We are delighted to welcome author Harriet Steel to Omnimystery News today.
Harriet begins a new historical mystery series set in Sri Lanka with Trouble in Nuala (August 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we asked her to tell us a little more about it.
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Photo provided courtesy of
Apart from writers' block, I suspect one of the things authors most dread is the question: 'Where do you get your ideas from?' You probably have about a minute to explain all the ways that your characters and their stories elbow their way into your imagination before your listener's eyes start to glaze over. So with that in mind, I'll try to be brief!
Observing everyday life is of course one of the great ways of getting inspiration for your writing. I've been doing something mundane like walking round the supermarket or weeding the garden when my attention's been caught by something that sets off a train of thought. That might be start of a short story, it may even be the germ of a novel. (It also means that my pockets are usually full of scribbled-on scraps of paper that tumble out like confetti at the end of the day and need to be deciphered.)
There have often been times when travelling has provided the spark too. Separation from everyday concerns and pressures definitely has a liberating effect that can lead to all sorts of exciting new projects.
This was certainly the case with my new release, Trouble in Nuala, the first in my Inspector de Silva Mysteries series, a murder mystery that was inspired by my visit to Sri Lanka, the former British colony of Ceylon. I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit the country last winter and fell in love with it straight away. In order to add extra depth and tension, I chose to set the story in the 1930s, a time when British Colonial rule created interesting contrasts, and also conflicts, with the island's traditional culture.
Photo provided courtesy of
There are many murder mysteries around, and I've been asked more than once what makes Trouble in Nuala stand out? Compelling characters and a good plot with plenty of red herrings and twists are a given in the genre so I would say that it's largely down to its setting in Ceylon. Quite apart from the colonial aspect, the island was then, as it is now, a fascinating place with a colourful mix of races (who today, thankfully, seem to have recovered extraordinarily well from the tragedies of their recent past) as well as wonderful scenery and wildlife. The variety is mind-boggling from the enormous range of exotic birds and reptiles to Indian elephants and water buffaloes. You may even have the luck to see a leopard basking on a sunny rock or slinking through the undergrowth in pursuit of a spotted deer. All that colour made choosing a cover design great fun.
Murder mystery is a very plot-driven genre but nevertheless, with Trouble in Nuala, my main character, Inspector Shanti de Silva, took shape first, inspired by various people I met on my travels around Sri Lanka. He's pragmatic but principled with a mischievous sense of humour; at times impetuous and occasionally a rebel. As my plots develop though, I usually find that they serve to deepen characterisation and that was certainly the case here as Inspector Shanti de Silva and the other characters revealed themselves.
A second Inspector de Silva mystery is already well advanced and you can read a sample at the end of Trouble in Nuala. After that, there are plenty more adventures for de Silva queueing up to be written.
Finally, you can enter to win (through October 3rd, 2016) one of four print copies of Trouble in Nuala; see the widget, below.
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Harriet Steel writes historical novels, short stories and murder mysteries. She's married with two grown-up daughters and lives in England in the beautiful Surrey Hills. She loves to walk there, enjoying the flowers and wildlife and thinking about who to murder next. The exercise is also vital to counteract the effects of all those hours spent putting her ideas down on paper when she gets home.
For more information about the author, please visit her blog and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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