Today I welcome Anna Legat to The Writers’ Hub. I say this with great pleasure because I love Anna’s novels. She has a fabulous forthcoming publication which I cannot wait to read. I am also honoured to be included in the blog tour for Cause of Death, a fabulous contemporary crime series set in a fictional English village. Over to Anna:
It goes without saying that a historical fiction writer will channel their energies into researching the period in which they set their books. They will explore fashion and language, society structures and the customs of the people who inhabited that period. They will have to paint that long-gone reality for their readers in order to transport them in time. And to complete the picture, they will also have to reference major events that defined that era, be it the Barons’ Rebellion in Carol’s The Damask Rose or the Norman Conquest of Britain in The Daughters of Hastings.
I am not a historian. I write contemporary crime fiction, but I think it would be a mistake to assume that contemporary fiction is to be written entirely out of the context of events and trends that shape our modern-day reality and which will, in time, become history. Yes, modern romantic fiction is about the ups and downs of two people falling in love, thrillers are about the blood-curdling ordeals victims of crime or abuse are subjected to, and crime fiction is about tracking down that illusive criminal. But an important ingredient of great fiction – be it historical or contemporary, and whatever the genre – is that broader canvas. If it isn’t there, characters will be suspended in a vacuum and their stories will be stifled.
Nobody exists in perfect isolation from the world, and fiction needs to reflect that. A few months ago, someone advised me not to set any of my books in the time of the Covid pandemic because that risked them becoming obsolete and irrelevant to my readers when the pandemic was over. And on top of that, who would want to read about the bad times? I couldn’t disagree more. Taking the challenges of the pandemic out of our fiction is tantamount to sanitising our writing and detaching ourselves from reality and a wealth of experiences that we have in common with our readers.
Great fiction is timeless because it interacts with reality and presents us with relatable life experiences. Readers love The Tattooist of Auschwitz or The Kite Runner precisely because the emotional human drama is set in dark times and that stimulates greater empathy in the reader.
In my DI Marsh crime series I often include themes about difficult contemporary issues that my readers and I have lived through. For example, my lead character in Sandman (2020) is an Afghan war veteran who turns to terrorism to right the wrongs done to him and his family; the mass refugee crisis post-2015 is the backdrop of that story. In Conspiracy of Silence (2021) I touch on the subject of the so-called alt-right movement and the ways of far-right extremism capturing the minds of our youth.
My new series, The Shires Mysteries, falls into the cosy crime category, and indeed the books ripple with good humour, loveable characters and quaint settings; there is no gore, no excessive forensic procedures or violence there, but I still insist on placing them firmly within the context of our times. In the first book of the series, Death Comes to Bishops Well, tentacles of the Cold War reach into the idyllic village of Bishops Well, and in At Death’s Door there are references to illegal arms dealing in war-torn regions of Africa. My third book in the series, Cause of Death, which is out on 14th April, tackles difficult themes of recent European history and our own domestic scandals that reshaped our values (though I can’t say more for fear of spoilers).
Cause of Death (Headline Accent) can be pre-ordered now from all good bookstores. It can be read standalone but if you catch up on the whole series it reads even better.
All is not well in the village. The local meadows have been the pride of Bishops Well for hundreds of years, but now they are facing the sharp blades of developers. The landowner is a rich and reclusive author who is happy to see them destroyed, but the villagers – including Sam Dee and Maggie Kaye – are fighting back.
Until, that is, someone decides to silence one of their number permanently.
As Maggie and Sam soon discover, there is more than a quick buck to be made in the developers’ plans. There are age-old secrets and personal vendettas that could have deadly repercussions in Bishops Well today.
With Sam’s legal expertise and Maggie’s… well, Maggie-ness, they delve into the past, determined to unearth the truth. And, as sparks begin to fly, could there finally be something more between this sleuthing duo?
Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications in New Zealand. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.