I met my imaginary mate Cordelia Tanner (central character of Sole Brethren) in 2010 when I was cycling along the distinctly unglamourous, noisy and polluted A4 dual carriageway in London’s Hammersmith. I noticed a discarded men’s shoe and wondered how it had got there and what had happened to the other one. I was intrigued. Did the owner throw it from a car window as they sped westwards out of London? Perhaps the wearer, walking along the pavement, did not realise it had fallen off because they were drunk. Or maybe something nefarious had occurred and they had been abducted and lost it in the mêlée. I started thinking about how useful it would be for police investigations if a psychic could ‘read’ it and discover the answer to the mystery.
Several years previously, as a documentary TV producer in the USA, I had interviewed two men who formerly worked on Project Stargate. Stargate had been a top-secret initiative by the CIA during the Cold War to use the psychic ability of certain people in a technique called Remote Viewing. Stargate was now declassified which is why I was able to feature it in a documentary. The stories I heard from Dale Graff (Project Stargate programme director) and Joseph McMoneagle (one of the operatives) about the remarkable successes they and some of the other practitioners had experienced was mind-blowing.
The next day (back in London in 2010) I cycled the same way along the A4 and passed the shoe again. It was then that Cordelia came into my mind and I thought, ‘Cordelia will be the principal character in a novel. She will have a psychic gift and work with police forces and find missing people by ‘reading’ their possessions.’
When I did some research into different types of extra-sensory-perception skills I learned about psychometry and decided that would be Cordelia’s superpower, only in her case, it would be a turbo-charged version that she nicknamed psychomatricks.
From then on wherever I went I noticed single shoes laying in the street, on pavements, in parks. Usually just one, rarely a pair, and more often than not, it would be men’s footwear. Nowadays I photograph them in situ and I have Cordelia to explain their provenance.
Over the years I often thought of Cordelia and wished I had time to write a novel about her. The storyline developed slowly and my intention was always to take a holiday from work and concentrate on writing it. That did not happen until 2020 when the Covid pandemic meant so many of us unexpectedly had more time during lockdowns. My business outside of writing (I am the founder and owner of School of Booze, an alcoholic drinks events and training company specialising in groups, many of them business groups in the UK from overseas) was profoundly impacted by the pandemic and so I decided to focus on writing Sole Brethren. By then, and with years of pondering and developing the character of Cordelia, it was the right time. Cordelia, Rex, Elodie, Oscar, and Blanche became my constant companions for the months of lockdown, and although I was socialising with family and friends online with video calls, I was having a sparkling social life with the novel’s characters in my imagination.
So, I’d like to say thank you to the person who lost that shoe on the A4 in 2010, and to Dale Graff and Joseph McMoneagle for inspiring my fascination at their incredible psychic abilities, because without them, Cordelia Tanner would not exist and I would not have had the joy of writing Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits.
I am eagerly developing the sequel to Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits. The title is Sole Brethren: Left To Their Own Devices. I have no idea when it will be finished and published. If you are interested in receiving updates on the progress of ‘Left To Their Own Devices’ please subscribe to my occasional newsletter. Thank you.
B.A. Summer (pen name of Jane Peyton), Brighton, UK