I am delighted to welcome Isobel Blackthorn today, with a guest post about her latest novel, A Matter of Latitude. Just published on 7th December with Creativia Publishing, it is a thriller based on the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Here Isobel explains how her approach to writing this novel was changed and what she learned from this experience.
A Matter of Latitude
How a Mystery Became a Thriller
I began writing A Matter of Latitude at the end of 2015, in the months after the release of my first Canary Islands novel, The Drago Tree, a literary love story set on Lanzarote. I wanted to write a second novel set there, only this time I wanted to write a crime novel. I had never written a crime novel before so I researched the basics and devised a plot. I quickly discovered I had to decide what sort of crime novel mine would be, and I knew it wouldn’t be a police procedural or involve a detective or private investigator.Then what? In the end, I was left in the land of the cosy mystery with my amateur sleuth and British ex-pat, Paula, looking for her missing husband, anti-corruption activist, Celestino.
Meanwhile, my publisher at Odyssey Books, Michelle Lovi was so taken with The Drago Tree she offered to travel with me to Lanzarote to see for herself the landscapes I described. I was honoured and thrilled. I hadn’t been back to my former home in over twenty-five years.Before we set off for the long journey from Australia, I wrote down the bones of the new novel. I wrote furiously, every day, determined to get to the end.
In February 2016, we travelled to London and on to Arrecife. I was so over come, I cried on landing. We stayed in an old farmhouse which is one of the main settings in A Matter of Latitude. We travelled all over the island and while for me it was a pilgrimage, I was also tour guide for Michelle.
While we were there, I had meetings with a number of people who told me the story of corruption on the island, involving illegal property development impacting adversely on the environment. Ever one for a cause, I took copious notes, promising myself I would portray the theme of corruption in full. I knew it was important. After all, I had researched the special geology of Lanzarote – an island of volcanoes – for The Drago Tree, and was well aware of its biosphere status.
Back at my desk, I incorporated what I had learned and my story began to take shape. I wrote and I honed and I polished until I had a final draft and then I pulled back. Something wasn’t sitting right. The corruption story taking up so much space in the novel was slowing the pace. All that exposition really didn’t belong in a mystery, and certainly not that much of it! I culled. I culled and culled and culled some more, and then I crafted, nudging the story this way and that. Still, I wasn’t happy. Above all, the ending was both flabby and tame.
Meanwhile, I took a major literary detour into the realm of dark fiction. I will never be a horror writer, I lack the disposition, but I have learned a lot practicing the craft of good horror writing, and reading the works of those with a huge talent for it. My sojourn into the dark side revealed to me that I could write thrillers, at least,that has been the feedback I received. I wouldn’t want to make such a bold claim! Thriller writing is a specialty and I come from a background in literary fiction. Some might say never the twain…
What I did know was I still had a work in progress that was driving me nuts! The story took in the whole of Lanzarote, everywhere from the southern tip to the northern villages, yet there was one place I hadn’t mentioned, one that I was drawn to having read about it and seen photos – the remote fishing village of Tenesar on Lanzarote’s wild northwest coast. In a flash, I saw what needed to be done. I made a radical decision, one that involved re-writing the ending,changing some of the plot, deleting all that exposition on corruption– all to make way for Tenesar. My story was no longer flabby and tame. I thought it had an edge to it. Some grit here and there. I felt I had nailed it.
I think of A Matter of Latitude as a mystery/thriller because the novel has elements of both styles. The corruption story is still there, right at the heart of the novel. I put it there because Lanzarote is important to me as a former resident and anything I can do in my tiny way to help raise awareness has to be a good thing. I am passionate about preserving the special significance of the Canary Islands, especially the two eastern sisters – Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. I have written a third novel, Clarissa’s Warning, set on Fuerteventura, and I am at work on my second set there. It seems I will never lay to rest my love affair with those precious islands.
[ About the Book ]
When local Lanzarote anti-corruption activist, Celestino, is t-boned on a lonely stretch of road, he knows the collision was no accident.Wounded and fearing for his life, he hides in an abandoned fishing village, waiting for a chance to make it home.
Meanwhile his wife, English expat Paula, is distraught. Her pursuit of answers is deflected when her neighbor, troublesome retiree Shirley Mobad, co-opts Paula on her escapades around the Canary Islands.Paula’s search for her husband quickly descends into mayhem, danger and intrigue. Before long, she realizes she’s being followed. She needs answers, and fast.
But where is Celestino, and will he ever make it back alive?
Purchase Link ~ A Matter of Latitude
[ Bio ]
Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of brilliant, original fiction across a range of genres, including psychological thrillers, gripping mysteries, captivating travel fiction and hilarious dark satire.
Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey’s life and works has culminated in the biographical novel, The Unlikely Occultist.
Isobel carries a lifelong passion for the Canary Islands, Spain, her former home. Many of her novels are set on the islands, including The Drago Tree, which was released in 2015 and is now in Spanish translation, Clarissa’s Warning and A Matter of Latitude. These novels are setting rich and fall into the broad genre of travel fiction, and the novels are as much stories about the islands themselves as they are straight-ahead entertainment.
Isobel has led a rich and interesting life and her stories are as diverse as her experiences, the highs and lows, and the dramas. Some of her writing is dark, like the psychological thriller, Twerk, which is based on six years of research and first-hand accounts of dancers working in what are euphemistically called gentlemen’s clubs.
A life-long campaigner for social justice, Isobel has written, protested and leant her weight to a range of issues including family violence. A Londoner originally, Isobel currently lives near Melbourne, Australia.