Vena was one of the first female members of the Cambridge Footlights. She was an actress, playwright and teacher before becoming a full-time writer and producing the Thorn trilogy. She will be taking part in the Endeavour Press Crime Fiction Festival.
In previous lives as actor and teacher I wrote plays. But then I decided it was time to write a novel because then there’d be no one to come between my story and the world: no producers, directors or actors to interpret, change or delay the process of bringing it to the public. I’d always liked a ripping yarn, and since I loved reading crime novels maybe that was the way to go. But about what?
My mind remained blank until I remembered an episode in our family life when my teenage daughter was stalked by a mentally disturbed man who eventually committed suicide. This was a horribly worrying period and, at the time, the stalking laws were virtually non-existent. The police were sympathetic but could give us very little help.
Thorn, the first book in the Rosa Thorn trilogy sprang from this and from then on I was hooked on the process of creating a novel. As someone used to writing dialogue and stage directions, I initially found it difficult to craft the in between bits, especially descriptive passages, since as a reader I always skipped over anything too long winded in order to get to the next bit of plot and character development.
For books two and three of the trilogy I also stuck to areas I knew about. Being married to an art critic, I set The Art of Dying in the London art world, and because I knew Cambridge very well that’s where I set Green Eye.
After this I decided poor Rosa needed a rest. Surely one woman wouldn’t be able to cope with yet another traumatic encounter?
It was time to write a standalone novel. I’d become interested in how you’d feel if the person you loved most in all the world suddenly vanished. This was the starting point for The Lost Ones, which is set in Portobello Road and climaxes during the Notting Hill Carnival.
Toxic, another standalone, came as a result of reading a history of Willesden dating back to when it was a little village in the countryside. It made me think about the many-layered history which lies beneath our suburban streets and the many-layered lives of the present inhabitants, crowded together in this multicultural part of north West London.
This summer I’ve had great fun revisiting Rosa in a novella, whose working title is Rosa and Revenge. Rosa is now a successful actor but, as always, death and destruction lurk around every corner.
I’m also working on a crime novel set in Northern England in the 20th Century, ranging from the mill towns of Rossendale to Blackpool’s Golden Mile.
Needless to say – it’s grim up north. At least it is in my book!