Until my editor gave me feedback on the manuscript for what became my first crime novel, I hadn’t really given my detective much thought. She arrived on the page, a shadowy figure, at a point where the story needed a detective to pursue the killer I was writing about.
In each of my books, the murderer is the character who drives the narrative forward. Once the killer’s actions and motivation have become clear to me, the rest of the story follows. But as happens in most fictional murder investigations, the killer tends to be caught by the end of the book. So my editor made the perfectly reasonable suggestion that readers would need to engage with Geraldine Steel herself if they were to continue reading the series.
When I originally wrote the first book in the series, Cut Short, I had no idea anyone else would ever read my story, let alone publish it. But with a three book publishing deal signed, my editor’s recommendations had to be followed. So I started to flesh out Geraldine Steel, and over the next few books she became increasingly real to me – not just as a detective, but as a woman with family relations, friendships, and colleagues.
As the series progresses, there have been further unforeseen challenges in writing about the same character over multiple books. Had I known, when Geraldine made her first appearance on the page, that I would still be writing about her ten years later, she would have been in her twenties in my debut, instead of approaching forty. As it is, like Poirot, she cannot be allowed to age in real time, or she would be way past retirement age before she reached book twenty in the series.
Despite the many pitfalls I’ve encountered by embarking, unprepared, on writing a series, somehow Geraldine’s own story continues to evolve as an unobtrusive backdrop to the murders she investigates. While each of my books works as a standalone, Geraldine’s life is always in the background. It’s a mystery to me how this has happened, but I’m thrilled that she seems able to attract a growing fan base, and I hope it continues for the next ten books!
How many DI Geraldine Steel books have you read? Let us know in the comments below!