#8 in the series has only 8 days to launch, and wow the days are flying. It’s been over a year since the last Lawns book was released, for lots of reasons, one being that it was the book I have looked forward the most to writing so you’d KNOW it was going to be the hardest, right?
When I first thought of using the nursery rhyme for the series some names suggested themes, and some presented obvious problems. Seven Eight, lay what straight? Corpses, seeing the books are whodunits? Nah. I ended up cheating and making that one Seven Eight Play It Straight and setting it in the Edinburgh Festival and since this is August and we are once again enjoying the Festival, I’m going to put that on promo at the same time as I release the new one. Make a note in your diary. One for nothing and one at launch price? BARGAIN.
I’ve only just worked out how to handle Seventeen Eighteen so now I can get on and write it (Ladies Waiting, unless it changes again) but from very early on two were always going to be easy. Three Four Knock On My Door, that was a GIFT. And Fifteen Sixteen Maids In The Kitchen? A little pilot light went on. I would have Vivian and Edge in the kitchen of a country house doing the catering!
There were times I battled with the others when I consoled myself with the prospect of Fifteen Sixteen, because I knew with that conventional setting, that country house, that body in the library, it would write ITSELF. Ha. I am a prolific and speedy writer, and the books are novellas, and the book was written nearly a year ago but – not quite right. It didn’t work. I put it aside and wrote something else (as Joanna Lamprey). Went back to it. Still couldn’t get it right. Wrote something else (as Clarissa Rodgers-Briskleigh). Went through a bit of writers block as well, which is the equivalent of a runner getting a stress fracture and not being able to run for a while, and is horrible.
Finally the book relented, turned smooth, the rewrite was a success and all was well with the world, it was, finally, as much fun as I had always thought it would be. The alpha readers liked it. The beta readers liked it. I sent it off to the editor and turned my attention to one thing both the alpha and beta readers had requested – a floor plan. This is a houseparty of thirteen, after all, and they all said a floor plan would be invaluable.
As it happens, Robertson Manor is (very) loosely based on a real Edwardian estate (Kinloch Castle) so obviously I looked at their architectural plans first. Hmmm, no. I simplified. And simplified. And simplified again, until I had exactly what I needed, the main hall, the library, the other rooms, and the ten bedrooms.
My floorplan still looked like something drawn by a writer with no architectural training whatsoever. Almost in tears I turned to a friend who is a professional mapmaker, who in an hour or two turned my tatty sketch into something I could fiddle with and mess up again. Excellent! Here’s the upstairs plan, with guests who are mainly writers. (My four main characters, Edge, Vivian, William and Donald, are downstairs)
Except . . . some of the action in the book happens in passageways. All that simplifying, I had removed nearly all the passageways downstairs. I was left with the open-arch walkway around the hall, and that was IT.
This is what that walkway looks like at Kinloch Castle, by the way, which was originally a shooting lodge, hence all the deer. So was Robertson Manor, which I promise does not have exotic metalwork or a baboon-eating eagle statue, although it does have a very elderly stuffed eagle. And, since it was also once a shooting lodge, deer. There are living ones, too, which are relevant and play a role and don’t get shot.
So there had to be some fairly agitated rewriting. I think the book is actually the better for it. I hope so, anyway. The countdown and link to pre-ordering will be in the next blog, which in theory (gulp) is tomorrow. Or the next day.