When people ask me about my writing, they tend to ask two things…
Well, three things – but I’m not allowed to give the names of my ghostwriting clients so I can’t really go into that…
They tend to ask (1) why do you write, and (2) why write The Bluebell Informant?
The answer to the first question is quite simple: I enjoy doing it. Even as a youngster I loved making up stories, and every major aspiration I’ve had ever since has had something to do with creating stories – whether that was through theatre, film or books. It just made sense that writing would be something I’d do with my life.
So I embraced it.
Of course, there are other more personal reasons, which I touched upon briefly in my last post, but the long and the short of it is that I love writing and there isn’t really anything else I’d rather be doing.
As for the question of The Bluebell Informant – that’s a slightly different matter, and one that I will go into a little more detail about.
But before I do, let me ask you this.
Have you ever had a thought in your mind that was strong enough that you could think it, but not so fully formed that you could adequately describe it?
That’s what it was like when I first created Detective Sergeant Evelyn Giles. She was there – at least the idea of her and what she stood for was there – but she seemed somehow distant, like she wasn’t quite ready yet.
And that was frustrating.
You hear all these stories of authors who have their main characters wandering into their heads fully formed (J K Rowling being the obvious example). And yet my character was resolutely malformed. In fact she wasn’t even a she. Giles was a he. And not even a good he. He was a jumble of cliches wrapped up in a Sherlock Holmes-like intelligence with fragments of arrogance and smarminess tossed in for good measure.
I’d created a terrible character. A cocky, over-intelligent, white, middle-class, Detective Inspector who I – somehow – believed could portray weakness and humility despite the fact that everything I’d poured into his character said otherwise. I had created a monster – and this monster was supposed to carry my story…
But this was before I started penning The Bluebell Informant. Back then, it was simply a story called Giles – the story of a DI trying to weed out the corruption that seemed to have infested his entire department.
It didn’t take me long to abandon the story.
But Giles clung on – refusing to die, refusing to confine himself to the slush pile of forgotten characters.
And it wasn’t long before I resurrected him. Only now he was a she. And she was only a lowly Detective Sergeant. The Giles of this story was still middle-class, still white and still arrogant – but somehow she was a little bit more believable. As I began writing my second attempt for a Giles story – Obsession – this Giles seemed to become more real with each passing chapter.
But she still wasn’t perfect. She was still cliched to high heaven, stuck-up and a pain to work with. I almost considered killing her off, just to make my life more interesting…
And then the idea came to me. The problem wasn’t with my characterisation of her necessarily – it was with my knowledge of her. Here I had this strong female character who I’d been working with for some time and I didn’t really know anything about her. I didn’t know where she’d come from, what she was like outside her job. Hell – I didn’t even know about the initial events that led her to this story…
It was then that I sat down to write The Bluebell Informant.
It started out as just a theoretical exercise. I was going to write a prequel that explained how Giles got to the events of Obsession – for no one else’s benefit other than my own. I would establish her back story and that would be it.
But Giles wasn’t done with me yet. There was more to The Bluebell Informant than I had originally intended. The more I wrote, the more I began to realise that I was writing about my fears. I was writing about how easily people can be conditioned to hate others. I was writing about how human – and therefore corrupt – politicians and policemen can be. I was writing about a good woman trying to fight the good fight – and having to break a few rules in order to do it.
With each word I wrote, Giles became more defined. She wasn’t white, middle-class anymore. She was asian and working class. She wasn’t some over-entitled cow – she’d gotten where she was by hard graft and dedication. And by the time I’d finished The Bluebell Informant, I no longer had a character…
I had DS Evelyn Giles.
There are authors in this world that can just dream up characters, but mine had taken hard graft and enough headaches to cripple even the most resolute of human beings. But I could finally see her…
I don’t think she would’ve let me get away with not writing The Bluebell Informant quite frankly…