Happy New Year to you all!
First of all, a publication update for you!
January 22nd: Paperback edition of The Care and Management of Lies, to be published in the UK
March 17th: A Dangerous Place to be published in the USA and Canada
April 23rd: A Dangerous Place to be published in the UK and British Commonwealth
In my December newsletter, I included a photograph and asked if you could identify the location. It's Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory that sits at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, overlooking the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. With a colorful history as a garrison town, Gibraltar is home to "the Rock," a monolithic limestone promontory, one of the Pillars of Hercules holding court over the Straits of Gibraltar. Gibraltar has been a strategically important place since before the Battle of Trafalgar, though nowadays we generally read about it in terms of the Spanish claim to the land, which at times has strained Anglo-Spanish relations.
A Dangerous Place opens in 1937, in Gibraltar, where Maisie Dobbs has decided to disembark a ship bound for England before she reaches her destination—at that moment, she feels home to be a most dangerous place, and she cannot face her planned return to England. Gibraltar feels safe, yet in neighboring Spain a civil war is raging—but for Maisie, imminent danger pales beside the personal storms she has weathered since she left England, bound for India (re-read the end of Leaving Everything Most Loved, 2013).
One of the most rewarding aspects of writing a series, is that as a storyteller I get to know my characters in a manner that seems more "organic" than, say, when writing a standalone novel. In our daily lives, when we meet a new person, someone who perhaps we have a spark of connection with, we do not reveal ourselves instantly—we take that person into our confidence over time, and are trusted with their stories in a similar manner. As friendship develops, we see them grow and change through personal experience, as we too grow and change according to the events in our lives. I have always felt that, with the characters in the Maisie Dobbs series—and particularly with Maisie herself—the characters reveal themselves to me just as much as I create them, and my knowledge of them does not happen in an instant. Yet there were things I knew about Maisie many years before I revealed them in a novel, and by the same token, there were aspects of the characters' lives I did not know—yet when I look back, I discover threads of knowledge woven in without my conscious understanding that something interesting was developing. That sort of thing continues to surprise me.
But here's where working with series characters becomes a really rich experience. Having created an ensemble of individuals, each with their own personality based upon background, education, their unique experiences in life, and how they see the world, I take them through time, and present them with challenges, with the slings and arrows of the personal journey—and in that process I am with them as they grow, as they develop and are made different by what comes to pass in their lives. That's one of the reasons why I move the over-arching narrative through time with each novel—I want to know who Maisie, Frankie, Billy, Priscilla, Sandra, and the secondary characters become, and how they have been changed by what comes to pass from the beginning of the story to the end. In this way the mystery becomes something more than a question of guilt, innocence and discovery as the narrative moves through chaos to resolution—it becomes a story of family, of friendship, loyalty, of what it means to be human in the world at a certain time and having endured certain experiences.
When you read A Dangerous Place you will realize that much has come to pass in the life of Maisie Dobbs. And as we move forward to the next novel (2016, though I am not revealing the title yet) and beyond, you will be reacquainted with characters met before, and some who have been seen only in the shadows. But first, A Dangerous Place represents a departure for Maisie Dobbs—a stepping stone that will take her into a realm of new events and opportunities. It begs the question—who will she become, as her story continues to unfold. For me, the real mystery has always been Maisie herself.
I think that's quite enough for one newsletter! Until the next time ....
A Dangerous Place
, to be published March 17th
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The Care and Management of Lies
, paperback, in the UK January 22nd
PREORDER THE BOOK IN THE UK: