Ask any author about how they write and you’ll find a variety of different ways to achieve the same goal. A finished book. Some of us plan meticulously; planning chapter for chapter. Some of us have an overall arc of how the story will pan out and some of us, like me, have no idea at all. In other words we just wing it.
I have in the past tried to plan out my books but much to the despair of my wonderful agent, Judith Murdoch and the patience and trust of my publishers, Avon/HarperCollins, I just can’t work like that and I rarely can give them a synopsis till the book is almost complete.
The way I work is a name comes into my mind and I know that this character has a story to tell. Then I’ll sit down in front of the computer and I’m taken on a journey by them. I see the story in my mind’s eye. It’s like watching a movie and all I feel like I’m doing is writing down what I see and hear. So when twists and turns come along, I’m as surprised as the reader. I never see them coming.
Now how Dishonour came about was this; the emotional wounds of me being in an abusive relationship were beginning to heal. Time had been put between it and me. But when it was actually happening to me and when I finally managed to get out after many years, I looked around and I saw all my friends and family waiting, ready to help, love and stop me from falling. I was one of the lucky ones. The love and support I got held me up and was one of the defining factors of me being able to find the strength to rebuild a new, healthy, happy life. But this got me thinking. How must it feel if you’ve got no-one? How must it feel if the ones you trusted the most; your family perhaps, were part of helping to put and keep you in an abusive relationship? Quite literally you had no-one to turn to and nowhere to go.
One evening I was sitting on the couch, indulging in back to back episodes of Emmerdale and the name, Laila Khan, came to me, who later would turn out to be my female protagonist. I could picture Laila. I could picture her as a teenage girl, living in western society, going to a western school but expected to uphold the values of a country she’d rarely visited.
I wanted to explore forced marriage, religious abuse, but I wanted it to be character driven. I wanted the reader to feel Laila’s fear and pain. Her powerlessness and her despair at her family forcing her at sixteen to marry a much older man as a consequence of holding hands with a young English boy, Ray-Ray Thompson, who happens to be the son of a London face. A number one gangster.
I took my own feelings and the fear I had when I was in an abusive relationship and I transferred them to Laila, but with the added horror of her being taken to another country. A place where she was totally alienated. A place where she couldn’t speak the language or knew the culture.
All the way through, I was rooting for Laila, I didn’t know her outcome, if she’d live or die, and of course I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I did so much enjoy writing her story.
As well as Laila’s story in Dishonour, there’s also another story. An intertwining one which I’m not going to say anything about, apart from its a very sinister, dark tale which I found very, very exciting but most of all I hope it gives you, the readers, a killer read…