They came for me in the late summer of 2011.

Nothing had prepared me for their arrival. I had no idea that they were investigating me. What was a reporter compared to the editor in chief or the owner of News of the World? They had bigger fish to fry I had imagined. Wrong.

They had been on my trail for a year or so. I did not know which of my informants had betrayed me, or why. It was a stupid thing to wonder about, but I could not help asking myself whether I had unintentionally caused for this to happen, or whether they’d sold me out to save their own skin. It mattered. I don’t know why.

This is the story of that moment. One moment that changed the course of my life.

You will have to bear with me. Too much has happened since, and although it all leads back to that point in time, there is so much still lost in the haze.  My recollections, for a time, were not my own. They were nothing at all, but the beginning of a journey through the judicial system and the underworld. The details are much the same, although the narrative has taken some time to crisp up and take shape. I have told no one about this, and anything that I did tell has been recounted on the witness stand under the grilling stare of a court prosecutor.

I cannot change the past. But the past… The past and its memories have kept me in continued flux. I no longer know who I am.

10:30pm. A chilly Monday night. That morning we had returned from a weekend in Devon. We had been working long hours for months – Russell in the city, me scuppering across the country for the latest story – and he demanded we spend some quality time together. He always got what he asked for. Independent woman or not, I let him believe that he was the one calling the shots in that relationship since the very start. I did not mind playing the junior partner in the arrangement: chose my battles with care, got the ring. To think only, that there was a time when it mattered. I long for those times.

The first warning that something had gone wrong was loud banging on his apartment door. I didn’t hear it at first. Exhausted after a weekend of trekking through Exmoor and then a long day of catching up at the paper, I went to bed at 9pm and was gone to the world. My fiancé, or ex fiancé I should say, did hear it. He’d stayed up to go through some paperwork and when the banging began, rather than going to check what the matter was himself, elbowed me hard in the ribs and in an instant I was awake. Coward. That right there was the last of many indications that he was not exactly the knight in shining armour he believed himself to be.

I sprang to my feet and hurriedly drew a nightgown over my head then went to answer the door. Question after question milled through my sleep-deprived brain.

Was it someone from the paper? No. That made no sense. There was no big story on the roll, nothing important enough to bring anyone to my door at that hour.

Did my mother die? I had not seen her in nearly a decade, but surely a phone call would’ve been sufficient.

Did some madman escape from some nearby asylum I was unaware of? I considered nipping into the kitchen for a knife. If I were to greet a potential killer, then surely I should try and level the odds. That couldn’t be it. This wasn’t Whitechapel.

Could it be the postman? I considered getting that knife in any case. He deserved all that was coming to him for getting me out of bed, express delivery or not.

In the end I decided that most likely a neighbour had forgotten their key, or someone else’s late night caller, drunk, got the wrong apartment. I was so sure of it that I was tempted to ignore it and go back to bed. Let Russell deal with it if he minds the banging that much.

There was a man in uniform coiled behind a buttery light. It blinded me. All else was darkness. Panic took over. Something shifted uncomfortably inside.

“Is this Jane Shift’s residence?”

For a moment I still waivered under the delusion that he got the wrong address. He got my first name right, but not the last. Did he mispronounce it, or was it all a mistake?

“No. There are no Shifts here.” I tried to keep my voice level, although that tremor… Perhaps they will attribute it to the cold.

“And your name is?”

I did not answer immediately, thinking fast on my feet. Could I lie? I dreaded what might happen if I did. No. I had to tell him.

“Swift. Jane Swift.”

“I have a warrant for your arrest. May I come in?”

Leading by example?


Writing Lead Characters

Once upon a time I believed that all lead characters were supposed to be “the good guys.” How else was I meant to empathise with them? Why would I come along for the journey if I didn’t or couldn’t like them?

Those times are long gone, and although my leads are not exactly “bad,” they are a far cry from being good. As for perfection? Don’t even go there.

Now. Since you are a writer, you already know what the main types of leads to choose from are, but I always find it useful to go over well treaded ground. “Assume nothing. There’s always something new to learn.” – my mentor’s words spoken over a decade ago still ring true.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the three types of Lead characters:

  • The Positive Lead. No surprises there. This positive lead, traditionally referred to as the hero, represents the values of the community: the moral vision shared by most people. It is an easy fit for most novels since everyone (?) will root for a hero.

There are several reasons why most fiction uses the Positive Lead. The first is a straightforward one: it’s the easiest to bond with, and to carry an entire novel. By positive I don’t mean perfect. A realistic lead must also have flaws and foibles.

Those flaws must have a basis for their existence. That is not always the case in life, but when a reader picks up a novel and a few pages in spots that well crafted flaw, they will expect it to mean something. So it is key to explain and give it depth by delving into the character’s past.

  • The Negative Lead. If that is the lead you go for, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. Not only is this type the hardest lead to write well, but it’s a double struggle to get the reader, if not to like them, to at least find some way to connect.

Would anyone read a whole book about somebody who does not care about anyone else other than themselves? A negative lead would have flaws that require a lot of attention and explanation. They will, being negative of course, do things that we find reprehensible. If this is the lead of choice, to avoid a cardboard caricature, that delve into the past becomes inevitable.

  • The Anti-Hero. This to me is an even trickier type. The anti-hero is aloofness personified. They neither seek to be part of the community, nor do they actively oppose it. Living according to their own moral code, this lead necessitates careful handling.

What would make the anti-hero come out of their shell and drive action forward. After all, no lead is so averse to action than this loner. Circumstances make for a powerful motivator. Unfolding events must force them to join in the action, and those events must be believable. This is one hero that will not stick their head out for just anything, and at the end of it all, staying true to their nature, anti-heroes poignantly turn their backs to the world and return to their own.

As things stand I am yet to write a lead that is not positive. The closest to a negative lead that I have created is Lori, the main character of my second novel (working title) “The End of Sanity” from which the fragment Unfaithful was extracted.

Even this slight departure from the norm was a tough ask. I have delayed revision because the subject is still quite raw. It is some of the most honest writing I have ever done: just cut a vein open and dipped my quill in.

Will keep you abreast of developments. Until then: write. write. write.

FINDING JANE, starring Dougray Scott

FINDING JANE, starring Oona Chaplin.

Daily Prompt: Mid-Season Replacement. Strategy: The Fictional Sidestep. Jane’s story begins one day in early autumn…


September 7th 2011. He was her only visitor, this man who brought her to the hospital after her collapse, yet Jane cannot shake off the feeling that Cedric Stewart is hiding something from her. 

After coming to grips with the shocking reality of memory loss, she begins the journey into her past, unwittingly unravelling his too. The more she discovers, the less sure she is whether it’s worth burrowing further.

She feels haunted by the life of a woman she is getting to know, but not like. Her present threatens to be hollowed out by a man she is both eager and afraid to call her friend. 

And then there is Gray…

Should she allow her past to dictate her future?

FINDING JANE, starring Oona Chaplin


oona2Daily Prompt: Cast the movie of your life.

Strategy: The Fictional Sidestep

A few weeks ago I started the revision of my first completed novel “Finding Jane.”

One tip for writers is to cast their characters. Oona is as close to Jane as I could get.



September 7th 2011. Jane wakes up to a shocking reality: she has no memory of who she is, where she is, or what brought her there. Where do you start when you’ve lost your past?

Armed with an iPhone and little else, she begins her journey into the unknown; a helpful stranger Cedric, and his less helpful companion Gray, at her side. The more she delves into her past life, the less sure she is whether it’s worth burrowing further.

She feels haunted by the life of a woman she is getting to know, but not like.

Should she allow her past to dictate her future?