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Helen J. Christmas
Helen Christmas lives in West Sussex and has a passion for writing novels. 'Beginnings' is the first book of her decade spanning British series 'Same Face Different Place,' a 1970s romantic thriller set London. The 2nd book of the series 'Visions' is set in rural England, in the era of the 1980s. The author is currently working on her 3rd book.
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In the run up to my new release, I have started thinking about some of the influences which inspired my series.
Rosebrook based in Kent, is a fictitious town but very much based on the small market town of Loughborough which is where I grew up. Some may wonder why I didn’t just stick to Loughborough. I would have liked to – only the town needed to be in easy reach of London and a short distance to the south.
One of the most prominent locations in ‘Same Face Different Place’ is the Community Centre. It is the place where Eleanor works as a volunteer – but it was actually inspired by a place called ‘John Storer House,’ where I worked for a while. In 1989, I worked there as ‘Information Officer’ responsible for running the Information Centre and producing in-house leaflets such as ‘Hotels and Guest Houses’ and lists of self-help groups. It was a varied role as well as one of the most enjoyable jobs, I have ever had.
The manager, Bernard Smith, was a kind man and possibly inspired some of the book’s more virtuous characters such as Bernard James (manager of Toynbee Hall in Book 1 Beginnings) and his protégée, Peter Summerville. I was impressed when he and his wife opened up the Community Centre on Christmas Day, mainly for those less fortunate (such as the elderly and the lonely) as a social hub where they could enjoy a little company and get a Christmas dinner.
What influences came into Pleasures?
Some of the Community Liaison officers are based on real people. Being a Community Centre, John Storer house was a nucleus for the multi-cultural society of Loughborough. In the year I worked there, we were invited to have dinner at the house of a Muslim girl, whose family prepared us a wonderful buffet and couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. That same year, I managed to wangle about 5 Christmas dinners, including a special lunch for the volunteers and a meal at our local Hindu temple.
I saw this Community Centre as the microcosm of a perfect world. People from all cultures and religions getting together to eat, drink, celebrate and generally have a great time together. Oh, if only, this was true across the globe!
The best thing about John Storer House was that it was run by a really nice bunch of people – many of whom were volunteers. It was designed to promote good causes, it was home to the CAB and WRVS as well as being a drop-in centre for the elderly.
In the context of ‘Same Face Different Place,’ Rosebrook Community Centre is managed by a man named Peter, a counsellor, a man so caring, he is almost saint like (though he hides a dark past – an abused runaway from a Catholic run Care Home in Ireland, Peter hides the fact that he was also once an IRA supporter.)
The one thing I learned from my employment at John Storer House, was that people from all backgrounds could mingle and support each other. We live in a world of varied cultures where we should respect each other; form a society based on friendship, not hate.
Same Face Different Place is a mystery suspense thriller which unravels over 4 decades, but at the core of the book is a group of wronged individuals who join forces to create their own perfect community – yet overshadowed by the deadliest of enemies.
Look out for Book 3 Pleasures, with free prelude, ‘The Battle for the Land’ soon to be released.
It is almost a year to this day, I started writing my 3rd novel, Pleasures and I am delighted to announce, that on Monday (13th) I finally completed it. With the entire story now drafted, I’ve had some time to reflect and before the 2nd stage of editing begins, would like to present a synopsis.
Book 3 – Pleasures
Perry Hampton is a man who is used to the finer pleasures of life: wealth, power, a beautiful wife and mistress, a successful stockbroker son and two magnificent properties. His life should be perfect but it is not: first, through his fear that he is haunted by the victims of his villainy; whilst, a few miles away, lives his most deadly nemesis. Her name is Eleanor and she possesses a secret file, which he truly believes could destroy him.
Eleanor is driven by her quest to prove Perry’s evil: she has pledged to do everything she can, to protect and avenge those she loves. So when a trail of clues draws her towards uncovering Perry’s most covert secrets, she cannot resist following them – determined to prove his crimes, whilst aware, his spies are watching her every move.
Perry will not rest until he can overpower her community – a ruthless campaign whereby he enlists the help of old faces, including a senior planning officer and a former London gangster. Characters, good and evil are drawn into a concentrated battle over a piece of land; but this is just the start of a more sinister game. Perry knows how he can unhinge them – even if it means encouraging his only son, to immerse himself into the dark labyrinths of the criminal underground, thereby granting him a dangerous advantage.
Eleanor’s son Elijah meanwhile, is finally drawn into their secrets; the younger generation are growing up fast. It is a notion which inspires them to inaugurate their own fight against injustice. Yet, this is the catalyst which sparks a war – one which will bear deadly consequences and from where there can only be one winner.
Pleasures is Book 3 in the British series ‘Same Face Different Place’ and the first chapters are soon to be released…
This post is a follow up to my last article: Update on Progress: Book 3 Pleasures which I wrote, just before embarking on my latest trip to London to revisit some of the places, where the final scenes of ‘Pleasures’ were about to take place. So it’s time to reflect on that journey – in fact, it couldn’t have been better timed. It started at the Grosvenor Hotel near Victoria; the setting for one of the most gripping scenes of the story, in which arch baddie, Perry and the heroine of the story are drawn into a terrifying standoff. A chance for me to enjoy a coffee, as well as photograph the interior – where staff could not have been more helpful, in explaining a little about the decor throughout the years. Next stop was Holborn, location of Eleanor’s solicitor John Sharp. From Book 1 ‘Beginnings’ I have made numerous mention of an ‘expanse of tall white office blocks… blue sky, streaked with plumes of white cloud, brightly reflected in the mirrored panes of hundreds of windows.’ Luckily, it was a beautiful day with an abundance of blue sky. I photographed a number of white office blocks – where this smart example of 60s/70s architecture seemed perfect.
After a good walk around Holborn, I finally ended up in St Paul’s – taking careful note of the escalators and tube stations, which pop up in various chapters; such as an episode where Perry is actually tailing Eleanor, on one of her ‘secret trips.’
I was heading for the Old Bailey, yet stumbled across the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square – a lucky co-incidence, which I wasn’t expecting, since this is the work place of Ben, Perry’s evil son. I also discovered that in 1990, it was damaged by an IRA bomb – it all fits in very neatly with the location, the story and the era! Finally, I found myself facing the Old Bailey itself, location for the last dramatic court case before the end of Book 3 ‘Pleasures.’ It has been the inspiration behind much of the writing I have done in the last week, where more photos allowed me to capture its stunning facade:
‘Eleanor stole a final glance at the imposing archway where a cast iron grill protected the entrance. An Ionic column towered above – a cloaked statue crouching between the two, which reminded her of the Grim Reaper and as her eyes travelled upwards, she could clearly read the motto. ‘Defend the Children of the Poor and Punish the Wrongdoer.’
Yet its beauty no way compensates for the atmosphere you feel inside. This is after all, London’s most notorious Criminal Court. ‘The building may have appeared outwardly striking – the intricate, classic architecture, a feast for Charlie’s eyes; yet the atmosphere inside felt dark and ominous.’
I observed 3 cases, including manslaughter, drug trafficking and ABH, with some disturbing content, not to mention a sense of menace in the public gallery – which has been the inspiration behind some of my recent story lines: ‘Those walls had veiled some hideous crimes, over the years, she found herself thinking – imagining the passage of evil people, through those same corridors and stairways.’
I am extremely grateful to the staff too, especially the very nice security guard on the 2nd floor, who took me under his wing and warned of the hostile atmosphere. In summary, it was an incredibly absorbing day, which in some ways left me troubled, but definitely put me in the right mindset for creating a convincing ‘Trial’ in the penultimate chapter of ‘Pleasures.’
Same Face Different Face – Book 3 ‘Pleasures’ will be published in 2015, with a FREE prelaunch sequel, scheduled before Christmas.
It’s time for another update on the 3rd book of my series, ‘Pleasures.’
It was back in June this year, I completed the major part of this book but came to a standstill. I wrote an explosive storyline which finally reached a peak – but it left me with the feeling of having reached a cliff top, practically toppling over the edge, fearing the story could easily fall flat on its face. I knew where the story was going, it was now just a matter of how to get to next point, without readers losing interest.
I have spent the last 3 months editing the first 25 chapters (shorter chapters than the last book) with the hope, that by the time I reached the point where I stopped, I would have a better idea how to end the story. I’m happy to say, I reached that point in early September and am now finishing the book.
There is one trouble with a gripping climax – nobody likes a weak aftermath. It’s like the hangover you get after a heavy night’s partying. So instead of carrying on, where the story left off, I decided to jump one year ahead and recapture all the main points in a series of flash backs. It worked, allowing me to move the story swiftly onwards.
Without giving away too much, someone has to stand trial, but from what I understand, preparing for a court case can take years.
In order to cover the time in between, I have not gone into too much detail of the characters’ lives, this time – more, a condensed summary of what everyone’s been up to, in order to get to the most powerful story lines more quickly.
One of the final chapters is based in the Criminal Court, in London, so what better way to inspire myself than to take a visit? It’s been a long while since I’ve been to London or done any further location research. So before I write the last thrilling episode, I’m off to revisit some of the places, where the final scenes of ‘Pleasures’ take place, including Holborn, Victoria and finally, the Old Bailey, where I hope to see some court action. I’ll be adding to this post very soon, with lots of photos, so watch this space – and making another special announcement very soon.