How I came to write it:

The Lindisfarne Prize was announced when I was about six months into doing some sporadic research for my novel.  Not only was it named after the key location in my (as yet unwritten) book, it was sponsored by L J Ross, one of my favourite crime writers.

It felt as if I were being nudged into finally starting to write.  I took a long hard look at the vague plot idea I had and slapped it into something with more shape.  The deadline was the end of March.  It will surprise no-one who knows me that I wrote my first two chapters on March 30th, gave them a quick polish on March 31st and sent them off.

Once I’d started writing, it was so much easier to keep going and it gave me focus.  The characters and the storyline developed and I could ‘see’ what various scenes should look like.

Getting shortlisted was a huge boost and I promised myself I would finish the novel, even if I didn’t win the prize.  Winning was an even bigger boost and the money and support were invaluable in getting that first draft done.

What’s it about:

Above all, this is a novel about secrets.  My main character, Linnet, grew up surrounded by secrets and has some dangerous ones of her own.  The monks on Lindisfarne have all earned their place on this remote island for reasons they don’t want to discuss.  Of course the biggest secret is who is killing people and why?

Why the time period:

I have set the novel in 1495, during the reign of Henry VII.  Overshadowed by his infamous son, Henry VII was an information gatherer, suspicious of the Church, eager to control as much of his kingdom as he could.  One of his advisors, Bishop Fox, was the Bishop of Durham at this time.

It’s also an interesting time for print and manuscripts, with the printing revolution well underway, but manuscripts still an important part of high society.

Linnet is the Roll Bearer’s Daughter.  Her father, known as John the Lies, was a Roll Bearer, a man charged with taking a scroll between holy houses for monks to add prayers for deceased high status clergy.  She would travel with him and learn about scribing and monks and the value of information.  As an adult, these skills are proving useful and sometimes dangerous.