Denise Smith, a prolific book lover, has written her first novel Never Forget, Never Forgive, which is set in Lincolnshire and features locations such as Sudbrooke, Nettleham and Welton. The crime novel introduces private investigator Beatrice Styles and is the first in a series of books which will feature the PI.
Denise lived in Sudbrooke for 13 years before relocating to North Devon, and since the move she has been able to devote her time to finishing her first novel. “I have been writing for years and struggling away with different books, I started by writing a couple of young adult novels – they are still in a drawer somewhere!” Denise chuckles, “But I love crime novels and thrillers, so it seemed natural to go into that area, so I started writing this book quite a few years ago when I was still working full time which is why it’s set in Lincolnshire even though I’ve moved now.”
Beatrice Styles relocates and changes career after her father’s death and the disappearance of her mother. Her new venture in Lincoln, as a private investigator, takes an unexpected turn when she finds her first client dead. The police think he died of natural causes, but his widow is not convinced. Beatrice digs into the life of the dead man, only to discover several people with reasons to want him dead. Whilst this is occurring, there is also a missing teenage girl who lives in Sudbrooke and Beatrice goes about tracking her down. “The key thing about writing a story with a private detective is that you always have to have a reason for a private detective to investigate instead of the police.” Denise explains, “If it is obviously a murder then the police would be the ones investigating, so I had to have something that meant the police would leave it alone and a private detective could start digging around.”
The protagonist is an ex-tax inspector, the same profession Denise had was whilst living in Sudbrooke. “I wondered if she should not be an ex-tax inspector because I was one, but It’s something I know a lot about, and I also thought if she started as a PI, where do you learn investigative skills? You have either got to train as a PI which is rare in this country, or you have to be an ex-police officer. So, I decided actually she does have investigative skills from being a tax inspector because you are used to following evidence so it stuck.”
After moving to Devon, Denise joined a writing group where she met three women who were also writing novels. Acknowledging the support would be helpful, they decided to get together and critique each other’s work, and have been gathering over the last 2 years when restrictions have allowed. This developed into creating Four Sirens Press and publishing their work themselves. “Each of us had been considering going down the traditional publishing route which is so hard to get into now” explains Denise, “if you don’t have a public profile, it seems publishers aren’t really interested. So, after submitting to various agents with no luck, our conclusion was that this wasn’t really going to happen unless we made it happen ourselves.”
After hearing horror stories from other writer’s about how their work ended up being dictated by publishers and agents, the women decided they would rather maintain creative control and work collaboratively with professional editors and designers. “For a few years I have been writing dystopian novel (unfortunately I did start writing this well before the pandemic and it was set post pandemic, so now is probably not the time to finish it…) and I am about 70,000 words into that however a traditional publisher wouldn’t want me to write crime and a dystopian, they would say ‘no you’ve done your crime you’re sticking with that now, that is what we want you for.’ This way I can pick and choose what I want to write and produce.”
With a connection to Lincolnshire and knowing it is somewhat underrepresented in media, Denise kept the setting the same even when she relocated. “It is not somewhere I have read much about in books – they are always set in other places such as the Shetlands, Manchester or London, so I thought it’s different because people don’t tend to write about Lincolnshire, and it is quite an unusual landscape.”
Creative ventures are a fantastic outlet for passion and imagination to thrive, but there is no denying it isn’t easy and there are times that you can feel stuck. For any budding writers out there, Denise suggests, “If you like writing and get enjoyment out of creating something for yourself then keep going and find other people who enjoy the same thing – they will help you and support you. I think that has made the most difference to me, getting together with the Four Sirens. We support each other through the tough times, and we all have times when we aren’t motivated or we think we have written a pile of rubbish, so the others can turn around and say, ‘well actually it’s not perfect but there is something in there’. It really helps having people you can go to who understand what you are trying to do and who will be honest with you about it – because relatives are notoriously not honest about such things!”
Denise hopes to continue writing books for many years to come with the support of Four Sirens Press, and comments “I’d like to be able to build up a collection so when I ‘pop my clogs’ I can say that I’ve left something behind, and I created something hopefully some people have enjoyed.” She also would love it if someone would be willing to turn the novel into a TV series in the future, filmed across Lincolnshire.
Never Forget, Never Forgive is available to buy as a paperback or eBook on Amazon. Denise is also running a competition during April to win a free paperback copy – follow her on Facebook ‘Denise Smith – Writer’ to find out how to enter. You can also visit www.foursirenspress.co.uk to find out more.