Up the winding stair and an affair gone wrong: when love – or lust – becomes dangerous

by Pam Fudge and Millie Vigor

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In this double author post, Millie and Pam talk to us about their upcoming books, The Winding Stair and Not My Affair. Both novels deal with the themes of obsession and a woman who is being harassed and stalked, either by a man who doesn’t know how to express his love in the right way, or her husband’s mistress who simply won’t let her lover remain with his wife.

NOT MY AFFAIR – Pam Fudge

Unsurprisingly, this is about an affair, an affair that comes to light on Christmas day because of a careless mistake on the part of the adulterer, Fay’s husband Jack. There are two ways forward for the couple at this point. They are that the affair heralds the end of the marriage or Fay and Jack can decide to work together and begin to repair the damage the infidelity has caused to the relationship but, of course, it is rarely that simple, and it certainly isn’t that simple in Not My Affair.

THE WINDING STAIR – Millie Vigor

Trying to get an anonymous suitor to stop phoning her and leaving her red roses, Ginny leaves her hometown for a short break, only to be found again. She returns home and is befriended by local librarian Curtis. When he invites her into his house, she discovers her trust has been misplaced when he traps her inside. Reminded of Mary Howett’s poem, ‘The Spider and the Fly’ in which the spider persuades the fly to walk up his winding stair, Ginny wonders if she’ll walk free or perish like the fly.

Millie Vigor: One of the questions an author is often asked is, ‘What inspired you to write that story?’ The inspiration for The Winding Stair came first from an item of news about a young woman who had gone missing without trace, and secondly from the content of a book I had read. ‘The Spider and the Fly’ by Mary Howett also plays a part. “Will you walk into my parlour, said the spider to the fly” and “the way into my parlour is up a winding stair”. That is just what Ginny had done; she had walked up the steps and into Curtis’s house to borrow a book.

Pam Fudge:  I think we’ve all met or read about someone who is quite scary in their determination to get their own way – no matter who gets hurt – so it was a compilation of remembered snippets from real life and fiction that were my inspiration. Not My Affair came to me, as my ideas often do, from the kind of problems that beset even the best of families. I knew that Jack’s affair was going to come to light right at the start – on the first page as it happens – but I hadn’t planned much more than that when I started to write. I am not a meticulous plotter, but like to see how the story and characters develop and I absolutely loved the way that Not My Affair really took off in ways that I hadn’t imagined.

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MV: ‘What if?’ questions began. What if Ginny, my main character in The Winding Stair had been abducted and imprisoned by Curtis, a young man who had fallen in love with her and wanted her for himself? What if he lacked the social skills required and thought that if he locked her up, but was kind to her, that she would grow to love him? But what if the trauma in that young man’s early life had warped his mind to such an extent that his personality had split and divided into many others? What if he had developed Multiple Personality Disorder?

PF: The ‘what ifs’ that Millie mentions are such a great writer’s tool and it was a very early ‘what if?’ that determined Iona was going to be one mistress who had no intention of simply fading away. I didn’t so much choose Iona for the role she was to play, as have her present herself to me at quite an early point in the story and give an indication of what she might be capable of.

MV: I found the idea of a person morphing into another personality fascinating so to research the condition, I read all I could about it. Consciously or not, we all tend to present different faces to whoever we are with, but that’s where it stops. Not so with Multiple Personality Disorder. The condition is believed to be brought on by serious mental or physical abuse in early childhood. When Ginny defies her captor, Curtis changes dramatically into the violent character of Mikhail and she is forced to adjust her attitude towards him. Then Angel appears who says that she is the protector and that there are others. From then on Ginny never knows who will come through the door of her cell. In an odd sort of way this is a love story, for Curtis is genuinely in love with Ginny, but is mistaken in the way he pursues her and instead of drawing her to him he repulses her.

PF: I feel that reading Not My Affair would make women – and men, too – a lot more alert and aware of the possible dangers that can be the result of thoughtless actions. My research opened my eyes to what constitutes stalking/harassment and hopefully it will open the eyes of my readers, too, because some may be suffering in a similar way to Fay and realise there are laws in place to protect the innocent.9780719817625

MV: I hope my readers will sympathise with both main characters. One was not given the guiding hand of loving parents as a child. The other did not look deeply enough into the character of her friends. The meeting of Ginny and Curtis was a recipe for disaster.

PF: After reading Not My Affair, I would like my readers to feel they have been on a journey that has kept them on the edge of their seat at times – though there are lighter moments, too.

MV: The message overall is to not be too quick to trust ready smiles and sweet words. Honey means bees and bees can sting.

The Winding Stair will be published by Robert Hale on 31st October 2015, and Not My Affair on 30th November 2015.

For more information on the prevention of harassment and stalking, you may find the following links helpful:

http://www.stalkinghelpline.org

http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/stalking.php

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-victims/ive-been-affected/stalking-and-harassment

OUT NOW: Paying Davy Jones by Millie Vigor

Paying Davy Jones by Millie VigorMillie Vigor was born in Dorset and was educated at Ludwell village school. At fourteen she left to start work and she considers this the beginning of her real education. Throughout her many jobs; kitchenmaid, farm-worker, glove-maker, canteen cook and B&B landlady she took note of what made people tick and of sights and sounds, and stored this all away to use later, in her writing. In addition to articles and short stories sold to various magazines, her autobiographical book, Kippers for Breakfast, was published in 2003. She lives in Shetland with her constant companion, a cat called Harriet.

Her previous books in this Shetland trilogy, Catherine of Deepdale and No Skylarks Sing, were also published by Robert Hale.

To see what Millie Vigor had to say about the Davy Jones legend and writing Paying Davy Jones, click here.

Paying Davy Jones by Millie Vigor

In the mid-1970s, the North Sea oil boom is in full swing and there is work for all. Though Catherine Williams’s children are adult and all four have oil-related jobs, she is not happy with the upheaval the oil industry has caused and believes that Davy Jones will demand payment from those who rob his locker, not only with oil spills, but also with men’s lives.

Immigrant workers flood in and when one such family comes to Deepdale, the valley in Shetland where Catherine lives, her eldest son, Robbie, falls for and secretly marries the daughter. The pair then move to Aberdeen where Robbie gets work on a drilling rig. But, having been persuaded to give up the idea of fishing for a living, will Robbie be any safer on a rig than in a fishing boat?

Praise for Millie Vigor

‘If the definition of a good book is being well-written, easy to read and hard to put down then Catherine of Deepdale is very good indeed’ – Shetland Times

‘The author evokes the wild, desolate landscape of the islands so vividly that it made me want to visit’ – Historical Novels Review

Paying Davy Jones by Millie Vigor is available to buy now with a limited time only discount of 30%

Paying Davy Jones by Millie Vigor

Millie Vigor discusses the legend of Davy Jones’s Locker

Millie VigorMillie Vigor was born in Dorset and was educated at Ludwell village school. At fourteen she left to start work and she considers this the beginning of her real education. Throughout her many jobs; kitchenmaid, farm-worker, glove-maker, canteen cook and B&B landlady she took note of what made people tick and of sights and sounds, and stored this all away to use later, in her writing.

In addition to articles and short stories sold to various magazines, her autobiographical book, Kippers for Breakfast, was published in 2003. She lives in Shetland with her constant companion, a cat called Harriet.

Her previous books in this Shetland trilogy, Catherine of Deepdale and No Skylarks Sing, were also published by Robert Hale.

Here she explains why Paying Davy Jones was chosen as the title of her new book…

The Catherine of Deepdale trilogy follows Catherine’s life from 1946 up to the 1970s, time of the North Sea Oil boom. The discovery of North Sea Oil radically changed the life of the Shetland Islands people. The population, then about 22,000, doubled almost overnight when workers were brought in to build the oil terminal at Sullom Voe. There was work for everyone and good money to be earned.

Catherine worried about the outcome of it all. ‘The oil companies are robbing Davy Jones’s Locker,’ she said to a friend. ‘And he will have to be paid.’

Paying Davy Jones by Millie VigorBut who was Davy Jones and where was his locker?

Davy Jones is thought by men of the sea to be the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep. They hate him because he is seen as a portent of death. All things that go to the bottom of the sea go to Davy Jones’s locker. Davy Jones’s locker is the sea bed. And what is under it? Oil.

Was Catherine right? Did Davy Jones exact his fee?

Yes, he did. Tankers spilled oil. Torrey Canyon foundered off Cornwall. In 1982 the Esso Bernicia at Sullom Voe caused a major disaster. There were many others. A Dan Air plane carrying oil workers on leave crashed on take-off.  17 died. A Chinook helicopter went into the sea a mile and a half from shore. 43 died that day. And who doesn’t know about the fire on the Piper Alpha drilling platform. 167 men died, 61 survived.

Paying Davy Jones is dedicated to ‘the oilies’, the men who worked on the rigs, but is not just about all that. The story still follows Catherine and the lives of her family. Her children are now adult, her eldest boy working on an oil rig in order to earn enough money to buy the fishing boat he has set his heart on. He is on Piper Alpha, said to the safest rig in the North Sea.

Is he going to be among the survivors of the fire that destroyed it?

I’m not going to tell you.

– Millie Vigor

You can find out for yourself what happens when Paying Davy Jones by Millie Vigor is published by Robert Hale Ltd on 30 April

OUT NOW: No Skylarks Sing by Millie Vigor

No Skylarks Sing by Millie VigorMillie Vigor was born in Dorset and was educated at Ludwell village school. At age fourteen she left and started work and she considers this the beginning of her real education. Throughout her many jobs; kitchenmaid, farm-worker, glove-maker, canteen cook and B&B landlady she took note of what made people tick and of sights and sounds, and stored this all away to use later, in her writing. In addition to articles and short stories sold to various magazines, her autobiographical book, Kippers for Breakfast, was published in 2003. She lives in Shetland with her constant companion, a cat called Harriet. Her first novel, Catherine of Deepdale, was published by Robert Hale in 2012.

No Skylarks Sing by Millie Vigor

After the death of her first husband Catherine Jameson found solace in her island home of Shetland and the company of her young son, Robbie. Now married to Norrie Williams, and mother to three more children, Catherine is forging a new life for herself and her family.

Life with Norrie is good, but there are signs foreshadowing change looming on the horizon. Catherine’s new husband struggles to contain his temper and his urge to drink and, feeling neglected and unloved, she is attracted to a stranger who arrives in the valley. With ageing relatives to care for and a son who is determined to make his living as a fisherman, against her wishes, life grows increasingly difficult. As passions deepen with the handsome newcomer, events take a disastrous turn. With no one to turn to and too ashamed to ask the doctor, who is her friend, for help, Catherine is isolated and desperate and facing some heartbreaking decisions.

No Skylarks Sing by Millie Vigor is available to buy now

No Skylarks Sing by Millie Vigor

Millie Vigor on Sailing Into Publishing

Catherine of Deepdale by Millie VigorAll the nice girls love a sailor, but sailors long for new horizons and tend to sail off to foreign parts and stay away for months.  I was married to a sailor.  One day he said, ‘I’m going aboard a ship.  We’re going Far East.  I shall be away a year and a month.’

It wasn’t the first time I’d been left alone, but never for quite so long.  I would have to find something to occupy me in the winter evenings.  I thought I’d go to night school and learn to type.  It might come in useful some day.   But that would mean a babysitter and a 40 mile round trip to town.  Instead I bought myself a portable typewriter and a Teach Yourself to Type book. I stuck bits of paper on the keys and taught myself to touch type.  Then I wrote Letter From a Home-Based Wife, packed it up and sent it to the editor of the Naval Base Newsletter.  A few days later I received a copy with my piece in it and a request for more.  Wow!  I was a writer.  No, not yet.

I worked hard to improve my writing, joined writer’s groups and courses and thought I was ready to write the novel.  There are three in the drawer which are unpublished but proof that I can stay the course.  A degree of success came in articles published in various magazines, a few short stories read on local radio then an autobiographical book published in 2003.   But still the novel eluded me.

I live in Shetland and was told the story of a girl from a city in the south of England who married a Shetland man and came to live with him in an isolated croft house.  It was 1946 and life on the islands at that time was very hard.  But she stayed.  I thought about her often and she stuck in my head.  I began to weave stories around her and realised I had a story to write.

After much planning and hours spent at the keyboard of my computer I thought the book I had written was as good as I could get it, so I packed it up and sent it off to a publisher.  It came back with the regulation rejection slip so I sent it out again . . . and again.  Each time it came home I looked to see where I could improve it.

Eventually my submission landed on the desk of someone at Robert Hale Ltd and a few days later I received an email asking for the whole typescript.  A brand new copy was sent off and, fingers crossed, I waited.  Imagine my delight when they said they would like to publish.  I was ecstatic.  Publication of my book, Catherine of Deepdale, had been my dream, but dreams need help to make them come true and I am grateful to all at Robert Hale who have help me do that.

Millie Vigor

Catherine of Deepdale by Millie Vigor is available now to pre-order with a 30% discount for a limited time only. It will be published by Robert Hale Ltd. on 30 April 2012