ShortBookandScribes #BlogTour #GuestPost by Catherine Fox, Author of Tales from Lindford
I’m delighted to welcome Catherine Fox to my blog today as part of the blog tour for book 4 in The Lindchester Chronicles series, Tales from Lindford. My thanks to Rhoda Hardie PR for the place on the tour and for kindly sending a copy of the book. I have book 1 on my TBR pile and will be reading the series in order but in the meantime Catherine has written a guest post for me to share with you.
January 2020. Freddie, Father Dominic, Jane and all the other residents of Lindfordshire are celebrating the New Year with parties and resolutions. None of them is aware of the trials and tribulations the coming months will bring – not least the horseman of the apocalypse who has set out quietly, with barely a jingle of harness, in a distance province of China . . .
Return to Lindchester once more with Tales from Lindford, the fourth in the beloved series of novels from Catherine Fox. Valiantly written in real time in the midst of the pandemic, this entertaining book captures the difficulties of 2020 with heart, humour and insight. Perfect for Lindchester fans, it’s also the ideal novel for anyone seeking comfort and a way of understanding all that has been happening.
A twenty-first century Barchester that fans of Barbara Pym and the BBC’s Rev will love, this new volume in the Lindchester Chronicles is contemporary Christian fiction at its finest. Tales from Lindford will make you laugh, cry and leave you with hope that grace can be found even in the darkest times.
Do you base your characters on real people? This is something novelists are asked all the time. The answer in my case is no, but people never really believe that. If only they knew more about the circles I move in, they’d be able to crack the code and identify who I’m really writing about, (and maybe get hold of Freddie’s email address). I take this to be a mark of success. I’ve managed to convince my readers that my characters are real—so real, they can’t possibly be made up. But they are. Creating imaginary people is the same as any skill you’ve devoted a lifetime to. Like improvising on a musical instrument, for example. You riff, and fiddle about and play until a new tune is there. It will remind the hearer of other tunes, perhaps. It will be in an easily recognisable style. It might be inspired by a borrowed phrase or mood. But it’s basically made up off the top of your head.
Novelists devote a lot of energy into fooling the reader that the fictional is real. Strong characterisation is based on a habit of people-watching and soul-searching. We enhance this by putting our imaginary characters into convincing settings packed with closely observed detail—of churches, vicarages, and cathedrals in my case. I started including topical political references in my Lindchester novels to help enhance that sense that this story was happening in real time to real people. All very well until Volume 3. Realms of Glory was blogged in 2016, and my various small plotlines were completely overwhelmed by Brexit. I ended up chronicling that unprecedented year of politics by accident. This is an extreme form of flying by the seat of your pants, rather than plotting a novel in advance—and I vowed I’d never do it again.
However. I gradually realised I hadn’t finished thinking about the characters. I began 2020 with a vague plan to write a series of twelve Lindford stories, but this swiftly began to feel inadequate. I needed to be capturing this week by week, not monthly. The scary experience of blogging Realms of Glory paved the way for Tales from Lindford, which bears witness to the experience of living through a global pandemic. And we thought 2016 was unprecedented! COVID-19 was the plot. I just had to keep on writing what I imagined my characters were living and experiencing. It helped me process what was happening. I need Lindchester to work out what I think and feel.
Turning the blog into a novel requires a bit of editing. For a blog, you need to keep reminding people who the characters are, because readers can’t easily flip back and check, and they may have forgotten things from previous weeks. This kind of repetition is tiresome if you’re reading the whole thing in one go. Some gags and scenes don’t age well, and I ditch those. I suspect my publisher wouldn’t have cried if I’d cut a whole lot more out of Tales from Lindford, as it ended up being very long. But—as we learnt to say in lockdown—it is what it is.
Catherine Fox is Academic Director of the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her debut novel Angels and Men was a Sunday Times Pick of the Year, and the first book in the Lindchester Chronicles, Acts and Omissions, was chosen as a Guardian Book of 2014. Catherine is married to the Bishop of Sheffield and is a judo black belt.