Bella Tyson is a famous 40-something crime writer suffering from writer’s block ever since a bitter divorce two years before. When a fan offers her the use of an apartment in Venice, Bella jumps at it, hoping a change of scene will have her writing again. Once there, she soon meets Will, a charming Englishman, who shows her around the city.
Enchanted by both Will and her new surroundings, Bella decides to write a supernatural murder mystery and begins researching local legends and the city’s more sinister side, including an illicit visit to the island of Poveglia, spooky former home of Venice’s asylum. Soon Bella uncovers more than she has bargained for and finds herself enmeshed in a series of gruesome real-life murders that uncannily mirror the legends she is researching.
As she and Will join forces to investigate, real life and local lore merge disconcertingly – for nothing in Venice turns out to be what seems, including Will….
GUEST POST – THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION!
I never set out to write a novel. If you’ve tried – if you’ve ever faced the tyranny of a blank page and that blinking cursor – you’ll understand why. So many words! It seems impossible when you start writing that you could ever write thousands and thousands of words and come out at the end with a story that makes sense and (hopefully) still be entertaining enough that people will want to read it.
I started off writing screenplays. Screenplays are an art form in themselves, but they are so much shorter and therefore much less scary; plus it means you have a genuine excuse to watch a lot of movies (research!). So far, so good. But there is one major drawback – not a lot of films actually get made every year. So even if you write a doozy of a script, the odds are against you. And if you DO get a producer interested, if they option your work (buy the film rights) they still have to get funding together, attract a cast and hire a director, which can literally take YEARS. I sold a screenplay option back in March (2018) and if I’m lucky I might see it on screen before the turn of the century. Books, on the other hand…
So I went on my holidays to Venice and fell in the love with the place. It’s hard not to. As I walked around the streets I could imagine it all on the big screen – dark deeds unfolding, nefarious murders and bodies ending up in the Grand Canal. Some people go to Butlins for their family holiday; I plan serial killing sprees. I went straight home and wrote a screenplay set there. It got longlisted for a BBC Writers Room initiative, but of course the curse of Not Many Films Get Made hit again. It seemed that my script was doomed to just sit there on my laptop (along with all the others – at least it wouldn’t get lonely!). And then – epiphany! A writer friend, novelist Carmen Radtke, read the script and loved it, and suggested that I turn it into a novel. I resisted at first; I’d tried my hand at novels in the past and had a drawer full of Chapter Ones. But this time it was different. I knew my story and my characters, and I knew that 90 pages of screenplay actually weren’t enough to do them justice.
I joined in with NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – in November 2017. It’s an online writing project where participants commit to writing a 50,000 word manuscript in one month. I still thought it was a long shot but, using the screenplay as an outline, I sat down to write.
And I loved it. In screenplays you have to write succinctly. There’s no room for flowery language or long descriptive passages. You can’t hear the characters’ thoughts – you’re constantly exhorted to ‘show don’t tell’. Start the scene late, get out early. White space on the page…. So many rules! In novel writing, the only rule is WRITE SOMETHING GOOD. After resisting for so long, I finished the novel in three weeks and, in a spirit of insane optimism, I entered it for the inaugural Audible Crime Writing Grant. And then I promptly forgot about it, because nobody wins anything with the first draft of their first novel.
And then in March Audible told me they’d shortlisted ‘Dead in Venice’ and were publishing it as one of three finalists. After so many years of writing screenplays and ALMOST getting somewhere, to actually have people listening to my work is amazing. And I enjoyed the process so much that I’m already working on another novel and plotting the follow up to ‘Dead in Venice’. Coming to novel writing from the restrictions of screenplays feels incredibly liberating and I’m now eyeing all those unproduced works of mine, wondering if their time might come one day after all – but this time in the pages of a book, rather than on the big screen…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’d at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London, Cornwall and New Zealand she’s finally (for the moment) settled on the sunny South Coast of England, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.
Her Westminster-set romantic comedy ‘Parliamentary Affairs’ was recently optioned by an up and coming LA producer, and her action comedy ‘Lost In Berlin’ was a finalist in New York’s Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab 2017. She’s also been shortlisted for the BBC Writers Room. Her debut novel ‘Dead In Venice’ has just been shortlisted for the Audible New Writing Grant, while her short horror story‘. Tinder’ was selected for the Twisted 50, volume two anthology, published Spring 2018
Social Media Links
Twitter : @fkleitch