Thursday, 25 October 2012

THE MURDER QUADRILLE – how it came to be!

Today's guest blog is by author and actress Fidelis Morgan.  Fidelis is best known as the author of the Countess de la Zouch series. Here she writes about how she came to write her latest novel The Murder Quadrille.

I started writing books at 5 years old.  I wrote plays too, painted the scenery, composed the music and played the main parts.

I have always loved doing everything and on top of working as an actress, I always wanted to write novels professionally.

But I got waylaid.  I told someone about a discovery I had made: women, hitherto thought to be absent from literature before Jane Austen, were writing plays professionally 150 years earlier.

Then I said ‘someone should write a book about it.’  But as I was the only person who knew about it, only I could write that book, The Female Wits.  It was a publishing sensation.  Then I was asked to write more non-fiction books about 17th/18th century women.  I was constantly called to print, TV and radio to talk about them.

But I wanted to write novels, not be consumed by a subject I had only got into by fluke.  So one day when Woman’s Hour phoned I replied.  “We got a divorce.”  I was moving on.

Shakespeare was allowed to do it, so were Charles Dickens, Graham Greene and countless others.  We may know Arthur Conan Doyle only for Sherlock Holmes, but he also wrote sci-fi, poetry, historical fiction, novels and plays. 

However, in modern publishing, changing genre is forbidden.  Even a slight shift provokes concern.  Ruth Rendell had to invent a new name simply to write a slightly different type of crime novel – she wasn’t even moving out of her genre.

So my first jump – from history into fiction - was a huge one, but, in order to satisfy demands, I stayed within the period for which I was already well known, the late Restoration, 1699.

I adore my Countess series, and that world is to me, after all those years of work on the period, as comfortable for me as my own living room.  But so is the world I actually live in and when new ideas bubble up I cannot resist grabbing them. 

I had an idea to write a contemporary novel using multiple narrators (some of them with quite horrible personalities) passing the narrative along, as though in a relay race.  I also wanted to attempt to lead the reader along, while repeatedly reversing their perceptions and sympathies. 

While doing all this, my overriding intention was, as usual, to keep people on the edge of their seat, and make them laugh too.

The result is The Murder Quadrille, a modern standalone murder thriller inspired by two things:

Patricia Highsmith’s Woodrow Wilson’s Necktie.  I was in awe of how in a few pages she completely twists round the reader’s take on events.

The work of Wilkie Collins.  I love his use of multiple narrators.  In The Woman In White I am particularly fond of the hypochondriac uncle and love how, despite his being so vile, you want more of him. 

I finished writing The Murder Quadrille and started the practical matter of getting the book published.  It was not fun.  I was firmly told that only series books and, in my case, only historical crime series books would be considered. 

After all my work, no one would even read it.

However, I hate the word ‘No’, so I gave the novel to three world-famous crime-writers.  They all told me they loved it.  One of them, who never gives blurbs, told me to self-publish.  It was too good to keep to myself, she said.

So here it is:  The Murder Quadrille

The Murder Quadrille by Fidelis Morgan is published in paperback on 25th October, £8.99.
The ebook is available on kindle now

More information can be found about Fidelis Morgan and her writing on her website.

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