Ideas for novels are such capricious creatures. They find a way into your thoughts, dart around like fireflies in the night for a few moments, then disappear God knows where, frequently leaving you with the feeling that you held in your hands the germ of something worthwhile there, only to let it slip away. If you happen to have a pen and paper handy and take the trouble to jot down a few notes, they never seem quite the same in the cold light of day. Flaws and negatives leap off the page, implausibilities queue up to warn you that going down this road will be a major waste of your time. It’s as if the fireside magic was a momentary buzz, a thing of its time that will never stand up to detailed analysis.
And then . . . sometimes an idea comes back. I can’t remember exactly when Anything For Her first presented itself to me as a concept. I do know that I already had the character of Billy Orr firmly in place and was looking for the right storyline to introduce him to everyone else. It’s how I’ve always operated so far. In The Hidden Legacy I’d been carrying Ellen around with me for several months before I found a suitable plot for her. In Lie In Wait it was the same with Owen Hall. I create the character, find the Achilles heel, then come up with a scenario that will put that weakness under intense pressure.
I know that I’ve always been fascinated by accounts of people who simply get up one morning and walk out of the life they’ve known with the intention of starting over again and I’m sure that must have played a part in choosing to have one of the characters fake her own death. I remember clearly that in the very early stages I was exploring the idea of Billy himself choosing to disappear but I’m pleased I came away from that idea and put Aimi in that position instead. By the time I was ready to start actually writing the novel as opposed to planning it, he had too many reasons to stay exactly where he was. The way to put him under pressure was not to allow him to run away but to make him feel that Aimi was under threat.
I also knew that I wanted to go for the multi-layered approach that has served me so well in the previous novels. When reading, I like to be credited with a bit of intelligence and always enjoy timeslip novels which withhold crucial pieces of information and make me work. I don’t mind if I jump to all the wrong conclusions as long as the final outcome doesn’t rely too heavily on coincidence or implausibility. If I have these expectations for myself as a reader, I feel duty bound to provide the same for anyone buying my books and some of the ideas for the novel came from research. I even paid for a session with a psychotherapist to go deeper into some of Billy’s problems and left wondering what on earth she must have thought. I had the distinct impression she assumed that all the questions I was asking about Billy were really for my own benefit!
Once I had the story worked out, all I needed was the right location and Camber Sands was an obvious choice for reasons I’ll be explaining in other blogs during the tour. If you’ve been there though, I think you’ll understand why I was attracted to the wide open spaces, the sense of danger associated with the tides and the proximity to places such as Rye and Winchelsea. As for Peak’s Island off the coast of Portland, Maine, I stumbled across that on a family holiday while still at the planning stage and knew I was going to have to include it. If you’re ever fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit New England, I’d urge you to make a point of going there.
And if you do, please say hello to Jeanie Alvares for me while you’re there – I’m sure you’ll come across her!