In a previous life, I spent thirty years in the international pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, and my early novels were based in a variety of locations: Russia and the former Soviet Union countries; Latin America; and Southern Africa.
After the publication of my Jones Sisters trilogy (thrillers set in the sometimes-murky world of drug manufacturing), I took a year off to get the characters out of my head. After all, they had been there for the best part of six years, and I suspected they would be as sick of me as I was of them.
I’ve always been a fan of cosy crime: Midsomer Murders; Murder She Wrote; anything by Agatha Christie. So I thought I’d have a go at writing in that genre. The thrillers had been complex and difficult to write. I wanted something easier, and more fun.
I also wanted to bring my locations closer to home. I’m a city girl, born in Birmingham and living for a long time in London and its suburbs. So moving to a tiny semi-rural town (more a village with attitude) in Devon was quite a culture shock. There was so much great material for a writer. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get run out of town.
So I invented a village! Coombesford is located just a couple of miles up the road from Chudleigh. It’s close enough to Exeter and Newton Abbot that I can bring real locations into the stories, while keeping it fictionalised so no-one recognises themselves in the characters.
And those characters I was trying to get out of my head? Some of them refused to leave! So one of the Jones sisters, plus her family, now run the pub in the centre of Coombesford, making them one of the hubs of the village, ideally placed to solve mysteries as they arise. And believe me, they do!
So far, I’ve published two murder mysteries (Murder at Mountjoy Manor and Villainy at the Village Store). Calamity at Coombesford Church is on pre-order and will be published later this year. And I’m already well into plotting the fourth in the series which will see some of the other characters from the thrillers make a guest appearance.
From April 2021, I have been giving away a short story each month with my readers’ newsletter. Set in Coombesford, they often incorporate characters from the crime novels. At the end of the first year, I published the first twelve stories as Coombesford Calendar volume I. This year, I brought out Coombesford Calendar volume II. These aren’t murder stories. They are a mix of themes and moods, most with a twist, often with humour. The idea is to show what the people of Coombesford get up to when they are not solving (or committing) murders.