Most of my books are set in the same fictional location, a small seaside town, a nearby small city once a thriving port, and the surrounding coastline and countryside… and an imagined forest, Camel Wood. Knowing how I often I bump into people I know or see people I know of round town, it seems extraordinary that my characters from different books don’t bump into each other. There are a few subsidiary characters who appear in different stories, Chrisie Elgard who was running a bookshop in ‘The Double Act’, now has two bookshops in the Radwinter stories – and occasionally has a walk on part in them. John Radwinter works in Chrissie’s shop, and has risen from assistant to manager. He also appears in ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ because the main character in that story, Ismène works in the shop for a while, and lives above it. It seems strange though, with the books shops being important locations in ‘Radwinter’ that the most famous local writer, Alex Portbraddon, doesn’t feature on the shelves!
This all changes in my latest Radwinter story which I am nearing the end. Two of the characters were main players in my book ‘night vision.’ Then they were married, now they are divorced although difficulties still continue over the sale of a property which they bought in ‘night vision’. It’s a difficult balance in what I am writing now, not to reveal too much about the previous book, and yet give enough insight into the characters to make sense of the predicament they are now in.
Here is an excerpt from ‘night vision’, at the beginning before the actual plot begins. Beulah and Neil are moving house from Manchester to Strand; however there is a mighty problem, the upshot of which is that they lose the house they hoped to move into. A row ensues on the roadside, Neil seeming to irrationally blame Beulah for the mess-up. She jumps into her car, drives away at random and finds herself in Camel Wood.
Beulah wanders through the wood and then sees a tree which seems perfect to climb – and going back to her childhood, she climbs it. She stops to take a photo of a peculiar tree growing out of a quarry face, and nearly falls – unexpectedly to be saved by someone else who has already climbed, and has been sitting above her, watching her climb and nearly fall:
she clung to the tree and the hand which had saved her. Her heart was racing, she was almost sick with terror and relief.
She released her hold on the hand and wrapped both arms around the trunk. She was weak and faint with the memory of the lurch and the jerk as she was grabbed and hoisted to safety and she slithered to sit down.
“Yes, yes, I’m OK,” and she giggled with a hysterical realisation of how nearly she’d plummeted to the ground.
“I thought you were gonna take a dive,” he had a soft American voice. “I should have said something, I didn’t think you’d come so high, then I daren’t speak in case I startled you.”
Beulah risked looking up but all she could see was a suede boot hanging down and a faded denim leg.
“I managed to startle myself well enough. Jeez, I thought I was going to kill myself,” and the hysterical giggling bubbled again. “I was trying to take a photo,” she looked up but couldn’t see her rescuer at all. “I wanted a picture of the hanging man, can you see him?”
“It’s a woman,” said the hidden American. “Look at the swelling hips, it’s definitely a woman.”
“No, it’s a man, a satyr maybe,” Beulah could see Pan perfectly now
“You know, half man, half goat. Or it’s a man in a loin cloth or britches.”
“It’s definitely a woman,” he argued pleasantly with a smile in his voice.
“Well, I’m not going to get a photo of it, that’s for sure. I’m not climbing down and then back up with my camera.”
“I couldn’t believe you were going to climb up here,” he said softly. “I should’ve said something, but I didn’t want to make you fall.”
“Quite capable of doing that myself, thank you.” He chuckled and Beulah tried to explain her irrational act. “It’s not something I make a habit of.”
“Falling out of trees or climbing them?” he asked.
“I don’t think my husband loves me anymore.”
Who was more surprised at her words? The hidden man couldn’t have been more astonished than Beulah herself. Why on earth had she said it? She’d never consciously thought it; whenever her mind had strayed to thoughts about her relationship with Neil she’d quickly switched off the niggling doubts and anxieties.
“Is he having an affair?” asked the man, a gentle young voice.
“My husband having an affair? No way, no, it’s not him.”
“You’re having an affair?”
Beulah’s denial was slow and unhappy. She’d spoken to no-one about this. The rows, the accusations, the guilt, all had been conducted in private and now, in this bizarre situation, sitting up a tree in the middle of a wood, she was having this conversation with a man who’d saved her life and whose face she couldn’t see. It was like saying confession, entering the little box, the priest’s face hidden by a grill as the man above was screened by the branches and leaves.
“So you didn’t have an affair?” and then as if his mind caught up with his words “Pardon me, this is none of my business.”
“I had a friend… But there was nothing between us, nothing happened. We phoned and e-mailed each other with gossip and jokes…”
“Hmm, gee, it’s tough when things like that happen.”
“But nothing did happen! We met occasionally by accident, never alone, always lots of other people around. Absolutely nothing happened,” she’d begun to cry.
There was a silence from above then, “Do you love your friend?”
“No. Well, yes. As a friend. No, not really.”
“Except in my heart,” Beulah answered in honest misery.
Still silence, and then he said “That must be the hardest thing. And your husband?”
“He won’t forgive me.”
“But you didn’t do anything,” he said gently.
Beulah shivered. The sky was still bright but the sun had gone; the man above began to whistle, a low sad tune.
If you want to find out what happens between Beulah and Neil and if she meets the young man in the tree again, then here is a link to my story, ‘night vision’:
… and to my other books: