From time to time I dive back into the earlier Owen Archer novels to check what I’d written about a character who is showing up again in the latest book. As I did this on the weekend, and felt I was in conversation with myself, asking what I’d been thinking about years ago. It’s a curious experience. Despite the decades since writing this particular pair of books I found passages that took me back into the moment of first writing them, my doubts, my hesitations, and then that frisson of pleasure when I satisfied myself—yes, this is what I see in my mind, yes. Happily, they’ve stood the test of time.
I also catch snippets of thoughts, Owen’s and other characters’, that remind me of their past troubles, worries, intentions, hopes, joys, sorrows. Over time those slip away, but we all know how easily old moods can be resurrected—a chance encounter, a comment, a scent, a fragment of song. It’s helpful to refresh my memory about my characters’ internal lives. No database of facts about characters can catch this depth—it would be far too long.
Though rereading takes time I don’t consider it a burden. It’s fun to revisit previous episodes and rediscover tidbits that I can use now. There are benefits to writing a long running series. I have the space and leisure to follow characters across books (covering a little over a decade in their lives in many cases) and imagine how their lived experiences have changed them, for better or ill. I can build on encounters in earlier books, or simply return to a character whose story didn’t feel finished. Or I might flesh out an incident mentioned in passing that will deepen a character. I’m fortunate in being fond of most of the characters—actually all in one way or another–even if I’m just grateful that they remain characters I enjoy disliking, providing convenient foils for other characters.
I’ve teased you with the covers of the two books I reviewed on the weekend, the two books, 6 and 7 in the series, set in Wales. I wrote them after spending several months in Wales to get a sense of Owen’s roots. I fell in love with the Pembrokeshire Coast, and particularly St David’s (the photo is an aisle in St David’s Cathedral). Aberystwyth to the north holds wonderful memories for me as well. Once I’d experienced Wales, I simply had to let Owen return for a while.
I know, now you are wondering if I’ve taken Owen back to Wales. No, the next book is set in York and Yorkshire. So why was I reviewing this pair of books? You’ll need to wait to read the book–I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you!
Write faster. I hate waiting so long between books.
I’m sure my publisher thinks the same. But you would not like the results if I didn’t take the time to get it right.
I listen again to the first book. And as were in York last year for our holiday, sitting by the river I could ìmagen the river woman in her strange house and her son being pushed into the river.
Many thanks after listening to your
Archer books made myself, my late husband and daughter fall in love with York. I don’t think I will make the journey up again from the new forest, but I think my daughter n granddaughter will visit York again God willing, one day.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I am always happy to hear that my books inspired a love of York, my favorite city. Thank you!
I love your meticulous research and characters and have reread your books while looking forward to your new ones. Brilliant weaver of mystery you are! Any film versions in the future?
Thank you, Liz! No films in the works, but I can always hope.
I live in Yorkshire and York is one of my favourite places to visit so I’m looking forward to your next book to be set in this the lovely city
LikeLiked by 1 person
St. David’s is one of the regrettably few places I managed to see in my one foray into Wales. I recall I was astonished by how small the cathedral was. I am sure my sister-in-law will be looking forward to the new book.
It’s so good to hear from you, John! I’m glad to hear your sister is still enjoying the books.
St David’s is small, but so is the town. I appreciated the intimate atmosphere in evensong when I stayed there for a month or so.