Why do I write such different books?
Talking to a friend about “Shadows on the Grass,” she said that it sounded more of a historical novel than the books I usually write. In any event it was different from the previous two, “House of Shadows” and “Picking up the Pieces.”
Which of course it is. While “House of Shadows” is a time slip/supernatural story, with a touch of the Gothic, “Picking up the Pieces” is a contemporary novel about the difficulties of being an older woman who has lost her job, or, as in Elsa’s case, when her ex-husband goes bankrupt, her alternative source of income.
“Shadows on the Grass,” on the other hand, tells the story of a Polish immigrant family, who come to the UK after WW2. It goes back into their history and uncovers deeply buried secrets in their past, going back as far as pre1914 Poland.
The book also explores family relationships, primarily those between mothers and daughters, throughout the generations.
Another theme is loss. The Dzierzanowski family can’t return to Poland because the country they knew no longer existed as it was virtually satellite state of the USSR, which at that time was separated from the West by what was called The Iron Curtain. Travel between the West and the Eastern Bloc was difficult, if not impossible and my own parents could not visit their relatives, until I was in my late teens.
On the surface, a very different book and yet there are a number of similarities. A sense of loss pervades “House of Shadows”. In that case it is the loss of a child, which is key to the action of the book. There is also, loss in “Picking up the Pieces”. As all three women have to face profound changes in their lives. Much is lost, but more is gained.
Again, all three books are set in Bristol. A city I know and love and which, in spite of the fact that I haven’t lived there since my late teens, still inspires much of my work.
The three genres, however, are very different. This is possibly not the best marketing ploy. Commercially successful writers tend to be those who write series of books. The most profitable, at the moment, being crime.
Why then don’t I find a genre that suits me and stick to that? If money were the sole object, then I would, but that is not why I write.
I write because I have a stories that want to be told, themes that I want to explore and to be honest, I enjoy trying out different genres and suspect I would be bored sticking to just one, especially if there were quite rigid conventions to be observed.
The other reason I write a variety of different books is because I can. Unlike some writers I am not tied in to a contract that demands more of the same, so I am free to experiment and be as creative as I want.
It doesn’t always work. There is a book waiting on my hard drive that can’t quite find its form, but when it does it fuels my enthusiasm and, on a good day, makes writing sheer pleasure.
PS. I also write children’s books, but more on those in another blog.
“Shadows on the Grass” due to be published as an e-book in January 2018.