Jane Isaac’s new book, ‘Beneath the Ashes’ was published yesterday the 1st November 2016 by Legend Press. I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour to celebrate it. I have a guest post for all of you which Jane has very kindly written but first, here’s what the book is all about.
The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.
When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.
Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?
Writing Through the Eyes of a Different Gender
When I started writing fiction, I kicked off with a female lead and my first two novels featured Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery. Writing through the eyes of another woman was almost like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that. I got to know her really well during the time we spent together and look forward to working with her again in future books.
With my third novel, I started a new series set in Stratford upon Avon featuring Detective Inspector Will Jackman and my latest release, Beneath the Ashes, is the second in this series. So, why the change?
It initially came about as a result of a conversation with my husband. As I was sitting at my PC, putting the finishing touches to my second book he came and leant over my shoulder one morning and said, ‘Do you think you can write a novel with a male lead?’ My reaction was immediate, ‘Of course, I can!’ He was teasing me really, the question tongue in cheek. But the challenge had been laid. I’d worked with peripheral male characters in the past, how hard could it be to work with a male lead?
It’s no secret that men and women think differently and act differently in certain circumstances. You don’t need to have read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus to be aware of those distinctions. Then there are those little character traits: At a shop counter, a woman might delve into a handbag full of items to retrieve her purse to pay; a man might rummage through his trouser pocket or retrieve a wallet from the inside of his jacket. Huge generalisations, but while the physical differences between men and women are fairly obvious to see, some of the cognitive and behavioural differences are less so.
I need to get underneath the skin of a character, to think like they do, breathe the same air, bring them to life on the page. This is especially important for a lead – if they are not real to me, how can I expect them to become real to my readers? I’d already laid some ground rules: Will Jackman was a strong character, a former marine. He was also a father, a husband. But the question was – how would I climb into his head?
First, I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brothers, my husband and my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got it somewhere near.
What was the result of my research? While Helen is a strong independent woman, she is no man in a skirt and is deeply passionate about the finding a result for victim’s family. Jackman is more single minded, less emotional, although you’d be wrong if you thought he saw the world as black and white. He’s a thinker and a feeler and there are definite elements of grey in his peripheral vision.
There is a lot of technology in modern day policing from CCTV cameras to mobile phones and tracking devices, to name but a few. Jackman embraces all of these, naturally, but he’s also a perceptive, seasoned detective: constantly reading body language, looking around him, picking up on those subtle little clues that many of the rest of us miss as daily life passes us by.
It took a while to become familiar with Will Jackman. In fact, it wasn’t until I was watching a film with my family one evening, not long after I’d completed the initial draft of the first novel in the series, Before It’s Too Late, when I found myself saying, ‘Jackman wouldn’t do that…’ My daughter immediately rounded on me, ‘You do know he’s not real, right mum?’ I allowed myself a wry smile. Because that’s where she was wrong. That’s the moment when I realised, he was finally real to me.
About Jane Isaac
Jane Isaac lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. An Unfamiliar Murder, her first novel, marked the start of the DCI Helen Lavery series and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.
In June 2015, Jane released Before It’s Too Late, the first in the DI Will Jackman series set in Stratford upon Avon. Beneath the Ashes is the second in this series and May 2017 will see the release of the third, The Lies Within. Connect with Jane at www.janeisaac.co.uk.
‘Beneath the Ashes’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-