In 2022, I promised to release the first ten Wild Fens Murder Mystery books within a year. I did it in thirteen months. Is that a fail? No, I don't think so. In fact, if somebody had told me how well the first ten books would be received, I'd have called them a liar - unless it had been my wife, in which case I'd have said, "Yes, dear."
The fact of the matter is that nearly all ten books have been in the top 100 books on Amazon, and every one of them has been a best seller, which is way beyond my expectations.
The First Ten Wild Fens Murder Mysteries
In case you are yet to read any of the Wild Fens books, I won't be giving away any spoilers so don't worry, it's safe to read on.
If you're a fan of murder mystery novels then there is a good chance that you're also a fan of murder mystery TV Shows. I want you to think of the first ten books as the first season. The series arcs that were established during those first few books are now all closed, and as some of you might have recognised, a new set of challenges face the cast both on a team level, and as individuals, which the ten books will explore; the next season.
It was while I was writing those first few books that the pieces of the jigsaw came together, or rather, the characters came together like magic. Freya and Ben were of course planned, they had been in my mind for a long time before the first word was even typed. But the rest of the team just kind of emerged, evolved, and grew.
Anybody who has read any of my books will know that the stories aren't just crime stories or murder mysteries, they are also a deep dive into the team of detectives, and for that reason I had to bring them to life, I had to add depth and for that, I had to look at the people I know and have known, to find humour, romance, and stoicism, and all those little foibles that make us human.
But the fun didn't stop there. The team are typically paired; Freya and Ben, Gillespie and Cruz, Nillson and Anderson, and lastly Chapman and Gold. These pairs aren't a happy coincidence. The characters need to work in their pairs and with the rest of the team as a whole, and then the dynamic of each pair must work/play off the other pairs. In this instance I'm confident that I pulled it off, but at the back of my mind, I'm wondering if I can ever pull that kind of magic out of the bag again. A part of me thinks not. It thinks that the chemistry between them is something that must emerge, evolve, and grow. It cannot be created on a notepad or a mind map. Just like a real-life team is filled with variety, traits, and defining characteristics, so must the cast of a books series be, and it's with this in mind that I start a new series, set in the Lincolnshire Wolds this time. The Wolds is not too far from Freya and Ben in the Fens, but as far as landscape goes, it might as well be on another planet. Watch this space for more updates on the new series.
The Next Ten Wild Fens Murder Mysteries
At the time of writing, book eleven is with my editor. I've spent some time with my family and have already made a start on book twelve. But there is a difference to the next ten besides the obvious series arcs. The characters, which I explained above, are so well established now that they speak, act, and behave as individuals. I barely even have to think when I write Gillespie or Cruz, I simply need to allow the child in me the freedom to speak. Ben and Freya are so set in their ways that if I were to push them in a particular direction simply to make a storyline work, the result would be clattering and abrasive; it would be wrong.
So what's my job in the next ten books then? Well, I usually start by going for a drive and picking a location, then inventing a character for me to murder. The rest of the work is carried out by the team, and my job is simply to record what they do and say. The whole process is akin to opening the squeaky doors to the incident room, throwing in a few lit fireworks, and then waiting to see what happens... and it's an absolute pleasure to do so!