People often ask me how I come up with ideas for my novels, and when they do I usually mention my love of history, which began at secondary school thanks to a super-cool Classical Studies teacher. The past is an endless source of story ideas and I love creating novels that blend fact with fiction and leave you pondering on which bits were true.
I particularly enjoy finding true stories that are relatively unknown and which will surprise the reader in their retelling. My debut novel, One Day In Oradour (A&C Black, 9781408182017) is a perfect example, revealing as it does what happened when the idyllic French village of Oradour-sur-Glane was wiped out in a single afternoon in 1944. It’s a powerful human tale inspired by a true event that few people outside of France are aware of.
I found the idea for my latest novel, No Stone Unturned (A&C Black, 9781472905406) in a hole in the ground. (Honestly!) I have two dogs and we often walk near to an abandoned limestone quarry. Although overgrown today, in Victorian times the quarry supported hundreds of people and supplied materials for many important buildings, including the flagstones for the new Houses of Parliament when it was rebuilt after a great fire in 1834. It tickled me to think that stone from this innocuous hole in the ground had lain under the feet of Kings and Queens, Prime Ministers and MPs for decades. I started to investigate further and the idea for my No Stone Unturned mystery story was born.
No story would be complete, though, without great characters, and here’s where the real inspiration for my novels lies. I am drawn to people who break the mould and who refuse to be held back by convention, prejudice or the negative actions of others. No surprise that Alfred Fournier, the hero of One Day In Oradour, is based on the true story of a plucky seven-year-old who was the only boy to escape from his school when German troops arrived in his village. And No Stone Unturned stars teenager Kelly Hearn, who is different to most girls her age. She’s an outsider. A Traveller, and children from her community don’t usually go to secondary school. But Kelly has dreams, and no one – not even the school bully – is going to stand in her way. I hope that readers will like Kelly and be inspired by her. She has certainly been fascinating to write about and I am pleased to say that Kelly will be returning for a second adventure in the sequel to No Stone Unturned which I am currently putting the finishing touches to.
This post was originally published on the Girls Heart Books blog site.