Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Guest Post: Death Scene

Today the Poet's Fire welcomes fellow MuseItUp Author Sara-Jayne Townsend for an interview about her writing and a look at her book Death Scene.  

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.  She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person. The first two books in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in 2014.  DEATH SCENE, the first book (and a re-release) will be available in Summer, with the sequel, DEAD COOL, following in Autumn.

I find horror scary and disturbing, what draws you to write horror?

I think because it is scary and disturbing, but in a controlled environment.  The things in horror stories can’t really hurt you.  I tend to use my horror stories as a way of dealing with my own fears and insecurities.  By writing about the things that scare me, I exorcise them.

What frightens you the most?

I write a lot about betrayal, isolation and death.  Going back to the previous question, the fact that these are recurring themes in my stories is a clear indication that these are things I have difficulty dealing with.  But I think my biggest fear is loss of identity.  I take pride in being me.  Some people find me strange and unusual, but I am unique.  The thought that somehow that might be taken away from me is terrifying.

When writing a mystery, how do you organize the story?  Do you start at the end and work backwards, or plant clues along the way?

I’m a meticulous plotter, so I work out the plot first.  The first thing I’ve got to do is work out who the killer is.  One I’ve got that, I’ll draft out a plot summary.  From there I’ll take the summary and work it out into a chapter plan, which gives a brief summary of what’s going to happen in each chapter, including vital clues that my sleuth must uncover  So by the time I sit down to write chapter 1, I’ve got my road map.  Like taking a journey, the process of writing the novel might throw up some unexpected diversions along the way, but I know where I have to end up and roughly how I need to get there.

What's your favorite thing to do when not writing?

I love video games, and I wish I had more time to play them.  Current favourites are Dragon Age Origins and the Resident Evil series.

I see you like to travel, one of my loves as well.  What's your favorite place that you've visited to so far?

There are so many wonderful places in the world.  I loved New Zealand, and long to go there again.  Such a beautiful place, and full of friendly, welcoming people.  But I also love cities – as a Londoner I am used to the bustle and vibe of big cities and find the same thing in other cities across the world.  New York City is probably my favourite place in the world, and if I could live anywhere, I would live there.

If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be, and why?

I think I’d like to meet Queen Elizabeth the First, because I consider her one of the first feminists.  She was a woman in a man’s world, ruling England and refusing to marry even though everyone said she had to because a woman could not run the country.  But on the whole she did a very fine job, and England was in pretty good shape when she died.  Though I suspect by necessity she would not be a very nice person in reality.  Even so, I’d like to meet her.

Sounds good.  Tell us a little about Death Scene.

Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.


Ruth sat in her rocking chair watching the television–which was probably about ten years old, and appeared to be the most modern thing in the room.   She was wearing a blue floral dress, with a patchwork blanket over her knees.  I had seen that dress before.  Her hairstyle hadn’t changed, either–her white hair was thinning, and she wore it short and curly, in the style of old ladies everywhere.  When we came in she looked up, a toothless smile breaking out over her face.  She had dentures that she never wore–something else she only saved for special occasions.  As a child, Ruth had appeared very scary to me on the occasions she wore her dentures because we just weren’t used to seeing her with them.

My mother went up to Ruth and leaned in to give her a kiss on her soft wrinkled cheek.  “How are you, Auntie Ruth?” she said loudly.  Ruth’s hearing had been going even back then.  She must be virtually deaf by now.

The house was freezing.  The only source of heat was a three-bar electric fire on the floor by Ruth’s feet.
“I’m doing all right, dear,” Ruth said.  Her voice was husky, ravaged by age and lack of use.  “Mustn’t complain.”

Summer, still in my mother’s arms, began to cry and squirm, no doubt intimidated by the presence of this ancient lady.  “Who’s this?” Ruth said, stroking one of Summer’s chubby legs.

“This is Summer,” Mum said.  “This is my granddaughter.  You’ve met Summer.  Astrid’s daughter.”

Ruth frowned.  “Astrid?  Your little one?”

“Not a little girl any more, Auntie Ruth.  She’s all grown up now.”  Mum pointed in my direction.  “This is my other daughter, Shara.  Do you remember?  Shara lives in Canada.”

Ruth was staring at me, frowning.  There was no indication that she recognised me.  “It’s been a long time,” she said eventually.

“Hello Auntie Ruth,” I said.

“Have you taken your pills, Auntie Ruth?” my mother asked.

Ruth frowned in concentration.  “Pills?  Think so.  Can’t remember, you know.  My memory’s not what it was.”

My mother thrust the crying child into my arms.  “Watch Summer for a moment, Shara.  I’m going to make Auntie Ruth some lunch.”  And off she went into the kitchen.

I sat down in the faded armchair and bounced Summer on my knee.  She kept crying.  Ruth stared fixedly at the television.  There seemed to be an Australian soap opera on.  I couldn’t tell which one.  I wasn’t a fan, and they all looked the same to me.  “So what are you watching, Auntie Ruth?”

“Eh?”  She swivelled round to stare at me.

I raised my voice.  “The television.  What are you watching?”

“Oh, I don’t know, dear.  I watch everything.  Keeps me company, you know.”  And she lapsed back into silence, staring at the television.  A couple of minutes went by and then she said suddenly, “they’re stealing from me, you know.”


"They’re stealing from me.”  Ruth continued to stare at the television.  I wasn’t at all sure she was even aware of anyone else in the room.  I stood up with Summer in my arms and hurriedly went to find my mother in the kitchen.

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