I thought I would dedicate a blog post to one of the main characters in the book I’m currently working on. The reason being I was inspired by a special lady who frequents our café. I first met Betsy four years ago when she was ninety-six! Yes, she turned one hundred this week, and my husband and I went to our very first 100th birthday party!
I remember Betsy looking quite a glamorous lady back then. Her beaming smile, poise and elegance caught my eye whilst drinking her cup of coffee in Breakers. I recall chatting with her the first time and admiring how witty, chatty, and upbeat she seemed. Certainly, there were no signs that signalled she was in her nineties!
When she told me she was ninety-six, I was utterly flabbergasted. This well-turned-out woman, who was beaming and lively, did not portray an elderly person of such an age! I often saw her around Cromer or in the cafe, and she always made time to smile and say hello.
So, when conjuring up characters for my current book, I needed my main character, Paula (who’s a writer), to come across a woman in the café where she works with an interesting story to tell. Well, who do you think came to mind? Betsy became my character, Kitty.
Now, the tale that Kitty tells is, no doubt, vastly different from the life of Betsy, however, I borrowed elements from the story of someone else in my life… my mother-in-law. As authors, we often like to blend real-life stories into our works of fiction! We get to turn the story around, dramatise it, and make it work for our genre.
My new novel
Kitty recounts a traumatic story of becoming pregnant at seventeen during a time when single mothers were shamed and ostracised. The diary entries of ‘Kitty’(which are written in alternate chapters) add a dark and grim narrative to the book. She is sent off to a mother and baby unit, which turns out to be run by catholic nuns and is adjacent to a convent.
Sister Agnes is an evil figure who is cruel and punitive, as are some of the other nuns. Kitty has been deserted by her lover, Francois (who has returned to France), and her family has turned their backs on her, too. All except her Aunt Mabel, who takes Kitty in for a short period before she’s admitted to the mother and baby home.
Kitty, in current times, is a well-spoken, intelligent woman who is – yes, you’ve guessed it – ninety-six years old! She wears beautiful designer clothes and various hats, and despite using a walker, she even wears heels! Her makeup is soft, and her smile is warm. However, at times, there’s a coldness in her eyes, which Paula can’t quite work out. Has her life been so hard that it has hardened her? Could there be some vendetta or score she needs to settle before her life ends?
Some days, Kitty seems quite frail and poorly, but she insists there is nothing wrong. Paula is saddened by how cruelly life has treated her but even more so by the shame and stigma that still surrounds her. All of Kitty’s loved ones have now passed, and she sees her long life as an act of divine retribution.
Paula, who is the main protagonist of my novel, is a writer with a deadline to meet. Kitty has said that she will only give her the rights to her story if she hears it to the end. Paula is impatient and desperate to know what the outcome is. Does Kitty get to keep her baby? Do her family take her back after the birth? Will Aunt Mabel come to her rescue?
But Paula has more than her publisher’s deadline at stake here. Her husband, who is a misogynistic, lazy, good-for-nothing oaf, has been having an affair. Their marriage has been dead for years, and Paula fantasises about leaving him. But she is financially dependent on him and their home. Kitty’s story could be the making of her author career and solve all her problems. It could take her from being a semi-successful author to a full-blown high-earning author.
But, with a stalker lurking around the café, Kitty’s sudden disappearance, and the whole town gossiping about her husband’s latest affair with the local trollop, things look bleak for Paula. Will she get to the end of Kitty’s story? Will she get away from her husband, this town, the man in the fedora hat who seems to be stalking her?
Work in progress
So, readers, this novel is a little complicated (for reasons I cannot go into) and is due to be read by my editor in December. If it all pulls together, I can guarantee it will have you on the edge of your seat, taking you through every emotion possible, with a dramatic twist that I really hope nobody will see coming at the end. It is a level above my last thriller, The Hoax, and I have ensured there is a character that all my readers will be rooting for this time.
If my editor finds no major structural problems or flaws, the editing and proofreading process will commence, with the book (hopefully) ready for release by April 2024. I will be asking for some advanced readers nearer the time.
Meanwhile, I have already designed a book cover, which I look forward to sharing with everyone at the beginning of 2024. I have a feeling this book is going to be my best yet!
Watch this space!