Signed Sealed And Delivered



I’m assuming that you, dear reader, haven’t as yet read any of my books but are merely browsing here on your way to somewhere else and maybe need a few moments enlightenment as you make your way, maybe to even fall in love with this or that character from the world of make-believe.

Where an author gets his characters from, and how he builds them from a rough sketch to a believable person with strengths and weaknesses, has always fascinated me. After all, literature is scattered with so many. Take Dickens, the master, for instance: he even gave them exactly the right names.

Let me tell you to start with Josie Larkin.


The book is A Fall from Grace and when we meet dear Josie she is an old, untidy and lost person: not lost in the sense of not knowing where she is but lost in life.

To say I based her on a real person would be a lie, yet a real person was involved. I’ve told this before somewhere, but nothing will be hurt by me telling it again.

An elderly lady once lived near where I live and to all intents and purposes she was Josie Larkin, at least in the physical sense. She looked the same, walked in the same shambling way and wore the same untidy clothes. But it is there that the similarity ends. I didn’t know the real woman of the streets round here but I do know Josie Larkin.

I started with the physical old woman. I knew nothing about her, had never spoken to her, and if I had known her and had spoken to her then I doubt I would ever have created Josie Larkin, and A Fall From Grace is a story that would never have been told. My ignorance was a blessing. I could start with a blank sheet. But first let me say that the original real woman was long dead when I wrote the story. I don’t want to dabble in too much reality! Even though there was almost no chance that she would ever read it, I couldn’t in all conscience use a real person as the basis of fiction while she lived.

These are a few things that immediately sprung to mind.

Old in the first years of the twenty-first century, Josie Larkin would have been born some time around 1920.

That gave me start of her life. During her childhood the world would have been resounding to the sound of the Charleston. Flapper girls would have sauntered down streets yet to be ruined by too much traffic, and a chic brand of fashion copied boyish styles and was adopted by a minority of girls who chose to look like boys for whatever reason. Research at the local library and on the Internet gave me a mental image that I wanted to soak myself in.

Young women in service to richer families was on the decline but still existed – it still lingers today, don’t forget. That Josie, needing to leave home and escape the unkind excesses of a weird mother, should end up with a family like Mattie’s, in service, would not have been at all unusual. It would have represented a rescue.

Josie formed a lesbian relationship with Mattie and we must take ourselves back to those times to understand the strictures society placed on any kind of sexual deviance. It was not unknown for poets and other writers to hide their true selves by destroying unpublished works during the early twentieth century. Radclyffe Hall’s novel, The Well Of Loneliness, was a work that caused a considerable storm and a legal battle in the 1920s. So far from the relationship shared by my two women being a thing for them to be proud of their pragmatism told them to enjoy the company of their chosen love but the reality of the times told them to keep it hidden.

Having created Josie as both a pathetic old woman and an exciting, vibrant and loving young woman I had to fill in the intervening years. I leave them briefly sketched because her descent told its own story. Without Mattie and unable to adapt to normal heterosexual relationships and with only fleeting furtive lesbian affaires, the beautiful young woman became isolated as the years passed. Nobody knew, nobody was at all certain about her, but fingers were pointed none-the-less.


Rosie Bagshaw (For the Love of Rosie) is a different kettle of fish. She is based on a girl I half remember from my own childhood. I lifted her up a class and gave her a wildly different background, but kept the image in my mind intact. The real girl I knew is probably more idealised memory than real person because almost fifty years have passed since I last saw her. But just as the childhood girl left my memory under unexplained circumstances due to an embarrassing pregnancy in the 50s when such things were horrific misadventures, so Rosie left Walter Flint’s life for very similar reasons. I wanted to contrast the innocence and wonder of childhood with the realities of life and provided the Second World War (which Hitler decided should crop up at exactly the right time for my purposes) as a catalyst for bad. I also wanted to show that no matter how many years might pass and no matter how old we might grow, we are still capable of love and even passion. Which is just as well because at the moment I’m in my sixties and loveless!


Other characters came to me fully formed. Officer Gentry, for instance (Officer Gentry and the Ghost of Mavis Adder) is really me, transplanted from the boring old fifties and given a makeover for the twenty-first century. So he’s half a step behind Vicky, his friend, because I was usually half a step behind the doers and shakers of my childhood! But that doesn’t stop him being a thoughtful hero – I hope!

Another boy, the suppressed and downtrodden Kevin Stonewell (The Gentleman of the Road) was a real teenager – with a girlfriend and a baby but awkward and untidy – who chanced to walk past my house quite often a decade or so ago. Like with Josie Larkin, the inspiration behind Kevin was really nothing like him. I used to think as I weeded the garden and he ambled by that despite his shambling gait and awkward speech there was something really hopeful about him, as if he could solve the world’s problems despite everything. He couldn’t, of course, but Kevin was born anyway. I then gave him a dreadful alcoholic prostitute for a single mother – and the story took over. I’ve always believed that despite the most horrendous handicaps in life the human animal can triumph. I’m the sort of hopeless optimist that must give us all hope! And there’s the girl in the story, his own angel, Amanda Drayton, and would you believe it with her the old inspiration for Rosie Bagshaw puts in another appearance.


Griselda Entwhistle, (Spellbound) is a different thing altogether. She’s pure invention, which probably gives you insight into a part of my imagination that I shudder to suspect exists. She’s the spell that puts things right, the bad that’s really good, the enemy who turns out to be a friend, the despair that turns to hope. And as for Henrietta Blackboil (also Spellbound), she’s the evil that won’t be reformed.

I have, of course, many more characters because there are fourteen of my novels in Lululand, but I thought an insight into some of my characters might help the passing stranger fall in love with one of them…

For more details of the books mentioned on this page, and others, please go to this page