How many times do you find yourself reading a book and wishing that you could step into the story? Now you can! I’m delighted to announce that for the past couple of months I’ve been working with Escape Rooms Cheltenham to create an escape room based on my crime novel, Paternoster.
Escape rooms throw a group of friends, family or colleagues into a scenario where they’re locked in a room, and have to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape. They’re popular for birthday parties, hen parties, and team-building activities for work colleagues.
The Paternoster escape room explores a dark and dangerous past lurking beneath the genteel exterior of Cheltenham - a past with tentacles that reach into the present. Sleuths taking part in the escape room are presented with the cases of a kidnapped schoolgirl, a murdered secretary, and a businessman who utters 'paternoster' with his dying breath. They have an hour to uncover what links them all or they too will fall foul of Cheltenham's murky secrets.
Participants have to solve a series of ingenious puzzles in order to escape. The challenges are all different and test participants’ powers of observation, problem solving, team working and concentration.
The Paternoster Escape Room will be open until 21st December, 2019 and bookings are available at: https://escaperoomscheltenham.co.uk/blog/room/21st-september-21st-december/
Very excitingly I’m also able to announce that Paternoster will shortly be re-issued by Sapere Books. I’m so pleased to be working with Sapere – they’re a great team and wonderful to work with.
Here’s a sneak preview of the new cover. I love how brooding it is – getting the reader in the mood for the story to come. I showed it to a friend of mine, who said it hinted at ‘dark goings on’. I’m happy with that!
The weather forecast is talking about the warmest Easter on record, the news is full of people sunning themselves on British beaches, and the smell of charred meat hangs in the air as barbecues are dusted off and lit for the first time in months. And me? I’m playing Christmas jingles and thinking about tinsel, icy pavements and turkey leftovers. Yes, I’m writing a seasonal story.
The time-lag involved in publishing means that a story with a seasonal flavour has to be submitted six months before. My story has a May deadline, hence my writing about Christmas whilst nibbling on an Easter egg.
The story is for a collection of Christmas stories featuring fictional detectives, and I’m writing a story featuring my PI sleuth, Eden Grey. The story must be set at Christmas and have a Christmas theme. For a long time I simply dragged my mind back to Christmas and compiled a list of things that are typically Christmassy: office parties, buying presents, houses smothered with lights, food, drink, family. Eventually I came up with a theme I could work into a detective story, and that allowed Eden to do all the things she’s good at: surveillance, breaking and entering, and getting into a fight.
Once I’d got the plot, I needed to feel more Christmassy, in the hopes that those sensations would translate onto the page. Here’s how I did it:
1. Playing Christmas music
The neighbours thought I was bonkers, but playing Christmas tunes helped me to think about Christmas and to remember how that time of year feels. Sound, like smell, is wired into memory. Certain songs evoke specific places, people, and events. Even decades later, a certain song will remind me of a school trip to Norway. Writing to a background of ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’ helped me get into the Christmassy swing.
2. Remembrance of Christmas past
Confession time. I don’t like Christmas much. For me it means other people’s stress, overspending, overeating and general tetchiness. Call me Scrooge if you like, but my Christmas is quiet and simple, and that’s how I like it. The good thing about Christmas for storytellers is it’s usually a time of great tension, and as we all know, stories are powered by tension. At Christmas, everyone is expected to have a wonderful time. If you’re ill, lonely or generally fed-up, that feeling of alienation from everyone else intensifies.
3. What’s the weather like?
Although we often think of a white Christmas, it rarely happens in the UK. Christmas is usually dank, misty, dark and rainy. It’s difficult to remember exactly what the weather is like in certain seasons, so I turned to my journal to remember. Notes about gardening in the rain, slipping on frosty pavements, or unexpected warmth reminded me that winter isn’t cold and rainy every single day. These details gave my prose authenticity.
4. Eat, drink, and be Christmassy
Mince pies have long ago disappeared from the supermarket shelves, but there are Brussels sprouts, turkey, and fruit cake. Plus hot chocolate, hot toddies, and Baileys. Certain seasons have distinctive tastes particular to them, and by experiencing that taste I evoked the season associated with it. While everyone else was sipping Pimms and eating barbecue chicken, I was drinking hot chocolate and eating pigs in blankets.
Writing a seasonal story means being out of synch with everyone else. You have to create a bubble in which it's Christmas, and block out everything Easter around you. The benefit of writing this way is that when winter rolls around, and everyone huddles inside counting down the days to summer, I’m already there, writing six months in the future, glorying in the long June days and toasting myself in the sun.
Kim Fleet lives and works in Cheltenham. Her two cats help the creative process by standing on the delete key.