Hazel McHaffie

More on researching my topics

As you know, when I’m researching for a new novel my antennae are out at full stretch. Anything that hints at issues I’m planning to include jumps out at me and I’m ready to devour whatever might help me gain insights or understanding, fact or fiction. Not all these books appeal to me but I can usually find something that makes it a worthwhile exercise. Besides, it’s a good idea to size up the competition!

So, The Escape Artist by Diane Chamberlain, was a must-have when I saw it in the supermarket. It’s about a young mum, Susanna Miller, who goes on the run rather than lose her eleven-month old son to her ex-husband and his new wife. Unusual mother-child relationships. How far would a mother go to keep her child? What would the effect be like on the child?
Verdict? Writing style wasn’t up to later Chamberlain books (it’s one of her backlist numbers) but the ideas were worth pondering.


Similarly, The Way we Were by Elizabeth Noble (designated ‘Queen of the Heartbreaking Novel’)  struck me as potentially relevant. A chance meeting between childhood sweethearts years after they’ve gone their separate ways, a bunch of step-kids, broken relationships, emotional baggage … hmm.
Verdict? Definitely not the style of writing I’d normally go for, but useful to watch how this author weaves lives together.


I saw a comment recently in the review pages which stopped me in my tracks. The reviewer was commenting on what he called ‘grip lit’ with particular reference to Paula Hawkins (of The Girl on the Train fame). She’s just brought out her second book, Into the Water, that’s also been much hyped so you may have heard about it. But he said: ‘there’s something about being held in the literary equivalent of a half-nelson that I find, unsurprisingly stifling‘. Hmmm. So you can be too gripping. Must remember that if this thriller of mine ever comes off.

I’m at the stage now where the characters are starting to get real flesh on their bones, so I’m wide open to new ideas. Time for an A* author, methinks. Exciting stuff. Funny thing; with all my previous novels I was rather reluctant to read alongside writing, but with this one I’m enjoying analysing other people’s work whilst developing my own story. Not sure yet if that’s good or bad!

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