book blogs over the next couple of weeks.  Please check them out (not just for my reviews but for lots of other bookish content too).

Authors would be nowhere in this fast moving world of social media without the encouragement of book bloggers, who share their knowledge and experience, their help and support, freely and generously.

And apologies for being a day behind with my posting – this should have been yesterday, but I got a bit confused with the dates and scheduled it wrongly!

And a huge thanks to Tracy Fenton and my publisher, Manatee Books for sorting out this tour for me.