One of the first things that readers of Bad to the Bone will notice about The Scent of Guilt is that the action has jumped forward a dozen years. The first Bliss and Chandler book was set in 2005, and when my deal with Bloodhound Books required a follow-up, I had to make a tough choice: do I keep the second book in the same sort of timeframe, or do I bring it up to date?
It was not an easy choice. First, those who enjoyed the book and its cast of characters were familiar with them as they were in the moment, so it was a bit of a risk removing twelve years of their lives in order to set the second book in 2017 when it was written. Second, exactly how was I going to explain away those dozen years, yet somehow still retain the feel of the first book?
It was actually an opening chapter I wrote many years ago for a competition, plus the development of an idea for how I could successfully bring the characters up to date, that provided the springboard for The Scent of Guilt. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job right, the transformation is pretty seamless. In addition, the reintroduction of characters who have moved on in terms of career, age and personal growth, worked out pretty well I think.
I enjoyed working with them all again so much that the moment I completed The Scent of Guilt I went straight on into a third Bliss and Chandler novel, If Fear Wins. That provided me with great continuity, as my feel for each of the characters was very much under control. I have to say that, despite having written Bad to the Bone as a stand-alone, turning it into a series has been a complete delight. If Fear Wins will be published this summer.
One of the benefits of writing a new book is being able to create new characters. But whilst neither Bliss nor Chandler were new, jumping forward with their lives by a dozen years in many ways felt similar to creating new characters. This time, however, I was working with known quantities and personalities, yet still having to imagine them twelve years on, considering the changes in their lives, the development of them as people. I was also able to create a list of secondary characters who will hopefully live in the memory longer than it takes to turn the final page, close the cover and stick the book away on the shelf.
Bliss and Chandler are not the only people I want to focus on in the future, however. I want to get back to those I created for Scream Blue Murder, and I also have ideas for stand-alone thrillers that I would like to pursue. There are not enough hours in the day, but I hope I fill those available to me wisely. Meanwhile, I do hope readers will enjoy the relationship between my two leads. The Scent of Guilt reveals their fondness and respect for each other, with a will-they/won’t-they undercurrent. The next one, If Fear Wins, cements their working relationship a little more, whilst #4 will delve into Bliss’s past in far greater detail. The events of If Fear Wins will also result in Chandler’s personal tragedy taking a significant step in book #4.