The Girl Who Stole the Apple is a one-off. My last book was Dead in the Water, featuring a new character Doug Mullen, a private eye who I expected (and still expect) to become the focal point of a new series. However, Doug does not appear in The Girl Who Stole the Apple.
This wasn't planned. Having found a new publisher and a new character, the obvious thing was to write the second in the series, but I had had this opening scene in my head for a very long time and I couldn't ignore it.
The scene involved (you guessed it) a girl stealing an apple. I had already tried writing the story as a police procedural, but somehow it didn't work, so I had put it aside and got on with writing Dead in the Water. Then early this year as I forced myself to get on with the next book, I decided to try again with that girl who stole the apple. I wanted to know who she was and why she stole the apple and who the tall guy who entered the shop with her was and why someone working in the shop ended up dead very shortly afterwards.
I did what many authors claim to do and I let the characters have their heads. This is, for me, a risky project. I prefer to have a fairly clear idea of where the plot is going. Inevitably I found myself being led down cul-de-sacs - or roads which appeared to be cul-de-sacs - but eventually to my surprise and delight I came to the end and realised that I had discovered what the story was all about.
Of course, after Joffe's editor had looked at the MS, there was a number of things which I needed to work on, but I appreciate that sort of feedback. As a writer, I value someone who can look at my work dispassionately and point out things that need 'fixing' in one way or another.
I am not like Mary Stewart, who was so competent and confident of her craft that when she received the edited MS of her first novel, she wrote a trenchant letter back to her publisher thus:
'My writing is better than your edits - please don't edit my books if you want to publish them.' As a piece of advice, this is not something I would encourage new writers to follow!!
Incidentally, I am doing a belated launch of the paperback at George and Delila’s Ice Cream Café, 104 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JE on Monday 10 October from 6.30 p.m. Special deals on the books and the ice-creams if you come and speak to me first!