Ballindaloch Castle background

Murder on the Royal Scotsman

13-03-2016 No comments yet

Bloodlines -Traces, the sequel to Bloodlines – Touch Not the Cat, includes a ‘Murder on the Royal Scotsman, ‘  the famous Orient Express train which takes its passengers on luxury journeys through Scotland’s breathtaking landscapes, rich in ancient history and cultural heritage.
The background to how the theme wriggled itself into ‘Traces’ is mysterious in itself and the writing of the murder certainly wasn’t established overnight, as the following account will tell.

It all started on 5th June 2012, when authors Tom McKerley and Ingrid Schippers were attending a book signing event for Bloodlines -Touch Not the Cat in the actual tearoom of the prime location of the novel, Ballindalloch Castle, in the Scottish Highlands.

They were pleasantly surprised when a group of passengers travelling on the Royal Scotsman made an appearance for afternoon tea, after visiting the Castle as part of that day’s excursion itinerary.

Among them was Arts and Travel writer Vivien Devlin, who shared with the authors her enthusiasm for their debut genealogy mystery novel. When the authors in turn revealed their plans for a sequel, Vivien spontaneously suggested they should include a ‘ ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

During the month that followed, the idea didn’t lose its foothold in the authors’ minds while working on Bloodlines- Traces, even though it provided logistical problems.

The book’s Editor, Hans Offringa, at some point even came back to the authors asking what genre their book belonged to. Was it a crime novel? A story of romance? A genealogy tale?
Struggling with providing a suitable answer, Tom and Ingrid considered taking the Royal Scotsman murder out, and perhaps use it in a third book of their series.

The outcome of this experiment, however, left them with a curious result.
The glue between the several threads seemed to have disappeared.
It felt as if the main story line was asking for the Royal Scotsman to come back and put the book’s direction back on track.

Inspired by this well-known writers’ phenomenon of novels apparently guiding themselves through their storylines and plots, the authors again changed their course and introduced a new character, Diane Cox. She literally came to life after being assigned the task to be a key witness of the murder, even though she had completely different reasons for being in Scotland.

It took a couple of rewrites, and a great deal of literary sweat and tears to produce the multi-layered novel that Bloodlines-Traces has now become.  In retrospect, it was an extremely gratifying learning experience for the first time sequel writers, who initially thought it would be a simple edit to include a murder on a train.

But this is not entirely where the story ends.  When finally, after numerous months of delay, Tom and Ingrid were able to send a proofreading copy to Vivien, they were supported in turn with excellent feedback as well as articles on the actual train journey and its excursions to historic castles and whisky distilleries.

Reading this blog of Vivien Devlin before reading Bloodlines -Traces will most certainly enhance the reader’s experience of witnessing a murder on the Royal Scotsman!


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