I’m happy to say that this latest book has been garnering some nice reviews and comments from readers and a couple of things have really stood out for me, in those comments.

Ferryman wasn’t an easy book to write. One of the main plot arcs deals with the effects of domestic violence and the way in which the impact of that violence can ripple outward, affecting not only the next generation but also friends and associates. How do you deal with this kind of situation? How do you help? The isolation of those who suffer from domestic abuse – or any other kind of abuse, for that matter – seems to be the most difficult aspect. If you feel so alone and so helpless, how do you get the courage or the impetus to reach out. If someone is constantly telling you how useless and stupid and worthless you are then it takes a special kind of courage to escape that judgement and accept someone telling you a different story. I became very attached to some of the characters in Paying the Ferryman and I’m very happy that other people seem also to have attached themselves and to care. Maybe that concern will ripple outwards, even if that’s just in a small way.

Words can be weapons – in a positive way too.

The other issue is more of a technical one. Some one made the very thoughtful and accurate comment that my series lead, Naomi Blake, was more of an advisor or consultant in this book. And that’s true. Most of the time I write books that are part of a series but my ethos has always been that these books are often ensemble pieces with a group of characters who alternate the lead or sometimes hand that lead over to other people and act as a sort of anchor point around which the plot revolves.
Killing a Stranger, for instance, one of the Naomi Blake Series, was really very much a ‘Patrick’ book and remains one I’m really fond of. Night Vision, Secrets and Gregory’s Game introduce Gregory Mann and Nathan Crow and take the tone of the series in another direction for a while, dealing with secrets and post colonialism and spies!. I wanted to return to more domestic and intimate issues for the next and though Gregory and Nathan are still around, their role has changed. Naomi and Alec find their professional past has come back to haunt them in Paying the Ferryman and I get to explore a bit more of their back story, but the lead is taken by someone new, in the shape of D.I Steel. I like to see how my characters respond to other characters and slot into other settings. There’s a poem I love by the American poet, Billy Collins. It is called An Introduction to Poetry and it contains the lines

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want my characters to do that. I want to drop them into a situation and have them feel their way through. Looking at a narrative in this way keeps it fresh for me and I hope for the reader.

So, what next? Well, it’s Rina Martin’s turn to be dropped into a book and so far she seems to be involved in narrative that’s producing more questions than it does solutions. The plotlines are still spinning outward and my characters are still feeling around for the light switch. Actually, at the moment I’m not even sure there is a light switch. I have my doubts about there even being electricity! But that’s a feeling I’ve some to recognize at this stage of a book and I am, slowly, learning that it isn’t a cause for panic!

And I’ve been asked by a friend to compose a list of my favourite poems and as he went first, I guess I’m kind of obliged. So I think that might be the subject of the next blog. So, until then, happy reading and for all the writers out there, keep feeling for that light switch.