The literary life of EDWARD JAMES, author,reviewer, occasional poet and former pension adviser to the government of Kyrgyzstan
Kim Fleet describes her latest thriller as a novel about ‘the dark side of Cheltenham’. As we take tea in the elegance of The Queen’s Hotel overlooking the sunlit Imperial Gardens with their neat, colourful rows of bedding plants, Cheltenham seems anything but dark.
Tell me, Kim, are you a Cheltonian?
No. I’ve lived here for nine years. I think of myself as a true nomad. I was born in the West Midlands, lived in Lincolnshire, went to a Scottish university and then lived in Australia and then in Norfolk.
What made you want to be a writer?
When I was nine years old I read a book about how to write your own novel. I realised that books were written by people, so why not me? I wrote a story about four children who find a spell that takes them back to Elizabethan times and they foil a plot to kill the Queen and put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. It owed a lot to Enid Blyton.
Then, years later, I was a runner-up in a short story competition and I started sending stories to agents and publishers. Sacred Site, based on my experience in Australia, was published by Picnic Press and now Paternoster is published by Mystery Press.
Why did you choose Historical Fiction?
All my books are Time Slip. I believe the past is never quite finished. The present is a palimpsest – a document that has been written over several times and the shadow of the earlier texts still shows through.
And why do you write about crime?
I’m a great reader of True Crime stories and also the detective stories from the Golden Age of Murder. I want to understand what makes a person commit a crime, what drives them to it.
How did you research Paternoster?
I read all the histories of Cheltenham and then wrote it all out. It was a to and fro business – I pushed ahead with the story and then found there was something I needed to research, so I was researching all the time I was writing.
I see you teach Creative Writing. Do you believe that people can be taught to be writers?
The only way to be a writer is to read a lot and write a lot. But one can give students guidance on how to structure their time.
I run a course on overcoming Writers’ Block. I try to help people understand what it is that is stopping them from writing – what’s frightening them. Sometimes it’s perfectionism.
Is your heroine, Eden Grey, modelled on a real person?
No, not on anybody I know. I think she’s the woman I would like to be. She’s certainly someone I would like to spend time with.
Have you another book on the way?
Yes, my next book will have a Tudor setting.
But Cheltenham wasn’t here in the Tudor age. We don’t have much history here.
Indeed. The historical element of my next book will be set in Hailes Abbey [a ruined abbey just north of Cheltenham]. I have to move around the district a bit.
Where are you having your book launch?
At the new independent bookshop we have here in Cheltenham, in Suffolk Parade, called the Suffolk Anthology. I’ll send you an invitation to the lauch.