The Crime Readers' Association

What’s the story – Sally Spedding

27th February 2015

There has to be enough of one whose selling ‘blurb’ and ‘shout line’ will persuade the casual browser that they are about to enter another world real enough to make them forget their own moorings.

This achievement takes verve. A solid belief that what you are embarking upon, is of huge importance to you. For whatever reason. It has to be, because you’ll be yoked to it until the ending. No need to lie on a couch with a hypnotherapist in attendance, but instead, (metaphorically) dig into yourself. If this sounds fey or pretentious, it’s not meant to. Your psyche and all it contains, will be the engine behind all the hours – in the case of a novel – spent getting the words right. Information delivered in the clearest order. The juggling of perhaps a large cast of characters whom you might admit you’ve never met, but who knows? The subplot or two. The inexorable movement towards a climax and ending which may, despite all your careful planning, prove to be a surprise.

The photograph shows a strange shrine in front of a run-down farm near Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, which I discovered by accident, and later became Delphine's home.

The photograph shows a strange shrine in front of a run-down farm near Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, which I discovered by accident, and later became Delphine’s home.

This is why Hilary Mantel’s re-creations from history aren’t purely contrivance. The characters and events she writes about so vividly, although from centuries gone by, are all too real to her. A gift, surely of extraordinary empathy; of almost more than imagination. We are complicated, and the bigger the spade we use to dig with, the better. Your deepest fears? Greatest joys? Obsessions? Forgotten and not-so forgotten experiences? Unique observations?… All subliminal ‘humous’ to make your story more original than one fired from the hip to maybe follow a commercial trend. Why? Because you are unique.

Footfall, the first of my proposed crime series set in France, introduces Delphine Rougier, a twenty year-old hotel chambermaid who dreams of becoming a cop. Having made a gruesome discovery in one of the the hotel’s bathrooms, she begins to unravel what lies behind the terrible crime, connected to a wartime massacre some seventy years before. Although disadvantaged by her lowly job and her depressed parents blighted by their pasts, she’s determined to find out the truth.

I love writing about her resilience. How living in a rural backwater near Le Mans, with few opportunities, has given her the drive to succeed, but also the flaw of being too trusting. Of sharing her knowledge with the wrong people whose secrets must stay hidden, putting her life and that of her parents in the gravest danger.

Featherblade, the second book now in progress, is set further south in Tulle, where although Delphine is a student at its prestigious École de la Gendarmerie, more enemies await. But this time, will she recognise them?

Delphine isn’t the only young woman who had to clean toilets and the rest, I too, while an art student, did one menial job after another, even though my parents were very comfortably off. A hospital sluice room; an underground mushroom farm, for example. But nothing, as you too probably realise, is ever wasted.


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