To celebrate the launch of Look Twice, the eighth Ingrid Skyberg thriller, I thought I’d share some background how I made some of the decisions about the book. Any questions? Bung ’em in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
When Eva first conceived the Ingrid Skyberg series, she wanted a long arc that ran over several books (the comparison she made was the X Files, which had the big conspiracy plot as well as all the monster-of-the-week episodes). She envisioned that arc to be Ingrid’s investigation into what happened to her predecessor, Dennis Mulroony. (And, no, I don’t know why she spelled Mulrooney without the ‘e’ but she did, and so that’s his name.)
Eva already knew she was dying when she started the Skyberg series, and when the initial feedback was that the Mulroony plot muddied the impact of Fresh Doubt, the first book, the storyline was pared down and allowed to fade into the background as she didn’t feel she had enough time to do such a comprehensive rewrite (her priority was to write as many Skybergs as she could with the time she had left).
With every decision I now make about the series, I try to stay as true as I can to Eva’s vision. I knew she wanted to return to the mystery of what happened to Mulroony at some point, and this just felt like the right time to revisit to that story.
Eva’s deteriorating health forced another decision on her. Originally, she had wanted the quest to find the man who killed Ingrid’s best friend Megan to drive Ingrid forward over several books (it’s the classic detective back story, isn’t it, the unsolved case you can’t forget about?) Instead, in Deep Hurt, the last of the Skyberg novels Eva finished, Megan’s killer is found because Eva really wanted to tell that story herself. I was aware that at some point, the killer would have to be brought to trial and that would be emotionally complicated for Ingrid, and that was a story that I wanted to tell.
Look Twice also references events in Eva’s first book, the award-winning The Loyal Servant which features the unkillable Angela Tate. In The Loyal Servant, a woman in the Department For Education (where Eva worked before she started writing full time) uncovers a conspiracy about a Far Right group in government called England For The English. When I needed a Far Right group for Look Twice, it felt right to refer back to something already in the Hudson universe.
This book rewards fans of the series with a whole host of recurring favourite characters. As well as Angela Tate, Look Twice features Ralph Mills, Natasha McKittrick, Sol Franklin, Jennifer Rocharde and Nick Angelis. I have to say, it was lovely for me to have the gang back together. They seem to write themselves as soon as they appear on the page.
There’s a character in this book who writes cozy mysteries. She was originally going to be called Martha Steinway, which is the pen name Eva and I wrote the Hollywood Detective series under. However, later in the book there’s a character called Marsha and her name couldn’t be changed as it’s a teeny weeny plot point. Having a Martha and a Marsha in the same book was too confusing, so one of them had to be renamed. To be honest, I was quite happy to lose the name Martha Steinway as it felt a bit indulgent and meta (though it might have produced a few sales for the Hollywood Detective). That meant I had to hunt around for a name for a writer that would mean something to Eva, and I came up with Daisy Steiner.
Some of you will be protesting at this point as you know damn well that I didn’t come up with that name. It is the name of the character Jessica Hynes (then Stevenson) played in Spaced, a brilliant UK sitcom from the late 90s. Daisy was a writer, and the gag was that she never actually did any writing. Eva and I loved Spaced so much that when we came up with the plot for a novel (that neither of us ever wrote) about an unearthed manuscript, we gave it the working title ‘The New Daisy Steiner’.
I’m sure Eva would be amused by my choice of name (though she might also worry about copyright infringement because she was much more cautious than me).
There was a moment writing Look Twice that I realised how – one distant day – the series will end. Eva and I discussed Ingrid’s final investigation, and that’s already mapped out, but I’m talking about where Ingrid ends up in her personal life. I’m obviously not going to tell you now, but that realisation was quite emotional because it will be such a perfect place to leave Ingrid. And when the time eventually comes, you’ll see just how perfect it is.
Back to Marsha, she who could not be unnamed. She’s a character Ingrid has a significant piece of history with, and I’m not sure if it will come as a shock to some readers to learn that Ingrid was once romantically involved with a woman. One of the last conversations I ever had with Eva, just a couple of days before she died, was about whether or not Ingrid had ever slept with a woman. Eva was quite drugged at the time, but this was a moment of clarity. “Yes,” she said, “with one of her instructors at Quantico.” I’d never previously been able to get that bit of Eva’s vision into the series, but Marsha finally makes an appearance in Look Twice.
I’ve saved this for point eight, as Eva always said she wanted to have at least eight Skyberg novels. She knew that some crime readers are so voracious they won’t start a series unless there are eight books in it. For that reason, Look Twice feels like an important milestone and I’m chuffed to have written it.
Although I’ve now written five of the eight books, this is still very much Eva’s series. Sure, some things have happened she wouldn’t have anticipated, but as much as I possibly can, I’m trying to use every scrap of background she gave me and I hope that–in some time travel/sci-fi parallel universe–if Eva were to pick up a copy of Look Twice she’d feel like it belonged to her.
There is no pool at the Hilton on Park Lane. I wouldn’t want any of you booking there thinking you could go for a luxurious swim. There’s a spa. Apparently it’s very nice, but there ain’t no pool. But, hey, this is fiction.
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