Can Josiah solve the puzzle before more people die, or is he out of his depth?
In 1841, at the height of the industrial revolution in the North West of England, Josiah Ainscough returns from his travels and surprises everyone by joining the Stockport Police Force, rather than following his adopted father’s footsteps into the Methodist ministry.
While Josiah was abroad, five men died in an explosion at the Furness Vale Powder Mill. Was this an accident or did the Children of Fire, a local religious community, have a hand in it. As Josiah struggles to find his vocation, his investigation into the Children of Fire begins. But his enquiries are derailed by the horrific crucifixion of the community’s leader.
Now Josiah must race against time to solve the puzzle of the violence loose in the Furness Vale before more people die. This is complicated by his affections for Rachael, a leading member of the Children of Fire, and the vivacious Aideen Hayes, a visitor from Ireland.
Can Josiah put together the pieces of the puzzle, or is he out of his depth? Children of Fire won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Prize for 2017
– When and where do you prefer to write?
If I’m writing a first draft I’ll do it anywhere. It doesn’t have to be quiet, in fact a bit of noise is often a helps. Its the flow I need, the actuality of people, dialogue and movement. Thats where my iPad comes in.
But once a chapter has formed then I need space. I’ll use Scrivener to ensure there is order to the detailed development and Grammerly for helping with grammar, punctuation and spelling. For redrafting then I’ll use Word.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
I don’t have many, if any rituals.
If I’m writing poetry I will write freehand and edit as I go along. When I can, rewriting any more because I’ve covered the draft in corrections, I write everything out on a clean side of paper. I find writing poetry a process of continuous revision from the word go.
In the case of the complex plots of books like Children of Fire there will be a a plan before anything goes far, which is likely to include a beginning and ending, though the details in between are likely to change as time goes on.
– Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?
Coffee, a good Cappuccino, completed with homemade biscotti.
– What is your favourite book?
Well the book I repeatedly recommend to people at readings, as being essential reading on everyone’s bucket list, is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Its a great book for many reasons, but technically it has the best reason for having an omniscient narrator, who is Death.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I have written sci-fi. In fact my apprentice piece for my MA at Manchester Metropolitan University was Heron Fleet a piece of speculative science fiction based on a world after the effects of global warming. I centred it on the development of small agrarian communities that carry the seed of human survival, contrasting them with the savage Scavenger Gangs that live on what is left over in the deserted remnants of cities. It was self-published and available from Amazon.
The sequel to Children of Fire, Circles of Deceit, is nearing completion, so it will soon be time to start a new book. A third book in the Ainscough series is possible but I have a sci-fi in hand which has more words already written.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
In crime writing its often said that if you don’t like someone you can kill them off in your next novel. I’ll admit to being tempted but I don’ think realistic characters can’t be simply lifted from life. Elements of a character can be a starting point, but then you might have a female character that needs enriching by a characteristic from a male aquaintence. My view is that a writer must follow the inspiration for the character as they develop, so a single source for inspiration is far too limiting.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
Mia culpa. In principle yes, in practice I forget too often. When I use a notebook, it’s invariably useful and carries everything from detailed notes to ideas for plot and structure.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
Like is a dangerous word. There are books I don’t like, but think are well written. There are books inside a genre I love, which I hate. I think I will leave it for people to find out their own likes and dislikes for themselves.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Depends on genre. I could pick China Miéville or Neil Gamain for fantasy; or for Young Adult, Phil Caveney who is a friend of mine, but since I write historical crime then I’ll have to go for Andrew Taylor.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
I have the intention to write one of the novels of the Ainscough series, set in India. It will be key book of the series and of character development. It will dictate the course of what will be left of the series. My Dad was in India during WW2, so I know something about the place, how it felt and smelled, as well as the heat and the monsoon. But I know that I’m going to have to see it for myself to get that book right.
Thank you, Paul CW Beatty and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Paul CW Beatty is an unusual combination of a novelist and a research scientist. Having worked for many years in medical research in the UK NHS and Universities, a few years ago he took an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University emerging with a distinction.
His latest novel, Children of Fire, is a Victorian murder mystery set in 1841 at the height of the industrial revolution. It won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Award in November 2017 and is published by The Book Guild Ltd.
Paul lives near Manchester in the northwest of England. Children of Fire is set against the hills of the Peak District as well as the canals and other industrial infrastructure of the Cottonopolis know as the City of Manchester.