AK I think the most exciting – and probably the most dangerous – question you can ask is: “What if?”
What if this happened?
In my younger, fitter days, I once went for a run in the French countryside. I was enjoying a break in the sunshine, jogging along lanes between fields of sunflowers. The only sounds were the birds in the sky, the bees on the flowers and the distant hum of a tractor. As I turned a corner, I noticed some gates ahead. Through the trees, I could see the outline of a small chateau. It looked magical. As I drew level with the entrance, the peace was disturbed by the frantic barking of a couple of Dobermanns who snarled at me through the closed gates. I shrieked and leapt back, startled by their ferocity. I quickly moved on, not wanting a close encounter with those teeth!
As I made my way back to our gite, I started to wonder. What if the gates had been opened? Would they have attacked me? Would I have been able to escape? I decided that I could have leapt over the ditch on the other side of the road and scaled one of the concrete telegraph poles that marched across the countryside. These poles had handy footholds that would enable me to climb fast. The dogs would be left far below and I would be safe until someone came along to rescue me.
That sparked an idea for a story and I was off on my writing career. I finished the book, which I called Sunflower Summer, but it never saw the light of day. It really didn’t deserve to – but it was a great learning exercise.
What if someone changed their mind?
My latest book, The Legacy, came from a scene in my previous book, Mine, where an elderly spinster changes her will just before she dies. She’s in a nursing home, so her solicitor sends two of his employees to see her and go through the new will. They are satisfied that she understands what she’s doing, and they witness the document. This minor scene in Mine became the prologue to The Legacy.
|Alison's work space|
I wrote the scene as a means of getting two of my characters out of their office in order to develop their relationship. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that will, which effectively disinherited one person in favour of another. I started to obsess about why she’d done it and how the two heirs would react to their change in fortune. What if one of them was relying on inheriting that money? What would happen if they didn’t get it?
What if someone discovered a secret?
The more I thought about the legacy, the more I realised that it could be the key to some long-buried secrets that neither of the heirs is aware of. Initially, it seemed as though the old lady had simply decided that her nephew James was a spoilt, wasteful young man who didn’t deserve a large fortune, and had given it to her god-daughter Charlotte because she was a kind, loyal young woman who wouldn’t waste the money as James undoubtedly would. But, I kept asking myself, what if there’s more to it than that? What if each of the characters were keeping dark secrets? What would happen if they were discovered?
After asking all these questions, The Legacy became a story about an unexpected inheritance, a web of deceit and a desperate escape – because of one short scene in another book and my inability to stop asking, what if?
What if I want to be a writer?
I’m often asked for tips by people who want to be writers. The best advice I can give is to keep asking, “What if?” The more questions a writer asks, the more answers and possibilities appear. I also tell them to get to know their characters – their personalities, their concerns, their passions and their secrets. That way, they can ask those vital what if questions and will know instinctively how their characters would respond. They can take you on dangerous and exciting journeys, make you laugh and cry, and maybe inspire yet more stories. Happy writing!
about the book…
James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.
Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.
Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.
Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?
about the author… Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.
In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. She signed her first three-book publishing contract a year after she completed her master’s degree.
The Legacy is her fifth novel and the second book published by Darkstroke Books. It is a drama set in 1960s London and France, exploring how we don’t always get what we want and how we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched. Her previous Darkstroke book, Mine, is a drama also set in 1960s London, based on real events in her family, exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics. Some of the characters from Mine also appear in The Legacy, although this is a standalone story.
Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk)
as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.
You can get the book on Amazon