With RED BONES finished, copy-edited and the proof copies expected very soon, I've been working on the next and last book in the Shetland Quartet. It started very easily. The first part of the book is set in Fair Isle, a place I feel I know, though it's more than 30 years since I lived there. I'd dropped out of university and like Jane, one of the characters in the book, I took on the post of observatory cook there to give me time to consider what I might do as a career. I arrived in the spring; the island was covered in flowers and the cliffs were home to thousands of seabirds. I'd never been anywhere like it and that first visit began a relationship with Shetland, and particularly with Fair Isle, which has lasted ever since. I can still hold the landscape in my head, imagine I'm walking south down the island with Ward Hill on one side and Sheep Rock on the other.
Now, 35,000 words in, I'm struggling to maintain the momentum. I'm not quite sure what the book is about any more. It started off as a study of self control, or the lack of it. About stormy emotions. And of course it plays with the idea of the locked room mystery. This is a book about homecoming in lots of senses - Jimmy Perez takes Fran home to meet his parents, I'm returning to the world of birdwatching that provided material for my first crime fiction and I'm enjoying again the form of the Golden Age detective story that was my first introduction to the genre.
But I'm stuck. I'm not sure what should happen next. The plot is there, somewhere in my head, but foggy and unplanned, without any sort of definition. I know there will be another murder and I know who will die, but I'm not ready to write the scene. So today I'm going to take time away from the computer. Instead I'll be washing the kitchen floor and starting the mound of ironing. After a day of housework writing seems a fantastic alternative so I can't wait to get back to the novel, and boring practical work often sparks an idea, changing the course of a book and bringing new life to it.