Questions frequently asked by readers is - how do you choose your murderer and victim? What starts the process of creating each new book? A place? A previously unknown hstorical fact? Or does one of your series characters prompt ideas? Do you know before you start who the murderer will be, or is it a voyage of discovery for you as well? If so, it must mean you rely enormously on your subconscious working on your behalf.
To answer the questions all at the same time – each book is different. With the first book in the series I hadn’t got a single idea about the victim or the murderer, and in fact, when I sent it to my editor, I was told the murderer I’d chosen didn’t work and I had to go back and write in a whole new character! More often than not, these days it’s the title that suggests the plot. Having painted ourselves into a corner with the “Murder” titles, the publishers, editor and I come up with titles first. Sometimes it’s them – a couple of years ago the sales director asked if they had monasteries in Kent and Murder In The Monastery was born – sometimes it’s my family – last year one of my sons suggested Murder In The Dark, gave me the basic idea for the story based on somewhere he was working, and then took me to see the wonderful house which became Dark House. One May Day, a Big Thing where I live, one of my daughters, watching the highly bedecked Green Man, said it would be a good place to murder someone. That became Murder In The Green.
Victims and murderers just arise out of the story, and the historical facts somehow pop in while I’m writing. The story of the Hop Pickers in Kent was, in fact, the inspiration for the whole series. I heard about an exhibition and went to see it, Libby hopped fully formed into my head – although in a different village and a different cottage – and that was it.
The most surprising murderer was in Murder In Midwinter. I had no idea that was coming. I do have frequent Eureka moments, as I’m sure all writers do, where I suddenly realise how and why something has happened, so I suppose it’s all bubbling away in my subconscious.
To sum up, sometimes a place inspires a story, sometimes an event, sometimes a period, occasionally a person. And frequently – the title!