About the Book
Drumbeats is the first novel in a trilogy and follows 18 year old English student Jess through her gap year in West Africa. It's a rite of passage novel set in the mid-1960s when Jess flees her stifling home background for freedom to become a volunteer teacher and nurse in the Ghanaian bush. Apprehensively, she leaves her first real romantic love behind in the UK, but will she be able to sustain the bond while she is away? With the idealism of youth, she hopes to find out who she really is and do some good in the world, but little does she realize what, in reality, she will find that year: joys, horrors, and tragedy. She must find her way on her own and learn what fate has in store for her, as she becomes embroiled in the poverty and turmoil of a small war-torn African nation under a controversial dictatorship. Jess must face the dangers of both civil war and unexpected romance. Can she escape her past? And why do the drumbeats haunt her dreams?
Can you ever escape your past?
Walking in the Rain
How do you cope when your worst nightmare comes true?
Before I Die
Can Jess’s bucket list bring resolution to her life?
August 1965, Ghana
It was hotter than Jess had ever imagined in her eighteen years. Flying in from the UK bound for Accra, she had left the late August skies of the dull wet dreariness of an English summer. But as she stepped off the Ghana Airways VC10, she felt the heavy all-encompassing heat which shocked her system. Although it was only six o’clock in the evening, it was already dark and close.
The flight from London Heathrow had been a long and tiresome six hours and she had felt drained as she pulled down her cabin bag from the overhead and shuffled along the aisle behind the other travellers, nodding and swaying to the strains of the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” on the VC10’s tannoy system. Her mother would have a fit: her Rulebook said no pop music; it’s the work of the devil, and no dancing: Jessamy, anyone would think you were a slut. So in the holidays, when she was home from boarding school, she’d listened to Pick of the Pops furtively in her bedroom, ear pressed to the radio.
Now, as she climbed down the steps in the heat-stifling darkness to take her first stride on African soil, she was recharged with excitement.
She was aware of the male flight attendant standing at the foot of the aircraft’s steps, watching her with undisguised admiration as she climbed down. She navigated the steps as gracefully as she could in her tan wedge-heeled sandals. In the heat, she was glad that she had thought to scoop up her auburn-gold hair loosely into a ponytail. She let go of the rail with her left hand for a moment to smooth her pale pink cotton mini dress over her slim figure. At least she wasn’t irritable and demanding like the other passengers who pushed behind her as if they were in a great hurry.
The flight attendant watched her all the way down the steps and then wiped his palm on his trousers, and held it out courteously to steady her from the last step. She took it in her own cool soft hand for a brief moment.
“Thank you so much, John. Bye now,” she smiled as she passed him and headed for the small wooden shack that served as an airport building.
“No problem, miss. Welcome to Ghana.”
“How did you know his name?” hissed Sandra, from behind her. Jess turned. She noticed that John did not take Sandra’s hand. His eyes and grin were still focused on her.
“It’s on his name label,” whispered Jess. They walked together across to the arrivals building. “OK?”
“OK. Long flight. Tired,” answered Sandra curtly. She had been unusually quiet during the flight and, it seemed, almost close to tears on occasion. Jess put her free hand on Sandra’s arm.
“It’ll be fine. Honestly. I know you’re missing Colin.” In the short time Jess had with Sandra after they were teamed up to travel to the same school in Ghana for their gap years, she had learned all about the chap Sandra was leaving behind for a year. Sandra showed her a photograph. Oh dear, he looked a lot like Maurie. Not fanciable. AT. ALL! She herself had said little about her own personal life, and the guy she had left behind. She wanted to keep him to herself. Her first real grown-up relationship. Simon. His name still tasted so new on her lips and in her head. Had she done the right thing in dutifully fulfilling the contract to come out here, even though they had only just got together? Would he wait for her? They were an item, weren’t they? She frowned and bit her lip.
About the Author
She wrote her first novel when she was 10 years old, sadly never published and long since consigned to the manuscript graveyard. She loves writing novels with a strong sense of time and place and that is the basis of her latest, Drumbeats, the first of a trilogy which follows Jess through the trials and tribulations of her life. It starts with Jess on her gap year in Ghana in the 1960s.
She has also written the story of the restoration of her rectory in The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, which also interweaves recipes from her farmhouse kitchen and which has won a number of international awards.
Recently she found an old manuscript gathering dust in her drawer, one she had originally scribbled when she was still at school, many years ago. It was a children’s story about a boy who slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe to find himself in a fantasy medieval world. She is currently blowing off the dust and redrafting it for her publishers to let it loose on the world in the autumn. It’s called S.C.A.R.S.
She loves to hear from readers (it’s a pleasant distraction from her steaming keyboard), so do get in touch via the links.
Author page on Amazon:
Goodreads author page:
Guest Post - 5 Tips on how to Write a Book Series
1. Think ahead! Plan and prepare the outlines of all the books in advance: there has to be a development, of character and of plot, so you need to know how this will work before you start the first novel in the series. I write them one by one (I can only keep one book in my mind at once!) but I know what the others will focus on and the threads that will emerge and develop.
2. Be organised! Keep notes or a file of data that you may need to refer back to: you have to keep track of the facts about all the characters who recur and all the events you want to be significant in the character’s life. Don’t suddenly call the character’s mother Bess in the second book, when she’s called Betty in the first! Don’t suddenly invent a lifelong friend who has never been mentioned before! I don’t know how Charles Dickens managed to write Bleak House without a computer to track things!
3. Research! Locations and time periods need to be authentic and if your series will be set in specific places or times you’ve just got to do your research on them. You don’t want canny readers pointing out that (in Drumbeats) Burkina Faso was called Upper Volta/Haute Volta in 1966 or that The Things we do for Love wasn’t written until the 1970s. For drumbeats, I had to research what was happening in 1965-6, in England and in Ghana, West Africa. I researched the music, the books, the important events. I listened to a lot of music (Ghanaian highlife, classical and 60s pop) because there’s a lot of music involved in the story. And because Jess goes on a trek to Timbuktu in Mali and to what was then called Upper Volta I had to research those places too. It was a time of a number of coups d’états in the area so I needed to get a real feel for what might have happened in that time and place.
4. Live and love your characters! They’re going to be part of your life for a long time so you’ve got to live their lives with them, rather like actors live their characters, and you’ve also got to love them. If you don’t you’ll tire of them. And certainly the readers won’t empathise with them if you don’t. I really got to know Jess and how she would react to events, dangers, romance, uncertainties.
5. Cliffhangers! You want your readers to feel satisfied at the end of a book but you also want them to buy the next one to see what happens next. It’s a fine line to tread. Tie up most of the loose ends but leave something that needs to be resolved next time. For the Drumbeats trilogy the story of Jess couldn’t all be written into one novel as I wanted to focus on certain places, times and stages in her life, so I had to focus on one aspect in each book. So that’s where I come full circle – back to #1: thinking ahead!