An Interview with Author Wendy Percival

Wendy Percival is the author of the Esme Quentin mystery stories. The second book The Indelible Stain was published a couple of weeks ago. I was delighted when Wendy Percival agreed to answer some questions about her first book, Blood-Tied.

Why did you write Blood-Tied?

I’d been cutting my writing teeth on short story writing but, as with most aspiring writers, I guess, I really wanted to write a novel. Writing Magazine was running a short story competition using a photograph as the prompt. Although I mapped out an idea for a story, for one reason or another I never actually wrote it and the closing date passed by. But the idea stayed with me. This coincided with a trip to Shropshire to take the first steps into my family history research. As is often the case with family history, certain little secrets came to light. That concept – of not knowing things about family which had been taken for granted – along with the idea from the photograph somehow merged together and began to develop into a plot which grew beyond the initial short story. Blood-Tied was the result. Of course, it wasn’t as completely straight forward as that and took a lot of reworking before the final version was complete, but that was its beginnings.

What kind of reader would enjoy Blood-Tied?

As you once said, Cathy, anyone who loves family history, would enjoy Blood-Tied. As well as the subject matter, perhaps it’s the similarity of following of a trail and uncovering information which is the buzz family historians get from their research. But even without an interest in family history, it would appeal anyone who likes a mystery and enjoys an intriguing plot. Another appeal is that it’s not ‘hard boiled.’ Although I aim to build tension and suspense into a story, I like to do it subtly, without graphic detail. So someone who doesn’t like ‘blood and gore’ can be reassured they won’t be put off their lunch!

How did you develop your characters?

Names are immensely important and I give a lot of thought to which ones to use before I start. I can’t remember where the name Esme came from but once I’d thought of it, her character seemed to grow from there. I try not to have similar names in a story (unless that becomes a plot point in itself!) so that it’s not confusing. Which is even more important when different generations might be part of the cast list.

Once I’ve got a name which sums up the character I’m trying to convey, it’s much easier to visualise that person and, because by then I’ll know their role in the story, their character develops somewhere deep down in my subconscious. That’s one of the exciting parts of writing – the magic which takes over once the ingredients are fed in! I then try and pick out something about them which is key to who they are, something visual and behavioural, to put in the text to help the reader see them the way I do. Some writers start with a detailed biography of each character but although I do use that sort of thing as a prompt, it’s not something I do rigidly before I begin writing.

What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

As far as influential authors go, there are many, but most noteworthy over the years are probably Catherine Cookson, Susan Howatch, Robert Goddard and Elizabeth George. Writers’ News and Writing Magazine have been very important to me since I started writing, both for guidance in the writing process and an insight into the world of publishing and the writing life. Without them, I’m not sure I’d have even got started! I have the late David St John Thomas, the founder of Writers’ News, to thank for that.

Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

Having just published the second Esme mystery, The Indelible Stain, I’m currently busy with the promotional side of things. I’ll also be doing more research of my own family history and writing posts for my blog, Family History Secrets.

Ideas for the next Esme novel are already buzzing around in my head and I’m making notes and doing background reading while that particular ‘soup’ matures.

But it’s nice to have a clear head for a while, as once the novel gets underway, it can be all consuming and I get sucked under pretty easily. Right now I’m enjoying the freedom to lift my head, visit new places and take in what’s going on around me. Besides, it’s all good fodder for plotting!

☺☺☺☺

Thank you so much Wendy for appearing on my blog. I bet it won't be long before you start drafting out your next Esme novel. She's too strong a character to remain in your notebook! Meanwhile I'll continue enjoying your Family History Secrets blog.

Click here for links to Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain on Wendy Percival's website and here for her author page at Amazon.