Recently I found one of my exercise books from primary school – it was labelled ‘Composition’ and contained several stories I had written aged nine. Some of them had comments from the teacher including ‘Very Good’, and ‘Imaginative Story’. If that had been my maths homework it would have been covered in red ink with the admonishment, ‘Must Do Better!’ My creative rather than mathematical destination was ordained from that early age. Phew.
Sole Brethren: If The Shoe Fits is my first novel. Nine-year-old me would say ‘Why did it take so long?’ and I agree. Why did it take me so long when it was obvious as a child that I was a storyteller? I have been writing though, just not fiction, and have published nine non-fiction books – commissioned by Wiley Academy, Summersdale, and the British Library – on the themes of architecture, interior design, British traditions, and alcoholic drinks (four on the latter subject).
For years I have been slowly gestating the story for Sole Brethren. Very slowly because it was conceived in 2010 and born in 2022 when I finished the manuscript. It was only with the months of Covid lockdown and the business I founded, School of Booze, which depends on in-person events, many of them with business groups travelling from overseas into the UK, coming to a halt, that I finally had time to devote to Cordelia Tanner her fabulous life. Once I started, I didn’t want to do anything other than disappear into her glittering world, write about her adventures and shenanigans, and create lovable characters who I hope people, in addition to me, will want to spend time with.
When the Covid vaccination programme started in January 2021, I volunteered to work as a marshal at my local vaccination centre (Brighton Racecourse, in Brighton, UK). By that time I was writing Sole Brethren so when I was standing outside the vax centre for hours in all types of weather including snow, insistent storms (Brighton is a coastal town), torrential rain, and glorious sunshine wearing a high-vis jacket and directing patients in and out of the parking area, I was thinking about scenarios and conversations for the characters, and working out plot points, then scribbling them in my notepad. Despite being out in the elements, that was my favourite marshalling role because it meant I was still writing the novel, albeit in my head!
I still volunteer at the vaccination centre, and with my pen and notepad 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, it depends on how many hours I stand outside the vax centre, plotting and hearing conversations between my characters, all the while pretending I am a traffic officer and perfecting my directional arm movements. If you are interested in receiving updates on the progress of ‘Left To Their Own Devices’ please subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking here. Thank you.
B.A. Summer (pen name of Jane Peyton), Brighton, UK