#MondayMusing with Guest: Anne Coates @Anne_Coates1 @urbanebooks #HannahWeybridge

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

Today I am thrilled to welcome Anne Coates to the blog. Anne is the author of the highly successful Hannah Weybridge series of books which are published by Urbane Publications. I can't thank Anne enough for stopping by with a great post about Setting a series in the 1990's. First off let me start by telling you a bit about the books. 

SHE IS HUNTING FOR THE TRUTH, BUT WHO IS HUNTING HER? Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan. When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognisable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat. As she comes to realise that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her power to expose the truth .... and stay alive.

Death's Silent Judgement is the thrilling sequel to Dancers in the Wind, and continues the gripping series starring London-based investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge. The series is very much in the best traditions of British women crime writers such as Lynda La Plante and Martina Cole. Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her dental practice. With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah's investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer...

A woman's body is found in a lake. Is it a sad case of suicide or something more sinister? Hannah Weybridge, still reeling from her friend's horrific murder and the attempts on her own life, doesn't want to get involved, but reluctantly agrees to look into the matter for the family.
The past however still stalks her steps, and a hidden danger accompanies her every move.
The third in the bestselling Hannah Weybridge thriller series, Songs of Innocence provides Hannah with her toughest and deadliest - assignment yet...

Now I would like to hand you over to Anne...

Setting my Hannah Weybridge series in the 1990s

There’s a very good reason that Dancers in the Wind is set in 1993 – it’s the year it was first written. I submitted it to various agents and publishers but although it got good feedback it never found a home. Fast forward to 2015 – I found the manuscript in a drawer and decided to read it through. I still liked it but thought it could do with some rewriting and reshaping.

     That was the moment when I could have updated the narrative except that the initial concept was based on interviews I had done with prostitutes and police for an article in a national newspaper. The story was of its time and place (King’s Cross before it was redeveloped) so I decided to stick with the original. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise or it would have been a completely different story.

     As it was, the narrative did change as I rewrote it – an experience I found fascinating. Just when I thought I had completed it, I decided the penultimate chapter was too tame and brought in a completely different and dramatic scene. And so Hannah Weybridge, freelance journalist and single mother, was ready to face the world. Fortunately for me, Matthew Smith at Urbane Publications loved it and saw the possibility for a series.

     This must have been in my mind all those years ago as I had written the first three chapters for the next book which was to become Death’s Silent Judgement and begins with Hannah discovering the dead body of her close friend Liz Rayman in the crypt of St John’s at Waterloo where she ran a free dentist’s clinic for the homeless of the area. At that time I had never been into the church but have done so in the intervening years. The area was familiar to me as I used to work at IPC magazines and often passed the Bull Ring, the maze of underpasses, which housed Cardboard City where rough sleepers congregated. That area is now the IMAX cinema.

     In book two Hannah is employed by Liz’s mother to investigate the murder which is first passed off by the police as the work of one of her homeless clients high on drink or drugs. However it soon becomes evident that something far more sinister is involved linking back to Liz’s work with a health charity in Somalia. While I was writing this in 2016, I used the name of a real charity, then thought better of it and gave it a fictitious name. No one was more surprised than I was at the subsequent scandals which affected some of our most prestigious charities last year.

     Initially I had a year elapse in the narrative between Dancers in the Wind and the sequel. However I felt I had to add too much back-story to explain what had happened in between (especially between Hannah and Tom Jordan, the DI she had become close to). So I moved the time back to the beginning of 1994 and this meant changing the weather and the clothes they were wearing. Hannah can now afford a mobile phone (only used for calls and reception can be patchy) and email is available via a dial-up connection and the fax machine still reigns supreme.

     Moving on, the action in Songs of Innocence takes place in May 1994. The first body is discovered in Peckham Rye Pond. This park is local to me and was redeveloped a few years ago. Fortunately I have photographs of how it used to be when I took my daughter there when she was Hannah’s daughter’s age.
     I loved the discipline of having the narrative take place within one month and I included various historical facts like the death of John Smith, leader of the opposition in the UK and the swearing in of President Mandela in South Africa. Both of these events are linked to fictional ones – Joe Rawlington’s by-election success to become an MP and the death of a character who had been deported to and imprisoned in SA.

     Setting a novel back in time means paying attention to names – using ones that were popular then and appropriate to a character’s age, and not ones that have become fashionable now. Also language needs to be monitored so that you’re not using words, which did not exist in the 1990s.

     In terms of research, I am blessed with friends who have memories of the 1990s in different areas like the Met, education, politics and so on. I even have a fashion designer on the books but I don’t go in for a lot of description about what people are wearing unless it is pertinent to their personality or the plot. As a great hoarder I have theatre programmes from that era and I have had characters reading a bestseller or I mention a TV programme. It all helps to anchor the scene into the period.

     Currently I am working on the fourth Hannah Weybridge. We are still in 1994 only the month is now July. Hannah feels as though her life is on a downward spiral and not much is going right for her. However life has a habit of throwing investigations her way, which in the end will have a major impact on her life. I have a couple more scenarios planned for books five and six which might take us to 1995 but I have also written a few sentences and plot ideas for a contemporary Hannah Weybridge which I would love to explore.

About the Author:
Reading and writing has been Anne Coates’ passion for as long as she can remember. Inspired by her mother who taught her to read before she went to school and by the Deputy Head at her secondary school in Harlow, Essex who encouraged her hunger for reading by granting her free access to the books not yet in the school library, and she feels still grateful for this, in her eyes, amazing privilege.
After her degree in English and French, Anne moved to London where she has lived ever since. During her career she worked for publishers, as a journalist, writer, editor, and translator. The birth of her daughter, Olivia inspired her to write non-fiction books, such as ‘Your Only Child’ (Bloomsbury, 1996), books about applying to and surviving university (NeedtoKnow, 2013), but also short stories, tales with a twist, and stories exploring relationships, published in in various women’s magazines including Bella and Candis.
As a journalist, Anne interviewed all types of people and some of their situtations made her think “What if…” And so, investigative journalist Hannah Weybridge was born… The Hannah Weybridge series currently consists of three books, all published by Urbane Publications: ‘Dancers in the Wind’ (2016), ‘Death's Silent Judgement’ (2017), and ‘Songs of Innocence’ (2018).
Anne Coates lives with three demanding cats and enjoys reading, going to the theatre and cinema, wining and dining and time with her family and friends.

Where to find Anne Coates
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