I’m delighted to be welcoming Graham Minett to my hot seat today chatting about his debut novel, The Hidden Legacy.
1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.
2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .
Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.
But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.
Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .
Graham Minett’s debut novel, The Hidden Legacy, is a powerful and suspenseful tale exploring a mysterious and sinister past.
Welcome to JJ!
Please summarise The Hidden Legacy in 20 words or less.
Why has Ellen inherited a cottage from a total stranger? Is the truth worth knowing at any price?
If you could choose to be one of your characters, which would you be Graham?
There are parts of me in most of the characters, which is almost inevitable I suppose. Ellen has a lot of my failings as well as a few strengths I wouldn’t mind having and Kate has a touch of my humour and scepticism. Barbara is as fiercely protective of her daughter as I am of my own family. I’d even go so far as to say I can see myself in Sam in some respects although unfortunately that doesn’t extend to the villa in Barbados and the millions he has tucked away.
In terms of which I would like to be I suppose I’d have to go for the p-p-p-professor. It would be nice to think I’d have the moral courage to stand up for an underdog against a sustained media assault, just because I believed it was the right thing to do. As I said, it would be nice to think that . . .
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
Most people who have read the book would probably assume I’d go for the prologue because it’s an ‘impact’ scene and I must admit I did enjoy mapping it out and watching it unfold on the screen in front of me. On a par with it though is the scene when Ellen first visits the cottage. The village of Oakham is loosely based on Stanton in the Cotswolds, where my grandparents lived, and I really enjoyed revisiting my childhood if only in my imagination. I was thinking of using an actual building there as a model but decided instead to set myself the challenge of creating the cottage, its grounds and the interior entirely from scratch and was really pleased with the way it turned out.
… and was there a hardest scene to write?
The hospital scene. I don’t want to say too much here that will act as a spoiler but I tried writing it first of all from the point of view of the visitor and wasn’t happy with it so I switched to a different viewpoint altogether and was really pleased with the way it turned out. I was desperate to avoid being mawkish and overly sentimental and think I got it about right. I’ve never been able to write poetry but that is as close as I’ve come in the book to writing poetically at least.
Was there any research involved for The Hidden Legacy Graham?
To be honest, I didn’t need to do a great deal of research. Most of the locations were already familiar to me and the ones that weren’t I invented. I did some research online into court cases in the 60s but for the most part I was happy to dive in and gamble on the reader coming with me. I think I tend when writing to trust my instincts as a reader. I want to avoid glaring mistakes for obvious reasons but when I’m reading a novel, if the writing is good enough to carry me along with it, the last thing I want is to break it up while I check some minor detail. I hope others feel the same way.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
Usually mornings or evenings because the afternoon is always taken up with exercise. More than a creative time of day though, I have a creative time of year. Because I still work at a school where I’m responsible for creating the timetable, the months of March through to July are pretty much ruled out as far as the actual writing is concerned. In those months I tend to do a lot of the thinking and planning in my limited spare time, then I use August and September for the detailed written plan which tells me how many scenes the novel will have and therefore how many I need to do each week to finish the book by March. Maybe in a couple of years, once I’m able to write full-time, I’ll find out if there’s a part of the day that works best for me. (My ideas for the blog brew through term time and then during holidays I implement them … so I understand this Graham).
Do you have a favourite book? What is it about that book that makes it special?
Same answer every time since I first read it years and years ago. Favourite author is William Faulkner and my favourite novel is The Sound and The Fury. It’s just brilliantly constructed, told in four parts, the first of which is viewed from the perspective of a mentally impaired man in his thirties who has no real understanding of time sequence and thinks the events of twenty years ago are intermingled with things that happened just yesterday. They call it the book that everyone reads one and a quarter times because his section makes very little sense until you read the other three accounts of the same events – then you go back to his and it all hangs together so brilliantly. I think it’s a work of genius, although I accept it won’t be to everyone’s taste. I actually went to New Orleans and sat in the chair where Faulkner did his writing in the hope something would rub off. You’ll try anything when you’re still seeking your first book deal!
What are you reading now? What are your thoughts?
I’ve just finished The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds. I enjoy crime fiction and this one has been causing something of a stir because Rod is actually English but has set it in Texarkana, USA in 1946. Now I understand what all the fuss is about. It’s an exceptional debut novel. I’ve just started Kill Fee by Owen Laukkanen and have just over a week to finish it before Colette Dartford’s novel Learning To Speak American is published on November 5th. We authors at Twenty7 are very supportive of each other and I’m really keen to see what the others have produced so I certainly don’t apologise for giving it a mention here!
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far Graham?
The most crucial? The two years I spent doing a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. It was exactly what I needed.
The most exciting? That would have to be the past nine months – no question. I thought being told that I had a two-book deal would take some beating but that was just the start of a whirlwind learning process that just never seems to let up. I assume the novelty will eventually wear off because that’s usually the way of things but there’s absolutely no sign of it doing so in the near future. It’s all too exciting for words. Now all I need is to find time to start planning book 3.
Thank you for sharing with us today Graham.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
The Hidden Legacy was published in ebook on 5th November and will be released as a paperback 25th August 2016.
G.J Minett studied Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge before teaching in Gloucestershire and West Sussex.
In 2008 he finished a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. He wrote the first chapter of The Hidden Legacy as part of his course and the piece subsequently won both the inaugural Segora Short Story Competition in 2008 and the Chapter One Competition in 2010. The prize for the latter involved a chance to work editor Baden Prince Jr to finish the novel.
Graham is currently working on his second novel, The Goose Drank Wine. He lives with his wife and children and still works at Angmering School in West Sussex. Connect with Graham on Twitter @GJMinett