(Or - Why I Created The Deverells.)
When I was younger I LOVED the old fashioned family dramas I read or watched in weekly TV serials - great sweeping sagas like Penmarric by Susan Howatch, Flambards by K.M. Peyton, and The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. Engrossed in these tales, living the stories alongside wonderful, vividly-drawn characters, I'd sit for hours with my nose in a book, or sprawled on the floor with chin in hand, staring up at the glowing screen. Waiting to see what would happen next in another chapter or the following week's episode, was unbearable suspense. I counted the hours until I could catch up with the story.
Naturally, I always longed to create a similar family saga of my own, and now, with The Deverells, I have finally seen that wish come true.
People sometimes say to me that they don't know where I get all my ideas, but the thing is - I don't get them really. They get me. They sit in my head and lurk there, gathering bits and pieces, spinning around. I never know what will come out or even, occasionally, how it got there. It's rather like opening the dryer door and finding a load of clothes you don't remember putting in. There's often even a stray sock floating around in the pile. And a lint screen to clean off.
Hey, who said writing was glamorous?
I started scribbling down ideas for The Deverells some time ago, drawing out a family tree with True Deverell - the patriarch - firmly in the middle with a lot of twisty branches reaching out. I made the decision that he would be neither good, nor bad, that he would be a mysterious figure with a dark past and a strong presence. He is older than most romantic heroes, but then - as he would remind me - he is not a hero and if some folk mistake him for one that's their fault. (He can be most obstreperous, to put it mildly!) True Deverell is a man who enjoys "cocking a snook" at respectable society and does so frequently with a great deal of success.
I'm told I've always been a bit stubborn, disrespectful and rebellious myself. Maybe that's why I loved creating him so much.
So I pitched my family saga idea to a few publishers and agents who dismissed it before they'd even read beyond the first chapter. They didn't think family sagas would sell anymore. The story didn't fit their formula for romance and they prefer a "unified" look to their books. It was the wrong time period, because - as I was told then (two years ago) - Victorian doesn't sell. (Hmm, alrighty then...maybe they were just trying to turn me down in as nice a way as possible, without actually saying "this sucks".) One publisher suggested I turn True's story into a novella (a prequel) to introduce the series, because they didn't think he - a divorced man in his forties with a brood of children - would be popular enough with their readership to make his story a full-length novel. In short, the idea was too different to what they were publishing and out of their comfort zone.
But I didn't want to change True. To me he was a real person already and I couldn't remake him into something that fit a mould. In fact, I'm fairly sure he would protest the indignity in no uncertain terms. I couldn't put him in a kilt to run around the Scottish Highlands. Nor could I bring him to life fifty years earlier and make him a Duke.
Somebody has to take a chance, however, otherwise we'd all be reading the same book printed with a slightly different cover on it, right? That might make it easier for the publisher, but it's boring as heck for us - authors, readers and those of us who are both.
Well, thankfully, Twisted E-Publishing agreed to throw caution to the wind and take that chance on my Victorian series. And on True Deverell, despite his sprigs of grey hair, difficult attitude and unsavory past. Of course, I don't have a publicity department behind me and marketing is on a bare bones budget, but that is a sacrifice I had to make in order to tell the story I wanted to write. After all, if I'm not enjoying this, what's the point? I write what I would like to read, rather than chase a market trend and that means I have to give up some of the advantages that come with a bigger publisher.
In any case, I am having so much fun with the naughty Deverells and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. True's many sons and his daughter will continue the saga, of course, but his story is never quite finished, as you will see in the continuing episodes. What's in store for the Deverells? Surprises, scandals , scrumpy cider and torn stockings galore, I fear. Not to mention cocking a lot of snook.
What is snook anyway?? It seems I have a bad case of it.
Better stay tuned for the next enthralling chapter....
The Deverells begins with TRUE STORY and continues with STORM and CHASING RAVEN.
(coming soon - RANSOM REDEEMED and DAMON UNDONE).
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(photo above is a family picture of my father as a boy of eight with his little brother, his mother Grace, and his grandparents. Now that's another family saga... )