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The Story Behind the Story – Part Four – Shooting Pains

Some authors talk about setting as if it is one of their characters. I don’t feel the artistic pull to that extent but living and locating my series in Scotland, I do recognise that the dramatic backdrop of rolling purple hills and craggy coastline favours an environment for murder!

I moved from town to the country five years ago and my writing has been heavily influenced by the change. Now, I live deep in the Scottish countryside with my beloved horses in a field in front of the house and my neighbour’s herd of cattle just behind. If you don’t enjoy getting your shoes a bit grubby, this is not the place for you!

And so, it is little wonder that Shooting Pains came about as it did. In it, a cattle farmer is accused of murder following the death of a man at a pheasant shoot on the local estate. I had a fairly good plan for the story quite early on but I did need to do a bit of research because I’m not too familiar with guns and I wanted to get the facts as correct as possible. I ended up calling a friend whose husband had reared pheasants in the past and organised small shooting parties. It’s dangerous being friendly with an author because we do tend to root around for stories and tit-bits of gossip to fill out a novel and I’m afraid I shamelessly pumped my darling pal for information and interesting shooting stories, some of which I manipulated into the plot of the book. (She’s read the novel, of course, and thankfully gave her seal of approval!)

I wrote Shooting Pains during the enforced lockdown due to covid and living remotely, felt very fortunate indeed to have the space to walk freely without fear of bumping into anyone. At the same time, I was homeschooling my son, something that was a pleasure rather than a chore. In fact, when I think of Shooting Pains, I will always have my son in mind because while I wrote the first draft, he was sitting opposite me doing his school work, both of us offering suggestions to one another. Me, advising him about hydrocarbon chemistry (or what I remember of it from my school days!) and him, giving me ‘useful’ plot suggestions for the book! In many ways, despite the adversity and the dreadful worry that gripped the world then, we were in our own little bubble. My husband was front line working as a general practitioner and we felt due to the likelihood of him coming into contact with covid at some point, we should hunker down. It was an introvert's dream and I must say, coming out the other side and reintegrating into society has been a bit of a pig!

So, Shooting Pains is quite firmly set in rural Scotland and I used my knowledge of cattle farming, gained from my brushes with our friendly neighbouring farmer who, since we moved here, has taught me how to deliver calves, even letting me assist in a caesarean section when the vet came to help with a difficult one. I hope that my love for the animals and countryside comes across in the writing, but more importantly, I hope to outwit my readers in the solution to this one which has both a murder and a medical mystery wrapped up in it! Happy sleuthing!

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