One of the joys of writing historical fiction with my Victorian horror and adventure series, ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, is being released from some of the limitations that modern technology can place on crime writing–it’s hard planning crimes when science and DNA can do so much of the detective work! Also, the limitations of modern communication for creating tension is no longer an issue–my characters can’t suddenly pass on information to each other, and can’t call for help so easily. It frees me up from convoluted ways of disconnecting my characters in the increasingly connected world of modern horror fiction.
It can have it’s issues though, one is being mindful of what doesn’t exist yet… And as I have found in my latest project–long distance communication. My story is an origin story of sorts, set in 1851–about 25 years earlier than normal for the series, and sees Darkwood’s parents separated through her father, Edward, being in India steering the family teasing business and her mother, Anne, left to run the Darkwood estates. Communication through letter would take weeks each way, creating a big disconnect between their back and forth–which has been a problem for me as both will experience shared events through Anne coming into possession of the guide stone which is so important to the series.
This 5 part limited Netflix documentary explores how a secretive Christian cult is set upon a world of Christian leaders. The members court politicians, bring them in, and they act as missionaries to other countries, where it’s quite clear that Jesus–and Christian beliefs–are all that matter. ‘Dictator with appalling human rights records? Hey, that’s ok, we both love Jesus, right? Let’s be friends’. Meanwhile someone I know mentions they voted Brexit and I want to cut them out of my life… A Christian world enmeshed in politics and the ruling class frighten me. We might think something like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ won’t happen, well, it could–maybe not as extreme–but social freedoms could so easily be dialled back with an increase in the religious right, appealing to the populist fears and prejudices. It showed the Romanian referendum on changing their marriage definition from spouses to being between a man and a woman, and the Family not promoting it but commending the government for promoting family values. As if gays are the world’s problem. It doesn’t feel so far fetched to think that here in the UK that same sex marriage could be rolled back, and suddenly my relationship won’t have the acceptance and protections of other committed relationships. Especially when parties like UKIP have their surges in popularity with their views on same-sex marriage, and our current prime minister is also quoted with his own questionable opinions.
An Origin Story
With my current project, I’ve made it to the end of the next run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’. And it’s a short story, so shouldn’t take too long. The only difference this time is the importance of the story. One of the central mysteries of The Darkwood Mysteries is what Darkwood’s mother and father did with the guide-stone they left her as inheritance, and this story will explore the beginning of the Darkwood relationship with the stone. Peeling back the curtain on a central mystery is daunting. An info dump is not satisfying, but with my trying to keep each story in the series as standalone as possible and through their not really being in chronological order it’s equally difficult to sprinkle in clues and red-herrings which build to a climactic reveal. So, I have set upon having one or two stories per run deconstructing the central mystery.
I’m entering the last writing sessions for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (16): The Rise of the Dragon’. It’s all been going smoothly. The joys of being a plotter! I have each character figured out, and each chapter planned out, and pretty much each week I manage to get through a chapter in a writing session.
The writing regime of a minimum of 3000 words a week is pretty easy to hit. I get up at 6:00, and I’m normally at the keyboard by 06:30, and I’m often at the 2000 word stage by 08:00. Some of my writing time is revisiting the last section from the week before and tweaking it for anything stand-out bad. I tend to be done by about 11:30 and then it’s lunch and whatever I want to do for the rest of the day.
Thanks to my husband cooking up a super-virus and then giving it me just when I was boasting a year of good health, I haven’t been in the greatest frame of mind for writing this past few weeks. Thankfully that target of 3000 words minimum a week seems pretty easy to achieve within a lazy morning, so despite being ill I managed to hit my weekly targets. ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: The Rise of the Dragon’ has now reached 40,000 words and I’m a little over half way through, so this is already in novella territory.
Making a Villain
I’m enjoying writing the return of my my reocurring villain, the Mandarin–now in his third plot. I’m finding he is a shadowy threat. Being a master of disguise and mesmerism, he is present even if not apparent, as he can be other people or influencing other people from afar. It makes him quite a palpable and formidable threat, but a game player. He’s not one to sweep the board clear, but to play the board to keep himself safe, and his plans moving.
Work in Progress
Currently I’m working on ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: The Rise of the Dragon’, which sees the return of the Mandarin. A child has been abducted, and a Chinese man stands accused, threatening to ignite the London mob. But, as ever, things are not what they seem. The Mandarin has Darkwood and Captain Carstairs playing one game, while he is playing another–he can’t lose…
It’s been a different experience writing this entry into ‘The Darkwood Mystery’ series–Hobbs isn’t present for much of it, so it’s in the third person from all the information given to Hobbs after the fact and wow, I have always written in third person for my contemporary horror novels, but switching back after so long writing this series has been jarring. I would be in the flow, tapping away at the keyboard and then find I’d slipped back into first person… Cue swears.
I have a bit of an issue with the end, which revolves around parliament and Big Ben, as I need some technical information about the Great Clock. So far I’m drawing a blank through the Internet of things, and horologists and parliament aren’t getting back to me. I really don’t want to blag it. If there are any horologists who know about big clock mechanisms and it’s 2019 and I haven’t published yet, then hit me up!