Orna Ross and Tim Lewis discuss the challenges and delights of self-editing for author-publishers. Every author needs to self-edit before submission but when you’re self publishing, there are particular things you need to think about. Tune in to a wide-ranging discussion on this essential topic, including tips and tools and the value of beta readers.
Inspirational Indie Authors
Howard Lovy introduces a new feature in our podcasts. He takes a close look at some Inspirational Indie Authors. This isn’t about their business model, their marketing, or even how many books they’ve sold. It’s about their writing, and what indie authors have to say.
Today the theme is money. Money, and crime, and human nature. The guest is Susan Grossey, who helps prevent financial crimes in real life, and writes about them in her series of fiction, the latest of which was just shortlisted for a Selfie award in the UK.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Tim Lewis is the author of three time-travel novellas in the Timeshock series and three fantasy novels in the Magpies and Magic series under his full name of Timothy Michael Lewis. He is the host of the Begin Self-Publishing Podcast and is currently working on the book Social Media Networking- a guide to using social media to find your dream job, find love and boost your travel experience.
Read the Transcript
Orna: Hello everyone and you are all very welcome to our Ask ALLi Beginner Self-Publishing podcast with me, Orna Ross and with Mr. Stoneham Press, Tim Lewis. Hi Tim.
Tim: Hi, I’m here. Hey.
Orna: He’s here. He’s very here. I’m here in my new sound room now which is half built and I look like, we were just saying that I look like somebody who is in a straight jacket, has been locked away. And Tim was saying, well, that fits because, you know, novelists and poets are a bit mad anyway, so thank you, Tim.
Tim: They let you out for half an hour to do this.
Orna: To do the Ask Alli podcast. So our topic today is one that is of great interest to anybody who has ever written anything, I think, which is when you get to that point of self editing. So, what we’re going to be doing, Tim and I, over the next seven or eight months is we’re going to be working through the seven processes of publishing, so editorial, design, production, distribution, marketing, promotion, rights and running an author business and we’re going to take them in the order that you generally meet them as a self publisher, but the phase that comes before that.
We’re not going to do writing because we have a separate salon, that’s next week for those of you who are around next Tuesday with Dan Blank, we look at writing specifically but between writing and the full on publishing bit, there comes this little phase or, which can be a very big, very long, very drawn out phase called self editing.
So we’re going to look at that tonight. Tim has edited in lots of different genre and so we’ll be able to bring that sort of perspective. I’ve done poems as well as fiction and nonfiction as well. So I’m to bring that perspective. And also some of the tips and things that I’ve heard over the years from the ALLi editors should also be useful and we have a couple of recommendations for you, but I want to start by asking Tim, because we were talking before we came on, he said that self-editing time travel books and self-editing fantasy are two completely different things. And I’m really fascinated by is this. Why?
Tim: We jumped straight into that. I mean, the first three novellas I wrote, which I also said I’m reissuing them as a paperback this week, they were time travel books. And the thing about time travel is it’s very complicated in terms of you’ve got to make sure that the differences that you’ve got in one thread are represented in the other threads and there’s a lot to do with time and structure of the book that you don’t appreciate.
I mean, so if you’re writing, like, a time travel book where you jump back to one period and then that’s it. It’s like a historical time traveler. But mine, my first time jump book has about 20 or 25 different time travel jumps in it where they’re all alternative different realities and you have to be very careful about, like, not just what the time period is and what was…
So I had to like Google whenever the iphone had been created, like particular time period. But also, like, the logic of the alternative thing had to be very careful in working or going through everything and working that out. Now, the third free books. No, yeah, the free books I’ve wrote fantasy books after the time travel series, like one a year.
The Magpies Magic Series, that has very different issues in terms of self editing than the time travel ones. It’s not so much about the timeline, it’s about, obviously most fantasy book names are not normal names, so it’s not going to be like Nigel or something. It’s going to be like as Asindorf or something. So at one point making sure the names are all consistent and correct and also not, they’re all slightly different. But also you are creating a different universe in fantasy.
Now, to some extent you could have, there is overlap with science fiction. If you wrote pure science fiction you’ve got to make sure that, so for example, in my Magpies Magic book, the whole preface of the book was that there was a magpie from our world that went to this other world where everybody else is tiny, so he’s like the size of the horse in this other universe.
But the number of times I had to go through the editing process and say, actually no, he’s too big in that world and you forget about these things, these rules you create in the different alternative universe in a fantasy world. And that is very, that is something you really need to bear in mind. In fantasy, it’s all about making sure your worldview is consistent. It’s fantasy, but you can’t be inconsistent. You can’t have suddenly silver kills dragons. And then in the next scene they’re throwing silver stuff at the dragon and it’s still alive.
It totally ignores it. It’s like it has to be consistent within itself. And that is a real problem with self editing. Well it’s not, it’s not a problem with self-editing, it’s a problem with writing fantasy, but most of that kind of thing is stuff that you’re looking to in the editing process you don’t look at necessarily, you could do when you’re writing it and I think that’s where plans help a lot because plans can be somewhere you can pick up these major inconsistencies in your world.
I mean, in general in writing fiction, you don’t want to kill somebody and then have them suddenly reappear later on because you’ve forgotten you killed them off. That has happened in a lot of books I’ve seen people do. So there are all sorts of general rules, but there are specific issues with particular kinds of genres. So, I don’t know, if you come back to you and talking about poetry. I mean, what is the biggest, even above proofreading and other things, which obviously we probably pay other people to do. What are the biggest self editing challenges for poetry?
Orna: Yeah, poetry is completely different. And I found that what you were just talking about there really interesting and I think it’s an interesting way to look at self editing. First of all, we look at it specifically around different genre and different challenges and then come to what’s common kind of to everything in a little few minutes. So yeah, poetry, for me, and poets work in very different ways as indeed do novelists and nonfiction writers.
But for me, poetry is almost like just a process of self editing. So it goes on and on and on. It’s very small, very concentrated. It’s about finding the exact right word that clicks in terms, not just of sense, but also of sound. So you’ve got a rhythm and you’ve got maybe rhyme, half rhyme or suggested rhyme and you’ve got the meaning and It’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle putting it together.
And so it’s very, very much at the level of words and language, shape of the words on the page, you know, where it breaks up into stanzas, length of line. So you know, I often find myself at the end of the poem actually making the lines longer or shorter than they started out, that kind of thing. Very occasionally you get a poem, because it is short form, you get a poem complete and you don’t have to touch it. It’s absolute bliss but I mean that’s one in about every 150, you know, but it’s really great when that happens.
You just wake up some morning, you’re in the shower, you’re on your run or your walk or whatever and then suddenly it just comes whole. And I always think that happens after I’ve been wrestling with a longer more challenging one for awhile. But the whole thing about self editing, I think, and one of the most important things is that you’ve got to come to it cold.
So it’s important not to start editing before you’re finished writing. I mean, you mentioned there that you could do these things while your writing, but I think you’d agree that if you start that process of editing while you’re writing, you end up not doing either of them well. It’s almost like you have to give it a complete run at it with the creative imaginative mind where anything goes and you allow yourself to put down anything. Know you will fix it later.
Then you put it away and then you take it out and leave as long as you can between those two things because the colder you are, the more removed you are from the words when you come to edit them, the better the longer the work, I think the longer you should put it away for. So I would usually have and I’m not talking poetry here at all, I’m talking about long form book stuff. I would usually have two projects on the go, one in the writing and one in the editing. I would also say, if only I followed my own advice life would be a lot easier because I haven’t always done that, but when I do it that way I find it’s definitely the way to do it. Do you think?
Tim: Yes. I mean, I’ve tended to always start editing fairly soon after, but then it takes me so long to usually write anything. Well, I say that, it takes me ages to plan books. I actually write them really quickly. It will just take me like a year to do the plan of the book and then I’ll write it in a month. And then it’s kind of like, so it’s kind of, but for you, like, I mean, let’s say, I don’t know. What would you say is average length for book that you’ve written and how long do you leave between, you finished the writing to feel cold enough to start self-editing. How long a period for that book?
Orna: Yeah. Again, my advice is brilliant here and I haven’t always stuck to it, but I remember reading years ago, William Trevor, an Irish writer saying his method was he finishes the draft, he puts that in the drawer and in the other drawer he’s taking out the draft he finished before he started that one. So he’s always on this kind of relay thing.
I think that’s probably ideal and so once you’ve written another book, you can actually go back to your previous one with that, you need that objective eye and I think there’s nothing better for that than having given yourself another project in the meantime. It’s challenging, you know, we get in our own way with these things a lot of the time. And this is a Beginner Salon, so I’m conscious as we’re talking that we’re talking about lots and lots of books and that a lot of you who are listening are probably on your first book and thinking, “Oh my God, you know, I’m never going to finish this.”
And the idea of having to go and write another one before I could get around to editing this before I can put it there is just not something I’m going to do and I can completely understand that. I would like to say that all of these processes get quicker the more you do them. So your first book is your slowest book.
It took me years to write my first book and it was a very long book and you know, I didn’t do what I just advised people to do and I got all the phases of the process, all mixed up with each other and that made it take much longer than it needed to but you’re learning by doing and really there’s no way to do that except make lots of mistakes and as long as you’re doing something and showing up you shouldn’t worry too much about going wrong or not doing things properly, but I think the ideal is, yeah, just let let it rip while you are writing. Put it away. Write another one. Take it out. The other one is cooling off while you’re editing this one and just keep going like that through a cycle. And that’s the ideal writer’s life, I’d say.
Tim: Yeah, I mean, I mean one thing about self editing is that it’s about catching the obvious errors. I mean, one thing I like to do after I’ve done the first couple of passes of self editing is actually get software to basically read out the book to me so I can hear how it sounds, because I’ll find that for, I mean, it’s similar to what you were saying about the poetry side of things and I’m guessing poetry, you would be basically reading out stuff to make sure it sounds right, but even in fiction or nonfiction, sometimes you just want it to, you get somebody to read it to you or you read it yourself, that can help with catching a lot of repeating words and tonal errors and other things. But obviously before that, you don’t really want to be doing that straight away.
Orna: No, not straight away. But I think it’s a brilliant tip. Could you name some of the possible softwares that people can use to do that? I know there’s a kindle reader has a voice, doesn’t it.
Tim: Yeah. What I use, I use one called natural reader on my pc. I did pay for a license version but it never seems to work properly, but the free version seems to work fine. It sounds robotic, but at least, you paste it into it and read it. I think there are various software you can get that can do speech to text now. There’s certainly, I think on Apple, there’s one built in so you just use that.
Orna: So it’s, it’s text to speech, and that it’s robotic is actually very good because when you hear the words being read out, when we read our own stuff, we put our own inflection on it and we already know what we meant but the robot doesn’t. And so when the robot reads it, you can actually hear things.
You can hear repetition of sounds that you might be aware of within the words, but also you can hear where you didn’t quite make sense and you thought you did really good from that point of view. But again, as Tim says not to set that off too soon and we will have any recommendations that we make will be in the show notes and the transcripts for the podcast, which goes out on the ALLi Self Publishing Advice blog on Saturday next so you can get all the details and everything there.
And after this show we’re going to be on Twitter doing a Twitter chat. So if you’ve any questions about anything that we’re talking about, or indeed anything to do with the topic of self editing, hop on over to Twitter if you have a twitter account at 7:30 London time. In other words, in about a quarter of an hour’s time and we’ll be there for about half an hour to answer any questions you might have about self editing or just to continue the chat. So, yeah. So how long would you typically spend editing? Do you have a rule? Do you kind of set yourself so many pages a day? How do you handle it?
Tim: I usually go by chapters. I write short chapters usually, I’ve always written short chapters. So yeah, I mean five or six chapters, sort of about five, so it’s about 5000 words or so. I try and do a day sometimes a night. It depends on what you’ve got on. Editing is boring to me, but I know it’s important. Some people find editing the most fun part of the process, it’s very peculiar, but no-
Orna: I love editing. I actually love that part.
Tim: So yeah, I mean, that’s the thing, you start, but you do need to get it done because it’s kind of, it’s a bottleneck in the writing process.
Orna: It’s very important and it’s never finished. You stop at a point where you feel “Okay, it’s good enough.” I think that’s important to say. Trying to make it perfect is sort of a heading for a problem and it can be good to organize your self-editing in terms of passes through so that you’re not trying to catch the same thing all the time.
So for example, in a novel you might do one pass through for character, just improving and deepening the characters and the character relationships. Finding any inconsistencies and you only look at character. If you see things about setting or anything else you’d like to change, you just kind of draw attention to it by highlighting it or whatever, but you don’t stop on the character thing, so then the next pass through could be for plot, plot inconsistencies or whatever.
It’s up to you what you would actually be passing through for and what’s most important for you to do, but trying to do everything all at once and edit just at the level of a particular chapter and then the next chapter trying to get everything right in each one. It’s important when you’re self editing, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, that you get a sense of the book as a whole. So the first thing you do is you read the whole thing through from start to finish.
Even though you may, you know, instantly see loads wrong in chapter one, you just keep on going on, and read with a notebook beside you and make sure to note not just things that you would like to change, but also it’s really important I think to note things that you like, that you feel are working really well. And that you want to emulate in other parts of the book.
So when you do something that’s kind of good, I used to, I don’t anymore because I kind of do it spontaneously now, but when I was starting I used two highlighter pens. Green for go for stuff that was actually okay and passed the radar and then orange or a different color for things that I wanted to fix up in that first initial read. Do you have any sorts of habits like that?
Tim: I always start with looking at the bigger picture first. So because I have re-written large chunks of some of my novels in the editing stage because, like, something just doesn’t work or it’s a bit like, well the story kind of like hmm. I mean, sometimes those can be things that will take me a couple of days to work out a solution that is better than whatever rubbish I wrote in the first place because I think it is important that you, when you’re self editing, you don’t want to be correcting typos and things straight away because you might delete that entire section or you might add or you might change somebody’s name or something all the way through the book.
So you want to, as I say, you want to be concentrating on the big things that are wrong at the beginning. I mean it sounds a bit like a story grid where they do, like, they do all these very structured passes when they are doing self editing. Something like, I think anything to do with writing and I’m terrible at this, but the more you can plan and the more you can have structure in your editing and planning process, I think the better your books will be, for most people.
I mean, some people are naturally like, they kind of, they can just write it straight start to finish. And I think with something like poetry is not as important to do planning as it is for say complicated time travel or science fiction, literary sci fi or something like that or something where people who are reading it are gonna worry that you’ve used the wrong caliber gun in the show because they know about, like, how guns work.
But I think the more organized you can, in terms of the preparation before you start writing and the preparation in the editing side, the better the book will be before it even gets to an editor because if you’re paying an editor, you don’t want to be paying them to do things that you could have done. So that’s kind of something that’s, that makes a big difference.
Orna: Definitely. And you can, there are things that an editor can’t do for you and in that deepening, self editing stage, you really do need to go into that and you’re so right about the planning and the process thing. The longer I am in this game, the more I realize how important planning and process are. And I know there are people, as you say, they write into the dark but I still think, and this is just my opinion, I know there are people who don’t think this, but the more I see of myself, but also all the other people I work with, including those who self define as pantsers, the more I see that planning your process anyway, even if you don’t plan the content of the book and I would recommend that you do, but even if you don’t do that planning process around it, otherwise week can turn into months, turn into year, can turn into, you know, decades.
I’m not exaggerating. That does happen. You’ve got to put a beginning and an end to the process and okay, you might go a little bit past that deadline, but if you, If it’s an open ended thing and you’re going to be doing it all the time, you know, all the time until it’s right in your own mind, then that is going to go on for far too long. That’s what I did with my first book. Okay. It took me a long time because also because I had lots of excuses, a family, I was doing a teaching, job and all the rest of it, but really and truly, mostly it was because I didn’t plan enough and I didn’t have my own process, my own time and I didn’t have the sort of the end game in mind. When am I finished? How long am I going to give this?
You know, how many passes am I going to do? When am I going to say it’s good enough? I think it’s very hard to have the confidence to do that at the beginning because letting it go is really hard because as soon as it’s out there, of course, it can be judged as long as you’re keeping it nice and close then it can’t be and so it’s much safer place to be editing and you can work, you can be very busy editing but not actually adding an awful lot to the book, you know, so it’s a very delicate balance because definitely also books need self editing for sure.
And a lot of books are put out without enough self editing. So I’m certainly not saying shortcut this process. It’s really about looking inside and looking at your own, where you’re at and knowing yourself. Am I somebody who’s actually delaying here or am I somebody who is skipping and to do the opposite to what you’re inclined to do is actually usually what you should be doing in the editing phase, I think, kind of ironically.
Tim: Yeah, I mean a lot of it depends on the length of the book. I mean, I’ve always advised people who are starting to self properties to start with something shorter. I mean, I started with novellas and there’s, a double the length of the book does not make it double the work because there’s a certain amount of stuff that you can, in a short story you can keep everything in your head. But once you start getting to like 50 thousand words or 100 thousand words, it gets harder and harder to track everything.
And so I think if you start with a shorter project, you can learn the ropes more about, certainly in a new genre to you, I think you could start with a shorter project and then you can learn like, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to keep track of the characters here and I’ve got to like, in this particular thing, like if you were doing a who done it or something like that, then where everything is is very important.”
Because it could be like it was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the rolling pin or whatever and you don’t want then Colonel Mustard to never ever go in the kitchen or something like that. I mean, it’s a stupid case, but there are different kinds of rules for each genre that you work out as you end up writing it. And if you start with something shorter then you can learn the ropes before you go into a longer book about how to do self editing side of things.
Orna: Again, such good advice, not what I did at the start, the longest book in the world, four generations and you know, really complicated movements forwards and backwards in time and blah, blah blah. But sometimes the book chooses us, doesn’t it? Sometimes don’t do the sensible thing to do. So a lot of what we talk about as writers and a lot of the advice we give each other is the ideal scenario.
Sometimes the book is just going to come and take you and insist that you write it and whether or not. And we’re getting some really good comments here. And I’d like to read out, Louis loves the Colonel Mustard example. I’d like to read out here by Brian Palmquist I think. I’m, hopefully I’m pronouncing your name properly, Brian, and he’s talking about a self editing technique that works for him as he gets towards the end and I think he means the end of the drafting phase.
And so as I read the words and that can be inside my head, every time I trip over a word, sentence, pause, I put a mark on the paper at that point but I keep going. Then later I come back to review why I tripped and identifies and fixes the awkward wording or flow issues then. So, yeah, he likes the way that keeps the flow going and I do think, you know, that’s great advice. I really do.
I do think keeping that flow going, the momentum going while you’re drafting is the biggest favor you can do yourself. Not to get caught in fiddling at the sentence level unless you’ve got a really good kind of quick method like that for sorting it out. Okay, well before we go we will see you, hopefully, guys, some of you over on Twitter. Bring your questions over there.
I would like to recommend for fiction writers, I don’t know if you’ve got a nonfiction recommendation. I’ve got a recommendation for each. One is specifically a self editing book. It’s by Renny Brown and a co editor on it’s called How To Self Edit Fiction or something like that, a real sort of “does what it says on the tin” and I found that extremely useful for me when I started off writing fiction some time ago and the second one is for nonfiction and while it’s not specifically a self editing book, it has absolutely fantastic information about self editing and everything else and that’s William Zinsser On Writing Well. It’s about non fiction, but fiction writers would benefit from reading it too. So if you haven’t gone there on those two titles, I can definitely recommend them. Any recommendations your side.
Orna: Just get on and do it.
Tim: Yeah. Well, I mean any book, I mean, in the process of sort of thinking, planning a book called Why Nobody Knows Anything And Why It Doesn’t Really Matter.
Tim: One of the general principles of that is that you don’t ever think that one book or one thing is where you’re going to get all the advice you need. A lot of the time you’re just pulling one on. So read as many books about writing, on craft or your thing as you can or listen to audiobooks or listen to podcasts and just pull out the things that strike, make a note of them, the things that really resonate for you and then you just patch it together and work it rather than thinking you’re going to have one book and then that’s gonna be the way to do it. I mean, there is the book, The Story Grid. I think it’s called The Story Grid. I’ll have to look it up where they’ve got a podcast where they talk about self self planning and editing books. It’s quite an interesting, a guy who was an editor for years for one of the.
Orna: Yes, it’s very good. It’s structure. It’s a really good one.
Tim: I mean that’s, I mean that’s the kind of guide. But there are loads of other ones out. I mean, Stephen King’s On Writing, which I didn’t find that useful, but it had a few little things in it that were good. 2K to 10k by Rachel Somebody or other. That’s quite a good book.
Orna: It’s more about writing quickly I think. But yeah, it does have. Most books will embody the editing process. And finally, and most importantly, I think read the masters in your genre and you know, when you get a book like that that’s really your thing, really belongs to your genre, your micro niche, read it first as a reader and then immediately go back and read it as a writer and pick out, highlight, use your two highlighter pens, highlight the stuff that you think is just amazing. And then unpick it, how did he or she get that effect, what way did they actually put the words and sometimes even just typing up what somebody amazing has written is a really good way to learn things that you can’t learn any other way. You kind of absorb it by osmosis. So that’s our tips for self editing, folks and see you next month where we start talking about the real editing process, handing it over and how you find the right editor for you. Thanks for being here everyone. Bye now.
Howard: I’m Howard Lovy. And this is a new feature in our Ask ALLi podcast. We’re going to take a close look at some inspirational indie authors. This isn’t about their business model, their marketing, or even how many books they’ve sold. It’s about their writing and what indie authors have to say. Today the theme is money, money and crime and human nature. I’ll let my guest introduce herself and tell us what that means.
Sue: Right, Well, my name is Sue Grossey and for about the last quarter of a century I’ve been working my day job in anti-money laundering, which is advising institutions such as banks and casinos and so on, on how to avoid criminal money. And something of a side issue that has developed is I’ve become absolutely obsessed with financial crime. Now I read English at university, so it’s a bit of a sidestep anyway, but I’ve always wanted, like all English graduates, to write a fiction book. And when I decided to finally take the leap, it must’ve been about eight years ago now, I found that all I was really interested in writing about was financial crime.
Howard: But Sue did not simply want to fictionalize the financial crime she handled at her work, she needed something a bit more removed from her real life, yet similar enough so that all the elements of human nature when it comes to money are still there, so she chose the early 1800s, also known as the regency period. And of course, though the times may be different, all the greed, desperation, vanity and naiveté of financial life are still identifiable.
Sue: And so I started researching. I’m a story from the 1820s as it happened about a banker who had stolen all of the money from his own bank and when they caught up with him, he admitted it straight away and that was rather peculiar because if you admitted fraud in those days you went straight to the scaffold. So I was curious as to why he would do that and that was really the start of it.
Howard: Now, money is a complex motivation when it comes to crime because it does not always involve greed. Sometimes the motive is desperation, which is something many readers could relate to. When murder involves jealousy or revenge we tend not be sympathetic at all, but when it comes out of financial desperation, then we could see the criminal’s point of view. I asked Sue if she writes about these gray areas where the bad guys aren’t necessarily all bad.
Sue: Indeed. Yeah, I do try and include that and you’re right. People will put them in a slightly different category. Indeed, I have heard in my day job people saying, “Oh, he only evaded taxes. It wasn’t really a crime,” so they see it as quite laudable, really, if you’ve been a bit clever with your money, so you’re absolutely right. That goes into a different category, but I do certainly, in one of the books, for instance, we find out about why the narrator, who in my books is a constable, a magistrate’s constable, why he moved into that area and it turns out that his childhood was not untainted by financial crimes.
So I think everyone can sympathize with someone who finds themselves a little bit on their uppers and perhaps sees what they think is a quick and easy way out of it and it spirals beyond their control. So yes, I think we can certainly all feel sympathy for someone who has financial difficulties in a way that perhaps someone who has murderous feelings is a bit beyond our experience.
Howard: And that’s why her lead character, the cop named Sam Plank seemed to be just a bit ahead of his time in that he sees some of these gray areas.
Sue: Absolutely, yes. And I’m quite careful with him because he sits in that rather neat area between the Bow Street runners that people have all heard of and the Metropolitan Police, who were the first police force in the whole world. They started in 1829 and in between there was this system of magistrate’s constables and they were given not very much latitude.
There job was to go out and arrest people who were suspected of crimes. They weren’t doing any investigation. They weren’t doing any detection work. That didn’t come until the Victorian Times, but I thought you could still have someone who was more interested in the why of crime rather than the what of crime and that’s what Sam is, I think
Howard: So whether we’re talking about the regency period or modern times, there’s a lot of snake oil out there right now and it’s not just about the criminals who take advantage of the gullible, but some people really want to be taken advantage of, to be offered simple solutions and in her latest book, Faith, Hope and Trickery, she expands into the religious realm too, but I asked Sue if this was beyond the scope of her books and her life.
Sue: No, not at all. Not at all. And that in fact ties into a third strand of my life. Here in the UK I do voluntary work as what is called a magistrate. We have a system of magistrates who sit in court in panels of three and listened to cases and a lot of what we hear coming through the courts is people who make very poor decisions over and over again.
They’re not wicked to start out with, but they make one poor decision and that leads them into another one and they’re not very good at thinking through consequences and this, I think, is a lot of what you see with both criminals and victims, a lack of ability to see consequences or as you say, sometimes a lack of wanting to see those consequences, so in latest one, the Faith, Hope and Trickery one with Sam Plank’s wife is caught up in this religious fraud because she so desperately wants to believe what she is being told and and I think we can all sympathize with that.
Howard: And now an excerpt from Faith, Hope and Trickery by Susan Grossey. The book, by the way, has been shortlisted for a new award for self published books in the UK called The Selfies.
Sue: Right? Well, this is from quite near the beginning of Faith, Hope and Trickery, and we’ve got someone has come into Sam’s police office as they were called in those days to report a murder and he’s been summoned to go and see the scene of the murder. “I saw Wilson coming along the street towards us.” Wilson is his assistant constable. “Although the boot maker had been adamant that his leather cutter was not a violent man, I took the view that someone who claimed to have murdered his wife should be treated with caution and it seemed wise to have someone of Wilson’s deterrent dimensions on hand.
As we walked a short distance to Conduit Street I explained the bare bones of the matter to my junior constable. He raised an eyebrow but said nothing and I was glad to see that he’s learning to keep his counsel, at least in front of others. The boot maker’s premises, whereas I remembered them, a narrow shopfront consisting of a door and a window right alongside it with the shop itself crowded with shelves to the ceiling, filled with boxes and losts.
As we pushed open the door, a bell rang in the back of the shop, the workroom, I guessed. ‘Is Mr. Wilford alone?’ I asked Humphreys and he shook his head. ‘When I decided to come and see you we thought it best not to leave him unattended. We have plenty of knives, scissors, and the like you see,’ he looked at me and I nodded. Gem is in there too. He’s a carpenter, a friend of mine, and he’s pretending to measure for new cupboards. Be glad, I thought, just in case. We walked through a door at the back of the shop into, as I had surmised, the work room where the boots and shoes were made and repaired. The man I took to be Gem was standing in the middle of the room, a notebook in his hand while another much older, much slighter man was sitting at a bench.
They both looked over at us. Humphries indicated the man at the bench who stood. ‘This is Mr Wilford,’ he said. Wilford was about 60, I guessed and almost as leathery as the man’s boot he held in one hand, while tidying its edges with the sole knife held in his other hand. His graying hair was neat and his posture surprisingly good for a man who’d spent, I imagined, four decades or more crouched over benches.
He nodded his head in acknowledgement. “These are two constables, Josiah’ continued Humphrey’s, ‘Come to talk to you about your wife, about what you told me about your wife.’ I walked over towards Wilford, lifting a stool that I passed and setting it alongside his bench. I sat and indicated that he should too. I tapped the bench with my hand and he put down both the boot and the knife. “Mr Wilford,” I said quietly, ‘Mr Humphries tells me that you’ve killed your wife.’
The leather cutter looked up at me, but I did not think he really saw me. He nodded but said nothing. ‘Is that right? Mr Wilford, have you murdered your wife?’ He showed no reaction and simply nodded again. ‘Did she anger you, Mr. Wilford, did she shame you with her behavior? Perhaps another man?” I asked. This time there was something, a slight tear in the eye, I thought, but still no reply. ‘Was she a bad wife, Mr Wilford?’ I asked. He shook his head. ‘Oh no, sir. She was a good wife to me for nigh on 40 years, a good wife, but,’ and he glanced over his shoulder and turned before leaning towards me and lowering his voice even further. ‘The message told me to do it.’
Howard: Susan’s books are available as ebooks or paperbacks on Amazon, and the first two in the series are available as audio books. You can find out more on her website, SusanGrossey.wordpress.com.