9 November 2018

Novel Conversations with Wendy Percival and Maddy Henderson

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted every Friday

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character...

photographer Maddy Henderson


Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Wendy Percival’s novel The Indelible Stain Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: Hi, I’m Maddy Henderson and I’m in a supporting role in The Indelible Stain – in that I’m a good friend of the main character, Esme Quentin.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: The Indelible Stain is a genealogy mystery. While set in the present day, the mystery  – in this case, how and why Neave Shaw’s mother, Bella, ended up fatally injured at the foot of cliffs on the north Devon coast: did she fall or was she pushed?  – and the clues needed to solve it, lie somewhere deep in history. When the police conclude that Bella’s death was an accident, my friend Esme isn’t convinced and sets out to uncover the truth, a trail which leads her back into the dark and brutal history of 19th century convict transportation searching for answers.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: Oh, I’m definitely a goody – I’d consider myself Esme’s side-kick! She confides in me and we talk through her theories. I help in my own right, too, as I’m a photographer and photograph restorer. It’s my evidence, based on a torn piece of photo that Bella was clutching in her hand when she died, that gives Esme her first lead.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: Let me tell you about Neave, the dead woman’s daughter. It’s Neave who asks Esme for help to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death. But she’s a mixed up young woman and just when Esme feels she’s getting close to the truth, Neave decides she doesn’t need to know any more. But that’s because she’s met the Ashgroves, up at the big house, who take Neave under their wing and she doesn’t think she needs Esme any more. But she soon finds she does, in more ways than one!

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: There are 3 books in the series. I don’t appear in the first, Blood-Tied, as it’s set in Shropshire where Esme lived at the time. Her sister Elizabeth is attacked and left in a coma. Three days later, Esme discovers Elizabeth has a secret past and is convinced that finding out more will lead her to Elizabeth’s attacker. Of course she has no idea of what a dangerous path she’s treading.
But I do appear in the third book, The Malice of Angels. Esme has moved to Devon by then and is drawn into investigating the disappearance of a wartime nurse, the aunt of a mutual friend or ours. The truth is buried in secrets of World War Two and concerns a despicable act of betrayal.
Helen: I must say that you both have very good taste as I live in Devon as well - (laughs)  so does Wendy Percival of course!

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in?
A: The one where Esme has disappeared and Neave and I go looking for her. (shivers) I was so scared – I knew what we were walking into, or at least I had a pretty good idea – but what else could I do but go for it? We needed to find Esme before it was too late!

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: The one when I told Esme what I knew about Bella’s mystery photograph, and then Esme suddenly spotted what was written on the back. It was so exciting – a real spine tingling moment! We knew we were on to something, then.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she/he written any other books?

A: She’s a keen family historian, I do know that. Got bitten by the bug after discovering an original hand-written Australian death certificate from 1868. That’s why her books are genealogy driven. She loves the idea of dark family secrets, skeletons in the cupboard, that sort of thing, and more significantly, how they impact on the present. As well as the three novels I mentioned, she’s also written a novella called Death of a Cuckoo. Esme’s in the story but she’s not the protagonist – Gina Vincent is. Gina discovers to her horror that all she’s ever known about her past is a lie and engages Esme to uncover the truth.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: She’s always a bit cagey about her writing projects – I think she’s a bit superstitious – but I can tell you she’s engrossed in some fascinating background research at the moment. So I’ve no doubt she’ll be asking Esme to get investigating again very soon. And if she doesn’t, Esme is bound to stumble across something intriguing herself. She usually does!

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for him/her personally?
A: Share, share, share! They always say having a book recommended by a friend is the most trusted way people hear about new authors, so if you love a book, tell everyone you can think of! And I don’t think readers fully appreciate how helpful it is for a reader to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, however short. Even posting one or two sentences of what they enjoyed about a book, would really help widen the net and capture new readers. If everyone who loved the book did that, just think how much endorsement it would be!

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion, does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else he/she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?

A: She was delighted when she was awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion as she knows it’s not every author who submits a book receives the accolade. But while the award is fairly well known amongst writers, it’s not necessarily the case amongst readers, especially here in the UK. So getting more readers to hear about it – maybe through libraries, book clubs, articles in magazines or posts by book bloggers – is key.
Helen: Thank you Maddy it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt - and would you like a refill of that drink?
Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree!

 Excerpt from the opening chapter of The Indelible Stain. Esme is walking on the beach at Warren Quay, having just driven down to Devon from the Midlands to meet up with her friend, Ruth.

She looped the straps of her sandals together into one hand and paddled towards the opposite side of the beach. As she lifted her face to embrace the salted wind something flickered in her peripheral vision. She stopped and looked around. Was someone trying to catch her attention from the other side of the rocks?
    She shaded her eyes with her hand. Debris was strewn along the tideline – tangles of orange binder-twine and bundles of bleached timber. And in the distance, something flapping in the wind from a bundle of brightly coloured fabric, like a heap of clothes left by a swimmer while taking to the water.
     But no one was swimming today. The beach was empty. So what was she looking at?
    She stood for a moment, deaf to everything but the snarl of the sea. It was just a pile of rags. That’s all. But surely the colours were too vivid to have spent time in seawater? They’d be dulled, wouldn’t they, if they’d washed up on the tide? A noose of unease tightened in the pit of her stomach. Perhaps she’d better take a look. Just to make sure.
    She continued along the shoreline, turning inland before heading up the beach, annoyed with herself for not resisting the urge to satisfy her curiosity. Now she’d end up being late.
    The unique strata of the cliffs loomed over the bay, like giant strands of folded toffee, eclipsing the early morning sun from the rocks and pebbles below. She stepped into the chill of its shadow and shivered. Two gulls screamed overhead. At the foot of the cliff she paused to gaze up at the tuft of green above then backed away, suddenly wary of unexpected rock falls.
    The coloured cloth and littered tideline was out of sight now but she knew it was only a few steps beyond the jagged rock ahead. A quick scramble to the top, a quick look down and it would be done. With her fears dismissed and her buoyant mood restored, she could return to the quay to find Ruth.
    The twist of apprehension tightened as she trudged closer. She reached the rock and paused to take a breath. Then she grabbed hold, launched herself up and peered over.
    The scene hit her like a kick in the stomach. On the shingle below lay the battered and broken body of a woman.

A final message from Maddy: “If you’d like to find out a little more about Esme Quentin, you can listen in to a conversation between her and me talking about questions she’d been asked. Click on https://www.wendypercival.co.uk/esme-s-q-a
Contact Wendy

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry - deleted original comment due to atrocious typos - corrected version now...
    Having the read the first two books about Esme and Maddy, I am definitely a fan. Maddy, you are an excellent foil to Esme and I am convinced that you and she should be featured on the small screen

    1. Thanks, Richard. You say the nicest things! (Of course, Maddy now wants to know who would play her part if ever that should happen...)

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Florence. I’m delighted you enjoyed it!

  4. Loved the description of the rocky windswept Devon beach, and of Maddy's apprehension. Great interview, Wendy - something quite different.

    1. Thanks, Inge! The north Devon coast is very inspirational, I must admit. Yes, the character interview idea is great, isn’t it? Maddy tells me It was good fun doing it. ;-)

    2. ... which is why I love living in North Devon! :-)

  5. I love a good mystery. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. You’re very welcome, Stephanie! Thanks to you too, for dropping in and leaving a comment. :-)

  6. I loved Esme wen she first appeared. Now I must find out more about Maddy!

    1. Thanks, Alison. Good to hear Maddy has piqued your interest. She’ll be very pleased! ;-)

  7. It was a great scene leading up to the discovery of the body. Great interview, too.

    1. Thank you Susan! Lovely to hear you enjoyed both the scene and the interview.

  8. Thank you everyone for your support and enthusiasm - I really enjoy Wendy's books!

  9. I love the idea of mysteries with a historical element. And the description of the beach was really evocative. Look forward to reading these books!


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