I was very pleased to receive copies of my latest children’s novel at the weekend. It’s an unusual experience for me because my name isn’t actually on the cover. It was written for Hothouse, a company who come up with story ideas and detailed briefs for the authors on their database. For reasons of their own, they prefer to use pseudonyms for their series. In this case it was probably necessary anyway because it’s a series of (so far) four books, and because the publisher wanted them all to be published simultaneously and to a deadline, they brought in another writer to tackle two of them.
My previous experience of writing to someone else’s brief was rather disappointing, but this one was a pleasure. I loved the idea, the characters and the fast-paced plots. The books are set in Restoration London, and the protagonist is a teenage actress (originally young Nell Gwyn – but I think after a bit of thought they decided she might be a bit too racy!) She is employed by the king’s spymaster as a secret agent, trying to sniff out and foil plots by disaffected Republicans.
It all suited me down to the ground, because ever since I came across the dairies of Samuel Pepys I’ve had a strong interest in the period.
The series is called Secrets and Spies, by Jo Macualey. (Me! At least the first and third books: Treason and Inferno. I actually don’t know the name of the other writer, otherwise I would give him/her a plug too.)
I’d like to add a special thanks to my friend in the blogsphere, Chloe, who I turned to a couple of times when I found it hard to make the plot, as described in the brief, work. The fact that her suggestions always seemed to involve bizarre alien or supernatural intervention and I wasn’t able to use them in no way lessens my admiration for the fecundity of her imagination.