Thursday, 9 May 2013

GUEST BLOG: That First Solo Novel - Stella Gemmell

Having had the pleasure of reading Stella's debut title "The City" a little while ago, we were sitting on this guest blog as something of a special feature for our readers.

We love the humour within alongside the honesty, so hopefully you'll check out her debut, and now onto Stella's feature:

"I was really looking forward to writing my murder mystery.

I’ve always liked whodunits. In books, in films, on TV. Most of my life I’ve been reading them, savouring the blue-blooded ‘tecs and the red herrings, enjoying their quirks and weaknesses, addictions and compulsions - from Wilkie Collins’ Sergeant Cuff, through Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, to Rankin’s Rebus. And, sometimes I thought, I could do that.

But it had to be different. Not set in ancient Greece, which is the only historical period I know anything about (too much research). Not a cat detective (so tempting but, I know, it’s been done.) So I thought I’d set my mystery in a fantasy, quasi-medieval world. I’m sure I’m not the first to think of that, but I’m the first I’ve read.

So it started, as all the best murders do, with the discovery of the corpse. It was washing about deep in a sewer, but there were some clues – military tattoos and a piece of cloth. My proposed detective was intrigued by the body, and it was my intention that he work his way up through the geographical and social strata of the City to finally unveil the culprit in the last few pages.

But after the first few chapters of desperation in the dark I needed to get away from the sewers for a bit, and moved out to a wide open battle plain.

That was my first mistake.

Within her first few pages I fell for my heroine, the warrior woman Indaro, and found myself compelled to find out what might happen to her and her comrades. She was so like me (apart from the warrior part, and the gorgeous Burne-Jones hair and the thinness) it was amazing!

My husband often spoke of the annoying way a character will sometimes go racing off in the wrong direction, while you stand there yelling impotently, ‘Come back! The plot’s this way!’ I didn’t expect that to happen to me. But Indaro had a mind of her own and, after a bit of a struggle, we came to a compromise – we’d both go where she wanted to go.

I had no choice but to follow and trust she knew what she was doing. And she did, not just because she was strong, and a great warrior, and had the blood of the powerful in her veins, but because she had good instincts.

Writing women in battle is still hard (although not apparently to Steven Pressfield). Even in the world of fantasy, mine anyway, they are not as physically strong as the menfolk. And brute strength, in a medieval-type world, is always going to be the deciding factor in a battle, before the coming of artillery.  So the women warriors I wrote about were all veterans who had long since found a way to live and die with their male comrades. Indaro and Doon, and others to follow in their bootsteps in the sequel to The City, are not soldiers because they want to be, but because they have to be and, like millions of women down hundreds of generations, they just get on with it.

But I’ve got this great idea for a whodunit..."

No comments: