Who’s downstairs? The room below is empty!

Today I’m sharing an extract from my e-novel ‘Flipside’, published in 2013 and set in the Pennine town of Oldham. Here is part of the blurb: Jaz has moved from Bristol to be with her recently widowed brother; she is a teacher and she has moved from a high-flying head of faculty post in a top school to take a lowly temporary position in a challenging school in the north of England. She is up to the challenge, but she does not expect to find her life is in danger from a man who has already butchered three women; she has met the love of her life, but is he, could he possibly be, the murderer?

Jaz is at her flat, alone, marking her students’ work: ; David has gone out to meet Jaz’s brother Kiran – they were biusiness partners but now they have fallen out.

I dismissed the noise at first, then listened for it. It was outside; it came again. My flat was above a shop, a confectioners and more recently a flower shop. It had been empty for many years, there couldn’t be anyone downstairs. Blinds were pulled down over the windows and door, the adverts on the glass were for things I couldn’t even remember. Originally there must have been a way up from the shop to the living accommodation but there was no trace of that now, a door at the side of the building led into a small hall, then a staircase to a landing and my front door.

There was definitely someone moving around downstairs.  I left my work, pulled on my trainers and hurried downstairs and out and round to the front of the empty shop. The blinds were still down, there was no light and the door was locked.

I knocked without expectation of anyone hearing. They were probably in the back where there must be store rooms and perhaps an office. I walked back down the passageway, past my door and round into the alley. The windows in the back wall had bars across, everything in darkness. There was a bell push but I could hear nothing when I pressed so I rapped on the wooden door. I knocked again but there was no sign of life, whoever it was had gone without bothering to see me. The rent was paid until April and by then who knows where I might be.

The alley was cobbled but grass and weeds were everywhere, and judging by the number of empty cans this was a favourite haunt of local youth. It was cold and damp and I hadn’t bothered with my fleece. Chilly now, I gave up and walked back and turned the corner to go inside.

Someone was standing in the entrance of the passageway between the shop and the disused spiritualist church next door. He was outlined by the oblique light from the street lamp on Thomas Street, silhouetted in the orange glow. I stopped, startled and then alarmed.

It was David. I was dismayed he was back so soon, things hadn’t gone well with Kiran. I called his name but then he was gone. Things must have gone disastrously. I ran up the passageway and turned into Thornbrook Street but he’d vanished.

I was frightened. He was alright when he left the flat, so what had Kiran said or done? I ran past the shop front to the corner and glanced up and down Thomas Street. It was deserted, but I saw David moving away from Lees down past the cemetery.

He was walking swiftly, head down. I only hesitated a second and then began to run after him. I was out of breath by the time I passed the other deserted shop on the corner of Spring Lane, but I had to catch him. I trotted down the uneven pavement past the row of houses on the other side of the road, and then the big red brick house which had some connection to a vanished mill. I couldn’t see him as I came to the end of the cemetery wall and Hopkin Mill Close. I passed the old cottages which looked down over the pasture where horses grazed.

We’d walked down here a couple of times, holding hands and he’d told me about disappeared mills and farms and dairies and the history of this little green pocket.

I walked as fast as I could. It must be bad, it must be really bad. There were lights on at the farm, the house was on one side, a barn on the other; I continued down the narrow, pitted lane, taking care of the rough bumps and deep pot-holes in the unpaved surface.

I wasn’t going to catch him unless he stopped but I couldn’t leave him while he was so upset. I was nearly at the ford and I was the only one out on this foul damp night, not a single jogger or dog walker. I was very cold.

It was hopeless. I’d have to go home and wait until he came back. Why had he run away from me? It could only be that something so awful had happened between him and Kiran that he couldn’t face me and I wondered how fragile he really was.

I wearily stepped onto the little metal footbridge over the stream, the small beginning of the River Medlock. There was no sign of him continuing up towards the main road or striking either way along the footpaths through the Medlock Valley. I stood shivering, feeling sad and alone. I was overwhelmed with grief and lifted my face to look up into the misty sky as if to seek some comfort. All my feelings of loneliness and desolation returned and I had an urge to go back to the flat, pack a bag, find a taxi and go to the nearest station to flee south.

I turned back. Standing in the middle of the road staring down towards me was David. Suddenly, unaccountably I was frightened, I was frightened of David. Things Kiran had said, scraps of venom which had seemed impossible, unthinkable rushed into my mind. Angry, violent, frustrated, trained to kill.

I called his name again but he didn’t answer, just stood staring at me. I was really scared; he was so still, so motionless, standing ready and alert, on the balls of his feet. He stood beneath a light but I couldn’t see his face, shadowed and hidden by his hood.

Hood? David hadn’t got a hood on his jacket, I couldn’t think of anything he had with a hood. He only wore a cap and had gone to meet Kiran bare-headed.

This man wasn’t David, I could see now that he wasn’t. He was slimmer, perhaps even taller, but his legs were thin.

He’d been in the shop, or round the back, or in the hall leading to the stairs up to the flat and he’d stood looking at me standing in the passage. He’d hidden somewhere and watched and followed, and now he was standing in the road, staring at me.

I looked round. The road continued up towards Holts Lane where there were houses with lights on. I couldn’t run up there, even if I was being chased, it was too steep. I didn’t want to leave the road, it would be madness to follow the footpath by the stream, there were bushes and trees to be dragged under. Anyone out on the open grassy areas at this time of night in this miserable weather wouldn’t be bothered by a man and a woman, even if he was chasing her, or had hold of her, even if she was struggling and crying out for help… I was weak with fear, petrified, frozen, unable to move or run anywhere

Setting the scene in a familiar place

I have only written one novel which is set in a real place as opposed to an imaginary one. In Flipside the action takes place in Oldham in the actual area where I lived for nearly fifteen years, Lees. I made up roads, and pubs and two schools and café, and most importantly an old mill,  but the real library featured in several scenes, the cemetery, a country walk, some actual pubs… In some ways I found it straightforward, because describing the area only needed me to walk out of the door and wander round the village, or get in the car and river out onto the moors. However, there were things which I had to be very careful about… it was no use saying it would take ten minutes to walk somewhere if really it took half an hour. I had to make sure that geographically certain things were possible. In my imaginary locations I can add in extra roads, create shortcuts, build motorways if I want!

I have just started reading a book called As The Crow Flies by Damian Boyd which is set here in Somerset! The first scene takes place in Cheddar, just ten miles away. The main character goes for walks in places I’ve walked, lives in a town I’ve often visited, and there are references to all sorts of local things. I have only just started reading it, so I don’t know if he actually visits our town of Weston-super-Mare, but there are seven books in the series so it’s likely that at some point our little seaside town will get a mention!

It got me thinking… our little village is really interesting and full of character (and full of characters!) it would be quite a challenge to me to write something set right here. Because the main road from Weston going south now bypasses the village, it’s quite a quiet place; people only come into the village to go to the schools, or the pubs, or the village shop, or the churches or physiotherapist, or the restaurant or café or go to the boatyard, or go along the hideous new cycle track, or walk down to the beach or walk up over the hill. It’s a busy little place with lots of village activities, so there is plenty of scope for an adventure… However, because it is quite a small place, I would worry that people might think a character I describe is a real person, that quite accidentally I have a plot line which is similar to a real event…

A dilemma… maybe I won’t use our little village in fiction, maybe I will just content myself with writing about it here!

here is a link to my novels – apart from Flipside, all are set in a completely imaginary place!

Promoting my stuff

If you’re just an ordinary person, bragging about yourself is totally alien… If you’re an ordinary British person, it’s even more so. We’re not good at receiving compliments, modesty and self-deprecation are qualities ingrained, so now for me, when I want to reach an audience for my books, it’s tricky to balance overcome my natural unwillingness to blow my own trumpet. I guess that’s where agents come in, agents can promote work, and get it out there in an expert way. However, I don’t have an agent, and in a funny sort of way, now I have been self-publishing and self-promoting for five years, I sort of like it – every success is down to me! Oops, am I blowing my own trumpet?

Why do I want people to read my stories? Why do musicians want an audience? Why do artists want the world to see their work? Why do actors get up on a stage rather than prancing around in front of a mirror? For me, being a story-teller is natural, it’s what I am, in my every day life I’m for ever going on about something or another, something that happened to me, something I saw/did/heard/learnt/took part in. When I was a professional teacher, the kids would always say ‘oh no, not another story’, when I launched into something – I think (hope) they actually liked my ramblings… I did it almost without thought, my mind leaping from the subject in hand to something which happened to me or a friend or a cousin, or something I just randomly made up to entertain.

An example of the ‘made-up’ stories I told my students, apart from ‘the ghost of the fourth floor’ which became a college legend, was about my teaching assistant, Sally. I can’t even now remember how I got onto talking about what we had done in our lives apart from working in schools, when I went into a lengthy description of Sally’s past life growing up in a circus, being a trapeze artist with spangly tights and revealing costume, how in her free time she was exceedingly modest ad wore long dresses, and her future husband fell in love with her when she was looking after the coconut shy and he caught a glimpse of her ankle as she bent down to pick up a fallen coconut…

So back to my trumpet blowing… Yes, I want people to read my stories! yes I actually think they are not too bad – self-deprecation alert – they are quite good! So… if you haven’t read any yet – here is a really brief fanfare for each:

  • Radwinter – Thomas finds out more about himself and his own family than about his ancestors… who actually had quite a dramatic time, fleeing 1830’s war-torn Warsaw and jumping ship in Harwich
  • Magick (Radwinter 2) – the rather terrifying father of Thomas’s step-son comes in search of ‘his boy’
  • Raddy and Syl (Radwinter 3) – mysterious Moroccans preying on an old woman, a disappeared woman who may not have even existed, and shocking truths about his own family – Thomas has quite a difficult series of event to deal with
  • Beyond Hope (Radwinter 4) – Thomas meets a dangerous psychopath, and somehow gets involved in people smuggling
  • Earthquake -(Radwinter 5) – a haunted hotel, an eighty year old mystery which brings danger to the present… Thomas is really under pressure
  • Farholm – who  killed young girls on the island of Farholm? Is he still on the loose, or was a recently widowed woman’s dead husband responsible?
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – who stalked Rosa to her death… and has s/he moved on to a new victim?
  • Loving Judah – can Aislin and her husband Peter ever get over the death of his son Judah?
  • night vision – a thirty year old murder is discovered
  • Flipside – is a war damaged veteran responsible for a series of dreadful murders… or is he a victim pf more than his war service?
  • The Double Act – Don’t think this novel is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love
  • Lucky Portbraddon – perhaps the Portbraddons are not so lucky, murder, drugs, madness, modern slavery… but also unexpected love

Are you tempted? They are all available as e-readers, Radwinter is also available as a paperback

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden&keywords=lois+elsden&ie=UTF8&qid=1499501921

 

Thinking about blurbs…

Apparently, and I may have mentioned this before, the word blurb dates from 1906 and was invented by Brander Matthews – meaning the notes on the inside of a book jacket. Well, sadly, as yet, I have had no books actually published as real actual tree-books with jackets – only self-published as e-books. However, I am not complaining, I have been very pleased, delighted and somewhat surprised at the success I have had in my own way! I am in control (which may be a good or not so good thing) and do the covers and write the blurbs.

Blurb writing for your own work is really difficult – it sounds a bit big-headed to say how wonderful your own work is, how exciting, interesting and the best thing a prospective reader should choose… but on the other hand, sometimes one should look at what one’s achieved and be proud of all the effort, and look objectively and see that it has merit.

This is what I wrote for my first published book, Farholm:

Devastated by the death of her young husband, Deke Colefox is determined to find out all she can about the man she married, Niko Nicolaides and decides to go to his family home on Farholm Island. Dr Michael Cabus has his own secret reason for visiting the island; he too wants to find the truth about a beloved stranger.
Deke and Dr Cabus arrive on the same ferry as a beautiful girl who then disappears. The islanders fear the worst as two other young women were horrifically murdered the previous year.
Deke and Michael each have a personal interest in finding the missing girl, and finding her before she meets the same fate as the other two. Their desire for answers leads them to face uncomfortable truths and their lives are put at risk in an unexpected and terrifying way.

Because the two main characters I was anxious that people shouldn’t think it was going to be a romance; it isn’t – Deke and Michael become friends, but no more. There is a romance in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘, but it is very much a subsidiary story-line, so I didn’t mention or even hint at it:

Rosa Czekov is an ordinary person who, through an extraordinary act of courage, brings herself to public attention. Rosa is modest and private, and this unwelcome publicity attracts a stalker who makes her life a misery and brings her to the verge of a breakdown.
Her cousin, Tyche Kane, has a mission to discover who is tormenting Rosa and bring him or her to retribution. In the course of her pursuit, Tyche uncovers many secrets in an effort to prove Rosa was not just imagining her persecutor.However, her quest not only puts her own life at risk, but endangers Rosa’s friends and family and leads to the murder of someone very close to her.

The title of ‘Loving Judah‘ might lead a reader to think it is a love story – well that is a strong part of the book, but Judah is the main character’s step-son, who dies before the book even starts:

The tragic death of Aislin McManus’s adored step-son Judah is a catastrophe; the fact that his father, Peter, blames Aislin almost breaks her heart.
Her attempts to mend the breach between her and her husband are failing and when Aislin meets someone else who is blamed for the death of his best friend she resolves to do everything she can to reconcile him with his family, even though she puts herself in danger by doing so.

night vision‘ is about relationships – between Beulah and her husband, and the childhood relationship of him and his brother:

Beulah and Neil Cameron return to his childhood home of Easthope to try and repair their damaged marriage. Neil is profoundly and wrongly jealous of Beulah’s best friend; however Beulah discovers that Neil has his own secrets which may damage their marriage more permanently. The disappearance of his fifteen year-old brother Patrick thirty years ago, casts a long shadow, and despite Neil’s opposition, Beulah is determined to find out what happened to him.

Flipside‘ is set in the 1990’s and is about PTSD; I had to write a blurb which didn’t give away too much, but yet had something which would entice the reader to read it:

Jaz has moved from Bristol to be with her recently widowed brother; she is a teacher and she has moved from a high-flying head of faculty post in a top school to take a lowly temporary position in a challenging school in the north of England. She is up to the challenge, but she does not expect to find her life is in danger from a man who has already butchered three women; she has met the love of her life, but is he, could he possibly be, the murderer?
She discovers some brutal truths about her beloved brother, he seems on the verge of a breakdown, convinced there is a conspiracy surrounding his wife’s death… but where does he go on Fridays, and what does he do?
“I was alone, utterly alone. I thought I’d been brave running away from my life in Bristol, my friends and familiar places; I was pleased to be so daring and impetuous, and so certain of my love for David when our eyes had met in the Lees Spa Hotel. But I hadn’t taken him home and made love to him in order to enter a violent world of fear and hate and danger.”

Then came my Radwinter series; I had never intended to write a sequel, let alone a whole series, but after the first book about Thomas Radwinter, his story just seemed to continue naturally:

  1. Radwinter: Thomas Radwinter goes in search of his family roots; using the internet he traces his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and follows their journey from arriving in England in the 1830’s, across southern England. However, the more he finds out about his family’s past, the more he sees his own family, his brothers and his wife differently. His relationship with them changes… and he begins to understand his own character, and to find out as much about his present life as his family’s history.
  2. Magick: Encouraged by his success in discovering his Radwinter ancestors, Thomas Radwinter sets out to investigate his maternal line, starting with the mysterious and alcoholic Sylvia. His life has been somewhat dysfunctional, but now, gaining confidence through his new loving relationship with a beautiful young woman and her son, he is able to confront his own past.
    His genealogical searches take him into the tragic histories of his family and other ordinary people who lived and worked under the appalling conditions of the Victorian age. His skills in finding people from the past encourage a friend to beg him to try and trace her long-lost daughter, a woman, who, it seems does not want to be found. He accepts her request, little realising this will lead him into danger.
    Then the father of his partner’s son arrives; he’s come for his boy…
  3. Raddy and Syl: Thomas Radwinter continues his journey into his ancestor’s history; he has followed his paternal line of the Radwinters, “and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”.
    He traced his maternal ancestry, the Magicks, “I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you”.
    Now he has to find the history of those closest to him, “in my Radwinter story I found some amazing truths about myself. My childhood was difficult to say the least, and when I started to follow the Magick story, I had to begin to face my past, and confront some of my fears and nightmares. To finish my story I have to look at Sylvia Magick and her husband Edward Radwinter, the people who brought me up… sort of… I think of them now as Syl and Raddy, because it’s easier and less painful.”
    During his search Thomas also seeks a woman who vanished seemingly into thin air from a car stopped at a road junction, and he tries to solve the mystery of Badruddin, the Moroccan an elderly female client brought back from a cruise…
    Thomas little thinks that he may be risking his life to find these different truths.
  4. Beyond Hope is the fourth in the series of books following the life and genealogical investigations of Thomas Radwinter; in previous stories he has followed family’s history back several centuries and also found some uncomfortable and very painful truths in more recent times.
    In ‘Beyond Hope’, Thomas decides to share with his three brothers what he has learned about their mother and father… but telling the truth can be damaging, the truth can hurt, and as Thomas later reflects, “I know at first hand, a very, very painful first hand, how old secrets have the power to wound and how sometimes those dogs snoozing away should be left doing exactly that, sleeping dogs should sometimes just be let lie.”
    His revelations cause the close family ties to be tested which doesn’t help Thomas as he struggles with the other commissions he is being paid to undertake; he has been asked by a very elderly lady to find out who leaves lilies on a grave she visits, he has undertaken to investigate a mysterious lama who has a dangerous power over a hard-working teacher and devoted father, and he continues his search for the daughter of a friend who has become involved with a very dangerous man… And all the while his own little family has to face difficult decisions. The fall-out between Thomas and his brothers may only be healed if he can find out what happened to their father who disappeared thirty years ago.

The blurbs are getting longer… is that a good thing? My other book is ‘The Double Act:

Easthope is a quiet, slightly old-fashioned seaside town; nothing ever seems to happen, and Genet McCauley and her friends lead lives almost unchanged since they left school. Genet, married to mercurial Lance and running their small hotel, sometimes feels trapped and often feels bored, but she loves Lance and in most ways is content. Their friends call them the great double act; Genet without Lance? Lance without Genet? Impossible!
But then the McCauleys take on new tenants in a bungalow they own; is it a coincidence that as the enigmatic Dr Herrick and his disabled wife arrive in the small town, a series of acts of vandalism and arson is committed? At first they are, small, petty events, which seem to centre on the group of friends; however, before long they escalate to violence and attempted murder.
When the Herricks come to Easthope, Genet’s life and that of those closest to her, changes for ever. Don’t think ‘The Double Act’ is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love.

… and my most recently published book, Lucky Portbraddon:

“Lucky Portbraddon… a rather rascally ancestor of my late husband, or so family legend has it, was a favourite friend of the Prince Regent, apparently, but Lucky made, not lost, his fortune…”
A few days before Christmas, as the Portbraddon family gathers at their grandmother’s big house up on the moors, the last of the cousins drives through a blizzard to join them:
…There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost. There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, she glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom…
A near-death experience does not seem an auspicious start to their family get together, but the cousins determine to celebrate as they always do.
However as the old year ends and the new begins it seems their good fortune is about to run out. An unexpected death, a descent into madness, betrayal… and as the year progresses other things befall them, a stalker, attempted murder, a patently dodgy scheme for selling holiday homes in a dangerous part of the Caucasus… Maybe the Portbraddons are not so lucky… except there is also love, a new home, reconciliation, a spiritual journey, music.. .
One thing remains true, whatever difficulties arise between them, whatever happens, family is family, family first… “They’re like a big bunch of musketeers, all for one and one for all!”

If you have any thoughts, comments or kindly criticism of my blurbs I would welcome them – if you read my books, I would really love to have your opinion of them!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_11?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+elsden%2Caps%2C150&crid=LWT3KKEA48CN&rh=n%3A341677031%2Ck%3Alois+elsden

 

Blurbs… enough but not too much

Blurbs are the most difficult thing to write! To entice your prospective readers, to draw them into your book but without giving anything away! To hint at plot lines and narrative twists without spoiling surprises, it’s a fine balance between saying enough but not too much.

I’ve self published quite a few books now, and it doesn’t get any easier… in fact perhaps I think too much about it now and make it more difficult for myself!

Here are a selection:

  • Farholm – Devastated by the death of her young husband, Deke Colefox is determined to find out all she can about the man she married, Niko Nicolaides and decides to go to his family home on Farholm Island.
    Dr Michael Cabus has his own secret reason for visiting the island; he too wants to find the truth about a beloved stranger.
    Deke and Dr Cabus arrive on the same ferry as a beautiful girl who then disappears. The islanders fear the worst as two other young women were horrifically murdered the previous year.
    Deke and Michael each have a personal interest in finding the missing girl, and finding her before she meets the same fate as the other two. Their desire for answers leads them to face uncomfortable truths and their lives are put at risk in an unexpected and terrifying way.
  • The Stalking of Rosa Czekov – Rosa Czekov is an ordinary person who, through an extraordinary act of courage, brings herself to public attention. Rosa is modest and private, and this unwelcome publicity attracts a stalker who makes her life a misery and brings her to the verge of a breakdown.
    Her cousin, Tyche Kane, has a mission to discover who is tormenting Rosa and bring him or her to retribution. In the course of her pursuit, Tyche uncovers many secrets in an effort to prove Rosa was not just imagining her persecutor.However, her quest not only puts her own life at risk, but endangers Rosa’s friends and family and leads to the murder of someone very close to her.
  • Loving Judah – The tragic death of Aislin McManus’s adored step-son Judah is a catastrophe; the fact that his father, Peter, blames Aislin almost breaks her heart.
    Her attempts to mend the breach between her and her husband are failing and when Aislin meets someone else who is blamed for the death of his best friend she resolves to do everything she can to reconcile him with his family, even though she puts herself in danger by doing so.
  • Night Vision – Beulah and Neil Cameron return to his childhood home of Easthope to try and repair their damaged marriage. Neil is profoundly and wrongly jealous of Beulah’s best friend; however Beulah discovers that Neil has his own secrets which may damage their marriage more permanently. The disappearance of his fifteen year-old brother Patrick thirty years ago, casts a long shadow, and despite Neil’s opposition, Beulah is determined to find out what happened to him.
  • Flipside – Jaz has moved from Bristol to be with her recently widowed brother; she is a teacher and she has moved from a high-flying head of faculty post in a top school to take a lowly temporary position in a challenging school in the north of England. She is up to the challenge, but she does not expect to find her life is in danger from a man who has already butchered three women; she has met the love of her life, but is he, could he possibly be, the murderer?
    She discovers some brutal truths about her beloved brother, he seems on the verge of a breakdown, convinced there is a conspiracy surrounding his wife’s death… but where does he go on Fridays, and what does he do?
    “I was alone, utterly alone. I thought I’d been brave running away from my life in Bristol, my friends and familiar places; I was pleased to be so daring and impetuous, and so certain of my love for David when our eyes had met in the Lees Spa Hotel. But I hadn’t taken him home and made love to him in order to enter a violent world of fear and hate and danger.”

Reading them through now, there are certain little tweaks I would like to make, certain things I would like to emphasise more, or refer to in a more subtle way, and a couple of things I think I should have included… maybe…

If these tempt you, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

Are my heroines me?

I’m thinking of pulling together and publishing a guide I wrote to writing – originally for my students when I was teaching and preparing them for their exams, and more recently for my adult friends in my creative writing groups.

As well my little guide to writing, I am thinking of including some of the posts I have made here on WordPress about writing, and my personal writing.

This is one of the posts I think might be interesting to include:

Are my heroines me?

Sometimes people ask if the main character in my novels is based on me… well no; I might wish I were like some of them, as brave and as fearless, but others of them put up with situations I wouldn’t tolerate. None of them look like me, although some have dark hair as I do, and I’m not really sure I would like to look like them either, even though they are mostly taller and slimmer than I am!

  1. Deke Colefox in Farholm: Deke and her sister Blaine have a book-shop and deli. Deke has been changed by the loss of her husband, and she appears in the book  as someone angry and bitter and wild with grief. She is prickly and aggressive, and yet she is also tenacious and brave.  I don’t think I would have reacted like she did in her situation, when she finds that her husband had lied to her so profoundly; I might have been angry but I don’t think I would have been so wild… although maybe when I was her age, who knows how I would have faced what she did?
  2. ‘Rosa’ Czekov in The Stalking of ‘Rosa’ Czekov: ‘Rosa’ has an art gallery, and is not a particularly noticeable person, although her husband Luka fell in love with her the first time he met her when she was a chubby fourteen year-old. She has brown hair, is plumpish, has no great interest in fashion or style, and likes to fade into the background. She is an observer, a watcher, and may seem passive and accepting, but behind her beautiful grey eyes there is a much more complex person. She shocks everyone, including Luka by her actions when faced by a gunman during a botched bank raid. I’m not passive like she is, although I do sometimes sit back and observe others; I like to be with the crowd, unlike ‘Rosa’, although I’m quite happy on the side-lines too.
  3. Tyche Kane in The Stalking of ‘Rosa’ Czekov: Tyche is not a bit like me, except she is sometimes – well quite often, quite zany. She is slim and blonde and very athletic and strong; she runs miles, she trains at the gym and works out every day. She is the sort of person who everyone would notice, she really would stand out in a crowd by her blond hair, blue eyes and wonderful looks. Just in case someone doesn’t notice her, Tyche is a show-off who does everything she can to draw attention to herself  This is not a bit like me… although I do have my crazy side, it’s on a much lower level than Tyche’s. She is an absolute one-off, but people really have no idea what her real character is and have a tendency to underestimate her. This is a mistake; Tyche is every bit as courageous as her cousin and has a core of steel. I think maybe in the past people have underestimated me, especially when I was a teacher I nearly always achieved what I wanted but by quietness and subtlety.
  4. Aislin McManus in Loving Judah: like me Aislin is a teacher, and some of her experiences in the classroom are similar to mine. I think of all my characters she is most like me, but she is also very different. I don’t think I could have married someone like her husband Peter Whitamore; I think I would have found him frustrating and his hobbies would have driven me mad… on the other hand, the presence of his wonderful son Judah was the clincher when it came to becoming a couple. Superficially Aislin might have looked a little like me, except more athletic, and a different build to me, but she too has dark hair.
  5. Beulah Cameron in Night Vision: Beulah is actually very good-looking, tall, slim, dark hair, flashing eyes, but her real charm is that she doesn’t realise it. Again, like me she is a teacher, but she teaches adults at a college in Manchester. Everyone likes Beulah, she is just a really nice, loving person, full of character. I wouldn’t be so immodest as to say I’m like her, and I am definitely unlike her in the way she has tolerated her husband over the years. He adores her but he is very controlling; I don’t think I could have accepted that, but maybe it just developed as the years of their marriage went by.
  6. Jaz (Jaswanti) Paul in Flipside: another teacher and with a similar career to mine, working in supposedly rough schools. Jaz is half Indian and is stunningly beautiful; she has a tendency to end up with the wrong men and has a terrible history of unfortunate relationships. Jaz tends to subdue her personality as she struggles with accepting who she really is, but she has a stubborn streak which doesn’t allow others to ride over her. She stands up for what she believes, and defends those she loves…  I guess that might be me too, although I don’t think I would be quite as out-spoken as she is.
  7. Genet McCauley in The Double Act: Genet has long rippling red hair and a sprinkle of freckles ‘like pale tea leaves’ across her nose, so physically she is nothing like me at all. She was brought up by an aunt and married her husband Lance when she was eighteen and they have a small seaside guest-house. He is a larger-than-life character and she is in his shade. She is passive, meek, timid, and when her group of friends are talking about each other’s characters, who is the cleverest, who is the funniest etc. she is described as ‘nice’ which secretly horrifies her, ‘nice is nothingy, nice is wishy-washy’. However like my other heroines people are wrong to underestimate her… when things get tough, when horror and mayhem disrupt her life, she proves to be strong, resilient and courageous. I think Genet and I are very dissimilar, although I think she would be a good friend if she really existed!
  8. Mal Stirling in A Strong Hand From Above (unpublished): Mal is an artist and illustrator and is a dreamy but independent person. She is quite happy to love her life with or without attachments, maybe because she was orphaned at an early age and brought up by a kindly step-father. She is maybe a little too trusting and falls into a situation where her life is at risk. I think I’m probably more cynical and hard-headed, and definitely am a person who likes to be with other people and in a steady relationship.
  9. Erin in The Story of Frederico Milan (unpublished): Erin is small with dark hair which shows some premature grey. She lectures at what was Strand Tech, and is the best friend of Frederico. She is a person who keeps her private life very private, even from Frederico. Although she could be described as ‘sensible’ she does make unexpected and perhaps irrational decisions, and has an almost self-destruct mode when it comes to relationships. Erin might seem superficially similar to me, but in fact she is completely different – except perhaps in loyalty to her friends and having a best friend who is a bloke.
  10. Ismène Verany in Lucky Portbaddon: Erin’s father was French/Vietnamese and she has inherited his dark hair, shape of face and features. She was in a difficult marriage for many years and is very tough and resilient, but her divorce and the death of her mother has changed her; now she is full of adventure and fun and ready to live life to the full, catching up on her missed years. I think I may have become like her if my life had been different, but I’m no good at dancing and don’t have lots of men falling in love with me!

The title of this post is ‘Are my heroines me?’ but the person who I write about who is most like me isn’t a heroine at all… he’s a hero – a male character. Just looking at his character, nothing at all to do with gender, Thomas Radwinter really is the most similar to me of all my ‘leads’… so I shall include him on my list:

11. Thomas Radwinter in Radwinter, Magick, Raddy and Syl, Beyond Hope and Earthquake (unpublished): Thomas is fat, ginger, bearded, and a man – so in that sense he is not at all like me! However he has different sides to his character, unbelievably shy and lacking in confidence  (an aspect of myself when I was much younger); he is absent-minded and gets in muddles, but actually through a natural wit and good luck, he succeeds in the end. He’s often laughed at which he works to his own advantage, and is much tougher than anyone would guess. People do tend to underestimate me, and think because I am so forgetful and get in muddles, that I won’t or can’t achieve my purpose. Well, like Thomas, in my muddly way, I do usually get where I want to be and I hope like Thomas I’m loving and kind and generous.

 

Settings and sets

At the weekend we visited Montecute House in south Somerset; this magnificent Tudor mansion which many people will know without realising it, as it’s been the setting for so many films. This beautiful old place built from honey-golden Ham stone and still with much of the original glass in the windows (four hundred year old glass!) was built in 1598 by Sir Edward Phelips; his family had lived in the area for nearly a hundred and fifty years. They were farmers, yeomen farmers, but Edward became a lawyer, then a member of parliament, then the king’s serjeant and  he was knighted in 1603.  He played an important part in the politics of the time and in fact he was a prosecutor during the trial of those involved in the Gunpowder Plot. His great-grandfather had bought the site of the grand house so it had been in the family for decades before the first foundation was dug or brick laid.

MONTACUTE AUGUST 14 2016 (17)

You might have seen it in the following films:

  • Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (2000)
  • The Libertine (2004)
  • The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Tottington Hall in the film was based on the house, 2005)
  • A Jubilee Bunt-A-Thon (Wallace and Gromit short film, 2012)
  •  Wolf Hall (2014)

I sometimes wonder about my own novels and stories… supposing they were ever by some miracle made into  films or TV series? Who would star in them, where would they be set? Only one of my novels, ‘Flipside’ is set in a real location, Oldham in Lancashire. it was set a bout twenty years ago, so much of the town centre has changed or vanished through redevelopment; however most of the action takes place in the village of Lees, and that is pretty unchanged, and Saddleworth Moor where other scenes take place is as beautiful as ever!

Another novel is loosely based on Yorkshire Pennine towns and villages, Holmfirth and Marsden mainly and so I’m sure any filming could take place there – I know often completely different locations are used pretending to be somewhere else, but even so, there are places just ready in case anyone should ever take up my novel ‘Loving Judah’.

All my other novels are set in my fictitious coastal area and the city of Strand and the towns of Easthope and Castair, and Camel Wood, an ancient woodland. Strand is completely made up but it has a promenade, an old harbour which is unused except by a few fishermen, and a new harbour which is where the ferry to Farholm Island docks. Farholm is very loosely based on Rathlin Island off the Antrim Coast. The seaside near my town of Easthope is similar to Portballintrae, also in Antrim, but Castair which is up on the moors, has more in common with some of the Pennine hill towns.

I’m sure if anyone ever should want to film my books, I would be so delighted and thrilled I would accept wherever they set them!

If you haven’t read my novels, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Lois+elsden