– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Death at the Lychgate’ blogtour, organized by Zooloo’s Book Tours.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
T. A. Belshaw is from Derbyshire in the United Kingdom where he shares a house with his chatty rescue cat, Mia. He writes for both children and adults. A former miner and computer technician, Trevor studied Advanced Creative Writing at the Open University. He is the author of Tracy’s Hot Mail, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail and the noir, suspense novella, Out of Control. Following the sudden death of his wife in 2015 Trevor took a five-year break from writing, returning during lockdown in 2020, when an injury forced him to take time off work. The result of this new creative burst was the Dual Timeline, Family Saga, Unspoken and the Historical Cosy Crime Whodunnit, Murder at the Mill.
Trevor signed his first contract with Spellbound Books Ltd in April 2021. He signed a further mullti-book contract with them in the spring of 2022.
His short stories have been published in various anthologies including 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, Another Haircut, Shambelurkling and Other Stories, Deck the Halls, 100 Stories for Queensland and The Cafe Lit anthology 2011, 2012 and 2013. He also has two pieces in Shambelurklers Return. 2014
Trevor is also the author of 15 children’s adventure books written under the name of Trevor Forest.
His children’s poem, Clicking Gran, was long listed for the Plough prize (children’s section) in 2009 and his short poem, My Mistake, was rated Highly Commended and published in an anthology of the best entries in the Farringdon Poetry Competition.
Trevor’s articles have been published in magazines as diverse as Ireland’s Own, The Best of British and First Edition.
AMY ROWLINGS RETURNS!
Sunday morning, and the body of Reverend Villiers has been found propped up on the vigil seat in the church’s lychgate. It appears that he has been poisoned.
When amateur sleuth and regular churchgoer, Amy Rowlings arrives she finds DI Bodkin already at the scene. Bodkin tells her about a cryptic scripture reference that has been scrawled in chalk on the stone slabs beneath the body. What the citation hints at, shocks everyone.
Amy, a huge Agatha Christie fan is determined to get involved in the investigation and despite a stern warning from the detective’s boss, Amy and Bodkin team up again to try to solve the most complex murder case he has ever been involved in. When the toxicology report comes back from the lab, the results only add to the mystery.
Meanwhile, Amy looks to her favourite Agatha Christie character, Hercule Poirot for help, and using his techniques, she narrows down the list of possible murderers to just nine suspects.
Can Amy fit together the jigsaw of clues to solve this, the most complex of cases?
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
You’re very welcome. Thank you for the interest in my book.
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’m a rapidly aging writer, still struggling to understand where the last twenty years have gone. I’m an ex miner and ex computer repair technician who has had an ambition to be an author since I began to write silly stories as a child. As with most people, work and family got in the way of ambition, but when the financial crash hit in 2009, I found I had a few spare hours to fill every day so I joined an online author review group called Writelink where I found a very friendly bunch of writers of various abilities, some of which are still friends to this day. My first adult novel, Tracy’s Hot Mail was written when I was a member of that group. I used to post it up in installments every week and wait with bated breath for the feedback, most of which was encouraging and supportive. At the same time as posting up the Tracy episodes I was also writing a children’s book that was to become the first in an eight book series. The series was called, Magic Molly and it told the story of a trainee witch who struggled to control the ancient bent and twisted wand she had been given. It was the first of fifteen kid’s books that were published between 2009 and 2015.
Following the unexpected and sudden death of my wife in 2015 and the loss of my muse and number one supporter I felt that I had come to the end of my writing journey and was adament that my noir suspense novella, Out of Control, (which had been published the day before I lost Doreen,) would be my last publication. Fast forward five years and after an injury at work which left me hospitalised for a week and walking like a ninety year old with rickets, I was desperately in need of something to fill the long lonely hours, so, after a heart to heart with my long time editor, Maureen Vincent-Northam who I met on that Writelink site all those years ago, I decided to try to ressurect my writing career by taking it in a completly different direction. The result was the dual timeline, family saga, Unspoken which I wrote during the first period of Lockdown in the spring of 2020. I followed that up with The Legacy and The Reckoning, two books that would form an Unspoken trilogy, then I used Amy Rowlings, one of the minor charactors from that series as the lead in a cosy crime mystery novel set in 1939, Murder at the Mill. My latest book, Death at the Lychgate is the sequel.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I used to love Richmal Crompton’s Just William series and I devoured anything I could get hold of by Arthur Ransome, (Swallows and Amazons,) and Enid Blyton, especially the Famous Five and the Faraway Tree series. As an adult I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of genres from crime to epic fantasy. My favourite book of all time is The Book Thief by Markus Suzak followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy and frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Agatha Christie. She was the master of the cosy crime genre and an expert in the effects that different poisons have on the body. One of the research books in my collection is A is for Arsenic. The Poisons of Agatha Christie and it was ever present on the edge of my desk when I was writing Death at the Lychgate.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
I fell in love with my lead character Alice Mollison when I was writing Unspoken. She is such a strong person, especially for the era. Alice was a teenager at the start of the novel and due to the circumstances she found herself in, had to grow up very quickly. Alice posesses strength and fortitude combined with a feisty no nonsense attitude, especially when men, who saw women as subservient creatures, were trying to tell her what she could or could not do.
Sherlock Holmes or Hecule Poirot. I’d certainly pick their little grey cells. I think tea might last for a couple of days.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I have a daylight lamp on my desk at all times when I’m writing. My desk is in a cubby hole under the stairs so I don’t get a lot of natural light. I also have classical or opera music on the hi-fi. Not Classic FM though, the ads are too distracting. A Google search tab is always open along with an online thesaurus tab. Some days I’m in the chair for up to ten hours so I always have coffee on the go. It is needed.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
The vast majority of my ideas come to me when I’m in that strange dimension between sleep and wakefulness. When I’m writing I almost always wake up with a new, fully formed character, a whole chapter or even the entire synopsis of a novel in my head. Strangely, when I’m having a break between books, this doesn’t happen. When I’m writing, I don’t read or listen to audiobooks as I don’t need other authors to provide a creative fix.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Definitely a pantser. I like to let the characters go where they want to go. I’d feel too restricted if I had laid out a plan to follow. So many of the best scenes in my books have come out of a character taking control of my fingers as I’m typing. There are limits of course. At times I do have to reign them in or I’d never finish a book.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Join a writer’s group if there’s one near you. You will get the chance to read your work in front of other writers and will hopefully get constructive feedback. Always bask in the warmth of the positive comments of your friends and family but try to remember, they’re always going to like what you write whether it’s ready for publication or not.
A well edited, mostly error free MS will give you a far bigger chance of having your book accepted by a publisher. Don’t even think about sending it off as soon as you type, The End, in your novel. Put it aside for a week or two, then go back to read it with fresh eyes.
Don’t over edit. In my opinion you can lose a lot of the freshness and spontinaity if you continually pick at your prose.
Get the first draft written. Then worry about how well it reads.
What are your future plans as an author?
I am in the process of writing the third Amy Rowlings mystery. It’s about a murder at a civic awards ceremony at the town hall. The book is once again set in 1939 before war is declared. It will be called, either The Murder Awards or Murder Bestowed. I haven’t made my mind up about that yet.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
The parish church of Saint John the Evangelist sits proudly at the centre of the Kentish town of Spinton. Constructed in the twelfth century, the blue-grey church, built from local ragstone, boasts a Norman tower that stood unaltered for centuries, surviving minor earthquakes, violent storms, civil war and mining. Then, in the eighteen-fifties, a Victorian Alderman, aptly named, Mason Meddle, raised the funds to add a clock, a spire and a low, red brick extension (thankfully hidden from view behind the main structure) that was used for Sunday School, Temperance Society gatherings, and until the Town Hall was built some seventy years later, Parish Council meetings.
The surrounding graveyard is split by two paths. The first, the main walkway to the church, is a ragstone-paved avenue that leads from the church’s main gates directly to the vestibule. The second, a winding path made mostly from broken slate and gravel, is accessed from the lychgate, a timber built, gabled structure that has been the dead parishioners’ gateway to the afterlife for centuries.
The lychgate, or corpse gate, was used to shelter the body of the deceased until the funeral service could take place. In years gone by the corpse could rest there for up to two days, accompanied by friends or relatives who would sit on the hard plank seats built into the structure, sometimes as an act of vigil, but often as a presence to ward off the body snatchers that preyed on the poor of the district.
The early morning mist that crawled across the land from the Kent coast, covered the tombstones like a thin grey cloak as a pale, almost water-colour March sun began to rise from behind the church tower.
In the town, men slept off the excesses of their Saturday night drinking while their wives bathed a new black eye or cut lip before starting to prepare breakfast for the family. Children would be scrubbed and dressed in their Sunday best clothes before being packed off to be lectured about their heathen ways at Sunday School. Although most of the working-class adults shunned the church, having far more important things to do on a Sunday morning, it was thought that the weekly disciplined routine was good for the children, though there was the added benefit of getting them out of their hair for an hour.
At nine o’clock precisely, Mrs Rosegarden climbed off her bicycle and wheeled it across the pavement to the church gates. Finding them still locked, she frowned, looked at her wristwatch, then checked the time again by the church clock.
‘Villiers,’ she snorted into the misty air. The aging, but surprisingly sprightly woman turned her bike around and rode across the pavement to the west side of the church where the lychgate entrance was situated.
The brittle haired, bespectacled Sunday School teacher was a woman to be feared, even by the toughest of the ragamuffins that attended her scripture lessons. Quick to anger and swift to punish she patrolled the room like a prison guard. Armed with a bible in one hand and a leather strap in the other, she stalked the three, wooden benches quoting from both testaments, threatening dire consequences, both in the present and in the afterlife for anyone who closed their ears to the word of God.
‘Drunk again, Villiers,’ she hissed as she dismounted by the lychgate. She leaned her bike against the high, stone wall and lifted the catch that secured the rough, wooden pole gates. Pulling them open, she looked through the gabled, porch-like structure to the mist covered tombstones beyond.
Sighing, she retrieved her bicycle and wheeled it over the grey-slab paving towards the gravel path that led to the church.
As she strode under the roof of the lychgate she glanced to her right-hand side where the figure of a grey haired, bespectacled man was slumped on the vigil seat. On the floor beneath the seat, a bible reference had been written in yellow chalk. Romans 13.13-14.
The man’s eyes were open, staring at nothing, his shoulders were hunched and his neck was twisted at what must have been a very uncomfortable angle. His lips were parted and his teeth were bared in a skeleton-like grin.
‘Reverend Villiers!’ Mrs Rosegarden exclaimed. Leaning her bike against the vigil seat on the opposite side of the lychgate, she reached out and grabbed the vicar by the shoulder. When he didn’t respond she shook him. When that failed to rouse him, she squatted down, grabbed the lapels of his grey jacket and shook him again.
As the vicar’s head slumped forward, the Sunday School teacher stood and turned in one movement. Forgetting her bicycle, she hurtled into the main road shouting at the top of her voice. ‘Help… someone help…. It’s the Reverend Villiers. He’s dead.’
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, T.A. Belshaw.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!